Overlord Light Novel Volume 7 Chapter 4

Overlord Light Novel Volume 7 Chapter 4

Overlord Light Novel Volume 7 Chapter 4

Chapter 4: A Handful of Hope



(Re)Translated by: Nigel
Proofreader/Editor: Deus Ex Machina



Part 1

Such was the ferocity of the attack that it resembled a flood from a broken dam.


The enemy was only a mass of low-tier undead. They were nothing for Foresight to be afraid of. However, what could only be described as a human wave attack showed no signs of stopping.



Hekkeran wiped the sweat off his face after beating his tenth group of opponents since the start of the battle, a pair of Ghasts.



Although he wanted to rest, there was no time for it. He gulped some water from a pouch on his waist, and signaled a retreat as he calmed his breathing down. However, or rather, as expected, the enemy had no intention of giving them any time to rest.



A composite party of three Skeleton Warriors, each holding round shields, and a pair of robed Skeleton Mages with staves in hand jumped out of a side passage.



“Conserve your mana!”



“Got it.”



“—Fully understood.”



In a situation like this where they could be surprised at any time, magic—which could easily deal with any situation—was a trump card they could not use casually. Because of this, they had conserved as much of their mana as possible.



That being said, several of their abilities with limited uses per day had already been exhausted. This was the result of being swamped by the large amount of traps and undead.



There were Skeleton Archers lined up behind barred windows, and out of swords’ reach. It was difficult to put them down since the Skeletons were resistant to piercing attacks, but Roberdyck was able to turn the undead.



He was also able to eradicate the undead that were throwing bottles of poisonous gas at them.



When the Floor Imitators who glued their victims to the ground attacked in tandem with flying undead, Roberdyck destroyed them one after the other with his ability to turn undead



He also exorcised a mixed team of several undead that could cause status ailments like poison, disease and curse.



As a result, Roberdyck only had a few uses of undead turning left. Conversely, they had managed to conserve other abilities as well as mana. The only tough battle had been the one where something like a Flesh Golem had been mixed into a battalion of Zombies.



“Warning! Multiple footsteps from behind!”



“Undead reaction! There’s six of them!”



As Imina shouted her warning—followed immediately by Roberdyck—tensions ran high. The reason why the five skeletons ahead of them had not yet launched an attack was probably because they were waiting for a chance to execute a pincer attack.



Hekkeran considered their next move.



Several options appeared on a list in his mind. First, they could make a pre-emptive attack on the enemies in front of them and bring them down. Or they could launch a suppressing attack on the enemies in front of them, then turn to attack their pursuers. This plan would require good observation skills to determine the strength of the forces in front and behind them, then take on the weaker group first. They could also use magic to hinder one side, then take the opportunity to break through the other.



They were all effective, but none of them could turn the situation around. In a moment of inspiration, Hekkeran decided to trust his instincts.



“Hekkeran! What shall we do?”



“Turn back! There’s a path to the side! Retreat there!”



The instant his voice rang out, Imina, who had been the rear guard, began running. Arche and Roberdyck followed her. Hekkeran was one step behind them.



The fact that Imina was running meant that it was not an impossible distance.His other teammates were running with all their might, and so Hekkeran ran as fast as he could. The enemy would not let them escape easily, of course; they heard the footsteps of several undead pursuing them relentlessly.



“Have a taste of this!”



Hekkeran took out a bag of alchemical glue and tossed it behind him.



The alchemical fluid splashed out and spread over the ground.



The results were immediate; the sound of footsteps stopped instantly.



Intelligent undead might have made a detour, but such thinking was impossible for lesser undead. Furthermore, Skeletons lacked muscle power, and thus they found it very difficult to break free once they were stuck.



“More undead reactions! Four from the right!”



“It’s a wall!”



“No, it’s an illusion!”



Four Ghouls charged through the wall at. Although they were scrawny undead that were little more than skin and bones, they were still a fearsome sight when attacking with their outstretched yellowed claws. That said, there was nobody on this team who would be frightened by such an attack.



“Don’t look down on me!”



Seemingly unaffected by the ambush, Imina immediately unsheathed her shortsword and swung it at a Ghoul’s neck. Dirty-looking fluid oozed out in place of blood, and it fell. Beside her, Roberdyck swung his mace with all his might and crushed another Ghoul’s skull.



Judging that it was safe to leave those two alone, Hekkeran turned his attention to the rear. They were still being chased. Should he throw another bag of glue just to be on the safe side?



Just as Hekkeran was about to toss one, the shape of a terrifying undead being loomed into view.



“Elder Lich!”



At the same time, he noticed lightning crackling on the lich’s finger. Hekkeran was familiar with the spell in question.



[Lightning] produced a straight line of piercing electricity, and there was only one way to dodge it.



“—Push the ghouls back!”



Neither Imina nor Roberdyck understood why Hekkeran gave that command, but they obeyed without hesitation.



A bolt of white lightning flashed across the hallway just as the four of them pushed the ghouls through the illusionary wall.



The air crackled, and Hekkeran felt a magic circle activate under his feet. In the next moment, they were enveloped in an unavoidable pale blue light, and the scenery before them changed.



“Be careful! Stay alert!…?”



Although the Ghouls had vanished and the surroundings were different, they were still on edge from the battle. Even so, after such an unexpected occurrence, it was no surprise that they were dumbfounded for a few moments.



Hekkeran shook his head, regaining his focus. The most basic thing he had to do—although learning about their current situation was also important—was to ensure the safety of his comrades.

Imina, Arche and Roberdyck.



All the other members of Foresight had maintained their formation as the magic circle activated, and nobody was missing.



After mutually confirming that they were all safe and sound, the four of them continued observing their surroundings.



This place was a wide corridor, dimly lit and with a high ceiling. Even a Giant could walk freely through here. The flickering flames of faraway torches provided unsteady illumination, and in their light the long shadows seemed to dance. Along the tunnel and ahead of them was some kind of latticed gate, like a portcullis. Rays of white, magical light shone through the gaps in its surface. Behind them, the path stretched into darkness, and along the way, several doors opening into the corridor could be seen, lit up by torches.



With everyone remaining quiet, only the crackling of the torches could be heard.



In any event, they did not seem to be in any danger of being attacked immediately. After they realized this, their tension eased.



“Although I don’t know where this place is, it has a completely different atmosphere to what we’ve seen up until now.”



The style of this place was completely different to the tomb they had just left. In fact, signs of civilisation could be seen here. The members of Foresight surveyed their surroundings, and whilst they were trying to grasp where this place was, only Arche’s attitude was different from the rest.



“—This place is…”



Keenly perceiving the meaning behind the words, Hekkeran asked Arche:



“Do you know? Or perhaps you have a clue?”



“—I know of a similar place. The Empire’s grand arena.”



“Ah… indeed, you are right.”

Roberdyck grunted in agreement. Although Hekkeran and Imina did not say anything, they also shared Roberdyck’s opinion.



When Foresight had made their debut at the arena, they had passed through a place similar to this one when they were making their way from the waiting room to the arena.



“That means the arena should be behind that.”



Roberdyck pointed towards the latticed gate.



“That should be the case… then being teleported to this place means that… is that what it is?”



They were to fight in an arena. Although, they had no idea who or what might be waiting for them.



“—It’s dangerous. Long-distance teleportation is reckoned to be 5th tier magic. Being able to use that kind of magic as a trap has only been heard of in stories. This site must have been constructed by someone with unimaginable skill in magic. It’s not favourable for us to accept the opponent’s invitation. I suggest we proceed in the opposite direction.”



“But, if we accepted the opponent’s invitation, don’t you think there might be a path to survival? Wouldn’t rejecting the invitation antagonize the other side?”



“Both sides seem dangerous. Rober, what do you think?”



“There’s a case to be made for both arguments. But I have some doubts about what Arche-san has said. Is this really a trap laid by the person who currently lives here? Could it be that they’re just using something created by an unknown third party?”



They looked at each other and exhaled in unison. There was no point in staying here and discussing the matter further. They did not have enough information and their opinions did not match, but they had to make a decision right now.



“—What Rober said makes sense. Who know, maybe it was made five hundred years ago.”



“Ah. Magical techniques were more advanced in the past.”



“Are you referring to the beings that dominated the continent and whose country shattered almost immediately, of which only the capital remains today?”



“—The Eight Greed Kings. They are considered to be the ones who spread the existence of magic through this world. If this is a relic of that era, then perhaps…”



“…I see. Then I’m in favour of heading out to the arena. In any case, since we were brought here by a trap, they would not allow us to escape.”



In response to Roberdyck’s statement, everyone nodded, gathered up their determination, and began moving.





When they approached the gate, it rose upward with impressive speed, as though it had been waiting for them all this time. The first thing they saw as they entered the arena were rows upon rows of audience seats around the arena.



The arena was no less impressive than the one in the Empire. In fact, it might have been even more so, given that it was covered in lanterns enchanted with [Continual Light], which lit the grounds up as brightly as if it were the day.



Everyone in Foresight was astonished, especially when they glimpsed the audience above them.



This was because sitting there were innumerable clay figures, the dolls known as Golems.



Golems were inorganic creatures created through magical means, who would obediently carry out their master’s commands once they received them. Without the need for food or sleep, and immune to fatigue and even the ravages of time, they were treasured as guardians and labourers. Furthermore, because their production took considerable time, effort and cost, even the weakest ones commanded a formidable price.



Even Hekkeran and the others, who were paid well, would find it hard to purchase a golem.



They were valuable constructs, and this arena seemed to be overflowing with them.



To Hekkeran, it spoke of how wealthy the person who owned this arena was, as well as how lonely he felt.



They looked briefly at each other’s faces, as though they had already come here many times before, and then they walked silently towards the centre of the arena.



“Outside?”



In response to Imina’s voice, they looked up, and saw the night sky. The surrounding illumination was strong and eclipsed the light of the stars, but even so, there was no doubt that this arena was open to the night sky.



“Were we teleported outside?”



“Then, we could use flight magic to escape—”



“TOOOOOH!”



A figure jumped from the balcony of the VIP box, in time with the voice that had interrupted Arche’s words.



The figure somersaulted in mid-air as it descended from a height that seemed roughly equivalent to a six story building, making people wonder if it might have wings as it gracefully landed upon the ground. There was no magic at work there, only pure physical ability. Even the rogue Imina had her breath taken away by the perfection of the movement.



The figure who had absorbed the impact with a mere flexing of its knees smiled brightly.



Before them stood a young Dark Elf boy.



The long ears which emerged from amongst the golden, silky strands of his hair twitched slightly, and he smiled as brightly as the sun.



He was fully dressed in a suit of tight-fitting, light leather armour, made from jet black and deep crimson dragon scales, over which he wore a white vest embroidered with golden threads. There was an emblem sewn onto the breast of the jacket.



Seeing his heterochromic eyes, Imina let out a gasp of surprise.



“—Ah!”



“—The challengers have arrived!”



The boy spoke into the rod-like object he was holding in his hand, and his amplified words resounded throughout the arena.



The arena trembled and shuddered in time with the boy’s bright and cheerful voice.



Looking around, it seemed that the golems which had remained motionless so far were stomping on the ground to make noise.



“The challengers are four reckless fools who have invaded the Great Tomb of Nazarick! And, facing them is the master of the Great Tomb of Nazarick, the Supreme King of Death, Ainz! Ooal! Gown-sama!”



The portcullis on the opposite side of the arena rose upwards at the same time as the Dark Elf’s voice rang out. From the darkness of the path beyond, a being stepped into the light. In a word, it was skeletal.



Crimson radiance flickered within the eye sockets of the white skull.



It was dressed in a gown-like vestment, and because there were no muscles where the robe was cinched about the waist, it appeared unbelievably skinny. Judging by the fact that it held no weapons, it was probably a magic caster of some kind.



“Ooh! And walking in behind him is our Guardian Overseer, Albedo!”



The members of Foresight held their breath as they saw the woman who followed behind like a servant.



She was a peerless vision that surpassed even the Beautiful Princess of Darkness (Nabe). Hers was a beauty that could never be reached by human beings, and two horns curved out gently from both sides of her forehead. At her waist were a pair of black wings. They looked so realistic that they could not possibly have been artificially created.



The arena quaked with stomping, as if to welcome the debut of these two new entrants, before turning into thunderous applause. It was a reception befitting the arrival of a king.



The two people approached Foresight amidst the thunderous applause from the surrounding Golems.



“—I’m so sorry,” Arche muttered. “We ended up like this because of me.”



What would follow was probably going to be the most grueling battle Foresight would ever have faced. In all likelihood, one or more of them might die. Arche probably felt that they had been plunged into such a dire circumstance was because of herself. Without her debt, perhaps they might not have accepted this task to go investigate a tomb they so obviously did not know enough about.



However—



“Oi oi, what nonsense is this girl babbling?”



“Indeed. It was everyone’s decision to go on this job. It had nothing to do with you. Don’t you think we’d have done it anyway even if you hadn’t said anything?”



“That’s how it is, so there’s no need to be worried.”



Hekkeran and Roberdyck smiled as they spoke, and Imina patted Arche’s head.



“Well then, although there’s no point planning now, we should still have a discussion. Arche, can you identify that undead creature?”



“—Seeing that it seems intelligent, perhaps it’s an upper-class skeleton-type?”



The skeleton in question, Ainz, waved his hand before them. The movement looked as if he was wiping something away.



The sounds disappeared. In an instant, the golems’ movements stopped, and the almost painful silence returned. Hekkeran bowed politely to Ainz, who was slowly turning to face them.



“Firstly I would like to apologise, Ainz Ooal…dono.”



“…That’s Ainz Ooal Gown.”



“My apologies. Ainz Ooal Gown-dono.”



Ainz stopped and raised his chin, as if he were waiting for an inferior to continue.



“We wish to apologize for entering your tomb without permission. If you can find it in your heart to forgive us, we will gladly pay the appropriate compensation to atone for our transgressions.”



Time passed in silence. Then Ainz sighed. Of course, as one of the undead, Ainz had no need to breathe. However, he did so in order to get his message across.



“Is that how you do things where you come from? After someone else eats in your home and leaves waste behind which sprouts maggots, would you actually show him more mercy than a swift death?”



“Humans are not maggots!”



“They are the same. At least, they are to me. Or, not—perhaps humans are even lower than them. If a maggot is born, the fault lies with the fly. You, however, are different. You were not dragged along against your will, nor do you have any particularly compelling reason to come here, but you attacked a tomb which might have had people living in it, with the intention of plundering its treasures, purely for the sake of satisfying your worthless greed!”



Ainz laughed.



“Ah, do not take it to heart. I am not blaming you. It is only natural for the strong to take from the weak. I have done it myself and I do not consider myself an exception from this rule. It was precisely because there might be someone stronger than me that I was on guard… Now then, the time for idle banter is over. In accordance with the principle of the strong feeding upon the weak, I shall claim one thing from you.”



“No, actually, there’s a good rea—”



“Silence!” Ainz declared in a voice which allowed no interruption. “Do not upset me with your lies! Now then, you shall pay for your foolish mistake with your life.”



“What if we had permission?”



Ainz froze. Apparently, that had gotten through to him.



Hekkeran was surprised that a single sentence could have had such a great effect, but of course he did not let it show on his face. Just when all seemed lost, a ray of hope had shone through the darkness. Clearly, he had to seize it.



“…Nonsense.”



It was a still, small voice, almost on the verge of fading away.



“Utter nonsense, it’s nothing but a bluff. What do you gain from angering me?”



His unease was spreading, and even the Dark Elf boy beside him was starting to look uncomfortable. When he turned to look at the last person, goosebumps broke out all over Hekkeran’s body.



The beauty behind them was still smiling. But she radiated a murderous intent that beaded Hekkeran’s brow with sweat.



“And what if it was true?”



“…No… no… it must be a bluff. Absolutely impossible. You should all be offerings dancing in the palm of my hand…”



Ainz shook his head and fixed Hekkeran with a gaze that seemed to bore right through him.



“But… however… I… yes, that’s right, just in case, I will hear you out… who gave you this permission?”



“Don’t you know him?”



“Him…?”



“He didn’t leave his name, but he was a pretty big monster.”



Hekkeran desperately thought on where the goal line was, where he could evade danger.



It was a question that only a person paralyzed by indecision would ask, because only by asking could a person know what was true or false.



It’s as though he’s human, Hekkeran thought. This was not the reaction of a monster, but of a coward. This was a good chance.



“Tell me what he looked like.”



“…He was very very very big…”



“Very very big…”



As Ainz descended into another round of introspection, Hekkeran reflected that they had avoided danger yet again, and breathed an internal sigh of relief. He gestured to his colleagues with small movements of his fingers, telling them to find an escape route. Ainz would not act without confirming the truth or falsehood of Hekkeran’s words. This was all the time they had to think of how to get out of here.



“What did he tell you?”



Who knows, someone might have used a charm or dominate spell or some other special ability…



“Before that, I hope that you can guarantee our safety.”



“What? …If you have indeed gained the permission of one of my friends, then your safety is assured. Do not be afraid.”



A new word—friend.



Hekkeran analyzed the information he had just obtained. From the events of the negotiation, he had learned that Ainz Ooal Gown had friends, which he was currently not in contact with.



The secret of trickery was to expose the information your mark wanted, and then force him into a mistake.



“…Well? Why so quiet? Then let me hear what the person you met said to you.”



He had made it across all the goal lines so far. Now he had to do it again. His palms sweated profusely.



“He said to give his regards to Ainz in the Great Tomb of Nazarick.”



“…Ainz?”



His fidgeting suddenly stopped. Hekkeran noticed, and an “oh crap” expression spread across his face.



“…He said, to give his regards to Ainz?”



Hekkeran steeled himself. After all, words spoken could not be taken back.



“…Yes.”



“Kuhahahahaha!”



Ainz laughed when he heard Hekkeran’s answer. This was not a happy laugh. It was a laugh that could be best described as volcanic.



“Hah… well, so much for that. Though really, when you think about it calmly, there were bound to be holes aplenty in that story.”



Ainz’s movements stopped, and he turned to look at Hekkeran. The crimson fires blazing in his eye sockets turned dark, consumed by the black which surrounded them and reducing his pupils to points of red light. Hekkeran and the others took a step back, as though Ainz’s mere line of sight was exerting physical pressure on them.



Within that glare was the purest rage.



“YOU TRAAAAAAAASSHHHH! YOU DARE! YOU DARE TO TREAD YOUR FILTHYYYYYY! YOUR FILTHY BOOTS INTO THE NAZARICK THAT I, THAT WE, MY FRIENDS AND I, CREATED!”



So intense was his fury that Ainz was struck speechless. His shoulder blades moved as though he were breathing deeply, and he continued.



“AND YOU! YOU DARE USE THE NAME OF ME, OF MY TREASURED FRIENDS! YOU DARE USE IT TO TRICK ME! YOU SHITS! DO YOU THINK THAT CAN EVER, EVER BE FORGIVEN?!”



Ainz was screaming furiously.



It would not have been a surprise if his anger had gone on forever. However, his rancor suddenly vanished, and he returned to his usual calm.



It was a sudden change, as though the emotion had simply been switched off. The abrupt change was enough to make Hekkeran and his team, who were facing off against Ainz, think that something was amiss.



“…Although it made me angry, the fault does not lie with you. Of course you would tell an outrageous lie to preserve your lives. To tell you the truth, I’m still very mad… I guess I’m still too willful. Albedo. Aura. And all the Guardians who can hear my voice, everyone, cover your ears!”



The absolute beauty and the Dark Elf boy listened intently. The boy stuck his fingers into his ears, while the beauty delicately covered her ears with her hands. This was without a doubt to show that they were not going to listen to what he said.



“From the beginning, I was opposed to this plan to invite filthy thieves into my Great Tomb of Nazarick. But that said, I understand that this was the best method and I accept it.”



Ainz looked back up, and regretfully shook his head.



“Well, that’s all. Rant over. As a final mercy, I wanted to grant you a warrior’s death, but now I’ve changed my mind. Now I will dispose of you like the thieves that you are.”



While talking as though it were somebody else’s problem, Ainz shed his gown.



Naturally, there were bones below. A dark red orb floated under his ribs, emanating a feeling of dread. He had nothing on besides his pants and greaves… No, there was one more item. There was a leather collar around his neck, with a chain, broken halfway down, dangling from it.



“Ohhhhh!”



A strange sound came from above them.



Looking up, they could see the upper body of a silver-haired girl leaning out of the VIP box. She was immediately pulled back by a blue-gauntleted hand.



“…What the hell is she doing?”



“I’ll go scold her later.”



By the time they had managed to recover their senses and focus them back onto Ainz, he had produced a single-bladed black sword and a round black shield out of nowhere.



“Then, I’m ready over here. Let’s get started.”



He slightly spread his feet out—it was a fighting stance.



“Albedo and Aura, you can stop covering your ears now now.”



The two people addressed reacted immediately, and returned their hands to their sides.



“I’m in a very bad mood now. To think I would encounter fellows like this. So I’ll toy with them without killing them, and I’ll leave the disposal to you. Now, let’s begin.”



As Hekkeran stared down the sword-and-shield-equipped Ainz, Hekkeran’s first thought was that his opponent was not a warrior or a swordsman. If pressed, he would say that he was like a monster, the kind who would use their excellent physical abilities to overwhelm their opponent.



Both his posture and stance looked like those of an amateur. But he radiated a heavy pressure, appearing larger than life.



For a being like this, the fearsome move they could make might be to simply attack.



“Not coming? Then, allow me.”



Ainz rushed over as he replied.



His was a frightening speed that shrunk the distance between him and his foes to nothing in an instant.



He followed it up with a grand slash downwards from above.



The attack had openings all over it, but it had great destructive power. In the hands of a mighty being with incredible physical ability, it was a sword strike that could kill anything it hit.



—Taking it would be very dangerous.



Hekkeran came to this conclusion in an instant, as he sensed the high-speed blade descending on him. A hard block would turn this into a contest of power, and he knew that he would be overwhelmed if he pitted his strength against Ainz.



That being the case, there was only one option—



Ainz’s sword struck down into the ground, the lingering echo and vibration of steel against steel fading into the air.



—Parry the blow and guide it away from his body.



Normally, an attacker would be thrown off balance after being parried, and this would be a prime chance for a counterattack. But Ainz had not even moved. It was as though he knew that particular sequence of events was going to take place, and he had reset his stance to its original position.



Hekkeran realized that he had made a big mistake.



No good! I underestimated him! But, the only thing I can do is fight on!



He aimed at Ainz’s head. He used a martial art—



“[Twin Blade Strike]!”



The two swords inscribed gleaming arcs in the air as they scissored toward Ainz’s head. Normally, bludgeoning weapons would be more effective against a skeleton-type enemy like Ainz, but Hekkeran was more adept with slashing weapons, and not nearly as proficient with blunt weapons.



His main objective was to try to inflict some damage on Ainz. He flurried as many attacks as he could against Ainz, not caring if they hit or missed, in the hope that at least one of them would get through and strike him.



The twin swords sped toward his opponent’s head.



An average person would have taken it full-on.



A first-rate opponent might have only been scratched.



Then what about an absolutely top-class opponent?



“Hnh!”



Ainz interposed his shield in the path of the swords. Normal people would not have been able to accomplish it, but with overwhelming physical strength and speed, it was possible.



“—[Magic Arrow]!”



“[Lesser Dexterity]!”



As the shield blocked the two strikes, Arche’s spell sent a white bolt streaking towards Ainz. At the same time, while the sound of clashing metal still rang in the air, Roberdyck cast a spell to augment Hekkeran’s agility.



“Child’s play.”



Ainz did not even bother looking at Arche. The missile of light flickered and faded out of existence before it even managed to touch Ainz. A shocked expression appeared on Arche’s face.



“Spell immunity? But from where?”



“Hmph!”



In response, Ainz swung his shield at Hekkeran’s face.



A shield bash, is it!



The widely-known basics of fighting skills resounded in his head. Hekkeran decided to turn this danger into an opportunity, and made his move. He aimed at the belly, reasoning that the bulk of the shield would create a blind spot in the defense.



However, Ainz easily swept his weapons aside with the black sword.



—He saw through it!



His eyes followed the wall-like shield as it approached, and he barely evaded the blow by the skin of his teeth—and then a greave kicked at him from below.



A normal kick was nothing to be afraid of. However, through their brief exchange of arms, he was fully aware that due to Ainz’s incredible strength—despite having no muscles to speak of—any attack he made could kill him in a single blow. Taking the hit was tantamount to taking a mortal wound.



Hekkeran frantically rolled away. Without Roberdyck’s support, it would have been impossible. The vacuum in the kick’s passing sliced off several of his hairs, and a chill raced up and down his spine.



“This way!”



Imina launched two arrows from her bow. Because she had cried out, it was not a sneak attack, and Ainz casually avoided it.



The arrows flew past him, having missed their mark.



To begin with, arrows were not effective on skeleton-type monsters like Ainz. She had hoped that he would not bother with evading them and casually take the hits, but it seemed that was not going to happen. The arrows she had loosed had flattened heads, like a spade; they were specially-designed magic arrows which would do bludgeoning damage. If they had not been avoided, they should have been able to effectively damage even skeletal opponents.



At least, that was how it was supposed to happen, but even if that was not the case, there was nothing to regret. Hekkeran took the opportunity to stand up and slightly widen the gap between himself and Ainz. Imina’s cry had also been to give Hekkeran the chance to rise to his feet.



“[Twin Blade Strike]!”



“Hah!”



The two slashes were easily deflected by the single sword. The shock of the parry sent tremors through Hekkeran’s hands.



What a troublesome guy, is this what happens when you give warrior training to a monster with superhuman abilities? Just how strong is he?



The price of repeatedly using his certain-kill moves was the rapid draining of mental stamina. His brain felt like it was screaming from his exertions, so Hekkeran decided to back away.



Of course, Ainz would not permit that.



“As if I would let you escape!”



Ainz charged. That was only to be expected—backpedaling was slower than forward motion.



Just as he was about to catch up to Hekkeran, something whistled through the air as it flew past the side of his face.



A high-speed arrow came from behind Hekkeran’s back—hidden by his body. A normal person would not have been able to avoid it. However, against Ainz with his superhuman reflexes, it was still not enough.



“—[Flash]!”



“[Lesser Strength]!”



A brilliant flare of light burst in front of Ainz. Whether he resisted it or not, the spell would blind him for a moment, but it seemed pointless against Ainz. All it did was annoy him.



“Interfering busybodies!”



Ainz clicked his nonexistent tongue at Hekkeran, who had closed the gap thanks to his augmented strength and dexterity.



“—[Reinforce Armor]!”



“[Anti-Evil Protection]!”



Arche and Roberdyck’s support spells had solidified Hekkeran’s defense.



Having evaded Hekkeran’s attack and deflected his swords, Ainz was about to riposte once more when another arrow flew into his face.



“…Hmph!”



The casual ease with which Ainz evaded the arrow by simply turning his face was befitting of the ruler of the tomb, and of a monstrous warrior.



Hekkeran used the brief opening made by the support fire to back away, and sweat coursed down his body from the brief but intense combat.



He already knew this, but Ainz Ooal Gown was very strong.



Human beings could not hope to match his physical abilities. Worse still, he had the technique to make full use of his superhuman strength and speed. His observational skills could see through feints. He had the measure of every member of Foresight. Combined with his resistance to magic and the enchanted sword and shield he bore; he was everything a warrior wanted to be.



But there was a reason they could stand toe-to-toe with a man like this.



To be fair, he had been hard-pressed to hold his ground. If he had misread the angle of the falling sword and failed to parry, his swords would have been ruined and he would probably have suffered a fatal wound. A small mistake in estimating the speed of the black sword would have resulted in him being sliced neatly in half. The fact that all his coin tosses had come up heads was nothing short of luck.



Yet, there was an even more important reason beyond this.



That reason was teamwork.



It was precisely because they had walked the edge of life and death together, and were intimately aware of what each of the others was thinking, that they could move and act like a single organism.



This was how the united group Foresight could stand against the mightiest individual, Ainz Ooal Gown.



A faint smile lifted the corner of Hekkeran’s mouth.



Until now, Ainz had been untouched. Certainly, he was very strong. But he was not invincible.



With this conviction in his heart, he swung his twin swords.



Hekkeran’s sword strike, the fastest his augmented body could produce, was deflected by the round black shield. The arrow flying in was interdicted by the black sword. Arche and Roberdyck made use of this opening to enhance Hekkeran even further.



Ever since Ainz had clicked his tongue, his hostility toward them had been rapidly weakening.



After considering whether or not to press the attack, Hekkeran decided to back down and calm his frenzied breathing. The undead Ainz would not get tired no matter how long or how hard he fought, but humans like Hekkeran and the others would become exhausted. Dragging the battle out was a bad idea. He had to rest whenever he got the chance.



“So… as I thought, I still couldn’t deal a decisive blow. I thought I had the advantage in strength, skills and knowing what you could do, but when I’m actually engaged in battle, I’m still having difficulty… For instance, why haven’t I taken any of you down yet?”



Ainz shrugged his shoulders in annoyance. Hekkeran, who was watching from opposite Ainz, did not feel particularly irritated by his patronizing tone.



Truthfully speaking, this was the power of teamwork. Hekkeran smiled as though he had been praised.



In the midst of all this, the beauty who had been silent up till now finally spoke.



“—Ainz-sama. Perhaps you should end this charade here?”



“What?”



“Forgive my rudeness, but I find it hard to believe that you would permit continued freedom to these base knaves, these thieves who dared use the name of the Supreme Beings to deceive you. Perhaps it is time for the mercy you have granted them to come to an end?”



“Hey, Albedo. If you talk to Ainz-sama like that—”



“—No, Aura. That is a good point.”



Ainz shook his head.



“And that is enough. I have gained sufficient experience from this battle.”



“Truly marvelous. I expected nothing less of the Supreme One who rules me.”



“Hah, is that so. Well, this is certainly cause for celebration. Although I know you’re humoring me, praise from a warrior whose skills far exceed my own is still pleasing to me.”



“I would not dream of deceiving you with false praise. Those words came from the bottom of my heart.”



“Is that so? Then thank you. Cocytus can evaluate me later, and I still need to hear your opinions on future training sessions like this.”



Ainz nodded several times, looking very satisfied with himself, and then he turned back to Foresight.



The air between them had changed, and Hekkeran had a bad feeling about it.



His instincts that had carried him through many life-and-death situations were screaming to him: there is great danger here.



“Now then, that’s all for playing around with swords. It is time for a different sort of entertainment.”



Ainz cast aside the sword and shield he was holding, and they vanished before they hit the ground.



“What?!”



Discarding one’s arms was the universal sign of giving up the fight. However, Ainz’s attitude did not betray even the slightest hint of defeat, that he was in a situation where he was going to surrender.



This was not a gesture of capitulation.



Unable to figure out what Ainz was thinking, Hekkeran was filled with confusion.



“…What?”



At this, Ainz smiled. Or rather, he seemed to smile.



He slowly spread his arms. It was an action that resembled an angel reaching out to the faithful, or a mother welcoming her child into her embrace; a loving acceptance of what lay before him.



“You don’t get it? Then let me put it in terms you might be able to understand,” Ainz laughed. “I’ll play with you, so give me your best shot, humans.”



The mood had changed—



He had forsaken his weapon and his shield. That should have meant he had been weakened. But Hekkeran had the feeling that the Ainz before him now was more powerful than before. Indeed, it seemed as though his body had physically grown in size before their eyes, so oppressive was his presence.



A being that grew stronger when abandoning the sword.



When one thought about it, only two answers remained. One would be that he was one of those warrior monks who honed their bodies into living weapons. But if that were the case, his fighting style from earlier—the way he evaded attacks—did not seem polished enough for him to be one of their number.



Then, the alternative—



“—He’s a magic caster!?”



That cry came from Arche, who had reached the same conclusion Hekkeran had.



That was it. This was the question at hand. The being before them, Ainz Ooal Gown—was he a magic caster?



It was understandable that they had not considered that earlier. Who could have imagined that any magic caster could have fought on even terms with Hekkeran, the party’s strongest fighter and a veteran warrior?



Magic casters—especially arcane magic casters—had weaker bodies than warriors. After all, if one had time to train one’s body, one could easily spend that time on learning magic. As such, magic casters who could fight on par with warriors were nonexistent.



That was simple common sense.



Yet there were beings who could turn that wisdom on its head. Who could have imagined such a being would be standing in front of them?



For that reason, Arche’s voice carried the hope that it was untrue, and the desire that her hypothesis would be rejected. Because if it were true, that would mean that Ainz was far more confident in his skills as a magic caster than he was as a warrior. What that meant, nobody needed to say out loud.



Even casting a few spells could greatly improve battle performance. As Hekkeran had been demonstrating, several enhancement spells made a dramatic difference. But if that was the case—



“Did you finally realize it? How foolish you lot are. Well, it’s only natural to expect this level of intelligence from you miserable vermin, who track your filth into my—no, my friends’ Nazarick.”



However, as long as Arche was around, Hekkeran and the others could deny it.



“Arche! Is this guy a magic caster?!”



“No! I’m sure of it! At least, he’s not an arcane magic caster!”



“Hm? And what is that supposed to mean?”



“—I can’t sense any magical power from your body.”



“Ahhh. So you were using divination magic, then. How rude.”



Ainz showed Hekkeran and the others his hands. As one might expect of an undead, there was nothing of them but bones. He spread his fingers to show that each of them, on both hands, was wearing a ring.



“Once I remove this ring, you will understand. I also lent it to my subordinates.”



Saying that, Ainz removed a ring on his right hand. And then—



“Ugeeeehhhh!”



It was the sound of vomiting. Sticky fluid splattered onto the floor of the arena, and a sour, rancid stench wafted up around Foresight.



“What did you do?!”



Imina glared at Ainz, from where she had rushed over to assist Arche. Ainz seemed a little uncomfortable, but still answered in a displeased tone.



“What on earth is that girl doing? There’s a limit to how rude you can be, throwing up when you see someone’s face.”



“—E-everyone, run!”



Arche was shouting, and tears were leaking from the corner of her eyes.



“This guy is a mon—ueeehhhh!”



Unable to endure it, Arche threw up again. In that moment, Hekkeran understood why she had vomited.



Ainz had done nothing to her. Rather, she had been unable to withstand the combination of terror and stress caused by seeing the enormous magical power surrounding Ainz, and so she had vomited.



And that meant—



“—We can’t beat him! His strength is on a totally different level! Even the word monster can’t describe him!”



Arche began wailing as the tears rolled down her cheeks.



“No way no way no way—”



Imina tightly hugged Arche to her chest. The girl was violently shaking her head as though she had gone mad.



“Calm down! Roberdyck!”



“Got it! [Lion’s Heart]!”



Under the influence of Roberdyck’s magic, Arche managed to recover from the panic which had gripped her. Like a newborn deer, she rose unsteadily on shaky legs, using her staff as a crutch.



“—Everyone, we have to flee now! That’s not a being humans can beat! It’s an unbelievable monster!”



“…Understood, Arche!”



“Yeah, I get it. When he removed the ring, the entire world seemed to change. I felt it raise goosebumps all over me.”



“Yes. Powerful wouldn’t nearly be enough to describe this monster.”



The alertness level of the three of them had gone through the roof. They stared at Ainz with nerves wound even tighter than before. Theirs was an expression that understood that even an instant’s loss of watchfulness would spell their deaths.



“It looks like they won’t let us run.”



“The moment we show them our backs, we die. Although I have the feeling that just averting our eyes would be enough.”



“We need to buy time or we won’t make it.”



“…Not coming?”



Of course, Hekkeran would not be baited by Ainz, who was lazily scratching his skull with one long finger. The enemy’s fighting power vastly exceeded that of any being which had ever existed. That meant they could only count on one thing.



That was the instant when Ainz began casting a spell—a magic caster was most vulnerable when reciting an incantation. If he could cast a spell without incanting it, then it was over for them, but even so, that was a tiny possibility which existed for them.



As though drawing a bow taut, Hekkeran gathered his strength within himself.



“Then I will go. [Touch of Undeath].”



“What kind of magic is it? Arche!”



“I don’t know! I’ve never heard of it before!”



The black fog which covered Ainz’s right hand was an unknown magic which put them all on their guard. Hekkeran tensed his legs, ready to dodge at any time. His companions behind him were also wary for an area-of-effect attack, and began spacing themselves out.



Suddenly, Ainz began walking towards them.



Hekkeran’s eyes went wide. He had openings all over his amateurish advance. These were not the movements of a skilled warrior. Hekkeran knew Ainz was trying to bait them into a trap, but he could not read Ainz’s intentions.



Is he trying to use magic for something… or was that spell a close-range type? Or was it a defensive type?



Hekkeran was familiar with the more famous spells, but Hekkeran was not a mage by profession, and he could not understand Ainz’s intentions.



“Stay away!”



Imina’s angry cry pierced the air, as did the arrows she launched at Ainz.



Using a special technique, she had launched three arrows at once, but Ainz deftly knocked them from the sky with a bony hand.



“…You’re in the way.”



It was a small but cold voice.



The red blaze in the empty eye sockets flickered, but it was only Hekkeran, who was up front studying Ainz’s every move, who noticed it.



Just as the bad feeling struck, Ainz’s form vanished.



Hekkeran turned, trusting his instincts. In his eyes, he saw his companions’ shocked faces. However, there was no time to explain. Especially to Imina. Ainz was standing behind Imina, slowly reaching his right hand out to her.



Imina! She didn’t notice! I need to shout—no, useless things like that won’t help!



As he used a martial art to move at top speed toward Imina, a twinge of confusion ran through Hekkeran.



Was it wise to protect Imina?



Compared to Arche and Roberdyck, who could use support spells to enhance people, Imina’s usefulness and importance were relatively low. The best way to increase their survival rate was to discard the stumbling blocks at their feet. However—



Dammit!



This was the wrong thing for a leader to do. Even though this was almost equivalent to betraying his comrades, Hekkeran did not slow his steps at all. Emotion overruled reason in this matter.



He wanted to save Imina. That was all.



Suddenly, an image of Imina lying on his bed appeared in his mind’s eye. He smiled bitterly to himself, because in a life-and-death situation, all he could think about was her curveless body.



Even so—he put even more power into his feet.



This was the strength of a man who wanted to protect his woman.



“Get away!”



Hekkeran’s sudden charge created confusion, and thus he made it in time. Before Ainz could touch h, he had already knocked Imina out of the way.



Ainz was deciding which should be his priority—reducing their pain, the small whimpering voice in his head was saying—the man who had appeared in front of him, or the woman who got away.



“Hey! It’s me, dumbass!”



He followed up his yell with a martial art.



First, he used [Limit Breaker]. There would be a price to pay, but it increased the amount of martial arts he could use at the same time. Next was the technique which made his body feel like something was being broken inside it, [Dull Pain]. After that was [Physical Boost] and a [Twin Blade Strike] made under the influence of [Iron Fist].



His greatest attack was born from these.



His twin swords glowed.



Hekkeran was counting on the fact that Ainz would be used to his sword attacks from their earlier exchange, so the sudden change in speed would confuse his senses and make it harder to evade. It was the foreshadowing of a strike which would end the battle in a single blow.



Ainz did not react to it.



I’ve killed him!



Just as he imagined his swords slicing into the defenseless skull, the sensation which travelled up his hands was definitely not the feeling of steel cutting into bone.



He’s immune to slashing damage?



He had had similar experiences during his adventures as a worker.



He’s immune to both slashing and piercing attacks? What kind of monster is he?!



As Hekkeran tried to retreat in a panic, he felt an icy-cold sensation enveloping his forehead. It was Ainz’s hand. Hekkeran felt like he had been clamped in a vise, wanting to escape yet unable to move.



“Hekkeran!”



“Imina! He’s immune to slashing!”



Hekkeran tried to shrug off the intense pain and report what he had learned to his colleagues. While he was grasped by the head, he felt his entire body being lifted up. Although he hammered the backs of his swords into Ainz’s arm, the grip on his head showed no signs of loosening.



“Wrong. Piercing, slashing or bludgeoning—none of the weak attacks you can muster can do so much as put a scratch on me.”



“…That… what? The hell, what kind of con game are you running? That’s not fair!”



“He’s lying! Imina, if that were true, there would be no reason to fight at all. He must have some kind of weakness!”



“—I won’t fall for it!”



“It’s truly sad when you can’t even believe the truth that’s right in front of you. I would have imagined that you would have realized from the melee battle, and the conversation we had, that you were nothing more than useful test subjects. Did that little skirmish we had give you the hope that you could actually win here? Consider that wishful little dream to be my mercy to you in the hell that is to come.”



“What kind of mercy is that? You piece of shit, you goddamn bastard, let Hekkeran go!”



The arrow arrived at the same time as her voice. However, Ainz simply remained still, and the pain in Hekkeran’s forehead continued unabated.



“Do you really want to do that? You might hit this man.”



The pain in his forehead filled Hekkeran with fear, the fear that at any moment his head might be crushed by the hand holding it. Although he struggled, Ainz did not shift a millimeter. It was like attacking a steel block—the only thing Hekkeran hurt was himself.



“Did that hurt? Don’t worry. I won’t kill you just like that. A miserable little thief like you does not deserve that mercy — instead, paralysis.”
His body was frozen. No, it was not frozen, it had been paralyzed.

“Hmm, if I all I did was inflict paralysis, then maybe [Touch of Undeath] was a little wasteful.”



Hekkeran heard the words, but he did not understand them.



Imina’s bowstring hissed as she sent a continuous stream of projectiles downrange, but the only response was quiet laughter.



“So, how far can you… no, please, struggle as much as you want. That will only deepen your despair.”



Run away.



Hekkeran’s mouth would not move to make the sounds he wanted.



This was an opponent they could not simply evade just by running away. But fighting would be even more foolish. This was especially true given that once the vanguard was taken down, the battle line would collapse.



“Then, who will be next? Of course, you can all come at once, but that would be too boring, no?”



***



Imina turned to look at Hekkeran, who was lying on the floor of the coliseum.



He was not dead. But he looked like it. There was no way she could save him from the clutches of the logic-defying monster known as Ainz Ooal Gown. But even so—



“—You idiot! Just by common sense, you should have abandoned me! You dummy!”



She was angry.



“Idiot, idiot, idiot, stupid idiot! You moron!”



“…Directing abuse to a man who so gallantly risked himself to protect his comrades is only going to upset me, you know.”



It was a statement that showed a complete lack of understanding for Imina’s feelings. Then again, their opponent was a monster; trying to make him understand human emotions would be impossible.



“I already know that! I don’t deserve such a great leader!”



She took a breath.



“But still! You’re still an idiot! Running on your emotions like that!”



“…What?”



Don’t be confused…



Imina thought to herself. She was trying to suppress the feelings of a woman who wanted to save her man.



She had to abandon Hekkeran and bring this information back. She had to tell the outside world about these ruins, about the fearsome monster which inhabited it, and depending on how things went, they might even need to assemble a punitive force to deal with it.



—Demon Gods…



Two hundred years ago, the Demon King that laid waste to the continent must have been a creature like this



It felt as though the world she was living in had been touched by myths and legends. It clearly could not be like this, but some part of her, deep in her heart, was insisting that this was just a dream.



Legends, huh? It sounds so bizarre when you put it that way. It’s heroes that ought to be fighting a monster like this—



Inspiration struck in a flash.



That was it. The ones who battled the demon gods were the Thirteen Heroes—they were heroes. Then, the only one who could fight Ainz was also a hero.



“Give Hekkeran back! If we don’t return by the stipulated time, the strongest people in the world will force their way into this tomb! If we can return unharmed, you can use us to negotiate!”



“What is this, lies again?



Ainz sighed, a silent “haah” sound. Sweat beaded on Imina’s brow. it was genuine.



“No, I’m not lying.”



“—Albedo. Is there anyone who could be considered strong on the surface?”



“There are none, I believe she is just spouting meaningless lies.”



“It’s not a lie!”



The girl behind Imina was shouting.



“The adamantite-ranked adventurer Momon from “Darkness” is there! He’s the greatest warrior of them all! He’s stronger than you!”



For the first time, Albedo appeared perturbed. She looked to Ainz, panic written on her face, and lowered her head to him.



“M-my apologies! There is such a being! P-please, forgive me!”



“Mmm… ah, yes, I didn’t even notice, Albedo. Momon of ‘Darkness’, hmm. By the way, he’s… forget it, it’s not important. He cannot defeat me.”



He had been acting like a demon king until now, but the way he was slumping his shoulders suggested that he was hiding something. Exactly what he was hiding, nobody could tell.



“Momon is strong! Stronger than you!”



“…No, those are hardly grounds for negotiation, Give it up.”



Ainz waved his hand lazily to dismiss the topic.



“Now then, shall we begin?”



The time for idle chatter was over.



“Arche! Run!”



Roberdyck shouted, and Imina agreed.



“Yes, run!”



“Look up! This is probably the outside! If you fly, there’s a chance you can escape! Run, even if it’s only you! We’ll try to buy you some time, a minute, no, ten seconds!”



“Now that is an interesting idea. Aura, open the exit. I will humor them.”



“Understood!”



Ainz pointed at the direction Roberdyck and the others had entered from. Aura leapt up, the bottoms of her shoes glowed, and her body disappeared.



“Now then, Aura has gone to open the gate. Go ahead and flee. Abandon your comrades. Who was the one who wanted to run again?”



Ainz extended his hand. His skeletal face could not display any expressions, but from his gesture, it was clear enough. If he had flesh, it would have been twisted into an evil smile. It would have been a smile that eagerly anticipated these comrades to fall into infighting.



It was true that Workers were different from adventurers; they formed parties based on the power of money and useful relationships, and in a situation like this, the odds of them fleeing would be quite high. However, Foresight was different.



“Arche, run now!”



“Yes, run,” Imina smiled. “You still have your sisters, right? Then leave us and go. That’s what you should be doing!”



“How could I? This is obviously all my fault!”



Seeing that Ainz had no intent to press the attack right away, Roberdyck walked over to Arche, and then withdrew a small leather pouch from somewhere close to his heart for her to hold on to.



“It’ll be fine. We’ll beat that monster Ainz and then come right after you.”



“That’s right. When that happens, you’re buying the drinks.”



Imina also drew forth a small pouch for her to hold.



“Then, go. Use the money I left at the inn as you wish.”



“Mine too.”



“…I’ll hold you to that. Then, I’ll be going first.”



Of course, none of the three actually believed it.



Defeating the being called Ainz, whose power was far beyond their imagining, was something they could not even hope to do. Arche knew that this was their final farewell, and she was choking back her tears as she cast her spell.



“There are monsters in the sky that might still catch you even if you run…”



“—[Fly]!”



Ignoring Ainz’s warning, Arche’s spell took effect. She looked to her comrades one last time, and then took to the air without another word.



“…Ah, is that how it is. Well, it’s faster and less tiring than running,” Ainz said in a casual way. “However, it’s quite remarkable that you decided it without fighting with each other. I thought I would see your disgusting true selves on display here.”



“You would never understand. It’s because we’re comrades.”



“That’s true. Dying to protect a comrade is not a bad thing—”



A flash of insight struck Imina.



“—Were your comrades the friends you spoke of?”



“Muuu!”



“Your comrades must have been exceptional individuals, no? Then, our relationship is as close as theirs, and yours.”



“That’s right.”



The evil atmosphere vanished as though it had never been, and Ainz continued in a quiet tone.



“Greater love hath no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends—so it was written in the Gospel of Marco.”



“…It’s all right if we die. However, for the sake of the bond that we share, that you yourself, and your exceptional comrades shared, please let her go.”



“Mm…”



Ainz hesitated for several seconds, and then shook his head.



“There will be no mercy for thieves like you. All that awaits is suffering upon suffering upon suffering, followed by death. But for the sake of the lives that you are willing to throw away for your comrade, I will make an exception for that girl. Shalltear.”



Ainz carelessly showed his back to them, and called out to the VIP box. There was no chance he would be hurt, and it showed in his attitude.



No, that was the reality of it. There was no attack they could use which would work. This was mere fantasy after understanding the truth of things. The two of them had no method which could wound the monster called Ainz. Because of this, they could calmly turn their heads back. At the very least, they had to buy Arche the time to flee.



Although they had no cards to play, they still had to do it. Imina and Roberdyck exchanged looks, and nodded.



On the other hand, a girl’s voice came from the VIP box in response to Ainz’s voice.



She was a human girl with hair that gleamed like platinum. Although the two of them were filled with anger, they could not help but be captivated by that beauty, their eyes drawn to the girl who possessed it.



Suddenly. the beautiful girl shifted her line of sight to look at the two of them. Her eyes were an entrancing crimson. Imina felt as though they were squeezing her heart. Similarly for Roberdyck, he was having trouble breathing with the crushing pressure on his chest.



Even after the girl’s eyes left them, Imina and Roberdyck still felt a little hampered.



“Shalltear, teach that child the meaning of terror. Teach her the gulf between the sliver of hope for escape that she clings to, and the inescapable reality that awaits all who dare invade the Great Tomb of Nazarick. After that, do not cause her any pain, but slay her with the deepest and sincerest mercy.”



“Understood, Ainz-sama.”



The girl—Shalltear—smiled to Ainz. However, when Imina saw that smile from the side, a chill ran down her spine. Her instinct told her that this was a monster draped in a very beautiful skin.



“Do enjoy the hunt.”



“That was my intention.”



Shalltear bowed deeply to Ainz before setting forth. Every step she took was one closer to ending Arche’s life, but even if Imina knew it in her mind, there was nothing they could do about it. Imina and Roberdyck were both unable to move.



Shalltear walked past them without any sign that she had noticed them, without paying them the slightest bit of attention. Perhaps Foresight could close the distance between themselves and Shalltear immediately if they ran after her, but she seemed so far away.



“What’s this? Still not coming? If you have time to talk, you have time to fight… How unexpectedly honorable of you.”



He was not looking down on her. His sentiment was genuine. In response to it, Imina’s fighting spirit recovered somewhat.



“Wait! A question, please! What happened there, where is the mercy in that?”



“A priest… then, I will tell you. In Nazarick, a death without further suffering is mercy enough.”



Silence descended upon them. They would no longer speak with words, but weapons.



“Let’s go, Rober!”



“Yes! Ohhhhhhh!”



With an uncharacteristic battlecry, the charging Roberdyck brought his mace down on Ainz’s face. It was a strike made with all his strength. It was precisely because he thought that Ainz would not evade it that he put all his might into the blow.



Although Ainz took the full-power strike in the face, he did not react with pain as expected. Roberdyck followed up his attack, reaching out with his bare hand.



“[Middle Cure Wounds]!”



The healing spell was targeted at Ainz. When exposed to healing-type magic, undead would take damage instead. However, like the attack spell Arche cast earlier, it vanished uselessly against an invisible wall.



“Ahhhhh!”



Imina tensed her bowstring as she cried out. Then—she loosed. Although Roberdyck was next to Ainz, she was not nearly bad enough to actually hit him. Rather, at this range, there was no way she could miss.



Yet—the arrows struck Ainz, and fell to the ground without doing any damage whatsoever.



Ainz vanished.



It was the same tactic as earlier.



“Teleportation!”



“Not quite.”



As expected, the voice came from behind.



“I—”



Before Roberdyck could finish, Ainz’s hand gently settled on Imina’s shoulder. There was no hostility in that gesture.



However, it had a telling effect. All the strength in her body vanished, and she slumped to the ground. Although her mind was fully functional and conscious, her body felt like a puddle of immobile, insensate slime.



“What did you do to her?”



Roberdyck asked his question in a trembling voice, as his eyes went from the collapsed Imina to Ainz, who stood by her side.



“Was that a surprise? It’s nothing special.”



Ainz proceeded to explain in such a way as to break Roberdyck’s spirit.



“It was almost the same as just now. After casting a silent [Time Stop] I moved over here and cast the same spell I used on that man, [Touch of Undeath]. And then, I just touched her.”



The air between them froze into silence. The sound of Roberdyck swallowing was exceptionally loud in comparison,



“…You stopped time…”



“Oh yes. Anti-time stop countermeasures are very important, don’t you know? You’ll need to have them by the time you hit level 70. Oh well, you’re going to die here, so in your case, it’s largely academic.”



Roberdyck ground his teeth.



He was lying. If only he could say that. If only he could deny everything this monster—this god—was saying. It would be better if he fell to his knees and clutched his ears to shut the words out.



He understood that Ainz was very powerful.



However, even with that considered, stopping time and the like was something that should not exist in this world.



The march of time was a flow that could not be mastered or controlled by humanity. What could he do against a foe who was capable of such a feat? Cutting down an entire forest with a single sword would be an easier goal in comparison.



Ainz Ooal Gown. He was a being that the human race could never defeat. He was a man who stood in the realm of divinity.



He gripped his mace in both hands—



—and he felt a light tap on his shoulder.



“Ah…”



Roberdyck’s body stopped moving. He did not have to look to know who had done it. It was Ainz Ooal Gown—that godlike being who could control the passage of time—who was supposed to be standing in front of him. When had he vanished from his field of vision?



The cold flowing into him made him feel as though he had turned into an ice sculpture. Thus, any feeling and freedom were stripped from his body.



“—It was useless, wasn’t it?”



So spoke the gentle voice which carried no trace of enmity to Roberdyck. The mace fell from nerveless fingers, to the ground—



Then, Ainz muttered as he looked to Roberdyck who had lost all will to fight.



“Well, that was a waste of effort. I think I might have actually broken a sweat.”



—It was completely useless. Every tactic and trick he had tried could not do even the slightest bit of damage to Ainz. Thoroughly defeated, Roberdyck looked quietly at Ainz, and calmly asked him a question



“I have something to ask. What is to become of me afterwards?”



“Mm? Is it because you’re a divine magic caster and you think you won’t end up in the same state as those other two?”



With that as a premise, Ainz began his explanation.



“Well, let’s start with those two. Aura, take them to the Large Cave. Gashokukochuuou says he’s running out of nests.”



The Dark Elf’s ears twitched, and her eyes went wide.



“Ai-Ainz-sama! Mare! I can order Mare to go instead, right? Make him go there instead!”



“Oh, hm. Fine with me.”



“Understood! I’ll let Mare go instead!”



“As for that, I apologize. There will be no kind fate in store for them. As for you—the subordinate I sent in pursuit is also a divine magic caster, but the god she believes in is completely different from the gods you worship. When it comes down to it, I have no idea what the Four Great Gods you worship are. As such, I need to confirm the details on them. As their subordinates, you have names for them, but whether they’re the Four Gods or the Six Gods, these names are little more than job titles, like the Fire God, Earth God, is that it?”



“I, I don’t know about that.”



“I see… so they’re not superior beings who possess a mysterious power, they’re nothing more than great men of the past who’ve been deified—”



“—Impossible!”



“Well, do listen. That’s just my theory. But if that were the case, if you do borrow the power of the gods to work your magic, could dead people provide it to you? Or rather, what are the gods? Do they even exist? Are you really using the power of the gods?”



“…What are you trying to say?”



“…Have you ever seen the gods?”



“The gods are always by my side!”



“That is to say, you’ve never actually seen them directly, then?”



“No! When we use our spells, we feel the presence of a mighty being. That is our god!”



“…And who declared that that presence to be a god? The god himself? Or someone else drawing on that power?”



Roberdyck recalled the theological debates he had taken part in. There was no clear answer to Ainz’s questions. Until today, the priests still debated hotly over whether that was the proof of the gods’ existence.



Just as Roberdyck was about to speak, Ainz interrupted him.



“…Well, supposing these super-dimensional beings—which we shall generously term gods for our purposes—do exist, I wonder if that means they were originally colorless entities. Simply put, they are masses of power. Because drawing on their power dyes them in a different color and changes the thing… well, they do exist in a world with magical laws, I just wanted someone to chat with someone about this. It wouldn’t be funny if there really were gods.”



“…”



“My apologies. That was off-topic. The power of the god you believe in. I think we won’t be able to learn it… so do you want to take part in a human experiment?”



“…A human experiment?”



“That’s right. For instance, when we alter your memories so the god you believe in is someone else, what will happen after that?”



He’s insane. That was Roberdyck’s deepest and most honest thought about the situation.



No, he’s undead. It wouldn’t be strange no matter what he did.



Ainz took a step back, looking with deep interest at Roberdyck. That look was the way a scholar would examine a laboratory animal, and it made Roberdyck want to throw up.



“Why, why do you want to do that?”



“To prove that god exists… eh, I’m not going to bother going on with that joke. Truthfully, I want to become stronger by understanding the nature of that power. And if those beings you call gods really exist, I want to know if they have emotions or thoughts. I want to confirm that. As for me, I have never thought of myself as a chosen being. In truth, there are many others like that.”



Roberdyck had no idea what Ainz was talking about.



“Therefore, expanding military preparations is essential. Of course, it may be that no enemies exist, or if they do exist, none of them are as strong as we are. However, don’t you think that the leader of an organization shouldn’t be negligent? After all, if we rest on our laurels, we’re likely to have our feet cut out from under us when we least expect it. Confirming the existence of gods is part of that. “



Ainz shrugged as he finished.



Part 2



Arche panted heavily.



Her body trembled every time the grass rustled in the wind. Like a small animal, she looked fearfully in every direction.



She was surrounded by forest, and there were few places here where the light could reach. The spreading canopies of the densely-packed vegetarion blocked out any illumination from the sky, and so there was almost none on the surface.



Although this environment would normally be difficult for a human being to navigate, in lieu of illumination, Arche used the [Darkvision] spell, which made her surroundings seem as bright as day.



However, even with this spell, she still needed a lot of concentration to pick out grass patches which people could be hiding in, tree trunks that might conceal enemies behind them, and listen to the branches creaking as they swayed in the wind.



As an arcane magic caster, Arche could not count on her own physical strength to shake off any monsters if they leaped onto her and pinned her down. Normally, she would have help from her friends, but now there was nobody to support her, nobody to cover her, and nobody to heal her.



In other words, all she could do was remain alert for foes who were trying to advance into close quarters, keep her distance, and flee. She was on edge because she was keenly aware of this fact, and it sapped her mental strength even more than normal.



Her original plan was to use a [Fly] spell to make her getaway, since she was outside. But once she flew above the trees, she saw a huge black shape in the sky which seemed to be searching for something, so she abandoned that plan.



Once she detected the presence of the giant bat, she could not find it in herself to try and turn it into a contest of speed. That was because even though [Invisibility] could fool visual senses, it could not deceive the special sensory organs of a bat.



After verifying that her surroundings were safe, Arche took flight once more, at a snail’s pace.



She was proceeding as slowly as possible with her [Fly] spell because she wanted to observe her surroundings. If she went at full speed, she would not be able to react quickly enough even if she were on alert and spotted a threat, and that would mean she would be leaping into the mouth of any monsters which pursued her. In order to avoid this, she deliberately lowered her speed.



Finally, Arche felt the layer of magic energy surrounding her growing thin. Her [Fly] spell’s duration was about to run out.



She slowly descended to the ground.



The question now was what should she do. Casting [Fly] again would not be a problem. She could feel that she had enough mana for it. However, [Darkvision] was also a crucial spell, and she also had to reserve enough mana for defensive spells in case of combat.



The 3rd tier spell [Fly] was one of the highest-ranked spells Arche knew how to use. This also meant that it was one of the most draining spells she had. If possible, she wanted to avoid using it.



Ignoring the present circumstances, even she did not know how long it would take to get out of this forest without the use of spells that would stave off her fatigue. And without the ability to fly, she could not even confirm her current location.



On the way here, Arche had occasionally risen above the forest canopy and used the big tree beside the coliseum as a landmark. WHen she used [Fly] to travel, she lost her sense of direction. If she stayed in the forest, she could not spot the big tree, and she was not able to climb trees either.



“—Where can I rest…” Arche mumbled to herself.



Certainly, if she restored her mana through sleep, she could use [Fly] more often, and movement under the sun would be safer. This was particularly true for the forest, where the monsters tended to be nocturnal.



It might be better for her to curl up somewhere and wait for daybreak, rather than force herself to carry on in the dark forest.



However, Arche had no idea where the safe places were.



If Imina were here, she would probably know. And if Roberdyck or Hekkeran were around, she could rest easy even in dangerous areas. However, her reliable companions were not with her.



“—Imina, Roberdyck…”



Arche curled up beside a huge tree, and thought of her comrades.



“—Liars.”



There had been no word from them after so long.



As expected, they had not been able to escape.



No, that was something she had known from the beginning. There was no way they could beat the ridiculous entity known as Ainz. Even so, was she a fool for holding on to the faint hope of seeing them again?



Arche sat on the ground, leaned her back on the great tree, and closed her eyes. She knew it was dangerous.



Still, she wanted to close her eyes.



As the memory of the three of them came to mind, she squeezed her eyelids shut.



The icy-cool sensation of the bark against her head was very comfortable. It was only after she had rested for a while that she realized just how tired she had been. Her stress turned into emotional exhaustion, and it rose without stopping.



“—Haaaaa…”



She let her head rest against the tree.



And then she opened her eyes wide.



[Darkvision] painted the world of night in fresh, bright colors, but she had no explanation for what she saw in her field of vision.



Someone was watching Arche.



It was like nothing Arche had ever seen before, and her eyes seemed transfixed on the sight of the beautiful girl.



She was dressed in a velvet-soft ball gown dyed in the darkest shade of black, a garment that seemed thoroughly unsuited for her present environment. Her skin was as pale as wax. A single hand stroked her long, platinum hair, which seemed about to brush across Arche’s face.



Though she was a noble daughter, Arche had never seen a girl this beautiful before. If she were to show up at a formal dance, men would flock to her like moths to a flame, purely out of desire for her beauty. Her crimson pupils radiated an irresistible charm that seemed to draw Arche’s soul into them.



But Arche immediately returned to her senses. There was no way someone like that would be in a place like this. Especially not someone with both feet on the tree trunk, standing parallel to the ground in utter defiance of gravity.



It was obvious that this was a pursuer sent by Ainz. Still, it was not completely impossible that she might have been a resident in the forest for a long time.



“Tag. You’re it.”



Her fleeting hopes had been utterly dashed.



“—A pursuer.”



Arche leapt away to open up a gap, pointing her staff at the girl. The girl seemed disinterested in Arche, and neatly walked down the tree trunk and onto the floor.



“Come now, start running.”



“—if I defeat you here, I can flee more safely.”



Even as she said this, Arche smiled bitterly in her heart. There was no way she could beat any pursuer sent by Ainz, a being who existed outside the bounds of common sense.



Knowing this, the reason why she said so was to gauge the other party’s reaction.



“Then, by all means, although I can only play with you for a while.”



Her attitude said that she completely understood the difference in power between the two of them. Which was to say, if she fought Arche, it would be nothing more than toying with her.



“—[Fly]!”



Arche cast her spell and began to flee. There was not the leisurely, slow flight she had demonstrated on the ground. In one swift movement she was aloft, covering her face with her arms as she broke through the forest canopy and soared into the air.



Under the night sky, Arche looked around once more. She was on guard for the bat-like monster she had seen earlier. However, it seemed that it was nowhere around. And so, all that was left was to escape.



“Yes, yes, keep it up, keep it up,”



The beautiful voice called out to Arche, who was desperately trying to flee. Her heart lurched. Casting frantic glances around, Arche tried to see where it was coming from.



It was from in front and above her.



When had she—the girl from just now was there.



“—[Lightning]!”



Bluish-white lightning leapt from her staff’s head and cleaved through the night. This was Arche’s strongest attack spell. Even though it pierced the girl, the smile did not vanish from her face.



Arche was sure of it. This was a being on par with Ainz, which meant that there was no way Arche could defeat her. The girl cheerfully spoke to Arche, who was eager to flee.



“[Come, my familiars.]”



An enormous pair of wings extended from behind the girl’s back. They were like a bat’s in shape, but far, far larger. An enormous bat flew out from behind her, like it had detached from her body. And of course, no bat with glowing crimson eyes like that could be a mere beast.



The girl smiled from beside the giant bat, whose wings beat steadily through the air. It was a smile that froze Arche’s body like ice, a smile that did not seem to belong on someone her age at all.



“Well then, do continue to flee~”



***



Arche fled.



All she did was flee.



She flew into the forest to lose her pursuer, and the branches scratched her body as she fled.



Since she had discarded her companions to escape, that meant she had to make it out of here no matter what. In her mind, she would do anything to make that happen.



And after a flight of who knew how long, Arche stared despair in the face.



It was a wall.



An invisible wall stood in front of her.



The world went on beyond it, but Arche’s body was blocked by that wall. Arche was now two hundred meters above ground level and the invisible wall had reached this high.



“—This is—”



Arche muttered to herself as despair seeped into her heart. She flew and felt around with her hands. But… wall, wall, wall, still a wall.



No matter where she flew, her hands told her there was something hard in her way.



“What is this?!”



“A wall, of course.”



It was an answer to her self-directed mutterings. Arche turned around, with an idea of who she might see.



It was as she had expected. The girl from earlier. But now she had a trio of giant bats as her escorts.



“Though it seems you’ve gotten the wrong impression. This is the 6th floor of the Great Tomb of Nazarick. That is to say, you’re underground.”



“…This?”



Arche pointed to the world. The sky, the stars, the gently-blowing wind, the forest which stretched as far as the eye could see. Although she did not think this place could be under the earth, when it came to these people, even that might be a possibility.



“The 41 Supreme Beings, our most august creators, once ruled this place. It was created by them, and even we don’t understand all of it.”



“—They created a world? That would make them like gods…”



“That’s correct. To us, they are beings on the same level as gods. Gods with Ainz-sama as their leader.”
Arche looked around.



She had accepted it. As expected, after seeing all this, the only thing she could do was accept it.



There was no way she would be returning alive.



“Well then, not fleeing?”



“—Would it even be possible?”



“Of course not. There was never any intention to allow you to escape to begin with.”



“—Is that so.”



Arche gripped her staff tightly with both hands and charged the girl. She could no longer use spells since she was out of mana. However, even in this most hopeless of situations she still had to try her best until the very last moment. This was the duty of Arche, the sole surviving member of Foresight.



“There, there, you’ve done your best.”



The girl’s reply to Arche’s fully-determined charge was little more than bored dismissal.



“Then, your sad little escape attempt ends here… though it’s a shame I couldn’t see you break down in tears.”



The girl easily caught the staff with one hand, and yanked it toward herself. Arche was thrown off balance and fell into the arms of the girl. The two of them ended up embracing in mid-air.



In this position, the girl buried her face into Arche’s neck. Although Arche tried to struggle, the girl who stuck to her like glue could not be shaken off. She breathed hotly on Arche’s neck, and Arche’s body quivered.



“…Mm, the stink of sweat…”



Not being able to keep one’s body clean was part and parcel of the worker’s life for Arche. This was true for all Workers, adventurers, travellers, and anyone who spent time moving around outside. Even if they got dirty, the appropriate response would be “So what?”



However, she still felt deeply ashamed at being told this by a girl who was younger and more beautiful than her.



The girl’s face left Arche’s neck. A feeling of revulsion swept up over Arche as she looked into those crimson eyes. Within those eyes burned a lust for the female body, stained with the same carnal desire that men possessed for women.



“Be at ease. You will die without experiencing any suffering. Be grateful to Ainz-sama for his mercy.”



“——!”



Arche wanted to respond, but instead all she felt was surprise – surprise at the fact that her body had been immobilized. It was as though those crimson pupils had stolen away her soul.



At last, Arche realised the true identity of the girl. She was not human — she was a Vampire.



“…And then…”



The girl’s face drew closer to Arche’s, her tongue slipping past her lips to lightly lick at Arche’s cheeks.



“…Salty…”



The girl laughed, and despair swallowed Arche’s soul.



That only made the girl laugh harder.



Her lips split apart to her ears. The red of her irises spread to engulf their respective eyeballs.



With a cracking sound, she opened her mouth. What had once been neat, pearly white teeth were now things that made people think of medical syringes, in multiple rows like those of a shark. Her lascivious voice was laced with lewd undertones, and clear drool oozed from the corners of her mouth.



And then, terror enveloped Arche completely.



“Ahahahahaha!”



Arche’s mind lost hold on consciousness in the face of the laughing monster that reeked of blood.



The last thing that went through her mind was the faces of her two sisters waiting for her.



“Ooooooh? Fainted already? …Then there’s no need to knock you out with magic. You can embrace Death in your dreams~”



Part 3



After handing the intruders over to his subordinates to handle, Ainz activated the monitor within the Throne Room and scrolled through Nazarick’s data. The figure which most concerned him — their remaining funds — had only shifted very slightly. That was because they had hardly activated any cash-item traps. Thus, it could be counted as a very successful training exercise.



Ainz turned to Albedo — who was nervously awaiting Ainz’s opinion — and smiled broadly — although a skeletal face could not show any expressions — before praising her:



“Very well done. While the intruders were all weak, they were fairly skilled among the humans of this world. In addition, you eliminated them with barely any expenditures. It would seem I can entrust the task of defense to you in future.”



“Thank you for your praise.”



Albedo looked visibly relieved as she bowed her head in gratitude.



“Then, Ainz-sama, are there any problems with the time?”



“It’s fine. I’ve asked Pandora’s Actor; while the people on top think the Workers are taking their time, they’ve decided to wait one day, or until there’s some change in the ruins.”



After seeing that none of the Workers had returned by dawn, the adventurers had flown into a panic, but Momon — Pandora’s Actor — suggested that they wait another day and see. While they had already arranged that to leave the campsite and observe from further away in case of emergency, the word of an adamantite-ranked adventurer carried more weight than their previous plans.



“Then, may I occupy a bit of your precious time? In truth, I have a question to ask, Ainz-sama.”



“What is it, Albedo? A moment please… alright, it’s fine.”



Ainz turned around after making a final check on Hamsuke and the Lizardmen through the monitor.



“What is this question?”



“—Yes.” She looked around before speaking. “This concerns what those fools said just now; how high is searching for the Supreme Beings on your list of priorities, Ainz-sama?”



“At the top. So long as it does not place the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick in danger, it will be our topmost priority, “ Ainz answered without delay.



“I see. I understand. Then, I have a proposal, that you will allow me to put together a unit under me that will search for the Supreme Beings.”



“What do you mean?”



Ainz’s tone had unconsciously grown stiff, because he realised the dark side lurking within his heart.



Until this date, he had several opportunities to actively search for his friends. However, he had kept pushing those plans back because he “lacked manpower” or “had insufficient information”.



This was because he was afraid of scouring every corner of the world and finding nothing, so he could not make that decision. Rather than work hard just to confirm that he was alone, becoming a famous monster held more hope.



“Yes. The lies those fools told just now were of a very low grade and were instantly seen through. However, we might encounter information in future whose veracity cannot be easily determined. Therefore, I would like to form a team to verify the reliability of this information, and at the same time investigate the whereabouts of the Supreme Beings. After I investigate in detail, I can report the results to you, Ainz-sama.”



Ainz caressed his chin with a bony hand.



“Is that so…” he murmured to himself. He thought about his conversation with the Workers, and what he felt was not anger, but emptiness. Wavering between hope and despair was truly a heart-wrenching thing. His own sentimentality aside, it would seem that as the group’s leader, it was time for him to decide to advance, even if it was only by a small step.



“You do not need to do everything on your own, Albedo. I hope you will be able to continue administering Nazarick well. If you intend to gather information by heading outside… would Mare or Aura not be better choices? I hear there are Dark Elves in the outside world.”



“It is as you say. However, there is one factor which makes me uneasy; ‘loss of control’. For instance, if she caught wind of Peroroncino-sama, Shalltear would surely abandon everything and do as she pleased. Similarly, if Aura and Mare learned of Bukubukuchagama, there is no telling what Aura and Mare will do.”



“I see…” Ainz smiled bitterly as he thought of Shalltear. “Indeed, I feel that is a possibility.”



“In order to avoid that, I feel a team which is directly loyal to me would be more appropriate.”



“…So you will not go berserk when you learn about Tabula-san?”



“Please be at ease. As the Guardian Overseer of Nazarick, I will not do so under any circumstances. I promise.”



“I see…”



When it came to Albedo, a wise person who was the most skilled at the internal administration of Nazarick, the chances of her going out of control due to her emotions ought to be very low. While she was a little off-kilter from time to time, there had never been any problems with the running of Nazarick while Ainz had been gone, and she was worthy of trust.



“Personally, I feel Demiurge would also be acceptable, but he has many other duties to cover. Having him bear the weighty task of gathering information about the other Supreme Beings in addition to those tasks would be somewhat burdensome.”



“What you said also makes sense. Then how about dispatching Pandora’s Actor?”



“I was about to mention that. If possible, I would like to ask you to assign me Pandora’s Actor as my adjutant, Ainz-sama.”



“I see. Having two of Nazarick’s most intelligent people working together will reduce the chances of mistakes compared to just one person, but… he still has his duties in the Treasury. I will lend him to you when the need arises.”



“Thank you, Ainz-sama. May I make several other requests?”



Ainz raised his chin, indicating that she should continue.



“I would like my subordinates for the Supreme Being search team to be powerful.”



“Of course, I will assign you a group of the highest-levelled vassals.”



“Thank you, Ainz-sama. In addition, I feel it would be very helpful if you could bestow upon an undead lieutenant hand-crafted by yourself.”



“That, I cannot approve. Indeed, the lieutenants I can make are level 90, but—”



Rather than mercenary NPCs, one of Ainz’s skills allowed him to use experience points to create undead beings — an Overlord Wiseman or a Grim Reaper Thanatos. Since he could only have one at a time, they were very powerful. However, this world was not like YGGDRASIL where large amounts of experience points were easy to come by, and so he wanted to avoid skills which consumed experience points.



“Yes, I’ll pass on that. Albedo, you will be in charge of the team, your adjutant will be Pandora’s Actor, and the other team members will be monsters.”



“Understood. There is also one more thing; I would like to keep this group secret and not let the other Guardians know about it.”



“Why is that? Won’t it be better to have the Guardians’ help?”



“No. If news is carelessly leaked, the Guardians or the other creations of the Supreme Beings might ask us to bring them along in order to visually confirm the sightings. In that case, they might end up falling into a trap if that news was bait. My abilities are oriented towards defense, so I might be able to escape on my own, but it would be more difficult if I had to protect others as well.”



“That makes sense. Very well, Albedo. We will proceed as you see fit.”



“Thank you, Ainz-sama!”



Albedo bowed deeply in thanks, and her long hair hung down, covering her face.



“That’s fine. Then, I’ll leave this to you.”



“Please be at ease, Ainz-sama! The secret unit executing your most important order will not disappoint you.”



Ainz was puzzled. The phrasing of her reply seemed a little strange.



Forget it, it’s fine.



“Then let us select your subordinates. I won’t touch the vassals already assigned to the various floors, but make new ones instead. How many level 80-odd monsters do you need?”



“Let’s start with 15.”



“15? That’s a bit too…”



Halfway through, Ainz shook his head. Searching for his past friends was an important task; he should not be considering the expense at all.



“No, that’s fine. I understand.”



“There is another thing I would like to ask; may I have command authority over Rubedo?”



“Denied.”



Ainz replied instantly.



Rubedo was the single most powerful individual in Nazarick. Purely in terms of melee combat, she was stronger than Sebas, Cocytus and Albedo. In all likelihood, even a fully-equipped Ainz could not beat her, and even Shalltear would be considered weak in comparison to her.



The only people who can beat her are the ones from the 8th Floor, and they’d have to use World-Class Items. No matter how strong she is, she probably wouldn’t be able to fight one of them to a draw, but…



“While the activation experiment was a success, I do not intend to mobilize it for the moment. I wish to ask you; why do you need so much fighting power?”



“It embarrasses me to say it, but would you be willing to listen, Ainz-sama?”



“Go ahead.”



“Since this is a rare chance to do so, I wanted to put together the strongest possible team.”



“Hahahaha—!”



Albedo’s wish might have sounded like that of a child, but Ainz keenly understood it, and he could not help laughing. The emotion was promptly suppressed, but ripples of mirth remained in its wake.



“Ainz-sama!”



Upon seeing the distressed look on Albedo’s face, Ainz smiled congenially to her — although his face did not move — and replied:



“Sorry, sorry. No, hm, that is quite interesting. So that’s it. In that case, since she’s your sister, I shall turn command authority over to you.”



“Will you really permit that?”



“Of course; go assemble your dream team. For all we know, we might need to use that team’s power in the future.”



“Thank you very much, Ainz-sama!”



Albedo bowed deeply, and so he could not see her face, but Ainz imagined she would be smiling benignly as always, and so he turned his attention to the monitors once more. Just then, someone entered the Throne Room; it was Entoma. She walked up to the Throne, then genuflected before him and bowed her head.



“My apologies.”



“What is it, Entoma?”



Albedo’s voice sounded very stiff. Entoma replied with a “Yes” and continued answering from her kneeling position.



“Aura-sama and Mare-sama are due to set out, and so I have come to report it to you,”



“Is that so… raise your head.”



Entoma replied with a clipped “Yes” once more and then looked up.



“There’s still time, so I will go send them off. Communicating with magic is far too boring. Entoma, pardon me, but go inform the two of them.”



“Understood.



Entoma rose and made to leave. Albedo watched her back as she went, then leaned over to Ainz and asked:



“…Ainz-sama, are you not displeased? They should have sent a maid other than Entoma. I will scold them later.”



“…Why do you say that?”



“No, I simply felt that they should not have let you hear that rude girl’s voice, Ainz-sama—”



“Oh, I don’t mind. In fact, it was my suggestion that Entoma take her — wait! Entoma!”



“Yes! Is something the matter?”



Entoma was just about to rush back when Ainz held out his hand to stop her, indicating that she should answer him from her current location.



“What happened to the other parts? Were they well-utilized?”



“Yes. The head went to a Silk Hat. The arms were shared between the Deadman Struggles. Demiurge-sama took the skin. The other parts were fodder for Grant’s children. I believe there was no wastage.”



“Really now? Very good. A hunter’s duty is to make good use of every bit of his kill. If all hunters did that, it would be called provision.”



“You really are… too kind. As expected of the Supreme One, you show kindness even to such filthy little thieves. Surely everyone in Nazarick would shed a tear if they heard what you just said, Ainz-sama.”



Albedo’s voice trembled with emotion as she spoke. Entoma’s eyes were filled with a respect that transcended the norm.



“…Umu. Ah, it’s fine… that’s just my personal opinion, it’s not meant to force you to be like me. Although, I still… feel that making full use of it is just common courtesy.”



“Understood, I’m certain the others will make good use of theirs too!”



As he saw the two of them bowing deeply before him, Ainz had a feeling like he had missed something somewhere, and all he could reply with was “Umu.”



Part 4



The Ministry of Magic had several meeting rooms and guest rooms. Fluder was headed to the most lavishly-furnished guest room of them all. It was a room which was only used for visits from the Emperor or other highly-placed people.



Fluder stood by the door of the room and checked his grooming.



His robe was exquisite and fit to be worn to the evening galas organized by the Emperor, while the splash of cologne on his collar and sleeves radiated a heartening fragrance.



Fluder had no interest in politics or social interactions. Rather, he hoped to be able to focus all his efforts on magical research, so he found all other matters annoying. However, he knew that he could not completely ignore such problems.



He did not want to wound the Empire’s dignity by appearing unkempt.



Very good, all’s well.



After assuring himself that his clothes were in an immaculate state, he knocked on the door, and then entered.



There were two adventurers in the luxurious room. One was a warrior, dressed in jet black plate armor like the Death Knight from just now. And then, the other one was a beautiful woman who was so fair that she even managed to mesmerize Fluder for a moment.



So they are Momon of Darkness and the Beautiful Princess Nabe, then?



“Forgive me for keeping the two of you waiting.”



As Fluder quietly closed the door, he suddenly had a strange feeling.



“…Odd…”



He remained at the door, staring at the jaw-dropping beauty.



…I can’t see it?



Fluder’s eyes should have been able to see an image superimposed over her. However, he could not see it now, which left him speechless from shock and puzzlement.



Fluder’s natural Talent was the ability to see the auras around arcane magic casters, and thus the tier of spells they could use.



However, Fluder’s talent could not sense the auras from around them, despite hearing that the Beautiful Princess Nabe of Darkness was an arcane magic caster.



Protection from divinations?



That was the only possibility, but that in turn raised new questions of its own. Why had she warded herself against divinations? Normal adventurers would not erect such defenses. That was because using their strength on such matters was too troublesome and few situations arose where one needed to be constantly aware of such things. Besides, not taking off one’s protection for divinations when meeting them was quite rude.



Well, I used a detection ability myself, which was somewhat impolite too… but why does she have to hide her power?



Fluder’s Talent was well known, and perhaps she had done so to protect herself, but he still did not know the reason for it.



Upon seeing Fluder frozen in place, his somewhat surprised guests asked:



“Is something the matter?”



“Ohh, please forgive my rudeness.”



Fluder sat before Momon, but he could not help sneaking peeks at Nabe.



“Ah, I see. Let’s begin, then.”



Begin what? Before Fluder could ask, Momon took the initiative and said:



“…Nabe, it’s time for you to take your ring off.”



“Understood.”



Nabe removed her ring. In that moment—



***



It felt like an explosion had gone off in his face.



A cry of “What—!” escaped his throat.



Nabe’s body radiated a world-shaking wave of power.



His body was not truly being assaulted by a wave of overpressure. This was a surge of might which only someone with Fluder’s talents could see.



Fluder curled up into a ball and trembled, like a man lashed by icy winds.



“Im… possible…”



It was not possible, it could not be possible. There was no way — no way that there was someone more powerful than himself.



But he could not reject it out of hand, because the scene before him was reality. His ability had never betrayed him before — her power was far in excess of his. That was the pure and undeniable truth.



“The 7th… no, don’t tell me, this flow of power is… the proof of the 8th…?”



If that were so, then it would be the stuff of legends.



Fluder could no longer speak, because magic of the 5th tier was the domain of heroes. And the 6th tier which Fluder had reached was terra incognita. And now, someone who had easily gone a tier beyond had suddenly appeared before his eyes.



And she was such a young and beautiful woman too.



Could it be that her appearance doesn’t correspond to her age?



As Fluder trembled in shock, he noticed Momon removing one of his black gauntlets, and then he removed one of the rings he wore.



“—!”



In that instant, the world was subsumed into light, and Fluder felt his consciousness flee him.



He could not understand what had just taken place before his eyes. Even Fluder, who had lived over 200 years, even this man who could use the highest tiers of magic humanity could reach, could not comprehend this reality.



“This… this… this is… this is too unbelievable.”



Hot fluid coursed down Fluder’s cheeks. However, he did not have the presence of mind or the composure to wipe it away. The immense shock had overwhelmed his mind.



Who could have imagined this? That the Dark Warrior of song and story was actually an arcane magic caster, and one who occupied a height so great that Fluder could not hope to reach the soles of his feet?.



“If that is the 8th tier… then this is the 9th… no… this really is… oh, gods…”



The overwhelming might emanating from the Dark Warrior Momon far exceeded that of Nabe, who sat by his side. Since he had surpassed Nabe, a magic caster estimated to be of the 8th tier, then exactly what heights of magic could this Momon reach?



Fluder’s soul answered the question that had appeared in the corner of his mind.



***



—The 10th tier. It was an absolute zenith whose existence was known, but which had never been verified. And now, a man who came from that exalted domain had appeared before his eyes.



***



Fluder rose to his feet, then knelt before Momon, tears streaming from his eyes



“…In the past, I believed in a lesser deity who governed magic. However, if you are not that god, then I shall promptly renounce my faith. That is because the true god has deigned to appear before me.”



Fluder kowtowed with all his might, plastering his head to the ground. There was pain, but the uncontrollable joy in his heart meant that the pain lost all meaning to him.



“I know this is extremely rude, but I beg a favor of you, upon my hands and knees! Please, bestow your teachings upon me! I wish to glimpse the abyss of magic! I beg you! I beg you!”



“—And what sort of price are you willing to pay for that?”



That voice was as cold as an iceberg. Fully a hundred out of a hundred would describe it that way; yet to Fluder’s ears, it was a sweet and pleasant voice that set his heart aflutter. Of course, he knew of the venom concealed within those words. Still — what of it?



Fluder did not hesitate for even a moment. He was willing to pay the price. He was willing to hand over his soul.



“Everything! Yes, I will pledge everything I have to you! O Lord of the Abyss! O unfathomable one!”



“…Very well. If you are willing to give me everything, then my knowledge shall be yours. I shall grant your wish.”



“Ohhh! Ohhhhh!”



Fluder ground his forehead into the floor as he shed tears of joy. His heart, frozen and stiff from jealousy, had melted. After waiting over 200 years, he had finally obtained a chance to fulfil the wish he had held for so long.



The utterly excited Fluder kept his forehead touched to the floor as he crawled over to Momon’s feet and kissed his boots. He had originally planned to lick them clean. However, the calm portion of his mind worried that his master and god would be revolted by him, and so he settled for politeness instead.



“That’s enough, I understand your loyalty.”



“Ohhh! Thank you!… My Master!”



“Now then, your first order. Deliver live sacrifices to my fortress—”



***



“Gramps! Gramps! What’s wrong, Gramps?”



Lost in thought, Fluder came round when he heard someone calling out to him.



Fluder blinked a few times, then he remembered where he was, and nodded to the person who had called out to him.



“Forgive me, your Majesty. I was thinking about something.”



Before Fluder was the only person who could call him “Gramps”. That person was the Emperor of the Baharuth Empire, Jircniv Rune Farlord El-Nix.



Normally, there would only be a few people in this room, but right now, there were many people gathered here. There was Emperor Jircniv and four bodyguards. There was Fluder Paradyne, the highest-ranking magic caster in the Empire. Then there were 10 loyal and capable ministers, whose abilities could effectively support their outstandingly intelligent Emperor. In addition, one of the people hailed as the strongest in the Empire — “Lightning Bolt” Baziwood Peshmel of the Empire’s Four Knights — was present.



All of them sat where they pleased, and they had been discussing the direction that the Empire would take since just now. The sheets of paper scattered all around bore witness to the intensity of their debate. One of them had even shouted himself hoarse.



The young Empeoror with the title of Bloody spoke something to Fluder that he would never have said to anyone else.



“No, don’t worry about it. After all, I’ve made you worry about a lot of things. You’re getting on in years, so I’d like to let you enjoy them. Unfortunately, there are many things which I must bother you about, so please forgive me.”



“I thank your Majesty for his concern. However, I am a faithful servant of your Majesty. Please, order me around as you see fit.”



After being thanked for his service, Fluder nodded his head slightly.



I’ve raised a good boy.



Those thoughts went through Fluder’s mind as he looked upon the handsome young man.



Fluder had begun working for the Empire about six generations ago.



His relationship with the Emperor at that time — the sixth Emperor before Jircniv — had been quite bad. However, Fluder was a skilled magic caster who could cast spells of a high tier, so after entering public service, he soon reached the middle to upper ranks of the Court Wizards.



For this reason, Fluder had become closer to the fifth Emperor before Jircniv. After becoming the Head Court Wizard, he began teaching the fourth Emperor before Jricniv about magic.



Ever since the third Emperor before Jircniv ascended to the throne, he had taken on the role of teaching the Emperor about all sorts of knowledge, and he had considerable influence in implementing policy.



And now, there was the present Emperor — his beloved boy.



None of the Emperors he had served through the generations were incompetent. The heavens seemed to have smiled upon every one of them; they were all talented and intelligent boys — thought the sixth Emperor before Jircniv had been old at the time. And among all of them, the current Emperor possessed intelligence to surpass all of them. He might have been begun laying the foundations for it since two generations ago, but the fact that he could successfully institute himself as an autocrat was thanks to his excellent competence.



Fluder deeply doted on Jircniv Rune Farlord El-Nix.



Fluder had taught him like he was his own son. He was certain that the Emperor too loved and respected him like a second father.



Even so—



***



Fluder could discard a man he loved like his own son.



I want to see the abyss of magic, Jir. I will cast aside anything for it without hesitation. Even a darling lad like you.



***



“Then, your Majesty, we’ve decided to completely halt the offensive against the Kingdom, is it?”



“Indeed. That’s because investigating the demon Jaldabaoth is more important. Gramps, did you learn anything?”



“I regret to say that despite my investigations, I have not found any information yet, your Majesty.”



Indeed, it had all been arranged beforehand.



“Paradyne-sama. Can you not use magic to investigate?”



Fluder turned to the man who had addressed him, carefully faked an expression, and then looked coldly at him.



“Indeed, magic is potentially capable of performing the impossible. That is—”



“—Forgive me, gramps. Once you start talking about this sort of thing, you tend to ramble on all day. Please dispense with that for now.”



“I understand, your Majesty,” Fluder replied with a somewhat unhappy look on his face. Then, he started speaking again in a pedagogical tone: “There are ways to resist magical investigation. For instance, this room is soundproofed; you all should know this. Similarly, impeding divination magic is also simple enough to accomplish.”



“…I see. In other words, there are ways to resist it, so it’s very difficult.”



“Precisely. However, you would be lucky to get away with a simple spell failure. High-end magic casters can even prepare counterattacks against this sort of magic; if things go badly, those can directly kill the diviner who is casting spells on them.”



What use would my pitiful grasp of magic be to the Supreme One… nobody is more fitting of being called the Supreme One. I need to demonstrate my usefulness as soon as possible—



Several people had disgusted looks on their faces when they learned that their adversary could instantly kill people in the process of striking back, but Fluder was utterly uninterested.



“So according to your words,” one of the ministers said as he picked up a sheet of paper. “Does the fact that you could detect the base of this Ainz Ooal Gown magic caster with a spell not imply that his abilities are beneath yours, Paradyne-sama?”



“Naive!”



Fluder struggled to keep himself from smiling bitterly as he continued in a harsh tone, the better to impress the depths of his annoyance on the other party.



“You are too naive. It was only after I witnessed him saving Carne Village… no, I noticed he had only saved Carne Village and then conducted magical surveillance of the area, which was how I noticed the ruins. Since I had no recollection of the ruins being there, I continued my observation, which was how I noticed a magic caster who looked like like Ainz Ooal Gown entering those ruins. You must remember that I discovered him entirely by chance, else you will be inviting disaster upon your own head!”



Part of that was the truth. Only a fool would take such a great being lightly. No, he too had been such a fool; ignorance was a truly tragic thing.



Fluder quietly laughed at his foolish self from the past. At that time, he had truly been clueless.



“Forgive me.”



Fluder waved his hand to accept the man’s apology.



“Oh, that’s right, Gramps. What about the Workers you sent into his home?”



“One of the spies following them sent back a report via [Message]. It seems they are all dead.”



Jircniv counted the days on his fingers, and then his eyes widened slightly. He had heard that the people who had been sent out were quite capable Workers. The fact that such fighting power had been annihilated in a day or less was quite surprising.



Needless to say, Fluder was not surprised. He felt that such an outcome was inevitable. However, the look on his face was one of disbelief.



“…Is that so? That said, magical information alone is not completely reliable. How long until the adventurers return?”



“They decided to fall back immediately since nobody came back alive, but it seems it will take them four days to come back.”



“Waiting for the returning adventurers to provide us with their information… That’ll be at least five days. Until then, our hands are tied.”



[Message] was a very unreliable way of transmitting information. That was because it became less clear the longer the distance between them. In addition, there was another reason why the Empire did not place its trust in methods like [Message].



The most famous example was the tragedy of Gartenberg.



Roughly 300 years ago, that country had set up a [Message] network between their cities to increase the speed of information transfer. It was a humanoid nation ruled by magic casters. Due to their over-reliance on [Message], it fell into chaos after receiving just three false reports. The cities warred against each other and on top of that they were attacked by monsters and demihumans, and thus the country perished.



Apart from that, the bards also sang songs about husbands who murdered their wives after being informed of the latter’s betrayal, only to find out that it had been fake news all along.



As a result, very few people trusted [Message] for passing on information. Rather, those who placed too much faith in [Message] were treated as idiots. Jircniv was one of them. He made use of [Message]. However, he corroborated it with intelligence from other sources; he would never solely rely on magic.



“Still, that man was a moron. If he had hired Workers from E-Rantel, things would have fitted our plan better. Of course, it’s precisely because he’s incompetent that he was dancing in the palm of my hand, but being too useless is problematic too. He ought to be better bait, at least.”



“It is as your Majesty says.”



***



Jircniv furrowed his brows as he heard Fluder agree with him.



Fluder had proposed a plan several days ago, which he had accepted. Said plan had two aims.



The first was to grasp Ainz Ooal Gown’s personality.



According to Fluder’s investigations, Ainz Ooal Gown’s reaction was to not leave the tomb for several days, so they determined that said tomb was his home base. Thus, they dispatched the Workers there, to observe how Ainz Ooal Gown would react.



Would he treat the people who barged into his domicile kindly, or mount stiff resistance?



In the end, the Workers had been slaughtered to the last, and from there, they had learned about part of his character.



The other aim was to ruin the Kingdom’s relationship with Ainz Ooal Gown. It would have been better to hire Workers in E-Rantel, but unfortunately things had not gone that smoothly.



It seems he was not that stupid after all.
All the Count had been told was that those were unknown ruins. It had been enough of a risk for a noble of the Empire to barge into ruins within Kingdom territory, and hiring workers from the Kingdom would have required even more courage. It was hard to fault him for using Empire Workers.



However that would mean they could not spoil the relationship between E-Rantel — or perhaps the Re-Estize Kingdom — and Ainz Ooal Gown. Therefore, in order to achieve their second aim, they had to send information on this unknown tomb to the Kingdom’s Adventurer’s Guild.



“Momon’s arrival at the Empire played right into our hands.”



“Indeed. Now, he will tell the Guild over there about the unknown ruins and how the Workers were all wiped out. This way, the Kingdom will know the Empire wants to search those ruins, and they’ll mount an official investigation on their own.”



It was in order to achieve that objective that they had forced the involvement of the Adventurer’s Guild in this. Of course, they had not done so in the Emperor’s name. They had simply spread some rumors through their spies to encourage such an occurrence.



This incident had to be treated as a foolish noble running wild. In this way, even if the Empire’s involvement were revealed, Ainz Ooal Gown’s hostility would be directed to the manipulated Count, and Jircniv could instead build a friendly relationship with him.



“Naturally, the Kingdom’s adventurers will invade the lair of Ainz Ooal Gown, who responds to intrusions with deadly force. What sort of response will a powerful magic caster make against the Kingdom? And what will the Kingdom do when it is attacked? I do look forward to it,” Jircniv laughed. Then, just in case, he asked:



“I already know the power of Ainz Ooal Gown. He can easily eliminate Worker teams. This matter ought to be neatly handled and taken care of by offering up the head of a single foolish noble.”



“But of course. We have taken great pains to handle this, and only the people here know the truth.”



“Good. But just in case — what was that?”



A tremor interrupted Jircniv’s words. The windows in the room and furniture rattled. However, it did not seem to be an earthquake. It was more like a single great shaking caused by some massive entity crashing into the ground.



“What happened? Hurry up and check — what’s this ruckus about?! What’s going on!”



The wails Jircniv heard were not just from inside the room, but outside as well. The walls of this room were thick and sturdy. In that case, just how loudly were the people outside screaming? What had brought about this screaming — the least suitable sound for this place?



One of his vassals looked at the courtyard from whence the screaming came and after examining the situation, his face turned pale as he answered Jircniv’s question.



“Your Majesty! A Dragon! A Dragon has landed in the courtyard!”



For a brief moment, a wave of stupefaction passed through the room. Nobody could immediately parse the meaning of that sentence. No, they could not understand it. Everyone knew that he could not be lying, yet they all ran to the window to witness it with their own eyes.



They practically tore open the heavy curtains. After seeing what lay beyond them, the scene outside the translucent glass window — that of a Dragon in the middle of the courtyard — every single one of them was speechless and gawping with their mouths open.



“Why… why is there a Dragon there? Where did that Dragon come from?”



“Foreign Affairs! Which Dragon-riding boor was scheduled to barge into the courtyard today?!”



“I don’t know anything about this!”



“Have you seen the Council Alliance’s Dragons before? Could that be a Dragon from the Council Alliance?”



“…That Dragon doesn’t match the description I was given. A diplomat told me, so it ought to be reliable.”



“All that isn’t important; surely the biggest problem is letting the opposition force their way into the Imperial Palace, right!? His Majesty is here; what are the Royal Air Guards doing!”



Dragons possessed powerful bodies sheathed in thick scales, their lifespans vastly exceeded those of mankind, they had all manner of special abilities and magic, and they were the mightiest beings in the world. Of course, Dragons’ strength varied between individuals, and there were occasional stories of an adventurer defeating a Dragon. But throughout the course of history, there were also cities devastated by a wrathful Dragon, and sometimes even entire countries. A city in a country from the south had been destroyed by a Dragon some twenty-odd years ago, and it was still fresh in people’s memory.



The fact that such a being had appeared in the middle of the Imperial Palace was a grave situation.



Even Jircniv held his breath as he surveyed the situation. Just then, he saw two people hop down from the Dragon’s back.



He squinted, and saw that they were two children whose skin had been tanned by the sun.



“Those ought to be Dark Elves.”



Fluder calmly stated the species of those two.



“Paradyne-sama! Where did that Dragon come from! And who are those two people?”



“Well, I don’t recognize that Dragon…”



The Dragon in the courtyard was surrounded by knights, to say nothing of the two people who had just alighted from it. Those knights were the pride of Empire, yet he could not bring himself to put his faith in them when they stood before a Dragon. That was the strongest living being for you.



A man strode forth from among the knights, a man who carried a shield in each hand.



“Oi, oi, is he going out there? While it can’t be helped… losing him like this would be a shame.”



The person who had stepped forth was one of the Empire’s Four Knights, “The Immovable” Nazami Enec.



He was one of the topmost warriors in the Kingdom, the most adept of the Four Knights at defensive battles. This warrior might be able to resist many energy attacks, but he seemed awfully insignificant when compared to a Dragon. Everyone could only nod in agreement at “Lightning Bolt” Baziwood Peshmel’s prediction of his colleague’s fate.



“Your Majesty, please take shelter!”



“Where can we run? Tell me where can we find safety?”



Jircniv snorted at the suggestion from the minister who had come to his senses.



“But!”



“—I understand what you want to say. But if we abandon the Imperial Palace and run, we will become the butt of jokes. The same applies even if our adversary is a Dragon. While it does not look like a Dragon of the Council Alliance, if our foe did this while knowing I would not flee… they say Dragons are very intelligent; it seems it knows the Empire’s political situation very well.”



Jircniv could apply pressure to the nobles because he had the military power of the knights as backing. If the Emperor and his knights quit the Imperial Palace and fled because a Dragon appeared there, they would certainly make light of the Emperor’s military power and revolt. He did not think he would lose to whatever ragtag bunch of misfits they could scrape together, but it would severely weaken the Empire.



Whether we fight or flee, we still lose. What a troublesome move. Where did that Dragon come from?



Soon, more and more people gathered in the courtyard. There were 40 Imperial Guardsmen surrounding the Dragon and the two people, as well as 60 knights. In addition to that, there were arcane and divine magic casters scattered throughout their number.



“120 people will not be enough to deal with them. I think I should go over too, your Majesty.”



Jircniv furrowed his brow slightly. Fluder was the trump card of the Empire. He was not sure whether playing that card against a mighty being like the Dragon would do any good. However, he was confident that Fluder could escape even after being pressed into dire straits, and that trust cut through his hesitation.



Jircniv did not know the truth.



He did not know that Fluder’s offer to go forth was to avoid Jircniv asking him to retreat with teleportation magic.



“I’ll leave it to you, gramps. Also, could you ask The Immovable to stand down?”



“Understood. However, those people are unfathomable. I feel they are incredibly strong; please prepare yourself to flee, your Majesty.”



With that, Fluder opened the window. He jumped straight out and flew into the sky with a flight spell.



***



“Er, can everyone hear me? I’m a subordinate of Ainz Ooal Gown-sama, and my name’s Aura Bella Fiora!”



***



Just then, an incredibly loud voice echoed through the surroundings.



***



“The Emperor of this nation sent a bunch of rude chaps to the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, where Ainz-sama stays! Ainz-sama is very unhappy. So if you don’t apologize, we’ll wipe this country out!”



***



Jircniv’s face twisted. Who had learned this answer, and how? How had he followed the clues back to the truth?



He looked around the room. Everyone was staring in shock at the Emperor. The people who understood the doubts in Jircniv’s heart all shook their heads.



***



“For starters, we’re going to kill all the people here! Mare!”



***



The other Dark Elf plunged his staff into the surface of the courtyard. In that moment, it was as though a localized earthquake had occurred in the courtyard. It was “as though” because Jircniv did not feel the earth move at all. However, the ground still split open around the Dragon and the Dark Elves, crevasses yawning open in patterns more complex than a spider’s web.



The knights, the Imperial Guardsmen, the magic casters — apart from the airborne Fluder, everyone was swallowed up by the earth.



The Dark Elf seemed to have skilfully excluded herself and her allies from the effective radius of the attack. She stood there nonchalantly, and once she pulled out her staff, the ground hurriedly put itself back together, just like when the earthquake had occurred. However, since it had come together too quickly, the ground swelled up, following the previous spiderweb pattern, and it became a small hillock.



The knights who had been gathered in the courtyard just now had all vanished without a trace. The end had come too suddenly.



***



“Alright~ we killed them all. Now then, for all the humans in this city… er, I don’t know who’s the Emperor, so never mind! If the Emperor doesn’t show himself right now, we’ll destroy this city! Emperor-san, please come out now!”



***



“Your… your Majesty.”



The Chief Minister was trembling, his face deathly pale as he ushered Jircniv forward.



“…So they rode a Dragon here because we trod on the Dragon’s tail, then?”



Jircniv fought to quash the trembling in his voice. The supreme being in the Empire, the Emperor who held all power in his hand, could not show fear before his subjects.



“Ainz Ooal Gown… what manner of man… no, now’s not the time to think about that sort of thing.”



Jircniv shouted from the window:



“I am the Emperor, Jircniv Rune Farlord El-Nix! I wish to speak with you! May I trouble you fine envoys to enter the palace!”



He turned to the Chief Minister:



“Prepare the finest reception for them! Right now!



The ministers scrambled out of the room, and Jircniv’s eyes went from their backs to the Dark Elves, who were looking at him.

“…I underestimated them. If those are just subordinates… don’t tell me I can’t handle these people… that said, I won’t back down here. If they wish to parley… then we shall fight a war of words. Ainz Ooal Gown, watch as I break your ambitions!”

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