Overlord Light Novel Volume 8 Side 1 (1/2)
Overlord Light Novel Volume 8 Side 1 (1/2)
Enri’s Tumultuous and Hectic Days
Retranslated by Nigel
Edited/Proofed by Deus Ex Machina
Edited/Proofed by Deus Ex Machina
Enri Emmot rose before the sun came up to make breakfast. She was not as good a cook as her deceased mother, and there was a lot of food to prepare.
Counting Nemu, Enri herself and the nineteen Goblins loyal to her, she had to make breakfast for twenty-one people. Cooking for two more on top of those would make twenty-three in total. Preparing that much food was a lot of work, and could be considered a battle in its own right. Enri trembled while looking at the vast quantity of food in front of her and realised that it would all be gone in one meal.
“This is nearly six times as much as before…”
After taking a deep breath, she rolled up her sleeves, psyched herself up and got to work.
She silently sliced up the vegetables, and then the meat. The process was engraved into Enri’s mind by now.
Although Enri was not especially talented at cooking, the fact that she had learned to cope with such an enormous task in such a short time was a textbook example of how diamonds were made under pressure.
Her little sister woke from the sound of Enri making breakfast and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes.
“Morning, onee-chan. Let me help too!”
“Morning, Nemu. I’m good over here, but there’s still that thing I asked you to help me take care of yesterday…”
Unhappiness flashed over Nemu’s face for a moment, but in the end, she did not complain, although she did droop her head and reply “…‘Kay” as she obeyed Enri.
Enri’s hands stopped.
Her heart ached.
Nemu was ten years old now, and she had been a lively and spirited girl once. After that incident, the formerly naive and carefree Nemu was now slavishly obedient to her sister, without any of the playfulness or tantrums of children her age. She was a good girl now — so good that it hurt.
The smiling faces of her parents appeared in Enri’s mind. Although several months had passed, the wounds from that incident had not yet healed.
If they had died because of illness, she could have prepared herself for it. If they had died from an accident or a natural disaster, she would not have hated anyone else for it, and maybe she would not have been scarred either. But her parents had been murdered in front of her eyes, and her heart was now filled with resentment. There was no way she could feel otherwise.
Enri squeezed her eyes shut. If there was someone nearby, then she could work hard so they would not see her weakness. But when she was by herself, the loneliness reopened the wounds in her heart.
“―Isn’t that right?”
She still saw her parents’ kind smiles floating in the darkness behind her eyes. Even when she opened them, their forms did not fade from her vision. She replayed the tender moments of the past in her mind, over and over again.
After that came the maelstrom of black emotions in her heart — her hatred for the people who had murdered her parents. Driven by them, Enri slammed her cleaver into the meat with all her might, splitting it in half.
However, since she used too much force, she also chopped a divot out of the block, which made her furrow her brow in frustration.
If the blade gets chipped, it’s going to be hard to fix…… I’m sorry, okaa-san.
Enri covered up the hole as she apologized for damaging the cleaver that was her only link to her deceased mother.
She gently ran a finger along the edge to make sure it was fine, and at that moment, the door beside her, which led to the living room, opened up.
The person who entered was not human, but someone shorter — one of the demihumans commonly known as Goblins.
“Morning, Ane-san. Today’s my turn to… what’s wrong?”
The Goblin paused in the middle of a perfect bow to turn concerned eyes to Enri’s hands.
Enri was a mere village girl, but the Goblins served her without hesitation because she was their summoner.
After that incident, when the villagers had wondered if they needed to take shifts standing guard, Enri remembered the horn she had been given and used it to summon the Goblins.
The villagers were initially surprised and afraid of the Goblins since they had suddenly appeared out of nowhere, but they calmed down when Enri told them that she had summoned the Goblins with an item from their savior, Ainz Ooal Gown. Needless to say, this was because of the gratitude and trust they felt towards Ainz. Thereafter, the work the Goblins had done was enough for the villagers to put aside their suspicions and welcome them from the depths of their hearts.
“Good morning, Kaijali-san, I just used a bit too much force with the cleaver…”
Kaijali was one of Enri’s summoned Goblins. He furrowed his brows — looking like a man-eating bear awakened from his winter hibernation — and put a concerned expression on his face before looking at Enri.
“That’s no good, you need to take care of that cleaver. The village doesn’t have a blacksmith, so we can’t repair our equipment either.”
“Is that so…”
“Well, it’s alright. We’ll think of a solution when the time comes.”
Kaijali spoke in an earnest, yet cheerful voice while he helped make the breakfast. He drew a smoldering wick from the pot he was holding, and with a practiced manoeuvre, lit the stove. The deft ease with which he turned a faint ember into a roaring blaze was evidence of his skill.
But they can’t cook… Why is that?
Goblins could not prepare even the simplest meals. Since they ate raw meat and vegetables without a complaint, she thought they might like raw food more, but it became clear that they preferred cooked meals ― although they could still stomach raw food without trouble.
Is it because summoned beings don’t know how to cook?
A mere village girl like herself had no answer to this question, and with that she threw herself into her work once more. Fortunately, the cleaver’s edge was still intact.
Eventually, breakfast was ready.
There were a wider variety of dishes on the table compared to the days when her mother was cooking.
For example, there was meat. Although the local rangers often shared their kills in the past, the amount they could bring back was nothing compared to now. The reason why they had so much more meat now was because the villagers had expanded their area of activity.
The Great Forest of Tob provided its bounty to them in the form of firewood, food in the form of fruits and wild vegetables, animals for meat and fur, and even medicinal herbs.
Although the forest was rightfully regarded as a treasure trove, it was also home to wild beasts and monsters, which could make their way back to the village. As a result, the forest was not a place where the villagers could casually enter. Even the experts like professional hunters were forced to skulk like thieves seeking treasure on the edges of the Wise King of the Forest’s territory. However, with the disappearance of the Wise King of the Forest and appearance of the Goblins, the situation had changed radically.
The greatest change was that the villagers could now easily enter the forest and harvest its resources. The work of the Goblins, who were strong beings, were a key factor in this; meat, which had previously been hard to obtain, could now be easily acquired, and their tables were decked with fresh fruits and vegetables. As a result, the food situation in the village had dramatically improved.
In addition, since the Goblins were Enri’s subordinates, they delivered the lion’s share of their kills to her home.
In addition, one of the newest additions to the village was a ranger who had made contributions to the provisions.
She was a woman who used to be an adventurer in E-Rantel. For various reasons, she moved to this village, and was learning the ways of the hunter from the ranger who was living in the village. As she had been a warrior during her adventuring days, her skills with the bow were excellent, and she could bring down even the biggest game with a few arrows. It was partly because of her efforts that the distribution of meat in the village had improved.
The improved standard of living brought changes, which were reflected in the villagers’ bodies.
Enri curled her biceps, flexing her muscles.
Her gains were quite impressive.
Mm, I feel so pumped~ they’re getting even bigger…
The Goblins praised Enri at every opportunity with phrases like “Ane-san’s totally ripped!” “Yeah, pump it up again!” “She’s too swole to control!” “Aim for a six-pack!” “Look at how cut she is!”. They most likely meant well, but as a girl, it was difficult to accept such compliments.
If I ended up like how the Goblins described, it wouldn’t be good…
Enri swept the Goblin’s idealized final form of herself from her mind, and began serving breakfast.
That too was a tedious task. While the Goblins would not quibble over a small difference in portion size, the amount of meat in their soup was a huge issue. Enri ensured that everyone’s dishes and bowls had a similar amount of meat before moving onto the next task.
Eventually, breakfast was ready, and sweat dripped from her forehead.
“Then, let’s call everyone (the Goblins) and Nfirea over~”
“I’ll go! Let me do it! I want to do it~”
As Enri turned around, she saw Nemu standing behind her with eyes alight.
“Have you done your chores?” Her sister nodded by way of reply, and so did Enri. “Really? Then go get Nfi―”
“–No! I want to call the Goblins!”
Enri had no idea how to answer her little sister’s sudden outburst. Kaijali nodded gently to Nemu, presumably indicating that he would entrust her with that task.
“I’ll leave that to you, then. I’ll go get Nfirea.”
“That’s more like it! A capital idea! Ane-san, let me go with you.”
Although this would leave the house empty, it did not bother Enri. After all, there had never been any issues with thieves breaking in before.
Together with Kaijali, Enri left the house just after Nemu did.
The wind blew on Enri’s face, carrying the scent of grass and warmed by the gentle light of the morning sun. Enri took a deep breath, and when she turned to look at Kaijali, he was breathing in the scent as well. Enri could not help smiling at the sight, and Kaijali scowled, trying to regain his lost dignity with a fierce expression. Perhaps the Enri of the past would have been afraid, but Enri was used to living with the Goblins now, and she knew this was just how he smiled.
On this refreshing, cool and clear day, Enri proceeded to the house next to hers.
It had been left ownerless from the tragedy that had befallen their village recently, and had become the home of the alchemists from E-Rantel, the Bareares.
The house was occupied by two people. One of them was an old woman, the grizzled, experienced herbalist Lizzie Bareare. THe other was her grandson and Enri’s friend, Nfirea Bareare. The two of them spent their days cooped up in the house, processing herbs to make potions and other medicines.
Not working closely with other villagers was a good reason to be isolated, and in the worst case scenario, to be kicked out of the village. But it was different for those two.
In every village, an apothecary ― someone who could prepare medicines in case of disease or injury ― was indispensable. They could be said to be important enough that the villagers would plead, “you don’t need to do anything except make medicine for us”.
This went double for a place like Carne Village, which had no access to priests who could use healing magic.
Incidentally, priests would double as the village apothecary in larger villages.
Priests would charge an appropriate fee for their healing magic. Or rather, it might be better to say that they would need to charge the fee. If the villagers could not afford to pay, then they would offer up their labour instead. For those who lacked the ability to even do that, the priests would use medicines compounded from herbs, since herbal cures were less expensive than magical healing.
One of the Goblins in the village was a cleric, and he could heal minor wounds with ease, but the villagers had come together with the opinion that he should save up his power for an emergency, unless someone was very badly hurt. Not to mention, the cleric’s healing spells were very limited and lacked the ability to heal diseases or neutralize poisons.
Therefore, everyone was grateful to the Bareares for the work they did.
Even so, the villagers did not dare approach them despite the vital job they performed.
The reason for this was abundantly clear as one approached the Bareares’ residence.
Enri scrunched up her nose, as did Kaijali — although the expression looked more evil on his face.
An acrid stench wreathed the house which they were approaching. The odor was not actually that awful, though it still made them feel ill. The smell released from crushing up herbs might be off-putting, but ultimately it was only the scent of plants, and was not dangerous in itself.
Breathing through her mouth, Enri knocked on the door.
She knocked quite a few times, but nobody answered the door. Just when she thought nobody was home, the sound of someone approaching came from the other side. She heard someone hastily fumblong with the lock on the other side, and then the door opened.
She did not want to react with her expression or words, but the smell coming from inside the house was truly unbearable.
It was painful.
A harsh, stinging pain seared her eyes, nose and mouth. Worse still, the vile stench from inside the house suggested that the miasma around the house was nothing more than what had leaked out from inside.
“Good morning, Enri!”
Nfirea’s eyes, which were visible from between the gaps in his long hair, were wide open and blood-shot. He must have stayed up all night for alchemical experiments again.
She did not want to open her mouth to speak when she was enveloped by the eye-watering odour, but it would be rude not to return a greeting.
“G-good morning, Enfi.”
She felt her throat dry out as she said that.
“Ah, good morning, Kai… Kaijali-san… Huh, it’s morning already? I was working so hard I didn’t notice. Seeing the sun makes me realize how the time just flew by… ahhh, I’ve been doing so many experiments recently, I need to get out of the house.”
Nfirea stretched like a cat and yawned.
“Looks like you’ve been burning the midnight oil, huh―”
Enri was about to add “breakfast’s ready, come over with obaa-sama”, but Nfirea interrupted. Or rather, instead of saying he interrupted her, it might be better to say that she was overwhelmed by his boyish enthusiasm.
“It’s amazing, Enri!”
Nfirea rushed up to her. His work clothes reeked of that same stinging odor which filled the rest of the house. Although Enri wanted very much to back away from him, she forced herself to endure it, because Nfirea was her dear friend.
“What, what happened, Enfi?”
“You’ve got to hear this! We finally managed to perfect the procedure for brewing a new type of potion. This is going to change the world! Even though all we did was to mix the herbs that we gathered into the solution, we managed to produce a purple potion!”
The only reply he received was a “Huh?”
Enri had no idea how this was amazing. Was the potion purple because they infused purple cabbage into it?
“And it can cure wounds! The healing speed’s on par with alchemically-refined potions!”
Enri raised his hands, showing off his delicate, slender arms that were unmarred by injury. Enri thought, “I have bigger biceps than he does”, but Nfirea didn’t stop there.
“Which is to say…!”
“Yes, yes, that’s wonderful, tell us about it later.”
Kaijali spoke as he took a step forward.
“Ani-san here looks like he’s been sleeping too little and partying too hard. Maybe he’s high or something? Ane-san, let me take care of this. Why don’t you go back first?”
“Will it be all right?”
“Sure it will. I’ll splash some cold water on his face and when he calms down, I’ll bring him over. If you take too long, others will get worried. Say, what about Baa-san?”
“Obaa-chan’s still got her head buried in her research… I don’t think she’ll be coming for breakfast. I’m sorry, you went through all this trouble to prepare breakfast for us…”
“Ah, don’t worry about it. I was thinking that Lizzie-sama would probably be doing that.”
Situations like these had come up quite a few times already, so it was hardly a surprise.
“Then, Ane-san, you should head back first.”
With that said, there was nothing to do but leave.
“Then, I’ll leave him to you.”
As he watched Enri leave, Kaijali turned a cold stare on Nfirea.
“The hell were you doing back there? The only time a girl listens to a man talking about what he likes is if she likes the person. If she doesn’t like that person, then that blabbering’s only going to turn her off!”
“…I’m sorry, I just thought that since we made that amazing discovery… but it was really amazing! Revolutionary, even!”
Kaijali interrupted the motor-mouthed rant with a chopping motion. Clearly, Nfirea had not gotten the message he was trying to convey.
“Look, Ani-san. Are you alright with this? You’re in love with Ane-san, aren’t you?”
Nfirea replied with an “Mm,” and nodded his head vigorously.
“Then you have to make her the most important person in your heart. More important than your potions.”
“…I get it. I’ll try.”
“Do, or do not. There is no try. You need to win her heart. Me and the rest of the lads will do our best to back you up. Plus, it’s not just us, even imouto-san agreed to help you out. I hope you get yourself together and do your part, Ani-san.”
“If you’re just waiting for her to say “I like you” first, then more likely than not, someone else is going to snatch her away, you know? You’ve got to work up the courage to tell her how you really feel.”
That line pierced Nfirea’s heart like a dagger between the ribs.
“Still, despite everything I said, looks like you’ve been doing pretty well on that front yourself, Ani-san. Used to be you couldn’t even say a word in front of her. Now you can carry on a normal conversation, right?”
“That was because I didn’t have much chance to talk with Enri unless I came around to gather herbs… Now that I’ve moved into the village, I’m around her a lot more.”
“That’s it, that’s the spirit. All that’s left is to gather your courage and step up to the plate. Maybe you should show off your strength first. According to the villagers, strong men are still the most attractive. Well, for the forty-nine year old women in the village, anyways.”
“I’m not too confident in my arm strength. Maybe I should do more farm work or something?”
“Nah, what you should be using is this, Enfi-niisan,” Kaijali spoke while gently tapping his head.
“Settle things with this. And then work your magic. If me or one of the lads think you’ve got a chance to score points with her, we’ll pose like this. That’s your cue to say something or act in a way to make her fall in love with you.”
Kaijali flexed his arms in a front double bicep curl. They bulged mightily under his skin.
“Kinda like that. And if you need a more impressive demonstration…”
Next, Kaijali flexed his pectorals with a side chest spread. Although he was quite short, his athletic, muscular body attested to the fact that he was a born warrior.
Nfirea wondered Why these poses? However, he could sense Kaijali’s goodwill, so he did not actually ask that question.. Still, there was one question he wanted to ask.
“I… I’m curious, why are you guys doing this? I mean, I know you’re Enri’s subordinates and you’re loyal to her, but I don’t understand why you’re helping me.”
“Well, that’s simple,” Kaijali replied with an inscrutable expression on his face. In a tone better suited to coaxing little kids to behave, he replied, “That’s because we all want Ane-san to be happy. And from where we’re looking, you fit the bill. So the faster you two get married, the better.”
“N-no need for such a rush! T-the two of us can slowly reduce the distance between us, right?”
“…That would be too slow. I mean, don’t humans take a long time between getting pregnant and having kids?”
Nfirea’s eyes went wide and his face turned pink as the conversation suddenly jumped to pregnancy, the final form of male-female relationships.
“T-that would be about nine months?”
“Hm, then it would take a really long time for about ten pups ― I mean, ten kids, right?”
“Ten?! Isn’t that a bit much?!”
Five children were the average for a farming village family. In tough times when it was hard to survive to adulthood, this number would go up. In the city, this number was usually less, with the help of priests to cure diseases or the use of contraceptives.
So, a woman giving birth to ten children was not a bit much, it was way too much.
“What’re you on about? It’s pretty normal for us Goblins.”
“We’re not Goblins!”
“Alright, point taken, our races have our differences… but still, you gotta have lots of kids to make Ane-san happy.”
“…All right, I can’t deny that she might be happy with a house full of children… but it still seems kind of wrong…”
Nfirea was at a loss for words as he saw Kaijali looking at him with his head tilted at an angle. But on the whole, he was still grateful for their assistance.
“Then, let’s head out, Ani-san. I hope you make a move soon. Although keeping her waiting for too long might cause problems… well, I think a steady, tactical advance on the main objective is a strategy worth pursuing.”
“Where did you learn all of this?” Nfirea shook his head. “Oi, Obaa-chan, I’m going to Enri’s for breakfast, what about you?”
The reply that came from the house was a refusal to Nfirea’s question.
Most likely, she was in the middle of repeating an experiment, and had no time to bother with trivial things such as eating.
Nfirea could relate to that feeling.
The alchemical tools and other paraphernalia in the house were of an extremely high grade, and they did not know how to use most of them. The maid in the service of the great magic caster Ainz Ooal Gown had brought them over. The two of them had been ordered to use these materials to produce new potions and alchemical items. Oh, and the maid had even brought some sort of legendary herb said to cure all illnesses.
When he asked her about the solvents and the proper usage of the instruments, all he got in return was a “figure it out yourself su~”, which did not help things.
So, the two of them had foregone food and sleep in their ceaseless quest to learn how to use these devices for experiments. It was a slow process, but they had finally made some progress. Of course, they had made mistakes as well.
The past two months had been very busy for Lizzie, of course, but Nfirea was no exception either.
The fruits of their labor stood on the table, that bottle of purple potion, which Lizzie examined endlessly and filled Nfirea with excited joy.
“I’ll bring back some food, then,” Nfirea spoke as he closed the door behind him. Then, he turned to Kaijali,
♦ ♦ ♦
Although everyone was supposed to eat together, Enri’s house was nowhere near big enough to accommodate them all. As such, they usually ate outside when the weather was good.
Because they were outdoors, a certain amount of rowdiness was expected and tolerated. Had they been inside, it might have been unbearable, but even under the present circumstances, the situation had quickly turned aggravating.
“That’s why I’m saying, Enri Ane-san is going to be my wife!”
“Hey, punk, are you forgetting the agreement we all made not to touch Ane-san?!”
“That’s right, if you try and pull a fast one on us then I’ll make my move too!”
“You what mate? I was first!”
Several Goblins kicked over their chairs as they suddenly stood up, and some even jumped onto the table. Enri swallowed her anger and spoke kindly to them.
“Everyone, please settle down.”
However, the anger in the Goblins’ eyes had not faded in the slightest.
“Just give it up, lads. The victor has already been decided. Behold, this hunk of marvelous, radiant meat!”
One of the Goblins, Kuunel, raised up his spoon to prove his point, displaying a piece of meat that onlookers might well have mistaken for a pea. It was nothing more than a tiny bit extra that Enri had missed while portioning out the food to everyone.
“I finished my meat, yet there was more at the bottom of the soup! Do you have anything like that? I didn’t think so! This is nothing less than the proof of love!”
“You must be kidding me! That’s nothing more than a piece of meat Ane-san mistook for a chunk of vegetable!”
“Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on your part? Maybe the “meat” you ate was just potatoes or something, and the actual meat you got was that miniature thing. You’d better watch out, it’s proof that Ane-san doesn’t like you. Plus, my god clearly told me, “You must make Enri happy.”
“Isn’t the god you believe in an evil one, Cona?!”
Half the Goblins were standing, and the other half were seated and squabbling, fanning the flames of conflict. Even Nemu had somehow joined the agitators. Only a few people were not participating in this battle royale. Those people had their heads lowered to the table, and the most prominent one of them was Nfirea.
“…Powdered ruby… arcane feathers… ashwood pestle… mor… mortar… tar… tatas?”
Nfirea was muttering to himself as he spooned the food into his mouth, but the food in the spoon did not even reached his mouth before it went back to the bowl. His eyes were hidden by his long hair, but in all likelihood he was walking on the thin line between dreams and reality.
“Enfi, are you alright?”
The Goblins were still arguing, and although it probably was not safe to leave them alone for too long lest the conflict spiral out of control, Nfirea was really out of it, and she could not ignore him. He was most likely suffering from sleep deprivation, judging by the way he had begun wobbling the moment he sat down, as though he was about to fall over to his side at any moment. When he actually started on breakfast, he looked like one of the undead, completely bereft of life or intelligence.
“Ah… don’t… worry… about… me… Enri…hu…”
“Hey, Enfi, get it together!”
“Besides, weren’t you the one who said ‘Nemu was mai waifu’ and all that earlier?”
“That was then, this is now. I only just realised it recently. I used to think since Nemu-san was ten and was about the same height as us, that she was of a marriageable age. But humans… they only consider them adults at fifteen!”
“Eh? Is that true….? Ane-san isn’t a species like hob-human??”
The Goblins leapt from topic to topic with incomparable speed. Enri wanted to ask them what a ‘hob-human’ was, but before she could open her mouth, the Goblins had already gotten tired of the discussion and started a whole new argument for everyone to participate in.
“Ah! You stole my bread!”
“My Wolf’s still hungry, don’t be such a tightwad!”
Enri was shouting at this point, but her voice still could not carry over the racket the Goblins were generating. Spoons and plates were flying, while shouts and angry roars rose and fell like waves in a storm-tossed bay. Of course, everything being thrown was empty, because none of the Goblins would even dream of wasting the food Enri made for them. Still, it was utterly inexcusable.
Steeling herself, Enri furrowed her brows and took a deep breath.
“Don’t Wolves eat meat? Just because you’re higher level than me, don’t go thinking I can’t whup you fist to fist!”
“Fist to fist, you say? Since you’re so hungry, how about a knuckle sandwich?”
And just as Enri stood up, everyone immediately returned to their seats and calmly resumed their meal as though nothing was wrong.
“THAT”S ENOUGH, ALL OF YOU! QUIET DOWN!”
Enri’s furious bellow echoed across the silent air above the breakfast table.
Surprised, Enri looked all around, but the only thing she could see were the Goblins looking at her with expressions on their faces which said, “We were all quietly having breakfast, is that a problem”, or “being suddenly shouted at for no reason at is really vexing”. After standing silently for a while, she plopped back into her seat, red-faced.
The first to break the silence was Nemu. Then, unable to contain herself, Enri followed suit, clutching her stomach as she laughed and then the Goblins joined in as well.
That flawless coordination and timing could not have taken place without careful discussion and preparation. It was quite amazing how seriously they had prepared for a prank like this.
“Ah, that was just weird. Were you all planning to make fun of me from the start?”
Even though she was tearing up because she was laughing too hard, Enri made a show of being angry as she asked them.
“Of course, Ane-san. We wouldn’t argue about things like this for real.”
“That’s right, Ane-san.”
The Goblins bragged without the slightest hint of shame, deflecting Enri’s questions with jovial expressions on their faces. In response, Enri targeted Kaijali, turning a fierce stare on him. Under her stern gaze, Kaijali wilted, averting his eyes as he responded in a small voice that abdicated all responsibility.
“You see, how do I say this… we thought you looked a little down, Ane-san.”
Several nearby Goblins shrank away, their heads lowered as they looked around uncomfortably without saying a word.
“That’s because… we’re all your bodyguards, Ane-san.”
“We put a lot of thought into our bodyguard entrance pose too.”
“That’s right, that’s right. Now, Ane-san and Nemu-san, stand here, in the middle, like this…”
“Eh? Me too?”
“Of course you do, now, the two of you, raise both your arms like this, that’s right, in a totally cool and awesome way… yes, that’s it!”
Even if she gave them the benefit of the doubt, this pose made them look like frogs stretching their arms out to the sky.
“Look, I understand your good intentions, and to begin with, you don’t need to be my bodyguards… right, Enfi?”
Enri turned her head to her childhood friend sitting beside her for aid, but found that there was nobody there.
She had a bad feeling about this, but still shifted her line of sight down just a little bit… and found that Nfirea’s head was resting face down in his bowl of soup.
Enri immediately scooped up the toppled Enfi, crying out as her face turned pale. Cona quickly rushed over, and peeled Nfirea’s eyes open with his fingers.
“…He’s just asleep. If you leave him like this until noon, he should be all right.”
“Enfi… what am I going to do with you?”
Enri was thinking that she should return Nfirea to his own bed. So she hefted him onto her back, and began heading out, leaving behind such conversational gems as “Shouldn’t their positions be reversed normally?” “Nemu-san, you can’t say these things… “ “Ani-san, you…”
After the wheat was harvested, the tax collectors would come around the village.
Enri was obviously worried about how she was going to explain the presence of the Goblins in the village.
Should she say they were summoned beasts, or that they were her henchmen, or maybe she should say…
Enri had the feeling that they were always concerned about her.
They did not simply concern themselves with protecting her life, they thought about her feelings too. What could she do for these Goblins?
What could she do for these rowdy and reliable new members of her family…
♦ ♦ ♦
Enri bundled up the weeds she had just finished cutting and used the still-clean back of her hand to wipe away the sweat trickling down her neck. The large pile of shredded plant matter gave off the scent of freshly-cut grass.
Her body was tired from working long hours in the field and the way her sweat-slicked clothes clung to her body made Enri uncomfortable.
To lift her mood, Enri stretched herself out.
As she did, her eyes swept across the sprawling fields.
The wheat they had planted had grown slowly but steadily, and as the harvest season approached, the wheat would slowly turn golden. Although a wheat field painted gold was a beautiful sight, the weeding work before that was both essential and annoying. If it was not done, the gold color would be very sparsely distributed.
Her labour now was entirely for the sake of the harvest to come.
She straightened her body to loosen up her stiff muscles, and to let her tightly-wound body relax. The wind felt refreshingly cool on her skin that had been overheated from long hours of field work.
The wind also brought the sound of a commotion from the village to her ears.
It sounded like something banging on something, and shouts for getting people to combine their strength as one. These were sounds that had never been heard before in the village. At this moment, the village was working to turn all manner of plans and ideas into reality.
Of these plans, the ones with the highest priority were the wall surrounding the village, and the construction of the watchtowers. It went without saying that all these projects were intended to turn the village into a fortress.
Carne Village stood at the edge of the Great Forest of Tob, and the forest was the home of many wild beasts; in other words, it was dangerous territory. It would be impossible to live in peace there without the protection of sturdy walls.
However, Carne Village was laid out in neat rows of houses radiating from a central square in all directions. Without anything like a wall in place, anyone could easily enter the village. Until recently, the village had been peaceful and the monsters had not entered, even though it was right next to the forest.
That was because the mighty creature known as the Wise King of the Forest had continually expanded its territory, and as such, no beast dared move around in the forest near the village. Thus, the village defenses were nigh-impregnable.
And then, all this had changed due to human intervention.
The knights of the Empire had attacked the village and killed her parents. As a result, nobody in the village held onto the hope that things would go back to the way they used to be.
To that end, the leader of the Goblin Troop — Jugemu — had proposed the fortification of the village as a countermeasure against such a scenario. Once he mentioned that the Goblins would be unable to protect the village if it was attacked again due to their lack of numbers, the motion immediately received unanimous approval from all parties concerned. This was because even now, many of the villagers still could not forget the nightmare that had taken place.
The first step was to dismantle the unoccupied houses and use them to build a wall. Of course, those materials were insufficient on their own, so they would have to enter the forest to cut down trees for lumber. Since entering the forest’s depths might mean trespassing in the Wise King of the Forest’s territory, they had to travel a long way, along the outskirts of the forest.
Naturally, the Goblins were the ones who provided security for the wood-cutting villagers.
As a result of them taking on that task, the villagers’ wariness of the Goblins had almost completely disappeared. Part of that was because the knights who had attacked them were human, just like themselves. They had tried to kill the villagers despite being members of the same species. In contrast, the Goblins might have been of a different species, but they worked hard for the village under Enri. The decision of which side to trust was no longer one which could be easily settled by deciding along racial lines.
And the most important reason was that the Goblins were stronger than anyone else. As warriors they could conduct patrols, and when people were hurt, the Goblin cleric Cona could heal them.
It was difficult to despise Goblins like these.
In this way, the Goblins managed to establish themselves in the village in just a few short days and quickly became an indispensable part of village life. This could be seen from the house the Goblins lived in; no consideration had been made of the fact that they were from another race, and a large house had been built close to Enri’s own home in the middle of the village.
Although the villagers and the Goblins had worked together on the village defense plan, there simply were not enough hands to make the work go quickly. As such, in the beginning they had only built simple fences.
As fate would have it, the Wise King of the Forest, who had kept the monsters at bay from the village, became a follower of an amazingly skilled black-armored warrior and abandoned its territory. Although they had managed to complete the fences with great effort, the villagers could not take joy in their accomplishment, but instead sighed about their rotten luck.
However, a sturdy wall now defended the village.
All this was thanks to the Stone Golems which the beautiful maid who served the village’s savior ― Ainz Ooal Gown ― had brought with her.
Golems were inexhaustible constructs; when given an order they would silently execute it, and their strength far outstripped that of a human being. Although their lack of dexterity meant that they could not perform certain tasks which required precision, their participation in the work had enabled it to proceed with an unbelievable speed. With the effort of the unsleeping and untiring stone golems, the construction of the wall practically flew along.
They could accomplish the tasks which the villagers and Goblins could not, such as chopping down trees and transporting them in large quantities, digging pits, or laying the foundations for the walls. What should have taken years to accomplish in theory had instead been finished in a matter of days, and the constructed wall was even bigger and sturdier than expected.
They had not just aided in building the walls either; even the construction of the watchtowers had been sped up. Their current task was to complete the watchtowers on the eastern and western flanks of the village.
“Ane-san, I’m done here.”
Enri’s thoughts were interrupted by the Goblin assisting her in the weeding, a Goblin called Paipo.
“Ah, thank you.”
“No, no, it’s nothing you should thank me for, Ane-san.”
Although Paipo waved his dirt and grass-stained hands to ward off Enri’s thanks, Enri still felt that she owed the Goblins a debt that could never be repaid.
After losing her parents, Enri was in a dire situation, where tending her family’s plot by herself would be impossible. She wanted to ask the other villagers for help, but given the overall lack of manpower in the village, it was already hard enough for every household to take care of their own crops. With the help of the Goblins, that problem was easily resolved. In addition, she was hardly the only one the Goblins had helped.
Turning to the direction from which her name was called, Enri saw a plump woman standing by a field. Beside her was a Goblin.
“Thank you so much, Enri-chan. Because of Goblin-san’s help, the field work’s almost done.”
“Really? That’s wonderful. It was their idea to help out with the village chores, so if you want to thank someone, you should thank them directly.”
“Ah, I’ve already thanked Goblin-san. He said that he was only your subordinate, so he hoped that I would thank Ane-san as well.”
Hearing the word “Ane-san” made Enri furrow her brows, which she quickly covered up with a bitter smile.
The Goblins themselves had suggested that they should help the households who had lost farmhands in the attack, and the woman before her was one of those people.
There was no way the villagers would shun the contributions of the Goblins. Carne Village thought so well of the Goblins that it was quite common to hear people say that Goblins were better neighbors than humans,
“Speaking of which, are the other Goblin-sans around? I wanted to treat everyone to a meal as thanks.”
“The others should be patrolling the village or helping the people who just moved into the village. But I’ll pass the message on to them, obaa-san.”
“Then I’ll leave that to you, Enri-chan. When the time comes, I’ll make sure everyone gets to enjoy a feast made with all my skill. In the meantime, I think I’ll make lunch for this Goblin-san first.”
“Really? Then, since I’ve been invited, it would be rude to refuse. Ane-san, sorry I can’t join you, but I’ll be having lunch at Morga-san’s place.”
Enri nodded, and the woman headed back to the village with the Goblin in tow.
“It would be nice if the newly-arrived people realised that you guys aren’t bad sorts.”
“Well, a lot of them didn’t look happy to see us. After all, in their hearts we should be the enemy.”
“Most pioneer villages other than ours would treat Goblins as the enemy, right…”
“That’s why we sent so many people to help the villagers with their work. It’s not easy.”
“But, but we’ve cleared up a fair bit of their suspicions. I just saw how they can greet you normally.”
“Well, quite a few of these people remember how their family members were attacked and killed. Or no, the memories they bear might be even heavier than that.”
Although Carne Village had been devastated by the attack, about half of the villagers managed to survive. On the other hand, the other villages which had been attacked by knights had lost most of their people.
When Carne Village began taking in immigrants, many of the ones who came were survivors of those villages.
The two of them fell silent.
Enri stretched her back once more and looked to the sky. Although the lunch bell had not rung yet, it seemed like it was about time. They had worked enough of the field to take a break as well.
“Then, shall we have lunch?”
Despite his smashed-looking face, Paipo managed what was instantly recognizable as a smile.
“That would be great, your meals are always delicious, Ane-san.”
“Oh, they’re not that great,” Enri replied, slightly embarrassed.
“No, no, I’m serious. Helping you in the fields is one of the most hotly contested positions among ourselves. That’s because we get to eat your delicious lunches, Ane-san.”
“Ahaha, then should I make lunch for everyone as well? Like how we handle breakfast?”
There were quite a few reasons why it would be hard to do so. For instance, there was a difference between lunch for three and lunch for twenty. Just slicing the vegetables would be a chore in itself. In addition, she had to make sure everyone had sufficient portions, which would be a tiring task. That said, in comparison to the amount of hard work the Goblins had put in and the praise they had received in turn, it was nothing at all.
“Oh, no, we couldn’t impose on you like that. Plus, enjoying your handmade lunch is something like a bonus for the one who wins the right to help you, Ane-san.”
Enri could only return a troubled smile to the diminutive demihuman’s beaming face. Although she knew the Goblins decided who would take the job via rock-scissors-paper, Enri did not know if she was cooking something that actually deserved all that praise.
“Then, shall we go back and eat?”
Paipo’s words cut off halfway as he looked to the distance with his keen eyes. With a deep breath, the formerly relaxed and cheerful little demihuman became a veteran warrior in an instant. Enri followed Paipo’s eyesight into the distance.
They saw a Goblin riding a black wolf. They seemed to glide across the plain as they approached the village at high speed.
Among the Goblin Troop that Enri had summoned, there were 12 level 8 Goblins, two level 10 Goblin Archers, one level 10 Goblin Mage, one level 10 Goblin Cleric, two level 10 Goblin Riders and one level 12 Goblin Leader, for a total of 19 Goblins.
Kaijali from this morning and Paipo who had helped with the chores were level 8, while Kyumei, who was moutned on a black Wolf, wearing leather armor and carrying a lance, was a level 10 Goblin Rider.
The Goblin Riders’ job was to patrol the plains and act as scouts. The riders periodically returning to the village to deliver reports was a common sight.
”…Looks like it.”
However, Paipo’s tone was very somber. It made her think that something bad had happened.
“…He’s back a little early. He should have been prowling the forest today… did something happen?”
After hearing Paipo’s explanation, a surge of unease rose in Enri’s heart, and she feared that some bloody disaster awaited them.
While the two of them waited in silence, the large Wolf which rode on arrived in front of Enri. From its rapid breathing, she could guess how much of a hurry he had been to get back here.
“What’s the matter?”
Hearing Paipo’s question, Kyumei bowed to Enri from on top of his wolf while replying, “Something’s happened in the forest.”
“I’m not too sure, but I think it’s like before. A whole bunch of unknown guys are moving towards the north.”
“Are they knights?”
Enri unwittingly interrupted the two of them. Even though she was powerless to change anything, she still could not ignore the conversation. She still could not forget her fear when the village had been attacked.
The “whole lot of unknown guys heading north” they talked about referred to the tracks they had found of thousands of people marching to the north. Although the prints were similar in size to those of humans, they were made by bare feet, so in the end they had concluded that those people were not humans.
“I don’t have any hard proof, but I think it’s different from that time. I sense something’s happening deep inside the forest.”
“Is that so.”
Hearing that, Enri couldn’t help but sigh in relief.
“…Then, I’d better go report to Leader.”
“All right. Good job.”
“Thank you for your hard work.”
After waving to the two of them, Kyumei spurred his Wolf on and departed. Enri and Paipo watched him enter the slowly-opening village doors.
“Then, shall we go back, too?”
After washing their hands beside the well, Enri and Paipo had just reached home when they heard a young girl’s voice.
“Welcome back, onee-chan.”
The voice was accompanied by the sound of rock grinding against rock. Following the sound to its source, Enri saw Nemu turning a millstone behind the house.
A pungent smell came from the millstone. Although it was similar to the smell that had clung to Enri’s hands just before, it was several times more intense, enough that one could smell it from some distance away.
Nemu was used to the smell, which was all well and good, but Enri’s eyes almost teared up as the odor assaulted her. Paipo, standing behind her, seemed unaffected in comparison . It remained to be seen whether that was because the smell only had an effect on certain species, or because it would be terribly rude to make a face like that to his mistress’ little sister.
“I’m home. How’s things? Have you ground them all up yet?”
“Mm, I did. Have a look.”
Enri looked along Nemu’s line of sight, and saw that the herbs that she had piled up before leaving the house had been reduced to a small handful.
“Aren’t I great? There’s not much more left.”
Before she had left the house, Enri had asked Nemu to help her grind the herbs into a paste. That was because some herbs had to be dried to be preserved, but others needed to be shredded to be preserved.
“Uwah, you worked really hard, Nemu!”
Enri opened her arms to praise Nemu, and a look of pride blossomed on Nemu’s face. Perhaps she had been influenced by Nfirea, or perhaps she wanted to help her sister out in some way, but Nemu had diligently and quickly accomplished her tasks.
Herbs made up a major portion of Carne Village’s income. It could be said to be the one specialty export that did not require much manpower for a frontier village to produce.
Given that it was a crucial method for them to obtain valuable currency, all of Carne Village’s residents knew at least a little about herbs and where they grew.
Enri silently considered the situation. The herbs from Carne Village were incredibly profitable. However, they could only be gathered within an extremely short window of time before the flowers bloomed, and could only be treated as a temporary income at best. However, all the places they knew about had been fully harvested, so they would need to delve into the forest to find clumps of herbs which had not yet been touched.
Of course, those woods were where monsters lurked, and they were hardly a place where people like Enri could just stroll into for a picnic. However, now they had the Goblins and the experienced herbalist Nfirea. If only she could get their help, they should be able to make a great deal of money.
After some hesitation, Enri spoke of her plan to Paipo.
“I want to go to a new place to pick herbs, could you come with me?”
Logically speaking, there was no need for Enri to go herself. All she needed to do was to ask the Goblins, who could take care of themselves, to go into the dangerous Great Forest on her behalf. However, the Goblins she had summoned had a strange weakness.
That was to say, they had no aptitude at all for herb-picking, butchering animals, and that sort of work.
Just like how they handled cooking, even if one handed Goblins a sample of a herb, they would not be able to match it up with identical herb in front of them. The surprising thing was, it was as though they were born unable to do that sort of thing, or even learn it, as if someone had removed the capacity to do so from them.
Therefore, if they were assigned to pick herbs, the Goblins needed to have a non-Goblin with them.
“It should be all right, but it might be a little difficult for you to come with us, Ane-san.”
“Hm? Why’s that?”
“Well, like Kyumei said, there’s some kind of change in the depths of the forest. If that’s the case, the insides of the forest will be a mess now.”
Seeing the surprised expression on Enri’s face, Paipo patiently explained himself.
“Even the cautious ones are going to want to expand their territory. If that’s the case, then for a while, their territory is going to overlap with the others, and that’s going to cause all sorts of confusion. Simply put, the chances of meeting a monster’s going to increase, and so will the danger. And if you’re unlucky, you might even run into something outside the forest. We know you’re brave and cool, but there’s no need to walk into danger, Ane-san.”
“Is that so…”
I’m not too sure about the brave and cool part, but that’s probably just the Goblins being polite, Enri thought.
“There was also that big movement earlier. What happened there?”
“I don’t know. Originally, we should have sent someone familiar with the Great Forest’s conditions to investigate. …but if we go, the village’s defenses will be weakened…. ah, got it! Why not hire adventurers to check it out?”
“That could be difficult,” Enri said, knitting her eyebrows. “According to Enfi, the cost of hiring an adventuring party is very high. Although the lords of E-Rantel will subsidize some of those costs, it’ll be very hard for a village like us to pay for adventurers out of our own pocket.”
“Collecting lots of herbs and selling them afterwards should help with one part of that problem… otherwise, all we can do is sell off the items we got from Gown-sama.”
She had received two horns from Ainz Ooal Gown. Although one of them had disappeared after she used it, the other was safely hidden in Enri’s home.
“Forget about that, Ane-san. We’d rather you just blow the horn instead.”
“Of course, there’s no way I’d sell it.”
Enri did not want to become the sort of despicable person who would sell off a gift given out of goodwill. There also existed the possibility that it might not even be possible to sell it off, so she decided not to do so. Even now they were still benefiting from the generosity of the maid who had brought the Golems to the village. She would never commit such an ungrateful deed.
“But that’s going to be problematic. The herbs can only be gathered in this season, so although it’s a bit dangerous, I still have to…”
Enri smiled to Nemu, who had a worried expression on her face. She did not want to sadden the last surviving member of her family, nor did she want to pass up this chance to make lots of money. Although, when she considered her priorities, that was clearly a mistake. Rather, she should bet her life for the good of the entire village and repay the Goblins who considered her their mistress.
I need to earn more money and see what kind of gear I can buy for the Goblins. Full plate armor looks like it could protect very well. Speaking of full body armor, there’s that gentleman in the black-colored armor… what was his name again?
Although she did not know how much armor and weapons cost, she was fairly certain that it was not a small sum. At this moment, Paipo held out his hand in front of Enri, indicating that she should wait a bit.
“Erm… although this is just my personal opinion, how about discussing the matter with Leader? You don’t need to make the decision so early, Ane-san. I don’t want to be scolded by the boss because I opened my mouth without thinking. Plus, I think Ani-san would like to get his hands on all sorts of herbs too.”
Just as Enri’s troubles were filling her head, an adorable gurgling sound came from beside her. Turning to look, she saw Nemu looking at her with a frown on her face.
“Onee-chan, I’m hungry. Can we eat yet?”.
“Mm, sorry. Then, wash your hands after we pack up. I’ll go get things ready.”
Nemu’s response was full of energy. After taking apart the millstone, she scraped the accumulated green paste into a small urn. Enri returned to the house, wondering what she should make for lunch.
Enri stood before the Great Forest of Tob. Of course, she was not alone. Beside her were the loyal members of the Goblin Troop.
The Goblins were equipped with chain shirts, round shields and sturdy machetes, which hung from their belts. They wore brown-colored tunics under their armor and furred leather boots on their feet. On their belts were bags for small items. One could not say they were under-geared.
The fully-armed Goblins made their final checks of their personal equipment. They topped up their waterskins and made sure their machetes were sharpened.
Everyone was well-geared, but they carried little baggage. That was because the plan was to swiftly complete their work, and not to mount a long expedition in the forest.
Not everyone in the troop was assigned to Enri’s protection. Their objective was to thoroughly scout the surrounding area and further verify the information the Goblin Riders had collected. That is to say, they were to carefully observe the current situation within the Great Forest. In order to protect the village, the Goblins had decided to scout its surroundings and the hinterlands.
Only three Goblins would accompany Enri.
There was also one more person: Nfirea. He had made his preparations too, dressed in suitable clothing for collecting herbs in a forest. With Nfirea around, the herb harvesting trip would definitely be a success.
Perhaps he had sensed Enri looking at him, and turned around, asking “What’s the matter?” Although Enri had waved her hands as though to say “nothing, nothing,” one of the surrounding Goblins took notice and drew closer to Enri’s side.
He was a Goblin whose body was so muscular and athletic that it would be hard for bystanders to think that he was a Goblin. His torso was protected by a crude, but practical breastplate, and the greatsword he used was sheathed on his back.
This was Jugemu, the leader of the Goblins, named by Enri after a Goblin hero called “Jugemu Jugemu”. As an aside, there were other named knights who did battle alongside the Goblin hero, and she had used their names for the other Goblins.
“There shouldn’t be anything wrong… what’s the matter?”
“No, really, it’s fine! I was just looking at him.”
“That’s great, after all, once you’re in the forest, you can lose your life over even a tiny slip. If anything happens, let me know.”
“That’s right, Ane-san. Just like we agreed before, we’re all scouting the forest, so if anything happens and we can’t get there in time… it’ll be okay, right?”
Jugemu’s brutish face contorted with what looked like an expression of worry, and he glanced at Enri’s face. Seeing that, Enri smiled and replied to him.
“It’ll be fine. We won’t go too deep, and they’ll protect me.”
“That’s good to hear…”
Jugemu followed Enri’s line of sight to the three Goblins ahead of them. Then he shouted:
“Oi! You punks! You’d better not let Ane-san take so much as a single scratch, got it?!”
The three Goblins, Gokou, Kaijali and Unrai, responded with a hearty shout.
“And Ani-san, you’ll be taking care of Ane-san too, right?”
Enri suddenly noticed that Kaijali, for no apparent reason, was flexing his muscles in a front double biceps pose.
“You mean I should take over from here?… koff! Of course! You can count on me to protect Enri!”
For a moment, Enri imagined Nfirea showing his shiny teeth as he radiated self-confidence through his smile. His attitude now was very different from his usual one, and to be honest, it felt kind of gross. However, that was probably just his excitement about trekking into the forest.
Just like a little boy, Enri smiled, feeling like she was his big sister.
“Thank you, Enfi. I’ll be in your care.”
Strange, is he doing a side chest pose now…? What’s with that?
“Ahhh, that again… oh, about that, I prepared a bunch of alchemical items that I made myself, so leave it to me!”
After seeing Nfirea’s second sparkly smile, the smile fell off Enri’s face.
“Uh… mm. You go do that.”
“Ah, well, it’s been settled… although. Honestly speaking, even if we weren’t doing this dangerous job, this…”
Jugemu turned to look at Enri, a sour look on his face. Enri was starting to get a little annoyed after hearing this question again after answering it so many times in the village, but he was only asking out of concern for her, so she could not just ignore it.
“That might be true, but the fact remains that without the herbs, we can’t bring in any money…”
“How about animal skins? We can get those.”
“That’s not a bad idea, but herbs are the most valuable.”
Animal pelts and medicinal herbs were in completely different price categories. The difference was comparable to that between the heavens and the earth. Granted, some especially rare animals had skins that were worth a fortune, but those were few and far between.
“If Ani-san could share his…”
“We’re not touching the Bareare’s money. We need to help together and split the benefits. We can’t just take advantage of them.”
Helping each other in difficult situations was a keystone of village life — therefore, a family could not survive if they were ostracized from others. However that was not an excuse to take advantage of others, because that would imply that a person could not support themselves, and the village could not take care of people to that extent. Self-sufficiency was a strict requirement.
The two of them started looking away from Nfirea, who was quietly saying, “Kaijali-san, please read the mood and stop making those weird poses…”
“If that’s the case, then it’s definitely… and like that too… well, if you lived with Ani-san, you could certainly pool the wealth… but… looks like nothing’s stopping that…”
Jugemu’s words gradually lost their force. He knew that he could not stop Enri from entering the Great Forest.
Although Enri did not want to make things difficult for Jugemu and the others who cared for her, she would not be swayed from her course.
After all, she had decided to venture into the forest despite knowing its dangers because she had heard Jugemu say, “We can’t repair our gear”.
The kitchen knife was one thing, but the Goblins required the services of a professional blacksmith to maintain their arms and armor. Which meant that a subtle danger threatened all the Goblins. If their equipment deteriorated, it would mean their lives would be in danger. The maintenance of their battle gear was essential.
What could she do for them, who had pledged their lives to protect hers? How could she hide in safety and enjoy the fruits of their labour? Just as they had given their all for her, she too had to do everything she could for them. That was Enri’s decision.
The Goblins were not just Enri’s bodyguards, they were also the village’s protectors. If she decided to press that point, she could probably squeeze the money needed to equip the Goblins from the villagers. However, Enri decided to give up on that idea.
No matter what, Enri was simply trying to repay the Goblins’ service through her own efforts. This expedition was the proof of that.
“Normally, the safest thing to do would be to confirm the area was free of danger before you went in…”
Interrupting from behind was the Goblin mage, Dyno.
Dyno was an arcane magic caster who wore a humanoid skull for a helmet.
She carried a gnarled staff that looked shabby, but was even taller than herself. She was adorned in strange tribal ornaments all over her body, and her bust swelled up slightly. Her face seemed softer than those of the male Goblins. Enri could recognize this because she was their mistress, but normal people probably would not be able to pick up on those details.
“However, you can’t confirm it’s safe, can you?”
“Mm, that’s right. Sadly, we can’t do that. The most we can do is confirm that the forest seems peaceful, but even that needs time. And if we want to find out when tensions are going to run high again, that’ll take even more time.
If they did that, they would miss the opportunity to gather the desired herbs. After hearing Dyno’s words, a firm conviction gathered in her eyes and she made her reply.
“It’ll be fine, we won’t go too deep.”
After hearing her repeat that answer several times, Jugemu finally realized that he could not change Enri’s mind. Instead, he looked to the three Goblins who would travel with her. What he told them was the same as what he had said to them before.
“We won’t be able to protect Ane-san, so you guys are going to have to do it for us. You’d better guard her with your lives! And Ani-san too!”
“It would be safest if we’d all stuck together as usual. Splitting up our fighting strength is just asking for trouble,” Dyno muttered under her breath.
“If we did that, then we’d be forced into reacting to the enemy, right?”
“That’s right. If any of the monsters coming to the village decide to settle down in the forest, getting rid of them for good would be extremely troublesome. Once they build a nest, they’ll never leave. Even if we chased them away, they’d come right back after a while.”
Since the balance of power in the forest had changed, reconnoitering the Great Forest ― especially the area surrounding the village ― was critical.
This was the first pass. The first pass implied that the danger was the greatest. As such, they could only arrange for three people to be Enri’s escorts.
“Good. Well then, let’s move! We’ll finish up quick and meet up with Ane-san!”
In response to Jugemu’s call, the Goblin troop thundered their assent.
♦ ♦ ♦
This was the interior of the Great Forest.
Although they had only travelled about 150 meters in, the temperature had fallen by several degrees. This was simply because no sunlight shone in here. That said, the interior was not completely pitch-dark, and Enri could still see what was happening around her. Enri and the other four members of her party advanced into the forest, surrounded by cool air.
At the moment, the forest was dominated by silence. Apart from the gentle sounds of the tree branches swaying and the occasional cries of birds or beasts, there was nothing else. The footsteps of Enri and her companions echoed loudly. The other team led by Jugemu had already gone deeper in, and they could no longer be heard.
Enri and company formed a roughly triangular formation as they advanced into the forest. In the center of the formation were Enri and Nfirea.
It was very difficult to maintain a wide formation in the forest. Normally, they would have gone single file, but in order to protect the two of them the Goblins had insisted on doing things that way. They lost speed as a result, but that could not be helped.
As they moved deeper inwards, Nfirea began looking up and towards the north.
He sought the treasure sleeping in the dense forest — medicinal herbs.
Enri was not a novice to herb-gathering. A girl her age would know all about herbs that could be taken orally or smeared on an affected area, or the ordinary herbs used as ingredients for potions. However, in this field she was completely outmatched by Nfirea. Not only was he thoroughly familiar with medicinal herbs, he even knew which ones were useful as bases for alchemical compounds.
“Found any rare herbs?”
Of all the questions Enri had asked, this seemed like the one he had been waiting for. The surrounding Goblins began posing in unison.
A double bicep flex again… is that the latest trend or what?
The tilt-headed Enri did not notice the faint expression of annoyance on Nfirea’s face.
“Why didn’t I tell them to stop posing… it sucks to have no courage. Say, is that a brown moss over there?”
As it turned out, there was brown moss growing where Nfirea was pointing.
“That’s Bebeyamokugoke. Mix some with a healing potion and it’ll slightly improve its effects.“
“Oh, really? I thought it was just a simple patch of moss and missed it. Without Enfi, I probably would have ignored it completely. That’s Enfi for you.”
“Uwah, you’re pretty amazing now, Ani-san. Is it worth a lot?”
“It’s worth quite a bit of money… ah, wait. Don’t pick it. What Enri and I are aiming for is worth even more. If we can’t find it, then we’ll pick this on the way back.”
“I see. Yeah, we got it. Speaking of which, to Ani-san, this forest must be like a treasure trove, since it’s so easy to make wealth. Ah~ I feel much more at ease with you around, Ani-san .”
“This sort of thing—”
The surrounding Goblins’ poses changed.
“Yes, hm, well, it might actually be like that. One thing’s for sure, people travelling with me won’t have a hard time. I’m pretty confident of that.”
“Mmm. I’m sure you can do it, Enfi.”
An awkward mood filled the quiet forest.
“Then, Ane-san, is that all?”
“Hm? Kaijali-san, what do you mean?”
“Hm? No, I actually, nothing… ah… come to think of it, there’s a question I forgot to ask. What sort of herbs are you looking for?”
“We didn’t tell you? It’s a herb called Enkaishi. Afterwards we’ll let Nemu grind it up.”
“I see, I see. Got it. Although, even if you describe it to us, we won’t be able to tell the difference. Then, let’s move on.”
Step by step, they ventured further into the forest. As they went on, their noses started itching from the thick scent of the forest’s fragrance.
There was no sign of human activity here at all. Immersed in this place, Nfirea felt like this was a world where humans were weak and tiny. Then, he opened his mouth to speak.
“Let’s start looking around here. We’re looking for places with lots of shade and humidity… are there any water sources nearby? That herb grows near them. There’s no sign of monster activity around here, what a stroke of luck.”
“Got it, Ani-san.
With his vast experience as a herbalist, it was unlikely for Nfirea to make a mistake.. The Goblins and Enri replied in approval.
The group put their things down, which lightened their load.
“Ahhh… Ane-san, could you go give Ani-san a hand?”
“Ah, yes, that’s right. Enfi must have his hands full by himself.”
Enri walked over to where Nfirea had put down his luggage and assisted him in his labors.
“No problem, Enfi. Although, now that I think of it, all this specialist equipment is amazing. You need so many things…”
Out of the corner of her eyes, Enri could see the Goblins nodding as though to say “very good, very good”. Although she was surprised by why they were so happy, she eventually decided that her first priority was getting the job done.
“Then, let’s start the search!”
With a subdued “Oh!” to keep the noise down, they began. The Goblins watched the perimeter, while Enri and Nfirea began searching
Although Enri had been prepared for the work to be difficult, they were fortunate and soon found dense growths on the herbs in the cracks of tree trunks.
“It’s over there. We found where they grew right away. As I thought, it’s best when I’m with Enfi.”
“No, it’s nothing like that. We’re lucky we found it in a deserted area. If there were monster tracks, it would be pretty nasty.”
To the two humans, the large quantity of herbs, while not exactly a treasure in its own right, was akin to a mountain of coins. Enri desperately fought the desire burning in her heart. This place was dangerous; it was better that she put her greed aside and worked to steadily complete the job.
However, Enri knelt down, and began to pluck, minding the roots of the herbs.
Enkaishi’s medicinal value resided in its roots. But they could not just pull the roots out like that. Grasses like these were incredibly hardy, and they would grow again as long as the roots remained. It seemed a shame, but depleting this patch of herbs (which had been quite a challenge to find in the first place) by overharvesting it would be like killing the goose which laid the golden egg.
A strong odor seared her nose as she did the picking, but she was used to that sort of thing, so the smell did not impede her work. Compared to Nfirea’s house, this smell was like heaven.
She plucked the herbs stalk by stalk, holding ir carefully to avoid crushing it by accident, and then carefully placed it into the bag under her armpits. If the Goblins came to help, they could probably have finished faster, but they were too busy watching their surroundings. Enri was not stupid enough to take them off their sentry duty to help her pick herbs
In comparison, Nfirea’s harvesting methods were like poetry in motion. He swiftly pulled them out of the ground without pause, in a way that did not damage their potency as medicine. Only a professional like himself was capable of such a feat.
Enri silently watched Nfirea, who was staring at the herbs with a diligent expression on his face. The face that had become so familiar looked like someone else’s before her.
…He’s a man now.
Nfirea suddenly looked up. He must have sensed that Enri had stopped work.
Enri had done nothing wrong, but she still looked down in embarrassment.
“Ah, well, I just thought you were amazing, Enfi…”
“Really? I didn’t think it was that fantastic. I’m only a dabbler when it comes to herbalism. This level is about par for the course.”
“…Is that so.”
The conversation ended, and their bags slowly filled with herbs. After they were just over half full, the Goblins, the Goblins suddenly hunkered down and crouched next to the two of them, as though looking for somewhere to hide.
Kaijali gestured at Enri to keep quiet. This was an emergency. Enri, who understood, pricked up her ears. From far off in the distance, she could hear the sound of plants being trampled.
“Something’s coming. It’s coming for us… or rather, it’s advancing and most likely it’s going to end up here, so we need to get away from here for a bit.”
“…Then, we won’t need the noisemaker decoys?”
“That’s right, Ani-san. It’s better if we don’t have to use those, it feels like things will go bad if we do. Come, let’s move.”
The five of them began moving away from the direction of the sound, hiding in the shadow of a nearby tree. They did not go further because they did not want to risk making noise on the nearby vegetation. If the other party was just advancing forward, there was no need to risk being discovered.
Since the tree was not very big, it could not hide all of them. The most they could do was crouch at its roots and hope they weren’t too obvious.
In this way, the five of them quieted their breathing and prayed that the source of the sound would turn in another direction. But unfortunately, this did not happen, and the figure making the noise finally came into Enri’s field of view.
A tiny gasp of surprise escaped from Enri’s mouth.
It was a ragged-looking little Goblin.
His body was covered in tiny wounds which bled profusely. His breathing was rapid and uneven, and the smell of his blood and sweat spread throughout the area.
Even though Goblins were already smaller than humans, this Goblin was small even for another Goblin. Enri and the Goblins concurred that this Goblin was a “child”.
The Goblin child looked fearfully to his rear, in the direction where he had come from. There was no need to listen up for the sound of trampling plant life that followed from behind him. From the looks of things, they were hunter and prey.
He frantically moved his spasming feet, taking cover in a patch of shade different from Enri’s own.
“―Please be quiet.”
Gokou had not even looked at Enri as he interrupted her. Those unrelenting eyes were fixed on the direction from which the kid had come.
Just over ten seconds later, the pursuer revealed itself.
It was a huge magical beast that resembled a black Wolf. The reason why they could instantly tell it was no ordinary Wolf was because of the chain wrapped around its body. The serpentine chain did not hinder its movements at all, as though it were merely an illusion. Two horns sprang from its head.
Nfirea muttered the name of the beast to himself.
Although it could not possibly have heard him, the Barghest sniffed around like a dog, and then its face twisted. It was an evil grin that no mere beast could ever make. It slowly looked around its surroundings and its eyes settled on the tree where the Goblin child had hidden.
Just like the beast it resembled, the Barghest had a bloodhound’s scenting ability. There was no way it could not sniff out the Goblin child who had bled so much on the way here.
From the look of things, the reason why the Goblin had managed to get here was not because he had been able to evade the Barghest. Rather, it was because the Barghest was a sadistic creature; or maybe it was because it was hunting for sport.
Suddenly, the Barghest stopped moving, surprise knotting its face, and it stared at the place where they had gathered the herbs.
Enri pulled her face back. The others quickly followed suit.
Behind the tree trunk, Enri opened her hands. Her skin was green and speckled with stray bits of plant matter. Beside her, Nfirea did the same thing.
The sap and juices from the herbs we picked…
This was the same sort of thing that Nemu was soaked in when she ground up the herbs. Although it did not affect those with numbed noses (like themselves), the powerful stench still hung in the air. She found the sudden pounding of her heart noisy.
“It’s started moving. …It’s moving away? Could it be it didn’t smell us?”
Unrai had his ear to a tree, and a question mark appeared above his head.
“…Maybe it can’t pinpoint where the scent’s coming from?”
“What do you mean, Ani-san? Don’t monsters have very sensitive noses…?”
“That’s the reason why,” Nfirea quietly explained.
The key point was that because it had an extremely sensitive sense of smell, the stench floating in this area was particularly effective against it. The Barghest had confused the scent of Enri’s hands and bag with that of the already-harvested areas. Even better, the smell had covered up their original scent.
It was also possible that the Barghest had torn up the herbs to smoke the Goblin child out.
Although the powerful stench was everywhere, if they fled in haste, the displaced air from where they were fleeing might catch the Barghest’s attention.
“Then, let’s use the kid as a sacrifice and be done with it. We don’t know how strong this Barghest is, and engaging it without prior knowledge would be too risky.”
That cold-blooded reply made Enri look at Gokou’s face.
However, these words were logical ones. The Goblins put Enri’s personal safety as their top priority. With that in mind, avoiding combat with that magical beast was only to be expected. They would even sacrifice one of their own kind for that without a second thought.
He was probably correct, given the conviction with which he had spoken those words.
However, Enri disliked it. Even if they were of different species, not helping someone you could help would disgrace herself as a human being.
Who knew, if she had not been a silly village girl who had never known a Goblin attack and lacked a sense of danger, she might not have thought that way.
Enri looked around to the others. The Goblins knew Enri’s wish. They simply did not want to speak it. After that, Enri looked to Nfirea.
“Haa… I’ll help. Who knows, that Goblin child might become a valuable source of information. If we don’t find out why he fled here, it might end up causing danger to the village.”
The Goblins knitted their brows.
“Is there a chance you might lose?”
“Certainly. But if that’s a Barghest, we’re in luck. Barghest Leaders are pretty strong. But from the look of that guy’s chains and the size of his horns, I don’t think he’s of that type. If it’s just a Barghest, we’re sure to win.”
“Wait a minute. Ane-san’s here too. We should avoid danger.”
Enri swallowed. She knew what she was saying was only to satisfy her ego, and her foolish words would endanger not just herself but the others around her. But even so, Enri still opened her mouth to speak.
“…If we abandon someone we could have helped, it would be as bad as tormenting him ourselves. I don’t want to be like those people who harm the weak. Please!”
Kaijali, who had been watching Enri’s earnest expression, sighed in defeat. At the same time, the monster’s strange bark rang out. They could clearly hear the sound of mocking laughter within it. In response came the Goblin child’s pitiful wail.
There was no more time for confusion or debate.
“It can’t be helped. Get him, lads!”
The Goblins took the lead in jumping out, followed by Nfirea.
Enri felt a terrible, wrenching pain in her heart as she watched the warriors who went into battle to fulfil her wishes.
All she could do was watch them from behind.
Then, Enri thought, at the very least I should stay here and watch them seriously, without blinking even once.
The four who had leapt out saw the Barghest pressing the Goblin child down beneath it. The Goblin child sported new wounds but was not dead yet, because the Barghest had the bad habit of toying with its prey.
The Barghest’s movements stopped, and it stared at the group of people who had jumped out and then at the Goblin child. Perhaps it was afraid that its prey had led it into a trap.
“Hey hey, come on boy,” Unrai said, pointing to himself with his thumb. “Want to play? I’ll play with you. Come on.”
The Barghest growled, full of menace.
In a natural, flowing motion, Kaijali drew the machete at his waist. The other Goblins followed suit.
“No need to think so much. I’ll teach an old dog like you new tricks. How about we start with ‘play dead’?”
In response to the Goblins’ taunts, the Barghest squeezed the Goblin child it was stepping on, who wailed in pain
Although it could not speak, its actions made its intentions clear. Make a move and I kill the brat. However―
“Very good! Go ahead and kill him!”
The three Goblins ignored the Barghest’s taunt, and charged in with shouts of their own.
This unexpected response brought confusion to the eyes of the Barghest.
The Barghest could not have known that the Goblins had not shown up with the intention of saving the Goblin child. They were only here because of Enri’s wish, and their attitude was “as long as we tried to save him, it’s good enough”.
Since they had shown themselves for a confrontation, their precious Enri might get hurt if they did not bring down the Barghest. As a result, they had to make sure they killed the Barghest. So if the Goblin child was murdered, if that wasted their opponent’s first action and let them seize the initiative, then the Goblins would gladly let the kid die.
Seeing itself reflected in the blades of three machetes, the Barghest understood that it could not use its hostage against them and stopped moving. It was confused as to whether or not it should finish off the boy it was pinning down.
Taking his life would be easy. It would be gone in one bite. However, if it did that, there was no question that it would be hacked to pieces by its enemies’ weapons.
The threat to its life led the Barghest to its decision.
Ignoring the Goblin child, the Barghest leapt at the Goblins to meet their attack.
A Barghest was heavier than a Goblin. The Barghest was hoping to pin its foes under itself and finish them off by ripping their throats out with its fangs.
However, this was a poor choice.
The targeted Goblin easily twisted out of the way of the attempted attack, and at the same time the other two Goblins on the left and right slashed at the Barghest with their machetes.
One blade was deflected by the Barghest’s chains, but the other ripped into its body, sending blood everywhere.
At the same time, a small hurled vial shattered after hitting the tip of the Barghest’s nose.
The vile miasma which now clogged its eyes and nose drew an agonized howl from the Barghest.
And at that moment, three more jolts of pain ran through its body.
It could sense that it was in trouble from the outflow of blood alone. The Barghest wept, its vision shaky and blurred, and made its move. Its target was the one who had thrown the vial ― a human.
However, the Barghest had only taken a few steps when its feet stuck to something below and could not move.
Looking down, it saw that the ground was covered in a strangely-colored slime. The bizarre liquid was not absorbed by the earth.
“The glue won’t be able to resist a magical beast’s strength for long! Take it down in one shot!”
In response to the human’s voice, the Goblins shouted their battle cries and charged. In addition, the human cast a powerful spell at it direction.
The Barghest used all its strength to wrench its feet from the ground. Although its movements were slowed because its feet were still coated with adhesive and dirt, it was still able to fight.
Watching the Goblins close in for the kill again, the Barghest used its superior intellect (compared to a regular beast) and acknowledged the fact that “these Goblins were mighty foes”.
It acknowledged that these were different from regular Goblins in one crucial way ― they were enemies who could kill it.
This Barghest knew three methods of attack. It could gore, piercing its foe with its horns. It could bite. It could knock its foe down and rake it with its claws. Unlike stronger Barghests, it did not have any special abilities. But in truth, it had an ace in the hole.
This tactic completely abandoned defense, and if the Barghest failed, it would be doomed. But now was not the time to worry about holding back. It had to make full use of what could be the last few seconds of its life.
The Barghest howled wildly, checking the advance of the enveloping Goblins.
The spell from behind, cast by the human, made the Goblins’ armor glow brightly. The Barghest panicked, predicting that it was some sort of enhancement spell, but the Goblins in front of it simply grinned.
Maybe it made them reckless, but with their armor reinforced, the Goblins advanced as one. Perhaps it might be called a foolish move, but then one could also say it was a brave step forward to quickly end what could be a long battle.
Indeed, it was — if the Barghest had not expected them to do this.
If a Barghest could change its facial features as easily as a human, it would have smiled to itself.
The chains on its body rattled like a snake. Then, the chains binding the Barghest suddenly came to life.
The thick chains began swinging with tremendous force.
The special ability [Chain Cyclone] would severely wound the Goblins, if not kill them outright.
The Barghest was giving this its all. This was a big move that could only be used once a day, and after the chains were used it would be unable to use them as armor for at least ten seconds. The risk was high.
The unexpected attack threw off the Goblins’ dodge by a second. This was a fatal mistake. However―
―A thunderous order cut through the air before the chains could.
The Barghest that had bet everything on this attack stared at the other human who had shouted, and its eyes widened.
The Goblins who should have been too late to evade it had nimbly dropped to the ground, as though the voice had injected them with a fresh dose of vitality.
The Barghest stared at the commander who stood behind the magic caster.
And then, the Barghest’s forelegs and one rear leg were severed from its body as it took machete blows. It howled in pain. It tried to recover its chains, bare its fangs, threaten them, but the Goblins were having none of that.
“Ani-san, no need for the magic support. For safety’s sake, just put up an alarm around this place.
The Barghest, which knew it had already lost, was desperately trying to get away.
Its normally limber body was now cumbersome and slow. That was only natural considering that three of its four legs were now stumps. Even so, the Barghest wanted to flee with all its might.
But the Goblins would not allow it.
Sticky blood coated the grass all around and the stench of iron drowned out the odor of the plants.
The Barghest lay dead, the viscera spilling out of its corpse still warm from its body heat. The Goblins turned away from the Barghest, their bloodstained machetes in hand, and turned to look at the Goblin kid.
The kid had been hurt badly and had lost the strength to flee, but he still forced his body upright against a tree.
“Hey, who are you guys? Which tribe are you from?”
The Goblins looked at each other, wondering how to respond to the questions of a kid who was half frightened and half suspicious.
In each other’s’ eyes, they wordlessly discussed the strategy for what kind of attitude would yield the most benefits and what kind of information they should reveal, but Enri felt that there were more pressing matters than that.
“We need to take care of his wounds first. What can we do, Enfi?”
The kid was hurt very badly and he had already lost a lot of blood. Left alone, he would definitely die. Although Enri had no idea how to help him, she was hoping that her childhood friend would know what to do.
“The most normal herbs can do is stop the bleeding, it won’t help against blood loss. However…”
Nfirea began rummaging through his pouch.
“There’s the newly-created healing potion. I wanted to hand it to Gown-sama, but… could you show me your wounds?”
Nfirea walked forward, withdrawing the potion vial from his robe.
“W-wait, what’s this dangerous-looking liquid? Is it poison?”
Hostility flashed across the kid’s frightened face as he saw the purple potion. From Enri’s point of view — perhaps even Nfirea’s point of view — this was a natural reaction. The potion looked too much like poison for him to not be on his guard. However, the Goblins were very upset by the child’s words, and they immediately stalked over to him.
“―Oi, punk. Ane-san’s the one who decided to save you, along with Ani-san. You’d better watch your words to the people who saved your life… That’s for your own good too, got it?”
The kid turned to look at the blades brandished before him. Although he was only a child, he still knew that the Goblins before him were very angry. He shrank before their eyes.
Enri felt that it would be better if they did not have to intimidate the kid, but she knew the Goblins had their own rules which they followed. It would not be a good idea for her to butt in with her human sensibilities.
“I-I’m very sorry.”
“Ah, it’s all right. Don’t worry.”
As he answered, Nfirea poured the potion on the kid’s body. The wounds were visibly closing up.
“Uuuoooh! What’s this? The color’s so gross but it’s so amazing!”
The kid felt the stares of the surrounding Goblins on him and trembled.
“Ah… no, I, ah, th-thank y-you very m-much…”
“Oh, looks like the punk has some manners after all.”
“Very good. This way, I can tell Gown-san that the experiment was completed without a hitch.”
Nfirea looked around, seeking approval. Enri and the Goblins, who got what he meant, nodded to him.
The potion Nfirea created was made from the materials provided by the great magic caster Ainz Ooal Gown, who was the savior of Carne Village. Not only was there no need to spend money on research fees, but he had even provided all the necessary ingredients. With that in mind, the meaning and value of the potion that he had created was plainly obvious.
The fact that Nfirea had decided to use it on his own was a major problem, but perhaps he could pass it off as a practical evaluation of the potion’s effects.
If he explains it to Gown-san after the fact, he’ll probably allow it… herbalists have their own rules too, I guess.
“You, you used me as a guinea pig!”
Unable to read between the lines, the kid gasped in shock, while Enri and Nfirea smiled bitterly in response. A reaction like this was only natural from someone who did not know the full details of the situation.
Although the two of them had at least managed to smile at the reaction, there were others present who did not possess their forbearance. The Goblins were clearly furious; they clicked their tongues and someone went, “that little bastard!”
Enri held out her hands to try and calm them down. He did not know any better, so it was only to be expected that he would react that way. Besides, he was just a kid, so there was no need to think too much about it.
“Well, if you say so, Ane-san… anyway, we should get moving. Who knows what other monsters will be drawn by the scent of blood.”
“And, although we won… Ane-san. Please don’t do this sort of thing again, okay? Our job is protecting you.”
“Exactly. Still, hearing Enri shout like that really scared me.”
“…Well, it’s because of that voice that we’re fine ― oi, brat, you’d better not run off. We have a lot of questions to ask you and if you don’t want to go home in pieces you’d better answer up truthfully.”
“―Ane-san, this is for the village’s sake too… get over here, kid.”
The kid got up, slowly and painstakingly. His wounds were healed, so they should not have hampered his mobility, but his stubborn resistance made his movements slow.
Gokou, whose machete was dyed red with blood, spat on the ground.
Enri turned to Nfirea for help. However, he silently shook his head. As she turned to look at the Goblins, she saw that there was steel in their eyes, and with it, silent approval of their colleague’s actions.
“…Ane-san, don’t worry, I won’t kill him. I just want to ask him some questions about what’s going on. Besides, don’t you think he’ll die if we left him here?”
It seemed as though the question was aimed more at the Goblin child than Enri herself. He seemed to get it, and the resistance in his eyes faded away.
“I got it… I won’t run off…”
“That’s good. Then the sooner we move, the better. Can you be sure that there’s only one of those Barghests, kid?”
“…I can’t. Apart from them, there’s several Ogres too. I don’t know if any of them chased after me. And I’m not a kid, I’m Agu, the fourth son of Ah, the chieftain of the Kigu tribe.”
“I think ‘kid’ will do for him…”
“We’ll talk about that later. It’s not like it’s important enough to argue about it now. Since Agu wants us to use his name, maybe we should, in order to build trust between us?”
“Ani-san, you’re really mature. Then let’s gather our things and go.”
In accordance with Kaijali’s words, the group set off in silence while watching their surroundings warily. The heavy atmosphere that hung around them was almost visible to the naked eye.
Although Enri wanted to lighten the mood with conversation, the forest was not a place for humanity. She could not act lightly here, especially considering that there might be further pursuers after them.
♦ ♦ ♦
They left the dark and gloomy forest, and after bathing in the sunlight, the tension which filled their bodies melted away, replaced by the flexibility and relaxation that had returned to them. In that moment, they felt like they had returned to the world of mankind once more.
Nfirea was walking beside Enri, and a loud “fuwaah~” escaped him, sounding like both a sigh and a yawn.
The Goblins’ movements had lost their tense edge, but Agu’s expression still looked stiff. He seemed distressed by the sunlight and the wide spaces, and it showed on his face. That was probably because he had grown up in the shadowed forest.
“There, the village is there.”
Agu’s face scrunched up as he followed Enri’s finger to the distance.
“What? That wall? It feels… feels kind of like that Monument of Destruction.”
“Monument of Destruction?”
“That’s right. It’s a scary new place in the Great Forest. Anyone who goes near it will perish. They say there’s undead there too.”
“You say everyone who goes near it will die, but you sure know a lot about it.”
“…while the Monument of Destruction was still under construction, the brave ones from our tribe went there and saw monsters of bone building it.”
“Did you know about this?”
“No, I’m sorry, but this is new to us too, Ani-san. If we go too deep into the forest we might meet enemies even our boss can’t defeat. So we try not to go too far.”
“…Hey, which tribe are you three from? You’re stronger than any Goblins I’ve ever seen before, so where―”
Agu sneaked a peek at Enri, and then mumbled something about ‘Usually humans are…’ to himself.
“Do you serve the humans?”
“Is that weird? Isn’t it normal to work for someone who’s strong?”
“But strong people… no, I mean, I’ve heard that humans as a race have strong members and weak members… but you’re a woman, right? And the one with his hair covering his face is a man, right?”
Enri’s eyes went wide. If she were not a woman, then what was she? No, it was just that he could not tell if Nfirea was male. Could it be that Goblins could not tell the sex of humans?
“Enri, I think this boy hasn’t seen humans before. At most, he knows what his fellow Goblins told him. Also… is it really so hard for Goblins to tell us humans apart?”
“Well, our clothes… are different….”
“Like I said, he doesn’t know things like that. Don’t all Goblins wear the same thing regardless of whether they’re male or female? Of course, sometimes there’s civilized Goblins with a country of their own, but he’s not one of them.”
I see, Enri suddenly realised, and then she realised she had not answered Agu’s question yet.
“That’s right, I’m a girl.”
“So are you a magic caster?”
“No, is something wrong?”
A profoundly disturbed expression appeared on Agu’s face.
“I’m the magic caster. An arcane magic caster.”
“…You two are husband and wife, right?”
“Ehhhh?!” The two of them exclaimed in perfect harmony.
“No, I mean, for some races, the wives can use their husband’s power and authority… is it not like that?”
“No, no, it’s not like that at all!”
The surrounding Goblins seemed to want to say something in response to Enri’s adamant refusal, but all that anyone saw them doing was sagging their shoulders in silence.
“Then… what’s going on? How come that woman’s number one?”
“We call you a kid because you don’t understand why. Ane-san’s strength isn’t something that can be seen with the eyes.”
Enri wanted to deny that, but Agu’s earnest eyes looking at her exerted a pressure that left her unable to speak. While Enri was confused, Kaijali asked a question.
“Then, another question for you. Why were you being chased by those guys? What happened?”
“…Say, can this wait until we get back to the village?”
And the one who answered Enri’s suggestion was―
“That’s right ~su. It would be better that way ~su.”
―A woman who had not been with them until now.
Everyone exclaimed in surprise, and looked to the source of the sound.
What they saw was a stunning beauty. She was a woman with twin braids and brown skin. She was dressed in what she called her maid wear, and she carried a strange-looking weapon on her back.
She was a suspicious-looking individual, and at the same time a familiar one.
She was a maid serving under Ainz Ooal Gown, the savior of Carne Village, and she had been responsible for delivering the alchemical items and apparatuses to the Bareares as well as commanding the Stone Golems. Her cheerful and carefree attitude made her very popular with the villagers.
However, she had a habit of appearing out of nowhere, just like she had sone just now. The villagers believed that it was only natural that a maid in service to a great magic caster should know magic of her own, and Enri had shared that opinion too. Even so, appearing like that all of a sudden was still frightening.
“Lupu-san, w-where did you…?”
“Really now, En-chan, I’ve been following behind you guys from the beginning~su. Huh? Don’t tell me you guys didn’t notice me ~su? I thought everyone was ignoring me because I had no presence ~su”
Although she sounded like she was kidding, her tone was very serious. Enri looked around for help from the others.
“Then ― Lupu-neesan, could you stop joking around?”
“Uwah~ people think I’m just a joker~su. I’d like you guys to remember me ~su… Nah, I was just kidding anyway~su. Just a joke~su..”
Silence resumed, until someone sighed tiredly with a “Haaaa.”
“Well, not like there’s anything wrong with that. So who’s this little Goblin? …Could ― could it be!”
Enri felt the Goblins between her and Lupusregina swapping annoyed looks.
“Fufu — Enfi-chan, you got cucked by a Goblin? Fufufu.”
As everyone rolled their eyes, Lupusregina was still laughing.
“What’s all of this then~su. A pure, innocent boy’s love, trampled just like that~ su. Ah, what a riot~su! Fugya! … All right, enough kidding around, what really happened?”
Agu’s body trembled fiercely, as though he had seen some kind of monster.
Although, Enri could understand why. Lupusregina’s cheerful expression changed ceaselessly, like a high-strung person under stress. The way she could go from laughing to dead serious all of a sudden was frightening in its own way.
“Aw, don’t worry, I won’t eat you~su. It’s okay-su. C’mon, tell onee-chan all about it~su”
“Lupu-neesan. We should talk about this later. Didn’t you agree on that?”
“Oya? Hm, I definitely recall saying something like that~su”
“…Ah! I hope you can hand this potion to Gown-sama, Beta-san. It’s newly developed, but its effects have been tested and proven.”
“…Oh? Enfi-chan, you finally made it?”
“That’s right. Unfortunately, it’s not completely red, but I think we’ve made significant progress.”
“― Well, that’s great. I’m sure Ainz-sama will be very happy to hear it.”
With that, Lupusregina’s attitude seemed to have become that of a normal person, and not the flighty, carefree girl from before. However, that expression only lasted a moment. In the next, she was back to her old self.
“Ahhhh, how exciting— Really, I picked a great day to visit~su. Also, no need to call me Beta. Lupusregina will do ~su. Special exception just for you~”
With the (apparently) high-spirited Lupusregina in tow, they entered the village gates.
The villagers said nothing when they saw the unfamiliar Goblin child. One could say that they were not nervous, but it could also be said that they trusted Enri very much. Perhaps they had assumed that the Goblin child was a relative of one of the other Goblins.
They went through the village and past Enri’s home. Their destination was the Goblin’s house.
“Excuse me for a bit. I’m going to call Brita-san over to listen to what Agu has to say.”
“Sounds like a plan, Ani-san. She’s training to be a ranger, so she’ll be entering the forest, which means it would be good to share this information with her. …So what should we do, Ane-san?”
Enri panicked briefly, not having expected her name to come up during the conversation. With no particular reason to oppose it, she simply nodded her head.
“Mm. Well, it’s not like I’m opposed to it or anything. Rather, I hope she hears what Agu has to say. I’m counting on you, Enfi.”
With an “Understood”, Nfirea left the group behind.
“While I don’t mind just waiting here… maybe I should make drinks.”
“Great idea~su! I’m thirsty ~su”
“…Lupu-neesan, aren’t you a maid? That means you know how to make delicious drinks, right?”
“Welp, I’m the maid of Ainz-sama, and the other Supreme Beings, soooo… I don’t want to work for anyone else ~su. I just want to laze around su~. Not interested in working at all ~su.”
“Is that so… well, that’s a shame.”
Although Unrai and Lupusregina’s conversation seemed quite normal, Enri could still feel a chill run through her.
As they walked and talked, they reached the Goblins’ house.
This was a huge building, with a wide courtyard where one could raise and let wolves run around, capable of housing almost twenty people. There was ample space to train with and prepare their weapons.
The Goblins opened the door, and led the way for Enri, Agu and Lupusregina.
“Fueeee- I didn’t know there was a place like this ~su”
“Hmmm? Lupusregina-san, you’re not coming in?”
“Yup yup ~su Can’t just barge in without an invitation ~su. Well, it’s just a matter of etiquette, it’s not like I can’t really go in ~su. I guess the only one with such a weird legend surrounding them is flatchest-san ~su”
“That’s right, En-chan ~su It’s the name of a tragic beauty ~su Well, it wasn’t as though that person couldn’t really go in ~su. It’s all legends, myths and folklore. Weeeeeeell, let’s not talk about that any more. We’re here to listen to what Goblin over there has to say, right ~su?”
“Ah, yes. Then, drinks… ehm, how about herbal water and fruit water? There’s black grass tea and Hyueri-infused water…”
Agu and Lupusregina looked completely baffled by Unrai’s question, so Enri helped explain for them.
“Hyueri are citrus fruits, you cut them open and infuse them into water and it tastes clear and good. Black grass tea is a little bitter.”
“I’ll like a Hyueri water.”
“Same for me ~su”
“Got it. How about Ane-san?”
“I think I’ll have the Hyueri water too. And… how about washing our hands? Even if our noses are used to it…”
“Ah, that should be all right. Oi, kid— I mean, Agu, you come over here too. Gotta clean yourself up. And bro, sorry about this, but you mind taking care of our dirty weapons?”
“Is it alright?”
“Of course it is. Not like he can do anything. Our rules here are very simple.”
“If that’s the case… let’s go.”
Kaijali left the room with three sets of weapons.
“Agu, come over here quickly.”
“Why do I have to wash? I’m clean, aren’t I?”
Enri saw that Agu’s hands were very dirty; there were not clean by any definition of the word.
“Your opinion is irrelevant. This is the owner of the house telling you to wash up. Or are you saying you’re going to defy the owner in his own house?”
Agu puffed up his cheeks, and plodded over slowly to Enri’s side.
Enri poured the water from the large tank into the pails. After preparing four sets, she stuck her hands into the unexpectedly cold water and started to wash up. The green stuck in the gaps of her nails melted away. After she was sure it was all gone, she brought her hands in front of her face. The stench was gone.
Satisfied, she then looked around herself. Gokou and Unrai were washing their hands too, and the water was dyed red by the Barghest’s blood.
Next, she looked to Agu, but what she saw left her dumbfounded.
Even a child would know better than to wash up like this. He stuck his arms into the water, waggled them around a little, and that was that. He did not even dry himself off.
It was only after Enri had washed off the plant-scent on her hands, Agu still reeked of torn leaves. For Goblins who lived in the forest, a scent like this was a form of self-defense against magical beasts who had keen senses of smell. As such, they might have never developed the habit of bathing.
“You do it like this.”
Agu made an annoyed face as Enri tried to teach him. However, he thought of his own position and what the other Goblins had said earlier and grudgingly, he started to thoroughly clean himself.
“That’s right, you’re doing great…”
“Hey, after this, use this to wipe your body. Make sure you get all the blood off.”
Agu looked unhappy, but he still took the towel with damp hands and used it to wipe himself off.
“So we just dump the dirty water outside?”
“Yeah, just like that. Ane-san, go have a seat. We’ll take care of the rest.”
Enri took advantage of those words and headed to the nearby table. It was surrounded by chairs since so many Goblins lived here. As she chose a place to sit, she suddenly realized how tired she was. Her arms and legs were like logs, and her head was heavy.
Although part of the reason had been gathering herbs, what had really worn her out was the battle against the Barghest.
All I did was watch… Enfi and the Goblins were fighting, but they’re still moving around after all that… looks like I’m never going to be a warrior… or rather, Enfi’s gotten stronger…
Even though she knew that her childhood friend could use magic, she hadn’t expected that magic to be so powerful.
As she thought of her suddenly-different childhood friend, Enri’s heart swelled with an emotion she could not put into words. It was a mysterious feeling that seemed to be surprise, but then again it seemed like something else entirely.
A clear sound brought Enri back to her senses, and her eyes fell on the ceramic cups on the table. They were filled with a transparent fluid that gave off a citrus smell, and Enri decided to help herself to a cup.
The refreshing, sweet and sour taste washed over her entire body, and she felt like she was filled with energy. Agu had sat down beside her at some point, and he gulped his down in one shot and immediately asked for another.
Lupusregina did not touch hers.
Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Lupusregina-san eat or drink.
“…Hm? Something wrong? You’ve been sneaking glances my way recently. Are you in love with me? Ahhhhh, how troubling~ my, how shocking, to think that En-chan is a lesbian~su. Looks like I need to let everyone know~su”
“What— no! No! It’s not like that!”
“Wahahahaha~ Just kidding. I know En-chan likes men.”
Enri did not know how to reply, and her mouth narrowed into a straight line.
“Still, they’re pretty slow… hm? Looks like they’ve arrived.”
Enri turned to the door, but she could not sense anyone outside.
“Really? But I don’t hear anything at all.”
Agu cupped his ear forward with his hand.
“Hey, are humans a race with good hearing?”
“That, that, I don’t know about that, but I don’t think Lupusregina-san would lie about this sort of thing… though she might… prank people a little.”
Then, was she lying?
Agu’s eyes suddenly went wide as he stared at Lupusregina.
“No, really, I heard them. They’re coming for sure. You’re amazing.”
“Hm? Not at all ~su. Compared to Enri-san over there, I’m nothing much ~su.”
Agu seemed to swallow it up, and looked back at Enri with a surprised expression.
No, that’s not how it is. That smile on Lupusregina-san’s face is so damn fake! Enri wondered how she should tell Agu the truth, but before that, a knock came from the door.
Shortly after, Nfirea and a woman in leather armor entered the room.
Brita, the former adventurer, had moved into the village after Nfirea did. Originally, she had been an adventurer in E-Rantel, but had retired after certain events. Even so, she still needed to earn a living, and so she responded to the village’s solicitations and moved here.
She was studying to be a ranger, and she had potential. Even though she was weaker than Jugemu, she was still one of the strongest people in the village and the leader of the village’s self-defense force, even though it could hardly be called that.
They had brought her along because she led the defense force, and ebcause she entered the forest while practicing her ranger fieldcraft.
“Ah— it really is a new Goblin… no, hm, I keep thinking from an adventurer’s point of view… I shouldn’t treat him as an enemy.”
Brita smiled bitterly. It was not as though Enri did not understand where she came from. In stories, Goblins were the enemies of mankind. Killing them on sight was the right thing to do. However. this village was different. Frankly speaking, the villagers felt that humans seemed to be the real enemies in this case.
“Then, since everyone’s here, let’s listen to what he has to say. Agu, can you tell us why you were running while covered in all those wounds?”
“Simply put, I was fleeing from an attack.”
“That’s too simple… what kind of monster attacked you?”
“The minions of the Giant of the East.”
“The Giant of the East? Who’s that?”
“…What do you call him?”
“No, it’s not a matter of what we call him, we didn’t even know he existed until just now. Brita-san, do you know anything about this?”
The most widely-read person in this place was Nfirea, but when it came to the forest, Brita still knew more than him. Even so, all she could do was shake her head.
“I’m sorry. I haven’t heard anything concerning this Giant of the East. And I don’t think Master Latimon knows either. We’ve never ventured into the depths of the Forest and so don’t know much about its residents.”
“Then, Agu, tell us the basics about him.”
“When you say the basics, you mean…”
Enri understood Agu’s confusion. In situations like these, it was better to ask discrete questions one by one, so it would be easier for him to answer.
“Then, can you tell us about the powerful monsters in the Forest?”
“Well, to me the Barghests and the Ogres are all strong… but if you want to talk about things on the level of the Giant of the East, then in the forest, there are the powerful ones called the Three Monsters. The first is the Beast of the South. They say it’s amazingly strong and slaughters everyone who enters its domain. However, we haven’t heard anything about it recently, and apparently they did not see it even when they entered its territory, so I don’t know what happened to it. Then there’s the Giant of the East. He’s built an army beyond the withered forest. Finally is the Serpent of the West. I heard it’s a disgusting snake that can use magic.”
“Strange… how about the north?”
“There seems to be a lake in the north with all kinds of races. As for who rules them… I don’t know. But there seem to be twin witches in the swamp. And when the Beast of the South vanished, the forest became weird. I’m not too sure what exactly happened, apparently some really scary guy showed up, and then the balance of power shifted…”
“Is that the Monument of Destruction?”
“That’s right. I also heard that the master of the Monument of Destruction can command the undead, little black shadows that can move through darkness. That’s what the survivors told us.”
Everyone ― with the exception of Lupusregina ― looked uneasily at each other.
The first thing was the Beast of the South. Since its territory was supposed to be nearby, then when one thought about it, the creature must surely be the magical beast tamed by the adventurers who had escorted Nfirea here — or more specifically, the one who wore jet-black plate armor. It certainly had the look of power and strength about it, and so the description fit it perfectly.
“The Beast… the Wise King of the Forest, Hamsuke-san.”
“That’s it! Ahh, yes, that’s certainly qualifies as a Beast…” Brita said as she heard Nfirea. She had not been in the village at that time.
Apparently, she had seen it in E-Rantel, from far away.
And there were two more monstrous creatures out there who could equal it. Nobody could not feel shock and fear at that realisation.
“Then, how did you escape?”
“Until recently, the three of them held each other in check. The Beast of the South didn’t leave its territory, but nobody could guarantee that would always be the case. If the East and West fought, no matter who won, there was always the chance that in their moment of victory, they would be finished off by the Beast in their weakened state. As such, none of the three powers actually engaged in battle.”
“All right, I can accept that. However, if the East and West cooperated and… no, the Beast of the South wouldn’t leave his domain, so there’s no need to ally to defeat it. No need to provoke it…”
“I don’t know what those guys are thinking. They just claimed their own territory and turned it into their own kingdoms. However, the owner of the Monument of Destruction messed up the power distribution. Because of that, the East and West decided to make war on that King of Destruction, and they went around gathering disposable troops for their forces.”
Agu just kept talking and talking, without a pause.
“They forced us to ally with them. Although, we were hardly allies. I’s more like we Goblins were worthless to them. They used us up and threw us away, and if we messed up, we suffered. Because of that, we ran away. However…”
“It didn’t work, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. The Barghests and Ogres came after us. We couldn’t fight them, so we scattered. I fled in this direction with a few people into the Beast of the South’s territory, but we didn’t expect them to come in after us without hesitation.”
He said there had been a few people, but there had been no sign of anyone other than Agu.
A pained expression drew across Enri’s face, and Gokou spoke.
“…We have people scouting out the Forest, if anyone’s still alive, we can bring them back here as long as they don’t resist.”
“Yes, there’s that. Wolves’ noses are very sensitive. Then… the question is, besides the Barghest, what else is out there? Did they have friends that came over too? If it goes badly, the pursuers might end up coming all the way here. Oi, Agu, what other monsters are there?”
“There’s Barghests, Ogres, Boggarts, Bugbears, and some kind of wolf thing…”
“They’re fairly common monsters. I’d like to hear more about the Giant of the East and the Serpent of the West, specifically, their looks, their abilities, that sort of thing. Do you know anything?”
Agu shook his head.
“I don’t know the details. I know that the Giant of the East carries a big sword, and that the Serpent of the West has a head like you, but what kind of magic he uses, I don’t know.”
Everyone’s attention went to Nfirea, who shook his head. There was simply too little information to work with.
“The question now is what are we going to do? If something that can fight evenly with the Beast shows up, frankly speaking, we’re done for. The most the self-defence force can do is take the women and children to safety.”
“Indeed. If all we needed was a sturdy defense then it would be fine, or maybe we should think about some other methods. If the disturbance in the forest blew over by itself, it would be great.”
Everyone began thinking.
For them, as people who lived outside the forest, it would be best if matters within the forest settled themselves. However, that would mean they would be unable to enter the forest at all, which would be problematic. Still, they might have no choice but to do so if the worst came to pass.
“…However, if the enemy can easily take out a forest tribe, that means they must have gathered a lot of fighting power.”
“Wrong! …Originally, our tribe was a lot stronger. However, when we went in search of new places to live, our tribe dispatched mixed teams of Ogres and adult Goblins. If they’re still alive, we can still fight back!”
“Then those adult Goblins still haven’t come back yet?”
As Brita spoke, Nfirea tilted his head, as though thinking about something.
“About that… although this is a completely different topic, could I ask you about something that’s bothering me? Do you speak the same way that other Goblins do?”
“What do you mean?”
“Ah, that might be a little hard to undestand. In the past, I’ve met Goblins myself, and don’t take it the wrong way, but they spoke like morons. In the village though, Jugemu-san and the others speak normally. The same goes for you — as in you both speak fluently. Because of that, I was wondering if the ones I saw were savage Goblin tribes or something.”
“No, it’s just that I’m particularly smart for a Goblin. Most Goblins speak in single syllables. That made conversation in the tribe really troublesome, I can tell you that. I was seriously wondering if I was from another tribe instead. Now, just to be safe, let me ask you this, was I born in a tribe from around here? Have you heard anything about me?”
“No, we don’t know… You… Could it be… Ane-san, Ani-san, could you come over here for a bit?”
Nfirea and Enri followed Kaijali to the corner of the room.
“Could it be that Agu kid’s not a Goblin, but a Hobgoblin?”
Hobgoblins were offshoots of the Goblin race, and they were superior to Goblins in many ways. Goblins were about as big as human children when they were adults, but Hobgoblins could reach the height of an adult human.
They were similar to humans not just in physical abilities, but in mental attributes. Since they could breed with Goblins, they typically formed mixed communities with them. However, Hobgoblins were not as fecund as Goblins, and so they tended to be leaders or elite guards within a tribe.
“But if my father or mother was a Hobgoblin, wouldn’t they know themselves?”
“Both his parents were Goblins and he was a Hobgoblin?”
“Eh? Isn’t that the kind of weird plot that shows up in stories?!”
“…This is the first time I’ve seen Enri make a face like that… but unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the answer. Just as humans adopt children, I think the Goblins might have done something similar.”
“That’s certainly possible. Well, in that case, we don’t have to worry too much about it.”
The three of them returned to the table, and as they did, the hitherto silent Lupusregina opened her mouth to speak.
“Welp, made a decision ~su? If anything happens, you can always ask Ainz-sama for help ~su. Ask him to help solve the problem and all that ~su.”
That would be everything they wished for.
If the hero who saved the village decided to make a move, not even the Three Monsters could hope to stand against him. However—
“We’d be counting too much on him.”
Enri mumbled to herself, and the Goblins agreed. Only Brita and Agu, who did not know of Ainz, were baffled. Nfirea had a complex expression on his face.
“This village is our village. That means we should do as much as we can by ourselves. Although, some people might think that I shouldn’t put on airs because I haven’t bled or led anyone, I still…
“No, I agree with Ane-san’s opinion. This village is Ane-san’s—”
Kaijali went “Hm?” and then tilted his head as he corrected himself.
“Ane-san and our… no, that’s not right either.”
“You’re trying to say that the village belongs to everyone who lives here, right?”
“That’s right, Ani-san. You got it, just like I expected! Well, even so, I think borrowing the power of that magic caster-sama should wait until we’re completely out of options.”
“But if we do that, everyone might die~su… Getting hacked up hurts, you know~su”
“Ha! Lupusregina-san, we won’t let that happen. We’ll sacrifice ourselves so everyone has time to run first.”
Lupusregina seemed disappointed.
“Is that so ~su? You’d better work hard, then ~su.”
“And I also want to contact the Adventurer’s Guild in E-Rantel — or maybe reporting to them would be a better word to use. The Guild will send someone over to look after they accept our request. It would be troublesome if we put in a request after it became an emergency.”
Brita followed on after Nfirea’s suggestion.
“That’s true. The Adventurer’s Guild doesn’t want to lose their people to unexpected monsters. Of course, Workers and other madmen will all scoff and say that the Guild protects adventurers too much, but they’re just greedy pigs looking to pick a fight. It’s only natural that an organization would want to protect their own members.”
“Brita-san, although I don’t want to speak ill of adventurers, but during emergencies, the hiring cost might go through the roof, or they might even reject it. Why is that?”
“Adventurers don’t want to die, and the Guild doesn’t want them to die either. Therefore, the Guild jacks up the prices to attract higher-ranking adventurers to deal with a problem, even if the situation ultimately doesn’t warrant them. That’s it, really.“
As a clueless village girl, Enri found the words of this former adventurer easy to swallow. It was quite hard to have to accept this when they were being pushed into a corner. However, when she looked at it from the adventurers’ point of view, it made sense too.
“Well, even if the Guild checks it out, people might still die anyway, that sort of thing happens a lot…”
Brita bit her lower lip.
“― When I think of that Vampire attack, I can’t help but shiver… used to be I couldn’t even sleep without taking medicine for it…”
“Vampire? What’s that?”
Agu asked without any reservation, and Brita smiled bitterly.
“It’s a secret. Or rather, don’t make me think about it. I’ll piss myself.”
“But I was the one who was aski―”
“You’re not in a position to ask questions, brat.”
“So the plan for now is to report it to the Guild, and if the situation permits we’ll make a request. It’ll probably be frighteningly expensive, but we should at least get a quote from the Guild. Also, we’ll have to tell Jugemu-san and the chief about it later. Can you do that, Enri?”
“l’ll take care of the self-defence force. Frankly speaking, I’d have done the same thing too.”
Nfirea nodded as Brita spoke.
“Then, I guess I’ll go walkabout the village for a bit before going back ~su You really won’t ask Ainz-sama for help ~su?”
“Yes. We’d like to do as much as possible by ourselves. If possible, we’d like you to tell Gown-sama that much.”
“Got it ~su”
As Agu looked at Enri and Nfirea, who were moving off, a hard-to-describe feeling welled up within him.
“Just what’s so great about that woman?”
The threatening tone in the adult Goblin’s voice made Agu’s body tremble.
Agu felt that the adult Goblins were stronger than anyone else in his village. It was only natural for him to break out in goosebumps when threatened by them.
Yet, this still could not overcome his childish curiosity.
“Are women really that great in this Carne tribe?”
From Agu’s point of view, Enri did not seem particularly strong. Although she had some muscle on her arms and legs, it was nowhere near enough. She did not need to be as muscular as an Ogre, but as a leader, she needed way more than what she had now.
If she were a magic caster he could still understand it. The female who became leaders in Goblin tribes often used that mysterious power. However, that woman did not look like a magic caster.
Frankly speaking, Agu did not understand why Enri was superior to the Goblins.
“It’s not like that.”
“…That hunter woman who came later was stronger than her, right?”
“Well, Brita’s not bad in her own way. But we’re better.”
Agu’s opinion of the grown Goblin in front of him went up another notch. He was shorter than that woman, yet he had spoke with unyielding conviction. Surely there must have been a reason for his self-confidence.
“And then, that woman who appeared from behind you, she’s not that strong either, is she? Though the way she showed up out of nowhere scared me to death.”
The adult Goblin suddenly clammed up, and stared at Agu.
Sensing a strange pressure all over him, Agu nervously asked:
“W-what? What’s with that woman?”
“That woman who suddenly appeared… her name is Lupusregina, and she… she’s very dangerous. Since you’ll be staying with us for a while, do not ever go near her or speak to her. It’s for your own good.”
“Ah. Ahhhh. I get it.”
“And I have to say this up front. Although it should be blindingly obvious, if you do anything to the people in the village… let’s be honest here, you won’t just get away with a scolding, you’d better be prepared to die.”
“I, I got it. So I’m basically like someone from a defeated tribe, right? I promise that I will not harm anyone from Carne Tribe.”
“All right, that’s good… stay away from Lupusregina, okay?”
Agu understood the mix of caution and dread in the adult Goblin’s heart, and he engraved the warning into his heart. With that done, he realised his first question had not been answered, and so he asked again.
“Why is Enri-san so great?”
Even Agu could learn. Or rather, it was easy for him to learn, since he was the smartest in the tribe and could not talk much with other Goblins, so he picked up on things like that quickly.
“Ha. …Enri… the truth is… she’s very strong.”
“It’s because you’re too weak that you can’t tell. If Ane-san got serious, she could crush a Barghest or whatnot to death with just one hand, and squeeze the blood out into a cup to drink, you know?”
“Oh yes, yes, of course it’s true.”
Agu thought of Enri. When he thought about it calmly, it was true that she had been able to give powerful orders that shook the soul. Maybe that was just the tip of the iceberg?
“Ane-san just pretends to be weak. If you ask too much and get her mad, she’ll crush you to death with one hand. After that, cleanup will be a pain. There’ll be blood everywhere.”
“Is, is that so… then why, why does she have to pretend to be weak? If she were strong, wouldn’t there be fewer problems?”
“If you show off your strength,you’ll get people coming from all over to challenge you. That’s pretty troublesome too, you know?”
Agu had thought that strength was the solution to all problems, but that was not the case.
Locked in a labyrinth of self-reflection, he did not realise that the adult Goblin in front of him had a joking expression on his face.
♦ ♦ ♦
In the middle of the night, Enri suddenly woke from her slumber. Though there did not seem to be anything strange nearby, Enri remained still while she moved her eyes to check around her. The world before her was pitch black, lit only by a slim ray of moonlight from between the window shutters. She could not see anything strange in this weak light.
But Enri’s ears could hear just fine.
There were no sounds of horses neighing, armored knights clanking, or people screaming. She could not hear anything like that It was just a normal night.
Enri sighed softly, and closed her eyes. She had been sleeping soundly until just now, so she was still groggy and could not get up right away.
A lot had happened today. After the talk with Agu, she had gone to explain things to the village chief and Jugemu, who had returned from his scouting.
It’ll be all right, right?
In order to confirm the new information, Jugemu had decided to enter the forest again and they had left at night. Moving at night in the forest was just too dangerous. Goblins were different from humans; they could see with small amounts of light, so they could move freely. However, there were many nocturnal magical beasts and monsters, and they would become active after the sun set.
It was much more dangerous than in the day.
If there had been no need to urgently confirm that there were no more monsters chasing Agu, Jugemu would never have set out.
It was true that the Goblins were strong, but that was only in comparison to Enri. There were many creatures in the forest who were stronger than the Goblins, such as the Three Monsters.
A sense of dread and loss fell over Enri, making her twitch, and because of that, her little sister moaned in her sleep, scooting closer to Enri’s body.
Enri half-opened her eyes, and peeked at her little sister.
It would seem that had not woken her up. She could even hear her gentle snoring.
Just as Enri chuckled in her throat, the sound of soft knocking resounded on the door. This was definitely not a trick of the wind.
Enri frowned. What could there be so late at night? Then again, it was precisely because it was so late at night that meant it had to be important.
She gingerly separated herself from Nemu and the blanket and slowly got off the bed, moving carefully so as not to wake her little sister.
The boards creaked as she got out of bed, making Enri’s heart beat faster as she worried about waking up Nemu.
After that incident, Nemu had to sleep with Enri at night. She had suffered very severe trauma.
Enri had no intention of scolding her for it. That was because because Enri felt safer when she slept with her sister.
But she knew, even when the two of them were together, Nemu would sometimes be awoken by her nightmares. Because of that, Enri insisted on being with Nemu even when she was sound asleep.
Quietly, and therefore slowly, she inched toward the threshold, but the knocking did not stop.
Enri nervously peeked out the window, and the moonlight illuminated Jugemu’s silhouette. She sighed in relief.
In order not to wake Nemu, Enri quietly spoke outside the window.
“Jugemu-san, you’re safe.”
“Yeah, Ane-san. In the end, it was all right. Sorry to wake you up, but I think you ought to know this as soon as possible.”
Enri opened the door slightly, and squeezed her body out through the gap. She was worried that the moonlight coming in would wake Nemu. Understanding from her movements, Jugemu lowered his voice and spoke.
“There’s something we need you for, Ane-san.”
“Right now?” Enri smiled playfully. ”Of course, I don’t mind.”
“I’m really sorry about this.”
Enri followed in Jugemu’s footsteps while telling him not to apologize. It might have been better for Nemu to be awake for this, and she had considered that, but Jugemu had come for her knowing that everyone else was asleep. There had to be a reason for it.
“I’ll explain as we walk.”
He usually spoke more lightly, but when it came to work — or what Jugemu judged to be work — his tone was stiffer.
Although Enri felt that it was okay to be more casual with a simple village girl like herself, Jugemu had refused to change that part of him, so Enri gave up on that idea.
“Firstly, we found some members of Agu’s tribe.”
“…but they’re emotionally fragile, and I think they’ll need to rest for a few days. We had to borrow Ani-san’s strength for this.”
Sensing Enri’s surprised expression, Jugemu followed up with an explanation.
“When we found the survivors of Agu’s tribe, they were being held by the Giant of the East’s Ogres as prisoners, and used as food. Although Cona healed their physical wounds, their minds are still scarred. Ani-san has some medicine to calm them down, and we want him to help treat them. After that, there’s a somewhat more troublesome matter.”
Jugemu watched Enri’s expression before continuing.
“When we rescued them, we captured five Ogres. Although we only did it to question them… it seems Ogres normally coexist with Goblins, and while the Ogres fight, the Goblins provide food, shelter, and so on, in a mutually beneficial relationship. Because of that, they said they’re willing to fight for our tribe. According to Agu, this isn’t uncommon… so, what should we do?”
“Can we trust them?”
“Agu says we can. The Ogres have a strange habit; they won’t fight for anyone apart from the Goblins of their tribe, and they betrayed the Giant of the East because he wasn’t of their tribe. It’s something like that.”
“Mm. But, man-eating Ogres sound kind of scary…”
“Once they accept the people in the village as part of their tribe, all you need to do is feed them and it’ll be fine. You can give them just about any kind of food too. Fortunately, they’re omnivorous.”
Honestly speaking, this decision was very difficult for a simple village girl to make.
“How about killing them?”
This was delivered in a casual tone.
“Frankly speaking, I have no problems with killing them outright. It would save us a big stack of problems. In the first place, people like them who betray others might turn on us if things start to go bad. Agu says they won’t, but blindly believing everything a kid says is a little…”
“And what do you think, Jugemu-san?”
“If they could fight for us, it would be great. We don’t know how many pursuers might come from the forest, so a few extra meat shields would help a lot.”
“Then, one more question, will they eat people?”
“…Ane-san. Although Ogres have a reputation for eating humans, they’re just monsters who eat meat. The only thing is that it’s easier to catch humans to eat than wild animals.”
For Ogres, it was better to catch humans than say, rabbits. It was only natural when one considered that humans were easier to capture and gave more meat too.
“Well, if you give them something to eat, they won’t attack the villagers. In the first place, they only attack people to fill their stomachs. You have my word that we’ll hunt enough animals to fill their bellies. Of course, they’ll still need to be supervised and we’ll have to see how things go. I promise we won’t let anyone in the village be hurt.”
“…In that case, it would be good if we could trust them enough to make them subordinates. Not just for now, but for the future as well.”
“I’m glad you understand. Only thing is, there’s a small contradiction with what I said just now. If what happens next goes poorly, we’ll have to kill them all. Truthfully speaking, I’ve been thinking of how to impress on those Ogres that you’re their boss, Ane-san.”
Enri let out a noise that sounded like she’d been flipped upside down. This was too much of a leap for her. Why did a simple village girl like herself have to become the leader of a band of Ogres? Would it not be enough for Jugemu to be their boss?
“This is planning for the future. It’ll be troublesome if the Ogres think of you as just another human being, Ane-san. Although we listen to you, a situation where orders have to be relayed through us Goblins is potentially very dangerous. As a frontline commander, anything could happen to me at any time, so I feel that we need someone safe in the rear who can command the Ogres.”
Enri considered the problem with her village girl sensibilities.
“Which means you need two people who can command them?”
“In that case, Enfi could—”
“Ani-san might end up being on the frontline too.”
Enri suddenly understood, and nodded. Someone in a safe place like herself ought to be useful too. That was also what Enri wanted as well. However―
“But can I really control the Ogres?”
“That’s what we’re about to find out, Ane-san. How good are you at acting?”
♦ ♦ ♦
Both the front and the rear gates of the village led outside, and Jugemu led her to the rear gate. Beyond it were five Ogres kneeling on the ground. They were also the source of the stench that had been hanging in the air.
Surrounding them were the Goblin Troop, all of whom were present and unhurt.
On one side of the door was an observation platform, which would normally have been manned by villagers or Goblins, but not now. The Goblins had temporarily left it.
Nfirea was there too, along with Agu, who was some distance away.
“Yo, Enri. Nice night?”
“Yeah, Enfi. The moon’s really pretty.”
“Indeed. It’s so big and clear.”
“Sorry to interrupt your conversation, but let’s get this show on the road,” Jugemu whispered to Enri before shouting: “Oi! You lot! Our Ane-san is here! She holds your lives in her hands!”
When the five Ogres heard this, they raised their heads to look at Enri. It felt like there was a palpable pressure crushing her, but Enri forced herself not to take a step backward. If she gave in, the plan would fail, and the Goblins would nip potential problems in the bud by killing the Ogres on the spot.
Enri could already see the Goblins’ hands going to their weapons. Enfi was calmly taking out a potion bottle himself.
An eternity seemed to pass under the withering pressure.
Enri endured the stares of the Ogres and returned it with one of her own. Her gaze was steady and unyielding.
In her eyes, the Ogres overlapped with the image of the knights from back then.
Enri clenched her fists, recalling how she had felt back then, when she had punched the helmeted knight straight in the face.
Don’t look down on me. Everyone else is protecting the village, so I have to protect it too!
After a tense second ― a second which seemed to stretch out forever to Enri ― the Ogres wavered.
They peeked at each other, and then at Jugemu.
“Told you, didn’t I. Our boss, our Ane-san, is the strongest.”
“Faces down, all of you!”
Enri shouted out just as Jugemu finished.
The forcefulness of Enri’s voice surprised even herself, and Agu at the edge of her vision twitched violently, but that was fine. What was important was that the Ogres had bowed their heads to her.
For the time being, the Ogres had acknowledged Enri’s superiority.
“Well then, what do you have to say to our boss, the chief of Carne Village, our Ane-san?”
With their heads still lowered, what emerged from the Ogres was a torrent of confused voices.
“So, so scary, little boss. Forgive.”
“Sorry, we attacked your tribe. Please forgive.”
By “your tribe”, the Ogres probably meant Agu’s tribe. Though the reality was somewhat different, it was easier for them to understand the situation as Agu’s people being part of Carne Tribe, in order to avoid overloading the Ogres’ brains.
“We will, work for you.”
“That’s right! Work for me and my tribe!”
That last statement was made with the dregs of her spirit she could muster. She had only said two or three sentences, Enri was already very tired. It was as bad as the encounter with the Barghest.
Just as Enri was about to drop out of Boss Mode from fatigue, Jugemu helped her out just in time.
“Wonderful! Looks like Ane-san saved your lives!”
The strength had visibly ebbed from the Ogres’ bodies. Given that they could be killed at any moment, that was a natural reaction.
One Ogre looked at Enri and spoke.
“Chief, we, what do?”
She had not considered that yet. Still, if she did not know, she could entrust it to someone else.
“Jugemu-san, I’ll let you take care of them. Use them as you see fit.”
“Got it, Ane-san.”
The Goblin leader bowed to Enri, then turned back to the Ogres.
“Well then. First of all, we’re going to pitch tents outside the village. You lot will be shacking up there. And you too, help them with the tents.”
The Ogres left, accompanied by the Goblins.
“Pitching tents outside the village might cause all sorts of problems; we’ll need to make a place for them to live in the village. Even so, we need to train them not to attack the villagers first.”
“I’ll need to go around to talk with a lot of people to make them accept it.”
“Yup. Although, I think it’ll be fine if you do it, Enri. And, about tomorrow…”
According to the plan, Enri and Nfirea would be setting out to E-Rantel, with several Goblins as guards.
“I’m sorry. I still need to help treat the survivors from Agu’s tribe, so I can’t go.”
After all, they would be living in the same village as the same Ogres who wanted to eat them. The mental trauma had to be treated along with their physical wounds, and Lizzie’s personality would only frighten them and have the opposite effect. In the end, there was nobody better for this than Nfirea.
“Ehhh? I feel a little uneasy about this…”
Enri didn’t have any experience with visiting a big city like E-Rantel, so from her point of view the burden seemed quite weighty.
“Then, how about getting the village chief to go with you?”
“I think that could be difficult…”
The village chief had to maintain order in the village, perform repairs, and keep an eye on their new residents. It would be very difficult for him to travel too far.
“…How about the chief’s wife?”
“Mm. Well, frankly speaking, there’s not enough hands in the village. It used to be that way and now it’s even more so.”
Carne Village was a village with a very small population. As a result, when their numbers decreased, their ability to do anything decreased with it. This was why the villagers had suppressed their opposition to inviting more residents to stay with them.
“When I go to E-Rantel, I need to go to the temples and see if there’s anyone who wants to move to the village… Really, this is too much for a village girl to be doing…”
“All the best, Chief.”
Enri pouted as she heard Jugemu’s words. Part of her was thinking, “The nerve of you”. After all, they were one of the reasons why Enri was so busy.
“I really wanted to come along…”
Nfirea mumbled in a depressed tone, and then covered it up in a flustered flurry of desperate handwaving.
“I-it’ll be fine, I’ll take care of Nemu-chan. So you can go without worries.”
“…All right, I get it, am I the only one in the world who has to go through this? One moment people worship me and make me out to be someone great, the next I have to go somewhere I’ve never been to before and do things I’ve never done before…”
“Don’t be so pessimistic, Enri. There’s got to be someone out there who can relate to you.”
Jugemu and Nfirea chuckled quietly as they saw her shoulders droop in fatigue. Agu watched from the distance, muttering to himself.
“So she really did take control of the Goblins by force… the Chief of Carne Village, Enri-anesan…”