Hi everyone! I'm proud to bring you this update. It's a bit faster than the last one, that's for sure. This one took quite a bit of planning and several weeks to write, but I must say I am quite proud of it. Your outpouring of support is what pushes me to do this. Even as I write this intro, I am getting email notifications of people favoriting the story. Thanks guys, much appreciated!
Not much to go over. In the last chapter, I left a small paragraph at the end of the intro hinting at a small scene at the end of the story, but I decided not to add anything. I also forgot to remove that paragraph, so I hope it didn't confuse you guys too much. So, instead, I put a small tidbit at the end of this chapter. I'm serious this time. I didn't forget.
This chapter is also the longest yet, by about 1,000 words. Next chapter will probably be the same, but I wouldn't expect such large updates in the future.
If you notice anything strange, let me know. I even address a few of the issues I had researching stuff from both universes at the end of the chapter. If you have any knowledge of the lore that I have mistaken, by all means, let me know. I have been reading wikis and even asking the communities questions, though it was quite the fruitless endeavor. I want to make this story better for you as well as myself.
Now that that's over and done with, on with the chapter! Hope you enjoy!
I glared down at the stack of paper that was placed on my desk an hour prior. It took everything in me not to tap my fingers rhythmically against the polished, deep mahogany surface. Listening to reports was an unbelievably dull task. When I was human, I was the one giving reports, but since I began receiving them, I had no idea how my bosses stood the onslaught of boring and borderline useless information. It almost made me overlook the fact that they made more than I did for sitting around and listening to verbal nonsense. Almost…
"Thirdly, Mare's endeavors to camouflage Nazarick are proceeding as planned," Albedo recited. Her level voice was starting to become monotonous, but she was able to keep me on edge with each glance she had snuck at me between sentences. Every time her eyes lifted, it felt as if she was pleading with me to look her way. "Trees and vines have been planted to cover the walls of the mausoleum. Plant growth has been accelerated to avoid the conspicuity of a section of the forest with nothing but new trees. Next, the Bounded Fields in place…"
Albedo droned on about the defenses of Nazarick. Luckily for us, the systems in place were still functional. Despite coming to another world entirely, the Defense System's code seemed to hold well enough. I had left Albedo in charge of defenses, but there was only so much she could do without Yggdrasil currency to use traps. I had instructed her to avoid using the guild's currency for the time being, the fact that the guild's monetary conversion box still worked notwithstanding. If we ever needed extra Yggdrasil cash, we could toss some items in there to pump out a bit of money.
It was the current world's coinage with which we were having an issue.
"As for funds," Albedo flipped the page of her report with a graceful swish of her hand. "We recently reached the four million Valis mark as of last week. Sweeping the upper floors during the night hours has given us a steady flow of income. Magic stones make up the majority of the percentage. However, drop items could potentially be our greatest earner in the long run, due to the conversion rate for Magic Stones to Valis."
I nodded with acceptance. Since we were not an official Familia, we could not use the Adventurer's Guild's services directly, namely the Magic Stone Exchange. The lobby floor of the Guild Headquarters had a section dedicated to paying Adventurers for the Magic Stones they harvested from dungeon monsters. However, proof of membership was sometimes required for larger hauls. The Exchange didn't carry enough Valis to pay for everything that came out of the dungeon. To compensate the earnings of larger Familias, the Exchange would write out a "check" to the Familia for credit, which required a Familia Emblem.
Since we were not a Familia, we did not have an Emblem.
There were always shady methods to acquire resources behind the scenes. When it came to our money, we had been unloading our Magic Stones on the Exchange representative who resided in the town of Rivira in the 18th Floor of the dungeon. He didn't seem to care that we exclusively sold to him, and he didn't complain, no matter how much we brought. He seemed more concerned with how much money he could make on the significantly lower rate for which he bought the Magic Stones. It worked for us; discretion was our top priority anyway.
Our current standing was all well and good, but eventually there would be a sharp drop-off regarding to the amount of work that was done for the amount of pay we received. The plan was to increase the harvest of Magic Stones as well as venturing to the deeper dungeon floors. The quality of Magic Stones would increase, which would escalate profits. Soon enough, the exchange contact would be unable to fulfill our needs if we brought him too much, and could possibly resort to the credit system. Once that happened, our cash flow would halt. Our rate of growth was already slow as it was; any slower than that would be nail bitingly frustrating.
Rare items could hypothetically bring in more Valis, since they were not as strictly regulated as Magic Stones. Nevertheless, finding desperate buyers who were willing to pay market prices for items from an uncertified merchant were few and far between. Since item drops were random, and increasingly so for the rarer items, we couldn't rely on them for a steady income. Magic Stones were our best bet.
"All of this would be solved if we just created a Familia," I mused, leaning back in my chair. I pressed my fingertips together in front of my face in thought. What the Sword Princess said the other day stuck with me. Mentioning that the Guild could send Adventurers into the dungeon after us was concerning, to say the least. While reports stated that most Adventurers were Level One, there were several who have climbed the ladder of strength.
Aiz Wallenstein being one of many Level Five Adventurers was more than enough to drive me to caution. The stories about her were quite interesting. Even as a Level One Adventurer, she had the skill and ability for greatness. After a year, she became a Level Two, which made her the fastest to reach said milestone. If I thought about it in the standards of gaming, that rate of growth was painfully slow. However, if I took into account that flesh and blood people didn't have unlimited stamina, walkthroughs, resurrection spells, save states, and a specific amount of experience to move up in the world, surely such speed was impressive.
By my calculations, a Level One Adventurer was equivalent to an Yggdrasil player between levels one and ten. Where they fell in that range was dependent on the ranks of their statistics. A Level One with E-Rank stats would likely lose to someone with D-Rank stats; while likely, it still wasn't a foolproof system, as someone could have higher stats, but less skill and training than someone with lower stats. It seemed that the Deities' Blessing system didn't account for excelia, or experience, that the person had accumulated before receiving the Falna. So, the odds were that if I were to receive a Falna, I would begin at Level One, despite being at the max level in Yggdrasil.
Once at Level Two, those numbers became somewhat skewed. Many Adventurers who reached Level Two never leveled up again. The conditions for leveling up were unclear, as it seemed to be different for each individual. From what I understood, it required one to go on an "adventure," or achieve something beyond one's current skill level. Essentially, don't die against something that was sure to kill you. The gods were probably insane to have something so inconsistent as a level up trigger. Since the Adventurers had no idea when the opportunity to progress was at hand, it was easy for them to miss their chances.
Or they just, you know, didn't want to die a terrible death at the hands of some eldritch horror.
Due to the stunted growth, Adventurers at Level Two could be anywhere from level ten to twenty-five in Yggdrasil. Unfortunately, beyond that point, my calculations became progressively theoretical. When estimating someone of the Sword Princess' status, a Level Five had the potential to reach from level sixty to seventy-five. At that point, their power became concerning. If a large band of Level Five Adventurers were sent after Nazarick, we stood the chance of sustaining lasting damages, even suffering losses. I wanted to do everything I could to keep the beautiful creations of my friends safe and happy.
"Perhaps the next step would be to formally create one under the banner of Ainz Ooal Gown," Albedo spoke, her arms clutching the thick report to her chest. "From my understanding, the Deities may opt out of sending reports regarding the levels of their members."
"Yes, but those cases are typically for noncombatant members, like merchants and service providers," I slowly shook my head. "Any dungeon faring Familia will be required to report levels and earnings. That will be exceedingly difficult since we are unable to bestow the Falna."
Albedo lowered her head and shut her eyes, seemingly thinking on the matter. If she was as smart as her intelligence stat would suggest, she was most likely considering what few avenues we had to solve the problem. Without the Falna, we would be unable to fool the Guild. Since we knew next to nothing about the Falna itself, it was practically impossible to forge.
Albedo raised her head with bright eyes and a smile indicative of a fantastic idea. "If we capture an Adventurer or two, we could study and decode their Falna. Once we know how it works, Momonga-sama can use his impressive magic ability to repurpose the Blessing for our own plans."
I would be blinking if I still had eyelids. The succubus had a working understanding of my skills and abilities. If Albedo was attributing the Falna to a type of spell that was exclusive to the Deities of this world, there was certainly a chance for me to learn it. If I used Dark Wisdom to copy the spell, I could possibly take the spell for my own. Dark Wisdom was how I learned over four hundred spells more than the original cap in Yggdrasil. However, Yggdrasil was a game. As far as I knew now, this world was real. Would I still be capable of stealing a spell from someone else in a system that was not originally designed for my skill set? To steal a Deity's spell, they would have to perish in combat at my hand. Was I willing to do that just yet?
I turned to face Albedo. Her back straightened as my gaze settled on her features. Two spots of red were high on her cheeks, and her lips were pursed, seemingly in an attempt to hide an excited grin. Clearing my throat, I issued an order, "Let's not move too quickly. A few low level Adventurers going missing is much less noticeable than a Deity disappearing without a trace.
"Start abducting Level Ones from the upper floors, and keep them for no longer than a day," I tapped my fingers against the surface of my desk. We wanted to avoid detection at least until our Familia was formed. "Keep them tranquilized too. There's no need to keep them awake for our experiments anyway."
"Understood," Albedo made a note on her report. With a tilt of her head, she inquired, "May I offer a suggestion?"
"Of course," I nodded.
"In order to prepare for the creation of our Familia, I suggest we scout locations to purchase as our base of operations," Albedo folded her hands around her report, crushing the stack of papers into her ample breasts. I watched as she started fidgeting, growing redder with each passing moment. "It isn't a problem to own property and be unaffiliated with a Familia. After all, Adventurers are not the only citizens of this city."
Every word the succubus squeezed out was accompanied by a wriggle and a heated gasp. Was there a reason she got so heated all of a sudden?
Wait, is it because I've been staring at her this whole time?
To think that my little alteration to her Bio would cause such a reaction to a simple gaze, it was nothing less than jarring.
Despite the amorous show she was putting on for me, she did make a fine point. There was no need to wait until the Familia was actually formed to own property. If anything, getting it ready beforehand was a better idea. It gave us a place to store important items and made for a well hidden spot to teleport to from Nazarick. If we were spotted appearing out of nowhere in an alleyway, that could cause a bit of a hassle for us. Also, if the Guild were to ask questions, at least we would have a location to point them.
"Very well," I acquiesced, nodding at her proposal. "Then, why don't we get on that right away. I have yet to see the Labyrinth City for myself."
"'We?'" Albedo froze, her face becoming an even deeper shade of red. She leaned forward aggressively, "A-A-As in with Momonga-sama?!"
I jerked back slightly at the unexpected enthusiasm. My jaw was slackened, and my eyes shimmered a bright crimson. "Of course 'with me,'" I answered guardedly, unsure what my words may trigger in her. "Who else would I take?"
It was true. As the person in charge of my logistics, funds, and daily schedule, Albedo was the only one who really needed to go about purchasing our property. However, I really wanted to see Orario.
I mean, I've been in the dungeon for the few weeks since the Server Down. The only light of day I have seen came from a Sky Crystal on the 18th Floor. I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE!
Once the property was bought, I would put Albedo and Sebas in charge of furnishing it and handling its upkeep. Other than my absolute need to go to the surface, my involvement could be considered minimal. I didn't have to go, I wanted to go.
Albedo, on the other hand, wasn't so logical about it. As soon as she heard my words, something inside her snapped. A sultry moan escaped her lips and she squeezed the report against her with such strength, the paper started cracking.
Wait… PAPER DOESN'T CRACK! What was her strength stat again?!
"I get to buy a home," she panted, a string of saliva stuck between her luscious lips. She leaned in closer, "I get to buy a home with the man I love? We will be walking around the city, searching for our future home together! Will it have a white picket fence? How many floors? Shall we remodel it to have a tomb for you?! We can have adjoining rooms so you may call on me whenever you have need of me! I want to make all the rooms bedrooms and fill them with our children! They will grow up beautiful and strong! Is this true, MOMONGA-SAMA?!"
Albedo quickly went out of her mind. As she ranted, she pushed closer and closer to me. I had no choice but to back up, but my position prevented me from going too far. Sure enough, my chair was leaning on the two back legs. My jaw was completely open and my hands gripped the arms of my seat, threatening to crush the thick wood. The succubus' eyes glittered with anticipation. She was giggling, grinning, squirming, writhing, and crawling up my legs. Her hands clawed at my robes to pull me closer.
My jaw opened and closed, but no words came out. I had no choice but to say the first thing that came to mind, "Er… I… We… That is…"
Well, at least I tried.
"I'll go get ready!" Albedo leapt off my legs, sending my chair back to all fours by sheer force. She dashed to the grand double doors, her black, raven-feathered wings flapped in time with her steps while she hummed a catchy tune. With a bounce in her step, she flounced out the door and left me in complete silence.
I stared at the pair of doors, unable to do anything.
"That was intense," I said to the empty room.
As the moments passed, I cupped my hands over my face. Shaking my head, I stood from my seat to prepare. If I were late, who knew what would happen?
Is it still too late to edit Character Bios?
The Sword Princess sat in front of a large book. It was splayed open on the desk-like table next to a pile of similarly large books in one of the conference rooms of the Guild Headquarters. Her head was in her hands, strands of her golden hair slipping between her fingers. With each passing moment, her mood worsened. Each wave of frustration made her want to clench her fists, threatening to tear out her beautiful locks. If anyone had seen her in such a state, they wouldn't have recognized her. Aiz Wallenstein stayed cool under pressure, rarely showing the baser emotions lying underneath her stoic exterior. After another turn of the page, however, the anger was too much to bear.
The book's spine nearly split under the stress of being thrown shut. She sighed with grief.
Nothing... Not a damn thing...
After her last encounter with the Black Warrior the other day, Aiz had finally been able to move onto the next step in her plans. Now that she had a name to put to his Familia, Momonga's identity should finally be revealed. She wasn't allowed to see Level and Status Reports, but she might have at least gotten an address, or even a Familia Emblem. She was desperate enough to take anything at this point. She spent several days pouring over every piece of official documentation she could access, but...
"I may have expected as much, but it's still disappointing," she mused, slumping into her chair. She tossed her gaze to the ceiling, and stared in deep thought.
The Familia of the Deity known as Ainz Ooal Gown did not exist. Even though the Guild kept their records in alphabetical order, she checked every book they had, just to make sure. There was no Adventurer named Momonga anywhere in the books either. As far as Aiz was concerned, Momonga led her on a wild goose chase just to mess with her mind. She imagined him laughing haughtily to himself at his seemingly playful joke. She also imagined throwing every book she opened at his smug head.
Aiz nearly jumped as the door to the room swung open. A bespectacled woman with jade eyes appeared in the doorway. Her official, black-and-white Guild uniform snugly wrapped around her impressive figure. Her bob-cut, brown hair bounced slightly when she jerked back in surprise. On the sides of her head, two pointed ears twitched with curiosity. She was the half-elven Guild Advisor who reserved the quiet room for her the past few days. What was her name again? Erin? Nina?
"Are you alright, Wallenstein-san?" the employee inquired, slipping through the gap in the door. "I heard a loud noise."
"Ah," Aiz stammered. Despite these rooms being soundproof, they still heard her little outburst. With a glance at her name tag, Aiz answered, "My deepest apologies, Eina-san. It wasn't my intention to cause trouble."
She bowed her head to show her sincerity, but the Advisor dismissively waved her hands. Closing the door behind her, Eina approached the book-covered table.
"No need to apologize," she smiled, nodding toward the pile of documents. "If you require help, perhaps I could assist?"
Aiz's lips curled slightly in a thankful smile, but she couldn't hide her frustration when she averted her gaze. "To be honest, I don't think I'll find what I'm looking for in anything the Guild has on record."
Eina's brow gently furrowed, confusion apparent on her face. After a hum of contemplation, she attempted to gain more information, "Is there anything in particular?"
Her eyes rested on Eina's well-proportioned, elven features. She wondered whether it was a good idea to reveal what she knew to the woman. The only person Aiz told about Momonga was her goddess, Loki. Even then, Aiz was reluctant. However, as events progressed and rumors started flying, she felt that her options were disappearing. She was glad she could confide in her goddess, but she was still no closer to unraveling the curtain of mystery that shrouded Momonga and his subordinates. Loki could do nothing to help but offer an ear to listen to Aiz's griping.
If Eina could reach into the restricted section of the Guild's Reports, maybe she could shine some light on the matter. With conviction, Aiz recanted her most recent encounter with the Black Warrior. She felt that revealing her first experience with Ainz Ooal Gown Familia might have been a bit difficult to grasp; that is, if Eina didn't laugh her out of the Guild first.
The Advisor's expression quickly grew somber. Her eyebrows were angled steeply with concern. Poaching in the dungeon was a serious offense by the Guild's standards. A hefty fine and exile from Orario was the most they could do, but that was enough to disrupt most crime rings. Without the valuable Magic Stones bringing in revenue, they would be forced to move onto their next con.
"'Ainz Ooal Gown,' huh?" Eina mumbled after Aiz completed her story. The half-elf's pointed ears drooped as she searched her knowledge for the odd-sounding words. "I have never heard of such a Familia. I haven't heard of this 'Momonga' either."
"I've checked all of the records available to me," Aiz stated in an irritated huff. The physically draining search had exhausted her completely. "There is no Familia by the name of Ainz Ooal Gown in any of them."
Eina placed her finger on her chin in a cute gesture of thought. Her lips pursed in what seemed like a pained pout. Aiz could tell she was wracking her brain for any clues, but was quickly coming up short. Grasping at straws, she shrugged before giving a noncommittal response, "Ainz Ooal Gown may be a Deity who descended from Tenkai recently. There is a possibility he just hasn't registered yet."
Eina spoke the truth. It wasn't uncommon for gods to descend from Tenkai and register with the Guild months, even years after the fact. It wasn't a requirement for gods to register with the Guild anyway, unless they were building a Familia. The Guild required that the Deity register immediately after bestowing their first Falna. This ensured that the Familia went on record, and the Adventurer was given the resources they needed to safely bring in revenue. So long as they were registered before their first dungeon dive, Familias were capable of forming, registering, adventuring, and making their first profit all in a single day. The speed of the process was a good balance for the Deities and the Guild; the gods handled it quickly, and the Guild enjoyed a cut of the profits. After all, even gods had to pay taxes.
However, Aiz knew for a fact that Ainz Ooal Gown had a Familia, and was making money in the dungeon. Momonga had stated as much. Since they were not in the record, the case was pretty open-and-shut. Ainz Ooal Gown Familia was guilty of dungeon poaching.
Aiz and Eina both knew they had enough evidence to move forward. An unregistered Familia was a serious matter. It was a crime that Eina, as a Guild employee, could not overlook. However, Aiz had already moved on to the next point of concern.
"Could Ainz Ooal Gown be avoiding registration because he is unchained?" The Sword Princess posed. Eina stopped dead, some of the color draining from her perfect skin.
Unchained Deities were bad news. The beings that descended from Tenkai were in fact gods. They spent their days up there, just watching as their Children lived their lives and had fun. Eventually, they decided that they too wanted to have fun, and made the decision to join us. Being the powerful entities that they were, they decided to seal their powers away. They made a promise to each other to enforce their own rules; rules that seemed to be holding quite well. The most important rule was that they could not use their powers. If they broke this self-imposed law, even accidentally, they would be forced to return to Tenkai; not even an emergency was an acceptable excuse.
Sometimes deities who refused to follow their laws descended, and were thus considered "unchained" by the rules of the gods. Most of the time, it was just to cause trouble, but the other gods would make swift work of them. Having an unchained immortal being throwing their weight around and creating problems was detrimental to everything the gods had built up to this point. They may have been gods, but they were still guests in Gekai. Causing trouble for the mortals was the last thing they wanted.
That being said, was Ainz Ooal Gown unchained? If that was the case, what was Momonga? What did the orange man mean by "Supreme Being?"
"How did you come up with that assumption?" asked Eina calmly. She was still pale, but she was still capable of thinking logically.
Aiz clenched her jaw. Honestly, she didn't know for sure. She was just so floored by Momonga's strength, as well as the magic abilities of that maid, that she assumed that their power must have come from a godly force, namely an unchained Deity. Shrugging, she replied noncommittally, "It's just a hunch, I suppose."
Eina nodded in understanding. She couldn't put much faith in supposition, but it was something to keep in the back of their minds. If the Sword Princess was saying it, there must have been something that pointed in that direction that they had missed. "Does your goddess know? What did she say?" asked Eina with a hint of apprehension.
Aiz bit her lip and recalled the words her goddess spoke days ago, "Loki-sama didn't think much of it at first, but as the rumors started spreading, she began thinking deeply on the matter. Finally, she told me that Tenkai was a big place, so it was entirely possible that she never met or even heard of a deity named Ainz Ooal Gown. If he really is unchained, they would have to enforce their own laws, even if they have to break them too."
Eina crossed her arms and sighed. That would definitely be a terrible occurrence. If a war of the gods broke out in Orario, there could be untold damage to structures and life. It was worth the risk, but there would be few who were willing to take it. This was slowly growing into something serious, and neither of the girls present liked it.
"Well, the first step to beginning an investigation is filing a report," Eina pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. "There's just one issue..." the Advisor trailed off, causing Aiz to stiffen. What now? "A Guild Report requires a witness to the crime. For all intents and purposes, you will be entered as the victim, but a witness is required for the investigation to move forward."
The Adventurer's golden eyes widened. She hadn't even thought about witnesses. The first time she saw the members of Ainz Ooal Gown Familia, they had spirited away the Monster Rex Goliath. She had been the only person to witness that impossible feat. As for when she met Momonga for the first time, she was also...
"Eh?" Aiz's voice leaked out. Her stunned silence filled their ears.
Eina blinked. "Was there another witness?" she tilted her head.
"There was," Aiz sat up in her seat. She tried her best to remember how he looked. The young boy who had been chased by the Minotaur she let escape. If her memory served her right, he was rather thin and weak-looking, but his agility was pretty decent for a fresh Adventurer. Unfortunately, she didn't get a very good look at the boy. In the initial moments of the incident, Aiz was focused on slaying the Minotaur. In the next moment, the boy was covered from head to toe in the beast's blood. After that, his features were obscured.
She had been so engrossed in combing through Guild documents that Aiz had completely forgotten about the boy. Before she knew it, her face hit her palm in an almost comical manner. She wanted to find him and apologize, after all.
"There was a boy," Aiz began, rubbing her face in exasperation. She explained what happened with the Minotaur and the chase that ensued. She touched upon the appearance of Momonga, and the boy dashing away in fear, soaked with monster blood.
"After he ran, Momonga said he and his Familia were in the dungeon for money. Surely—
"Are you alright, Eina-san?" Aiz asked after a pause. She noticed that Eina's eyes were slowly bulging from their sockets the more the Adventurer spoke.
"That's why he was asking about you..." Eina muttered. With a deep sigh, she too brought her palm to her face. She massaged her brow to assuage her annoyance. "He mentioned that he got chased by a Minotaur, he even went off on a tirade about how heroic you were. He must want to thank you for helping him."
"I…" Aiz stammered, confusion leaking into her expression. "I don't understand."
Eina exhaled through her nose. She seemed upset. Her bobbed hair swung slightly as she shook her head. With arms crossed and eyes shut, her visage was the epitome of disappointment.
"Bell Cranell," she announced, holding her hand at roughly Aiz's height. "He's about this tall, white hair, red eyes, and he came running in here completely covered in blood. When I saw him, I nearly had a heart attack."
It was Aiz's turn to blink. The Advisor described the boy down to his eye color. Aiz's mouth opened and closed like a fish, unable to form words.
"That stupid boy," Eina ground out like an angry older sister. "So much happens to him, and he leaves out the most important part. Forget the crime against Guild Law. Just stare at the pretty girl. Seriously..."
"How do you—
"I am that boy's Advisor. Ever since he came to Orario a few weeks ago, I have been overseeing his growth as an Adventurer. Thank you, Wallenstein-san, for saving his life the other day," the half-elf bowed. Her words were laced with genuine gratitude.
Bell Cranell; so that was his name.
Straightening her back, Eina continued, "I should have thanked you sooner, but Bell can be a bit dim. He often runs from his emotions, so I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to escape if he caught just a glimpse of you. I figured I would save you both the embarrassment."
"Really?" Aiz sighed dejectedly. So he was afraid of her. Why else would he run? Surely, someone who made such a terrible mistake and nearly got him killed would have instilled fear in the boy. She really needed to apologize now, before he developed some sort of disorder.
"Now, though," Eina adjusted her glasses yet again. "I'm not so sure he can avoid it. As a key witness in a future investigation, he may need to grow up a bit faster than he expected."
Eina's eyes sparkled dangerously. A slight shiver ran up the hardened Adventurer's spine. She did not envy Bell's immediate future.
Eina informed Aiz that Bell usually headed to the Guild in the early morning, and exited in the late afternoon. It was quickly approaching evening hours. Aiz praised her own good luck.
Albedo was already waiting at the top floor of Nazarick. She was dressed in her full armor set. The deep mauve color of the metal shimmered slightly in the low light, but the deep shade appeared to absorb more light than it reflected. Her helm protected her gorgeous face perfectly, even adding segmented ringlets to cover her horns in sterling silver. The visor was nothing more than small slits that seemed to look like crisscrossed battle scars. Her breastplate was the same silver as her horns, adding another layer of protection for her vitals.
When the armored succubus turned to greet me, the black cloth dangling from either sides of her hips swayed, falling down to nearly touch the ground at her heeled boots. Since the armor covered her wings, the cloth must have been a physical representation of their presences. Tabula Smaragdina put quite a bit of effort into her armor, especially since Albedo's defense was her most powerful asset. Every time I saw it, I was always impressed. He also designed a weapon for her, but…
"Albedo," I approached, dressed in my own black armor set. She stood at attention, but she was swaying happily in time with the tune she was still humming. "Is there really a need to bring that?"
I pointed down at the weapon held in one of her clawed gauntlets. She tilted her head before peering down at the large bardiche in her hand. It seemed like a normal, axe-like weapon at the moment, but I knew quite well what it was.
"Tabula Smaragdina-sama gave it to me some time ago. Does it displease you?" she lowered her head and muttered meekly.
I cringed as her voice pierced my heart… light thing. You don't have to act so miserably. I audibly sighed while shaking my head, "No, I was just thinking that, perhaps, it would be dangerous taking Ginnungagap, a powerful World-Class Item, into a city filled with innocent civilians who have no issues starting fights over minor transgressions."
Ginnungagap was a weapon based on the primordial void, within which all existence appeared. Due to its affinity for matter, it was well known as an anti-material weapon. With a wide area-of-effect attack, it could destroy large swathes of structures without much effort at all. However, it did not have the same effect on living targets. Therefore, Albedo changed its form to that of a black bardiche, so that it had some semblance of an anti-personnel weapon without using the insane destructive power that the item housed.
"Well, then they should know when to hold their tongues," Albedo replied with a dangerous lilt in her voice. "There may be many nonhumans on the surface, but they know not the power and allure of Nazarick. They deign to live alongside humans, subjecting themselves to the taint. As far as I'm concerned, they should all be wiped out to make way for Momonga-sama's influence."
"Albedo," I was taken aback by her animosity. True, the denizens of Nazarick were predisposed to dislike humans. Ainz Ooal Gown was created with the rule that only nonhuman players could join. Even the NPCs that were created by the members were also nonhuman. Despite the fact that many appeared human on the outside, their strength and classes threw that notion out the window. Even our level one maids were fully capable, but still wouldn't hold up for long in combat.
It was all just part of the roleplaying experience of Yggdrasil. We didn't actually hate human players, but what was written in the code of many of the NPCs may not have been considered friendly toward humans. So, when the NPCs suddenly became real after the Server Down, whatever was in their Character Bios became their personalities; it seemed the orientation of their karma also impacted their attitude. I couldn't blame them for the things they did or said, since they were created that way. If anything went wrong, it could only be the fault of their precious Supreme Beings.
I raised my head and spoke, "I understand your feelings on the matter, Albedo, but please keep your disdain for humans in check. We are going to the surface to conduct business. If your arrogance gets in the way of completing our objective, then things will get much more difficult."
"I understand, Momonga-sama," she bowed submissively. "I apologize for my actions."
"It is not a problem, Albedo," I responded while taking a small, handheld mirror from my inventory. "Just make sure it doesn't become one."
I caught a glimpse of the succubus, her back completely straight and bardiche held across her chest in salute. Will she really be alright? With that thought in my mind, I peered into the mirror, calling forth an image. Earlier, I had been using the [MIRROR OF REMOTE VIEWING] spell to take a look at the surface world beforehand. I was able to get the lay of the land, but it wasn't the same as going there myself. However, I couldn't just warp into a random area of the city and expect to go undetected. Someone could be in the vicinity and see us. So, I enchanted a mirror with the spell so I could use it on the fly to find a decent place to warp without bumping into an unsuspecting stranger. If I even needed to use it while in public, it was easier to use an enchanted item, rather than explain a possibly unknown spell, hence the mirror.
Surveying the outlying alleyways, I quickly found one that was relatively empty. A few people were about to turn corners here and there; they would soon be out of sight. Stowing the mirror away, I called forth the gate and stepped through with Albedo in tow. Our surroundings rapidly changed from the top level of Nazarick to the dark, dingy alley just off of one of Orario's main streets. The structures were a combination of wood and stone about two to three stories high, though one could barely tell what materials they used due to the thick layers of black grime.
"Tch," Albedo's tongue clucked with disgust. "They have no pride at all for what they have built. The polished marble and alabaster of Nazarick would put them to shame."
I couldn't help but chuckle. Aren't our walls covered in vines right now? Without a word, I took my first steps toward the nearby street. From what I could learn about the surface city, Orario was situated in a "spoke-and-wheel" pattern with the major directions considered Main Streets that all led from the center of the city to its outer walls. I was sure that there were several areas that were designated as districts, such as residential, or commercial. From what I had gathered, the area we had transported to, the wall section of West Main, was a combination of both residential and commercial facilities.
With any luck, there could be one or two buildings that were for sale. If we stuck to a budget of about two million Valis, that should leave enough cash to furnish it and get it running as a base of operations. Once that was done, we could focus on deciphering the Falna.
Albedo and I stepped out of the alley onto West Main, and we were immediately assailed by the hustle and bustle of hundreds of people going about their business. There were several armed individuals with armor ranging from heavy plate to light leather; groups of Adventurers heading to or coming from the dungeon. Here and there, several people dressed in coarse working clothes carried baskets of food and laundry. Bands of children ran from food stall to food stall, watching all the delicacies being prepared, wondering what they should buy with their pocket money. All in all, it was very lively.
It's not exactly the same as cities back in Yggdrasil, or even Earth for that matter, but this is a city alright.
The number of races that were interacting was astonishing, to say the least. I had seen the diversity on the 18th Floor of the dungeon, but there were even more types of people than I had expected. Sure enough, the streets were filled with normal, everyday humans, as well as elves, dark elves, and different types of chienthropes, as I'd heard them be called, such as cat people, werewolves, and boar people. The shorter races were also present, like dwarves and hobbits, or pallums as I'd been told. There were so many, I was unsure if I could discern them all without enough time.
To think that there are people on this road right now that could be a god. I felt what could only be considered a shiver crawl up my bony spine. The very idea of Deities existing in this plane was giving me such a rush that the excitement threatened to boil over, and then it was gone. With a nod to Albedo, we commenced with our walk down West Main.
I had expected to stand out, but for it to happen as quickly as it did was unanticipated. People walking toward us stopped to gawk at the pair of us, some of them ducking out of the way or going white in the face. Some Adventurers had seen me in the dungeon; I wasn't exactly trying to hide myself. I was sure those people were capable of describing my appearance quite well, but I doubted that it spread so widely. Therefore, I ignored the staring and kept trudging down the road.
The only concerns I had were being realized by the chienthrope races. As we passed any of the cat people, I could see their noses twitch curiously before the hair on their tails and ears stood on end. Both Albedo and I were wearing rings of concealment, which hid our magic abilities, preventing people from divining or sensing our statuses. However, the heightened senses of the anthropomorphic races might be capable of "sniffing" out a bit more information from us. They wouldn't get much, but I wouldn't be surprised if their instincts immediately told them not to trust us.
It didn't matter who passed us. Seasoned Adventurers paused to watch us go by as did the noncombatant citizens. The boisterous, scurrying crowd stopped dead. The silence was deafening as all eyes were trained on us. Some looked on in confusion, while others did their best to avoid us entirely. Either way, the gazes were piercing.
With her head on a swivel, Albedo huffed as she took in all the onlookers, "Honestly, it's as if these worms have never seen greatness."
"These people live alongside Deities," I answered with a grunt. "Since the gods sealed their own powers away, Adventurers must be more alert when it comes to their fellow Adventurers."
Since the gods weren't really a threat, people focused more on those who used the power they had. Adventurers were human and humanoid creatures, all of whom were plagued by ambition, greed, and personal vices. When they got their Falna, their growth occurred much faster than those without the Blessing. In a short amount of time, Adventurers possibly became stronger than professionally trained soldiers. An Adventurer was more capable of taking what it was that they wanted, and there was essentially no one who could stop them.
The Guild usually policed their own members by forming quests. Unfortunately, the Guild sometimes looked out for their own hides before the justice of the citizens of Orario was taken into account.
"They should be on their knees," Albedo scoffed, gripping her weapon tighter. The squealing metal of her armor grated on the ears of those nearby. "Whether or not they are a god, they should bow before the Supreme Being in their midst, and be thankful that their lives are not forfeit to the God of Death."
"Watch what you say," I glanced around. "There's no telling who may be listening."
Sounding crestfallen yet again, Albedo fell into stride behind me. We made our way toward the center of the Labyrinth City, slowly approaching the massive tower awaiting us. The Tower of Babel. Surely, there were no other structures so aptly named. Even I had heard the story about its origin. In the past, before the Deities walked the streets of Orario, there was a tower that was built over the dungeon as a seal to prevent monsters from escaping its depths. It was a meager tower, one that was indicative of humans who were incapable of building such large structures.
Then the gods descended. They had been watching from their perch in Tenkai as the mortals toiled through their lives. Feeling left out, they decided it was their turn to join the fray. When the Deities emerged from Tenkai in a pillar of light, they destroyed the original tower. Thinking it a funny joke, they watched as the mortals looked on in abject horror. Once they had their laugh, they rebuilt the tower. As a show of benevolence, they made it even taller as well as more modern.
"To think they would do something so childish for the sake of fun," I sighed. "Is Tenkai really that boring? I suppose being around so many of your kind might be—
We were only a few blocks from Babel when I heard a raucous laugh come from one of the establishments nearby, interrupting my train of thought. Amidst the shouts, there was a tall, tan-skinned man in an orange robe with golden trinkets around his neck and wrists. His black hair fell straight to his shoulders, and his features were hidden behind a red, elephant-shaped mask. My head reflexively tilted when I caught sight of him, unsure if he was making a fashion statement or if it was just the way people dressed around here.
"Lord Ganesha, please," a nondescript man in a white toga and sandals tried to placate the man. He too wore a strange mask, but it wasn't nearly as gaudy as the first. "If you drink too much, you're going to blow through your day's share too quickly!"
The elephant man sputtered mockingly. The drunken stupor he was in was incredibly apparent, especially when the smell of alcohol wafted off of him and into the street like a cloud of intoxication. He slammed his pewter mug down on the wooden table and stood from his seat with renewed vigor. Placing his hands on his hips, he puffed out his chest and exuberantly proclaimed, "You think me a young'un?! You think I am one who cannot hold his drink?! Remember, my Child, who I am. I am Ganesha!"
He pointed strongly at the man in the white toga, who gaped back with a dumbfounded expression. They were like that for several moments before the masked man started to droop. As if melting, he slumped back into his chair. "I-I am G-Ganesha," he muttered through a fit of hiccups.
The other man rubbed his face with exhaustion, shaking his head wearily as he draped the elephant man's arm over his shoulder. They were making their way out of the establishment, but I was frozen in place.
Did… Did he just say… GANESHA?! THE Ganesha?!
Otherwise known as the God of Obstacles, Ganesha was the elephant shaped deity from the Hindu Pantheon. From my own personal knowledge, Ganesha was a benevolent being whose existence was based on the removal or addition of obstacles of both spiritual and physical natures. When one prayed to him, it was to have the god clear their path and make their endeavors less difficult. On the other hand, Ganesha was also known to punish those by placing more obstacles in their path. In other words, he would give people their just desserts.
Running into Ganesha was the last thing I had expected. I knew the gods could have been walking right next to us, but for them to be so outspoken and… disorderly; it was almost contemptible.
You're a Deity! Act like it!
I stared at the shameless god as his follower went up to the bar to pay for their drinks. Ganesha was seriously inebriated, to the point where he was between awake and unconscious, slurring his words any chance he got to speak. I folded my arms, rubbing my chin with my fingers in thought.
"Momonga-sama?" Albedo's voice faded away as my ideas flooded into my mind.
"Maybe it would be better just to take a god," I mused. When I heard that the Deities had sealed their powers, I wasn't exactly sure what it meant. A god would certainly be capable of surviving more than a few alcoholic beverages without falling drunk. I had figured that they had some sort of innate poison resistance. Now, though, maybe that resistance was part of their powers? If that was sealed away along with everything else, what else was sealed away?
"Is that so?" another inquiry went through one of my ears and out the other. Can't you see I'm busy, Albedo?
"Adventurers won't know anything about the Falna. With just them, we could only study the Falna itself, but not its process," I set another of my thoughts in order. Thinking out loud always helped me in the past. "Sure, they will work for a little while, but we would need the source to figure out how to use them ourselves."
"I see," she muttered. I ignored her completely. She just didn't seem to get that I wasn't talking to her. I wasn't going to tell her off, but it was starting to get annoying.
Taking an Adventurer was one thing, but taking a Deity seemed nearly impossible. An Adventurer disappearing in the dungeon from time to time was a normal occurrence, but if so many Level Ones went missing, there would be cause for concern. The Guild was sure to notice. That was why I ordered a "catch-and-release" for Adventurers. Gods, on the other hand, weren't even allowed in the dungeon. Who knew what would happen if we were to whisk a Deity away into Nazarick? Would the dungeon respond in turn? Would anyone, or anything, even notice?
I sighed. It's just better to err on the side of caution. Gods are just too high profile to kidnap and study. Might as well go nice and slow.
"Well, that's enough about that, I think," I shrugged as I watched the man in the white toga slog the drunken Ganesha away, his sandaled feet dragging in the dirt. If I still had skin, my lips would be curled in loathing.
"— Momonga-sama's order."
Hearing her speak again, I turned to the succubus, "Did you say something, Albedo?"
She pulled her fingers away from her ear. Was that Message? She nodded obediently before she spoke, "I was merely informing Demiurge of the details our excursion."
"And everything is going smoothly over there?"
"Yes, everything is going according to plan."
According to plan? Well, I was sure there was still a lot to do back in Nazarick, so I thought nothing of it. I shook my head and turned back to the street ahead, "That's fine, I suppose. Shall we continue? We still have a building to buy."
"Yes!" she called back happily as she fell in line behind me. I was certain that I heard her quickened pace as she skipped with joy while humming her tune yet again.
Where did she learn the Wedding March?
The White Rabbit emerged from the dungeon, his sluggish steps accompanied by a deep sigh of fatigue. It was another light haul today. He managed to take out several goblins, but aside from their Magic Stones, they didn't have anything else of value. Usually, they picked up any shiny objects or lost weapons they could find, so they sometimes carried loose coins and steel that could be sold. Alas, the group he took out must have been a freshly spawned brood that didn't have the chance to scrounge the upper floors.
He stopped by the Exchange and got his pay; twelve hundred Valis and a Goblin Ear drop item worth six hundred, for a total of eighteen hundred Valis. Subtracting the Guild's cut and part of the loan payment, he received even less. With his meager handful of coins, he marched with heavy feet up to the front desk of the expansive lobby. Perhaps Eina-san was there, and he could ask her whether or not he was strong enough to venture deeper for better quality Magic Stones.
He surveyed the row of Guild employees, but only saw a line of lowered heads. Looking for any sign of Eina, he zeroed in on a head with a pair of elven ears twitching in time with her flipping of the pages of her book. With a smile, he approached her while shoving his money in his coin purse. She must not have seen him, since her head never raised from her work. He stood right in front of her and waited.
"Eina-san?" he voiced his presence.
The pen Eina was holding flew several feet into the air before landing on her desk with a clatter. Her glasses slid down her nose when she jumped at his call. She peered up at his face before clearing her throat. Bell's eyes were wide. He didn't know the half-elf could make such a cute noise. It nearly made his heart throb just listening to it. That lovely thought was completely shattered the moment Eina turned her ornery gaze on him. His skin paled, practically rivaling his white hair in color.
"Oh, if it isn't Bell Cranell," she nearly whispered. The boy knew immediately that something was amiss.
"Er, hello Eina-san," he greeted her cautiously. "I-I'm sorry I startled you."
Eina tilted her head, but it was in no way cute. She was smiling, but her eyes hadn't changed at all. A shiver ran up his spine. "Have I got a bone to pick with you, Bell Cranell," she ground out dangerously.
"Eh?" he uttered, completely taken aback. This Eina was so different from the usual Eina he knew. He wasn't sure if he liked this one.
"Remember when you notified me about the Minotaur attack you were involved in last week?" she stopped momentarily, waiting for him to answer. When he gave a stunned nod, she continued, "You also told me about how Aiz Wallenstein saved you. I recall you going on and on about the Sword Princess. You spoke so much about her, mind you, that it seems you forgot to mention that you had a particular encounter with the Silent Swordsman from the recent rumors. Care to explain that to me?"
"GRK!" he came up short. Eina's speculation was like a punch to the gut. He had no way to answer without seeming like an idiot. He didn't want to mention it because it made him look weak. Eina was like an older sister to him. He didn't want her to see him in that light. Instead of answering, he scratched the back of his head sheepishly.
"Did you not think it was important to tell the Guild about an encounter with a possible poacher?" she scolded him right there in the lobby in front of every Adventurer that came to do business. If he wasn't ashamed before, he was now.
"Eina-san," he tried to placate the half-elf maiden. "I had no idea the Silent Swordsman was a criminal."
"Well," she hesitated, her cheeks becoming slightly pinker than before. It was true that the Silent Swordsman had not yet been branded a criminal, but anyone with half of a brain could connect the dots. Her near miss with a wave of embarrassment made her redouble her efforts, "It doesn't matter whether or not you knew about it. If you don't start using that brain of yours, Bell Cranell, monsters will be the least of your worries in the dungeon."
Bell was baffled by Eina's admonishment. He wondered what brought it on, but he couldn't think of anything. He wanted to defend himself, but he wasn't sure what it was that he did, exactly. Even if he did know, he didn't have any words to refute anything that Eina had said. What was worse was the pouty face the Advisor was making at him. The glare of a girl who had been wronged was one of Bell Cranell's weaknesses.
"I'm sorry," he bowed his head in resignation. It wasn't like he could argue his way out of it.
"That's fine," Eina's eyes glinted with a familiar sense of danger. A bead of sweat dripped down his face. "Since you're so apologetic, I will have you do me a favor to make up for your transgressions."
Bell audibly gulped. The sweat was freely pouring from his forehead now as the implications sank in. He had no idea what she was going to ask of him, but there was no way it was going to be a good thing. Resigning himself, he nodded in acceptance.
"Good," she smiled triumphantly, her expression completely devoid of the anger she was showing before. Had he been played?! Before he could voice his discontent, she placed her hands on her hips and raised a finger in an informative teacher's stance, "Then you will offer your testimony as a key witness to a crime committed by the Silent Swordsman."
"What?!" Bell shouted in disbelief. His red eyes were so wide, they threatened to fall out. He physically recoiled when the full brunt of Eina's condition hit his mind. "I-I-I didn't s-see anything!"
"There's no need to sweat the details," she waved him off, nearly causing him to fall over in despair. "All that matters is that the victim of the crime has identified you as a witness. All you have to do is corroborate her story, and you can go on your merry way."
"Corroborate? I didn't see anything!" he was starting to get flustered. However, his mind was already moving toward the strangest part he had picked out of Eina's description. "'Her?' Some girl identified me? Who was it?"
Eina's eyes narrowed as she smirked, causing a shiver to shoot up the boy's spine again. Bell's clothes were already feeling damp from all the nervous perspiration. He wasn't sure how much more he could take without passing out. The half-elf gestured toward the seating area where several sofas were situated by a wide window. The evening sunlight was shining through the glass, illuminating the person waiting there with reddish rays.
He saw a woman with long, golden hair held back by an armored headband seated comfortably, seemingly waiting for someone to arrive. Bell's heart stopped as he took in her visage. What was she doing here? Was she here on important business? Surely, she wasn't waiting for him. He began laughing to himself. Yeah, right. There was absolutely no way she would be looking for him. Yup, absolutely no way. She wanted nothing to do with a scrawny weakling like he, that was for damn sure.
She caught a glimpse of him as he stared in her direction. It was enough to cause her upper body to turn completely toward him, her golden eyes freezing him in place. The golden orbs widened slightly when she registered who he was. She stood from her seat and took her first steps toward him.
His legs were already moving. Like a magic spell washing over him, his first instinct upon seeing her was to flee. He had no idea what to say to her. All he wanted to do was thank her, but the words would never come to him. All he could think of was to compliment on strange things. Should he tell her she smelled nice? No, that was too creepy. Should he say she was his hero? No, that would put her off. What if he said he was a big fan?
Screw it! He was already running across the lobby floor, making a b-line for the door. He had to escape before his heart leapt out of his chest. It was beating so fast, his head felt like it was about to explode. His body was so flushed, he was practically a beacon signaling incoming ships that it was safe to dock like he was some demented lighthouse.
There weren't any docks around here! He was so confused, he was thinking nonsense. Bell was about to hit the doors when his feet scraped against the floor, his leather boots letting out squeaking sounds from coming into contact with the polished stone. He got no closer to the doors, and he wasn't moving despite how fast his legs were moving. His body was suddenly tugged backward sharply. He felt the grip of a slight hand wrapped around his elbow, preventing him from moving at all. The frightened rabbit turned to catch a glimpse of his would-be hunter.
The girl's golden eyes pierced him. They were close, very close. Only a few inches separated the two, Bell Cranell and the Sword Princess. Her expression seemed somewhat sad as she held the white rabbit in place. He was thoroughly befuddled by both the attention he garnered from the girl, as well as the contact. He looked from her face to his arm, and back to her face. His skin flushed red. So much blood rushed to his face that he nearly fainted. Bell's body almost went limp.
Of course, there was no way a Level One Adventurer could outrun a Level Two, let alone a Level Five like Aiz Wallenstein. That Bell Cranell was trapped by the Sword Princess was a simple matter of fact. There was nothing he could have done from the start, especially considering how determined Aiz was by this point. She pulled him back to the sofas and tossed him like a ragdoll. He landed square on the soft cushion, mouth completely agape. She sat on the sofa across from him and met his wavering eyes with her steel-laden ones.
This was one of his dreams. He wanted to have conversations with her, but his inability to be within her presence for more than a few seconds made it impossible for him. This was exactly what he wanted, save for the hateful glares he was receiving from the other male Adventurers. Aiz merely sat there, staring at him. He was given this opportunity, so he shouldn't waste it. Wondering what he should say, he settled on anything.
"M-M-M-May… May…" he stammered. This wasn't good. Be cool, Bell. Be cool!
"'May?'" Aiz repeated. Her beautiful voice nearly melted his ears off his head.
"May," Bell tried to continue. Nothing was going to come out if he couldn't get past his fear. So, in order to power through every instinct he had that told him to run, he clenched his abdomen and let it out, "MAY I BE OF ASSISTANCE?!"
Smooth, Bell. Really smooth…
He instantly turned red. His humiliation was mounting. The girl blinked in surprise. She didn't think a meek boy such as he could make a loud noise like that. He was an interesting young man, but she didn't have time to contemplate his eccentricities. She shifted to the edge of her cushion, sitting a bit more forward than before. In response, Bell shifted in the other direction, pressing his back further into the sofa. The creaking wood sufficed as a sign that he was forcing himself away.
"Before we begin," she spoke, causing his shoulders to jump. She averted her gaze for a moment. He really did hate her, it seemed. Sighing, she continued, "I just wanted to apologize for causing you so much trouble with the Minotaur. I let it escape during my dungeon dive because I've had a lot on my mind as of late. So, for what it's worth…"
The Sword Princess stood up from her seat. With a blank expression, she gazed at Bell, hoping that he saw what she was about to do. With her arms at her sides and bending at the waist, Aiz Wallenstein's golden hair almost hit the floor in a well-practiced bow. The boy's eyes nearly popped from their sockets when he saw his hero bowing to him. He never thought such a thing would happen, and it threatened to completely destroy his brain.
"I am very sorry," she said loud enough for him to hear with every ounce of sincerity she could muster. "I hope you can forgive me."
She didn't let him see it, but she was wearing a sour look. She felt horrible about what had happened. She felt even worse that she forgot about it. The boy could have developed a trauma caused entirely by her actions. Something like that could not be fixed so easily. If something were to happen to the boy, she would blame herself, no matter the circumstance.
Aiz almost couldn't stand the silence. The boy was probably wearing a look of outrage, thinking that something as disingenuous as a mere apology could possibly make up for what happened. Expecting the worst, she straightened her back and nearly cracked a smile. His face was twisted in abject terror, his arms thrown up in the air as if to brace himself against an invisible object. His pupils were shaking like he was following something with sporadic movements.
Bell's mouth flapped, confusion taking over his entire body. His mind was fogged up with what he had just seen. Unable to process it, he did whatever he could to accept the event as truth. However, something was changing within him. The words she spoke as well as what she was willing to do to convey her feelings didn't sit well with him. Someone like she shouldn't have to do those things, even if they were necessary. It just wasn't right.
"Y-You don't need t-to apologize," he squeezed out, his voice close to a whisper. When her eyes flared open, he moved to elaborate, "If anything, I-I should be thanking you."
He shot up from his seat and bent forward so quickly and lowly in such a spectacular show of flexibility that he nearly slammed his head into the floor, "Thank you for saving my life!"
That was right. She didn't need to say anything to him. He was weak. He knew that. She was strong, and she didn't need to do anything to prove it. However, she proved it every day with her actions. If she could help, she would do it at her own expense. If there was something only she could do, she would do it, no matter what. That was what he admired about her. She wasn't just an Adventurer. She was the Adventurer.
The normally composed Aiz almost gasped. This boy, despite everything, even herself, had thrown her for a loop. She rarely had misconceptions about people, but she hadn't expected the young man to be so kind. It was her fault. He should be angry. He should be making demands of her. After all, she was worth quite a bit. He could have asked for just about anything, and he would have gotten it. She hadn't expected things to be so backwards.
"You don't hate me?" the words left her mouth before she could help it. She couldn't believe it.
"Wha?!" Bell raised his voice again. The look on his face told her that he had had no such thoughts. "How could I possibly hate you?! You're my hero!"
"But," she still couldn't believe it. The more she heard him speak, the stranger he seemed. She tried to push even further, "You nearly died. If I hadn't made a mistake—
He shook his head, "I'm alive because of you. You wouldn't have had to save me if I had been stronger."
It was Aiz's turn to shake her head, "Minotaurs are Level Two monsters. A Level One Adventurer wouldn't stand a chance against one," she stated. So many were lost to Minotaurs, it was almost an indisputable fact that they could only be defeated by Level Two Adventurers. "It would be asking too much for a green Adventurer to take on something like that without help."
"That's no excuse," he mumbled, his expression growing somber. The sudden change in his attitude caused her brow to furrow. "The dungeon could throw anything at me at any time. If I'm not prepared to deal with it, then I can't call myself an Adventurer. Not being strong enough is no excuse."
She watched him with wide eyes. She thought him a naïve child; someone who had yet to grow up and accept the world for what it was. Nevertheless, he somehow showed her that he had all the knowledge he needed to survive, he just didn't know how to use it. The way he looked at the world was different, childish, and too pure. He had his ideals, and he had his goals, but he just needed the means. The dungeon was his way to get it.
A smile crept onto the Sword Princess' face. Bell took in a sharp breath as her beautiful face became even prettier. His heart was pounding in his chest, but this time, he didn't want to run. He wanted to stay and see the smile she was showing him. He felt he had achieved something great; something that he would treasure.
"You're weird, aren't you?" she continued to smile. There was no malevolent jibe, nor taunt, nor insult. She was merely stating her thoughts. "Though, that isn't a bad thing."
The boy smiled in return. The moment they shared was an intriguing one. Both parties managed to say exactly what they wanted to say. No one was angry. No one was slighted. Everything had a positive outcome. Such moments were rare indeed. Unfortunately, that moment had to end.
Aiz had Eina lead them into a conference room where they could discuss the case regarding Ainz Ooal Gown. Aiz did her best to fill in the gaps in Bell's story, since he wasn't present for the important parts. However, once he heard it all, he decided to jump in with both feet. He didn't like it when people stopped playing by the rules. He was nervous, but it was the right thing to do. They both signed their names on the paper Eina drafted for them, thus completing the Guild Report.
Both Aiz and Bell left the Guild together, side by side. Their homes were down different roads, so this was where they needed to part. Before Bell could leave, Aiz stopped him momentarily. She made the offer to pay to have his armor professionally cleaned, which he swiftly declined. Not taking no for an answer, Aiz removed several thousand Valis from her purse and forced it into his hands. She saw that he seemingly accepted, but she had no idea that there was no way he could possibly spend that money.
It will probably be stored in the back of his drawer.
"Be careful, Bell Cranell," Aiz suddenly stated. He was pulled out of his reverie, trying to think of a good spot to hide the money from his goddess. The Sword Princess' serious expression seemed to drain all of the giddiness out of him. "Now that you are involved, I wouldn't be surprised if they made a move on you. We know next to nothing about them, but what we do know is terrifying. If they were to come for you, not even I could save you. Keep your head down and don't cause trouble."
Bell's breath caught in his throat. After hearing Aiz's experience with Ainz Ooal Gown, he knew there was no way she was exaggerating. With a strong nod, he agreed, "I understand. I will stay out of trouble."
"Good," she nodded happily. "Take care."
With a curt wave, she disappeared down North Main. There was a joyous hop in her step. For once, the tax on her mind was lessening. She even got to meet someone interesting out of all of it. If it hadn't caused her so much stress, she would have thanked Momonga for it.
Bell watched the girl leave until she was out of sight. The money in his hands was warm. It was her warmth. He never thought he would meet the one he admired, let alone speak with her at length. Sure, it wasn't about anything he wanted to talk about, but they were together nonetheless. He grinned happily as he shoved the money in a separate satchel, so as not to mix it with his own earnings. He then took off down West Main at full speed, unable to shake the happiness he was feeling. He noticed people looking pale along the way, but thought nothing of it.
He would never know that he missed the darkness that had just blown through by a hair's breadth.
She swished the wine in her glass as she watched the Children go about their lives below. She brought the glass to her face and inhaled deeply, taking in the perfume scent of the blood red liquid. She then sipped, letting it coat her mouth before she swallowed. The earthiness and fruity tones allowed her to identify the wine, despite having not seen the bottle herself. This was her daily routine. She watched from above, enjoying her favorite wines, and she waited.
Straight, silver hair draped over her shoulders as she leaned her elbow on the arm of the cushioned chair. With a breathy sigh, she twirled a silver lock around her finger, as she usually did when awaiting her favorite time of day. This was both the most exciting and boring moment for her. She wanted to see him. She wanted his image to burn into her mind. She wanted to be blinded by his color.
Countless hues flitted around in the world below the highest room of the tallest tower. She squinted her eyes as they scurried from one place to another. There were greens, blues, reds, all different kinds of colors filled her vision. The auras of the Adventurers and civilians who lived in Orario was surveyed by the Goddess of Beauty. However, none of these colors intrigued her. If anything, they bored her.
Freya was a collector. If she saw a creature that interested her, if a color caught her attention, she became obsessed with it. She absorbed everything about them. She learned their likes, dislikes, family, friends, who they were, where they were from, and anything else that would paint a fuller picture of the object of her obsession.
In Tenkai, she was the judge of souls. She would decide whether someone was a decent person in their life. If they were a righteous individual, they joined them in Tenkai for all eternity. If they were sinful, she would send them back down to the world to try again, possibly as another type of creature. Every day, she judged countless souls. The monotonous task frustrated her to no end. However, she found ways to pass the time and enjoy her job. If she found a soul that had a color she considered beautiful, she would keep it for herself.
It was great and all, but that too soon became dull. The souls had already lived. They had enjoyed their lives, experienced their growth, felt their pain, endured their history, and became everything that they were going to be with no room for improvement. There was no fun in collecting fully developed souls.
When the gods decided to venture to Gekai, she had an idea. If she could help guide souls that held the potential for greatness, she could collect them when they had reached an even more impressive level. Better yet, she wanted to collect them before they had reached their pinnacle. If she could become part of their lives while they blossomed into the beautiful explosion of colors they were, nothing would entertain her more. She would care for them, nurture them, raise them, and even love them.
After all, her obsession always twisted into love. She couldn't help it. How could she keep them with her for all eternity and not love them?
And there was the new object of her obsession, of her love. She had seen many auras of many colors. She had one of every shade, every hue, and every possible tone. She thought that as things were, she would eventually grow bored again. Once that happened, what would she do then? Would she start her collection all over again? What could she find that she hadn't found before? Then he appeared.
The boy was weak. He was slight of figure, but his proportions were perfect. He was built for speed and agility, and he would have to work for every ounce of strength that was possible for him to gain. Overall, he was a subpar Adventurer. Nevertheless, it wasn't his potential as an Adventurer that caught her eye; it was his aura.
Pure. The purest color, to the point where it had no color at all. He was transparent, but he was full and bright. He was untainted by the world. The moment she saw him, she was hooked. The love she felt for him overflowed her heart. She had never seen anything like him. He was something new in a sea of monotony. If she could have him, he would be placed on a pedestal so she could see him whenever she wanted.
She only had one issue; could this Child grow to his fullest potential without her help? Recently, she saw a change in him. Something happened to him that dimmed his light. The brightness of his aura was already somewhat low, but if his spirit broke, Freya could lose her chance to broaden her collection, and she couldn't allow that. That day, she vowed to help him along. It wasn't out of compassion, though. She just wanted him to be at his absolute best, his brightest, when she took him for her own.
When the pure light emerged from the Tower entrance below, she immediately stood and approached her window, a sense of joy filling her chest. The white haired boy left the dungeon at roughly the same time every day. Freya made sure to be there when he did, so she could take stock of his progress. This time around, she was pleasantly surprised by how well he was doing. In the past few days, his aura had intensified significantly. She assumed it was due to the fact that he had learned from his experience and turned it to his advantage.
Just looking at him caused her cheeks to flush red. Her thighs pressed together as the heat grew. The intensity of her emotions was driving her over the edge. Her hand ran down her chest and stomach, feeling the thin fabric of her revealing clothing. Before it could make contact with her heat, her heart skipped a beat and she froze. An unrivaled, golden aura emerged alongside him. Its brightness dwarfed everything else around it, even the young man.
Her tongue clucked reflexively. She wanted to see his shine, but it was completely hidden by that of the Sword Princess. The goddess' beautiful features twisted into a sneer. Now her whole day was ruined. She would have to wait for him the next day, but her disappointment was apparent.
Why did she have to show up? Freya had enough of that color. In fact, gold was one of the first colors she collected. Surprisingly, it was not too uncommon, but Aiz Wallenstein's was particularly potent; one of the most intense she had ever seen. But, in Freya's mind, if she had seen one, she had seen them all. At the moment, her obsession was all she thought about. If anyone else got in the way, she would effectively remove them.
The aura's disappeared, and Freya bit her lip. With a crestfallen huff, she made to turn away from her viewing perch. As her eyes swept over the landscape one last time, her eyes widened when they caught sight of the color that nearly burned her retinas.
Black. Two, solid, inky, sludgy black auras were slowly making their way up West Main. The goddess' lips parted in a gape. The gloom that emanated from the figures absorbed all light that came near them, sending the area around them into seemingly eternal darkness. The auras of the people ducking away from them dimmed in their presences. Like water around a river rock, the sea of people parted to allow the black beacons to move through unhindered.
She gulped. She had seen black auras before. As the arbiter of souls, she had judged those who had been wicked in their living days. The truly terrible criminals had dim, dark souls. Those who had black auras were despicable creatures that could barely be called civilized people. They were instantly sent to the abyss below.
This black, however, was purity in another sense. The two creatures in her sight were undoubtedly evil, but it was different. There was no malice, no insanity, and no ruthlessness. The people around them were in no more danger in their presences as they were in the presence of a child. How could something so sinister be harmless? It was as if it was their state of being, rather than a result of life. They didn't become like that through experience; they were born that way.
The wine glass she was holding slipped from her grasp, shattering spectacularly across the floor. Her hands gripped the railing so tightly that her dark gloves nearly tore. She was mesmerized by their color, their intensity, and couldn't contain herself when the implications hit her like a brick wall. She found a boy with an aura so pure, he could be considered completely innocent. There was not a stain on him, and she wanted him. She also found two creatures with auras so black, they were as dark as a starless night. Light shied away from their presences. They were not stained, but they themselves were stains on this world, and she wanted them.
Her eyes sharpened as she stared down at her new interest. From her room in the Tower of Babel, she could see anything and everything. With her strengthened eyes, she zoomed in on the two figures. Both wore dark armor, a male in black and a female in a deep purple. The female was adorned with a pair of horns on her head, most likely an accessory of her armor set. The man in black, on the other hand, seemed familiar. The color of his armor, red sash over one of his shoulders, his large stature, and a pair of massive great swords clicked in her mind.
"Ottar," she called out to seemingly no one. Knowing she had not been alone the whole time, she waited for her attendant to respond.
"Yes, Mistress?" a hulk of a man emerged from the shadows. Two boar's ears protruded from his messy hair kept out of his eyes by a red bandana.
The low rumble of his voice filled her ears. A smile appeared on her rosy lips. "What do you know of the one called the Silent Swordsman?"
The Boaz was silent for a moment before he answered his goddess' question, "I am only aware of the information available in the rumors. If I recall correctly, he is a tall man in black armor with gold and silver etchings, a red, one-sided cape, and two large blades on his back."
"I see," Freya smirked happily. So she was right? Letting out the breath she was holding, she voiced her desire, "I want to know more."
She heard the slap of a hand on armor. Ottar saluted his goddess with gusto. "Your wish is my command."
Ottar turned and left without another word. Whatever he needed to do to fulfill his goddess' wishes, he would pull out all the stops. It was one of the spells Freya always had active, though it technically wasn't magic. Her beauty and Charm was just so bewitching that people would always do whatever she asked of them. It was one of her games, turning those she "loved" into one of her mindless slaves who wanted nothing more than to satisfy her deepest desires.
The black auras disappeared down an alley off West Main. Freya closed her eyes, savoring the memory of their color. When she opened them again, the fire that burned within them could have seared one's flesh.
She was insatiable. Her obsession mounted. Her love will spread to wherever she touched. All she needed to do was extend her reach.
*~-PLE PLE PLEIADES INFORMATION CORNER-~*
"Hey everyone! This is Lupusregina Beta reporting for duty! Today, I am the host of the Ple Ple Pleiades Information Corner! YAY!"
A massive logo descends from above the stage.
*insert applause sign here*
"Oh yeah! This is where the Pleiades Maids will explain the interesting quirks of this new Danmachi universe! We of Overlord have a rather steep learning curve, but that doesn't mean you need to be kept in the dark!
"I received the spotlight this time around because I play a larger role in the next chapter! I get to have some fun spreading the name of Ainz Ooal Gown across Orario. Hopefully those fools on the surface will learn exactly who's in charge!"
*insert applause sign. Did… did someone not buy it?*
"Albedo," Momonga leans over to one seat in the audience. "How much was the budget for this segment?"
"It's not important, Momonga-sama," she completely ignores him.
"It's incredibly important!"
"That's enough from the peanut gallery," Lupusregina puts her hands on her hips. "Let's jump right into it, shall we?"
Someone cuts the wires on the logo, causing it to fall onto the stage and shatter. A massive screen lowers from the same position. Pyrotechnics go off accompanied by lights and lasers.
"My God, how much did this cost?" the Supreme Being cups his face with his hands.
"Don't mind it so much," Lupusregina shakes his comment off. She assumes a lecturing pose, complete with glasses and pointer. "The first order of things we will cover is the state of an Adventurer before and after receiving the Falna. The author threw a lot at you this time around, so explaining it would make things a bit easier.
"The statement that the excelia someone accumulates before receiving a Falna doesn't count toward their status was completely made up on the spot. The author has no idea whether or not that is true. However, in his weird, boring mind, excelia is only assigned a value after the Falna is acquired. Anything before that is essentially a personal triumph, and does not account for any growth after the Blessing."
Strange animations play on the screen. They require more explanation than the actual lore.
"Therefore, if Momonga-sama were to receive a Falna, his level in Yggdrasil wouldn't matter, because it is an entirely different system. This also gives Momonga the chance to become even more OP than he was before. This will cause some balancing issues, but the author believes he has some ways to counter it. Levels one through eight will be equivalent to Yggdrasil's players. Levels nine and ten will be reserved for hero-level and those who transcend to a higher state of being, like demigod. This is extremely rare, and shouldn't even be considered part of the story at the moment. This level spread will allow the Danmachi characters to last a bit longer without getting wiped out immediately. A story without danger or conflict is just boring."
"Momonga-sama will be like a newborn," Albedo mutters with heated breaths. "I want to level him up…"
"You just want to sit on his back," the vampire floor guardian sitting on Momonga's opposite side whispers just high enough to hear.
Albedo leans forward to look past Momonga, "Say that again, bitch!"
Shalltear does the same, "Bring it, whore!"
"Moving on," Lupusregina slams the pointer into the screen, putting a decently sized hole in it.
"Come on," Momonga began to sweat. "Who will replace that?"
"Momonga-sama is a game breaker!" she shouts as she points directly at him.
Everyone turns their head to stare at him. He sinks deeper into his chair.
"In Yggdrasil, he used Dark Wisdom to obtain over 700 spells, well over the 300 spell cap. There isn't much information about the skill. The author searched high and low, and even asked questions on the wiki. It turns out, no one really knows exactly how it works," Lupusregina shrugs. "He heard that a spell could only be learned after a player had been killed, and then a d-20 roll would determine which level spell was copied. There is also a possibility that the copied spell would disappear after a short time. If any readers have more information regarding Dark Wisdom, it would be greatly appreciated."
"Do you know how your spell works, Momonga-sama?" Mare taps his shoulder from behind.
"Of course I do," the Overlord responds. "I know how every spell works."
"Can you explain it to me, then?"
"When it comes to the Danmachi universe," Lupusregina slams the pointer into the screen again. Another hole appears. "There is another game breaker known as Bell Cranell. With his skill 'Learis Freese,' he can grow incredibly quickly, and even achieve what other Adventurers cannot, and that is reach over S-rank for ALL of his stats.
"If he does that for every level, there will come a point when he becomes stronger than those of a higher level than he is, all by sheer numbers. This doesn't really happen during the novels, but the math supports it. This might help solve some of the balancing issues the characters of Overlord pose."
An arm comes through one of the holes in the screen holding a piece of folded paper. Lupusregina grabs it and opens it up as the hand disappears.
After a quick glance, she declares, "This is a personal announcement from the author. He is annoyed by the publishing company for having mistranslated the skill 'Learis Freese.' He was quite surprised when he was reading the novel and 'Realis Phrase,' which makes more sense in his opinion, suddenly became 'Learis Freese.' He very much enjoyed feeling like an idiot."
"The filthy human should feel like an idiot," a voice comes from somewhere in the audience.
"I do!" a distant shout comes from behind the curtain.
"AND FINALLY!" Lupusregina raises her arms into the air.
*we didn't buy a drum either?*
*oh… okay then*
"Momonga-sama will take his first steps into the world of the gods! He will finally don the name of Ainz Ooal Gown and begin his legacy! He will remain as Momonga while in his Black Warrior form, but he will be known as Ainz Ooal Gown once everything gets going," she slams the pointer into the screen again. Six more holes appear somehow.
"That's all the time we have for today! I am Lupusregina Beta, and this has been the Ple Ple Pleiades Information Corner! See you next time!"
The screen is cut from its suspension and destroys the wooden stage. It will need to be rebuilt before the next segment.
*nobody bought the applause sign*
*HOW WILL THEY KNOW WHEN TO APPLAUD?!*
"For your information, Momonga-sama," Albedo leans toward him. "This little segment cost us one mil—
"No, no…" he shakes his head as everything bursts into flames from extra pyrotechnics. His eyes are lifeless, and tears are trailing down his face. "I don't want to know."
Alright, with this, that's a wrap for this chapter. I hope you enjoyed it. Again, if there is anything you want to say or suggest, I am just a PM away. Until next time!