Overlord Light Novel Volume 8 Side 1 (2/2)
Overlord Light Novel Volume 8 Side 1 (2/2)
As the name implied, the Fortress City E-Rantel was surrounded by three concentric rings of fortified walls. Of the gates set into those walls, those on the outermost walls were the thickest and most solid of them all, and they radiated an air of strength and weightiness.
It was a common sight to see travellers on the street staring open-mouthed at the gates of the city that was said to be able to repulse any invasion the Empire made. And the people on the streets had surely made similar expressions in the past.
Besides these gates were customs inspection posts, manned by several soldiers who were relaxing just out of the direct sunlight.
Although some people might have asked if it was all right for the soldiers of a city near the frontline to be so relaxed, the truth was that the troops at the inspection posts were there to vet travellers. Their job was to uncover contraband and spies from other countries, so they had nothing to do when nobody was entering the city.
As a result, the currently idle soldiers ― though they maintained discipline instead of passing their time by playing cards ― could not resist the urge to yawn.
Though they looked slack for the moment, but when they were busy, they were very busy. In particular, the sheer amount of work they had to do in the morning, just after the gates opened, practically defied description.
With the sun at its highest point in the sky, the travellers began appearing on the streets in small groups, scattered sparsely among the other pedestrians. It was only natural that people would travel in numbers, given that this was a world inhabited by monsters.
When they show up, they show up in force; we’re going to be busy soon, thought the guard who was idly contemplating the streets from his window. His eyes rested on a wagon about to enter the street, waiting for some pedestrians to pass.
A woman sat on the driver’s seat. He could not see anyone else on the uncovered wagon bed. She was travelling alone.
She was unarmed and unarmored. From that, the guard’s concluded that–
She’s just a village girl.
–Even as he thought that, the soldier tilted his head as he promptly second-guessed himself.
People from the nearby villages were hardly a rare sight here. However, a woman travelling by herself was a different matter entirely. Even the area surrounding E-Rantel was not completely free of bandits and monsters. Thanks to the efforts of the legendary adventurer team “Darkness”, most of the dangerous monsters and bandits had been wiped out. But “most” did not mean “all”, and there were still mundane beasts like wolves and the like to look out for.
This situation was not unique to E-Rantel; it applied to all of the other cities as well. And come to think of it, could girls travel by themselves?
Perhaps she had outrun a bandit encounter, but he did not sense any tension or nervousness from her at all. She looked to be at ease, as though she knew her journey would be a safe one.
What kind of girl was she?
The soldier shifted his now-suspicious gaze to her horse, and that was when his confusion deepened.
The horse was exceptional, not something a mere village girl would have. Its condition and coat reminded him of a warhorse.
Warhorses were extremely valuable. Even if one could actually raise the money to buy one, a normal person would not be able to acquire one easily. Leaving aside monstrous mounts like Wyverns and Griffins, warhorses were the pinnacle of steeds.
A normal person would need money and connections to obtain such a warhorse, and a simple village girl would not have either.
It was also possible that she had stolen the horse from its original owner, but anyone who stole such a valuable item would be hotly pursued and targeted for retribution. This was why bandits did not dare attack people mounted on warhorses.
In short, after considering all the visible evidence, the chances that she really was a simple village girl were very low. So who was this person posing as a village girl?
The fact that she was travelling alone hinted at her true identity. In other words, she was very confident in her abilities, and those abilities were not limited by the fact that she chose to dress as a village girl — by her gear, or lack thereof. With that in mind, it was likely that she was a magic caster, since their equipment and power rarely matched their appearance.
That was an answer he could accept. If pressed for the reason, it was because magic casters, or adventurers in general, were wealthy and connected, so obtaining a warhorse would be easy.
“Is that a magic caster?”
His partner beside him had gone through the same thought process.
“Might be,” the soldier furrowed his brow and answered.
Magic casters were very irritating people to inspect.
To begin with, their primary weapon, magic, was an internal thing which was invisible to the naked eye. In other words, the guards could not tell what weapons magic casters were armed with.
Secondly, they might be smuggling dangerous items with their magic and finding those was hard.
Thirdly, they usually had a lot of specialist baggage, so checking them all was troublesome.
Honestly speaking, he hated dealing with them. Because of that, theyhad a man on loan from from the Magician’s Guild — after paying a suitable fee, of course — to help them out. However…
“Do we have to bring that guy out? I don’t want to.”
“It can’t be helped. If we clear her through and anything happens, it’ll be troublesome.”
“It would be nice if she’d just dressed like a magic caster to begin with.”
“Carrying a weird staff, wearing a weird robe?”
“Yup. At least you’d know someone was a magic caster. Either that, or we force everyone in the Magician’s Guild to carry some proof of membership, like adventurers..”
The two soldiers got up as one, laughing to each other. This was to welcome the girl who might be a magic caster.
Under the watchful eyes of the soldiers, the wagon rolled up to the door and stopped.
The girl disembarked. Her forehead was slick with sweat, but she seemed used to travelling under the sun. Her sleeves and slacks were long to ward off sunburn. Her clothes did not seem expensive or well-tailored. No matter how you looked at her, she was a simple village girl.
However, one could not judge a book by its cover. She could be hiding something. Their job was to find out what that was.
The soldiers carefully approached the girl.
“We’d like to ask you a few questions. Could you come with us to the checkpoint?”
They spoke with gentle tones and expressions. They were trying to send the message that they were not wary of her, so she could lower her guard.
“Sure, I don’t mind.”
The soldiers escorted the girl to the checkpoint.
In order to protect against the use of [Charm] spells and other forms of mental manipulation, two more soldiers followed at a distance of several meters. The others watched her carefully, wary of any suspicious movements.
The girl tilted her head several times, as though sensing the tension in the air.
“Eh? Ah, no, nothing’s wrong.”
Someone who could notice the minute changes in the air could not possibly be an ordinary person. The guards brought her into the checkpoint with that in mind.
“Then, could you sit down there?”
The girl sat in one of the chairs provided in the small blockhouse.
“Let’s start with your name and place of birth.”
“Yes. My name is Enri Emmot. I come from Carne Village, near the Great Forest of Tob.”
The soldiers exchanged looks, and one of them stepped out of the blockhouse. He was going to check the register for any matching records.
In order to manage its residents, the Kingdom kept records of them in the form of registers. That being said, the registers were crude affairs, and the relevant details of birth and death were updated very slowly, if at all. Someone had once estimated that there were tens of thousands of mistakes in them. As a result, relying too heavily on the registers would be a bad idea, but even so, they had their uses.
This register was muddled, but it had a lot of entries, so searching it would take a long time. The soldiers understood this, and decided to try and take care of something else in the meantime.
“Then, in place of the toll, could I see your permit?”
Normally speaking, everyone who entered a city had to pay a toll ― something like a walking tax. However, charging residents this money would cause trade to grind to a halt, and as a result every village was issued travel permits with which they could enter the city free of charge. Of course, as there were different nobles in each region, there were different rules for each region too.
“Hmmm, let me see… here it is.”
The soldier stopped Enri from fishing through her bag.
“Ah, we’ll do that. Could you give us your bag?”
Enri handed it over without protest. The soldiers carefully searched the insides, and found a parchment.
They unrolled it on the table so everyone could see. Although the literacy rate amongst Kingdom citizens was very low, it was a given that every soldier stationed at a checkpoint could read and write. Or rather, they were here precisely because they were literate.
“I see. Well, it looks all right. This is definitely the permit issued to Carne Village. I have confirmed this.”
The soldier rolled the parchment back up and returned it to the bag.
“Next, state the reason why you came to E-Rantel.”
“Yes. Firstly, I’m here to sell the medicinal herbs that we’ve picked.”
The soldiers looked outside at the wagon, whose urns were currently being searched.
“Could you tell us the names and the amounts of the herbs you’re selling?”
“Four urns of Nyukuri, four urns of Ajina and six urns of Enkaishi.”
“Six urns of Enkaishi, you say?”
A look of pride spread over Enri’s face. The solder understood why.
After all, when manning a checkpoint, one eventually picked up a working knowledge of medicinal herbs.
Enkaishi was a herb that could only be gathered during a very short timeframe, but it was a major ingredient in healing potions. The demand was very high, and thus the price was always good. If she had six urns like she said, that meant that she would have a lot of money when she sold them off.
“Then, where do you plan to sell them?”
“I was planning to sell them at the former residence of Madam Bareare.”
“Bareare? You mean the herbalist Lizzie Bareare?”
Although she did not live there anymore, Lizzie had been the most important person in E-Rantel’s pharmaceutical business until recently. If she had a business relationship with the Bareares, that meant Lizzie trusted her very much.
Then, there’s no need to pry deeper, the soldiers thought.
The truth was that although their job was to stop dangerous things from entering the city, investigating these things once they entered the city was no longer their problem.
The soldier nodded with a grunt, then glanced at Enri’s face.
She had spoken quite normally until now, and they did not sense that she was lying.
Once the cargo inspection was complete, their job would be over.
At this moment, the soldier who had just returned nodded his head.
That was to say, a girl called Enri was recorded in the register.
However, that record simply said that there was a girl called Enri born in Carne Village. Without any guarantee that the person in front of them was the real Enri, there was also no proof of the kind of life Enri had led. Perhaps during her travels, she had acquired some powerful magic, or she had died in her journey and some criminal was using her name.
Because of that, they needed to perform one final check.
“Understood. Then, call him over.”
The soldier nodded, and left the blockhouse.
“After this, we will be examining your body. Is that alright?”
A surprised expression dawned on Enri’s face. The soldier hurried to qualify his words.
“Oh, it’s not because there were other problems. I’m sorry, but these are the rules. And we won’t do anything weird to you, so don’t worry.”
“…If that’s how it is, then I understand.”
Seeing that Enri was okay with it, the soldier sighed with relief. He did not want to be the one to anger a possible magic caster.
The soldier who left returned once more, this time with a man trailing behind him.
This man was a magic caster.
His nose protruded like an eagle’s beak, while his thin face was sallow and pale. His body was wrapped in a black robe that looked very hot. His sweat flowed freely, and his claw-like hands tightly clutched his gnarled staff.
Personally, the soldier felt that he should have shed the robe if it was so hot, but the magic caster liked that style, and stubbornly refused to change his clothes. Perhaps that was why the room’s temperature seemed to rise by a few degrees when the magic caster entered.
“So it’s this girl, then?”
The magic caster spoke calmly, which his soldier escort found strange, as usual.
Although he seemed to be a man in his late twenties, his extremely hoarse voice made it impossible to determine how old he was by sound alone. Was it that his appearance was abnormally young, or that his voice was abnormally hoarse?
Enri turned a surprised look at the magic caster who had replaced the soldier. In his heart, the soldier thought that her surprise could not be helped. After all, he too had been frightened the first time he saw the man.
“This is a magic caster from the Magician’s Guild. He’s going to perform a simple check, so please wait.”
The soldier gestured to Enri to remain seated, and then nodded to the magic caster.
“I’ll leave this to you, then?”
The magic caster took a step toward Enri, and then he cast his spell.
After that, the magic caster squinted his eyes. He looked like a beast sizing up its prey. Yet,Enri remained calm despite being subjected to a gaze that rattled even the soldiers, who were used to this sort of thing.
As they saw this, all the soldiers could think was No wonder.
Someone who could remain calm under such a mighty gaze could not be a simple village girl. At the very least, she must have had experience in life-or-death struggles against monsters or people who wanted to take her life. The sight before them only cemented the impression in the soldiers’ hearts.
“You can’t deceive my eyes. You’re hiding a magic item. It’s on your waist.”
Enri heard it, and looked to her waist in surprise.
The soldiers immediately went on alert. They understood weapons like swords, but their knowledge did not cover magic items.
“You mean this?”
Enri produced a small horn from underneath her clothing, small enough that it could fit into both her palms. The soldiers might not have understood its significance even if they had seen it.
“…Is that a magic item?”
“That’s right. You’ve been deceived by her appearance. That thing is imbued with powerful magic.”
The soldiers were speechless. If this was an item the magic caster considered powerful, then how mighty was it?
As they began to think that the girl was dressed plainly for a reason, they felt as though a blade was peircing their chests.
“Ah, this is―”
“No need to speak. My magic will see through it.”
In order to shut Enri up, he cast another spell.
“[Appraise Magic Item] ― uoooooooh!”
The magic caster’s face went through several expressions in a few seconds. Initially it was shock, then fright, then terror, and then — confusion.
“What, what, what is this? Even the word powerful fails to do it justice… Impossible! What on earth is this?!”
The magic caster’s face was red, and flecks of spittle flew from the sides of his mouth.
“What the devil are you! Don’t try to trick me!”
The magic caster’s sudden change in attitude took the soldiers by surprise, and Enri was no exception as her eyes widened.
“No, I’m just, I’m just a normal person! A simple village girl! Really!”
“A village girl? You, why, are you lying? Then, how could you have obtained a magic item like this? If you really are a simple village girl, how could you have gotten something like that?!”
“Eh? This, this is a gift from the one who saved our village, Ainz Ooal Gown-sama―”
“Lies again! A priest from the Theocracy must have given it to you!”
“Eh? What’s that about the Theocracy?”
“Everyone! Fall in! There’s something very wrong about this girl!”
Although the soldiers did not understand what was going on, up till today, they had never seen the magic caster react like this before. So if this were an emergency, they should drop whatever they were doing and respond to the summons.
“Fall in! Fall in!”
In response to the soldier’s shouts, several of their comrades stopped their cargo inspections and entered the room.
“You said someone else gave you this item? Nonsense! How did you get it? You can’t possibly be a simple village girl!”
“No, this really was given to me by Gown-sama! Please, you have to believe me!”
The soldiers looked between the two of them. The magic caster was a colleague of theirs, whom they had hired, and they wanted to believe him. However, given Enri’s nervous reaction to the sudden change in the situation, they could not help but think she was a normal girl.
“What, what else is there? Tell me why you think she’s suspicious!”
“Hnh! To begin with, this horn can summon a group of Goblins — although I’m not sure how many it can call up, but it can do such a thing.”
The soldiers frowned. It would be troublesome if something like that was used on the streets. However, was that really a problem? Certain people, such as adventurers, possessed a plethora of magic items. It would not be strange for them to possess an item like this among their panoplies.
“And this so-called village girl’s testimony is riddled with inconsistencies. That item is worth several thousand gold coins; why would anyone just give it to a mere village girl?”
This unbelievable sum drew cries of disbelief from the soldiers, and Enri herself.
Several thousand gold coins was a sum no normal person could earn in their entire life. It was hard to believe such a simple-looking horn could be worth so much.
“That’s right. Nobody would hand out such an item without a good reason, let alone to a mundane girl! I could accept it if she were a top-class adventurer or magic caster. But she says she’s just a village girl! It’s far too suspicious!”
That much the soldiers understood. Exceptional people would tend to gather exceptional items to themselves. In the past, both the great men of good and evil persuasions were known for their acquisition of powerful equipment. It was their destiny, and it was inevitable.
“No, really, I’m just a simple village girl…”
“Besides, I’ve never heard of any Ainz Ooal Gown fellow. At least, he’s not part of our Guild, nor have I ever heard of an adventurer by that name.”
“The Warrior-Captain knows Gown-sama!”
“The Kingdom’s Warrior-Captain, Gazef Stronoff-dono? …You must be uttering nonsense. How would a simple village girl know of such things?”
“Because he came to our village! It’s true! Go ask him and you’ll know!”
It would be impossible to communicate with the Warrior-Captain, who resided in the Royal Capital, from E-Rantel. More to the point, if she really was a simple village girl, it was unlikely that she would stay in the Warrior-Captain’s memory, so proving her identity would be hard.
“So what do we do?”
“Detain her for now, then investigate her further. Given that she didn’t conceal that horn, and was planning to take it into the city openly, she might not be a spy or a terrorist, but that is no guarantee.”
Enri looked around in a panic.
She looked just like a normal village girl. If this was an act, she must have been a very good actor.
Suddenly, one of the soldiers watching the perimeter exclaimed in surprise. At the same moment, a familiar voice rang out.
“We wish to enter the city, but… what’s going on?”
As they turned towards the voice, they saw a man wearing jet-black plate armor.
The soldiers and magic caster all exclaimed in surprise. Everyone in E-Rantel knew the man who wore that armor. The adamantite plate which swayed over his chest was the conclusive proof of his identity. He was a living legend, a man who made the impossible possible, the ultimate warrior.
He was Momon the Black.
“This, this is! Momon-sama! My sincerest apologies!”
“Now, what’s going on here… hm? This girl is…”
“Yes! There was a suspicious girl, so checking her out took some time. We sincerely apologize for inconveniencing you, Momon-sama–”
“―Enri, is it? Enri Emmot?”
The air in the room seemed to freeze over. Why would a legendary adventurer know a village girl’s name?
“Er, ah, who’re you… er, no, I am. Ah, you were the one who came with Nfirea that time, right? I don’t remember speaking to you…
Momon put his hand on his chin, as though he was thinking. Afterward, he gestured to the magic caster and they exited the blockhouse. Although the soldiers wanted to follow, they could not leave Enri alone.
Eventually, the magic caster returned alone to the room, having calmed down.
“Let her go. That great man, Momon the Black, has vouched for her with his status as an adamantite-ranked adventurer. In that case, think there’s no point in keeping her here. What do you think?”
“That’s an obvious decision… but, is it really all right?”
“Is it really all right to doubt him, of all people?”
“O-Of course not! I get it. We’ll grant her passage. Enri Emmot of Carne Village, you are allowed to enter the city. You may go.”
“Ah, yes. Thank you very much.”
After bowing quickly to them, Enri left the blockhouse. As her back receded into the distance, the soldier turned to the magic caster.
“What about Momon-sama?”
“He left first.”
“Then… what connection would that hero have with that village girl?”
“Hell if I know. Momon-dono told me what I told you, he vouched for her and asked that we let her go.”
“Then, another question. That Emmot girl. Do you really think she’s just a village girl?”
“Certainly not. There’s no way she could be a simple village girl, otherwise why would a great hero like him help her? And it wasn’t a coincidence she was carrying that item… Could it have something to do with the Theocracy?”
“That Ainz Somethingorother fellow. If he’s from the Theocracy, shouldn’t we let the brass know?”
“Frankly speaking, I don’t know. After all, Momon-dono already vouched for her. If we let the people on top know that someone he vouched for was dangerous… well, you’d be just doing your job, but do you really want to upset Momon-dono?”
The soldier’s face twisted.
The heroic exploits of Momon in the graveyards of E-Rantel were a common conversation topic when the soldiers gathered.
The saga of how he hacked his way through a horde of tens of thousands of undead set the hearts of all who heard it ablaze. In addition, one could clearly see his heroic poise and actions even from afar. He had subdued a powerful magical beast with his incredible power, and his majestic riding style drove the soldiers mad for him.
Just as women were attracted to strong men, many warriors admired Momon the Dark Hero, and it could be said that most of the armed forces of E-Rantel were his fans.
This soldier was one of them.
As a fan of Momon, just being patted on the shoulder by his idol was enough for him to boast about it to everyone he met. As such, he had no intention of upsetting the man he worshipped.
“There is that. Well, since Momon-sama vouched for her, I guess it’ll be fine.”
“I think so too. If we treat a friend of Momon-dono poorly, I don’t think it’ll turn out well. I guess all we can do is avoid rocking the boat. Anyway, let me know if anything else comes up.”
“Ayup. I’m heading back to my work too.”
♦ ♦ ♦
Enri drove the wagon with her back to the gate of E-Rantel’s city gate, wondering what on earth had just happened. It would seem that man in the jet-black armor ― she remembered that he was one of the adventurers who had come to Carne Village with Nfirea to pick herbs ― had helped her out of a tight spot.
By right, she should have immediately gone to thank him, but unfortunately she had lost sight of him once she entered the city.
If I thank him the next time we meet… will he forgive me?
Although she was thinking that she should immediately start searching for him once she had the time, there were reasons why she could not. Those reasons currently troubled her. The only thing that put her heart at ease was feeling something through the barrier of her clothes.
–The Horn of the Goblin Whowhatsit.
This… this is worth several thousand gold coins? No way. Please tell me that’s not true…
She suddenly broke out in a cold sweat. She had not expected the horns she had been given so casually to be so valuable. No, Nfirea had said it was a high-end magic item… but the amount was beyond her imagination.
Is it alright for me to use this item? Will it be okay?
If she was asked to return the other one she had already used, what should she do?
I’ll need several thousand urns of herbs… I might not be able to afford it in a lifetime of picking herbs…
In addition, she had another item worth thousands of gold coins.
Is Gown-sama a man who can give out such items so easily?! Or maybe, he didn’t know its value… no way, there’s no way someone like him wouldn’t know… but, if he didn’t know…
Enri’s stomach grumbled and ached.
She looked around her surroundings in suspicion. There were not many people around, but it was still several times more than in Carne Village. Distasteful thoughts like is anyone planning to steal this horn rose up in her mind.
If only I hadn’t brought it out. There’s a lot of crime here, right? What if the horn got stolen… Hang on… if the horn was blown and Goblins showed up to make trouble, wouldn’t that make me the criminal?
Just as the cold sweat was pooling around Enri, a person descended upon the seat next to hers. The way she landed like a feather in defiance of gravity must have been magic.
As the surprise of seeing the newcomer faded, an even bigger surprise was awaiting her.
She was a raven-haired beauty whose face could launch a thousand ships. She was the one who had come with the black-armored adventurer to her village. Her ice-cold eyes resembled onyxes as they turned to Enri.
“Inferior creature (gadfly). Momon-san wanted me to ask you a few questions―”
“Flattery will get―”
“As pretty as Lupusregina…”
As she saw the consternation in the eyes which were looking at her, Enri immediately regretted the stupid things she had said. She probably did not even know about Lupusregina. However, there was nobody else who could even come close to the beautiful adventurer before her eyes.
What should I do, I’ve upset her… well, that much is clear, but…
“A-ah, Lupusregina is a very pretty person in my village―”
Her eyes were hard, and so was her voice, and even her eyebrows were strained. But the thanks she had given was genuine.
“…Haaaah. Momon-sa―n has some things to ask you, which is why I came. Answer me. Why are you here?”
Enri had no obligation to answer. However, this was the partner of someone who had helped her. If he wanted to know, then she should answer.
“Ah, well, before that, can I ask a favor of you? Momon-san helped me earlier, and I’m very, very grateful. Please tell him that.”
“I will do so. So why are you here?”
“Ah, yes, I, I’m here, because there’s a lot of things that need to be done, for instance, selling the herbs.”
The woman gestured with her chin, indicating that Enri should continue speaking.
“Then, I’ll go to the temple, to see if there’s anyone who wants to move to our village to live. And then I need to go to the Adventurer’s Guild to talk about some things. And I need to buy some things we can’t get in the village, like weapons. Something like that…”
“I see. I understand what you’ve said. I will relay it to Momon-san.”
With ethereally graceful movements which seemed independent of gravity, the woman alighted from the wagon, and left without looking back.
Enri’s impression of her was that of a frozen hurricane which tore people apart.
“She’s an amazing woman… she feels dozens of times more powerful than Brita-san…”
There were no girls in the village like her. Had she become an adventurer because her personality was like that, or had being an adventurer made her personality that way? She suddenly did not feel too keen about visiting the Adventurer’s Guild.
“Ahhhh, oh no!”
Nabe was a powerful adventurer, but Enri had only noticed after she had vanished. In addition, she was the partner of the man who had subdued the Wise King of the Forest. She might have been able to tell Enri about what was going on in the forest.
“The Giant of the East and the Serpent of the West, and whatever that Monument of Destruction is… if only I had asked her about all of those. Ah~ I’m such a dummy, why didn’t I think of that earlier?”
Enri drove her wagon through a gate while scolding herself for her carelessness.
♦ ♦ ♦
E-Rantel could be roughly divided into three zones, separated by the walls of the city. The middle zone was where people lived.
It was also where the Adventurer’s Guild could be found.
Ideally, it would have been safest to sell the herbs at the Herbalist’s Guild. However, that would have involved a lot of troublesome paperwork, so she had chosen to go to the Adventurer’s Guild instead to use them as a go-between. She had considered drawing on Lizzie’s help for this, but Enri had decided that using her best friend’s grandmother’s name would be too shameless, and reconsidered.
After taking Enri’s wishes into consideration, Nfirea had suggested going to the Adventurer’s Guild.
If Nfirea had come in person, they would not have needed to use the Guild and he have sold everything directly. However, Enri was not confident about dealing with the sharks in the Herbalist’s Guild, so she had decided not to begrudge the service charge and use the Adventurers’ Guild as a go-between.
Enri headed down the road Nfirea and Brita had told her about.
Although she had been travelling with the Goblins on the way to the city, they were currently waiting outside the city for Enri to finish her business. She realized that this was the first time she was alone ever since she had set out from the village, and her hands gripped the reins even more tightly.
The tension stiffened Enri’s shoulders. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, she looked around in all directions and her destination was in front of her.
“I did it!”
Enri squeaked in joy. Now that she had gotten all the way here, she probably would not get lost.
She handed the reins of her wagon to the sentry standing at the door of the Adventurer’s Guild, and pushed open the door.
Inside, warriors in full plate armor, hunters with bows on their backs, and magic casters both arcane and divine were walking around. Some were enthusiastically swapping information about the monsters nearby, others were looking closely at the parchments on the nearby noticeboard, and a few were getting a feel for their newly-purchased gear.
The place was filled with a heat and activity that made Enri unsteady on her feet, a world of unrelenting scrutiny and tension. This was the world of adventurers.
Enri’s mouth dropped open as she beheld a sight she would never see in her village, then hurriedly shut it back up.
It was true that she hailed from the boondocks, and it was hardly shameful for her to be startled by the mood of the big city. Still, a girl of her age staring dumbly with her mouth open was just embarrassing.
Enri set out, her back ramrod straight, consciously checking her movements so that she did not move the arms and legs on the same side of her or do anything which would invite laughter. However, Enri started to have her doubts about whether it was all right for an obviously out-of-place village girl to be strolling so boldly among these muscular adventurers.
At the counter, she was welcomed by the receptionist’s smile.
“Y-yes, I’ve been welcomed.”
Enri locked eyes with the receptionist. Following which, the two of them smiled bitterly. Enri felt her shoulders relax, for what might have been the first time since she came to E-Rantel.
“Then, may I ask what business you have with the Adventurer’s Guild?”
“Mm. Ah, first, I’d like to ask for some help with the sale of herbs.”
“Understood. Where are the herbs now?”
Enri told her they were on the wagon outside, and the receptionist turned to speak to a woman beside her.
“The appraiser is going to check it now, please wait within the Guild until he’s done.”
“Understood. Then, another thing… although we won’t be putting out a request right away, we might do so in the future.”
Enri explained the situation to the smiling receptionist. The other woman’s smile became stiff as she heard Enri’s story.
“Is that so… I’m just a receptionist, and I don’t decide the difficulty of requests, but if it involves the Wise King of the Forest, it might be a task that only the adamantite-ranked Momon-san can handle. In that case, the fees would be very expensive.”
There seemed to have been a shift in the receptionist’s mood. She seemed entirely unmotivated, as though she had decided “It was pointless even after sitting through all that, what a pain”.
While living with the Goblins, Enri had become adept at reading the emotions of others. Goblins were ugly and looked very different from humans, but she had worked hard to recognize and deduce the changes in their feelings. In this way, Enri had grown.
She must be thinking the village doesn’t have that much money, huh… well, given my clothes, it’s a reasonable conclusion to make… and she is pretty well-dressed, after all.
Enri briefly compared her clothes to those of the receptionist, and concluded that fashion-wise, she was completely outclassed.
But clothes like those are wasted on working in the village, and they’re far too cumbersome to work in besides.
Thus, according to Enri the woman, this battle was a draw.
“Ah, I heard the city would provide a subsidy…”
“That’s correct. However, the subsidy is only a portion of the fee, and you’ll have to pay the rest yourself. Adamantite-ranked adventurers are very expensive, and even after the subsidy they’ll still cost a lot of money to hire. Of course, you could offer less money for a request, but the Adventurer’s Guild might not allow it. If you offer less money than the stipulated amount, your request will be a low priority, so there may be no takers. Please take that into consideration”
She must have memorized the regulations, given the way she had fluently rattled all that off with her eyes glazed over. It would seem the receptionist was treating Enri like a customer who was not buying anything.
That’s only natural. A customer who doesn’t spend money isn’t a customer at all.
Everything the receptionist had said was turning out like how Nfirea predicted, so she did not feel too upset. It was a reality that nobody would help the weak.
That’s why Ainz Ooal Gown-sama is our savior. He even gave a simple village girl like me a valuable treasure like that.
She wondered how the receptionist would react if she used this horn as payment. It would be great to see the look on her face, but Enri knew she could not do such a thing. This item had been given to her by that great magic caster with the instruction to “use it to protect yourself”. She could not sell it off, not even for the village’s sake. She could not be that ungrateful.
And so, Enri nodded.
“I understand. Then, please tell me how much the fees will be. That way I can go back to the village to discuss things.”
“I see… then how about this? Please come back after the inspection for the herb sales are done. W should have finished calculating the request fees by then.”
After thanking the receptionist, Enri left the counter and sat on a sofa in the lounge, staring at the ceiling to while away the time while the inspection dragged on.
Every moment since she’d entered the city gates had been a grand adventure. Or rather, when she thought about it, ever since the day her parents had died, every day had set her eyes spinning.
All I wanted was to lead a simple, unchanging life in the village…
As she thought about the things she had lost, Enri sighed.
She thought about what had happened after that — the Goblins, her childhood friend, and then she shook her head.
Can’t they go any faster…
If she had something to do, she would not have the free time to think about such depressing things. She would rather empty her mind and focus on work than think about things that made her sad.
“Emmot-san, the appraisal is complete.”
Enri rose and headed for the sound of the merchant’s voice.
“Thank, thank you very much!”
“The fee is—”
At this moment, Enri heard the sound of someone striding, no, practically sprinting over to her. As she turned, she saw the receptionist from earlier in front of her.
“Haaa— haaa— Enri-san of Carne Village. No, I mean, Enri-sama. Could I have a bit to discuss the matter from just now with you?”
This was the same receptionist from just now, but her attitude was completely different. Even her eyes were bloodshot.
“Ah, I’m sorry, but I was just about to tell her about the results of the appraisal—”
“You shut up, I’m talking here.”
The receptionist’s reply made the merchant’s face twitch.
“If it’s alright with you, would you like to discuss this over a drink in the receiving room?”
She was smiling, but the smile did not reach her eyes. There was a strange, desperate look in them.
Perhaps she had sensed something from the confused Enri. The receptionist’s eyes were moist, and her hands were clasped together as though in prayer.
“Please, I’m begging you, you have to let me hear you out! If not, I’ll be done for!”
After hearing that desperate, almost pathetic plea, Enri had no idea what was going on, but not to giving her a chance would be too cruel. She glanced back to the merchant, who seemed to pick up on her intentions, because he nodded slightly to her.
“Got, got it. Then, could you show me the way?”
In that moment, the receptionist’s body visibly relaxed.
“Thank you very much! Really, thank you very much! Come, come, let me show you the way.”
Enri followed after her, bathed in the curious stares of everyone around. The receptionist was tightly gripping her right hand, as though she did not want Enri to escape.
Was I too rash?
She entered the waiting room, traces of unease in her heart.
Enri silently looked around the inside of the room. There was nobody in there besides herself, and it was intricately decorated, to the point where she had doubts about even sitting on the sofa.
“Come, come, please, have a seat.”
The moment she sat down, a voice from the corner of her mind wondered if she would be imprisoned or meet some other, similar fate.
However, nothing happened when she sat on the sofa. All she felt was the comfortable furniture taking her body weight.
“Would you like something to drink? We have some excellent liquor! How about food? Too early? Yes, kind of… how about fruits… no, sweets and desserts, maybe?”
“Ah, there’s no need to go to that extent…”
The dramatic change in the receptionist’s attitude was starting to scare Enri. In the first place, she had not considered the receptionist’s treatment of her to have been particularly cold. It had been a reasonable reaction enough reaction, and not really negative. At the very least, it seemed much more normal than she did now.
But why had this leopard changed its spots? Was it because of the horn again?
“No, no, what are you saying? Anything is possible for you. We can provide liquor, brandy, and the snacks to go with them too.”
“No, there’s really no need… and besides, I’m running out of time. Can we start discussing the matter?”
“Certainly! You’re absolutely right! Then please, by all means, do continue!”
The receptionist whipped out a sheet of thin, white paper. All the paper she had seen before had been much thicker and had other colors mixed in. This must be some high-class stuff here. Was it really all right to use it?
Enri began speaking. She had only given a brief outline just now, so she had to patiently explain the details this time round.
Eventually, just as Enri’s throat was starting to dry out, the conversation finally came to an end.
“Thank you for your help! There’s some drinks here, please help yourself before you leave! It’s fine to leave the cups here, but thank you for coming to us today!”
The receptionist suddenly stood up, and left the room as though she had been chased from it.
“Really… what happened?”
Of course, there was nobody here to answer her muttered question.
♦ ♦ ♦
In the end, Enri did not spend the night in E-Rantel, but headed back to Carne Village.
She would be sleeping on the plains, but she did not feel uneasy. On the contrary, she had a very good night’s sleep. That was because unlike her journey to the city, she had a group of passengers riding with her this time round.
“Ahh~ I see it at last.”
Before her stood the wall of Carne Village. Although the neatly-arranged logs looked impressive in their own right, Enri could not help but think they looked shabby compared to E-Rantel’s fortifications.
“That’s right. I need to report all this to the chief quickly.”
Enri was replying to one of the Goblins in the bed of the wagon. Five Goblins had escorted Enri to E-Rantel, including the Goblin Proest (Cona), and there was a Goblin Rider (Chosuke) maintaining a vigil some distance away from her wagon.
“Well, half the problems have been dealt with, but apparently the chief’s request of you didn’t go too well, did it, Ane-san?”
“Yes, about that… according to the priest-san, almost nobody wants to move to the village.”
“That’s strange. I mean, there’s already other immigrants from other villages here. Why aren’t there more people? Was the priest lying?”
“No, a priest would never lie,” Enri smiled bitterly. “To be honest, frontier villages are pretty dangerous, so they’re keeping their distance. We were hoping for a bunch of third sons who’d come here for the promise of land… but not many people will come here if they aren’t ordered to. And the people who moved here in the beginning had lived in frontier villages like us. Their situations are different.”
“Is that so…”
“That’s how it is. But actually, that kind of relieves me.”
It would probably be very difficult for normal people to form a good relationship with Goblins and live with them in the same village. Any immigrants from the city would probably blanch at the sight and do their best to stay away.
And frankly speaking, if Enri were forced to choose between the city-dwellers and the Goblins, she would choose the Goblins without hesitation.
At this moment, the wagon shook, and the sound of something metallic hitting the wagon bed rang out from behind her.
“Ah, sorry. Are you alright?”
Enri turned her head to look behind.
Although the Goblins were seated on the floor of the wagon, there were some sacks there, one of which made the metallic noise when the wagon shook.
“Ah, we’re fine, Ane-san. No need to worry. Speaking of which, with this many arrows, we’ll be able to hunt to our hearts’ content.”
The Goblins looked so happy when they looked at the bag that Enri forgot to reply to them, simply smiling instead.
They crossed the wheat fields, and entered a half-opened gate.
After greeting everyone, Enri drove the wagon to their original meeting point, in order to unload the cargo.
As she stopped the wagon at the meeting point, the Goblins within, having heard the wagon, streamed out to greet her.
“Oh! Welcome back, Ane-san. I’m glad nothing happened.”
Enri smiled. Their welcome was what made Enri feel that she had really returned to the village, because to her, the Goblins were part of her family.
“That’s a lot of stuff. Are you bringing it inside?”
“That’s right, bro. Do me a favor and lend me a hand.”
The Goblins moved as one, deftly unloading the cargo. No matter how Enri directed them, they tucked everything without making a mistake until everything was squared away. This was the proof of how much the Goblins had integrated themselves into village life.
“Ah, Ane-san, let us handle the rest. Why don’t you go meet your sister and Ani-san? Although I don’t know if Ani-san’s still helping with Agu’s people.”
“Thank you, but I still need to report to the chief first.”
“Really? Got it. Then, just to be safe, I’ll come with you. After all, there’s still the matter of the Ogres.”
Gokou spoke to some of his comrades after leaving the meeting place, and then he hopped up onto the wagon beside Enri, who was driving. The other Goblins who had been guarding Enri on the road to E-Rantel looked at him with jealousy in their eyes, but none of them actually voiced any opposition. It was probably because they agreed he was doing the right thing.
“Then, Ane-san, let’s go!”
Enri smiled faintly and said, “I’m counting on you guys! And thank you very much!”
After thanking the Goblins, she spurred her horse into motion.
“So, what happened in the village since I left?”
“Nothing special. The big thing was that we built a place where the Ogres could stay inside the village. Of course, the Stone Golems did most of the work, and it was pretty crudely made out of wood, but in the end, it ended up being a pretty nice place. However, we can’t do anything about their smell. Even the towels we give them end up stinking.”
“I see… Still, that was really fast!”
“Like I said, the Stone Golems did most of the work. If you want to thank someone, thank the magic caster who gave them to us.”
“And Lupusregina-san, right?”
“…Let’s not talk about that Lupusregina person for now. I don’t want to thank her or anything. Something about her just pisses me off.”
Enri found it hard to believe her ears. This was the first time Gokou had ever spoken ill of someone.
“How should I put it… she’s very scary, like a monster watching us… I don’t think Ane-san’s sensed it yet…”
“But she’s the maid of the one who saved our village, Ainz Ooal Gown, so she can’t be that bad.”
“…Ah, what a pain ~su”
Enri and Gokou’s shoulders twitched. That was the voice of the woman they had just been discussing.
Enri looked back frantically, and just like the day before, the maid was sitting on the wagon bed like she belonged there.
“Really, you’re such a pain, En-chan.”
“Ah, what do you mean?”
“Maybe, maybe before that, you should tell us how you appear out of nowhere.”
“Mm? It’s simple ~su. I fell out of the sky ~su.”
“That’s not going to fly. There’s quite a few times you’ve come from above now, but we couldn’t sense you.”
“I can make myself invisible ~su. …I’m trying to be subtle ~su. See how nice I am~”
Gokou turned his face to the front once more. There was irritation written all over it.
“But, ah, yes. It’s kind of rare that we get to see you two days in a row, Lupusregina-san. Did something happen?”
Lupusregina glared at Enri. Enri could not help but think, a beautiful person is pretty even when she makes a face like that.
“Well, kind of. Buuuut anyway, I was just wondering what was going on ~su. Speaking of which, what happened to that miniature gobbo of yours?”
“…He’s fine. I think he should be in the Chief’s house.”
“Why the Chief’s house?”
“Ah, because we rescued a few more Goblins from his tribe? They’re staying there while we build a place for the Goblins to stay in the village.”
“Ah— yeah, it kind of makes sense, Agu’s the son of his tribe’s chief. He must feel like he has a duty to protect them or something. Really, he’s just a kid but he’s so mature~”
Although Lupusregina was just smiling lightly, anyone who saw her looks would be captivated by the charm radiating from her. Even Enri found herself looking at her in admiration despite the fact that they were both women.
“Oops, shouldn’t you be watching your front instead?”
“That, that’s right!”
Enri hastily looked to her front once more, the tips of her ears bright red.
After stopping in front of the chief’s house, Enri and Gokou got off the wagon.
“Then, I’ll bring the horse back to the stables ~su. Don’t feel like disturbing you guys. Let me know what you guys talked about afterwards~”
“I understand. Then, I’m sorry for imposing, but I’ll leave this you.”
Enri bowed to Lupusregina, who replied with a “hoi hoi” and a smile before driving the wagon off.
Enri knocked on the door, announced herself loudly enough for everyone inside to hear, and opened the door.
The Chief and Agu were facing each other across a table.
“Oh, welcome back. Please, have a seat. How were things in the city?”
As the Chief spoke, Enri sat herself beside Agu. For a moment Agu’s body seemed to go stiff, but she must have just been imagining things.
“Ah, then, that’s it for me. In that case, Chief, please take care of us.”
Enri had no idea who those words were meant for. Since the only others present were Enri, Gokou and the Chief, it seemed obvious that they had been intended for the village chief.
However, Agu had been looking at her, with a stiff back and pursed lips. Enri looked into Agu’s eyes, and in his steadfast, unblinking gaze, she realised that he was not kidding or playing a trick.
Why did it have to be her?
Amidst Enri’s confusion, Agu excused himself and left the Chief’s home.
“Then, Enri, can you tell me about it?”
“Eh? No, that… this… ah, yes. I get it.”
It weighed heavily on her mind, but she could clear up her doubts later. The report was more important for now.
After deciding that, Enri clearly and concisely related the events that had occurred in the city. The most important part was that nobody wanted to move to Carne Village. However, the chief seemed to have anticipated this, because there was no regret on his face, only calm acceptance.
“So that’s how it is. Well, it can’t be helped. We’re a frontier village and monsters appear frequently around these parts, so it makes sense that hardly anyone would want to come here.”
The village chief said what Enri had been thinking. It might have well been what everyone in the village had already accepted.
“You’ve done a lot for us. Thank you.”
The chief lowered his head, and Enri said, “It’s all right,” in return. It had been confusing at times, but it had also been a good experience.
“Then―” the chief’s line of sight flickered to Gokou for a second. “There is one thing I would like to entrust to you, Enri Emmot.”
“Ah, yes. What is it? You’re being so serious, Chief…”
“…I hope you will carry on in my position as village chief.”
The sheer variety of expressions that flashed across Enri’s face was like a piece of performance art.
“Haaaaaaaa?! What, what is this? Hey! Don’t tell me Agu was saying those… ehhhh?!”
“You getting flustered won’t help…”
“Don’t interrupt me when I’m flustered! Chief, are you retarded? Why are you saying this?!”
“…Maybe retarded is a bit much. I understand you’re excited and nervous about this — I know that much, but I’m hoping you can calm down and listen to me.”
“Calm down, how can I calm down? I’m just a simple village girl, why do I have to deal with this village chief crap?!”
“Get a hold of yourself!”
The voice was full of power, but to Enri it was just a little loud. Even so, it helped her regain a bit of her composure. No, if she didn’t listen to the chief, she’d never make sense of things, or at least that was what part of her was thinking.
“I understand that you’re very confused. However, I hope you can sit down and consider things with a calmly. For starters, who is the heart of the village?”
“Isn’t that you, Chief-san?”
“That would be incorrect. I feel that you are the heart of the village. The Goblins and the newly-arrived Ogres all acknowledge you as their leader, right?”
“That’s correct. Everything we do revolves around Ane-san.”
“Then, there’s the Goblins you helped. From what Agu’s told me, they also see you as the boss.”
Enri’s mouth turned into the shape of a ‘Λ’. It might be true that the Goblins were that way, but what would the villagers think? They would never accept this.
“I can guess at what you’re thinking. The villagers will object, is that it? I’ve already spoken with everyone and gotten their approval. Last night, we had a meeting of the villagers and got their opinions. And it was unanimous — they all wanted you to be the new chief.”
“…That attack was a huge shock for all of us, Enri. Everybody is hoping for a strong leader.”
“How am I strong? I’m just a simple village girl!”
Although there was some muscle on her arms, she was still a village girl who could barely use a weapon. If they wanted strength, surely they should have picked from among the members of the security force, no?
“Strength is not measured by one’s courage alone. Don’t you think being able to order the Goblins around is a form of strength too? The Bareares both think you’re suitable as village chief too.”
Enri sounded like a chicken being strangled to death.
“That, and I’m getting on in years. I need to find a successor soon.”
“What do you mean, ‘getting on in years’? You aren’t anywhere near old, Chief. Is that why you’ve been talking like an old man?”
The chief was around his mid-forties, so it was still a bit early to be calling him old. After all, he was still at an age where he could work.
“Leaving aside the matter of talking like an old man, you should have noticed by now, but the forest around the village is undergoing a number of changes. Since the Wise King of the Forest is gone, there’s a higher chance of monsters coming out of the forest to attack. All I can do is use my experiences of when the village was safe to lead us, but that won’t do.”
“Chief, this may be rude, but I need to ask. You’re just trying to run away from this, aren’t you?”
“…Let me be frank. I cannot say that you’re wrong..”
What Enri saw was the eyes of a man who was honestly speaking his mind.
“I still remember that day even now. That horrible day when my friends in the village were killed. I knew the Emmots well. If we hadn’t lived idly, if we had built a wall, if we had been on guard, maybe we wouldn’t have suffered so much… maybe we could have held out until Gown-sama came to help us.”
That would be tough, Enri thought. This village also had a lot of immigrants who were survivors from the other destroyed villages. Their villages had sturdy walls ― though not as strong as Carne Village’s were now ― but they had still been attacked and slaughtered. But those walls could have delayed the attackers by just a little bit and allowed more people to be saved. Enri agreed on that part.
“The old way of thinking I had isn’t going to work anymore. We need to reorganize and protect the village’s safety with our own hands. The only ones who can do this… are the flexible and the young. Ans those people need strength as well.”
The chief had said his piece. He looked calmly at Enri.
Enri listened to the chief’s words, and seriously considered them. At first, she wanted to refuse because the burden was too heavy. If they were attacked just like that time, she was not sure that she could bear responsibility for the lives of her fellow villagers. However, like she had told the chief just now, was that not just running away from the problem?
“I don’t know if I can handle this big responsibility.”
“That’s a natural reaction. I can help with the administration of the village, and the Goblins will support you on the security issues. Even so, making the final decision is still scary.”
“What about a council formed from the villagers?”
“To be frank, I’d thought of that myself. However, the bigger the problem, the more likely something will come up that will split up the group and leave them paralyzed by indecision. In the end, without one person calling the shots, we won’t be able to solve problems effectively.”
“What if we had two systems, one for dealing with things in normal situations and the other for emergencies?”
“That won’t work. It won’t nurture our leaders. The people will follow their leaders in emergencies and work together because they know those leaders are also capable in peacetime.”
The chief’s will was firm and he had explained his reasons. With a sour expression, Enri asked her final question.
“…When do you need my answer?”
“I won’t rush you for it. Take your time and consider it.”
After Enri said that, she stood and left.
♦ ♦ ♦
As she left the Chief’s house, Gokou followed behind Enri.
“Say, I want to think about this. Could you let me be alone for a bit?”
“Got it, Ane-san. Then, take your time and think about it. The rest of us will back you up, Ane-san. If you need anything at all, just let us know.”
“Yeah, I’ll be counting on you then.”
After watching Gokou leave, Enri returned to her own home.
Can I be a good chief?
Enri did not think so.
Who knew, when the time came, she might have to give an order she did not like — sacrificing the few for the greater good.
I can’t do that at all…
Everyone in the village thinks too highly of me. For starters, there’s the Goblins that everyone says are my strength. They aren’t even allies I made with my own charisma and connections. In the end, they were merely summoned from the horn given to me by the great magic caster Ainz Ooal Gown.
That item was the first bit of good fortune the village received—
Strange, was I the first person he helped? I do remember Gown-sama in a mask… Hm? Was he wearing a mask?
Suddenly, the sequence of events seemed muddled up to her, but that was only to be expected given the chaos of the situation.
Enri shook her head to clear out her doubts.
In any case…
If the horn had been given to anyone else, that person would have been the next chief, not herself. Which meant that the problem was not a matter of Enri’s own competence, but simply that destiny had decided to drop this burden on her lap.
I should talk to someone about this…
The first person who came to Enri’s mind was Nfirea. He had lived in the big city before, seen a lot of people, and Enri felt that he would know if she could be the next chief. And he was widely read, so he would definitely be able to give her an answer.
However, the chief had said that Nfirea — or rather, the Bareares — had approved of her succession. That meant that even if she talked with Nfirea, it was very likely that he would recommend she take the position..
He won’t do… and neither will any of the villagers. That leaves Agu and the Ogres, but Agu already thinks of me as the chief, and the Ogres are just plain dumb.
At this moment, someone called out to the frowning Enri with a cheerful voice.
“Yo~ Seems like you’re done talking… Oyan~? What’s wrong ~su, you’ve got a strange look on your face? Problem, Enri?”
That voice made Enri jerk up, as though electricity were coursing through her skin. That’s right. She was an outsider to the village, a neutral third party who could calmly and logically assess the situation.
Enri ran toward Lupusregina with all her strength.
She tightly clutched the surprised maid’s shoulders.
“What what what what’s this? Oh no~ My heart’s beating so fast. But please don’t confess to me. I’m not a lesbian, I like the opposite sex. Noooooo~ Let me go~ I’m going to be raped su~”
“Wait! Please, wait a bit!”
Enri’s hands left her shoulders, because she was planning to cover Lupusregina’s mouth. But Lupusregina nimbly slipped out of Enri’s grasp and smiled to her.
“Ahhhh, sorry, sorry, but you seemed so excited, I thought I needed to cool you down a bit. It was just a joke su~”
“It’s a really bad joke…”
Enri sagged her shoulders. However, she immediately recovered again. Lupusregina was a person who came and went as she pleased and if she did not take this opportunity to pin her down she would vanish again.
“Please hear me out. I need an idea on what to do next!”
“I dunno what you’re talking about, but we can talk while we walk, right? I don’t want the villagers to look at me strangely~”
Enri’s face turned bright red. Lupusregina had a point there. However—
“Then don’t scream about being raped or anything…”
Lupusregina stuck her tongue out at Enri in an adorable way.
“Really — really, Lupusregina-san!”
“Come, come, let’s go, let’s go.”
Without waiting for an answer, Lupusregina set off, and Enri followed.
“Well, come lay your problems onto Lupusregina-oneesan — I can teach you all sorts of things from ecchi things to seducing men~”
“Ah, is that right? Lupusregina-san, you must be really mature…”
To Enri, who knew nothing about such matters, she certainly seemed adult enough. There was no obvious change, but for some reason Lupusregina seemed to look more mature now.
“Hehe, that’s because I’m a mimidoshima, after all.”
(TL Note: 耳年増 – young woman with a lot of superficial knowledge about sex, etc)
What does “mimidoshima” mean? As Enri pondered the strange term, Lupusregina beckoned her over with a “come hither” gesture, indicating that she should ask her questions. Enri began telling her about what had happened in the chief’s house.
“So, what should I do?”
“Hm? Beats me.”
That was all.
“Hey — didn’t you say I could lay my problems on you?”
“I never said I’d answer them, did I… hm, well, whatevs. To begin with, if you’re being pushed into this position and you know you’re going to regret it, then you’d better not take it on to begin with. Think about what kind of things you can and can’t handle.”
The usual carefree girl was gone, and in her place was a haunting, bewitching beauty. The usually wide-open eyes were narrowed, and her thin smile sent a chill down her spine.
“This is just my opinion anyways, I’m not telling you what to do or anything. You should sit down and think carefully on this. Let me be frank, it doesn’t matter if you or someone else is the chief, whoever does it is going to mess up sooner or later. There’s only forty-one people I know who’ll never make a mistake. So, there’s no point worrying about what happens when you fail. But when you think about it calmly, nobody’s better suited to the job than you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Ask the gobs. When the village is attacked by scary monsters and they know they can’t win, what happens? Imagine the situation with yourself as the chief and yourself not being the chief.”
Lupusregina’s expression changed again, and she was back to her cheerful self.
“Ahhhh, this is boring. Haaa, this doesn’t suit my tastes at all. Ah~ it would be more fun if you didn’t become the chief and a great tragedy befell the village, En-chan~.”
Lupusregina smirked as she patted Enri’s shoulder.
“Personally, I think you’d make a great chief, En-chan~ Also… why don’t you ask that boy over there?”
After taking her hand off Enri’s shoulder, Lupusregina twirled in place. It was a movement that seemed estranged from any concept of the word “friction”.
“See ya then~”
Lupusregina strode off, her hands fluttering through the air. In front of her stood Nfirea with Nemu’s hand in his. Lupusregina patted Nfirea on the shoulder, and as though she had flipped a switch, the two came to life.
“You’re home, onee-chan!”
Nemu must have been very worried, because she tackle hugged Enri while running at full speed. For a moment, Enri thought she might be knocked down, but her sturdy leg muscles absorbed the impact.
“Welcome home, Enri. You’re earlier than expected. Didn’t spend the night?”
“I’m back, you two. And yes, I camped out last night.”
“Is that so… I’m glad you weren’t attacked by monsters. Still, I can’t approve of that sort of thing. The Goblins are strong. but there’s still monsters who are stronger than them. Granted, I haven’t seen any of those near the plains…”
“Nee-san, don’t do dangerous things!”
Nemu said this while clinging tightly to Enri’s clothes. Enri was the sole surviving family member her little sister had. Her life was no longer solely hers. It would seem she had forgotten that little detail.
“You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Enri smiled and gently ruffled Nemu’s hair.
“Mm! I forgive you!”
Nemu looked up and smiled.
“Thank you. Speaking of which, have you been a good girl, Nemu? You didn’t give Enfi trouble, did you?”
“Really~ oneechan! I’m not a little girl anymore! Right, Enfi-kun?”
“Ahaha… well, I’ve been treating Agu’s tribespeople, so I didn’t look too closely, but I trust Nemu behaved herself.”
“Really, you too, Enfi-kun? Say, did you know, nee-chan? Enfi-kun stinks!”
“Nemu-chan! That’s the smell of herbs! When you grind them up, didn’t you say your hands stank as well?”
“That colorful stuff is from herbs?”
“…No, it’s different. That’s from making alchemical items, so don’t make it sound like I stink or anything…”
“But you do stink, don’t you, Enfi-kun?”
Nfirea’s face froze.
“Mm, It’s all over your work clothes, Enfi. So maybe you should take them off when you’re not working?”
Enri frantically tried to explain her little sister’s actual meaning, and Nfirea’s face softened as he heard it.
“I don’t have any other clothes, though… in E-Rantel I pretty much wore those all the time.”
“Then, what if I made a set for you afterwards?”
“Eh? You can do that?”
“Enfi, who do you think I am? I can still make simple clothes on my own.”
“Is that it? I bought all my clothes, so being able to make your own sounds awesome.”
“Well, thanks for that. But everyone in the village can… Nemu, you’d better start learning.”
“Then, Nemu, do you mind heading back first? I need to discuss something with Enfi.”
Nemu covered her mouth with her hands, but the smile was already making her eyes sparkle.
“Mm! Got it! Then, I’ll be going first. Do your best, Enfi-kun!”
Nemu waved to them, then headed back home with a spring in her step.
Enri watched her back as she left, mumbling to herself.
“Why is she so obedient? Are you hiding anything from me?”
“No, I don’t think… there’s more important things than that! Were you going to tell me something? Although I can roughly guess, since I was at the village meeting yesterday.”
That being the case, they could skip a lot of pointless exposition. Enri told Nfirea what she and the chief had discussed.
That was not all She also told him all about her uneasiness and her discussion with Lupusregina. After she finished, Nfirea looked Enri straight in the eye. and spoke.
“I think you should do what you think is right, Enri. No matter what your answer is, I’ll always support you… ugh, that line is so cheesy. I hope you’ll become the new chief.”
“Why? I’m just—”
“No. You’re not just a simple village girl. You’re the leader of the Goblins, Enri Emmot. You probably want to say that the Goblins aren’t your strength, right? But in the end, the Goblins really are your strength. Lupusregina asked you to ask the Goblins, but I’ll explain. If you’re not the chief, and if the village is in danger, the Goblins will evacuate you and only you if they still have the strength to fight.”
“No way! They would never do such a thing!”
“…They might say that in peacetime. However, during a crisis they’ll do just that. I heard it from them myself.”
Enri looked incredulously at Nfirea. She felt he must be lying. Yet, she could not sense any falseness from around him.
“The most important thing to them isn’t the village, it’s you. But if you become the chief, then the village becomes your property, and the Goblins will stay and fight for the village to the bitter end. It may not seem like a big difference, but it’s enough of a difference. As an aside, they’ve told me that if an emergency like that happens, they’re hoping I can take Nemu and flee behind you. Enri… if you want to check with them, it’s fine. But I hope that if you do, you’ll keep the fact that I told you about it a secret.”
“I won’t ask them.”
Nfirea lifted his hair up as he heard the straight, direct reply, revealing his wide eyes.
“Is that okay? I might be ly—”
“—Impossible. You would never lie to me, Nfirea. I trust you. Still, they really do place a lot of important on their master, huh.”
“Well, isn’t that because you’re their master, Enri? You bought weapons for the Goblins, right? Don’t you think they’d make you their top priority because of that? …This may sound bad, but the Goblins have never gotten anything from the villagers, who treat them as nothing more than your summoned monsters. One side doesn’t treat them like individuals, while the other side does. Doesn’t it make sense for them to favor the latter?”
Of course, none of the villagers would actually say that sort of thing out loud. However, it was true that she could not recall any of the villagers thanking them in any concrete way.
“…But, the villagers occasionally make lunch for the Goblins.”
“That’s a sign of their gratitude to you. It’s like saying they’ll pay food costs, or save you the trouble of preparing a meal.. Have you ever seen anyone in the village call the Goblins by name?”
She had not. At first she thought it was simply because they could not tell them apart, but perhaps they had never intended to tell them apart from the beginning.
The thought of that filled Enri’s heart with an indescribable loneliness.
“Is that so.”
Yet, in her voice was not simply dejection, but her eyes shone with the light of resolve
“That’s right. …That’s why I, personally, feel that you’ll be a good chief. If nothing else, when you’re chief, things will change for the Goblins too.”
“…Everyone’s going to help me, right?”
“Of course. You might as well say nobody won’t help you.”
“I understand. Then, I’ll head over to the chief’s place. I’d better do it before I change my mind!”
Nfirea smiled as he heard Enri’s declaration.
His smile was gentle, yet stern. It was as though he understood that she was hoping for one last push in the back.
“All right! Good luck, Enri!”
She nodded in reply, and then without looking back, set foot on the path to becoming the new chief of Carne Village.
♦ ♦ ♦
From the sky, Lupusregina could see that almost everyone in the village was gathered in the village square. Enri walked to their head and addressed them, but she could not hear what Enri was saying.
Enri appeared to have finished, and the villagers applauded.
“Ha… so it turned out like this after all. Ahhhh, this is fun, uhihihi~”
“—What’s so amusing?”
The voice from behind made Lupusregina turn around to face it.
“Oya~ if it isn’t Yuri-nee. Are you flying because of a magic item?”
“That’s right. Ainz-sama bestowed it upon me himself. This would be… Carne Village, right? That would be why you were scolded.”
“That’s right ~su. Ahhh, now the real fun’s about to begin~”
“What do you mean?”
“A new leader has just arisen within the village. To the villagers, they’re about to turn to a new page in their history, to a new world of possibilities. However, I wonder what would happen if, right at this glorious moment, the village was attacked and everything was lost in a great blaze. I wonder what kind of faces those villagers would make?”
Her cheery and beautiful face cracked open, and something flowed out from within that could only be described as evil.
“And I thought you got along with these people. Is this coming from the bottom of your heart?”
“That’s right, Yuri-nee~ I mean every word of it. I gives me a thrill every time I think of the people I get along with being brutally trampled like bugs.”
“You’re a complete sadist. You’re as bad as Solution. Why are my little sisters like this? My only salvation is Shizu, honestly… although I suppose Entoma isn’t a bad girl.”
Lupusregina laughed as her older sister grumbled and knit her brows.
“Ah~ will the village be destroyed after all?”
“Ah, I’m so tired.”
Enri dumped the small slate she was holding on the table and flopped down, devoid of energy. She heard quiet laughter, and when she turned to look at its source, she saw her teacher (Nfirea) there with a smile on his face.
“You’ve worked hard, Enri.”
“It’s soooo haaaaard~ I’m not good at using my head…”
“You need to learn how to read and write, you know.”
Enri’s reply was a mournful whine.
She needed a basic level of education as the village chief, which was why Nfirea was personally instructing her, but Enri’s head felt like it was splitting apart.
“These stupid words, they were made up just to give me trouble…”
“Don’t say that. You’ve already learned how to write your own name, haven’t you? And Nemu-chan’s as well.”
“Mm… well, that is a good thing… can’t I get by with just that much?”
“Alas! These are merely the basics. Look at it this way, you’ve only started learning for five days, we haven’t even reached the important parts yet.”
A look which said “are you kidding me” appeared on Enri’s face.
“Ahhh, don’t make a face like that. Once you learn the basics, all that’s left is applying them. That’s why they’re so important.”
“You look really tired. Then, we’ll stop here for today.”
Enri sprang up from her seat as though she had been waiting for him to say just that.
“That’s wonderful! Let’s end early tomorrow too! Thank you, Enfi!”
Nfirea smiled thinly before wiping the chicken scratch-like letters off the slate.
“Then you’d best get a good rest. Tomorrow we’ll start again at the same time.”
“I’m really happy that you’re using your experiment time to teach me all this. But I don’t feel grateful at all…”
“Mm. Well, that’s how it is. They say it’s better for a teacher to be hated by their students than to be thanked by them.”
“That’s a lie! It’s a total lie!”
“Ahahaha. Ah, I’m out of time. Goodnight, Enri.”
“Mm. Goodnight. Don’t work too hard when you get back and sleep early.”
Nfirea smiled to show he understood, and then he left through the front door. After watching the floating mote of his magical light recede into the distance, Enri returned to her house. In the darkness, it felt especially lonely.
“Ah― I’m so tired…”
Enri lazily stripped off her clothing and burrowed under the covers. She had been so noisy when learning just now, but now all she could hear were the cute sounds of her little sister sleeping. Enri quietly closed her eyes.
Having worked her brains so hard earlier, Enri was certain she would fall asleep right away. Just as she expected, she passed out within seconds of closing her eyes.
She did not know how long she had slept, but a distant sound woke her from her slumber.
Three knocks. A pause, and then three more knocks.
Enri realized what that rhythm meant, and so she forced her eyes open in the darkness. Her mind woke with abnormal speed and realized she was still at home, and so she practically leapt out of bed. In the same moment, her sister bolted awake too.
“Are you alright?”
Her voice had an undertone of fear in it, but it sounded like she could still move.
“Get ready now!”
Lighting a lamp would waste too much time, so Enri prepared herself to flee in the dark.
As the sound of the bells carried over the wind, Enri and Nemu readied themselves swiftly. Theirs was a speed born not just of repeated evacuation drills, but of the old terror that remained from when their village had been attacked in the past. And after hearing Agu’s words, she had an idea of what was coming.
“Nemu! Get to the rendezvous point! I’ll take care of my end!”
Without waiting for her sister’s answer, Enri grabbed Nemu’s hand and ran out the door.
The bell was still ringing loudly, which meant there was an emergency situation. In addition, it signalled that they were definitely under attack.
A corner of her heart still hoped that this was just one of many training exercises, but the chill in the air denied that. It was the same chill she had felt when the soldiers attacked the village.
As they neared the rendezvous point, Enri pushed Nemu forward.
“All right, go!”
Nemu nodded very slightly in reply, and then dashed toward the meeting place without looking back.
After doing that, Enri was briefly filled with the impulse to follow her, to make sure she at least got into the shelter before leaving.
However, as a days-old village chief, Enri had to consider how she would move the whole village.
If I hadn’t been appointed, or if I’d been appointed for a long time… those feelings now flowed out uncontrollably from her heart.
“It’s as though some evil god wants to see us suffer.”
Without thinking, Enri let the words slip out of her mouth. This was the worst possible timing for something like this to happen..
A Goblin ran up to Enri.
“What happened? What’s going on?”
“We found monsters in the forest. High chance they’ll be attacking us.”
“Understood, now let’s go!”
With the Goblin leading the way, Enri soon came to the main gate. She saw that the night-time barricades were set up and the Goblins had gathered here. They looked like seasoned veterans in the weapons and armor Enri had bought for them.
As she drew close she could scent a stink in the air, which clued Enri in to the fact that there were Ogres present. The Ogres clutched their new clubs, which looked spiky and menacing.
Enr and the goblin reached the main gate at the same time as a panting Nfirea and the members of the self-defence force led by Brita.In addition Agu and some of his fellow Goblins, the ones whose minds recovered enough from their ordeal to fight, stood with them as well.
“Is that everyone? How about Lizzie-san? Did something keep her?”
Nfirea’s grandmother Lizzie was a skill magic caster in her own right. By rights, she should have taken part in defending the main gate.
“No, Obaa-chan’s not coming here. She’s at the rendezvous point. That place is important too.”
The villagers nodded as they heard Nfirea’s words. Since their family members had fled to the rendezvous point, they had to keep it secure too.
“We’ve sent our guys who aren’t good with bows over there. Since you guys are strong, can you spare someone to go over and keep their spirits up?”
“We can’t do that.”
Jugemu flatly refused Brita’s request.
Jugemu and the others had not done this out of malice toward the villagers whom he had lived and worked with. As the surging tension made Enri gulp, Jugemu explained his position.
“There’s a lot of monsters. And there are many other species, in addition to Ogres. Splitting up would be very dangerous.”
“Do you have a clear picture of their numbers?”
“Brita-san, the enemy was lurking in the forest. There’s no way to accurately judge their numbers. However, we did manage to get an estimate… seven Ogres, several Giant Snakes, several Wargs, several Barghest-like shapes and something huge following behind them.”
“Wargs travelling Giant Snakes and Ogres? Is there a druid behind them?”
Wargs were magical beasts that looked like wolves, but bigger. They were smarter than wolves and bad news if you encountered them in the forest.
“It’s very likely. Things will be really bad if they have a magic caster on their side. We can probably assume that they also have ranged attackers. So it would be better to marshal all our fighting power here, right? Should I call Obaa-chan over?”
“That… is hard to say, Ani-san. The rendezvous point is one of the most solid buildings in the village. If anything happens, it’ll be the final defensive line or in other words, the village’s keep. We can’t let anyone protecting that place leave.”
“…So we’ll be falling back as we fight, then? Where should I be fighting?”
“Brita-san, you’ll be directing the defense force. I hope you can clearly relay my orders to them, and do as the situation requires.”
“So we’ll use anti-invader strategy No. 2, then? After filling them with arrows, we’ll use barricades to keep them at bay while we stab them through the gaps with spears. They won’t need to aim at people, just keep stabbing.”
“That’s right, I’ll leave that to you, then. However, Wargs and Barghests are very agile. If allowed to roam freely, they’ll cause a lot of damage. Target them first. Also, when their druid shows up, would you mind falling back?”
“I’m not opposed to that, but will you have enough people on the front if the defense force retreats?”
“…If we’re lucky, we’ll be enough.”
“I see… as I thought, I’d better tell everyone here to be ready to die. At least, if we’re in the back we won’t be attacked, so we can concentrate ranged fire on the druid. You know, I’ve been an adventurer, but this is the first time I’ve seen such brave villagers… at least, I thought that much when I watched them train with bows.”
“That’s because the village was attacked in the past… and we hated how powerless we were.”
Enri, who had been silent up till now, chimed in with the sentiments of every member of the defense forces.
The truth was, despite their pale faces, nobody here wanted to flee. They had to stand and fight, had to protect their village. After all, their friends and loved ones were behind them.
“Speaking of which, such a large force must have been gathered by a powerful being. Does this mean they’ve been sent by the Giant of the East or the Serpent of the West?”
“That’s not impossible.”
Jugemu softly confirmed Brita’s suspicions.
If that was the case, it would mean Agu had drawn the monsters here. That was why Jugemu had lowered his voice, so the defense force would not pick up on it and direct their aggression at Agu.
They had already told the villagers about the Giant of the East and the Serpent of the West, as well as the fact that their power rivalled that of the Wise King of the Forest.
Although the Beast had been tamed by the Dark Hero, the mighty monster’s form and presence had been etched indelibly on the villagers’ hearts. Fear was the appropriate response to the thought of fighting something on the same level as that, foes which they had no chance of beating.
“So the Serpent of the West uses weird magic? Damn, what a pain.”
Nfirea nodded at Brita’s mumbling.
“Usually, monsters with racial spells won’t have more than ten of them, but if they’re the type which can practice and learn magic, they’ll have access to many more, which makes them troublesome. If they know magic that allows them to cross the walls…”
“I’m glad that Enfi and the Goblins can use it, but letting the enemy use mahgic is cheating.”
Enri said so in an unhappy tone, which drew grim smiles from the villagers.
“…But don’t tell Gown-sama I said that, okay?”
That follow-up made the villagers smile.
That should lighten things up a little, Enri thought. Although it would be bad if they were too relaxed, being too tense would also keep them from fighting effectively. The mood now seemed just right.
Jugemu looked gratefully at Enri. It would seem he understood that point as well.
“Defense force, don’t worry. Just stay far away and shoot. We’ll handle the frontline.”
The Goblins had trained the defense force for precisely this role, so this was the best way to deploy them.
Gathering enough swords and armor to equip everyone in the defense force was very difficult in a small village. And in the end, they were still villagers. They might have strong arms from using hoes and shovels, but that did not translate into sword skills. Only a genius could train himself into a warrior of a level that could defeat monsters in his free time between chores.
With those points in mind, the Goblins realized that they could not train the defense force to a level where they could handle frontliner duty. Instead, they decided to teach them archery to let them fight from the back line.
Although their technique had improved and they could hit their targets, they could not pull the strong bows which had good penetrating power, making it difficult to inflict damage on thick-skinned monsters. However, if they were lucky and fired in unison, there was a chance they might hit a vulnerable spot.
“Alright, just like we trained, line up and take aim at the other side of the door! Agu, you come in after the main door gets broken down. Stand with the defense force and stab the enemy with spears. Treat Brita-san’s commands as though they came from Ane-san and listen to her.”
“Ohhh! Leave it to me!”
“That’s the spirit. Now, listen up. I forbid you to run. Fight like mad until you die.”
“Of course! I’ll definitely repay the kindness you showed by saving me! In fact, why not put me at the frontline with the Ogres?”
“You stupid kid! If I let you do that, you’d just end up dying in a few seconds. You can say that once you get stronger!”
After being scolded by the leader, Agu’s face was filled with regret and some of the defence force members went to comfort him.
Enri sighed in relief as she saw this. For one, it meant that the villagers did not see him as the reason for bringing the monsters in. For another, it was proof that Agu was accepted by the villagers.
They were the last outsiders to arrive in the village. Although they had not been shunned or treated badly, there was still a distance between them. However, from the look of things, that gap would vanish if they won today. It was ironic that the battlefield was the best place to build the bonds of camaraderie.
And it was because he felt that divide that Agu fought so fiercely. His objective was to contribute to the village and raise the standing of himself and his people. It was the same in human society, which respected those who shed blood for them. Considering his people’s status depended heavily on how Agu and his two friends performed, it was only natural that he was so passionate about it.
“Enfi, I have something to ask of you.”
Enri stood beside Nfirea, and whispered into his ear.
“Oh, no, further a little — ah. Mm. Got it. Then — Agu, I have something to entrust to you and your friends, is that alright? I’m going to give you my alchemical items, so I hope you’ll use them well.”
Nfirea opened his satchel. Inside were many bottles and paper sachets.
“Use these and throw them at the enemy. You’ll miss if you’re too far away, so try to use them at medium range… are you ready for this?”
“Leave it to me! I’ll accomplish this task perfectly!”
Agu accepted the satchel, and as they were waiting, one of the Goblins shouted down to them.
“They’re on the move! No doubt about it, they’re heading this way!”
If one were to listen, they could hear the sounds of many monsters rending the night.
“Alright, defense force to your positions! Ane-san, watch out! Ani-san, you too!”
“Yes! I got it! Don’t any of you die, please!”
“Leave it to us! Now then, let’s go, Enri!”
Nfirea ran up to Enri as her escort. Their job was to inspect each house to see if anyone had not noticed the emergency.
As they watched Enri leave, the Goblins went to battle stations.
“Self-defense force, to your places. Wait for the enemy to enter the target area.”
There was no direct line of fire to the monsters outside the wall. They would need to shoot in an arc to do so, but amateurs could not do that, and they did not have the time to train them to that level. Therefore, the Goblins responsible for training the defence force decided to specialize them in one task.
They trained the defence force to land arrows on the other side of the wall. That meant learning how much force to use, and practicing the right angle to shoot at in order to accurately hit a specific area. It was training that was completely useless outside of very specific circumstances. However, since the enemy’s aim was to break down the gate and they were massed in front of it to single-mindedly attack the gate, the training was very effective.
The monsters’ cries drew closer, and the main gate shuddered under a series of impacts which could be felt in the nearby walls as well.
“Very good! Enemies are at the target area! Suppressive fire ― begin!”
“Here we go!”
In response to Jugemu’s shout, the Goblin Archers on the watchtowers ― Shuringan and Gurindai ― began shooting. As long as their target was within their line of fire, the marksmen of the Goblins could not miss. Screams of agony rose up from the other side of the door.
The awful din of the battlefield filled the air, making the members of the defense force tremble in fear and nervousness. Amidst all this, Jugemu shouted once more.
“Defence force ― hold! Do not raise your bows until ordered!”
They were told not to shoot when the enemy had reached the place they had spent countless hours learning to shoot. However, in the next instant, everyone who looked at the towers understood the reason for that.
Rocks hurtled over from the other side of the wall. Each one was about the size of a human head.
Although many went astray, even a lucky hit on the watchtowers made them shake visibly.
“Rock throwers confirmed! Enemy rock throwers have multiple rocks remaining!”
“Each one has about 3 rocks, and roughly 21 rocks in total ― whoa!”
Another thrown rock struck a watchtower and the wood splintered.
If they began shooting, the defense force would become targets too.
It was true that the defense force was out of sight of the enemy, and their accuracy would be low. However, if they were unlucky, a single hit could kill people. Even a weakly-thrown rock could severely injure someone.
One could say that Jugemu had ordered them not to attack for safety’s sake. It also showed that Jugemu did not want anyone to die before the extended battle could commence.
“Don’t think we can’t hit you just because you’re throwing rocks at us!”
Gurindai shouted angrily, and began shooting again while weaving through the hail of flung rocks. The defence force could not tear their eyes away from him, watching the way he fearlessly returned fire, knowing that he would be severely hurt if he was hit. However, Jugemu was not watching him. He quickly surveyed the battlefield and found new enemies in an instant.
“Kyumei! Climbing Snakes on the left flank! Can you handle the, by yourself?”
“No problems, Leader! Leave it to me!”
Kyumei, who had been standing by in the rear, spurred his Wolf forward. Ahead of him were the Giant Snakes climbing the wall.
“Fifteen, sixteen! You two hang on a bit more!”
There was no need for Jugemu’s words. Not a hint of fear could be seen in the shooting stances of the two archers atop the listing watchtower. Though the tower would collapse under them even without further attacks, they continued targeting the monsters and baiting rock attacks. On the left flank, Kyumei seemed to be doing well against the snakes.
Finally, the watchtower bent and broke under the barrage of thrown rocks. Shuringan and Gurindai jumped down to the ground, rolling several times to disperse the impact of their fall.
“Defense force archers ready!”
In response to the call, the archers prepared their bows.
“Breathe deep! In ― out! In ― Pull!”
This voice was just like their training, and for a moment, the defense force archers forgot they were on the battlefield. They ignored the sound of the timbers creaking and performed the same movements like they had learned during practice.
Fourteen arrows traced beautiful arcs through the sky and vanished behind the wall, drawing more screams of pain from the monsters.
“Amazing,” Agu muttered to himself, but Jugemu did not have the time to bother with him.
“Second wave ready! ― Don’t panic! ― Breathe deep! In ― out! In ― Pull!”
By this time, Shuringan and Gurindai had been healed and took their places by the defence force.
Once again, fourteen arrows flew forth, followed slightly later by two more. The door creaked louder as the cries from the enemy intensified. The arrows must have gotten them mad — and made them hit harder.
“Back up! Change weapons!”
The defence force moved as a group behind the barricades positioned behind the main gate. Anyone charging in would be stuck on the sturdy bars and spikes of the obstacle. The arrangement was in an L-shape, leading the attackers to where Jugemu and the Ogres were waiting for them. For the intruders, breaking through the gate would be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
“If you see any magic casters, get out of their line of fire!”
“What’s the matter, Agu?”
“Ani-san gave me some alchemical items and there’s glue in there, where do you want it?”
“Will it be absorbed by the mud?”
“Yes, but he said it would only shorten its effective duration.”
“If so, then wait for a good opportunity and jam up the entrance.”
After showing they understood, Agu and his tribesmen moved off as one. Kyumei returned after defeating the Snakes and immediately headed off to the Goblin Cleric to receive healing.
There was the sound of wood splintering, and one side of the main gate was down. Enemy Ogres surged through the breach.
“Kuku, a bunch of brainless fools.”
Jugemu mocked the incoming enemies. They had made a fatal mistake.
The monsters had only broken down one side of the doors. Once that side was down, they gave up on breaking down the other side and forced their way in, especially since they were afraid of being hit by arrows if they remained outside. However, with only one side of the door down, they could only come in one at a time, which meant a lot of enemies were stuck squeezing through the entrance. In addition, they were caught in the angle of an L-shaped ambush, where all the defenders could focus their attacks on a small number of attackers at a time.
“Welcome to the kill zone. Time to die.”
The armed Ogres on the village’s side had an advantage in a slugging match against their wild counterparts, and the defence force had their spears to assist. Any Ogres who tried to break down the barricades would be taken down by the Goblin Archers, the Goblin Sorcerer and Agu’s alchemical items. The Goblins would handle any beasts who broke through amidst the chaos.
The situation was overwhelmingly favourable to them and there were still the Goblin Riders standing by in reserve. If the enemy had no magic casters, their victory would be assured. However—
“—What’s that?!” Panic crept into Jugemu’s voice. “Is that a Troll out there?”
It looked different from an Ogre, but it was about the same size. It lurched stiffly toward the defenders, emitting an oppressive presence as it came. In its hand, it held a greatsword with an unnatural air about it.
A moist substance flowed from the middle of the blade to its edges. That must be some form of magic.
“The boss took the field? …Could that be… the Giant of the East?”
It certainly looked that way. Its strong body looked like it had been trained until it was as hard as steel and it was completely unlike any of the Trolls that Jugemu knew. At a glance, he could see how it could be on par with the Beast of the South.
Just one Troll would require all of the Goblins to handle. It was an enemy that was tougher than any they had ever faced.
“If that’s the case…”
Jugemu thought about what to do.
It seemed hopeless. The best way would be to cover Enri’s escape. If she did not want to, then even if they had to force her―
“…No, that’s not the best way. That’s the worst way, and our last resort.”
Having given up on that course of action, Jugemu spoke to his Goblin troops.
“…Oi, you lot. Afterwards, every single one of us is going to die. Don’t even think about childish things like falling back. Make sure you brand your heroic forms into everyone’s eyes!”
The Goblins answered with a roar full of fighting spirit. In an instant, enemies and allies alike seemed to freeze.
“Here we go, lads! Let’s show them the power of Ane-san’s boys!”
♦ ♦ ♦
After a circuit of the village and confirming that nobody had been left behind, Enri breathed a sigh of relief. Just then, the sound of something breaking came from the front. It was followed by battle cries from both sides, and the thunderous bass sounds churned her guts.
That was probably the sound of the gate breaking and the Goblins joining battle. She swallowed the bile that had flowed up her throat from stress. The bitter taste remained in her mouth, but she ignored it to look at Nfirea.
“Enfi. We should be heading to the gate.”
“Understood. But you need to go to the rendezvous point and reassure everyone, okay?”
Enfi’s words had the subtext of don’t get in everyone else’s way.
Enri had also been trained in the use of a bow, but now that the gate had been broken, the battle would have moved into close quarters with a spear. To be honest, even if Enri went there now, there was little she could do.
“I can’t do that. I chose to lead the Goblins and the villagers, and as long as I’m able, I need to do that. Although falling back is the correct thing to do, I can’t do it.”
She had to stand on the frontlines and see how the battle was fought. After seeing the conviction in Enri’s eyes, Nfirea swept his hair aside to reveal his hardened features.
“That’s true. I understand. I’ll protect you.”
The serious expression on her childhood friend’s usually placid face made Enri’s heart beat in strange and wondrous ways.
“Mm? What’s wrong, Enri? I know, I’m not as cool as Gown-san, but I won’t let you die.”
“…Don’t say die.”
“Ah, I’m sorry. That… that…”
As she saw her childhood friend struggle for the words to use, like he always did, Enri smiled.
“Let’s go, Enfi!”
“Ah, yes! That’s right, we don’t have time to waste on talking!”
The two of them ran to the front gate. Because they had started running from the rear gate, which was furthest away, it would take them a while to get there even if they ran at top speed. And if they got there gasping for breath, they would only get in the way if the fighting was underway. In order not to let haste make waste, they proceeded at a moderate speed.
However, they only ran for a few seconds.
The two of them heard a stomach-churning sound and halted in their tracks.
Looking back, they saw something revealing itself from behind the wall.
It was massive and bizarre. It was much bigger than its human equivalent, and for a moment they could not figure out what it was. In truth, it was a finger. Something clutched the top of the back gate, which was four meters tall, with its hand.
“―That, what’s that? A giant?”
“I don’t know! Ah—”
Nfirea’s words cut off halfway, and his mouth hung open. Enri frantically turned to look at what had stunned him and ended up making the same expression.
Something was slowly climbing the wall.
Something which could not possibly be a human being.
“Could that be a Troll?”
As she heard Nfirea breathing those words, Enri stared at the emerging monster.
“Although it’s the first time I’ve seen one, it’s exactly like how I’ve heard it would be. If that’s really a Troll, we’ll be in trouble… Trolls are opponents that even gold-ranked adventurers would have trouble beating. Honestly speaking, even Jugemu and the others would probably have a hard time.”
Enri felt the blood drain downwards as she heard about something that was stronger than the mightiest being in the village.
The Troll that was revealing its massive silhouette snorted, and it slowly looked around its surroundings.
Nfirea grabbed Enri by the hand dragged her into the shadows of a nearby house. HE covered her mouth and then whispered into her ear.
“Enri, Trolls have very sensitive noses. It’s okay for now since we’re downwind, but it’s too soon to rest easy. You need to get out of here… then meet up with the Goblins.”
Enri drew closer to Nfirea and whispered back into his ear.
“I can’t, Enfi. If we let that guy go to the main gate, everyone will die in the pincer attack.”
“That might be the case, but right now, we can’t―”
“―We’re the only ones here. That means it’s up to us to stop it.”
Between the gap in his hair, Nfirea’s eyes looked at Enri like she had gone mad. Granted, Enri did realize she had just asked for the two of them to do the impossible, but there was no other way.
“We don’t need to win or defeat it. We just need to delay it. Enfi, please lend me your strength.”
“―How are we going to delay it? Lure that guy away from here? I suppose I could fight it directly… but I doubt I could take even a single hit from him.”
Nfirea’s quiet words revealed a calm determination inside him. In response, Enri laid out her plan.
“I’ve got a plan. For starters, let’s make some Ogres.”
♦ ♦ ♦
The Troll stared briefly at a wooden, human-made house and began to move.
All the houses smelled of soft, delicious humans, but it knew that was just leftover scent. After verifying there were no other scents in the area, it began striding toward the direction where the sound of battle was coming from. The sound of humans fighting its brethren made it drool, and it imagined the humans that would be there.
A soft, lovely feast of human flesh.
As a gourmet among Trolls, it loved the meaty limbs and disliked the bitter innards. Therefore, it was rare that it could eat its fill, but now it looked like it would get the chance to do just that.
Its strides grew longer as it drooled in anticipation.
However, the Troll halted and looked carefully around its surroundings. Or rather, it looked into the shadows of a nearby house.
There were Ogres.
The smell of Ogres was wafting out from there.
It frowned. Although Ogres were its allies, there was a slight difference in the scent it was picking up. It was one of which he had no prior memory. And now it was coming from behind the house, surrounding him.
Of course it had not come to this conclusion because its nose was as sensitive as a bloodhound’s, but because it had remembered the unique odor of its Ogre allies. As such, it did not know how many Ogres there were.
And that brought up a question. There was a mysterious smell here as well, like the smell of crushed grass, but far stronger.
Had those Ogres smeared themselves with the juices of shredded grass?
It pondered this question and was confused The strong herbal odor stung its nose, and its tears were about to flow. If the Ogres could endure this stench, it must have been because they had a bad sense of smell.
It could take them on face to face. As a Troll, it was much stronger than any Ogre. However, that did not mean it could escape unscathed, and it would take time to deal with them.
Because Trolls had the racial ability of regeneration, their wounds would recover over time. However, regenerating its injuries would still take a while, which was troublesome. Who knew, its fellow Ogres might have eaten all the humans by the time it got there.
Since the opposition had dispersed, they must be planning to attack all at once when it moved to attack.
It felt a glimmer of pride at seeing through its opponents’ plan and slowly began moving again, intending to circle around the house.
Its aim was to destroy them all quickly. Thus, the fact that its opponents had split up was a golden opportunity. All it needed to do was slay the Ogres one by one, starting with the one at the edge of the group.
It moved slowly, taking care not to make noise, but suddenly, a small shadow dashed out of a nearby house.
It was not a Goblin, but one of its favorite prey, humans.
In contrast to the Troll who had been surprised into inaction, the caped human splashed something upon it.
The Troll screamed from the overpowering stench. The green stuff emitted a powerful stink which burrowed into its nose and sinuses. This reek was several times stronger than that of the grass-stained Ogres.
Even though it could regenerate, this was not a wound it could heal. It simply could not endure the smell. Its eyes watered and it took a step toward the human, but it had already run back into the house.
The reason why the human had managed to get so close despite the Troll’s keen sense of smell was because the human’s scent had been masked by the scent of the crushed grass.
Angered by the loss of its target, the Troll returned to its earlier target — the Ogres. First, it would kill the Ogres and then find that tantalizing food (humans), the Troll thought.
The Troll circled the house angrily, but did not find any signs of the Ogres. It was as though they had vanished into thin air.
It looked around. Ogres were large, despite being smaller than itself, but it could not find any Ogres. Once they moved their massive bodies, the troll should have spotted them eventually. Could those puny Ogres go invisible, like their master? The Troll was confused by another situation it could not figure out, and snorted.
However, the strong stink of herbs rising from its own body interfered with its sense of smell, and it could not follow the Ogres’ scent trail.
The moaning Troll scraped experimentally at the fluid on its body. This time, its fingers stank. Glancing around, the Troll found a fallen piece of cloth on the ground.
The Troll considered that it might be good to wipe itself off with the cloth and picked it up with a curious expression on its face. It brought the cloth to its nose and sniffed. Its nose might ahve been disabled, but it could still pick up a bit of scent.
The Troll smelled Ogre on the cloth, and suddenly, it understood.
It had mistaken this cloth that reeked of Ogre-stink for an Ogre itself.
This was not a coincidence.
Roaring angrily, the Troll started looking around its surroundings. No humans. Then they should still be in their homes.
The Troll’s fist pounded angrily at a nearby house and after hammering at it several times, it reached up to tear the roof off, intent on destroying the interior.
A human rushed out in a panic as it was demolishing the house. Eager to tear the human apart as well, it gave chase.
♦ ♦ ♦
The target (the troll) was chasing her. That meant the plan was working. Though she was grateful for that, her heart was on the verge of seizing up and she wanted to cry. A gigantic, man-eating monster was pressing in from behind, and this high-stakes game of tag — if she lost, she would disappear down that monster’s throat — was something which would drive an ordinary village girl to tears.
The fact that she did not know how long she would have to play this game made her want to cry that much more.
If she knew when it would be over, she might have been able to will herself to keep fleeing until the very end. However, she did not know when the battle at the gate would end or if anyone had noticed this deadly game of cat and mouse, and whenever she thought about these discomforting things, she felt her strength ebb away.
Enri regretted not sending someone over to the main gate to make a report, but the preparations had taken too long.
She ran with all her strength, rushing into the house where Nfirea was waiting. In turn, Nfirea rushed out of the back door, wearing the same hooded cape that she was. Enri held her breath, gulping and hoping that the enemy had not seen through their scheme. The Troll continued chasing Nfirea, not having noticed the switch.
Enri calmed her ragged breathing and clasped her hands in delight.
Trolls were far superior to humans in stamina, stride length and physical ability, therefore a single person running away would definitely be caught. In order to recover stamina and move for extended periods, they decided to switch with each other without letting the enemy notice. This was intended to both buy time and to keep it from going to the rendezvous point where the people were.
The question, then, was how to deceive it.
How could Trolls tell humans apart? Maybe if they lived together long enough they would have a few ways, but this was not nearly long enough. Practically speaking, it would be by appearance, especially clothing. As such, Nfirea and Enri had worn the same rain capes and ponchos.
Next, they had to keep it from differentiating between the two of them via its sense of smell, and the herbal juice was meant to take care of its keen nose.
Enri had prepared two traps based on scent — one was to use the Ogre-stink to halt it in its tracks, and the other was using the stench of the herbs to disorient it.
After she got her breathing under control. Enri began stealthily moving to the next house.
She crept into the darkened interior of the house, peeking at the situation outside. With a ‘dong’ sound, Nfirea ran inside at top speed. At this moment, Enri ran out again from the back door by which she had entered.
But then Enri realised that the Troll was not following her, even though she had run out of the house.
The Troll snorted, then looked between Enri and the house. Its ugly face contorted even further. She guessed that the look on its face might be surprise.
Cold sweat beaded on Enri’s throat. She touched herself unconsciously, and her hand came away, cool and wet.
“…Its nose is used to it?”
The Troll had gotten used to the smell of the herbs, and now it was suspicious of the smell of her sweat. It seemed to have realised that there were two humans.
The Troll raised its hand and brought it down onto the house. Nfirea ran out again. However, his footsteps stopped, and he did not look like he was going to flee.
“Enri! Run away! I’ll buy you some time!”
“―Idiot! Run with me!”
“It’ll definitely catch up with us! Even if we use the houses as shields!”
Enri’s eyes went wide, and Nfirea smiled to her.
“I’m stronger, so there’s a higher chance I’ll survive if you use me as a distraction!”
Nfirea cast a spell, and his body was enveloped in a bubble of soft, gentle light.
What he said made a lot of sense, and she could not refute him. Seeing this, Nfirea smiled again.
“And besides ― I want to protect the woman I love.”
Nfirea turned toward the ferocious monster, raising his fist and pointing his thumb to himself.
“Come on, big guy, I’ll play with you! Come have a go if you’re hard enough! [Acid Arrow]!”
As Nfirea taunted the troll in a decidedly out-of-character way, he fired a green arrow of acid at it. As it hit, steam rose with the sound of hissing and bubbling, making the Troll scream in agony, twice as loud as he had.
The Troll fixed its rage-maddened eyes on Nfirea. It paid no more attention to Enri.
“Go! Go and get help!”
It would be foolish to waste time here.
“―You’d better stay safe!”
Saying that, Enri ran off.
The Troll did not look like it wanted to follow.
Frankly speaking, his chances of survival were zero. There was an overwhelming difference in their respective physical capabilities. And there was no way he could triumph over a foe that needed gold-ranked adventurers to beat.
It was a battle so hopeless that being able to hold on for even a minute was worthy of praise.
“Yup, I’m going to die.”
Nfirea smiled bitterly as he watched the Troll, who was approaching him warily.
It could not regenerate damage caused by acid and fire. Because of this, the Troll was especially careful around Nfirea, who could defeat its greatest ability. It could have won straight away if it had just charged over, and under the circumstances, Nfirea could not help but laugh.
“Well, that works for me. [Hypnotism]!”
The Troll’s hostility seemed unchanged. It seemed to have resisted the spell.
Realizing that it had been targeted by a spell, the Troll charged.
The gigantic body approaching him was like a scene out of a nightmare.
“If it worked, I could have held on a bit longer… no such luck. Ahhh, what a shame.”
Nfirea seemed to have given up. This was because it was a completely unwinnable battle, which had crossed the line from bravery to recklessness. But even so―
―He had to buy time for Enri.
That thought was what drove Nfirea to move.
Making note of the Troll’s upraised left arm, he ran forward and to the left. Seeking life in death, he plunged head-first into danger to reach the safety beyond it. The Troll’s fist followed him, and the wind of its passing ruffled his hair. And in front of Nfirea, a mighty foot kicked out at him like a moving wall.
Nfirea’s vision spun wildly as he flew through the air, his body making cracking sounds like shattered tree branches.
He hit the ground hard and rolled several times, like a piece of discarded rubbish.
Pain coursed through Nfirea’s body, which was still rolling over the ground. This was the most pain he had experienced in his life.
“But, but I somehow managed to survive. That’s amazing. I’m amazing…”
He had hung on to life was because of the effects of his defensive spell and the fact that the Troll’s footing had been poor when it had kicked him. Ignoring the pain that shot through him with every breath he took, Nfirea stood, and loosed another spell.
The pursuing Troll stopped in its tracks, wary of the pool of scorching acid at its feet.
Mmm, just as planned.
Nfirea’s aim was to buy time. If the enemy stopped attacking and went on guard, he hoped it would continue to stay that way.
“…Damn, this hurts. I don’t want to die…”
Nfirea gave voice to his despair.
In the end, this was all his life had amounted to.
There were times when one did not want to face the facts, but the situation forced one to do so. This was such a situation,
He would die here. There was no doubt that he would die.
He wanted to run. Maybe if he ran with all his strength, he might be able to escape. But if that happened, what manner of tragedies would occur?
Nfirea thought of Enri.
He was able to fight because Enri was there.
“Well, I’ve already told Enri… no. I don’t want to die before I hear her answer.”
The ever-approaching Troll could not understand the heart of a young man in love.
He could not delay it any longer.
He did not know how he had done it, but Nfirea managed to read his opponent’s thoughts through its ugly face. It was determined to kill him, even if it got hurt. If that was the case―
All Nfirea could do was wound the Troll, in order to make things easier for his allies who would face the Troll after him.
The Troll raised its fist, face twisted from the pain of being burnt by the acid. Nfirea — who was wracked with pain, for whom even standing up took everything he had — had no way of resisting the next hit.
♦ ♦ ♦
Led by Enri, the three Goblins ran to save Nfirea.
The reason they had met up was not because Enri had reached the main gate, but because Enri and Nfirea had not returned, and the howls coming from the rear had worried Jugemu enough that he had sent three Goblins out to investigate.
If only they could have held on, the Goblins would have saved her and Nfirea. As Enri thought that, her heart was shredded by guilt.
This was really a stroke of bad luck.
If it hadn’t been like this―
Enri pointed to Nfirea, in front of them. And towering over him, the Troll was raising its fist.
They could not reach him to help. The distance was just too far.
The Troll’s hand fell like a thunderbolt. It could destroy a house in a single blow. Nfirea was dead beyond all reasonable doubt.
Enri closed her eyes, and in the darkness she heard the Goblins gulp in surprise.
Their out-of-place response led Enri to fearfully open her eyes―
“Wow~ your HP’s in the red~ You okay?”
―And she saw a beautiful woman holding a gigantic weapon.
Lupusregina was carrying a huge weapon that looked like some sort of oversized religious symbol, holding it lengthways and using it like a shield to block the Troll’s fist. The weapon’s size and the maid’s slender arm seemed completely mismatched to the point of surreality, but this was no dream or illusion.
“Then, I’ll take care of this guy. …Oh wait, you’re hurt, Enfi-chan. [Heal].”
The Troll stepped back from the incomprehensible scene before it. The blow which it had put its full strength into had been blocked by a human, so its reaction was only to be expected. No, perhaps it thought there was some kind of magic at work here.
Nfirea had a stunned look on his face as turned his back on the troll and limped away. It was a thoroughly unguarded posture, but the Troll did not press the attack. No, it could not just ignore the newcomer who had stepped in to take Nfirea’s place before it.
Enri hugged Nfirea tightly.
“Ah, it’s you, Enri.”
His weak reply, as though he were dreaming, told Enri that he was at his limit. Although he was out of danger, he had still suffered great mental damage.
“I’m glad you’re alright.”
Enri felt the warmth return to her heart replacing the cold that had filled her in the moment when she thought Nfirea had died.
“I’m really glad you’re fine!”
Enri hugged Nfirea tightly, with all her strength.
“So am I.”
Nfirea reached out his arms to hug Enri in return. Although they were embracing each other tightly, it felt very comfortable.
Enri’s tears welled up and spilled out, streaming down her face.
“Ahhhh~ Sorry to interrupt you two while you’re making out.”
Enri let the strength flow from her arms, and at the same time Nfirea loosened his grip. Feeling slightly disappointed, they both turned to Lupusregina.
Shifting her line of sight, Enri saw something which was hard to describe.
“Ah, this ~su? Kinda looks like an uncooked hamburger patty, doesn’t it? All it needs is a good charbroiling.”
A ball of blood-spattered meat shifted and twitched under the bloodied head of Lupus’ crozier. There was nothing about the pile of broken flesh that suggested that it had once been a Troll. However, what made it disgusting was the fact that it was slowly regenerating, and still breathing.
“Ahhh well~ it’s good that the two of you are fine ~su. Then I guess I can clean things up on my end ~su.”
Enri heard the voices of the Goblins approaching. It seemed like the battle for the main gate had been won.
“There you go~”
It looked as though fire had descended from the heavens as a pillar of red flame engulfed the Troll, producing the stench of cooked meat.
“That takes care of the Troll. Since my job’s done, I’ll be taking off. Ah, Enfi-chan, Ainz-sama wants to reward you for developing the purple potion, so he invited you to his house. Hope your affairs are in order ~su. Or should I say, any last words?”
After saying so, Lupusregina walked off towards the rear gate.
“Thank you very much!”
Lupusregina did not stop or turn back in response to Enri’s shouted gratitude, only waved her hand.
“…Ane-san, Ani-san, we’ll take over the task of guiding the others. You two should go have some rest over there.”
The Goblins walked off without waiting for a reply. Shouldn’t they have left someone with us, Enri thought, but her concern for Nfirea overruled that, so she lent him her shoulder to lean on.
After leaving the corpse of the Troll behind, the two of them sat down.
The two of them sighed as one. Then, the two of them looked up almost simultaneously to the night sky.
“You were saved.”
“It was just good luck.”
“Don’t do that again.”
Silence flowed between the two of them. Enri suddenly spoke the words in her heart.
“I don’t know whether or not this is love, but I don’t want you to go anywhere, Enfi.”
“Is this love?”
“…I don’t know. But if it is, I’d be very happy.”
Enri and Nfirea said no more, leaning shoulder to shoulder and watching the stars until the Goblins arrived—
“Ane-san, looks like you’re ready,” Jugemu commented on Enri’s appearance as he entered her home.
“Yes, that’s right… is it odd?”
As she asked Jugemu her question, Enri looked down at the dress she was wearing ― one of the best she had, which she usually reserved for the harvest festival.
“Not at all, don’t you think, Ani-san?”
“Mm. You’re very pretty, Enri.”
With a red face, Enri looked at Jugemu and Nemu as they smiled. Or rather, Nemu’s grin was not just mischievous, it was downright evil.
Ever since Enri and Nfirea’s relationship had taken a step forward, they had been looking at them like that more and more often. However, she realised that saying anything about it would only embarrass her further, so she had wisely chosen to keep her mouth shut.
However, leaving it alone was dangerous too. Especially for Nemu.
Sometimes, her little sister would ask questions that she could not answer.
It just feels like she’s suddenly matured mentally over the past few days… maybe I should ask Enfi for help about this…
Seeing the plea in Enri’s eyes, her lover (Nfirea) spoke.
“Umm, ahem! Speaking of which, Jugemu-san, can you use that magic sword well? I heard it’s not like normal swords, and using it is tiring.”
The greatsword which Jugemu was holding had been obtained in the raid several days ago.
“I’ve gotten used to the sword’s weight and center of gravity, so I can use it as well as my old sword. Its sharpness and so on are much better than the other one, but that’s a magic weapon for you. However… the poison in here, it weakens the people it cuts, but it’s a bit strange…”
“It is? Is it a powerful effect?”
“Well, it’s not a particularly strong poison. Someone on my level can resist it easily. However, against weaker opponents…”
Jugemu’s face took on a dark expression.
“Ah―” Jugemu said as he looked to the ceiling, speaking in an irritated voice. “I was thinking about the Troll I got this sword from. There was something weird about it.”
“The corpse doesn’t seem any different from a normal Troll. Maybe it was a mutant Troll?”
“No, no, I didn’t mean that, Ani-san. From its movements, its lack of regeneration, the way it felt when I cut into it… it felt weird… that’s right, like a body that was already dead. Something bizarre and foreboding like that.”
“A moving corpse? Like a Zombie?”
“I don’t know. There might be a species of Troll like that―”
“―Thanks for waiting!”
The door opened in time with that fresh and bright proclamation.
With the sun at her back, Lupusregina strolled boldly into Enri’s house. As Enri and the others watched in stunned silence, a spang sound came from the top of Lupusregina’s head.
“You idiot. How could you be so rude? Everyone, I apologize on her behalf.”
After pulling Lupusregina back, the woman in the back bowed to them.
“I am Ainz-sama’s maid, Yuri Alpha. I am here to receive Nfirea-sama, Enri-sama and Nemu-sama. I apologize for the intrusion?”
“Ah, yes. Please come in, Lupusregina too.”
The woman who had entered with Lupusregina had an otherworldly beauty, just like Lupusregina.
“Then, once you’re ready, we can begin the teleportation straight away.”
“Te-teleportation? You can teleport?!”
Nfirea was practically shouting. Although Enri did not know why Nfirea was so surprised, she could guess that it was a big deal.
Was teleporting the Warrior-Chief and the others a big deal too?
“Ah, no. This is not my power, but that of a magic item Ainz-sama gave me.”
“…The horn, the potions too. He’s amazing. He’s so amazing I have no idea what’s going on.”
Nfirea’s shoulders sagged. Sensing an opportunity, Enri decided to ask a question.
“Then, is it really all right for me to go? And my little sister too!”
Today was the day that the village’s savior, Ainz Ooal Gown, had invited Nfirea to his home. However, she felt uneasy when she heard that even a mere village girl like herself could accompany him. Their host was a powerful magic caster, and they were people who lived in completely different worlds. The idea that she might accidentally do something rude made her stomach hurt.
“It’s alright ~su. Since we’re celebrating Enfi-chan’s new invention, his girlfriend En-chan can come along, no problem. Ainz-sama said so too, yanno. Formality’s not such a big deal.”
“…Lupus, mind your tone.”
“Yuri-nee, what’s wrong with that? We’re friends, right? En-chan~”
“Eh? Ah, yes. Yes. That’s right. Mm.”
Yuri sighed with a ‘Haaa…’, then walked to the front of a nearby wall. Suddenly, a gigantic wooden closet appeared, as though from thin air. It was big enough for people to pass through with ease, and its exterior was intricately carved, so it looked like a decorative closet.
“…Is that [Pocket Space]? No, this is too big, it should be a higher-tiered spell.”
“Now then, please, enter. Lupus, can I trust the safety of this place to you?”
The wooden cabinet should have been backed up against a wall, but when one looked inside, its interior seemed to stretch into another world.
Yuri took the first step and walked through to the other side of the closet.
She was followed by Nfirea, and a little bit later, by Enri, holding tightly to Nemu’s hand.
There was no resistance as they passed through the wall ahead of them, and they found themselves inside a vast, grand pathway, flanked by statues on both sides that were so life-like it seemed like they might even move.
Nemu exclaimed softly as she looked up to the ceiling, her mouth as wide as her eyes. Enri held her to keep her from falling, and she looked up as well.
It was a dignified-looking passage whose floor was made of polished rock, upon which a colorful carpet had been laid to show the way forward. Enri was struck dumb with admiration; she imagined that this must be what palaces looked like.
“Please, walk this way.”
Yuri’s voice snapped her out of her daze, and she thought of running a little to catch up with the two people ahead of them. But since that would be entirely unbefitting of a place like this, Enri merely quickened her footsteps to advance swiftly.
After walking for a short distance, a wall appeared with a closet door upon it, similar to the one they had used to enter. However, there were two key differences. The first was that this door was several times larger than the first, big enough for several people to enter at the same time. The second was because they could not see what was inside it, only a thin, sparkling multicolored film.
“Then, please enter like you did previously.”
Enri and Nfirea looked at each other.
“In that case, we’ll go in together.”
Enri and Nfirea linked their hands. From left to right were Nemu, Enri and Nfirea, and together they walked into the door.
In an instant, amidst a shower of pink petals, there was a vision of a woman in clothes which were red on top and white below―
A harmonious chorus of voices greeted them.
Looking around, they had arrived in an even more luxurious hallway, with two rows of astoundingly beautiful maids flanking them on both sides. At the end of a passage stood a man in a black robe that seemed to suck in all light from around him, wearing a bizarre mask. He was the savior of the village, Ainz Ooal Gown.
Enri froze in place, her mouth open.
The chandeliers on the ceiling sparkled, and the white marble floor was spotless.
A magnificent passage and pretty maids all in two rows. It was like walking into a fantasy world.
Lost in this ephemeral, dream-like world, Enri accidentally lost her grip on Nemu’s hand. The part of her mind that was not completely overwhelmed by her surrounding recognized this, and in the next moment, Enri snapped back to reality.
Nemu ran ahead.
“Amazing! It’s so amazing!” Nemu shouted at the top of her voice as she ran. She ran down the two lines of maids, and towards Ainz.
Faced with a world that overwhelmed her emotional capacity, she could no longer control herself and let herself run wild.
“It’s super duper amazing!”
“Nemu! Come back!”
Enri started running a fraction of a second later. She broke out in a sweat from Nemu’s disgraceful behavior.
However, this was a divine realm, where she was flanked by beautiful maids. The sound of her village girl’s footsteps made her hesitate. Enri’s self-contradictiory footsteps betrayed how she felt, and in the end she limped along like a dying frog.
While Enri was still limping along, Nemu had already reached the side of the village’s savior.
“Is it really that impressive?”
“Yup! It’s really amazing!”
“Is that so? Amazing… no, perhaps that’s true.”
Ainz reached out a hand, and quietly patted Nemu on the head.
“Is the place where I live truly that wonderful?”
“Yeah, it’s really wonderful! Did you make this, Gown-sama?”
“Hahahaha, yes, that’s right. My friends and I did.”
“That’s amazing! Gown-sama and Gown-sama’s friends are all amazing!”
Clear and bright laughter reverberated through the hallway.
By this time, Nfirea and Enri had nervously reached the two of them. Enri tightly gripped Nemu’s hand, determined never to let go.
“We thank you for your kind invitation from the bottom of our hearts!”
“There is no need for such formality. We are here to celebrate the production of your new potion. Be at ease.”
“Gown-sama, I am truly sorry. My sister Nemu has been rude to you.”
“Really, think nothing of it. She was moved by the sight of my residence, was she not? Then that is no insult to me,” Ainz replied in a cheerful mood. “Now then… while I had intended to speak to Nfirea-kun after this… Nemu, how about it? Do you want to see the home that I, no, that we created together?”
“Yes! I wanna see! I want to see the amazing house Gown-sama and his friends made!”
Nemu spoke before Enri could refuse.
“Hahaha. Very well, very well! I have such sights to show you…”
Enri was unable to speak once she saw the good mood Ainz was in.
♦ ♦ ♦
She settled down onto a recliner, remembering that she had been asked to wait in the receiving room while Nemu was shown around.
Rather than say she was invited here, it would be more accurate to say that she was like a small animal that had been taken from its nest. She sat uneasily, and looked around herself. Beside her ― despite the size of this place, the two of them stuck closely to each other ― her lover Nfirea was also unable to keep still, much like a small animal himself.
Enri could understand that her village’s savior, the magic caster known as Ainz Ooal Gown, was a mighty being, but what she had seen today went beyond her wildest imaginings.
It was as though she had stepped into a shining dreamscape, or a story where princesses and other great figures took center stage.
The fireplace was decorated with glass birds that had been carved to life-like perfection. If she broke one, she could work her entire life and still be unable to pay for it.
The sofa which she sat upon was exquisite, and Enri wondered if she was dirtying it with her clothes.
The chandelier, the first she had seen in her short life, was not lit by torches, lanterns, or candles, but by magic instead. She had seen magic lights before in E-Rantel’s Adventurer’s Guild, but they could not compare in brightness or style.
The furniture was tasteful and luxurious. Of particular interest was the weightiness of the ebony table before her. Even though Enri had no idea how valuable these kinds of things were, she was still able to tell that this was a very valuable piece.
A lifelike portrait of a beautiful woman hung on the wall, painted in intricate detail.
Even the carpet on the floor made Enri hesitate to step on it with her shoes. It was so soft that as she sat on the sofa, she wondered if she ought to raise her feet so they would not touch the floor.
Enri was so nervous that she was about to faint.
“I knew we should have gone with her.”
Although she could not refuse Ainz, the idea of Nemu going by herself made her stomach boil in anxiety.
“I just hope she doesn’t trouble Gown-sama…”
“It’ll be fine, don’t worry. Gown-sama is very generous. I think he’ll overlook any minor rudeness from a young girl.”
“Mm, but, you see, if you anger a noble, you’ll be executed…”
“I’ve heard that too, but to be honest, I’ve never seen it before. E-Rantel and its surrounding territory are administered by the king himself, so I don’t think the nobles would dare to make a fuss… Is Gown-sama a noble?”
“Isn’t he? Anyone with such a luxurious manor and so many pretty maids would have to be a powerful noble, right? There’s no way they could gather all these things otherwise.”
“Mmm? Is that so? To be honest, I don’t think even a noble could assemble beautiful maids like these.”
Enri’s eyebrows shot up at a dangerous angle.
She had been the first to say that the maids were pretty, but when Nfirea said it, it made her feel unhappy. Just as she was abot tto glare at Nfirea ― there was a knocking on the door.
Enri’s shoulders twitched violently, and because the two of them were pressed against each other, the twitch was transmitted to Nfirea, who shuddered as well.
The knocking came again. Enri frantically thought about what the knocking meant, and in the meantime Nfirea opened his mouth.
“Ah, er, please come in.”
The way Nfirea had given the right answer with such calm mystified Enri, and what entered was a maid pushing a silver serving cart. She was a beautiful woman, dressed in sparkling clean and spotless clothes which even an amateur could recognize as a high-class maid outfit. A gentle, warm smile adorned her face. However, Enri was worried that at any moment it would twist into an angry expression as she exclaimed, “What are you two doing!”
“―The beverages are ready.”
The maid’s face displayed stunned confusion for a moment as she parsed Enri’s lightning-fast answer. Then she turned her gaze to Nfirea, and then back to Enri.
“…Ah, is that so?”
Perhaps she sensed how Enri was so tense that her body had frozen up, or Nfirea’s innate nervousness, but the maid smiled, genuine and gently. She said a simple “My apologies”, and sat herself down beside Enri. Then she gently placed a hand on the petrified Enri’s shoulder.
“Emmot-sama, please do not be so tense. Both Emmot-sama and Bareare-sama are guests here, so all you need to do is be at ease and relax.”
“But, but… w-what if we break something in here…”
“Please be at ease. Ainz-sama will not be bothered even if the objects in here are damaged.”
“But, but how? All the things in here are…”
Even thinking about the cost of the things she could see in a quick glance around the room made her head hurt. And to think, these items were not a big deal?
“Yes, Ainz-sama is extremely wealthy.”
“Tha-that I know.”
After all, he was the kind of man who could freely give out valuable and potent items such as those horns.
“Which is why I would like you to be at ease. Deliberate damage aside, Ainz-sama will smile and forgive you for any accidents. And even if anything is damaged, it can be repaired with magic.”
“Even if you say that, that…”
“I understand. Then, please have a drink. That way, you’ll be able to relax.”
Enri glanced at the tea service on the silver pushcart. They were exquisitely made of porcelain, edged in gold, and the reverse side was a vibrant deep blue, patterned with intricate designs. They looked delicate enough that Enri was worried that they would break the moment she touched them.
“Enri, have a drink. It would be rude to refuse further.”
“Ah, then, ah, thank you.”
“Understood… hm, I see. The fragrance and taste of herbal tea is an acquired taste. Would you rather have traditional black tea instead?”
“Yes, please, thank you.”
The smiling maid prepared the tea for them with flowing, elegant movements. After rinsing the cups with hot water, she served the tea. In addition, she placed two more small containers before them.
“Please add the desired amounts of milk and sugar to taste.”
Enri opened the sugar pot. What she saw were white solids that resembled nothing so much as powdered snow. The village girl mechanically deposited several sugar cubes into her cup, stirring them until they dissolved. After that, she added milk. Then, Enri took a sip, and felt like her face was going to melt.
“Mm, I guess adding the sugar would do that. It’s not often that you get to taste sweet things in the village, and you don’t raise bees… if I’m not wrong, you only have something like syrup? I remember there was spice-making magic but that’s something else entirely…”
Enri forgot where she was, and exclaimed loudly.
“Try your hardest to recall it.”
After hearing him go “Ah, um, yes” and makeother noises, Enri took another mouthful of the red tea, and the sweet taste let her heart calm down.
“Really, it’s sweet and delicious.”
Just then, several knocks came from the door. The maid moved quietly over and opened it.
“Ainz-sama and your little sister have returned.”
As the door opened, Nemu rushed in, all smiles. Ainz followed behind her.
“Nee-san! It’s amazing! It’s shiny and pretty and really amazing!”
As Nemu hugged her sister around the waist, Enri rose to bow to Ainz, all the while taking care to not let her little sister’s feet dirty the sofa.
“Gown-sama! I apologize for any rudeness my little sister has showed you!”
“Certainly not. Rather, I should apologize for keeping her for so long.”
“There’s no such thing. We’re very grateful.”
Ainz waved his hand to indicate that it wasn’t a problem.
“Then before I discuss matters with Nfirea-kun, let us eat.”
“Eh? We’re imposing too much―”
Facing the panicking Nfirea, Ainz replied with a calming gesture.
“This is to ensure my deal with Nfirea-kun later will be favorable to me.”
“What do you mean by deal?”
“…I’ll explain before we eat.”
Ainz sat on the other side of the sofa.
“To begin with, I have no intention to openly market the potion you make. Or rather, without the ingredients I provide, you can’t manufacture the purple potion. Do you agree?”
“That’s right. It’s been difficult to get this far, even when we’re using the material provided by Gown-sama. There’s still a lot of unknown factors, like how potent it is and what other effects it has.”
“Therefore, offering it publicly would only cause problems. Although simply asking about the ingredients should be fine… we can’t be sure that people won’t try to take it by force, no? …And from what Lupusregina’s told me, your village has suffered a monster attack. There is the possibility that these monsters, seeking the protection of strong walls, attacked your village in search of safety. Do you know why they did this, and did you take any prisoners?”
There were none, Enri answered in her heart. When they heard the monstrous roar from behind ― made by the Troll Enri and Nfirea had encountered ― the Goblins simply did not have the time or the ability to take anyone captive, and just finishing the fight had taken enough from them that there were no enemy survivors.
And that guy with the magic sword was very strong…
“Is that so. Well, that’s a shame… I considered the reasons why your village might have been attacked, which was what I just told you. As the village’s defenses become stronger, it will in turn create more problems. When an object is more valuable, it will be desired by more people, right? Similarly, if news of the potion leaked out…”
“…We should keep it a secret.”
“I’m glad you understand, Nfirea-kun. If we could make the red potion using just the ingredients from around the village, there would be no reason to keep it a secret… that is to say, everything we discuss after dinner will need to be kept strictly confidential. It concerns a duty to keep a secret. Then, preparations for the meal should be finished soon. Shall we?”
“Ah, no, there’s no need for food, how could we possibly partake of such amazing…”
Enri hurriedly shook her head.
“…Well, although I won’t force you… you do know that we prepared dDagon steak for a main course, don’t you?”
Dragons. In all the stories Enri had heard, they were mankind’s enemy, but some of them were friends of justice. However, no matter what stories they appeared in, they were always powerful beings. Could such beings become food?
Impossible. He must just have been teasing them.
If Ainz had not been the one saying it, she would have thought so.
However, since it was the great magic caster in front of her telling her this, that meant there was a high chance it was true.
“We also have desserts. Have you ever had ice cream? Although E-Rantel had some… don’t think I’ve tried them before. They’re ice-cold, and sweet… and they melt in your mouth. Something like sweet ice or snow.”
Enri and Nemu could not help gulping.
“That’s a high-class luxury. Just one of those would cost more than a day’s worth of food.”
“It seems you have tried something like that before, Nfirea-kun. Then I shall produce more delicious ice cream for you than you can possibly imagine. Following that — where’s the menu?”
In response, the maid recited a long string of words.
“For today’s lunch menu, we will be serving two hors d’oeuvres. The first will be a dish of Piercing Lobster, which is a form of Noatun seafood, in a velouté sauce. The second will be a dish of Poiret’s foie gras of Víðópnir. The soup will be an Alfheim-style cream of sweet potato and chestnut soup. We have selected meat for the main course, which would be the marbled steak made from Jotunheim’s ancient Frost Dragons that Ainz-sama mentioned earlier. After that comes dessert, which would be Golden Apple compote, served in white wine and topped with yogurt. In addition, we have black tea-flavoured ice cream coated in gold leaf. For the after-meal beverages, we have considered that coffee may not suit everyone’s taste, so we also have fresh peach juice. That is all. If any part of the menu requires amendment, please inform us and we will do so immediately.”
Is this a spell incantation?!
Enri, who had no clue about what had just been recited, was sure of that.
“Doesn’t everyone like foie gras? I think children will. Please add it to the menu for me. How about something light?”
“Yes. Then, we shall add scallop salad and star plum confit as hors d’oeuvres.”
“Hmm, there is that… is this menu better than the previous one?”
“Eh?! You’re asking me?!”
Enri, who had been suddenly put on the spot, answered frantically. It would be very bad if she had to keep talking about this stuff she knew nothing about.
“Ah, er. No. Uh. I’ll leave it to you.”
It had taken all her effort to get a single sentence out. Ainz instructed the maid to prepare the meal as suggested.
Nemu looked at Ainz with worshipful eyes, muttering “so amazing” to herself. Enri felt the same way. This was too far removed from the world she usually lived in.
Wealthy people could spend money on luxuries. And being able to eat, not just to fill one’s stomach, but for nothing more than pleasure, was part of that.
Wealth, knowledge and power. A magic caster who had all of these.
He was a being that Enri as a simple farmer had no hope of reaching, a person better referred to as a king who stood above the tops of the clouds. This masked magic caster was such a formidable individual.
“Then, let’s go. Although, I don’t intend to join you. The three of you — that’s right, this family of yours should enjoy the meal with no reservations. After that, we will discuss business. Ah, I need to tell Lupusregina that I’m adding one more person to the list.”
“Eh? What’s that, Gown-sama?”
“No, it’s nothing, Nemu.”
Ainz stood up, and the sparkly-eyed Nemu stood up too.
Enri’s face had turned slightly hot from being referred to as a family, but she noticed something odd about Nfirea, who was rising slowly.
His mouth was flattened into a straight line, with no intention of opening it. However, Enri knew the secret to loosening him up.
That was to stare at him. Through the gap in his hair, Nfirea’s eyes flickered back and forth, until at last, as though giving up, he sighed.
“I was thinking that I can’t beat him. No, I know I can’t beat him. He’s far better than me as a man.”
“But you do know that I like you the way you are now, don’t you, Enfi?”
Was the difference in their levels as men such an important thing? As a woman, she could not understand how significant it was.
Nfirea’s face turned bright red, then he took Enri’s hand.
There was no longer any darkness in those words.
Although she did not know why her lover’s feelings had changed, cheering up should mean that he was happy. Hand in hand, Enri and Nfirea chased after Ainz and Nemu.