Overlord Light Novel, Chapter 65 Volume 9
Overlord Volume 9 Chapter 3
(Re)Translated by Nigel
Edited/Proofread by Deus Ex Machina
The First Prince Barbro Andrean Ield Ryle Vaiself was furious as he led his men north, leaving behind the clamor of E-Rantel and the troops preparing to march out to the Katze Plains.
“Dammit. That damn Marquis Raeven…”
Barbro could not hold back his cursing.
During the demonic disturbance, his younger brother had borrowed Raeven’s men to patrol the city and maintain order, giving the nobles the impression that he was willing and able to step into the fray. As a result, the nobles who had originally supported the First Prince Barbro were beginning to have second thoughts. Now that Marquis Raeven had thrown his support behind the Second Prince, some of those nobles had jumped ship to his side as well.
Not moving out during the demonic disturbance had been a fatal mistake.
Barbro had not stepped onto the frontline and stayed in the Royal Palace because he had no men of his own.
It had been the right thing to do; what good could just one man do by himself on the frontline? He would simply get in others’ way. Besides, the demons might have attacked the Royal Palace too.
Without Marquis Raeven’s men, his younger brother would not have been able to maintain order either.
Barbro believed that he had made the right choice. However, those fools did not understand it and had been deceived by appearances. In the end, they had all played into Marquis Raeven’s hands.
“Could it be that none of them had any idea what he was plotting? Besides, they were just patrolling, they didn’t even fight any demons, no?”
If his younger brother had fought, he would surely have made a fool of himself. When one thought about that, one could tell how smart Marquis Raeven was.
There was also one more thing that displeased Barbro.
That was the fact that he was on his way to the insignificant little settlement of Carne Village.
He had fallen behind in the struggle for the succession.
That was why Barbro had to distinguish himself as the First Prince during this battle with the Empire. He had to regain the fame his younger brother had stolen in order to let everyone know that he was the best choice to inherit the Kingdom.
Thus, this battle was very important to him; yet he had been given orders which had him running around on a useless errand like some lackey. What prestige was there in investigating the link between a frontier village and Ainz Ooal Gown?
In that moment, a chill ran down Barbro’s spine.
Could it be that this had been done to keep Barbro from achieving anything?
His father had long since made up his mind to give the throne to his younger brother, and he did not want to let Barbro make any accomplishments to turn the tables, so he sent him on to this tiny little hamlet─
Barbro’s breathing grew chaotic. His heart burned with hatred for his father, who was looking down on him, the First Prince and wanted to give the throne to his younger brother for showing just a tiny bit of courage.
The fact that he noticed a horse drawing up to him as frustration blinkered his eyes was purely coincidence.
“My Prince, are you unwell? Shall I call over a priest?”
The shrill voice at close range echoed loudly and seemed to claw directly at his brain, and it even making him want to throw up. However, he overcame it. It was fortunate that the cool air of winter helped soothe him, and that growing up in the royal household had trained him to keep up appearances.
Only a fool would reveal his inner feelings.
“No, no, pay it no heed. I was simply thinking about how to handle the task Father gave me. Enough of that; Baron Cheneko, didn’t you visit the adamantite-ranked adventurer Momon? What happened?”
“Oh, you must hear me, My Prince! A deeply upsetting thing happened! Right, Momon was not in, and I did not meet him.”
“Well, that was just bad luck. After all, he is an adamantite-ranked adventurer. So why are you so angry? You didn’t make an appointment, so it couldn’t be helped that he wasn’t in.”
“No! It’s not because of that! It was Momon’s companion who displeased me, that Nabe woman.”
“Nabe? Ah, the Beautiful Princess.”
Barbro recalled the ravishing beauty he had seen in the Royal Capital, so fair that she could compare with his little sister. Barbro desired her, but she was the companion of an adventurer whom his father had favored, so he could not just do whatever he wanted to her like she was a commoner.
“And what did that beauty do to you?”
“She raised her hand against me! Please look, my Prince!”
Baron Cheneko removed his gauntlet, revealing a large bruise.
“What? Even an adamantite-ranked adventurer can’t commit violence upon a noble.”
“But that Nabe woman suddenly grabbed my hand and chased me out!”
There was far too little information to act on, and Barbro did not wish to ask any further. That was because he kept thinking that there was some reason behind it which had been hidden.
“My Prince! I beseech you to severely punish that foolish woman for harming me!”
If he used that as leverage, could he not do as he wished to that woman?
Babro considered it.
He thought about whether there was a way for him to help the Baron and take Nabe for himself, but he could not think of anything. This Baron was an utter idiot, and he might think that he was doing the prince a favor.
What a useless man. Well, I’ll guess I can buddy up to him for now, but once I take the throne, he’ll be the first one that I’ll discard. Before that, I’ll make good use of him.
Barbro was already plotting how things would go, but at the same time he was somewhat depressed by the fact that someone like him had his own fief and vassals ─ the ability to wage war without having to rely on anyone else ─ while he had no sworn soldiers.
As the Baron looked at him with anticipation-filled eyes, Barbro waved him away.
“When I become King, I will consider it.”
“Thank you, my Prince!”
Barbro no longer wished to speak to this bowing buffoon any longer, so he asked a question of one of the knights under Marquis Bowlorobe. He was a commander of the Marquis’ elite troops.
“Oi, I have a question?”
“What is it, your Highness?”
In truth, he did not actually have anything to ask, but he could not say he no longer wanted to speak to the Baron, so he was simply looking for an excuse. He paused to think for a moment, and come up with a suitable question, whereupon that hateful notion from just now appeared in his mind again.
It was Marquis Bowlorobe’s idea to send Barbro to this pioneer village, which meant─
Could it be that the Count’s turned on me? Has he switched sides to my brother?
He wanted to deny that possibility.
Barbro was wed to the Marquis’ daughter, and he had been a good son-in-law all this time. Once Barbro took the throne, he would become the leader of the Six Great Nobles. Choosing to support his younger brother now would only lead to conflict with Marquis Raeven. But what other reason could there be?
If that’s true, then… is the fact that I’ve been sent to this pissant village to tell all the other nobles that I can’t contribute much to the war?
“What’s wrong? Do you need a rest?”
No matter how hard he tried, he could not keep the malice from escaping him.
He saw that the knight was startled, but he still could not bear it.
As the murderous intent leaked from between his teeth, Barbro ordered:
“I command you to swiftly conclude the matter of Carne Village while making ready to proceed to the Katze Plains at the same time. Once we reach Carne Village, we will promptly complete our objective and leave, and I think we will be able to reach E-Rantel by nightfall. After that, we’ll rest for the night and then make haste for the Katze Plains at sunrise.”
The knight frowned.
“With all due respect, I feel that is very difficult. Please have a look, your Highness. Our formation comprises 3500 men from the Marquis and 1500 men from the various nobles who have lent their support. In order to swiftly complete our mission, we have reduced our composition of supply troops, replacing them with 50 cargo wagons.”
“I know that. What’s the problem?”
“Our formation has 4500 infantry and 500 cavalry. Even if we complete our business in Carne Village within an hour, returning to E-Rantel by nightfall will be quite a rush.”
“Which is why I was asking. I’ll say it again; is there a problem? If there is none, why can’t you do it?”
“My Prince… the infantry may end up being exhausted to the point of collapse.”
“It seems you’ve gotten the wrong idea, haven’t you? Ultimately, there’s no value in going to a pitiful little village like that. What we need to do is proceed to the Katze Plains and defeat the Empire. Aren’t you the Marquis’ man? In that case, let me ask you this; is this battle easy enough that they can afford to have 5’000 men gallivanting around the countryside? Do you think so?”
The knight’s mouth tightened into a straight line.
“Get your priorities straight. The men will be tired, you say? Then lash them to make them run. After all, you were all gathered here to do battle on the Katze Plains.”
─And to build my reputation.
“…It is as your Highness says. I understand.”
The knight bowed his head in acknowledgement.
“You should have answered like that from the beginning. Go plan when we can arrive at E-Rantel and when we can set forth; I’ll leave the details to you.”
“Yes! I shall quickly discuss the matter and return with the answer you seek, your Highness!”
By the time the knight spurred his horse toward his comrades, Barbro had long since put him out of his mind.
Does my father hate me? Or has he gone senile and can’t think straight any more? So that’s why he wanted to give the throne to my younger brother. It’s only proper that the eldest sibling should inherit; otherwise won’t that offend the nobles?
He swore to recover from the dire straits he was in, and make them regret giving him 5’000 men to command.
It was this determination that drove Barbro.
“Don’t disappoint me!”
The Baron seemed to have replied in a shrill voice, but it went in one ear and out the other for Barbro.
Damn you, Zanack. Go gaze at your navel in the Royal Capital.
While they were related by blood, he was also an adversary in the race for the succession and thus had to be bumped off. He would not insist on killing him, but if he got in the way, he would not mind giving the order to do so.
Once I ascend to the throne… what can I do with him? Should I kill him, so those stupid nobles can’t rally around him in revolt? Or would that be a waste? If he were a woman, he’d have many uses… My sister (Renner) might be stupid but she has a pretty face. I’ll sell her off to the highest bidder… It’ll be troublesome to have a branch family bearing royal blood, so ideally I’d marry her off to the royalty of some distant kingdom… although, if she could be useful and serve as the foundation for my power, well, I could consider that.
As he imagined the ideal future of the Re-Estize Kingdom he would found, Barbro absentmindedly narrowed his eyes.
He saw himself seated on the throne, with the massed nobles bowing respectfully to him.
He saw his vassals scurrying to carry out the orders which he gve.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful?”
He smiled thinly, then quickly covered it up.
After promptly finishing their mission in Carne Village, could they rush over to the Katze Plains quickly? Barbro felt that was what would determine if his dream would become reality or remain a fantasy.
…Assuming the soldiers can be forced to march, the most important thing would be whether or not we made it in time for the battle, right? Or rather, should we quietly observe the battle and act as ambushers?
He felt that it was a clever plan, but he was not confident that he could skilfully use his troops to attack the enemy in the flank or rear while they were unaware of him.
He very much wanted to let the knights handle this, but this battle was a chance to demonstrate his worthiness of the throne, so letting others arrange things was not a good idea.
What should he do to get the most impressive results and secure the throne for himself? As Barbro thought, an idea suddenly came to him.
Would it be possible to use the people of Carne Village to negotiate with Ainz Ooal Gown?
It was as though a shaft of blinding light had fallen from the heavens to illuminate him.
Truly, that was a masterful move.
Whatever reason Ainz Ooal Gown had for saving Carne Village, their existence ought to be collateral for negotiation.
If this magic caster Ainz Ooal Gown that nobody had heard of before backed out of the war, the Baharuth Empire would lose their justification and would probably withdraw their troops to avoid being labelled as invaders.
And if it turned out that it was Barbro’s actions which made the Empire withdraw─
Would that not be an amazing thing? Father will no longer be able to take me lightly, and my accession would be guaranteed.
“Good. Very good.”
If it turned out that Ainz Ooal Gown had simply helped them in passing, then he might not withdraw his forces. In that case, all he would have to do was force the people of Carne Village to take up arms. People from all over the country were being mobilized for this. The peasants of Carne Village had no right to refuse.
Father seemed to have exempted the people of Carne Village from conscriptions, but now the situation was different. It was up to the commander ─ Barbro, under these circumstances ─ to deal things as they came up.
If Ainz Ooal Gown killed the farmers of Carne Village, then it could be used as a form of propaganda too. They could lambast him as a petty villain. Propaganda like that ought to be effective against his backers, the Empire, as well.
Barbro shivered at the sheer perfection of his plan.
In all honesty, he had thought that he was dumber than his younger siblings, but now that was hard to say. The fact that such wisdom slept within his mind thrilled Barbro.
Winter was hell for small villages. All they could do was pray for the coming of the warmer seasons while weathering the cold days in their homes. If spring was late, or if the harvest in autumn was meager, they might be forced to eat their seed stock, and people would still starve to death even if they did so.
While there was nearly no field work to be done in winter, village life was still closely associated with the words “activity”. There were many tasks to be done indoors, like tending the livestock, maintaining the farming tools, repairing their homes, livestock coops, and so on. There was simply no time to rest.
This was especially true in Carne Village, where they raised pigs to feed the carnivorous monsters known as Ogres. They had bought those pigs after selling their herb harvest, and said pigs supplemented what the rangers brought in.
The Goblins led those pigs into the Great Forest of Tob to graze on roots and stems. Since the plan was still at an experimental stage, there were only a small number of pigs right now, but if they managed to raise them successfully and if they could make it through the winter, they would steadily increase their number in the future.
Normally, they would need to pay taxes to the landlord of the land they were grazing on, but fortunately, Carne Village did not need to do that. The reason was because the Great Forest of Tob was the dwelling place of monsters, and was not ruled by humans.
Carne Village’s future seemed very bright indeed.
All of this was thanks to Ainz Ooal Gown, who had saved the village and helped it in many ways. In addition, the Dark Warrior Momon had subdued the Wise King of the Forest. Many people in the village gave thanks to the two of them, and some even prayed to them over breakfast, revering them in the same breath as they did the gods.
It was precisely this overflowing of hope that gave the new chief, Enri Emmot, so much work.
Today, Enri, headed to a small hut to do her work, followed by Nfirea.
In a frontier village like Carne, everyone in the village worked together like they were family. If they did not do this, there would be no way for them to survive. They shared their farming implements and their food and even took turns to use their cows to till the fields.
Because of this, the care and feeding of the livestock was everyone’s responsibility. The hay for the cows in winter was stored in small huts just like this one.
Enri opened the wooden door and entered, followed closely by Nfirea. Enri went straight in after opening the door and sat herself down onto a pile of hay, sinking her rear into the dried grass with a soft pomf.
After closing the door, Nfirea sat by her side, his magic light illuminating the surroundings.
“Chief, you should save the playing around for after you finish this; we still need to see if we have enough hay and then make several decisions afterwards.”
“You’re calling me Chief again…”
Nfirea could not help giggling at Enri’s depressed reply.
“Well, that’s fine, isn’t it? I am the Chief, after all! That’s right, Agu thinks I can squish all the Goblins into paste if I felt like it! Compared to that, all these problems are nothing!”
Ever since she had won every single arm-wrestling match with Agu and company, there seemed to be an air of “it might be true” hovering around the village people, which pricked at her heart. Incidentally, she had not challenged the Ogres. If she lost, it would not prove anything, and if she won, or at least lost narrowly, it would get even worse.
―Does this mean I’ll never be able to get married if I let Enfi get away?
Sweat slowly beaded on Enri’s hands.
“Ah― right. Aren’t you going to open the window? It’s dry now, so opening it should be fine.”
“Eh? No, no need, we don’t need to, right? And look, we’ve got a magic light here.”
“Really? Well, if you don’t mind, then neither do I, Enfi.”
Magic illumination was brighter than sunlight. She knew this, but Enri’s suggestion was based purely on the logic that “since the sun’s out, isn’t it kind of wasteful to use mana for a magical light”? In addition, she wanted to change the current mood in the room. There was no particular reason for it, and it was no problem if he refused. However, Nfirea seemed to be having some kind of strange reaction to sitting next to her, what with his ears being bright red and all.
Is he really using so much of his mana? But I heard that making magic lights wasn’t that tiring… did he use some other spell before coming here? Come to think of it, he doesn’t smell of herbs. In fact, he smells kind of… nice.
“W-what’s wrong, Enri?”
Nfirea’s words came out in a panicked squeak as Enri pressed her nose close to him.
“Hm? Hmmm? Ah, it’s nothing, I just thought I smelled something nice…”
“Y-you did? Well, that’s good to hear. That must be the cologne I made.”
“Really? Why don’t you try selling it in town next time? I’m sure it’ll fetch a good price.”
“No, that… this… isn’t meant for sale…”
“Hmm… well, forget it. Anyway, there should be enough hay in this hut. Shall we move on?”
“Mm, yeah. Then, before we move on, let me check on something first. It’s cold outside, after all.”
“…Well, this place isn’t that warm either… ah, forget it.”
“That… about that. I wanted to discuss several things with you.”
Nfirea, who was sitting beside her, seemed a little tense.
What was going on with him?
As Enri bathed the side of his face in a suspicious stare, Nfirea took out a handful of papers.
They were covered in tiny letters. Enri had learned quite a few words by now, but her quick glimpse revealed more words she did not understand compared to those that she did.
“The first thing is how to feed the surviving Goblins from Agu’s tribe and the Ogres.”
“Eh? Aren’t we fine as we are? They helped with the harvest in the autumn, and we managed to buy the Ogres’ food from the city.”
“Mmm, and the herbs sold for a good price, so we can say we’ve got ample food reserves. It should be enough to deal with this winter. Even if we add a few extras, our food stocks should still hold out. But if our numbers keep increasing, life’s going to be quite harsh. Maybe we should acquire our food by other means.”
There were 14 people in Agu’s tribe now. They were not born, but instead, they managed to escape from the territory of the Giant of the West and the Serpent of the East.
“Mmmm. Although I don’t see a problem, we should probably buy more food from E-Rantel. However, I was planning to save some money to commission some metal farming tools for the Ogres.”
“If we could make some farming tools for the Ogres, the spring seeding should go a lot faster. …But the problem is that if we order tools for the Ogres, they’ll be big enough that no human could use them, and that’ll make them suspicious.”
“And if word about the Ogres working in the village gets out, it’ll cause a lot of problems, right?”
When the tax collectors came in autumn, Jugemu and the other demihumans had to hide in order to evade detection. Incidentally, it was due to their efforts that the grain harvest was so bountiful.
Since Carne Village had been attacked by Imperial knights, they only needed to pay a nominal tribute, which was a stroke of luck for them. In addition, they were excused from the draft for several years.
Most of that was a form of apology for not protecting Carne Village properly, but it looked like they felt genuine guilt about that as well. They thought that the high walls would arouse suspicious, but the tax collectors had simply commented “so that’s the kindness of that magic caster at work, hm?” and left matters at that. That being the case, Enri believed that they ought to be able to accept the presence of the Ogres as well, but Nfirea shook his head.
“There’s no doubt about that ─ yup. If it goes bad, the Kingdom might even send a punitive force out.”
“You might be angry, but the truth is that Ogres usually eat people. The only reason why they can live with us in this village is because of Jugemu-san, who are stronger than the Ogres. Don’t forget that.”
“Another thing is that we have far too few people in this village. We need to think about how to get more residents. It would be great if the newcomers arrived with the spring planting season.”
“That might be hard. Also, it’ll be troublesome if the newcomers get scared off by the Goblins and Ogres ─ what is it?”
That question came from Enri. Nfirea had been acting strange since just now. It was as though… his mind was not fully there or something like that.
“Eh? Ah, no, nothing’s wrong!”
It certainly did not look that way. Was he running low on sleep? After all, her lover had a bad habit of dropping everything to obsess about his potions.
As he saw Enri’s eyebrows furrowing, Nfirea took a deep breath and shifted his body over.
Hm? So he really is tired, after all? He does do a lot of experiments everyday… but it’ll be cold if he sleeps here. Although it’s kind of warm in the hay…
While Enri was thinking about this. Nfirea slowly leaned more and more of his weight on her.
What’s wrong? Though come to think about it, it would be better if Nfirea were a bit stronger… I guess he needs more meat. He hasn’t been eating and sleeping enough.
A playful impulse came over Enri, and she pushed back on Nfirea. She had originally intended to use just a bit of force, but because she used too much strength, she ended up pinning him below herself instead.
Below Enri, Nfirea’s surprised and confused face slowly turned bright red.
Aaaah~ It must be embarrassing for a man to lose to a woman in strength. That’s why I said you need to eat more…
Just as Enri rolled herself off him, Nfirea lay down in the hay and closed his eyes.
They stayed like this for several seconds, letting the air flow around them.
“…What’s wrong, Enfi? Do you want to sleep?”
Nfirea sat back up, his face uncharacteristically red.
“Uh… oh… um. N-nothing…”
The door flew open without a knock as the shout reached her ears. So forceful was the entry that the door crashed loudly against the nearby wall.
The curious squeak came from Nfirea.
“Sorry for disturbing you two, but this is an emergency!”
This was the first time she had seen Jugemu this worried ever since that Troll attacked. A strange, terrible premonition seemed to run through her body.
“It’s an army! There’s an army headed this way!”
“Eh?! What, what did you say? Whose troops are they?”
“We don’t know about heraldry so we couldn’t tell. But there’s a lot of different coats of arms, so you should come and look… In any case, we should shut the gate first. What should we do?”
“Ah! Ah… well, can you tell us which coats of arms make up the most among them? If you can describe or sketch them for me, I can help.”
After listening to Jugemu’s explanation, a puzzled expression spread over Nfirea’s face.
“How strange. Those are flags from the Kingdom. If we knew which nobles’ crests they were, we could identify who was coming here.”
Carne Village was a frontier village, and before it had been founded there had only been forest here. It was obvious that their objective was Carne Village, but why they were coming here was still a mystery.
“What on earth’s going on? Do you know why, Nfirea?”
“Why would the Royal Army come to the village? If they wanted to go to the Great Forest of Tob, it’s strange that they’re sending so many troops. They could have just sent adventurers instead. If that’s the case… maybe there’s a revolt or something…”
“Did such a thing really happen?”
“It’s just hearsay, but I’ve heard that the King’s power in the Kingdom isn’t actually very strong. Currently, it seems like the nobles are in conflict with the King. If that’s the case, are they coming to Carne Village to attack the King’s territory?”
The blood drained from Enri’s face.
Could it be that the village would be subject to a dreadful assault like last time?
―However, the circumstances now were different from then.
Enri decided to face it head on.
“We should flee into the forest before the troops reach this place!”
“…Ane-san, I’m sorry. We spotted them too late, so if we ran now, we’d have to leave all our things here. In addition, since it’s winter, the chances of monsters appearing in the forest are also very high. If we run from one problem, we end up running right into another instead.”
Jugemu’s pained expression made Enri feel dizzy.
They would not be able to survive if the troops burned the village down in winter.
“If that’s the case… ah! That’s right! If we can’t flee with our possessions, then we should prepare for battle and hide food and the other necessities at the same time!”
“Yes! That’s a good plan, Enri! The cellars where Jugemu and the Ogres hid from the tax collectors shouldn’t have been buried yet. We’ll move everything in there!”
Just as Enri was about to move into action, she remembered a question she hadn’t asked yet.
What were their numbers? The villagers could estimate how much people to mobilize if they knew how many there were.
“How many are there? It should be about a hundred, right?”
Jugemu’s hesitant answer made Enri want to stuff her fingers in her ears.
“That’s not all… they number in the thousands.”
Enri’s eyes went wide. So did Nfirea beside her.
“They have about 4000 people at the very least, I think.”
“But that’s… why would they send so many…”
“I have no idea. Why would they send so many troops to a village like this? …Enri, could it be that word got out about the Goblins in the village?”
“No way. It’s impossible.”
Enri answered immediately.
No matter how she thought, she could not think of a reason for a leak. There had been immigrants to the village, but they all felt that the Goblins were more trustworthy than humans. Ever since the Troll attack, the barriers between the original and new residents of the village had all but disappeared.
It might have been because of adventurers who had come to the village ― they were all dead, with the exception of Momon and Nabe ― but Nfirea insisted that could not be the case.
“Then… while we prepare to flee, we should ask them why they came. Fighting… is a last resort.”
Challenging an army of 4000 men was nothing short of suicide.
“Like Ani-san said, that’s all we can do… I guess against these numbers, there’s no other way.”
“Umu. That’s why, we should get ready to flee at any moment, while trying to buy time for our escape. Then, let’s go!”
They sen trhe villagers and the Ogres by the village gates to go hide the food. The only ones left were Enri, Jugemu, and some of the Goblins, along with Britta and several members of the defence force.
The first thing Enri did was to question Britta about the situation, asking about the identity of the interlopers and whose crests they bore. But sadly, Britta could not give her any answers.
According to her, someone else had always handled that sort of thing. In that moment, Enri realised how important it was to be well-informed. Because of that, all they could do was to wait for Nfirea to make his report after coming back from the watch tower.
The sound of hooves came from the other side of the wall, and then a loud voice.
“This one is the envoy of the First Prince of the Re-Estize Kingdom, Barbro Andrean Ield DDale Vaiself! Open the gate and let us in!”
Enri doubted her ears again.
Although she had heard many surprising things in a short period of time, this one took the cake.
“The, the First Prince?!”
What on earth was someone like that doing here?!
Enri had no idea what was going on. All this was starting to feel like a dream.
However, judging by the way Nfirea was scurrying back from the watchtower, she was certain that the envoy’s words were true.
“The King’s flag is among them. Only the royal family or those related to them would be allowed to bear that flag.”
“Eh? What does that mean?”
“It means that the royal family has brought troops to our village!”
Enri raised her voice, unable to understand what was going on.
“Why, why do you need to send so many troops to a frontier village like this?”
“Villagers like you don’t need to know about that! This land belongs to the King, and obeying the Prince is the proper thing to do! Or could it be that you’re defying the King ― rising up in revolt?”
Enri’s body shuddered.
As subjects of the King, they should open their doors. However―
―Jugemu exchanged a glance with Enri from the side.
Even if they went to open the gate right away, they could not do it instantly. Before that, they had to hide the Goblins and the Ogres.
“Ah, Ane-san. We’ll hide ourselves as quickly as we can. Until then, please buy us some time.”
Enri nodded. Why did I order them to hide the food there, she thought, but it was too late for regrets now.
“I repeat. Open the gate!”
“My, my apologies! Right now, right now we’re preparing to welcome his Majesty the Prince! Please, hold on a bit!”
“Repeat yourself, woman! Are you in charge of this village? This delay is unacceptable! Do not waste even a single second in opening the gate!”
“…Why are you so desperate to get in?!”
Enri was already uneasy, and she responded with an angry shout. While she knew it was very rude, she could not rule out the possibility that they were soldiers from another country masquerading as Kingdom troops.
Carne Village’s defenses were extremely solid. They had shocked the tax collectors who had seen them.
It would not be a surprise if another country wanted to use it as a fortress. After all, the Trolls had attacked for precisely that reason.
The other side fell silent for once, and both sides hesitated uneasily.
“Why aren’t you answering! You’re impostors pretending to be Kingdom troops, aren’t you!”
After that panicked shout, she finally got an answer.
“…the magic caster called Ainz Ooal Gown came to this village once, did he not?”
The image of the village’s savior appeared in Enri’s head.
“That magic caster is now an enemy of the Kingdom. As such, we wish to ask you, who are related to Ainz Ooal Gown, about him.”
Overcome by surprise, Enri was unable to speak.
However ─ the whispers of one of the defense force members worked its way into her ear.
“If Gown-sama is opposed to the Kingdom… then isn’t it the Kingdom that’s wrong?”
The eyes of the villagers reflected their agreement.
Of particular note were those villagers who moved to Carne Village after their original homes had been burned down. Their hatred of the Kingdom for not being able to defend them swiftly turned into respect for the magic caster who saved this village.
Be it the gift of the horn that had summoned the Goblins, or the provision of the golems that built the sturdy walls that now protected them, or the maid (Lupusregina) who had saved the village when they were attacked by the Troll, all these had only deepened their trust in Ainz.
“Should we really open the gate?”
“…But, there’s a lot of them. If we don’t open the gate…”
“If we betray him like this after receiving his kindness…”
“Wait! They said they just want to ask us something. It doesn’t mean we’re betraying him…”
“You think so? It just sounds ungrateful to me.”
Everyone’s eyes were on Enri.
She understood well the hearts of both sides. Because of that, Enri was unable to choose, and hesitated. Just at this moment, an angry shout came from outside the gate.
“Do you understand? If you do, then open the gates right now! If not, you will be treated as traitors to the Kingdom!”
Pushed to the limit, Enri shouted back something to try and buy time.
“There-there is cow dung everywhere! W-we can’t let the Prince walk into a place like this!”
After a brief silence, a calmer voice pierced the air.
“Oh, um. Understood. Then how about this. We will enter instead of his Majesty the Prince. We’ll think about what happens later.”
There were no more excuses she could give.
Enri’s mind had gone completely blank. Not caring what it was, she shouted the first thing she could think of in response.
“S-sorry! The dung’s on my hands! I can’t rub it off! Let me wash my hands and I’ll be back!”
Enri watched the retreating backs of Jugemu and the others. She was worried about how much more time she could buy for them.
♦ ♦ ♦
Barbro’s frustration had reached its limit . He glared at the reporting knight with a look usually reserved for an enemy and not an ally.
“Say it one more time, what foolery is this?!”
Barbro’s anger overflowed with every word he spoke from between the gaps of his grinding teeth, and the knight repeated himself.
“Sir! Carne Village still has not opened their gates.”
As he listened to the knight’s calm reply, Barbro was filled with the sudden desire to punch him.
However, that would have been foolish. Barbro struggled to control the anger welling up in his fist.
This knight included, nobody here was actually sworn to Barbro. In the first place, Barbro commanded no troops. Every man here was under orders from their liege lord, or in the company of their lord. Because of that, he could not strike this knight while his comrades were watching.
“―Why is that? Why are those peasants in Carne Village not opening the gate? The land is directly ruled by the royal family! They have a duty to obey me! I order them to open the gate right now!”
As his frustration built, so did his agitation, and Barbro no longer picked his words carefully.
“I don’t get it! Do they take me for a fool? What the hell are they thinking?!”
The villagers were beings far inferior to the First Prince.
These beings were now insulting him.
As that thought came to mind, his aggravation over the past few months ─ all the niggling little things that had frustrated Barbro ever since the demonic disturbance ─ seemed to have found an outlet, and it exploded forth.
The dam burst in an instant.
“Traitors! Traitors, all of them! I declare that everyone in Carne Village is a traitor!”
The shout sparked a surprised commotion from the men who had heard it.
“A moment please! If you do that─”
The furious Barbro glared at the panicked knight who had replied.
If they designated the village as traitors, they would need to exterminate each and every last one of them, then burn the village down until no trace of its existence remained.
But so what?
Prince Barbro had given his orders, and he could not understand why his subordinates were not following them. Could it be that these men of the Marquis were looked down on him and thus refused to obey his orders?
“So what if I do?! Allowing them to live after disobeying a royal command is a sin!”
The royals would be looked down upon if they spared commoners who rebelled against them. Not killing them would eventually result in a loss of their authority.
Even on the nobles’ own territory, once any of their serfs rose up in revolt, they would undoubtedly be destroyed. These knights of the Marquis should have known that much.
“Please wait, my Prince! The war with the Empire is coming soon. If we kill citizens of the King’s demesne, it will negatively affect the morale of the entire army! I also pray you will look at the fortifications ranged against us. There is no way this is an ordinary village. Although the villagers are not numerous, trying to break down the gate with brute force will be difficult in the extreme. If that is the case, we should handle the situation peacefully and ask them their reasons for not opening the gate after things settle down here.”
“…Ask them nicely, then. But I want a few of them to swing for this.”
“…It can’t be helped. After all, they did keep the gate shut in defiance of your orders, Barbro-sama.”
“I’ll see them hang from the gates! They shall be made into examples for the others!”
“It is as you say.”
Prince Barbro gazed at Carne Village.
As the knight said, the sturdy gate was set into thick curtain walls. Given that the village was right next to the Great Forest of Tob, this might even have been intentional. However, from the way the watchtowers were placed, it resembled a fortress more than a frontier village.
Bringing it down would take a long time.
Over a thousand soldiers were lined up in front of the gate, shouting at them to open up.
If one listened carefully, one could hear the same sounds in the distance, from the rear gate.
These shouts were like sparks from a flint, which relit the dark, sticky flames in Barbro’s heart. He was no longer acting rationally.
“Oi! Fire the flame arrows!”
“That’s right. Who knows how long this is going to take if this keeps up. You listen and you listen well, we don’t have time to waste on this village any further! It would be one thing if you could open that gate in a few minutes that would be fine, but you can’t, can you?!”
The knight bit his lip and nodded.
“Threaten them with flame arrows. The time for playing childish games like standing outside the wall and shouting is over. Now we show them how adults do things!!”
As the knight stared, open-mouthed and dumbfounded, a man stormed up from his side.
“To think you would disobey his Highness… I can’t believe you’re one of the Marquis’ men. Your Highness, will you permit my men to carry out that attack?”
It was Baron Cheneko. Behind him were several of his fellow brown-nosers.
Prince Barbro was glad that such foolish men could be useful at times like these. No, he was a noble as well, and if a village in his fief had dared rise up in revolt, he would probably have done the same thing as well. He might even understand Prince Barbro’s position.
“…Really now. Then I order you to make it so, Baron. Fire flame arrows at the village… no, this way is better. Target the watchtower. That ought to avoid casualties, right?”
“Ohh! Such a merciful decision! As expected of your Highness! Then, you have but to watch us!”
♦ ♦ ♦
“Ane-san! We’re ready! Everyone’s taken cover. We’re the only ones le― what’s that?”
Jugemu seemed to sense an oddity in the air around them, and swallowed his words.
The defense force members who had remained here were completely opposed to each other. Half of them were reluctantly in favor of opening the gates for the army outside while the other half were fiercely opposed to it. The root of the dispute was whether or not they would be betraying the village’s hero, Ainz Ooal Gown. As a result, it was hard to make a decision.
Enri was about to say something to Jugemu when a loud voice came from outside the walls.
“―Citizens of Carne Village. Because you did not immediately open the gate when ordered, the fact of whether you are loyal subjects of the Kingdom has been called into question. As such, we will take representatives from among you onto the battlefield, where you will convince Ainz Ooal Gown to surrender. You must prove that your loyalty remains with the Kingdom, and that you are loyal subjects!”
The atmosphere started to change. The hatred in their hearts burned so fiercely that it seemed to shake the very air..
Enri was no exception.
It was true that the villagers were citizens of the Kingdom, and loyal. However, that loyalty paled in comparison to the gratitude they felt to the man who had saved their village for no charge or obligation. After all, when their families, friends and lovers had been murdered, the only one who had reached out a hand to help them was that great magic caster.
“There’s no way I’ll let myself be dragged onto the battlefield to get in Ainz-sama’s way!”
“Can’t we just hide in the forest and see how things go before making a decision?”
Loud arguments like these echoed from all around.
However, the one thing they had in common was that nobody wanted to do anything which might inconvenience their hero.
It was at this moment that cracking sounds reached their ears from the outside, followed by the sound of several objects whistling through the air. As the sound came closer, streaks of brilliant red light appeared before their eyes, and arrows fell like rain onto the watchtower. The crisp sound of arrows piercing into wood filled everyone’s ears.
Enri drew a sudden breath as she realized that the Kingdom was using lethal force on them.
Fortunately, nobody was in the watchtower at the time. They must have known that before they attacked. Or maybe―
―Maybe they would have fired anyway, even if there was someone inside.
“A-Ane-san! They don’t seem to be targeting us yet, but you shouldn’t be standing in their bow range! Over here, quickly!”
Jugemu grabbed Enri’s hand as she looked at the watchtower in a daze. He led the unresisting Enri away. She ran with him, but her eyes remained glued to the watchtower.
Just as the defense force fell back, the watchtower began to burn..
The thatched roof caught alight in an instant and turned into a fire which got fiercer by the second, and the roof collapsed..
Everyone in the village could see the destruction of the tower, no matter where they were. Wails of sorrow rose from all around her. One in particular was especially loud. As Enri’s breathing turned chaotic from this revisited trauma, she saw the man who had screamed the loudest, whose voice carried the most anguish.
He was a man who had moved into the village.
His face was a mix of equal parts hatred and despair. She looked around herself, and many of the immigrants had similar expressions on their faces.
She remembered that their villages had been burned down in a similar way.
“They’re the enemy!” the man screamed. “They’re the enemy! If they weren’t the enemy, they wouldn’t be doing this! I want to fight them!”
“To hell with the Kingdom! They’re scum who didn’t even help us! And now they want to burn this place down too?!”
That shout came from a plump woman.
“I won’t forgive them for this! If they want to kill me, go right ahead! I’ll take as many of the bastards down with me as I can! I’ll take revenge for him!”
A young man followed up with a cry of his own.
Madness and hatred were saturating the air, thanks in no small part to the flame arrows.
“…Ane-san. It’s time to make a decision.”
Jugemu’s was as hard as steel as he quietly delivered his ultimatum
“Eh? …But they’re all so mad they can’t think straight. Shouldn’t we wait before making a decision?”
“There’s no time. And nobody can guarantee they won’t go berserk. It’s best if you decide what the village is going to do right now.”
That was a reasonable suggestion. The army had already destroyed the watchtower with flame arrows. The next time round, they would probably do something worse. They could not hesitate for a moment.
As Enri screwed up her determination, she took a deep breath. She glanced briefly to Nfirea, who was holding Nemu’s hand, and they nodded to her, as though in encouragement.
Her chest felt a little warmer.
That was the final dose of courage Enri needed.
“Everyone! I want to have everyone here decide what we, as a village are going to do! Whatever the decision, I hope you will abide by it!”
A great chorus of approval was her answer.
“Hands up everyone who wishes the village to do as the Kingdom says!”
Not a single hand was raised.
As her heart pounded mightily in her chest, Enri shouted once more.
“Then! Everyone who wants to fight the Kingdom to their last breath, hands up!”
With a thunderous roar, countless hands rose in unison. They did not just raise their hands; their fists were tightly clenched. The looks on their faces showed their determination to resist to the end.
Of course, they were afraid. But that was only to be expected. Everyone here had chosen a path that would end in their deaths. Even so, there was something which motivated everyone here that outweighed the fear of death.
It was the desire to not repay the kindness and succour they had received with treachery.
“Then ― we’ll fight! We’ll all fight! We’ll repay the debt we owe! Jugemu-san! I’ll leave the battle plan to you!”
Jugemu swiftly strode forth to stand by Enri’s side.
“…I’ve seen your resolve. You’re all going to die here. Are you all alright with that?”
The veteran’s words were met with unanimous approval.
“You’re able to shout so loudly despite your pale faces. Magnificent. …However, I’m sorry to rain on your parade, after you all loudly proclaimed your willingness to fight to the end. Shouldn’t you let the young ones run away first? After all, if anyone’s going to die, it should be us and the old-timers.”
An older man spoke up.
“He’s got a point ― but isn’t that impossible? They’ve got men outside both gates. Even if we climbed over the walls, they’d spot us right away.”
“Well, that’s true… if we were just running away normally, like you said.”
Jugemu grinned evilly as he continued.
“We can’t hide and then run. So what we’ll do is, we’ll open the main gate and bait the enemy inside. When they get cocky and come in, we’ll hit them hard. If we can do enough damage, the enemy will gather their dispersed troops and focus on us.”
Jugemu looked around.
“That said, the enemy may know it’s a feint. Even so, as long as we have enough attack power, the enemy will have no choice but to gather their troops up. Any questions?”
“Doesn’t look like it, but Jugemu-san, where should they flee?”
“Isn’t that obvious, Ane-san? Into the Great Forest of Tob. I’ll assign Agu and Britta, who both know the forest, to the escape party. I’m sure we can manage for a while without them around.”
The villagers had already prepared themselves for death, but it was only natural that they would not want their children to perish with them. Knowing that their children had a chance to survive tempered their fighting spirit.
As Jugemu saw addressed them with a grim expression on his face.
“Listen up. The first strike is a battle to make the enemy consolidate their troops. The second strike will be a battle to deplete their fighting strength, so they don’t have any left over. The fiercer that battle is, the better the chances for the escapees.”
“Hahahaha! Is that all! Ahhhh, well, that’s a relief.”
Those words were joined by several laughs. That laughter was not born of desperation or madness ― it was just a simple, relaxed laugh.
“As long as my wife and children can be saved, I have no regrets. Now’s the time to repay the kindness Ainz Ooal Gown-sama showed us!”
“Ah, that’s right! I’m not going to grow old as a useless excuse for a father!”
“Then … who’s going to be in the escape team?”
Jugemu looked carefully at everyone as he answered Nfirea’s question.
“You and Ani-san will be responsible for protecting the women and children. Then, like I said earlier, we’ll need Britta, Agu, and the other Goblins to help guide them through the woods.”
Enri exclaimed in surprise.
As the village chief, she had an obligation to stand with the others. Since she had ordered the villagers to die, then she could do nothing less than stand by their side as they fought. Even so, the villagers spoke before Enri could.
Everyone agreed with Jugemu. Just as Enri was thinking of how to refuse, they had already reached a decision without consulting her.
“Enri-chan, I’ll leave it to you.”
“Please take care of my children. My wife died back then… but at least, the kids…”
The villagers’ hands were filled with their thoughts and feelings as they squeezed Enri’s hands. Enri’s eyes grew hot and moist, and then Nfirea stepped up to her side.
“Enri, let’s go. Our battle begins after we survive, and that’s a battle we’re not allowed to lose. Besides, Ainz Ooal Gown-sama might come to save us again. When the time comes, it’ll be better if we’re around, as the ones who set foot inside his domain.”
“He’s right, you know.”
“That horn you used to summon us… I think you should use it afterwards, don’t you think? If you used it now, it would be like trying to put out a burning house with a glass of water. It would be better if you blew it after all this was over and summoned more of our comrades to help you.”
Enri wiped her eyes, which were full of tears.
“I got it! I’ll protect everyone’s wives and children! Let’s go! Enfi!”
♦ ♦ ♦
One side of the gate opened slowly.
“As I thought, we should have used the flame arrows from the beginning. Well, the follow-up flame arrows were wasted…”
Prince Barbro’s face twisted in displeasure. They had wasted too much time. In order to make up for the delay, the men would need to be force-marched. But that was unavoidable.
This was all the fault of the Marquis’ men. If he had not given the order to use flame arrows himself, who knew how much more time would have been wasted?
Barbro looked to the sky, cursing his misfortune for being saddled with incompetent underlings.
He considered the time that would be needed later ― the first thing being how long it would take to hang the villagers.
He would hang them on the village’s walls, to show everyone the final fate of anyone foolish enough to defy the royal family.
Next, he had to find anyone who had close ties with Ainz Ooal Gown. That might take longer than stringing the villagers up.
“Damn. I should have brought an interrogator along. We’ll offer to spare the lives of anyone who cooperates… the problem is the children…”
There was no point in letting them live. To begin with, children could not live without their parents, so hanging children with their parents was a form of mercy.
“Is there enough rope for all of them? If we could get some from the village, that would be good…”
The soldiers slowly advanced to the gate. Pride filled Prince Barbro’s chest as he saw the royal flag advancing at the head of the column. When he ascended to the throne, he would make sure he had ceremonial guards like that.
The soldier holding the flag entered the gate ― and was then flung back out.
The royal flag which he was holding fluttered to the ground.
Shortly after, the gigantic creatures that had sent them flying loomed in the opening of the gate.
“―O-o-Ogres?! What are Ogres doing here?!”
The completely unexpected development took Prince Barbro by surprise, and he had forgotten the dignity of the royal family as he cried out.
Yes. Those were the demi-humans known as Ogres. The soldiers were just as shocked by their sudden appearance as Barbro was. Their mighty clubs sent several people flying with every swing.
Amidst a spray of blood and gore, the stricken soldiers flew into the distance and impacted on the ground, which woke their fellow troops from their stupor. They panicked, turned tail and desperately began fleeing. Several more Ogres appeared from behind the gate, as if to pursue them.
As the soldiers fell back in a disgraceful rout, they were struck by the Ogres’ clubs and sent flying. It looked like children kicking their dolls into the distance.
The reason for their flight ―because there was no way this was any kind of withdrawal― was because these soldiers were all the Baron’s levied troops. They had loosed the flame arrows in order to make them open up faster, and Barbro had granted them the honor of being the first into the village.. Who could have thought that it would have backfired so badly?
Just as Prince Barbro was about to frown at the Baron, who had abandoned the very men he led and come scampering back to him, the sound of a horn rang through the air.
The Marquis’ knights had raised their lances in unison. It was a textbook motion that showed that they were professional soldiers. However, the men were fleeing and the Ogres were in hot pursuit, and it seemed difficult for them to plunge into the chaotic battlefield.
Lances were weapons which showed their power during a charge. They could not shine in a pitched melee.
“Why aren’t you shooting yet?!” Barbro shouted
Allowing the Ogres to get closer would only increase the losses they would take. It would be better to abandon these soldiers and kill their fellow comrades along with the villagers.
Just as Barbro’s aggravation began to mount, the Ogres suddenly began to retreat. They used the fleeing soldiers as meat shields, preventing the cavalry from pursuing, and in the end they fell back into the gate.
Barbro’s men received the survivors and then began reorganizing into a proper battle formation. He gripped his reins rightly.
He had originally planned to finish this boring mission swiftly, and then rush back to the battlefield to gain glory in battle against the Empire.
Now, this unsightly mess was all that was left of his dream.
While they had not expected the Ogres to show up, if they simply retreated to E-Rantel with nothing to show for it, his reputation would plunge even further. There would be no catching up with Zanack, the Second Prince and the backup successor, in the race for the throne.
Or could it be― had all this been planned out beforehand?
He could not help clicking his tongue in annoyance, knowing the surrounding nobles’ eyes were on him.
However, he had no time to pretend to be calm. Barbro turned a keen eye on the knight running toward him. He was the commander of the Marquis’ elite troops.
“…What the hell was that? Has that village been taken over by Ogres? What’s going on?!”
“I, I don’t know, sir. Nobody expected there would be monsters there… this village should have been visited by tax collectors recently. But we received no word that this village was taken over by Ogres. If they went and didn’t return, that would be abnormal… what on earth happened in that village…”
He could feel the confusion in the knight’s words. If there was a scheme to make Barbro lose his dignity and fall into a trap, he probably was not aware of it either.
That being the case, he was on the Prince’s side, in a sense..
“In any case, we don’t know enough about the enemy. Well, that’s only to be expected. Only five Ogres showed up. If they had more, they would have continued attacking us. So in all likelihood, they probably don’t have more than ten in total. You should be able to take down five Ogres, no?”
“Of course! Every one of us is as strong as a member of the Kingdom’s Warrior Band. A mere five Ogres are nothing to us!”
“I’m not doubting you. I’m just saying, you need to be on the lookout. Ogres are stupid monsters, but their actions just now were too intelligent. They opened the door to lure us in, and then counterattacked with perfect timing. It looks like the other side has a commander. If one of the villagers was leading them…”
“Forgive my rudeness. No mere peasant could control an Ogre. I believe there must be some other force at work here. If we could just learn more about the enemy―”
Barbro could no longer control his impatience.
“What are you babbling about? Look there!”
Barbro pointed at the gate, at the tattered rags that used to be a royal flag.
“The country’s flag is now in that sad state. You will destroy that village no matter the cost. Gather your troops, loose flame arrows, and burn the village down. Now’s the chance to put your siege experience to good use! It looks like we won’t be able to finish this without any losses. So you will attack with the intention of razing that village to the ground!”
“Please wait! It might be that some Ogre sorcerer or some other intelligent demi-human might be the mastermind here, and not the villagers!”
“And if that were the case, so what?”
Barbro looked at the knight’s surprised face, and began explaining slowly to him, like an adult lecturing a child.
“Are you listening? Good. It doesn’t matter if the villagers have control of the Ogres, or if they’re controlled by some intelligent demi-human. Those villagers have rebelled against the rightful ruler of their land, the royal family. That being the case, we must display the consequences of such foolishness to the world.”
“But, there might be some villagers being held as hostages; aren’t they innocent?!”
“Were you listening to what I said earlier? Who cares if they are?”
Barbro shrugged at the knight, who seemed to have trouble accepting what he had just heard.
“I get it, I get it. I understand how you feel. Then I will show them the greatest amount of leniency possible. Capture those villagers who don’t resist, and then we will put them on trial later. Is that better?”
The knight bowed deeply to Barbro. After hearing his forceful response, Barbro nodded in approval.
“However, I have one condition. I want an overwhelming victory. If we take losses here, all sorts of gossip will spread. The same goes for you. People will talk about how the Marquis’ trump card was sent out to a pissant village to be bloodied.”
“But that was because of the Ogres―”
“―You can’t use that as an excuse. That’s just how the world works.”
“If you understand, then get to work. Get the troops from the rear gate. At the same time, cut down trees from the forest and start making battering rams. I’ll leave the details to you. Minimize casualties while ensuring victory. Kill anyone who flees.”
♦ ♦ ♦
A steady stream of oil-filled pots impacted on the sides of the wall, followed by flame arrows.
The explosive impacts were comparable to the bursting of a [Fireball], creating bright red flames which gave off endless plumes of black smoke.
Jugemu could feel the uneasiness radiating off the nearby members of the defense force. The Goblin leader raised his magic greatsword and roared.
“Hold fast! Flames like these can’t breach the wall! As for the defense of the gate―”
The sound of a heavy impact, doom, came from the outside of the gate.
The walls were much thicker and bigger than the watchtower, which now lay in ashes. Even when struck by flaming arrows, they did not catch fire easily. As such, they concluded that this was just a feint to draw attention from their real objective, which was breaching the gate. It seemed that this was the right decision. Once more, a great doom came from the gate.
It was a deeper, more powerful sound than the impacts of the Ogre’s clubs. It was the sound of siege weapons – most likely battering rams.
In time with Jugemu’s shout, the villagers fired their arrows with practiced ease.
Cries of pain rose from the other side of the wall. However, the battering rams did not stop. They must have been using multiple rams in a sequential attack.
Once more, the arrows flew aloft on Jugemu’s command. However, this time, they were answered by arrows from the enemy. Several times the number of arrows they let loose fell upon the village like rain.
Yet, not a single one struck the defenders.
The enemy attack had been a series of ranging shots, so they had all missed, impacting harmlessly on walls and buildings. However, the enemy had more archers they had on their side, and their accuracy was slowly increasing. If they could not reset their accuracy to zero once more, the consequences did not bear thinking.
“Fall back! Fall back! We’re changing location!”
The villagers obeyed Jugemu, who could still make himself heard despite his lowered volume. They hurriedly shifted their location.
To date, the villagers had only learned to shoot from fixed positions. Their aim was to accurately target the area just outside the main gate. As such, when they could do both, their accuracy was quite high, but conversely, once they had to move to an unfamiliar location, their arrows would no longer hit their marks well.
Fighting a ranged battle now would be very difficult.
“Spears up! We’re moving into close combat!”
A loud ping came from the other side of the wall. It sounded like something metallic striking the wall, completely different from the dooms of the battering rams. In all likelihood, it was the sound of axes, and they were coming from everywhere.
Quantity was a quality of its own. They could use the door or wall attacks as feints in order to attack from a completely unexpected direction. If Jugemu were the commander for the other side, he would do that too.
Just as planned… it looks like the situation’s going well and the enemy is dispersing.
Most conventional attack strategies would be useless in the face of the opposition’s numerical superiority. For the villagers of Carne, their best bet would be to steadily erode their enemies’ fighting strength.
As long as the enemy formation weakened, they could attack from the village at any time. Ideally, they would charge the enemy commander in a fish-scale formation. That way, the panicked enemy would immediately consolidate their troops.
Bringing the Ogres back halfway was part of the preparations for that event. Even if the Ogres pressed their attack by themselves, it would be difficult for them to make the enemy panic and achieve their objective of drawing the troops at the back gate out to the front.
Once they pull their people back, we’ll be encircled with no way out… I guess this is what it means to walk into the dragon’s gullet…
In other words, this was a suicidal tactic.
“Well, we’ve achieved half of our objectives already.”
Jugemu muttered cheerfully to himself as his line of sight moved to the obstructed rear gate.
He had already prepared an escape route for his master with the highest probability of survival. There was nothing more to worry about. It might be cruel to say so, but as long as all the villagers here died, the enemy would know how many had survived and Enri would remain cloaked in a shroud of mystery.
Protecting Enri was Jugemu’s first and highest priority. He would pay any price for that and not regret it in the slightest. Therefore―
“Everyone! Wait for the door to go down! We’re going to charge! Our target is the enemy headquarters! Our only chance of survival is to kill their boss!”
A series of determined howls answered him. There was a slight wavering in some of the voices, but nobody looked like they were going to back out.
All that remained was the raw courage of men who were fighting to protect their children and their loved ones.
♦ ♦ ♦
Enri and Nfirea ran down from the rear watchtower, herding the women and children toward the area in front of the rear gate. Nfirea’s grandmother Lizzie was not there, because she was currently hiding all the alchemical wares she had borrowed from Ainz.
She would have no time to escape, but she had already accepted her fate.
“Don’t worry! There’s nobody around! We’ll open the gate now and head for the forest!”
The gathered children, faces pale from fright, nodded desperately.
Meanwhile, Nfirea and Britta turned the handle, slowly opening one side of the gate.
At the moment they opened the gate, Enri stuck her head out to look around. There was nobody around. Just as she saw from the watchtower, there were no troops in sight. Jugemu’s plan had succeeded.
“Then, let’s go!”
The first to exit were Agu and his Goblin tribesmen. If they were ambushed in the forest, they would carve a bloody path through their enemies. Next was Britta. Her job was to spot soldiers which Agu missed.
The pioneer team took the children following them into consideration and slowed down as they ran to the forest. Behind them, the children followed them two by two. The mothers would accompany the children as they ran. Children without parents would be led by older children.
At the end were Enri and Nfirea, who looked at each other and ran.
Even after getting out of the gate, the forest was still far away. The distance felt several times longer than it actually was.
They frantically pumped their legs and ran.
It was still far away.
There was still a distance to go.
Just then, they heard horses from behind them.
Recently, Enri’s cardiovascular endurance had been so well developed that even she found it strange. Still, her heart was pounding and her breathing was in disarray. Fear drove her to look behind, and there she glimpsed something she could not believe was there ― despair.
Over a hundred mounted knights had appeared from behind them. They must have been hiding in the blind spots of the watchtower, sticking close to the walls. They had only emerged because they were sure nobody else was going to come out.
It was a long distance from the village to the forest. However, there was a huge difference between the speeds of horses and humans.
Maybe Agu and Britta could flee. But it was impossible for the children. They would be overrun.
The knights held gleaming objects in their hands. There was no doubt they were planning to cut them down from behind. The fearful memories from back then made her shudder. Although Nemu was running at the head of the column, it was doubtful if she would be able to escape.
“Enri, keep running!”
Nfirea had stopped.
“I’ll buy us some time!”
“Are you crazy? Don’t think this will be like last time when Lupusregina-san saved you at the last moment!”
Nfirea’s angry shout was directed at Enri, who had stopped as well.
“If you want to buy time, I have a better way!”
Enri withdrew the battered old horn from her pocket.
It could only summon 19 Goblins. Although they were not numerous, each of them was still quite strong. It should be enough to buy some time.
“Idiot! There’s so many of them! What can you do with less than 20 people!”
She could not argue against Nfirea’s reasoning. The enemy would surely circle around the Goblins and attack. However, not blowing the horn would be even more stupid.
“Isn’t it the same with you?!”
Enri no longer had time to waste on talking. She placed the horn to her lips.
―Goblin-sans! Please help me!
What rang out was a basso profundo note that made the very land tremble.
Enri’s eyes went wide at what she had done. In the past, when she had summoned Jugemu and the others, all she had gotten was a soft poot. All she should have gotten was the noise a shabby child’s toy would have made.
Enri realized that the panicked Nfirea was not looking at her, but beyond and behind her. She followed Nfirea’s line of sight and turned her face.
The knights were charging right at them, and Enri and Nfirea should not have had the luxury of spacing out. However, for some reason, the knights were pulling on their reins to halt their horses. Due to the sudden stop, some had even fallen off their mounts.
Enri looked behind her, and―
♦ ♦ ♦
Many items in YGGDRASIL could be freely named by the players. However, a very few were exceptions to the rule. Among them were artifacts, finished products that dropped from monsters.
One such artifact was the Horn of the Goblin General.
The horn was a small and plain item, but there was a curious quirk about it.
It could only summon 19 Goblins. However the Goblins it summoned were so weak that they did not even qualify as credible opposition for a YGGDRASIL player. So why would such an item be given the grandiose name of “General”? It would not have been unusual to just call it a “Goblin Horn”.
The truth was that many players in YGGDRASIL thought that way. However, none of them could think of a convincing reason, and in the end they simply wrote it off as just a name..
However, there was a reason for that name.
And that reason was―
♦ ♦ ♦
Jugemu swung the magic greatsword he had taken from the Giant of the East. The soldier blocked the strike he had made with all his might. However, he could not fully neutralize the force of the blow, and he lost his balance for a moment. Normally, Jugemu would have immediately followed up, but the other soldiers harrying him would not let him do so.
They flanked Jugemu from both sides, in order to cover the soldier who had left himself open.
Clicking his tongue, Jugemu weaved the sword through the air like an extension of his own body, neatly parrying the two sword strokes that came at him.
“…This Goblin’s pretty good. He’s actually forcing the three of us back at once.”
“What an unbelievable fellow. I didn’t know Goblins could be this strong.”
Jugemu could sense that his opponents were not at their limit yet, which made him worry.
If he fought these soldiers one on one, he could win. If he fought two at once it would be a matter of luck. Three at once meant he would most likely lose. And now―
There was still another soldier circling behind him. Jugemu took a small step back.
―Against four people at once, Jugemu had no hope of victory.
His first few opponents had been some weak soldiers, which he broke through easily.
The brave warriors of Carne Village broke through the Kingdom’s battle-lines in a fish-scale formation.
But then, strong opponents had started appearing, as though the terrain had changed. Their equipment was of a high standard. They must have been the elite troops of the enemy army.
Although they were close to the enemy headquarters now, their formation did not seem very dense..
However ― it was still hard.
He turned his attention away from the four of them and surreptitiously observed his surroundings. The Goblins under him had slowly been overwhelmed by superior numbers.
He was stronger and tougher than his opponents… but on the flip side, those were his only two advantages ― much like the Ogres. All he could do was watch his opponents kite him around.
Several people from Carne Village had already died. Even though the Goblins had taken the brunt of the attacks on the leading edges of the formation, the enemies were far too numerous, and it was impossible to block all their attacks. Invariably, the enemy would make it in, and when that happened, somebody would fall.
It was a reckless strategy to begin with, and this outcome was only to be expected.
However, Jugemu wanted to believe that this might not be the case.
And in this moment―
He could not fully block the sword swung at him, and it left a scratch.
Jugemu swung his greatsword, forcing his opponents to back off.
“You guys, who are you? Not ordinary farmers, I’ll bet.”
Jugemu was level 12. With that in mind, his current opponent was roughly level 10, or maybe 11. The other three might be level 9.
An ordinary villager was level 1. Maybe some of the trained members of Carne Village were level 2. The troops accompanying the tax collectors from E-Rantel felt like they were below level 3. This meant the soldiers he was fighting now were very strong.
As an aside, it was difficult to accurately judge Enri’s and Nfirea’s strength because they were not warriors, but they were strong in their own way.
“This Goblin… no, is it a Hobgoblin? Or is it only natural to meet strong opponents like this?”
“But, they say Hobgoblins are bigger… is it a Goblin king? Maybe those guys took control of the village by force… but if that was the case, why would the villagers fight so hard?”
“Haaaa! Humans have such dull minds. It’s because we have hostages! Don’t you get it?”
“He must be lying. They wouldn’t fight for such a lousy reason. Rather, they’d stab you in the back. I can sense there’s something like a camaraderie between you guys that goes beyond racial barriers. Why? Why would humans and Goblins fight side by side?”
“As if I’d know, dumbass!”
“It would seem I was right about them being comrades after all; otherwise―”
“Ahhhh, shut the hell up! Busybodies like you piss me off!”
Jugemu swung the greatsword once more.
But the outcome was the same as before.
The soldier could take the hit, but he could not completely bleed off the transmitted force. The soldier’s balance broke, but when Jugemu wanted to follow up, he was interrupted by the attacks targeting his vitals coming from both sides
With that in mind, Jugemu decided to forgo avoiding the blows.
The attacks were aimed at the unarmored parts of his body and they cut him open.
Rather than pain, all Jugemu felt was heat oozing out of two points on his body.
Jugemu grit his teeth, and activated his special skill. His sword changed direction, striking at the soldier that slashed at him from the side.
The mighty stroke cleaved through the weak spots of the soldier’s chainmail and dealt a grievous wound to the flesh beneath. In this moment, the soldier started twitching.
This was the magic power of the greatsword ― poison. However, it would seem his opponent had partially resisted it and it had not taken him out of the fight.
Jugemu was not distracted, but he still failed to avoid the sword blow that came from behind him.
Although his breastplate meant that his wound was not serious, his body groaned from the sword thrust.
“That’s our line! You got Bike!”
“Bike, fall back. Get behind him!”
During the wild melee, there were more opponents than just these four. Some had tried to attack Jugemu and had been cut apart the moment they entered his range. Judging by their poor equipment, they were probably conscripted farmers.
Even so, there were a lot of them. Being outnumbered was truly unfair.
“Get back! This Goblin is strong! Fall back! We’ll take care of him. You lot go deal with the villagers behind him!”
“You think I’ll let you?!”
Jugemu snarled at the conscripts and swung his sword. Intimidated by him, they backed away.
The heat he was feeling in his body was slowly turning to pain.
There was one lesson in a warrior’s training which was more important than swordplay, and that was to endure pain.. Another secret was to tell how much damage he had taken, which was how he would know when to flee.
He sensed that he could still fight, but he knew that he was pushing his limits. It was anyone’s guess how long he could hold out.
Another brave warrior of Carne Village met his end in the corner of Jugemu’s eye, the earth drinking up his blood..
They had never had a chance to begin with, but now their defeat was inevitable.
Even so, he still had to buy time for Enri and the others to flee. He could not allow himself to die until then.
―My objective is the enemy camp.
―I’ll head there by myself.
Perhaps he had seen Jugemu’s resolve, but the soldier in front of him stiffened up.
In that moment, Jugemu gripped his sword, preparing himself for a charge. A great clamor washed over the battlefield. Jugemu looked where his opponent’s eyes were pointing, and he could not could not look away.
That was because from the side of Carne Village―
♦ ♦ ♦
―The reason was simple. Its true power was not simply a matter of summoning 19 Goblins.
In YGGDRASIL, this item had been unable to reveal its true value and was discarded as a trash drop.
However, in this New World, this item was about to unleash its true power.
Let us go over the name of the item once more.
“Horn of the Goblin General”.
Its true power, revealed only when three conditions were met, was―
The powerful, rhythmic sound of drums came from the side of the village, filling the entire battlefield. All the eyes which went to the source of the sound went wide in the next instant. That was because an army of over 5000 people was moving in lockstep formation, advancing in time with the beat of the drums.
At first, both Prince Barbro’s forces and the defenders of Carne Village thought that they were reinforcements from Barbro’s side, the sole difference being whether or not they had expected such backup. However, the forms of the new troops immediately told them that it was not the case.
The members of that army were all Goblins.
The demihumans known as Goblins were smaller than human beings, only about the size of a child. However, their presence made them seem twice as large as they actually were.
In addition, they were sheathed in gleaming steel. They bore potent, brightly polished weapons and armor, the equipment a warrior ought to have.
These were not peasant levies. This was an army of true warriors.
“Now! Anyone who’s still alive, run like hell! They’re reinforcements! Reinforcements have come! Run to them!”
Jugemu shouted at the top of his voice.
Their identities were a mystery. He did not know if they were friend, foe, or a completely unrelated third party. Telling the surviving defenders to flee in their direction because they were of the same species was not the right thing to do. He should have told them to run back into the village.
However, Jugemu had a feeling which one might call sympathy. He had the feeling that he shared the same master as those people. He had the feeling that they would take him and his friends in, and protect everyone.
The surviving citizens of Carne Village fled toward the Goblin Army without hesitation.
The encirclement was beginning to crumble. The Royal Army knew that they ought to pursue, but their movements were slow. That was only to be expected. There was a highly regimented army out there. Approaching it carelessly was dangerous.
There were two reasons why they let them flee.
The first was because they felt that it would be better to consolidate and form up rather than mount a pursuit. Their drums were pounding a signal to fall back.
The second was because they were afraid that they would suffer a terrible revenge for killing members of the same species as that army.
The Goblins happily accepted Jugemu and the others as they ran over to them. Jugemu and the rest entered through gaps in their relaxed formation. After everyone had entered, they immediately closed ranks once more, like a door shutting.
Jugemu looked around at his exhausted comrades, who were collapsed on the ground. Nobody had made it out unscathed, and many people had promptly passed out upon reaching safety.
He looked around, and it was tragic. The number of Goblins, Ogres and villagers had decreased.
“Still, more than half of them survived… we’re lucky. Cona!”
He called the name of the only person among the Goblins who could use healing magic, the priest Cona. However, Cona shook his head, indicating that he had exhausted his healing magic in that battle.
“Then let’s do whatever first aid we can─”
Just as Jugemu was about to shout, he saw a Goblin in a turban, carrying a scarf, and stroking his whiskers.
Given his attitude, he was most likely a central figure in the Goblin Army.
“Ho ho ho ho. You must be General Enri’s retinue. I am the Goblin Strategist, responsible for commanding the Goblin Army. Now that we have arrived, nobody will harm you gentlemen any further. Please be at ease. Our medical corps will attend to you forthwith.”
The Goblin Strategist waved his fan, and a squad of brawny Goblins ran up with boards in hand.
“Come, come, everyone, please lie on these boards and we will ferry you off. Now that we have come, it would be a shame if any more of you were to lose your lives.”
The casualties were carried off one after the other
“You have been hurt too. Come, we shall take you to our chirurgeons for treatment─”
No, I’m sorry. I feel bad about declining your kindness, but can you please tell me what’s going on? I’m still alright.”
Jugemu’s attitude did not look like he was acting tough. After verifying that, the Goblin Strategist nodded, and began speaking.
“I expected nothing less of the leader of General Enri’s retinue. What do you wish to ─ ho ho ho. No, I already know. General Enri is in a command tent in the rear. She will surely be glad to see that you are fine.”
“Is that so? Then that’s good.”
Jugemu let out a soul-deep sigh of relief. In fact, he was so relieved that the strength fled his body as well, and his knees nearly buckled under him. However, as a predecessor, he could not let his successors see that unsightly side of himself.
“Right. I’ll go see her, then. Besides, I doubt there’ll be anything left for us to do in the upcoming battle.”
“Ho ho ho ho. Thank you for yielding the field to us newcomers.”
“As if. It’s nothing much. It’s the job of the seniors to pass the torch on to their juniors… thank you.”
“Ho ho ho.Then, we must display our prowess to our seniors. That being the case ─ all that remains for us is to achieve victory. Order the heavy infantry forward.”
“What the hell is that?! Dammit, we were so close!”
Barbro’s eyes went wide as he surveyed the interlopers who had ruined everything.
Nothing had gone as he had planned. Why was he deadlocked with a Goblin Army at a tiny village like this? He was so frustrated that he wanted to claw at his hair.
If this were an Imperial Army detachment, he would gladly order his men to fight. However, these were Goblins. Even if he won, who would praise him?
“My Prince! Please allow the men to fall back!”
He glared angrily at the knight addressing him.
Rationally speaking, they ought to fall back now. While he did not know what such a large Goblin host was doing here, as long as he brought the information back, it ought to count as achieving something.
However, running away with his tail between his legs without so much as fighting them would surely lead to him earning the hateful moniker of “the Prince who fled from Goblins”.
And if he lost, then he would be the Prince who was beaten by Goblins. The topic-starved nobles would surely spread it all around and make it public knowledge. The people who had not seen the battle with their own eyes would not care how strong the Goblins before him were. They would only be concerned by how amusing it sounded.
WIthin his heart, Barbro cursed those nobles who mocked him from safety.
“…Denied. Keep fighting.”
“Your Highness! Please observe their equipment and their regimented formation! They must surely be elite troops who are the equal or superior of the Goblins from just now! Our side is largely composed of peasant levies; our chances of victory are slim. I beg you to order a retreat!”
Barbro knew that as well, even if the other party did not say anything. However, there was no other way to protect his good name than by fighting. All he could do now was pray that those Goblins were just for show.
“You fool! Do I have to tell you how dangerous it is to let those troops be?! Right now, the Royal Army is making their way to the Katze Plains! What do you plan to do if that army attacks E-Rantel while they’re undermanned?!”
They would cross blades with the enemy once. If they were as tough as their appearances suggested, he would fall back immediately. The battle with the Empire was the truly important thing, and Barbro did not want to be defeated here. He was at least calm enough to think of that.
The soldiers formed up into ranks before Barbro. As though matching their movements, the Goblins began their advance.
The enemy had taken a long snake formation, which was three layers deep.
Barbro’s forces had adopted a crane wing formation instead. They had not used the fish-scale formation because they wanted to make effective use of their powerful cavalry, and the enemy formation was poor at handling flanking attacks.
The leading edge of the Goblin formation was composed of their heavy infantry, carrying greatshields that were tall enough to cover themselves. Their immaculate battle line was like a wall bearing down on them, and it placed great pressure on Barbro.
The hand holding the reins of his horse were slippery with sweat under his gauntlets, and it felt disgusting.
When the spear-wielding levies made contact with the shield-bearing heavy infantry, his troops would block the enemy advance, effectively treading on the serpent’s head, and then the cavalry would charge from the flanks.
The levies clashed with the heavy infantry.
And then, the loud voices of the Goblins reached Barbro’s ears.
“We are the subordinates of her Excellency, General Enri ─ the Goblin Heavy Infantry! Do not insult us by thinking we will be halted by this much!”
Rather than harboring doubts about this General Enri person, Barbro was focused on how his forces’ formation was buckling under the contact.
The levies were being pushed back by the enemy shields. Naturally, when they were pushed back, they collided with their comrades behind them, and their formation began to collapse.
The cavalry on both flanks hurriedly sprang into action. The right wing was slightly quicker to move, and they aimed to attack from the side. However, cavalry in gleaming silver emerged from the enemy flank ─ riding white wolves in place of horses ─ seventeen riders in all, sprinting forth to intercept them.
“We are the subordinates of her Excellency, General Enri ─ the Goblin Paladin Corps! We pledge our loyalty to her Excellency!”
From the left flank came a horde of magical beasts that looked like wolves, who raced across the land. There were Goblins mounted on them. Leading the way was a winged wolf, and the Goblin mounted on its back shouted loud enough to drown out the wails of the levies and reach Barbro’s ears.
“We are the subordinates of her Excellency, General Enri ─ the Goblin Beast Rider Corps! Here we come!”
As the cavalry were bogged down in melee, Barbro heard the sound of strings twanging, one after the other.
He saw dozens of arrows falling from the sky like rain, peppering the chaotic battlefield. Barbro wanted to see who was shooting, and surveyed the enemy formation.
They were in the enemy’s second rank. There he saw a group of Goblin dressed in bright red, wielding huge bows. There was a clear difference between the sizes of the left and right sides of their bodies, and their bodies tilted noticeably with every step they took. One of them was particularly eye-catching and carried an extra-large bow. He opened his mouth:
“We are the subordinates of her Excellency, General Enri ─ the Goblin Longbowmen Corps! Know that there is no escape for you!”
That was not the end of the enemy’s long-ranged attacks. The enemy’s third rank discharged several spells, which detonated within the Royal Army’s formation, some distance ahead of Barbro. Great flashes of light accompanied the blossoming of crimson flowers, and the petals of scorching flame drove a shockwave before them, the repeated explosions flinging the peasant levies away.
The spellcasters were a group of whose faces were veiled by their lowered hoods. Each of them carried a long staff, which gleamed with a mysterious radiance.
The person at their head pulled back his hood, revealing a face covered in wrinkles.
“We are the subordinates of her Excellency, General Enri ─ the Goblin Magic Support Corps. Be it strengthening, weakening or attack magic, we wield them all with the same proficiency.”
They were not the only unit casting spells. Barbro shifted his eyes to the side of the Magic Support Corps, and he saw a similar-looking unit there. Although they were only a team of five people, each of their faces was filled with an absolute confidence. Before them stood the one with the boldest smile of all, and he shouted with all his might:
“We are the subordinates of her Excellency, General Enri ─ the Goblin Arcane Artillery Squad! We who specialize in area-attack spells are the most potent attackers of the Goblin Army!”
The knight returned to Barbro’s side. He knew what the man was going to say with just a look at the shocked expression on his face. With magic casters in their ranks, the enemy was even more dangerous now.
“We’ve had it! We can’t hold them! It’s only a matter of time before the enemy reaches us! We need to retreat!”
He could not deny him now. Even if Barbro ordered everyone to stay and fight, the nobles who came with him would climb over each other to flee. Even if he somehow compelled them all to fight, they would resent him and become future enemies.
“Do it. Also, order the Baron to run first.”
Barbro wanted to be the first to flee, but if he did that, it was not hard to imagine how he would be labelled as a coward who was number one at running from Goblins. That being the case, he would let the Baron bear that shame instead.
Just as the knight began barking orders to his subordinates beside him─
“─There’s no escape.”
An unfamiliar voice came from right beside him, and for the first time, Barbro felt that his life was actually in danger.
His retinue drew their swords and surveyed their surroundings, and they saw a group of black-clothed people emerge from the shadows. Their faces were covered with cloth, but their eyes gleamed with a keen light.
“We are the subordinates of her Excellency, General Enri ─ the Goblin Assassin Squad. We lurk in the shadows, and this is the last time you will see us.”
There was one more person.
He emerged like he had been drawn out; he wore a red cap and steel boots. The way he carried a long scythe made him look like the Grim Reaper.
“I am a subordinate of her Excellency, General Enri ─ one of the thirteen Redcaps who serve as her bodyguard. Well, I guess there’s nothing left for me to do.”
“Protect his Highness! Sound the retreat!”
To Barbro’s eyes, it seemed as though the shadows were moving.
Everything above the knight’s neck disappeared in an instant, and his blood spurted like a geyser.
Barbro realized what he was looking at, and he immediately spurred his horse into a gallop. There was no longer any time to worry about the order in which to run. Right now, he was treading the edge of life and death.
Behind him, he heard, “We are the subordinates of her Excellency, General Enri ─ the Goblin Musician Squad!” accompanied by the sound of pounding drums, and it grated on his ears.
“…Is it really alright to let him run?”
“The Strategist-dono ordered it. If the prince’s head is taken, they’ll scour the land to find where it fell.”
“Hmph, but of course. If General Enri fell to the enemy, I wouldn’t stop killing until they were all dead either. Well, that’s the Strategist-dono for you. He sees the big picture. Is that why he didn’t order us to wipe them all out?”
“Precisely. We need to let them take their prince back to their city. I’m not happy about it either. I want to make them pay for attacking General Enri’s village… I guess that’s how it is, Redcap-dono. We’ll begin cleaning up the corpses, then.”
“Indeed. We need to recover the bodies of the brave warriors who fought by our seniors’ side too.
The plains were brightly lit by the moon, and in their midst was a military field camp. No, there were no tents here or a wooden palisade, so it was doubtful whether it actually qualified as a camp. It would be more accurate to say that there was a military unit on the grass.
Just about everyone was lying on the ground, immobile from fatigue.
The winter air was cold enough to dye their exhaled breath white, but the fact that they could sleep in conditions like these without bedrolls or the like was a sign of how tired they really were. Amidst all these people, who had collapsed like puppets whose strings had been cut, one man was walking.
He was the general of the defeated army, Barbro.
Should he feel lucky that he had survived, or should he complain because he had met such a powerful foe?
The Goblin Army that had appeared at Carne Village had been a powerful foe ─ no, his forces had been no match for them at all. With just a single contact with the enemy, Barbro’s forces had been crushed in an instant, and he had no choice but to flee in defeat. His soldiers had been killed so fast it was as though they had melted away.
What exactly were those Goblins?
Barbro wanted to figure that out too.
The possibilities which came to mind were that they were the army of a huge nation of Goblins within the Great Forest of Tob. That was the easiest explanation to accept when one considered that they had encountered them south of the Forest. The other nobles who had survived with him seemed to have reached the same conclusion too, and they had said so several times to console themselves during their flight here.
Some said that their luck had been bad.
Some said that the army they encountered was composed of their elite troops.
Some said that just bringing back news on those Goblins would be a great effort.
“Are they idiots…”
Barbro clenched his fists tightly.
Defeat was defeat. It was true that the Goblins had been strong. Anyone who fought them would have understood why there had been no hope for Barbro.
However, those who knew nothing would simply think that Barbro was the prince who had been beaten by Goblins. He would surely become the butt of many jokes.
“Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!
A fire burned in his belly. That was the reason why Barbro could not sleep, despite being as tired as the soldiers.
Once he closed his eyes, he could hear the insults and mocking laughter that would surely await him after he returned to the Royal Palace.
For Barbro, the war was over. In his present state, there was no way he could hustle to the Katze Plains and take part in the battle against the Empire.
Just then ─ he felt a presence. It did not come from the men lying on the ground, but from the direction they had fled from.
Were they fleeing soldiers who had caught up with them, or a Goblin pursuit force?
His heart filled with terror, Barbro shifted his line of sight, and in the next moment, his face filled with puzzlement.
That person had probably noticed Barbro. They raised a hand in a casual greeting.
He had no idea when they had appeared in the middle of these plains. Not far away ─ 20 meters at the most ─ stood a ravishing beauty, with a smile on her face that could only be described as innocent. If this were a city, Barbro would surely stare at her. However, this was the middle of a plain. There were no villages around.
The strangest thing was the clothes she wore ─ they looked like a maid’s outfit.
If she were an armed and armored woman, he might have guessed that she was an adventurer. However, this was not possible.
Is she a monster?
That thought rose through his mind. Certain monsters were very beautiful. Fairies, for example. However, he could not make sense of the maid uniform.
“Hello ~su. I came to play with you ~su. Can I bother you for a bit?”
Judging by her question, she was clearly taking him for a fool.
He reached for the sword at his waist as he questioned her.
That question was utterly meaningless. However, he had nothing else to say. Her existence was so ridiculous that he did not even know where to start asking.
“I”m Lupusregina ~su. One of the maids who work for Ainz-sama ~su.”
The peculiar woman waved again as she greeted him. The meaning of what she ─ Lupusregina ─ said gradually began to filter through his mind.
“What… what did you say?”
Barbro was so shocked that he forgot to wake the nearby soldiers.
“No, no, don’t worry about that for now ─ that must have been really hard on you ~su. Still, that really was unfair ~su. A huge army of Goblins like that’s on the level of cheating ~su. I saw them from behind the humans and En-chan and it made me cry out in surprise ~su. I didn’t expect so many Goblins would come out~ hahahaha!”
Lupusregina laughed in an incredibly fake way.
She was clearly trying to pick a fight, but Barbro could no longer hold his feelings back.
“So why are you here?!”
He could hear several people behind him reacting to his shout.
Still, if this woman wanted to attack him, then her actions were far too bizarre. There was no need for her to appear before them. Or was this part of a plan to draw away their attention? Perhaps she intended to launch an ambush while everyone was listening to her.
No ─ as the First Prince, he knew he was very valuable.
If he was lucky, he could negotiate. If he was unlucky, he would be a hostage.
However, negotiating with them might be too much to ask for. He might end up becoming a prisoner of war.
Barbro felt the throne draw further and further away from him.
That said, the people who should have been punished were the higher-ups in the Kingdom who did not know that there were so many Goblins within that village before sending him there.
If he became a prisoner of war, he ought to have a chance to meet Ainz Ooal Gown. Perhaps he could trade him a quarter of the Kingdom in exchange for his help to make himself King.
Perhaps this was actually a blessing in disguise.
Barbro pondered that possibility.
“Well well, there’s only one reason I came here ~su.”
Lupusregina paused for a single breath, and then announced:
“I came to kill all of you ~su.”
Barbro blinked several times, and then he shouted:
“Hahh?! What the hell are you saying? Do you know who I am? I’m the First Prince of the Re-Estize Kingdom, Barbro Andrean Ield Ryle Vaiself!”
“Oh, so you’re a human, then ~su. What’s the difference ~su? To us, you humans are equally worthless ~su. Ah, but you’re a prince ~su.”
“In that case… I see! You mean to say you’ll kill everyone except me, right? I don’t think that’s a good idea. You need to take us prisoner and let someone live to bring the news back to Father, otherwise things will be difficult in the upcoming negotiations.”
Lupusregina tilted her head in surprise.
“No, no, what are you saying ~su? Shall I repeat myself again ~su? I came to kill all of you ~su. Since I came to kill all of you, I’ll kill each and every one of you ~su. Are you particularly stupid ~su? Ah~ well, that does make you a rarity, but it’s not like I want that ~su.”
“What are you babbling about?! Don’t you know how valuable I am? I’m the First Prince! Why are you thinking of killing me?! Normally, you’d take me hostage and demand a ransom, no?! Using me as a negotiation tool holds more merit than killing me, right?!”
“…My my, what a troublesome person you are.”
Lupusregina grinned in a discomfiting manner. Then, she spoke gently and kindly, like she was explaining things to a child.
“You are not necessary to the plans of the matchless one, Ainz Ooal Gown-sama, and so I will kill you. Do you understand?”
Barbro was speechless.
He understood that Lupusregina was not joking or trying to probe his reaction with a threat.
He swallowed unconsciously.
“…You’re serious? You’re seriously going to kill me…”
“Ah, that’s a nice expression on your face ~su. You’ve jumped a great deal in my internal ranking ~su.”
Barbro was trying to smile with a twitching face, but Lupusregina’s face went blank in the next moment as she said:
“Ainz-sama ordered me to exterminate all of you. Therefore I will not let any of you return alive.”
She immediately resumed her half-joking expression.
“So’s anyway, I was thinking for a long time, about what opponents you’d have fun with. In the end, I found the best playmates for a bunch of people who got their asses kicked by Goblins ~su!”
With a “jajajajan~” she raised a hand. A horde of shadowy shapes emerged from behind her, out of what seemed to be thin air.
“These are the Redcaps that I had summoned for me ~su!”
There were 30 of them.
The Goblins which revealed themselves resembled the army from back then, their bodies twisted and evil.
All of them wore bright red caps and steel boots upon their feet. They carried hatchets which glowed blue in the moonlight.
“Enemy attack! What the hell are you doing! Wake up! Take up your arms! The enemy is upon us!”
Barbro’s bellowing woke the soldiers from their slumber. They bolted upright, and then stared at the enemy under the blinding moonlight.
“─They’re level 43, so really, they’re kind of overkill for you, but the library didn’t have any weaker Goblins ~su.”
Screams filled the air.
The survivors of that hellish battle with the Goblin Army could not possibly muster up the fighting spirit to stand against more Goblinoids.
They did not draw their swords, but scattered in all directions, running for dear life.
“Don’t run! Fight! Fight! Fight! Hurry up and protect me!”
Not a single soldier listened to Barbro’s orders. The nobles ran for their horses as well.
“Ahahaha! This is wonderful! You actually think you can escape on a plain like this! Ahh, this is fun! This is the best! I love it!”
Lupusregina’s mocking laughter mirrored what Barbro was thinking.
There was only one way to survive. He had to defeat his enemies.
“So there’s people who think mounting up is going to help… Would you kindly chop off their legs for me ~su?”
With a shrill cry of delight at the impending slaughter, the Redcaps sprang into action.
They were like wild beasts.
They ran amidst the fleeing masses.
And then ─ there was a scream.
It came from one of the nobles who was trying to escape on horseback.
It was followed by several more screams.
“There’s fewer people now, so playtime’s been shortened too… well, that can’t be helped ~su. On my part, I’m going to have all kinds of fun ~su. I might not have the abilities Sol-chan has, but I can show you a trick or two ~su~”
Lupusregina walked toward Barbro, who had his sword drawn. It was as though she was taking a walk through a field.
The smile which split her beautiful face like a fissure chilled Barbro’s heart with fear.
It was only after 30 minutes that Barbro received Lupusregina’s permission to die.