Overlord Light Novel, Chapter 62 Volume 9
Overlord Volume 9 Chapter 1
(Re)Translated by Nigel
Edited/Proofread by Deus Ex Machina
Six luxurious carriages raced over the plains.
Their motion was surprisingly stable despite the fact that they were galloping over grass.
Firstly, the wheels of each carriage were magic items called Comfortable Wheels. In addition, the chassis of the carriages had also been treated by a magic item called Lightweight Cargo.
These unbelievably magnificent carriages commanded an eye-popping price, but just as astonishing were the creatures which pulled them. The eight-legged magical beasts looked like horses and were known as Sleipnirs.
Calculating the precise cost of fielding six of these vehicles was an exercise in foolishness.
These vehicles ― far out of reach of the merely wealthy ― were escorted by a group of riders mounted on powerful horses.
There were over twenty of these riders, each clad in chain shirts, armed with longswords at their waists while carrying crossbows and quivers on their backs.
Yet, a woman rode at the head of all these men.
Alone among all these warriors, she wore a suit of heavy full plate armor. She did not carry a cavalry lance, but a spear like the kind an infantryman would use. Her helmet’s visor was raised, but the right side of her face was covered by some kind of golden cloth, which made her look quite strange.
Although this band of horsemen were the very picture of mercenary warriors, their disciplined movements and their clipped, precise words were nothing like that of a common sellsword. Their eyes were keen, and they maintained a high level of alertness.
Some might have taken their wariness on wide-open plains to be a form of paranoia or cowardice, but in a world where magic was real and monsters roamed everywhere, even being on guard against everything they could see was not enough to guarantee their safety.
There were giant spiders which could survive for months without eating or drinking while lying in wait for their prey, unclean monsters which resembled banks of fogs that slid through the air, venomous lizards with petrifying gazes that one had to flee at all costs if they were encountered on open ground…
They were all on edge because they were wary of monsters with such deadly powers. However, normal mercenaries did not go to such lengths for alertness.
The thing that set them apart from mere mercenaries were the invisible people in the air. They were a band of riders who were keeping pace with the riders on the ground while under the effects of invisibility magic.
There were creatures called hippogriffs in this world. They were born from the mating of a male griffin and a mare, and these magical beasts had the front half of a griffin and the hind quarters of a horse. Perhaps it was because of their mixed blood, but hippogriffs were easier to rear and train than griffins, and they were very popular as flying mounts.
And then, there were the riders of these beasts to consider.
Flying creatures ―even if they were monsters― commanded an extremely high price if they were put on the market. They were not something that simple sellswords could afford.
Indeed, the entire act of being mercenaries was a facade intended to deceive various people.
The true identities of those travelling on the ground were the Emperor’s royal guards, while the ones in the air were equipped with extremely expensive magic items and cloaked themselves in veils of invisibility while shadowing the ground forces; the elites of the Royal Air Guard.
Of course, that meant the owner of the carriages was none other than the ruler of the Baharuth Empire himself, Emperor Jircniv Rune Farlord El-Nix.
There were several reasons why he had disguised his unit like this, but the biggest one was because the Emperor and his knights openly riding through Kingdom territory ― in violation of its borders ― would cause an international incident, and that could not be allowed to happen. As such, the exterior of the carriages was plainer than the interior ― although it was still more luxurious than regular carriages.
In this convoy, the security around the third carriage from the rear ―Jircniv’s carriage― was heavier than those around the others.
Even the roof of his carriage ― originally a cargo-carrying area ― had been refitted and now there were two archers hiding among the luggage.
The interior of the carriage was supremely decadent. Judging by the furnishings alone, it was more akin to a mobile high-class suite than a simple carriage, from the furred upholstery on the walls and floor to the soft and comfortable seats, which had been designed to not cause even the slightest bit of discomfort over long journeys.
Only three people were permitted to share this luxurious conveyance with Jircniv, which meant that a total of four people occupied the space of the cabin. Although the idea of four people squeezing into a single carriage might seem restrictive and uncomfortable, that was merely the uninformed imagination of those who had never rode in a first-class carriage before. In truth, all four of them had adequate space for themselves.
“―Your Majesty, Your Majesty, perhaps it is time to wake?”
The voice stirred Jircniv from his doze.
He pinched the bridge of his nose with hsi thumb and forefinger, and he yawned, followed by a grunt as he stretched himself out. Relief flowed through him as his stiff body loosened up and he yawned again.
“Your Majesty, it seems like you had a good rest, but are you still tired?”
Jircniv shook his head at the man who had woken him up, the secretary Roune Varmilinen, who had been allowed to ride in the same carriage as the Emperor.
“Ah, no, it’s nothing like that. I still need some time to clear my head, I’m feeling better now. Although, I haven’t napped like that for a long time. I think I was a child the last time I did that? After all, there’s a whole mountain of unfinished business back in the capital, and I never had the time to waste on that sort of thing… but now that I’ve begun this journey, I find that I no longer have anything to do. This is the first time I feel like thanking Gown.”
“Ah, indeed, you’re always busy, but why’s that, your Majesty?”
The man who spoke as though he was not addressing the Emperor was the leader of the Empire’s Four Knights, Baziwood.
Normally, those words would have invited censure, but nobody in the carriage said anything.
Jircniv smiled bitterly and replied to his excessively informal, yet excellent subordinate:
“The blame for that can be laid at the feet of the Bloody Emperor, because his reforms were pushed through too quickly for everyone else to catch up with them. He is truly a foolish man. So much effort could have been saved if only he’d waited and accumulated a corps of competent people before taking action. You lot should scold him when you get the chance. Ah, but remember that when you do, you should suggest an appropriate course of action for him to take as well.”
Everyone in the cabin smiled like Jircniv had.
Originally, the administration of the Empire was left to the nobles ― in particular, the Court Nobles. Only those born into money could afford education from birth, and one of the reasons was also a vested interest in the situation.
However, due to Jircniv’s purge of the nobles, the amount of officials and bureaucrats had been reduced, but the work that they had to do had instead increased thanks to his reforms. While this was a logical consequence of such actions, it meant that the workload of everyone involved had increased explosively, and Jircniv himself was no exception.
In keeping with his name as the Bloody Emperor, he had done away with many useless nobles. However, it was only after the fact that he realized that even such worthless individuals had their uses.
Still, he did not regret his decision.
He had to carry out his purge when he did. Had he missed his chance, the authority to command the knights would have been stripped from him by the nobles, and his father’s death would have been meaningless.
And so he carried out his purge, and opened a path to the future for the Empire.
Women had to endure pain in order to give birth to a child. Similarly, the vast amounts of work he did every day was a necessary pain he had to endure in order to give birth to a radiant and reborn Empire. Thus, once he overcame the difficulty that lay before him now, he would obtain the treasure that he sought.
That line of thinking brought the topic of his own descendants to Jircniv’s mind.
Jircniv was not married, but he already had children. He had not yet taken an empress consort, although he had some women who were more of mistresses than concubines, with whom he had sired offspring.
Unfortunately, he did not love those children, but he hoped one of his children would prove to be suitably talented.
That was because in the future, if his empress’ children were incompetent, he would gladly switch their places in the succession with a capable descendant from his mistresses.
“Even so, laboring over the tasks of government by myself is hardly the way a nation should be run. If only I could train up a cadre of officials that could take over these tasks soon… it would let me go back to issuing broad pronouncements, like the Emperors of old. And I certainly don’t want my child, the next Emperor, to have to suffer as I did. After all, if my descendants are overworked, they’ll curse my name.”
The present Empire had been built by the work of a generation of excellent people, or rather, generations of talented men had laid the stable foundation upon which Jircniv had built a magnificent structure. However, that did not guarantee that the next Emperor or the one after him would be equally talented.
Jircniv did not say so out loud, but he wanted to found a system that could smoothly run the nation by itself so long as the people in it had a certain degree of competence.
“That would be very difficult. After all, Your Majesty is an absolute ruler, and you cannot administer the country in the ways the old Emperors did.”
“Varmilinen, your job is to find a way to achieve my aims. Of course I possess absolute power. All the Emperors of the past labored to concentrate the powers of the nation in their office. However, even if I am such a supreme being, it would be wrong to micromanage the affairs of state. If that happened, then what use would bureaucrats be? Perhaps you’ve misplaced your head.”
“At the very least, he would not have left it in the Imperial Magic Academy, Your Majesty.”
Those words were spoken by Fluder Paradyne, one of the senior members of the Imperial Magical Academy and also the highest-ranking member of the Ministry of Magic. The implication was that his academy would not have raised such a fool.
“Haha, yes, you’re right, gramps,”
Jircniv coughed softly, and with that, the mood inside the carriage turned serious.
“In my generation, the Empire has returned to its youth, like a newborn child. We will cast out that which is old and rotted and replace it with the new. As Varmilinen said, I will have to work hard until the Empire matures, but if it never grows, that would be disastrous. In the future, I will only define general goals for the Empire, and the bureaucrats and generals under me will help make those goals a reality.”
A country ruled by a single autocrat was weak. Jircniv knew that much.
Roune lowered his head ― whose hair was greying and thin in contrast to his age ― in acknowledgement.
“The Emperor of the next generation… speaking of which, did you have a child with that one, Your Majesty?”
Jircniv instantly knew who Baziwood meant by “that one”. After all, Jircniv knew that Baziwood thought very highly of one of his mistresses.
Jircniv’s mistresses were selected for their looks or their parents’ status, but one woman among them ignored those criteria. This woman was the only one who had been chosen for her intellect, rather than for her appearance or her breeding. Thus, she was allowed to share her political opinions with Jircniv ―though not in public and only in bed― and she was the only woman he allowed to do so.
At first, he had not intended to take her as a concubine at all, but things had ended up like this at her own insistence.
Jircniv, however, would have been happy if she had become his empress consort.
“No, that isn’t what she desires. She went so far as to say, ‘Looks are a treasure you are born with, and to those who occupy the upper echelons of society, they are a very important trait. One can compensate for a lack of intellect with hard work or excellent subordinates, but looks cannot be changed.’ or something like that.”
“Won’t Your Majesty’s bloodline alone will ensure that any child of your union will be pleasant to look upon? Well, it’s true that any of your subordinates would be happier to receive orders from a good-looking Emperor.”
“Is that how it really is?”
Jircniv had no superiors and had no way of relating to this situation. On his part, he would use a capable person regardless of how ugly they were, and even give them a key position if needed.
“At the very least, it would be better than having to look at some toad. After all, wouldn’t Your Majesty prefer the woman shaking her hips on top of you to be a beautiful one?”
“…Well, yes. I sort of understand, but are those two really the same thing?”
Jircniv tilted his head. Something seemed off here.
“Then, has Your Majesty given any thought as to who he will wed?”
Fluder’s question made Jircniv furrow his brows.
“Well, if I had to choose between marrying someone from within the country or outside the country, I would have to go with the latter. Right now, there are no benefits to marrying a native, so, who to marry from outside the Empire… well, there’s that ridiculous woman that fellow recommended.”
Fluder stroked his beard.
“Princess Renner, is it?”
Jircniv nodded bitterly.
She was the third princess of the Re-Estize Kingdom ― Renner Theiere Chardon Ryle Vaiself.
She was known as the “Golden”, a princess whose reputation was founded on her looks, but for several years she had ranked number one on Jircniv’s list of women he despised the most. In contrast, the kind of woman he most preferred would be someone like Mayor Kabelia, who administered the city of Peibart in the City-States.
“I have no idea what that woman is thinking. After hearing about her actions, it’s almost as if she failed because she wanted to fail. It all seems wrong to me.”
Such people should not exist. That was what he thought, but he recognized that humans were strange and complex enough that he could not rule out the possibility of such cases. Then, if she truly did plan to fail from the start, what was her aim? The more he tried to understand Renner’s way of thinking, the more he felt like like he was being tangled in a spider’s web. It was a thoroughly unpleasant feeling.
“…If only someone could help me kill off that nauseating woman.”
“We will hire Ijaniya right away if that is what your Majesty desires.”
“Ijaniya” was a group of assassins that took on the name of one of the Thirteen Heroes for themselves. They were based between the northeast corner of the Empire and the City-State Alliance, and they used unusual techniques. Although he had tried to bring them under his wing as a black ops department, they had not responded to the Empire’s overtures.
“Enough of that, it’s better to let that woman impart her revolutionary insights to us. Letting her live would be better than killing her…Hm. Did that woman take this development into account as well?”
“Could anyone have planned that far ahead?”
“Who knows,” Jircniv said, but even as he gave that answer, he had to admit that it was a possibility.
Renner’s words had been transmitted to Jircniv through their spies in the Kingdom. The policies she proposed often left Jircniv dumbfounded in awe. When he adopted them within the Empire, the results they achieved were a sign of how admirable Renner’s policies were.
It would be the Empire’s loss if anything happened to her.
The timing of Renner’s suggestions to the Kingdom made him wonder if she had anticipated the Empire’s movements. If that was true, it meant that Renner could predict the Empire’s plans without eyes or ears on site, and then cleverly manipulate them. .
For that reason, even Jircniv, who coveted the Warrior-Captain Gazef’s strength for the Empire, could not bring himself to desire her.
“The Kingdom won’t be unduly harmed even if the Princess dies, but on the contrary, the Empire will be finished if Your Majesty perishes. We (the Four Knights), might be able to deal with assassins, but other factors are a different matter entirely, so I hope Your Majesty does not immerse himself too deeply into his work.”
“Of course. No matter the reason, I cannot allow myself to die before a strong government has been formed for the Empire.”
The loss of an autocratic organization’s leadership carried the possibility that the organization itself would collapse soon after.
The Empire might become a great nation in the future. Anyone who realised this would surely pay any price to forestall that rise by killing the Emperor. The most likely suspects for this were the nearby countries, like the Kingdom and the Theocracy.
Part of the reason why he wanted Ijaniya under his wing was so that they could be used as counter-assassins.
“That’s right, if Your Majesty were to perish, things would be troublesome. We have divine magic casters on standby to ward against poison and injury, but in the end, we still lack sufficient skilled personnel for these duties. I wish my dabbling in that field was more extensive, but my grasp of divine magic is still inadequate to the task.”
“Well, you’re already an excellent wizard, so a small weakness like that can’t be helped. Oh, yes. We’ve asked for the Theocracy’s help, but haven’t received any response from them. Why not let the temples of the Four Gods and the minor faiths compete with each other? Then let the Empire back whichever of the faith that produces the best results.”
Competition was the driving force for the development of new techniques. However, the mention of that made Roune shake his head violently, tossing his sparse hair about his forehead.
“It’s too dangerous. The temples in the Empire are supported by donations from the populace, and they remain independent by selling various products only they know how to manufacture. If the Empire exerts any undue influence on them or interferes with their livelihoods, they would surely be displeased.”
“That’s true… if only we could take control of the various temples, the Empire would grow stronger. In that respect, the Theocracy has done an excellent job. They must have done that several hundred years ago. I wonder how they did it?”
“The practice of divine magic is closely linked to everyone’s health, so I think it would be a good idea if we could have more divine magic casters be knights, or at least, teach knights how to use divine magic. Hacking and slashing at monsters with swords alone only produces casualties.”
Baziwood was a man who had had to hunt down monsters in the past, and he had spent his fair share of time on the edge of death. He nodded, and continued in a low tone.
“Personally, I would feel safer if I could count on resurrection magic. With that, we wouldn’t have to mourn the loss of talented young men. Although, I’ve heard that resurrection magic drains life energy, and ordinary people will be reduced to ash if one tries to resurrect them. Is that true?”
Fluder shifted his body forward.
Perhaps this old man had been the Emperor’s tutor for too long, or perhaps it was because his pet topic of magic had come up, but now, he was speaking animatedly, his eyes alight. Jircniv knew the old man would ramble on and on once he started on this subject, and he revealed a tired look on his face which only Baziwood and Roune noticed.
“That is a fact. Among the 5th-tier divine spells, the resurrection magic [Raise Dead] consumes vast quantities of life force. Perhaps higher-tiered resurrection spells might reduce the amount of life force that is lost… but nobody can use those, so that is merely academic. Then again, I have heard that the Dragon Lords and their ancient magic could return the dead to life without the loss of any life force―”
“―Then, could the Queen of the Draconic Kingdom achieve such feats?”
“An excellent question, Varmilinen. Indeed, that country’s queen has been confirmed to have inherited the ability to use what we call ancient magic, or primal magic, or perhaps the magic of the soul. There are many names for that sort of magic. This is because the blood of the Brightness Dragon Lord flows within her veins ― that is known. However, whether or not she can use resurrection magic remains to be seen. Ancient magic and our current style of magic are completely different from each other, and we who can only use modern magic may never be able to understand it.”
Fluder closed his mouth, and at the same time Jircniv stared at him. Although irritation and worry was evident on Jircniv’s face, Fluder’s next words put him at ease.
“Ancient magic… how I want to research it. If only those with the bloodline of the Brightness Dragon Lord can use it, then the pedigree is the most important thing. Therefore, I feel that if Your Majesty is to wed, he would do well to select that Queen or one of her relatives…”
“Give me a break, Gramps… I’m not interested in old hags who pretend to be little girls…”
He did not even want to think about having to marry the woman who ranked second on his list of most hated women. In addition, even if he did not love his offspring, it would be far too cruel to have them become research specimens.
Even so, if he had to weigh that act of cruelty against the benefits the Empire would reap from committing it, there was no telling which course of action he would decide on.
At this moment, a loud knocking came from the carriage door.
This carriage had been designed to defend against divination-type magic, which meant that it was fully enclosed in metal plates and did not even possess windows. Baziwood stood and cracked the door open to peek outside ― or rather, at the person who had knocked on the door.
Although they were surrounded by knights protecting them and he was sure that this person was a friendly, he could not help but remain on guard just in case.
“Your Majesty, it’s Leinas.”
“Open the door.”
The fresh air from the plains flowed in as the door opened fully, blowing through the hair of everyone within. During this season, the air coming in from the outside should have been cold, but the breeze that reached the people inside was comfortably warm. Needless to say, this was the result of magic used on this carriage.
The rider keeping pace with the carriage was the woman who had been at the head of the formation.
“Forgive me, Your Majesty. There’s―”
It was hard to make out her words over the rushing of the wind between them.
“That’s no way to talk. Come in, don’t stand on ceremony.”
“Understood. Then, permit me this intrusion.”
With that, she gracefully vaulted off her horse and landed elegantly in the doorway of the moving carriage. Although she made it look simple, given that she was wearing full plate armor and that both her horse and the carriage were moving at a full gallop, it was proof that she had considerable athletic ability.
Still, that was only to be expected of one of the Four Knights that were the pride of the Empire. Among them, she had the greatest offensive ability. Her name was Leinas Rockbruise, also known as “Heavy Explosion”.
After transferring to the carriage, Leinas quietly closed the door behind her and took a seat beside Baziwood. The last thing they saw as the outside world was shut out were the reins of Leinas’ horse being taken by one of the knights riding beside her.
Since the carriage’s magic would only warm the air that entered it, anything cold that came inside would remain that way. Considering Leinas was wearing a suit of full plate armor that had been chilled by the wind shear outside, she was like a block of ice when she took a seat next to Baziwood, who could not help but shiver.
“The people we sent ahead have sent a [Message] to us.”
One of the defenses offered by this carriage was interference against divination-type magic cast from the outside. Although it prevented the enemy from finding them with spells, it also blocked spells like [Message], so it was her duty to receive [Messages] on Jircniv’s behalf.
“The outrider element has reached the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. There appears to be a log house at that location, and after they informed the waiting maids of Your Majesty’s time of arrival, the maids replied that there would be a welcome waiting for Your Majesty.”
“Maids? I thought it was an underground tomb… but maids? Maids… could it be? I’ve heard that some countries buried maids with their dead kings to serve them in the afterlife. Is that what happened here? Or does this mean that the Dark Elves who left the forest made this tomb their new home?
“Regretfully, the [Message] did not contain any further details, Your Majesty.”
“…I can’t figure it out at all. The forest is not a human realm, so there’s no history on it either….… well, I’d like to hope that the maids won’t be monsters like the ones that came to the capital. Tell our people to be careful.”
“It is as Your Majesty says. Judging by the strength of those emissaries, we are most likely heading into a completely unknown situation. We would be best served by caution. In addition, I hope Your Majesty will swiftly come to my side should anything unexpected come to pass.”
“By which you mean we will teleport away in case of an emergency?”
Fluder’s slight smile was an answer in the affirmative.
“If that comes to pass, then we will fight a delaying action. No matter how many enemies come at us, at the very least we will be able to buy Your Majesty some time to escape.”
Baziwood said this with a smile, but his comrade Leinas did not reply at all. Rather than an agreement which needed no words, it was a form of disapproval that was immediately visible on her face. Yet the others around her said nothing.
In the end, she had never officially sworn her loyalty to Jircniv despite her position in the Four Knights. The truth was that serving Jircniv was the most profitable course of action for her. If someone else appeared who could grant her wishes, she would immediately abandon her current position.
In other words, she was the least loyal to Jircniv among the Four Knights.
The Four Knights were selected solely on the basis of their fighting ability and not their personality or loyalty. Even so, there was nobody else whose motives were as mercenary as hers.
The only reason she was here was because one of the Four Knights had to be in the Imperial capital at all times. The one selected for that duty was “Violent Gale”, Nimble Ark dale Anock, which was unavoidable. If “The Immovable” was still around, Nimble would be the one here in her place.
“Forgive my rudeness.”
Leinas withdrew a handkerchief from a breast pocket and held it to the right side of her face. As it turned out, the golden cloth was actually her hair. She stuffed the handkerchief under that hair and wiped lightly.
After the brief procedure, the handkerchief turned yellow with the amount of pus it had absorbed.
“Please allow me to make my own life my top priority. I apologize if I get in your way.”
“Ahh, that’s fine, after all, that’s what we agreed to when you became one of the Four Knights ― or rather, what you contracted to.”
“I see, so everyone knows what they plan to do. Then, on my part, I will do my best to squat in a corner over there and not get in your way.”
Roune said so with a straight face to change the mood in the carriage, and it was met with strained laughter.
“Now then, judging by our current speed, how long until we reach Nazarick?”
Jircniv’s question was addressed to Roune, who withdrew a pocket watch from his breast pocket. After he confirmed the time, he turned to Leinas, watched as she nodded, and replied.
“If everything goes according to plan, in about an hour.”
“Is that so? I look forward to it. We’ll see what Ainz Ooal Gown is up to.”
Jircniv’s carriage slowly reduced its speed, until it finally came to a halt. However, he still could not disembark immediately. It was troublesome, but Jircniv had to attend to his own preparations for the sake of style and security.
Normally, preparing the Emperor would have been performed by underlings, such as the maids in the other carriages. However, they did not have the luxury of waiting for those carriages to arrive. After all, they had come to apologize, and keeping the wronged party waiting too long was a foolish move.
After Jircniv adjusted his clothes, he fastened his cape over them. This was an extremely valuable item made from a magical beast’s skin and further treated with magic. With it on, not even the coldest temperatures outside would inconvenience him.
Then, he slid his scepter into his belt, which completed his minimum basic preparations.
Jircniv looked himself over one more time, to make sure that his appearance would not shame himself or the Empire.
After this, he would be fighting a war of words with Ainz Ooal Gown. In other words, his clothing was like a warrior’s battle dress. The consequences of even the slightest crease would not be limited to simple embarrassment. Although it would be good if his opponent was not observant enough to pick those flaws out, he did not want to be underestimated because he looked shabby.
Jircniv nodded in satisfaction, and just at that moment, a knock rang out from the door.
“Then, I shall disembark first, Your Majesty.”
After that short answer, Baziwood opened the carriage’s door.
It was a stately, proper exit that befitted the carriage which bore the highest authority in the Baharuth Empire. Just in case, Roune interposed himself between the Emperor and the outside as the door opened, serving as a shield for Jircniv.
They could see what lay outside, beyond Baziwood.
The first thing that came into view was the grass of the plains. After that were the royal guards, lined up to face each other. Beyond them lay a hill that swelled up from the plains, and what looked like a huge lattice door that seemed to have been half-buried.
Is the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick behind that door? It seems a little different from what I’ve been told… well, errors like this are within acceptable ranges.
After disembarking from the carriage, Jircniv fell in step with Baziwood ―who was already in formation with the royal guards― and set forth.
Jircniv took a deep breath. The enchantment on his clothing ensured that the air which entered his lungs would be fresh and clear. Granted, it was still cold, but not uncomfortably so.
As he exhaled, he worked his jaw, and quickly glanced at the subordinates around him.
Fluder was wearing his long robes and holding his staff, and he was trailed by his adept disciples.
There were divine magic casters with holy symbols hanging at their chests. They belonged to the knight orders.
Then there were the motionless royal guards, though he now saw the faces of the outriders from earlier among them.
Personally, Jircniv wanted to ask them what they had seen, but now was not a good time to speak.
It seemed the maids, who were in another carriage, had not arrived yet.
Well, they were gifts anyway. It’s only to be expected. Then, when they said a log house, did they mean that lattice door… or is that it?
When he looked to the left, he saw a single-story wooden cabin. It seemed utterly incongruous with both the plains and the cemetery, and he smiled bitterly. After all, where had all this wood come from? The Azellerisia mountain range loomed in the distance, and he thought of the Great Forest of Tob.
Did they haul it all the way from there? I don’t know how many kilometers the wood must have travelled, but it they would have needed a lot of labour to bring it all the way here.
Although he did not know much about log cabins, Jircniv did not feel that this structure was particularly eye-catching. Even so, when he took the surroundings into account, he had to admit that the fact that they had managed to build this here was impressive in and of itself.
But… that’s a big door… a double door, huh? And built so high… it’s three stories tall by itself. Could this place have been built as some kind of storehouse?
Jircniv looked to the cabin, with Baziwood and Leinas on his right, Fluder on his left, and Roune behind him.
“Your Majesty. Should we order the people in the other carriages to disembark as well?”
Jircniv did not turn to Roune ―who was whispering in his ear― as he answered.
“No, there’s no need for that. Rather, we should―”
Jircniv’s words were cut off mid-sentence. It was not just because the cabin door opened, but because their eyes had been drawn to the two beauties who were now slowly walking out of it.
They were dressed in orthodox maids’ wear ― well-tailored, but otherwise unremarkable. However, the maids themselves carried themselves in an abnormally prim and proper way. Even Jircniv, who had seen many fair maidens in his time, was visibly surprised, and he stared like they had grasped his very heart.
They are… too beautiful… but…
They were beautiful indeed. If they were noble daughters of the Empire, he would have applauded their looks without reserve. He might even have wanted to add them to his harem. However, this was a tomb in the middle of a grass plain. They were utterly out of place here, and as a result, an ominous feeling came over him.
Jircniv could hear the sound of a tongue clicking softly beside him, but he did not have the energy to waste on such matters.
“Say, gramps, could this be an illusion?”
“About that… well, I cannot say for sure, but I don’t think so.”
“Are they humans? They don’t look like Dark Elves…”
“And about that… I cannot say for sure either, but I doubt they are humans.”
Those answers somewhat relieved Jircniv. Since they were not humans, it would not be strange if they appeared in a place like this.
It was an answer that he could understand and which he desperately wanted to believe.
Both maids bowed simultaneously, and the one with the bunned-up hair spoke.
“Greetings and welcome, Your Imperial Majesty Emperor Jircniv Rune Farlord El-Nix. My name is Yuri Alpha and I am tasked with welcoming you. Behind me is my assistant, Lupusregina Beta. Though our time together may be short, I hope we will get along.”
Although he delayed in responding because he was overcome by the two of them, Jircniv managed to reply in the end.
“Then, I thank you for going to all this trouble for us. Indeed, I must thank Ainz Ooal Gown-dono as well, for receiving us with such lovely ladies like yourself. With that in mind, there is no need to trouble yourself by addressing me as Emperor or using other honorifics. I will be glad if you treat me as an ordinary individual and called me Jir ― nay, indeed, I hope you will do so.”
Jircniv smiled brightly to Yuri.
However, even after receiving a smile that would have had any woman swooning for him, Yuri’s serious expression remained as it was. Jircniv could also tell from peering at her eyes that her heart was similarly unmoved.
Was he not to her taste, or was she the type that did not mix business with pleasure? Or was she filled with loyalty to the person she served?
I can’t read her. I wanted to leave a good impression, but it seems like that’ll be very difficult. And I was pretty confident that I could handle anyone if they were women… ah, if Gramps is right, then it must be because they aren’t humans. Well, that’s nonhuman women for you… still, what species do they belong to? They look like they should be humans, or at least, close to human…
He had no clue as to their true identities.
Judging by those two Dark Elves and these two maids, Ainz Ooal Gown must be a man who placed great importance on appearances.
If that’s the case… since their looks don’t match up to those two, they’re worthless now….
Jircniv considered the ladies-in-waiting he had brought along in the carriages. He was proud of their looks, and he had brought them along as gifts for Ainz Ooal GOwn, depending on the situation Each of them were nobles who had been made fully aware of what would happen to their families if they disobeyed Jircniv’s commands, and they had bid teary-eyed farewells to their kin before they left and come here with determination in their hearts.
There’s no point. Still, after knowing that the other side already has beauties superior to them, would they rejoice because they were no longer needed? Or would they be jealous of them as fellow women? I guess I should have gotten some Elves as presents, shouldn’t I?
Jircniv had not been able to bring along slave Elves from the Empire with them because there had not been enough time to prepare them, and also because he wanted to hold them in reserve as capital for future dealings. Those dealings would not be with Ainz, but held secretly with Mare.
He felt that he could carefully investigate that Mare girl, strip her bare before him, and use her for his purposes.
We’ll bait her with promises of emancipating her enslaved kin. In exchange, she will do some simple favours for us behind Gown’s back. After that, we can use those incidents as blackmail material to have her do more things for us. At least, that was the plan…
Just as Jircniv was mulling over his schemes for Mare, Yuri responded to him.
“Your Majesty is most kind. However, our master Ainz Ooal Gown has explicitly ordered us not to show any rudeness or disrespect to the Emperor, and as such, I regret that we cannot accede to your generous request.”
“Is that so? Well, that’s a shame.”
Jircniv shrugged in an exaggerated manner, like he was putting on a comedic act.
“Still, please feel free to address me as intimately as you see fit. How about Gown-dono?”
“Understood. Our master is still making his preparations, and he will need a bit more time. I pray you will be patient and wait for him.”
“I see. Then, where shall we wait? Inside that cabin?”
“No. We hope you will wait here.”
Jircniv raised his head to the sky. Although it did not look like it would rain soon, it was hard to call the weather good with those dark clouds in the sky. In addition, there must be a chill in the air since it was winter, although Jircniv could not feel it through his enchanted clothes.
What is he thinking, telling us to wait here? Could it be that he wants us to know our place?
Since he had been ordered to come to the offended party’s home to apologize, Jircniv was already at a disadvantage. And then, on top of that, Ainz Ooal Gown wanted to demean him further with this. Clearly, Gown had a bad personality.
“Is that so?”
Jircniv narrowed his eyes.
“Then, we shall return to our carriages and await him therein.”
Jircniv could feel the anger boiling out of his numerous royal guards as he said those words.
They might be in a neighboring country ―and one which might end up being an enemy to them― but even so, letting the Emperor of a great nation wait in a place like this was far too rude.
However, nobody could vocalize these feelings. Since their liege lord had clearly accepted these terms, there was no room for them as loyal servants to say anything else. Unless―
Was it because they saw the carnage that Dark Elf could wreak? If that is so… Gown, you’re a hard man to deal with. With just one move you’ve struck fear into all our hearts. Even if that ability could only be used once in a lifetime, who would be brave enough to put that to the test? And then there’s the fact that it was a child doing it. You’re giving us the impression that even a child can be that powerful.
“I pray you to wait.”
Yuri’s quiet voice cut through the air before Jircniv could take a step.
“Since the delay originated from our side, we would be poor hosts and in defiance of Ainz-sama’s commands if we did not extend every courtesy to you in compensation.”
Jircniv was somewhat surprised.
Ainz… he allows his maids to address him so directly? Maybe they’re not maids… no, I see. At the very least, they’ have a close relationship. Has he claimed their bodies yet? No, any man would understand why. Given their looks, the difficulty would be in keeping one’s hands off them.
A faint feeling of sympathy grew within Jircniv, and then he replied with exaggerated politeness.
“Ohhh! Then, we must be grateful to Gown-dono. Well then… what sort of reception can we look forward to, and where can we expect to find it?”
“We are in the process of preparing it. To begin with, the weather does not look very welcoming. Let us change that.”
“What do you… ? Uooooh!”
Jircniv was not the only one gasping in surprise. The magic casters, royal guards, Baziwood, Leinas, even Fluder, all of them could not help but exclaim in wonder.
The dark clouds above them began to move slowly.
Within moments, they had vanished without a trace, as though some invisible giant had scattered them with his hands. The hippogriff riders in the air were thrown into confusion, which was something those on the ground could empathize with.
“Why does it feel… warmer…?”
“You too? You mean I’m not mistaken?”
As Jircniv heard the quiet exchanges between his guards, he shucked off his cloak, which dispelled the magic which maintained the temperature of his body. Just then―
Roune exclaimed at Jircniv’s sudden disrobing, but the Emperor did not answer his subordinate.
“Fu… fuha… fuhahaha. What is this… what on earth is this? Gramps! What’s going on?!”
Jircniv abandoned his calm and looked to Fluder with a twisted expression on his face.
The refreshing, clear air which surrounded him now should only have been found in spring. The chill grasp of winter was nowhere to be found. Jircniv had never heard of magic like this during Fluder’s lessons. In that case, what kind of spell was this, anyway?
“This should not be the work of arcane magic… I seem to recall a druidic divine spell that could control the weather…”
Fluder seemed unable to control the broad smile on his face as he spoke.
“Weather control should be a 6th tier spell. However, judging by Your Majesty’s reaction, this may not be a simple manipulation of the weather. It must be a higher tier spell… how incredible…”
“And this spell is the work of that Dark Elf ― of that emissary, then?”
That much he could accept, if it was the work of that magic caster who could cause the earth to swallow his men up in its cracks. No, in truth, he hoped that was the case. He did not want to believe that there was another magic caster out there who was stronger than her. That would be a nightmare.
“Indeed, that might be the case… but I cannot be sure.”
Fluder seemed to find all this terribly amusing, which made frustration well up in Jircniv’s heart.
Although his mentor was an excellent teacher who was worthy of respect, he was hopeless once magic was involved. It was extremely irritating when he got like that.
“I believe that should have refreshed you somewhat. Then, let us begin the next phase.”
The maid ignored Jircniv’s rising irritation and tossed out another bombshell at him.
The young emperor desperately fought the urge to tell her to stop. Don’t shake my heart any more, he thought, but in the end, his obligations as the Emperor of the Baharuth Empire won out and he managed to control himself.
“Now then. Come here.”
In response to Yuri’s orders, the doors of the log house opened, and something huge stepped out.
A lone cry rang out. It was a strange sound that one might expect of a strangled chicken.
When they realized who had cried out, terror filled the hearts of everyone present, not just Jircniv. Indeed, it felt like they were dreaming.
The one who had made that uncharacteristic sound was the high court wizard of the Empire, “Tri-Arts”, Fluder Paradyne. He was a man who was said to be able to rival the Thirteen Heroes. A man like that now stood with eyes wide with terror, his gaze fixed on the things emerging from the log house.
Shortly after that, several screams filled the air, all of them from Fluder’s disciples.
“Un-unbelievable! This is impossible!”
“Danger! An attack is coming! Defensive magic! Please allow us to use defensive magic!”
Fluder glared at his disciples, all of whom were in full battle readiness.
“Silence!! Calm yourselves, all of you!!”
The being emerging from the log house was worthy of their caution and dread. The eyes of everyone from the entire Imperial contingent were focused on the single point.
There was no doubt at all that it was a monster. It was a monster sheathed in black plate armor.
Its body was excessively large, and its silhouette was utterly evil. It was as though a god had drawn forth the essence of violence and brutality from all humanity, concentrated it, and given it physical form. Its rotted face had no expression, yet they could all sense a brilliant, shining hatred burning in its empty eye sockets.
And there were five of them.
The vast body of the one at their head was carrying a large stone table. The four behind it held various utensils and many chairs.
None of them had any hostile intent. In contrast, the vigilance and panic of Fluder’s disciples seemed almost laughable.
There was a sound of something falling to the ground.
One of Fluder’s acolytes had collapsed to his knees upon the ground, his face pale and his body devoid of strength. Or rather, almost all of the four acolytes he had brought along had ended up that way. Their pale faces were frozen in shock as they began hyperventilating.
“Impossible. How could this… no, no, it can’t be. Are those Death Knights? Are they being controlled? And in those numbers?”
Something flashed through Jircniv’s mind. He forgot himself and shouted angrily.
He no longer had the luxury of preserving his calm.
“Death Knights? What do they mean by Death Knights?! Gramps! Answer me! I’ve heard that name before, does it have anything to do with that undead creature that’s rumored to be locked up under the Ministry of Magic?!”
Indeed. It was a Death Knight. That was the name of an undead creature that could plunge the Empire into dire straits just by itself.
Nobody answered Jircniv’s query.
Fluder was staring with eyes wide open, gazing with mad delight upon the Death Knight.
Jircniv saw that he would not be getting an answer and realized that talking further to him would be fruitless. Instead. Jircniv quickly stepped forward and seized one of the disciples by his lapels.
“What are these Death Knights?! Answer me!!”
“Aieeee! Your, Your Majesty! As you said, that legendary undead monster sealed within the nether reaches of the Ministry of Magic is, indeed, a Death Knight! They are creatures that even Master cannot control!”
All Jircniv could do was laugh. The dignity that he had clung to as the Emperor of the Baharuth Empire was no more. It had crumbled to ash and blown away on the wind.
“…Fu, fufu. fufufu. What do you mean, legendary undead?! There’s five of them right there in front of us! Or are you saying that Death Knights come in groups and five of them count as one entity? Huh?! Are you kidding me?!”
“N-no! Nothing like that!”
He sensed someone standing beside him. When he glanced over, he saw that it was one of the Empire’s strongest warriors, Baziwood. The man’s face was pale, and Jircniv could see it starting to twitch.
“Er, ah, Your Majesty. Please listen to this with a calm heart. The situation now is very bad. Even if all of us went at once, we would not be able to stop even one of them. Perhaps it would be a good idea to sound a retreat. This is bad. Really bad. Look at how my hand trembles.”
As Jircniv looked over to Baziwood’s hand, it began to shake. After looking at his twitching face, it was clear that these were not pre-battle tremors.
“Is that what they mean by ‘unfathomable’… do you think it could be stronger than Stronoff-san?”
The other member of the Four Knights was further behind than when she had started out, and she was still continuing her slow retreat. The only reason why she had not broken into an all-out sprint was because she did not want to attract the Death Knight’s attention and thus, its hostility.
This whole thing felt like a nightmare come to life.
And then, before them…
The way the Death Knights were calmly arranging the furniture and utensils on the grassy plains was the very picture of the loyal manservant. There was nothing in their actions which suggested that they were legendary undead which could destroy a country.
However, after looking at the reactions of everyone around him, he knew it was a fact that they were undead which even the most powerful magic caster in Jircniv’s knowledge, Fluder Paradyne, could not command.
This implied that there might be more than five of these monsters, whose fighting ability was far in excess of Fluder’s own.
The object of comparison, Fluder Paradyne, was someone whose fighting power rivalled that of the entire Imperial Army. Of course, he did not have infinite mana, and in a straight fight, they might be able to win. However, fi Fluder used teleportation or flying spells, then it would be the entire Imperial Army that would be slaughtered instead.
That would mean that the five Death Knights here represented five times the fighting strength of the entire Imperial Army.
Something like this should not have happened.
This was far too much power for an individual to possess. No, even a country would be hard-pressed to wield such might. This was the sort of power which only a few famous nations or republics of legend could command. And to think, the master of a meager little tomb actually possessed such puissance.
The reality which he had been trying his best to flee from ever since those two Dark Elves had come before him now stared him straight in the face.
“Ainz Ooal Gown… he’s a monster we can’t stop, no, that we can’t even touch…”
Just like a tiny boat tossed around in a raging storm, so too was Jircniv’s heart tormented by this incredible shock.
In the end, however, he wrestled his emotions down and regained his calm with iron will.
He had seen his royal guards annihilated and the shadow of the Dragon’s vast body. Those things allowed Jircniv to prepare his heart.
Without these prior experiences, the impact on him would have been greater. He might have shown a more unsightly side of himself.
This tomb is… How powerful is Ainz Ooal Gown? Those five Death Knights and those two. Even with that dragon included, that can’t be all, can it? Why is he hiding in this place? When did he start taking up residence here? Or perhaps his preparations are finally complete? I’ve heard that when many undead creatures gather in one place, an even more powerful undead being is born. That’s why these Death Knights… no, could it be that he’s even more powerful than these Death Knights…? Not good. There’s no time, but I still have to think of a way…
As Jircniv’s rapid thoughts drove him ever further into confusion, Yuri cut in.
“Please be at ease. All these Death Knights were created by Ainz-sama himself. They are absolutely obedient to his orders, and in his place, I have gained the right to command them. I will not permit any of you to come to harm.”
Jircniv had struggled to piece his thoughts together, but Yuri’s words had blown them away..
“He created them…”
Ainz Ooal Gown could create undead like these through a mere act of will. That was the awful truth. Creating such beings would require expenditures equal to their vast power, and he could either meet that cost or bypass it entirely.
No, this must be a bluff. How could anyone make things like that? He must be lying to inflate his own combat power. Because if he’s not―
A smile appeared on Jircniv’s face.
For some reason, everything seemed so bothersome now.
―Ah. I’m done with this. I don’t know anything anymore. This time, let’s just settle for seeing what the other side can do, yes.
Just as Jircniv decided to abandon all delusions of control, a laugh of sheerest joy rang out from beside him.
It came from Fluder.
Be they royal guards, acolytes or priests, the faces of everyone except Jircniv were frozen in shock.
Fluder Paradyne was a magic caster of the highest order, and a hero possessed of incomparable education and knowledge besides. Countless entries in the history books of the Empire told of how he had single-handedly engaged monsters which threatened the safety of the nation, and emerged triumphant. His saintly demeanor also meant he was honored and respected by many people.
In truth, many of the people here felt the same way about him.
And now, Fluder was laughing in a way that shattered the mental image that everyone had of him.
There was power in that laugh.
He had the aura of a hero.
There was no doubt that Fluder was radiating a fearsome pressure, and not the warmth that Jircniv sometimes felt from the man who was as close to him as his father.
He possessed immense magical might, enough to take on all the Four Knights at once. And his voice took on a demented tone as he appeared to be going insane.
It was only natural that the nearby royal guards would break out in goosebumps.
Amidst all this, only the people from Nazarick and Jircniv kept their cool.
“…He controls Death Knights, and in such numbers! Marvellous! Marvellous!! Marvellous!!! Fuhahahaha!”
A single tear oozed from the corner of his eye, and he smiled like a madman.
―No, that was not it.
This was the true nature of a man who had abandoned his position as a wizard of the Imperial court to glimpse the deepest mysteries of the abyss called “magic.”
Until now, it had been hidden under the mask of a hero, but it had surfaced in the presence of a powerful magic caster.
“Well then, Your Majesty. What shall we do now? Should we flee with teleportation magic? I think if we teleported now, we should be able to make it, no? Assuming the terrain allows for it…”
Fluder said this to Jircniv, a mocking smile on his face,
“I like that face of yours, Gramps. Then, let me ask a question in turn. Do you think I will run?”
Cracks spread rapidly throughout Fluder’s face. That was the smile of a madman, which instilled terror in all who saw it.
“I expected nothing less of Your Majesty, no, my darling Jir. My pupils, open your eyes and be grateful for the fact that you can lay your eyes upon the highest, the most exalted of all magic casters on the continent. Now that you have seen the end of your journey, you must work towards it!”
The faces of Fluder’s disciples and the royal guards turned paler and paler as they realized the true nature of the being whose yard they now occupied.
They knew their comrades had been massacred. However, the legendary magic caster from their history books had called him “the most exalted of all magic casters.” The immense stress from that felt like a huge stone which had been lodged in their bellies.
“Your Majesty, this is bad, right?”
“…Do you mind if I run first?”
Baziwood seemed confused, and Leinas’ question was filled with despair.
Jircniv looked at them.
Fluder and his disciples aside, the strain on the royal guards was slowly increasing, and they looked like they might break at any moment.
This was because the hero Fluder’s abnormal behavior and the description of the Death Knights’ power had left them at a loss for what to do.
“What else can we do? And if you want to run, go ahead. However, if you do that, you won’t be one of us. Which means that to them, you’ll be an intruder. I hope you don’t end up like those Workers who came here earlier.”
Leinas ground her teeth and her face twisted.
“Which means it’s fine, right?”
“Baziwood, look at Gramps ― no, Fluder. He’s the most familiar of all of us with magic and he’s like that now. All we can do is leave everything to our hosts.”
“What about praying to the gods for luck, and then escaping?”
“Do you really think we can escape?”
Baziwood glanced at the maids. They had clearly overheard them talking about fleeing, but calmly continued their preparations anyway.
“What if we took a hostage?”
“I don’t like to hear people talking about doing things that are clearly impossible, ‘Lightning Bolt’, see what happens if you say that again.”
“…Forgive me. In truth, I feel that the maid is even more mysterious than the Death Knights… If someone told me they were stronger than them, I’d probably believe that too… ah, I’m talking about such rude things in front of her and she isn’t batting an eye. How frightening…”
That maid was monstrously strong as well.
As he thought about this, Jircniv shook his head. He desperately wanted to believe that not everyone on the tomb was ridiculously strong. As he thought about it, he tried his best to put the cold smiles of those two Dark Elves out of his mind.
“Looks like we are almost… are we ready, then? In that case, everyone, I hope you will relax over here.”
There were many tables and chairs in place on the grass. The tables were covered in pure white tablecloths and large parasols gave shade. The Death Knights who had been moving the furniture into place were standing by beside the log house in order not to get in the way.
“We have also prepared refreshments for you.”
Decanters beaded with moisture were arrayed on the tables, filled with an orange liquid. Beside them were high-stemmed wine glasses made of clear crystal. Each of them was intricately carved with elaborate designs.
Even Jircniv, an Emperor who enjoyed the best things in life, could not help but stare with eyes agape at the display before him.
“Please let us know if you need anything else. Then, everyone―”
The log house’s door opened once more, and more maids filed out from within. Their incredible beauty was enough to wipe away all the fear and unease they had experienced until now.
Each of them was uniquely beautiful in their own way. One of them had hair that was pinned up into a chignon, another had long, straight hair, and a third had drill-shaped hair.
“Are they having a sale on beauties?”
Although Jircniv did not know which of the royal guards said that, he had to agree. After all, what would such belles be doing in a tomb?
Does that tomb spawn beautiful women? Do they pop out of the ground one after the other?
He heard the sound of a tongue clicking again, but paid it no heed.
“Then, please enjoy the drinks we have―”
“―Ah, before that, could we meet Ainz Ooal Gown-sama first? I would like to expedite matters… and if it’s all right, could I speak with him just before he meets with Jir―”
“Fluder, contain yourself!”
No matter what, none of them could disgrace themselves or the Empire here.
“Have you missed something, Fluder? We’re here as representatives of the Empire, not to satisfy your thirst for magical knowledge.”
By this time, a calm light had returned to Fluder’s eyes. He had, for the most part, managed to subdue his rampant desire.
“…Forgive me, Your Majesty. I was overcome by excitement. I beg the forgiveness of everyone else present as well.”
“That’s right, Gramps. Have a drink, calm yourself down. Then, shall we?”
Yuri slowly filled the glasses on the table before Jircniv with that same orange fluid. A fragrant citrus scent wafted through the air.
Jircniv took a mouthful of the fruit juice, and the taste was such that he could not help but smile. It was a smile that seemed to say, what have I been drinking all my life. Looks of surprise appeared on the faces of the surrounding royal guards. If even Jircniv, who lived a life of decadence, could be surprised like this, how much more so these common men? As if to illustrate that point, there were many who had forgotten their manners and gulped the juice down as fast as possible.
Shortly after, shocked exclamations rang out from the gathered men.
“What kind of drink is this, it’s a perfect blend of sweet and sour!”
“It glides down your throat, and there’s no cloying aftertaste!”
Jircniv took another drink as he heard the praise from all around him. Suddenly, he felt like he was filled with power.
So it tastes so good that my body is getting excited, huh. Does that mean Nazarick has the best drinks? It seems I did insult those two Dark Elves back then. If they availed themselves of such wondrous drinks every day, then it’s no wonder they weren’t impressed by what we served.
Jircniv smiled bitterly.
To think, even a simple drink could defeat him so thoroughly―
Ahhh… I feel so calm now. This is the first time I’ve felt this relaxed since I came here. It’s like… like I’ve come home…
How long had they stayed out of the sun in the shade of the umbrellas and heard the wind blow through the grass? Eventually, Yuri said the words which Jircniv longed to hear.
“I apologize for the delay. Ainz-sama is ready to see you now, so please follow me.”
Jircniv arrived at a hemispherical room. He stood before a pair of vast double doors. Intricate carvings decorated both sides of the doors; a beautiful goddess on the right and a cruel-looking demon on the left. Countless ominous-looking statues were arrayed around them.
If one had to give it a name, it would probably be “The Gates of Judgement.”
Jircniv pondered those doors as he looked over them.
The huge room was quiet, so quiet that he imagined he could hear the metaphorical sound of silence.
Indeed, nobody from the Imperial contingent had uttered a single word ever since they had been brought here. The only sounds were the metallic noises of armor scraping against armor.
They were not silent out of politeness, but rather, they had passed all manner of wondrous sights before coming here, which had stolen their souls away.
It would have been too much to expect them to not be entranced by the nigh-mythical scenes they had seen.
In truth, even Jircniv found it hard to control the impulse to gawk openly at his surroundings as he walked, given the splendor that surrounded him.
He glanced over his shoulder to look at his subordinates who had followed him here.
Behind him were Baziwood and ten specially-selected royal guards, Fluder and four of his acolytes, Roune, his secretary, and the priests from the knight orders. Leinas and the remaining royal guards had been left behind with the carriages for security.
Everyone following him ―with the exception of Fluder― had drawn in their shoulders.
This was the result of walking through this passage which even the Empire’s finest artisans would not be able to replicate, which filled them with a sense of being tiny and insignificant.
The Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick was a tomb in name only. In truth, it was a beautiful world that was closer to a citadel of the gods than anything else. Their image of the ruler of this place, the magic caster Ainz Ooal Gown, was overwhelming beyond description.
The smile on Jircniv’s face was filled with self-mockery. Humans would naturally bow their heads to those who exceeded them. Anyone that was unimpressed by these architectural and artistic marvels must surely lack the capacity to feel.
…This is truly troubling.
Ainz Ooal Gown waited beyond that door. He was a magic caster whose power surpassed even that of Fluder Paradyne. Indeed, there might be nobody to equal him in the past or the future. His magnificent domicile far exceeded the capacity of humans to imagine, and his followers possessed incredible power. He was a being who possessed every possible advantage.
Why had someone like that hidden in a place like this until now? Although Jircniv did not know the answer, he would probably find out soon enough.
At least, he hoped to learn that much during the discussions that were to follow.
I doubt he’ll be satisfied with a simple apology after that spectacular show of force he put on.
Initially, Jircniv’s plan was to divine and then play on Ainz Ooal Gown’s desires, thereby turning the situation to the Empire’s advantage. This whole pretence of making an apology was merely an excuse for achieving that aim.
As if I could begin to tempt someone as powerful as this. I couldn’t do it, even if I used all the wealth I possessed.
Just as a one-carat gem would not gain Jircniv’s attention, Ainz Ooal Gown could not possibly be interested in anything Jircniv could offer.
To begin with, wealth would be completely out of the question.
If he offered military and magical support ― well, why would he be interested in things that were far inferior to his own?
As for members of the opposite sex ― Jircniv thought of Yuri and the maids ― they would be useless.
Offers of rank and authority meant nothing to someone who lived in a place like this.
Then what might he want?
Jircniv had no idea. It might be that no human being could conceive of a desire that could move the heart of Ainz Ooal Gown.
“…It would be very difficult, huh.”
Jircniv’s mind ran through countless stratagems and ploys to use against Ainz Ooal Gown.
The conclusion was that he could do nothing.
He came to the answer that the wisest thing he could do was hope Ainz did not regard him as an enemy.
The victory conditions for this engagement are: the Empire remains intact, and that I return alive.
As he gave voice to these thoughts, Jircniv found that they were louder than he imagined. However, nobody around him reacted. They were too mesmerized by their surroundings.
“The Throne Room lies beyond. Ainz-sama waits for you within.”
After that, Yuri announced that her part was over, and bowed deeply to Jircniv.
As though waiting for those words, the vast double doors swung open slowly, without being touched.
Several sudden intakes of breath reached Jircniv’s ears. It was not just one or two instances, but over ten of them, probably well over half the people who had come to this place. Many among them had not been able to fully muster their resolve against the fear that gripped them and allowed their desire to flee to show on their faces. In other words, many of the Imperial contingent had been hoping that those double doors would not open.
It was precisely because of that reason that Jircniv was grateful that the doors had opened automatically. Who knew how long they would have to wait if they needed to work up the courage to pass through those doors first?
A vast room came into view, with a ceiling that was very high and very broad. The walls were predominantly white, with extensive gold decorations and highlights.
Luxurious, multicolored chandeliers ―made of precious stones from all the colors of the rainbow― depended from the ceiling, radiating a fantastic light. Huge flags hung from poles set into the walls
This room was the epitome of a “throne room”. There was no better word to describe a place like this.
Jircniv and the others blanched pale as an oppressive air swept over them from inside the room.
A crimson carpet ran down the center of the room, and flanking it were a series of immeasurably powerful beings.
There were Demons, Dragons, bizarre humanoids, armored knights, bipedal insects and Elves. Each was different from the other in size and appearance, but the one thing they had in common was the overwhelming might each of them possessed. These beings were arranged in two lines on either side of the carpet, and it felt too disheartening to count them.
They watched Jircniv and company in silence. Although it was said that one could sense a certain kind of strength in the eyes of those with power or status, this was the first time Jircniv had ever felt a physical pressure.
The sound of low moans and the shuddering of metal armor plates came from behind Jircniv.
It was proof that his subjects were scared out of their wits.
However, he could be honest about this.
Jircniv did not intend to reproach his subordinates for showing their fear. Rather, he wanted to praise them, because every single one of them had conquered that fear and stayed behind him.
The fact that they had remained steadfast in the face of these terrifying beings was to be lauded.
Jircniv’s threat evaluation of Ainz Ooal Gown rose by several dozen levels at once. His wariness had been revised ever upward since he arrived here. But even that had been far too naïve.
He had determined that Ainz Ooal Gown was not simply a threat to the Empire, but to the continued survival of the entire species ― to humans and demihumans both.
Jircniv’s eyes followed the carpet forward.
Far ahead of them was a set of stairs, and around it were assembled people that Jircniv surmised were Ainz’ aides. A beautiful silver-haired girl. A bluish-white monster that looked like an upright insect. A toad-like man in a suit. The twins from before ― here Jircniv felt some relief. If it turned out that the ones who wiped out his royal guards in a few seconds were mere foot soldiers, he would not have been able to keep his calm.
Above them, upon those stairs, was a beautiful winged woman, and just behind her―
Upon a crystal throne sat the physical incarnation of Death. It held a strange-looking staff in hand.
It was a monster with a bare skull for a head.
It was like a being that had been formed from concentrating and condensing the darkness into a single point.
―It was Ainz Ooal Gown.
A magnificent crown sat upon his head, and his body was cloaked in a luxurious sable robe. Rings glittered brightly on his fingers. Even from such a distance, Jircniv could clearly tell that the exquisite accessories which Ainz wore were beyond the skills of his Empire’s craftsmen.
Blood-red points of light glowed within the empty eye sockets of Ainz Ooal Gown’s skull. As they swept over Jircniv’ and his contingent, it felt as if they were tasting him.
He did not seem shocked by the fact that Ainz was not human. Instead, he was relieved that he was not human.
It was because Ainz was not human that Jircniv could honestly accept that Ainz was a superior being that was far out of his league.
Jircniv exhaled quietly.
It was a sign of his resolve.
The door had been opened, but it had not been opened for long. It was certainly not long enough for anyone to comment on their inactivity. Still, they could not wait out here forever. And so ― Jircniv stepped forward.
Jircniv’s words were quiet enough that only those behind him could hear them. Anyone who saw him would be surprised by how he could speak without opening his mouth. This was not magic, but pure skill. It was a skill that was particularly useful in this sort of setting.
However, Jircniv could not sense anyone moving in response to his words.
Advancing to stand before Ainz Ooal Gown meant that they would have to pass between the flanking lines of monsters. Though he knew that they would probably not attack them, walking in front of these creatures still required a great deal of courage.
His judgement that they would not be attacked was not simple optimism.
The reasons for using a throne room like this were for ceremonial purposes, as well as displaying the power of one’s nation. These were facts that anyone would know.
In other words, the reasons for choosing this place were to display the power of Nazarick, and to show that he had no intent of killing Jircniv and his followers. After all, if Ainz wanted to get rid of them, he could simply have brought them to a slaughterhouse instead.
Jircniv’s underlings should have clearly understood that fact. However, that was not the reason why they remained immobile.
The main reason for that was simply because they did not want to go near those monsters.
Beyond the lines of monsters were Ainz Ooal Gown’s aides. The power of those beings was clearly beyond the reckoning of sane men.
And upon the throne was Ainz Ooal Gown himself.
At great length, Jircniv realised something in the depths of his soul.
He realised that they were standing in the presence of what men would call a god.
Jircniv possessed a magic item that defended against mental attacks, but the pressure he was facing was outside the scope of the item’s protection. If he lost his focus but once, even the man known as the Bloody Emperor would be able to do nothing but kneel before Ainz.
Still, it was precisely because of that reason that he had to go.
Just as Jircniv was observing Ainz Ooal Gown, Ainz Ooal Gown was also observing Jircniv. If he disapproved of what he saw, what would happen to the Empire in future? At the very least, he had to let Ainz recognize the value of Jircniv, and by extension, the continued existence of the Empire.
Jircniv laughed at his own naïveté.
What had he been thinking by a war of words.
So this is what it means to regret something. Nothing else matters anymore. All I can hope for is to minimize the damage to the Empire.
Jircniv’s stern command was directed at his subordinates, but more importantly at himself, in order to recall himself to life. He could sense his men following him.
It was a very soft carpet, but to Jircniv right now, it seemed far too light and ephemeral.
He firmly shunted aside the innumerable glares directed at him and moved forward, keeping his eyes fixed on the person that lay before him ― Ainz Ooal Gown. He had a hunch that if he turned his eyes from his objective, his feet would no longer be able to move.
Jircniv was not an excellent warrior or anything like that, but the reason why he could move forward, leading his men where his royal guard feared to tread was because of the mental fortitude that had been bred into him as an Emperor.
At last, he reached the base of the steps, in front of Ainz’ aides.
“Ainz-sama, this is the ruler of the Baharuth Empire, Emperor Jircniv Rune Farlord El-Nix, who seeks an audience with you.”
The sweet voice came from the winged woman standing beside the throne. Her sweet voice matches her radiant looks, Jircniv thought.
In response, the being that was a veritable god of death spoke to Jircniv.
“I am glad you have come, Emperor of the Baharuth Empire. I am the master of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, Ainz Ooal Gown.”
A faint pang of relief ran through Jircniv. His voice was more normal than he expected ― like that of a human being.
If that was the case, reading him from his words might yet be possible.
“I humbly thank you for your most generous welcome, Ainz Ooal Gown-dono.”
One could not read facial expressions from a skull. What sort of opening would best fit the current situation? Jircniv carefully pondered that question.
However, the one who spoke first was neither Jircniv, nor Ainz.
“Ainz-sama. It is disrespectful for inferior species such as humans to address you as an equal,” a man’s voice said. “「Kneel」”.
Jircniv heard the sound of metal plates clanking, but he did not need to turn around to know what was going on. His subjects must have knelt in response to the man’s voice. At the same time he could hear the desperate grunting that came from those who wanted to rise, but could not.
It must have been some sort of powerful mental domination effect.
Had Jircniv not worn the necklace he never took off, he would be kneeling like his men.
Countless gazes affixed themselves on Jircniv, the only one to remain standing. They were cold, clinical stares, as though Jircniv were nothing more than a guinea pig.
“―That’s enough, Demiurge.”
The toad-like monster called Demiurge bowed respectfully to its master.
He could almost see the pressure around them disappear, and he could hear sighs of relief from behind him.
“…Jircniv Rune Farlord El-Nix, my subordinate has done something rude to a noble guest who has come from far away to visit my domain. The sins of the vassal are those of the liege, and as such I beg your forgiveness. I hope this is a matter which can be resolved with a bowing of the head.”
Commotion and activity rose from the two files of monsters behind them.
Countless feelings danced up in Jircniv’s heart.
He was cautious, because he realized that Ainz was not the type who handled matters solely with brute force.
Similarly, he was relieved, because Ainz was not the type who handled matters solely with brute force.
Most importantly, he was afraid. He knew without a doubt that Ainz had the complete loyalty of all the monsters present here.
At the same time, Jircniv had the sickening realization that everything that had happened so far had occurred in accordance to Ainz Ooal Gown’s wishes. It was the ominous feeling that everything had taken place just as Ainz had planned.
“There is no need to apologize for that, Gown-dono. It is not uncommon for subordinates to go wild and do as they please. Citizens from our Empire have done the same themselves. Truly, I am disgraced.”
One of the royal guards who had been released from the domination began moving, and placed an urn beside Jircniv in a worried, nervous manner. Jircniv should have immediately taken it up, but he was delayed by his thoughts.
Were the actions of Gown’s minion intended to make me say what I just did? If that’s the case, should I go off-script? No, that’s not an option. This is like a staged fight with real blades. A single misstep will result in severe injuries… that would be very bad.
“This is the head of the foolish noble who took it upon himself to send intruders into your tomb… although I do not know if tomb is the right word to use. I hope you will accept it.”
The urn contained Earl Femel’s head. He was the noble who had been induced by Jircniv to recruit and dispatch the Workers.
These nobles who were neither boon nor bane were raised to be used at times like these.
Dead men told no tales. Although he did not know how much information Ainz Ooal Gown possessed, it would be wiser to cover up his sins as much as possible.
It was quite likely that Ainz sent his emissaries to intimidate him because the Workers had barged into his domain. Because of that, his best option was to deny all knowledge of the incident.
The beautiful woman standing beside Ainz gently nodded her head, and the one called Demiurge brought the urn up the steps.
Then, he knelt before Ainz, and presented the head from within the urn,
Ainz lifted the head up.
“I will accept it. But what shall I do with it now? It would be a waste to simply throw it away.”
…Hm? Ah, mockery, then? I see. He’s certain that Femel was manipulated… the question now is where the information leaked from…
Suddenly, the severed head of Earl Femel twitched in Ainz’s skeletal hand.
At a glance, one might think that Ainz was shaking it, but a closer look would reveal the truth. A black liquid swallowed the head, and Ainz let it fall from his hand.
Jircniv did not turn his eyes from the horrifying sight of a fountain of sticky black liquid erupting from the ground.
After the black fluid finished flowing away, what was left was an enormous suit of black plate armor.
It was a Death Knight.
As one, everyone behind Jircniv inhaled sharply in surprise.
He created it. The maid’s words were true. Jircniv desperately wanted to bite his lip but forced himself not to. He could not do such a shameful thing in public.
“Go. Get in line.”
With a deep groan that seemed to come from somewhere far beneath the earth, the Death Knight obediently descended the stairs and vanished from Jircniv’s field of vision.
How many more of these Death Knights can Ainz Ooal Gown still make? Don’t tell me… an unlimited number, as long as he has corpses? No, that’s just ridiculous ― wait, before that, can he make even more powerful undead? If he really could make such creatures…
“Then, Jircniv Rune Farlord El-Nix-dono.”
Ainz’s quiet voice brought Jircniv back to his senses, and he smiled easily to Ainz.
“Ah, Gown-dono, Jircniv will do. After all, it is a long name.”
“Is it now? Well then, Jircniv-dono. To begin with, allow me to apologize for that unsightly display just now. Given that my ill-mannered vassal gave offense to you and those under your command, I will consider the matter of that noble’s invasion of Nazarick settled. Then, that is all. Although I have made you come a long way, you are now free to leave.”
Jircniv did not understand what he had just heard.
“Ah, forgive me. I fear I may have misheard your words. Could I trouble you to speak them to me once more?”
“There is no need for you to apologize. It will be fine if you return home. After all, we will be getting quite busy over here shortly.”
Ainz shrugged, like he was joking.
Jircniv had no idea what was going on any longer.
Could it be that the apology was just a pretext to get him to come here in order to fulfil some other objective? Yet, the fact that he had been forgiven so easily was very strange.
Something did not add up here.
―Wait a minute! What did he just say?
“Forgive me, but what did you mean by ‘getting very busy’?”
“Thanks to Your Majesty, we now know that we will be drawn into troublesome matters even if we try to keep a low profile. That being the case, I was thinking of moving to the surface and personally dealing with all these troublesome things.”
“That, that would mean…”
“First, we will have those who plot against us pay the price for their foolishness. After that, we will crush all the troublesome people we encounter until the peace I so cherish is restored.”
These words were the ranting of a lunatic.
No ― that would be wrong. He was not mad. When one considered Ainz Ooal Gown’s abilities, his military and economic strength, those words were not mad at all. It was only Jircniv ― blinded by his limited experience ― who found it hard to accept the facts.
Ainz Ooal Gown was a man who could do all that.
An uncontrollable feeling of dread welled up from beneath Jircniv’s feet.
The Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick. It was a monster which had secluded itself away quietly. Now it had opened its doors, and it was about to take its first steps on the surface world.
Could it be that he called me here for this? Is this a declaration of war?! What should I do? Ainz Ooal Gown is essentially saying he will declare war on the Empire in the future! I should be kneeling before him now, right?
In truth, he felt that was the wisest thing to do.
However ― he did not think the people would prosper by accepting a monster’s rule. I f things went badly, there was a possibility that Ainz might simply kill everyone in the Empire and reanimate them as more Death Knights. That would be a fate worse than death..
Jircniv racked his brains like he had never done before in his life. By right, he should have brought this question back and consulted with dozens of sages over what the proper course of action should be. But by then, it would be too late.
With a smile that cut through everything, Jircniv spoke.
“I have a proposal. How about forming an alliance?”
“Are you confusing us with your lackeys ― uwah!”
A clear, bell-like voice rang forth, followed by the sound of something moving swiftly. The silver-haired girl frowned slightly, while Aura, standing beside her, pretended to act dumb.
Although Jircniv’s dynamic vision was not good enough to see what had happened, it would seem the Dark Elf had just kicked the silver-haired girl in the leg.
“―You’re making too much noise. Quiet down.”
With a gesture befitting a demon king, Ainz majestically waved his left hand to motion for silence.
Such regal movements could only have been born of long years of rulership.
Jircniv’s alertness level went through the roof.
I see, he has presided over this land as its ruler for a long time. To think he had such a dignified bearing…
The two girls spoke at once, expressing their regret for their foolishness.
He could not sense a hint of the arrogance that Aura had given off while in the capital. Right after that, he glanced at Ainz Ooal Gown, hoping that he had his subordinates fully under control. Then he screwed up his courage and prepared to speak.
This was the main event.
His tongue moistened his dry lips.
Jircniv picked the finest plan he could think of from the numberless plots and stratagems he had come up with in the short time until now.
“To build a nation here and to rule it as king ― I think that is a great idea. It is a position that best suits you, Gown-dono. Our Empire will gladly supply all the aid and resources you need to found this nation. How about that?”
Ainz’s fleshless face did not move. However, Jircniv sensed that the bright points of red light in Ainz’s eye sockets were glowing slightly brighter.
“…Jircniv-dono, I do not believe that plan holds any merits for you.”
That was only natural, which was why he could confidently predict Ainz would ask that question. Mustering up all his acting expertise, Jircniv made his reply.
“I wish to forge good relations with the country that your esteemed person will eventually establish. This is also a consideration for the future.”
“I see. Then, let it be so. I will leave the details to you.”
Ainz had agreed so fast that it left Jircniv dumbfounded. It was almost disappointing. He had not expected things to go so smoothly.
To begin with…
Why didn’t he ask me to swear loyalty to him? As an overwhelmingly superior individual in an infinitely advantageous position, why would he even accept this proposal?
He had prepared dozens of answers for when Ainz demanded fealty from him. But Ainz’ answer had exceeded the scope of Jircniv’s predictions.
What was he up to?
Jircniv could not understand Ainz’s thinking at all.
When battling a stronger opponent, a weaker man would fight by thinking of how to trip his opponent up. This was how one exploited the arrogance of the strong. But if the stronger opponent was not an arrogant being, then that tactic was unusable. The weaker man’s only way of fighting would have no effect.
That was how Ainz was. He would never act in a way that let others feel he was arrogant.
As I thought, it’s possible that everything up till now has been going according to Ainz’s plans. After all, the delay in his reply was far too short. Did that mean he already predicted all my possible choices and prepared the appropriate responses?
Jircniv was keenly aware that the frightening thing about the being called Ainz Ooal Gown was not merely his matchless might, but also from his unfathomable intellect.
“Is, is that so. Then, that is wonderful. Could, could you tell us if there is anything we can do for you?”
“I cannot think of anything right now. However, I would like to establish a venue where I could station emissaries from our end. I would like some way of quickly communicating with yourself..”
If all was really going as Ainz planned, then there was no way he would not have thought of everything. In that case, had this entire exchange simply been a coincidence?
No, that might be a bluff as well. He must have thought that he would be seen through if he stated his demands immediately,. What a cunning monster he is. Or rather… perhaps it’s because he’s a monster that his intellect surpasses that of mankind.
“Ah, yes, indeed. How foolish of me for not having thought of that. I expected nothing less of you, Gown-dono.”
Is he not a fan of pleasantries?
After hearing that half-hearted response, Jircniv made a mental note of that data point.
“Then, I shall return first. I will leave my secretary here. Could you discuss the details with him? …Roune Varmilinen!”
“―Understood! I shall offer up my body and soul for the Empire’s sake!”
Although Jircniv could not see Roune’s face behind him, he could keenly feel the man’s conviction in his voice. In truth, the decisions made here would decide the Empire’s future. If he did not have to rush back to the Empire immediately to form the appropriate committees to deal with Ainz Ooal Gown, Jircniv would have preferred to stay here himself.
“An excellent answer. I can feel your loyalty to your Emperor in every word. Then, we will send out Demiurge. Granted, he was somewhat rude to you earlier, but since you have forgiven him, I will let him handle this task.”
The frog-like monster bowed silently from the corner of Jircniv’s eye, and he sensed that he was about to lose a valuable subordinate. He struggled to control himself so he would not let the fires of hate creep into the eyes as he looked at Ainz.
He’s already making his move!
The frog monster (Demiurge) could dominate people with his words. This was clearly declaring his intention to turn Roune into his puppet and have him reveal everything he knew about the Empire.
These are not the actions an ally would take. The fact that he’s so overt about this is proof of his insidious nature. Demiurge… he must be planning to send this stupid-looking monster to do intelligence-intensive work like coordinating both sides, so he can claim it was his subordinate carrying out spy work on his own later on. Ainz Ooal Gown, how many more surprises do you have up your sleeve? You son of a bitch!
Although he was cursing Ainz in his heart, Jircniv had to take his hat off to him.
The “mistake” from just now was calculated so they he (Jircniv) could not claim they had no idea such a thing would happen. If he had any objections, he had to voice them now, because once he let this chance slip, his silence might be taken as consent.
Just as Jircniv was about to say something, Ainz spoke before him.
“Demiurge is one of my most trusted followers. I am sure there will be no further problems if he and Roune discuss these matters.”
“That would be wonderful.”
Jircniv forced himself to smile.
This was the first time he had seen such a masterful exploitation of an opportunity. Since Ainz had already said this much, anything further would be a waste of breath.
However, as Jircniv heard Ainz’ next words, he realized how naïve he had been.
“Now then, the present situation is different from before. You are now an ally of Nazarick, Jircniv-dono. To send you home in such haste seems rude. Since you have come all this way, why not spend the night here? I shall prepare a warm welcome for you.”
So it’s not just Roune, he wants to get everyone here as well?!
Worse, he might be planning an even more wicked scheme. No matter what, it was hard to believe staying the night was an innocent act of charity with no ulterior motives. He cursed the way Demiurge’s ugly face twisted in a smile, as if to say, “I understand”.
“No, no, no, we could not possibly trouble you. After all, we must return to make preparations.”
“Is that so? That is a shame. Then, if it is convenient― no, please allow one of my servants to send you home.”
The thought of riding a Dragon came to mind, and curiosity welled up at Ainz’ suggestion. Still, Jircniv waved that prospect aside. There was no way Ainz would simply transport him home, and he did not wish to owe Ainz a favor.
“I am deeply appreciative of your most generous offer and I thank you for it. However, I feel that since I came on a carriage, I should return the same way.”
“An undead headless horse could run day and night without sleep―”
“―Please forgive me, but I must respectfully decline.”
“Must you? I see.”
He could sense that there was some disappointment in those words. Was it an act, or was it the truth? Jircniv could not tell, although he suspected it might be an act.
In any case, as long as they did not fully understand their current circumstances, he wanted to avoid announcing the news of the Empire’s alliance with the undead Ainz.
To begin with, if he rode a life-hating undead horse back to the Empire, leaving aside the priests that he brought with him, what would the priests of the capital’s temples have to say about that?
“Then, we shall take our leave.”
“Very well. Demiurge… escort our guests outside.”
“No, no, there is no need to trouble… well, since this is a rare opportunity, how about the maids? I have never seen such beautiful women before.”
Ainz cricked his neck in surprise.
―It was an incredibly fake movement.
Jircniv fought to keep his anger under control as he smiled to Ainz.
He must have known that they were wary of Demiurge, yet he had sent him out anyway, as though to mock them.
He had no intention of forming an alliance. This was a roundabout way of telling Jircniv exactly who was in charge here.
I’ve never seen such evil before… he’s a threat to humanity’s continued survival…
“Ah, thank you for your praise. Then, please speak with the maids waiting outside. Ah, what a fine day for forging an alliance. How I wish I could make it a festival.”
You mean, to celebrate the day you made slaves of us?!
As he screamed internally, Jircniv smiled to Ainz once more.
“Indeed. Yes… Indeed.”
After the talks were concluded, Ainz gathered the Guardians ― Albedo, Demiurge, Aura, Mare, Cocytus, Shalltear ― in his room, along with Sebas.
He signaled to his kneeling subordinates to rise.
He placed both elbows on his table and meshed his hands, covering the lower half of his face.
His nonexistent belly ached. Now, they would probably start denouncing him. As he held that feeling in his heart, he peeked at Demiurge and Albedo.
They did not seem angry. Nor did they seem speechless.
However, who could tell if that was or was not a poker face? After thinking of that, he looked closely at them again, to see if their faces were frozen in anger.
I want to get out of here. In the first place, why did I sit here… no, it’s too late. No use crying over spilt milk. Grow a damn spine, Ainz Ooal Gown!
The phantom pain in his gut seemed to have subside a little, but he still felt like throwing up.
When he learned the Emperor was approaching Nazarick as planned, Ainz indirectly asked Demiurge “What shall we do next”, but instead the answer he got was “Since all is going as predicted, we shall stick to the plan.”
But I don’t know what the plan is!
Of course, he did not actually say that.
As the absolute ruler of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, Ainz had to adopt an attitude that matched the expectations of the NPCs (the children). Therefore, all he could do was pretend to look determined, smile in a kingly way, and reply, “Is that so.”
When it came to following Demiurge’s plan, however, Ainz was desperately flailing in the dark.
The actual talks with Jircniv Rune Farlord El-Nix had been played entirely off the cuff, trusting that there would be a way through no matter what. As for how confident he was of having said the right thing during the negotiations… well, simply put, he was not.
Like a student waiting for his test scores, he peeked at the two of them.
This is like a job interview…
He had sat for several interviews as he made his foray into the working world, and he felt the same then as he did now.
“Now then, the Emperor has made his move, just as predicted.”
Ainz took a deep breath. Just as he was about to speak, a voice interrupted from beside him.
“Ainz-sama, I fear to offend, but I have a question. Why did you have to give the human emperor a position as a collaborator? Couldn’t we have just conquered the Empire by force?”
Ainz’ non-existent lurched in response to Shalltear’s question.
The first step of their overall goal of world domination was to apply pressure to the Empire. They would allow the Empire’s high command to launch an attack on Nazarick, and use that to threaten the Empire and force the Emperor into a direct meeting. Then, they would impress the overwhelming military might of Nazarick upon them. That was how this operation should have gone.
Ainz knew nothing else. The exact importance of why they had to impress Nazarick’s power onto the Emperor and other such fine details were a mystery to him.
Because of that, he had no idea how to properly answer Shalltear’s question.
Aura continued after her.
“Shalltear’s got a point. We went to their capital and it’s nothing much.”
Ainz glanced at the other Guardians. They all seemed to have the same doubts.
While they had no intention of going against the decision made by their master Ainz, while they thought that whichever way he chose was correct, the doubts would still keep welling up.
In addition, they wanted to know why Ainz made the decisions that he did, to understand his true intentions, so they could be more useful to him.
If they did not know his motives, then they might accidentally work against his aims would be higher. Two of the Guardians in particular felt uneasy about this lack of knowledge; namely Shalltear and Sebas, who had already committed mistakes in the past. Both of them watched Ainz with serious looks on their faces, paying close attention to his words so they would not miss out on his intentions.
Ainz quashed the pressure he felt from being the focus of everyone’s attention, and searched for a way out of this predicament.
First, I need to decide whether or not to affirm or deny Shalltear and Aura’s words. If I affirm them, that means conquering the Empire is part of the plan. If I deny them, it means we won’t be conquering the Empire for now… which choice should I pick to sync up with Albedo and Demiurge? Oh no, not good, I took too long…
Ainz laughed, in a tone he hoped was confident and fearless.
After that, he exhaled deeply.
The odds were one in two.
If he screwed up here, all he would have to do was correct his course somehow. And besides―
Shalltear is always messing up, so I should reject her in this!
“―I feel that would be a foolish course of action, Shalltear.”
The light in the Guardians’ eyes brightened as they heard Ainz’s words. That was probably not a trick of the light. They wanted to listen to the words of their great master, the better to harvest the pearls of wisdom which fell from that brilliant mind of his.
I’m not what you think I am!
Ainz looked over to Demiurge. He did his best not to look like he was crying out for help, and spoke slowly and carefully.
A smart man like him should understand even if I just speak his name. That was Ainz’ hope.
“Yes! Please forgive these incompetents’ inability to fully comprehend your plans!”
“Ah, no, no, incompetent is a bit too much…”
“Once more, I offer my apologies! I beg for your forgiveness!”
It’s not like that! Why didn’t you say something else? This is bad. If I call on Demiurge again… why didn’t he just give a straight answer?!
“I am moved to tears by the boundless compassion of Ainz-sama. I expected nothing less of our ruler, and our king!”
He wanted answers more than he wanted praise.
However, there was nobody else he could turn to.
After gathering his resolve, Ainz began explaining his conclusion.
“We require just cause.”
“Is. Such. A. Thing. Truly. Necessary?”
“Of course. Indeed, we could conquer the Empire with force alone. However, if we did that, we would raise too many enemies against us. It is different from dealing with primitive opponents like the lizardmen. If I had to explain this to someone, I would phrase it like this: ‘While we were living peacefully in our secluded home, we were attacked and robbed by Workers from the Empire. In anger, we killed them and demanded an apology from their employer, the Empire, and they in turn said they would help us build a nation in order to make amends.’ That was the general idea. Thus, making the Emperor a collaborator is part of the plan.”
“Oh, I see~ But Ainz-sama, will they accept an explanation like that?”
“Whether they accept or not is unimportant, Aura. It is the truth.”
That was what he meant by “just cause”. And Ainz had not told a single lie to them.
“Ah, could, could that mean, it was all for this? To, uh, to get the Emperor here?”
“Hm? What do you mean, Mare?”
“Y-yes. Er, talks, talks with the Emperor might leave traces behind, and because of that, you specially brought him here to minimize the amount of leaks when you spoke. I, I think that’s it.”
“―Hahaha. Indeed, it was. Well done, Mare.”
Mare blushed shyly, and smiled.
As he looked at Mare’s adorable smile, Ainz sighed in relief. It was true that negotiating in the Empire might leave a lot of evidence behind. However, by bringing a limited amount of Empire personnel here, they could minimize the number of leaks and ensure it would not go on the record. This would be very useful when conducting investigations.
Ainz was impressed by the foresight of Demiurge, who had arranged for events to take place here in the first place, and looked to the other Guardians.
“In addition, building a nation implies that we will be defending more people. Turning countries into graveyards will only damage the name of Ainz Ooal Gown. Now, has anyone noticed anything?”
The intention behind those words was to ask if anyone else had noticed anything special, like Mare did.
The eyes of all the Guardians were now focused on Demiurge. They must have felt that Demiurge, whom they believed was the brightest mind in Nazarick, would surely have picked up on something. Ainz strongly hoped that would be the case.
Demiurge’s laugh echoed through the room.
“…Did you really think that was the extent of Ainz-sama’s plan?”
“What do you mean?”
“What. Did. You. Say?”
“Everyone, you need to think harder. Ainz-sama is our master, who assembled all the Supreme Beings. Do you think that was the extent of his planning?”
Ainz swallowed, as though he had been punched in the face. Meanwhile, the Guardians were nodding and murmuring “Indeed”.
The hell, why are you making things difficult for me?!
Fortunately, nobody could hear Ainz’ internal screaming.
“Precisely. Aren’t you being too hasty by thinking that you knew the depths of Ainz-sama’s intentions just because he supplied you with that easily-understood answer? That’s why Ainz-sama didn’t tell you the deeper meaning behind his plans.”
A vague hint of regret colored the faces of all the Guardians other than Albedo and Demiurge. They were probably worried that their foolish brains were incapable of being useful to Ainz.
All this made Ainz even more grateful for his current body. It was easier to maintain a poker face this way.
“Really… Ainz-sama. Should you not inform us of your true objective now. After all, it will inform our future direction.”
Everyone’s attention went to Ainz. Their earnest, pleading expressions seemed to say, “Please enlighten this foolish one”.
After looking over everyone, Ainz took a deep breath. No, he took several deep breaths.
Then, he slowly rose from his chair, and turned his back to the Guardians. From this position, he offered praise to Demiurge over his shoulder.
“…As expected of Demiurge, and the Overseer of the Guardians, Albedo. To think you had discerned my true aims…”
“…No. Your schemes are elaborate and farsighted, AInz-sama. I cannot hope to compare. And I believe what I understand is only a portion of your plans.”
Demiurge bowed respectfully in response to Ainz’ praise.
“I have heard that some of the maids speak of you as a Wise King. I believe that name is best suited for Ainz-sama. To think, assuming the role of Momon the adventurer was part of your master plan. Now he has become an effective alternative to levelling a country.”
Ainz nodded in smug self-satisfaction, but his heart was a vortex of doubt.
…What’s he saying? Momon? What is the name of that adventurer from E-Rantel doing here?
“What does this all mean?”
Shalltear’s question carried a hint of jealousy, probably because she could not tread the same ground which those two shared with their beloved master. Aura puffed up her cheeks in displeasure as she saw Demiurge’s faint smile and the beaming smile of a victor on Albedo’s face.
“Ainz-sama, tell us too. We want to be useful as well!”
“Th-then, um, uh, please tell me too. Please!”
“To. Begin. With. We. Should. Not. Need. To. Have. It. Spelled. Out. For Us. Please. Forgive. This. Foolish One.”
“I pray you will enlighten us in this matter, Ainz-sama.”
Everyone sounded quite desperate.
Ainz kept his back faced to them, and covered his eyes with a hand. The stress made him feel like he was going to faint.
―There is no greater joy in life for us than to serve you.
The Guardians behind him were saying something similar, all at the same time.
Ainz heart ached with guilt as he heard the sincere pleas from the Guardians behind him, and as he realized that he could not answer them. His strong emotions should have been suppressed, but yet this pain he felt continued unabated.
Should he come clean and admit his own incompetence?
However, there were many reasons which would not allow him to say that.
He cast aside his doubts and turned around, forcefully thrusting the Staff of Ainz Ooal Gown toward Demiurge as he did.
“Demiurge. I permit you to explain what you understand to the others.”
After Demiurge nodded, he began speaking to his comrades.
The structure of the carriage had not changed between the journey to and from Nazarick, but for some reason, every slight bump and jostle along the way seemed magnified. Perhaps it was because of the gloomy atmosphere in the carriage’s interior. Or perhaps it was because the people occupying the carriage had changed.
The troops escorting them to Nazarick were composed of men from the 1st Legion. The ones escorting them from Nazarick were from the 2nd Legion.
In place of Fluder was one of his disciples. In place of Roune was one of his scribes. The two original occupants of the carriage who remained were Jircniv and Baziwood.
Fluder was not here because he wanted to discuss what he had seen with his disciples. In his stead, he had sent one of his acolytes to take his place in Jircniv’s carriage. Though the acolyte was skilled, he was still a far cry from his master.
In all likelihood, the discussion in Fluder’s carriage was probably at a feverish intensity.
The mood in their carriage would probably be the polar opposite of this one. In Jircniv’s carriage, there was only silence.
A grim mood filled the carriage.
The one who had made it this way was Jircniv himself. His face was hard, and his expression bitter, like he had chewed on a lotus root.
The man who was known and feared as the Bloody Emperor was a man who typically wore a thin smile on his face. In truth, that expression was carefully rehearsed. This was because he had to cultivate the impression of a strong emperor among his people. A person who stood above all others has to make a striking impression on everyone, otherwise it would cause unease among those who followed him.
However, it seemed that Baziwood, who knew Jircniv the best among these three people, had never seen this look on Jircniv’s face. Everyone present knew this, which was why they kept quiet and remained in their places.
Even if he felt them looking at him, Jircniv did not plan to say anything.
The reason for that was abundantly clear.
Or rather, if anyone could think of anything else, Jircniv would split open that person’s head to see what was inside. Chances are, he would find a brain the size of his pinky fingernail.
The Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick ― In truth, calling it a tomb was grossly inappropriate.
That’s a demon king’s castle.
Those frightening beings, and beyond them―
―The spectre of Death, which sat upon a throne.
And it was not just fear they felt.
They had seen myriad luxuries, glittering architecture, and all manner of decorations. Nobody could remain unawed by that.
Jircniv could easily predict the difficulties his country would have, in the face of that being which possessed superlative military and economic power, among other things.
If a country’s leader was strong, he would give his people a sense of security. However strong a country might be, being led by a sheep would only fill it with unease. Fortunately, the Empire was a lion through and through. And then, all of a sudden, a Dragon had appeared before them. How would the Empire’s citizens feel about that?
Jircniv stared down at his hands, which were clenched so tight all the color had gone from them.
No, it’s not over yet. Our defeat hasn’t been decided yet.
Jircniv smiled. It was a smile that fit the name of the Bloody Emperor.
Perhaps they were waiting for the return of that mocking smile, but a feeling of relief came over each of his subordinates. As he saw their reaction, his smile grew more and more genuine.
“Don’t stare so hard. Aren’t you losing your focus here?”
The three voices overlapped. There were hints of joy within them, joy that their Emperor had come back to them. As Jircniv realised what he should be doing, he nodded vigorously.
“To begin with, I would like to confirm if everyone feels the same way about that place. If anyone has a differing opinion, feel free to give it. Who knows, I might be the one who’s gotten things wrong. Well then… I suppose we should start with the most important thing― What does everyone think of the ruler of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick, Ainz Ooal Gown?”
Jircniv deliberately said the name of that incredible monster a beat slower than normal.
“Ainz Ooal Gown is a monster among monsters who can easily create Death Knights, and if we make an enemy of him, the Empire will probably be destroyed. However, even if we do not antagonize him, there is a chance he might kill us all anyway, because he is undead and he would take joy in it. Does anyone disagree?
“It is as His Majesty says.”
“Ahh, we agree, then. To add to that, I don’t think we can beat him with the power of mankind. Frankly speaking, I don’t think we could even get within striking distance of him, even if we mustered all the armies of the Empire.”
After receiving three similar replies, Jircniv continued speaking.
“In addition, I can sense that as an absolute ruler, he possesses a charm that befits a king.”
“Ah, yes, his presence was truly formidable. It felt like he was more charismatic than our Emperor.”
“It is fine. That is a fact. The frightening thing is that he said just one sentence, and from that sentence I could feel the immense pressure of a tyrant.”
“‘You’re making too much noise. Quiet down.’ Was that it?”
Jircniv nodded lightly to the scribe.
That was without doubt the attitude which Ainz Ooal Gown adopted as the king of the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick.
“Also… the scariest thing about that monster is the way he thinks. He’s a rare breed of schemer whose every move is made with a purpose… don’t look so surprised, you lot. Think about it. He’s probably predicted the flow of everything we have discussed so far. Otherwise, why would he release us so easily? An opponent with so much power, who doesn’t use brawn, but brains? He is no mere mindless brute.”
That was the most troublesome part about him.
“After that, let us talk about his followers. What do you think of them?”
This time, he pushed his subordinates for their opinions.
“The ones near him must have been his close aides. And the black-winged woman beside him… she should be his queen, right? It seemed that way, from her attitude.”
The jaw-dropping beauty in the white dress.
Even if there was no kindness in the thin smile she wore, it still possessed a charm that moved men’s hearts. Given her beauty, there would surely be many men who would be consumed by the desire to see that smile directed at them.
As for the black wings at her waist, one could tell they were not magic items or items of clothing. The main reason was because they were far too natural. While there were humans with wings and other winged species in this world, she should probably be a demon, an outsider to this world, Jircniv thought.
“She might well be.I think it’s possible that she’s Ainz Ooal Gown’s wife. If she’s his wife, then, how shall I put this… is only his face made of bones? Or is he wearing a mask? Who knows?”
Still, despite Jircniv’s words, none of them felt that it was a mask, and they did not think it was an illusion either.
“And there’s also Demiurge, who can control people with his voice… is he a bard? Perhaps he’s good at singing because he’s a frog.”
Bards could use performances with musical instruments to produce magical effects. The power of Demiurge to control people through words was very similar to that.
In addition, he had also heard that the fey creatures called Lorelei had an ability similar to his. However, that man was nothing like the beautiful beings that were the fey. He was absolutely certain of that.
“Ah, I see. A bard, then? That does sound quite similar. And there was a gigantic insect as well, I believe. What was that?”
“Although I think it could be some sort of insect-type species… I don’t know much about Ant-men, so I think you would be better served asking Master about it.”
The world was huge. There were many species that were not widely known, and some of them could spontaneously mutate. Also, according to the legends, monster kings were known to be more developed than normal. It was similar to how ant queens were different from worker ants. Jircniv thought that it was a possibility.
“In that case, the remaining ones are the silver-haired girl and those two Dark Elves. Leaving the latter two aside, who’s the former? Judging from her huge boobs ― could she be a concubine?”
Laughter filled the carriage at Baziwood’s comment.
“Ah, well, if she was just a concubine, then she wouldn’t be brought out like that, no?”
“She’s probably as strong as that Dark Elf.”
“Oi oi oi oi… I think you’re getting it wrong.”
Baziwood’s words were infused with seriousness.
“It’s true, in all likelihood the ones closest to that monster Ainz are probably his aides. However, that doesn’t mean they’re all strong. Think about it. If the only criterion to be His Majesty’s follower was strength, and he surrounded himself with a hundred people like me, don’t you think the government would crumble in short order? Simply put, she was chosen to be his follower for reasons other than strength. Perhaps she’s a very intelligent concubine? Maybe she singlehandedly manages the affairs of that fortress which calls itself a tomb.”
“I see,” came the scattered replies.
Jircniv felt that he had a point.
Since their attention had been stolen by Ainz Ooal Gown’s might, they looked at how she was lined up with the Dark Elves and automatically concluded that the silver-haired girl was a strong being. Of course, it would be scary if another person had the same power as that Dark Elf. However, being led into a false conclusion by prior prejudice was also a bad thing.
“That’s probably it,” Jircniv said as he looked at his subordinates. “I’ve considered that myself. Come to think of it, iI would be somewhat relieved if all his followers were undead… but it would seem he’s gathered all sorts of monsters under him.”
“Well, rather than call it a monster gallery, it feel more like a wealth of talent…”
Jircniv could not help but smile at Baziwood’s blunt words.
“Indeed. We should probably try and learn more about these fellows. Apart from that… there’s the matter of that fortress’ grandeur. Surely there must have been something written about such a grand place?”
“Regretfully, I know nothing about it. When we return to the capital, I will immediately begin looking into it starting with myths and legends.”
Jircniv graciously accepted the acolyte’s apology.
“Ahh, I’ll leave that to you. Is there anything else we’ve missed? I honestly can’t believe such a wicked monster could create such a stately domain. Did you find anything which could be a clue? By which I mean, is it really a tomb built during that region’s history?”
There was no answer.
Which meant that they were all wondering the same thing.
They could not completely discount the possibility that the fortress had teleported from somewhere else ― possibly another world known as the Demon Realm ― to a place under that tomb. Or rather, that was easier to swallow.
“We won’t get an answer. As I thought, we just don’t have enough information. All we can do is squeeze out as much as we can from Varmilinen, who’s stationed over there, and from the fellow who’s coming over to the Empire. Do you understand?”
“Of course. We will try not to make the opposition hostile or suspicious.”
“There is no trying here. The enemy’s strength is overwhelmingly superior to our own. You need to move carefully so you don’t break the false alliance we have.”
As the scribe lowered his head, Jircniv suddenly felt the weight sliding off his shoulders.
“…We’ve done a bad thing to the people we brought along, haven’t we?”
Perhaps that was why he had brought up the girls who had not been released ever since they had been packed into the carriages.
Originally, the girls were to be offered to Ainz Ooal Gown in order to tie him to the Empire.
Sex was a universal weapon in any place or era. Perhaps the Imperial intelligence agencies should have prepared professional honeytraps, but since the use of magical investigation could potentially complicate things, they had instead selected pure, innocent girls instead.
“Although I think this is disrespectful to the courage they gathered up to bid farewell to their families, don’t you think they should be happy about this?”
“Do you think so? Being able to gain that monster’s love is a pretty impressive thing.”
“Any woman who would gladly make love to such a monster would be very brave.”
Baziwood was hinting that no such people existed, but that was a naïve way of thinking. Jircniv could confidently attest to that, being thoroughly familiar with the secret battles that women fought, with his mother poisoning her own husband as an example.
“Women are braver than men think, and they act for passion and gain. There should be no shortage of women out there who are willing to offer their bodies to that skeleton king. In that sense, we’re the ones who should be happy now. After all, one of them might tell Ainz Ooal Gown that we threatened to kill her and her family.”
Although the only response to his words were bitter smiles, Jircniv believed that might actually happen.
Jircniv’s reforms, pushed through with autocratic power, had made him a lot of enemies in the nobles he had displaced. Of course, he had his allies, but in truth, the people he could really trust were only a few of his close aides and his mentor, Fluder―
Suddenly, a question struck him like a falling feather.
It was about Fluder.
Not only was Fluder his mentor, but he was also a pillar of the Empire and its trump card. He was a man that even Jircniv revered as the highest hero of the Empire. Jircniv was keenly aware that beneath his sage-like face was a near-fanatical desire to explore the depths of magic. It was because of that desire that he had his doubts.
―That had been far too unlike Fluder.
Ainz Ooal Gown was a great magic caster that far surpassed Fluder. He could effortlessly create the Death Knights that Fluder could not even control. Then, why had he said nothing and left the tomb with him?
If it were Gramps, he would probably beg that wicked monster for magical knowledge, right? He would genuflect before him and offer everything―
That sounded like what would have happened
Everyone had knelt before Demiurge back then. However, it might have just been a distraction to focus their attention on that bizarre situation while he used the opportunity to perform some sort of mind control on Fluder.
He could not imagine Ainz Ooal Gown wanting to take Fluder as a minion. Although Fluder was the Empire’s trump card, when compared to that monster’s power, he was little more than a speck of dust.
However, Fluder’s accumulated knowledge was valuable in and of itself. In addition, if he could take control of Fluder, the Empire’s military power would plummet, and they would lose their finest weapon against Ainz Ooal Gown.
It would be like putting a collar on a slave.
Is that the case? Gramps didn’t say anything… was it because he already knew? Did he know about Ainz Ooal Gown’s power beforehand?
―In that moment, shock ran through him like a lightning strike.
He broke out in a cold sweat.
“You Majesty? Your Majesty? You don’t look well; are you alright? Shall we call a priest―”
“I said, there’s no need. That’s right… no need.”
Jircniv glanced at his panicked subordinates, and he was once more consumed in a maelstrom of contemplation.
Am I afraid? Me?
His mind was a chaotic mess, and he could not sort his thoughts out. Or rather, it was more like he did not want to think those thoughts and was trying to avoid contemplating them.
No! If I run away from this now, it will only invite disaster upon us! Calm down. I have to calm down. I have to calm down and think.
Jircniv continued to ponder the question as he was bathed in curious looks.
For starters, let’s consider Gramps. Assuming Gramps already knew about Ainz Ooal Gown’s power… no, if he did know about his power, then his weird actions could be easily explained. So Gramps has some kind of secret deal going on with that monster ― impossible! Unless…
Jircniv did not have the energy to worry about the shocked looks on his subordinate’s faces.
No, that’s not right, Jircniv. When Gramps saw the Death Knight, that fear on his face was genuine. Which is proof that he didn’t know about Ainz Ooal Gown’s power… or not. Maybe, what Gra… Fluder did not know was that fellow’s ability to control Death Knights. He probably knew about Ainz Ooal Gown ―that incredible magic caster― from the beginning.
It was like putting the scattered pieces of a jigsaw together, to reveal a beautiful ―or horrifying― picture.
So, Fluder knows that monster. From how long ago were they in cahoots? From the beginning? That’s right. Fluder was involved with every step of this mess, from the discovery of the tomb to the dispatch of the Workers.
He had finally made a connection between all the scattered pieces of the puzzle.
When one thought about it that way, most of the mysteries could be brought to light.
“Treachery, is it? Treachery. He’s sold the Empire out.”
Was it a voice of bitter resentment from the pits of hell… or perhaps, of a crying child?
His subordinates did not dare ask him questions; they simply remained silent as they studied his face. Jircniv turned to face them.
“Fluder Paradyne has betrayed us all. That being the case, what damage will this do to the Empire? Can we put him in a sinecure and place him under house arrest?”
Everyone could not help but stare at that unbelievable statement.
“How, how is that possible, Your Majesty? This is too much for a joke.”
Uncontrollable anger burned in Jircniv as the acolyte spoke. He wanted to shout, “I don’t want to hear such foolishness” but he held his tongue. The reason he did that was because somewhere in a corner of his mind, a young Jircniv was saying that he could not believe it either.
Jircniv had grown up watching the schemes and treachery of the dark side of noble society. With that, the adult Jircniv took a deep breath and expelled the blazing heat in his chest and the burning emotions in his heart.
“I will say this one more time. Fluder Paradyne has betrayed us. That being the case, what damage will this do to the Empire?”
His subordinates looked at each other, and after a few seconds of this, the acolyte spoke.
“It is difficult to imagine. The amount of damage cannot be estimated with a single glance. With master around, we could be confident of overcoming any other country. We have been able to remain uninvolved with the petty politics of other nations thus far because of that.”
He looked at the scribe, to see if he agreed with the acolyte’s words.. The scribe turned pale and nodded.
“If the neighboring countries know he’s been sequestered, they might start making moves.”
“Isn’t that what the Imperial Intelligence Agency is for? Ah, I see. Thanks to Fluder, they haven’t had the chance to gain much experience.”
“It is as you say, Your Majesty. Master truly―”
“―The possibility is shockingly high.”
Jircniv’ interrupted the scribe.
“…But if that is the case, then we will have an incredible amount of work to do. First, let us decide who Fluder’s successor will be. Are there any suitable candidates?”
The flames of desire burned bright in the acolyte’s eyes as he heard those words, and Jircniv could not help but smile internally.
The position of being Fluder’s successor as the Imperial Court Wizard was a mouth-watering temptation. After all, it was a position that gave one the right to administer and manage arcane magic casters throughout the Empire.
Because the position had always been filled by that great hero, nobody else could claim it. Even if one had the ambition for it, their opponent was far too strong to overcome by wicked means. And now, this hitherto sealed-off position had been offered to him.
Greed is good. Desire drives progress. I approve of that sort of desire. However, I should probably ask, just in case.
“However, one must bear in mind that as the Imperial Court Wizard, one may be called upon to do battle with that monster.”
The flames of the acolyte’s ambition went out in that instant. He could not even bring himself to be excited about it. The position he had longed for became one he wished to avoid more than anything else in the world.
He would have a better chance of surviving a jump off a five hundred meter tall cliff into a shoal of rocks than he would in a spell battle against Ainz Ooal Gown.
No, he might be better off dying on the spot.
As the acolyte thought about that prospect, a new look came into his eyes. It was the look of a frightened mouse which had been cornered by a predator.
The hopes in Jircniv’s heart died. He could tell that this man did not have the courage to take on Ainz Ooal Gown. Or rather, he should never have expected that in the first place.
“Yes! In that case, I know some people who can use the 4th tier of magic; how about selecting one of them? Granted, I do know some spells of that tier, but I am not very versed with them.”
“Aren’t you the most skilled of the acolytes?”
“How, how could that be? There are many more excellent than I. When we return, I shall furnish their names to you immediately!”
It was only obvious that a man would want to surrender immediately when asked to fight an incredible monster like that. However, what he needed was a man who would not lose his fighting spirit even in that event.
…That won’t work, huh. It would be naïve to think he’s an exception. It would probably be better to consider that anyone who knows of Ainz Ooal Gown won’t have the courage to fight him. That means I’ll have to hand that task to people who haven’t met that being yet. Perhaps these ignorant folk will be driven by desire and struggle even more desperately against him.
It was not the best of plans, but he had nothing else to go with.
“…I see. Then, gather information on them and then conduct interviews. After that, we’ll want to have our intelligence people ready to deal with that fellow. However, we still need to help Ainz Ooal Gown, so for the time being, we’ll have to be his obedient dogs, in order to build good relations with him.”
‘His obedient dogs.’ Nobody objected to that turn of phrase. How could anyone who had seen the Great Underground Tomb of Nazarick do so?
“Then, Your Majesty. How long will we wag for that monster? Will our children have to roll over when he commands it? Our grandchildren?”
Jircniv looked around himself, in order to make sure that no spies had made their way into the carriage and checked that the door was shut tight. With all that done, and with no further problems apparent to him, Jircniv began explaining his strategy to fight Ainz Ooal Gown.
“We ―and by ‘we’ I mean the Empire, the Kingdom, the Theocracy, the Council Alliance, the Holy Kingdom and other countries― will come together in a coalition. It will be a grand coalition, aimed at defeating Ainz Ooal Gown.”
Six wide eyes turned to Jircniv.
“What’s there to be surprised about? No single nation can defeat that monster. Then, all we can hope for is to bring all the neighboring countries into a coalition so we can turn the tide.”
“Are, are we really going to fight him?”
Jircniv’s reply was simple and curt.
“Rather, if we do not fight, we have no chance of survival.”
“Then why are we helping that monster found a country?”
“Because that is the first step in the formation of this grand coalition.”
Jircniv looked at everyone.
“Are you listening? Good. We are currently on the outskirts of E-Rantel, which is a valuable location at the borders of the Empire, the Kingdom, and the Theocracy. If that monster Gown wants to found a nation there, he will be making enemies of all three of those nations.”
Jircniv took a breath, and continued.
“And another thing. Gown is undead. I doubt he will treat humans ―the living― with anything approaching decency. The people will not suffer the rule of an undead king either. There will be rebellion, which will promptly be stamped out by that monster. The Kingdom will not be happy about yielding land to him either, and I doubt the Theocracy, the strongest nation in the vicinity, will do nothing.”
“But! But, Your Majesty! If the Empire helps him in his endeavours, surely we will be seen as taking that monster’s side, right? The nearby nations will be on guard against us! That coalition you speak of will not count the Empire among them! And even if they beat that monster, we’ll be next, or worse, they might target us first!”
Hmph, Jircniv smirked.
“We will work behind the scenes. We need to let the other countries know that the Empire is spying on Gown’s nation. It’ll be difficult, but it’s also the only way.”
“Will they really believe us? If it were me, I would think it was a trap.”
“Then, we will have to convince them by showing them Ainz Ooal Gown’s strength. If only there was a way we could show the other nations his power… well, we’ll have to arrange for such a situation. For example, letting him show his power on the battlefield.”
“Couldn’t the Empire just not help Gown build his nation, and feign ignorance of everything?”
Jircniv glared at the scribe as though he were retarded.
“We have to flit back and forth like bats just to ensure the minimum degree of safety for ourselves. What do you think the people in the Kingdom will do if he gains territory nearby for nothing?”
In other words, Jircniv was picking the not-quite-worst case.
“For that reason, the Empire has to pretend to be that monster’s friend while aiding that coalition. In other words, if we’re exposed, we’re most likely going to be the first on that monster’s chopping block. Or rather, if it were up to me, I would certainly destroy this country first as an example to others.”
“Ah ―I’m sure you would go through with that if it were up to you, your Majesty.”
“…I’ll take that as praise and accept it. Because of that, we cannot be the ones to propose that grand coalition. We need to let other countries make the first move. What we should do is gather as much information about Nazarick as we can, as well as find someone who can defeat Gown.”
“Do people like that really exist?”
Given the casual tone with which it was said, nobody would have believed those words came from the acolyte. Gown was an unimaginably powerful opponent, who might be unbeatable even by the mightiest Dragons. He was an opponent that made people think that way.
And to that, Jircniv issued a confident reply.
“Indeed, they do.”
“People like that really exist?!”
“Don’t they? Look within that throne room.”
When he put it that way, it seemed obvious enough.
The monsters arrayed with Ainz. Aura. Mare. The silver haired girl. The insect. Demiurge. He was referring to them.
“…Do you plan to induce a revolt?”
“Although I don’t think that may be possible, we should still prepare for it, just in case. We need to prepare wealth, prestige, members of the opposite sex and so on to make us seem at least a little bit attractive to them.”
“Won’t it be difficult?”
“Ahh, indeed, it will be. Ainz Ooal Gown styles himself as a tyrant. Thus, they won’t betray him easily However, even if that is the case, we have to take action. This is not just a conflict between nations anymore.”
Jircniv looked at the three of them with a resolute expression on his face.
“What comes after this will be a battle for the survival of humanity as a species. It will be a fight for the future. Devote your hearts and souls to it.”
“…And so, I think the Emperor will try to put a scheme like that into practice. If he were more foolish, his actions might fall outside the predicted range, but I think the chances of that will be low. Reading the movements of a slightly-above-average intellect that imagines himself a genius is easier than trying to predict the actions of a complete moron.”
Demiurge raised a finger as he said that.
“In other words, the Emperor will try to form an alliance in order to defeat us ― to defeat Ainz-sama, right?”
“Mmm, he’s surprisingly stupid.”
“T-then, s-shouldn’t we take the initiative and w-wipe him out first?”
Mare followed up after Shalltear and Aura, but there was no anger in his voice. It was more like he was deciding whether or not to pick up a rock he found along the side of the road.
“More important than this problem is―”
Sebas wanted to speak, but someone else had already anticipated what he was going to say.
“―Is the fact that he actually thinks we would betray Ainz-sama, is that it?”
“Really. Sebas. It. Seems. The. Emperor. Does. Not. Know. The. Meaning. Of. Loyalty.”
Mocking laughter filled the room.
Did he really think they would betray Ainz, one of the 41 Supreme Beings who made them?
Although this was nothing more than Demiurge’s hypothesis, it was enough to thoroughly displease the Guardians. A cold light gleamed in their eyes.
“Welp, it’s not like I’m trying to speak like Mare, but I’m still pretty mad. Shall we kill them all?”
Shalltear laughed as she saw Aura in a foul mood for the first time.
“I’ll turn him into a Vampire. After all, if he’s good enough, there’s no reason he can’t serve in Nazarick.”
Although Cocytus had remained silent, his large mandibles made a clacking sound of warning.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you do remember that we are in the presence of Ainz-sama?”
As they heard Sebas’ cold, clear voice, Aura, Shalltear’s and Cocytus’ anger instantly vanished.
“Kuhu ― Mm. That’s right, everyone, please calm down. Please recall what Demiurge just said. All of this has been arranged. What can we enjoy if not the antics of this clown? Instead, we should be grateful ― because all of this is nothing more than a part of Ainz-sama’s master plan. Right, Ainz-sama?”
Hooh… Ainz-sama’s plan, huh. I see. A special plan concocted by someone with the same name as me. Making the Baharuth Empire ally with and struggle against Nazarick was part of that plan too, huh… I have no idea what that’s all about. If only I could ask this Ainz fellow about it!
However, running away from reality like this would not change anything.
Honestly, Ainz wanted to ask about the details of the plan, and what about Ainz that Demiurge and Albedo were imagining.
However, he could not do that.
Ainz turned his line of sight toward Albedo.
He saw a woman who was sweet as honey, her eyes glazed over with love and fascination, her cheeks a faint rosy pink.
She had reacted like this because she believed that everything was proceeding as planned, because she was so overcome by her master’s insight.
As such, Ainz could no longer deny them. Who could say “What?” when the mood was like this?
With regard to Albedo’s question, there was only one answer Ainz could give.
“I-Indeed. That is so.”
He wanted to praise his voice for not wavering.
“Ohhh,” the Guardians chorused in respect.
Albedo spread her arms, and with them, her wings at her waist opened up as well.
“Ainz-sama wishes to take over a human city peacefully, and rule the region with love and compassion. Yet, the Baharuth Empire has decided to form a vile conspiracy against this paradise on earth. In the near future, Ainz-sama will show these countries the true meaning of kindness. Is that not the just cause that he seeks?”
“How I look forward to that day. Everything rests in the palm of Ainz-sama’s hand. When that moron finds out, I wonder what sort of face will he make… after all, Ainz-sama always thinks several moves ahead.”
As Demiurge delivered his reverent speech, Albedo continued with a suitably respectful expression on her face.
“Indeed, Ainz-sama’s wisdom is beyond our ability to match. If Ainz-sama had not created the hero Momon, it would be impossible to rule peacefully. In that case, E-Rantel could only be controlled by violence and terror.”
“…Perhaps we could use the Golden Princess to achieve similar effects, but that would be a waste of a trump card. She is a human being who is just as interesting ―no, perhaps even more so― than what I have determined from analysis of Sebas’ intelligence reports. She will be an excellent pawn.”
“Ah, after hearing that, I too wish to take a look at her.”
“Then, after we found our nation, shall we have her be an envoy to us? After all, promises must be kept.”
“…You. Two. Have. Gone. Off. Topic. You. Are. Wasting. Ainz-sama’s. Precious. Time.”
Ainz responded with a simple “It’s fine” to their hurried apologies.
In truth, he had learned a lot from their casual conversation, and he had gained time to think of more excuses. To Ainz, that had been a valuable opportunity.
“But truth to be told, Ainz-sama is really amazing,” Shalltear said.
“Mhm. Yup yup, Shalltear. After all, Ainz-sama thought up a plan that managed to astound even Albedo and Demiurge…”
“A-as expected of. Ainz-sama. Y-you’re too cool. I-I really admire you.”
“…My. Foolish. Self. Is. Ashamed. Of. My. Lack. Of. Intelligence.”
“All I can say is that our inability to keep pace with Ainz-sama’s considerations is truly unbecoming.”
The Guardians’ praise stabbed at Ainz like swords.
Although Ainz could not help but think of it as mockery, the Guardians eyes were filled with respect and loyalty, and their worship of him was genuine. Therefore, Ainz did not contradict them, but instead used his acting skills to answer, as usual.
“There is nothing of that sort. It was merely a coincidence. And in the end, Demiurge and Albedo saw through it.”
“No, if Ainz-sama had not responded thusly, I would not have been able to connect the dots.”
“Demiurge is correct. Planning so far ahead without any knowledge of the situation is a feat only possible by the greatest of the Supreme Beings. I have fallen even deeper in love with you.”
“As expected of Ainz-sama, whose intellect surpasses even that of Demiurge, the wisest mind in Nazarick,” Shalltear said.
“It’s true! Ainz-sama is really amazing!” Aura exclaimed.
“Mm! R-really amazing!”
“I. Have. Long. Known. Ainz-sama. Possessed. Excellent. Abilities. But. I. Could. Not. Imagine. The. Extent. Of. His. Prowess… As. Expected. Of. The. Greatest. Treasure. Of. Nazarick.”
“Well put. He is filled with compassion and overflows with wisdom. There is no better master for us than Ainz-sama,” Albedo said.
“Come to think of it, there is a matter that needs to be decided. Although I have no problems addressing Ainz-sama as ‘King’, such a simple title might result in his being conflated with the bugs surrounding us. I feel we must consider a more fitting form of address for Ainz-sama.”
The Guardians unanimously approved Demiurge’s suggestion.
“Do you approve, Ainz-sama?”
“It is fine. Do as you see fit.”
Being called King Ainz Ooal Gown was bad enough. His emotion override had already kicked in several times when he thought about the implications of naming himself a king.
“Does anyone have any suggestions?”
“Then, allow me to begin,” Shalltear said as she raised her hand. “The name we choose should obviously indicate Ainz-sama’s surpassing beauty. I feel the Beautiful King would be fitting.”
Ohhh, the Guardians chorused in approval.
Beautiful King Ainz Ooal Gown?
“Oh, me! Meee~” Aura piped up as she raised her hand. “The name should highlight Ainz-sama’s power! How about the Powerful King, or Power King for short?”
I see, the Guardians murmured.
Power King Ainz Ooal Gown?
“Then, then. M-may I try? Erm… because Ainz-sama is very kind, it might be good to let people know that. Then, then, m-maybe we could try, the Merciful King?”
The Guardians nodded
Merciful King Ainz Ooal Gown?
“As for me―” Here Demiurge paused for effect. “―to praise Ainz-sama’s exalted intellect, I propose the Wise King.”
Wise King Ainz Ooal Gown? …I’m sorry, but I really have to pass on that.
“What do you think, Sebas?”
In response to Albedo’s question, Sebas replied, “I think a simple ‘king’ will do.”
“Then it is my turn. Because he is the Supreme Being who stands atop all the other Supreme Beings, I think the High King would be appropriate.”
The Guardians once more murmured in approval.
High King Ainz Ooal Gown? How should I say this… all these names… sound awfully over-the-top.
Everyone’s eyes rested on the only Guardian who had not yet spoken.
“How about you, Cocytus? Although it might be a bit difficult to compete with High King, do you have any titles you feel are fitting of Ainz-sama?”
“Umu. In. Future. Ainz-sama. Will. Rule. Many. People. Therefore. He. Will. Be. A. Magician. Who. Rules. As. A. King. I. Think. Sorcerer. King. Will. Best. Fit. That.”
The Guardians did not reply immediately.
However, all of them looked at Ainz. From the look in their eyes, they all felt there was no better title than that one, although Albedo seemed a little disappointed.
“Very well. Then I shall use Cocytus’ suggestion.”
Ainz slowly rose to his feet.
“When our nation is founded, I shall name myself the Sorcerer King, Ainz Ooal Gown!”
Ainz waved his hands in embarrassment to ward of the thunderous applause which followed. In truth, he was feeling so uncomfortable that his whole body was getting itchy.
“Well then! Let us demonstrate the power of Nazarick in the battle between the Kingdom and the Empire!”
“It is as Ainz-sama says. They wish to investigate the limits of Ainz-sama’s power. Little do they know, they have played right into our hands.”
Demiurge continued, in an excellent mood.
“Before negotiations can take place, the most important thing is to strike a mighty blow to the other party and let them understand the difference between our might and theirs. Foolish creatures like humans will do foolish things because they do not realize how powerful their opponents are. Indeed, that Emperor is a foolish creature for not knowing that bowing his head and licking Ainz-sama’s boots is the wisest course of action.”
“I thought about that myself, but is letting humans lick Ainz-sama’s boots not too good for them?”
“I see. As expected of Albedo. Ah, but if I had to lick Ainz-sama, I would choose his body~”
Ainz decided to pretend he had not heard Shalltear and Albedo whispering to each other.
“Then, everyone. Begin the task of exalting the name of Nazarick!”