Ainz was many things, but as prepared and all knowing as the members of Nazarick seemed to assume of him, this wasn't quite the case. Instead, he was more of an 'on the fly' sort of guy somehow managing to scrounge up an act of competence when he was just as clueless about this New World than anyone else in his shoes.
The class systems were the same as in YGGDRASIL along with Tier Magic and race specialties; however, there many new mechanics and abilities he had no knowledge of whatsoever. He'd have to do his own investigation and garner more field experience before coming to any concrete conclusions. Presently, his only known factor that fell into this category were known as 'Martial Arts' to the inhabitants of the New World. He'd still yet to discover any more unique aspects different from the game he knew.
This sense of ambiguity derived from the fear of the unknown was cause enough to remain prudent and cautious. The fact that YGGDRASIL's Raid Bosses may likely roam this New World's lands as well was cause enough for genuine terror.
Low profile was best.
It didn't help that most of the Raid Bosses catered towards the Hero genre with positive alignment, further encouraging the bias against Heteromorphic races which leaned towards evil alignment.
As for Neutral Aligned Raid Bosses, Ainz was now currently testing how far he could push things with his current planned gamble.
-Rose petals dance in the wind, only a single True Emperor will remain…
The Warring Empires of Alfheim.
The creator slogan propagated throughout YGGDRASIL's forums made headlines when first issued.
The expansion pack included four Roman Emperors in charge of their factions warring for dominance with Alfheim as the battlefield. Each Emperor counted as a Boss assassination target, and each had their own faction effects and benefits.
Alfheim was the scene of total war with large scale Player-dominated battles. In such settings, the influence of a single boss alone would be drowned by the Players, yet the personalities and stories of each Emperor garnered unwavering support from their fanbases.
Julius Ceaser of the Silver Tongue, a brilliant yet lazy tactician.
Romulus the Founder, Son of Mars.
Caligula the Bewitched, Battle Craze.
Nero Claudius Ceaser, The Performer, Patron of Venus.
Each had their own views and ideals of how to rule their Empires, and the Players made the choice of faction.
For Nero! For the Empire, For the Glory that was her Rome!
Ainz felt shivers travel down his spine.
Nero's reputation was the best among the Heteromorphic Players who made up a good chunk of her armies and fanbase…and now she too was here in this New World, and not just an AI program either.
If her Legions in YYGDRASIL were here, it would be no exaggeration to say that if she wanted someone dead, they were going to die.
Nero was Neutral aligned and reasonable: Promoting others on merit and skill rather than privilege, and not to boast, but Ainz Ooal Gown had fought under her banner in the Alfheim expansion pack with the prefix of Cohort Nine.
Right now, Ainz needed allies more than anything, and his memories of the guild fighting alongside Nero were strong. Once you've gained a certain familiarity and trust with Nero, for her allies she wouldn't hesitate to wage war.
This was why she was so likable. It didn't help that she was also beautiful and revealing, a double blow for any NEET. It really didn't help that she was also the only Female Emperor whom many men in Alfeim pledged allegiance to as members of her Legions.
This sparked jealously, animosity, and envy from the female player base that was only mitigated by the fact that Nero wasn't 'real.'
Still, out of spite, the female population of YYGDRASIL almost always joined the other factions and had a mutual agreement to pressure Nero's faction. In a three Vs. one scenario, Nero's faction often times found themselves in dire straights and repressed much like how Heteromorphic races were treated.
This only further consolidated the will of the Heteromorphic races to fight for their woeful Emperor. It was also one of the only real instances where human races and heteromorphic races truly put down their prejudice if only to fight on Nero's side.
Those were fun times; reminiscent times even.
Peroroncino had a lot to say about her.
Ainz secretly lamented that if he'd come to this New World alone, he would have found it an honour to fight by Nero's side again. Especially because this time she was real.
[Elsewhere, Albedo suddenly perked up in alarm and bit the nail of her thumb in nervousness. She should really have been the one to travel with her lord…]
Ainz shook his head and organized his thoughts.
If you can make use of Nero, then she'd be a strong ally. Moreover, perhaps this New World could have a method to cure Cocytus without having to defeat the Rune Witch.
He had to just think positive.
His initial goal in appearing in the Baharuth Empire had now been supplanted by Nero's unexpected presence. Perhaps this was a sign of good fortune? Now if only his member of the Great Tomb could stop trying to read for any deeper meanings into his actions.
Is it that much of a surprise to seek out allies against Raid Bosses?
Ainz under the guise of Momon using [Perfect Warrior] quietly trailed behind Arche as she led the way to a manor in which Nero was stated to be occupying.
Beside him, Narberal Gamma of the Battle Maidens known as the Pleiades was frowning. Her lips pursed, her eyes almost narrowed into slits while scrutinizing Arche, and her former worker party up ahead leading the way. She seemed almost upset more by the fact that they were trailing behind the party rather than leading it.
"Is there a problem, Nabe?" Ainz made sure to keep his voice low and tone neutral. Other than Narberal, no one should be able to pick up on his words unless they had high enough perception; considering the relative weakness of the New World's inhabitants, this was a moot point.
Narberal craned her neck up to stare upon Ainz's lofty figure a good head taller than her own.
"I don't understand My Lo-Momon," Narberal quickly amended her mistake when a glint flickered through Ainz's visor. She bit down on her lips at the almost careless mistake, yet she wouldn't keep her lord waiting for an answer.
Shifting herself closer to Ainz, she whispered lowly, almost mouthing the words. "Why are we fraternizing with these bugs? Were we not here for a different reason?"
Narberal was right. Originally, they were here to assess the condition of the Baharuth Empire and pick up their plans to be adventurers after the failed attempt in E-Rantel. This was done to understand the norms of the New World's human society and assimilate to it. Of course, they could have obtained their official Adventurer's licence in E-Rantel, but didn't dare do so considering it was one of the last places Cu Chulainn had visited.
If the Rune Witch was around to avenge her apprentice, she would surely be heading towards E-Rantel.
Besides, Ainz had gotten word from Albedo that Demiurge had begun operations in the region, likely on his orders to procure more material to amass an army or recreate essential items from YGGDRASIL.
"…" If Ainz had lips, he'd probably be wetting them. He wasn't sure how he should answer Narberal's question. It wasn't that it was difficult, it was just that he didn't know how to convey the importance of why he'd decided to shift priorities when he'd heard Nero's name. "Wait and see," he trailed off.
Ainz Ooal Gown could ask for no better ally then Nero Claudius. She may not be as strong as the conventional Raid Boss, but her faction's buffs were by far the most useful.
[Stars in Heaven]
[Flowers on Earth]
[Love to the People]
If her buffs were the same as in YYGDRASIL, then Ainz really wanted to recruit or ally with her. She was one of the few NPC's who didn't have negative favourability for undead, and only grew hostile if one agroed her intentionally.
This decision also had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he and many of his former Guild Members were of the Nero Faction in Alfheim.
Ainz coughed lightly.
This decision was made out of respect and nothing else.
Hearing his answer, Narberal no longer decided to dwell on her thoughts.
"O-Of course, it was foolish of me to even consider trying to fathom your intentions," Narberal nodded in earnest, her features softening while looking forward to whatever Ainz had 'planned.' "Please excuse my arrogance."
Don't look at me with those eyes! You're reading too much into things again! Ainz inwardly lamented. Externally though, he maintained his calm.
"No, there's no need for such a thing." Ainz coolly brushed the matter aside with a flutter of his red cape adorned over his black armour's pauldrons. "Circumstances have changed, and as such we must act accordingly."
"…I see." There was an obvious 'what has changed?' question over Narberal features, but she didn't voice it this time already knowing that her lord had asked her to wait. Her expectations were exceedingly high.
Ainz felt like he was going to get a headache.
"So, where you from? You look like Nobles, especially this lady here?" Hekkeran who was near Arche spoke up towards Ainz and Narberal.
"Shut up, bug," Narberal scorned with despise.
"Ooh, burned," Hekkeran let out a good natured laugh, and shrugged when Imina gave him a warning glare.
From Arche and the others perspective, Ainz and Narberal must have been of exceptionally high status, hence the silence between them. It didn't help that Arche wasn't much of a socializer.
"That's enough Hekkeran, we're almost back." Arche advised almost stiffly. "Just focus on the job. Actually, we're here. Stay with Roberdyck and Imina, I'll lead the guests up."
Arche had been leading the way to Nero's accommodated manor since the beginning, and Ainz noticed that they must have arrived if the lavish décor was anything to go by.
A large mansion stood erected upon the top of a lush hill. Red silk cloth hung from stylized central pillars engraved with Roman motifs and an arched central doorway. Laurels were further adorned on protruding nails on the sides of the entrance walls.
The Baharuth Empire's Romanesque design really did blend well with the scenery.
Ainz didn't say anything, but these arrangements practically screamed Nero, ever the flamboyant and vain sort.
"Please, follow me," Arche did a noble's curtsey from her days as a landed noble before carefully escorting Ainz and Narberal into the manor.
Once in the manner, Arche called out to a nearby attendant who then came to inform the Duchess of the manor of the arrival of guests.
A few moments later, and a bright aired woman with golden wheat-coloured locks and playful emerald coloured eyes came strutting in with her iconic see-through-at-the-waist red dress of hers.
It's her indeed.
Ainz felt a swell of emotion. How else would anyone react towards a beloved character from a favorite game in the flesh? He was almost somewhat shy or flustered, but such emotions were forcibly quelled by his constitution, allowing him to remain calm and composed on the outside.
This was the second time to see a Raid Boss from YYGDRASIL in person, and this time was far more welcome than the last.
"You had a job you wished completed?" Ainz inquired cordially, an almost reminiscent modulation in his tone.
Staring at Nero, it almost felt like he was here with his Guild Members wishing to take on another faction quest.
He couldn't help but feel amiable in this moment.
Nero paused as she gave Ainz and Narberal a once over, a sparkle in her pupils. Ordinary people may not be able to see it, but Nero could tell immediately that Ainz and Narberal were strong.
"Umu, you've chosen well!" Nero patted Arche on the shoulders in genuine praise. "You sure know how to tell the difference between the capable and incapable!"
Arche flushed red, mouth opening and closing, but not saying anything as she wasn't used to such blatant displays of skinship as her mother had never really hugged her with any sort of affection or emotion.
Effectively, Arche was lost for words, and resorted to just meekly nodding a quiet "Thank you."
Meanwhile, Nero had already moved on to stand across from Ainz and Narberal, a hand beneath her chin while she grew more and more content with Arche's recruitment choice.
Ainz stifled his amusement at Nero's antics.
Nero was as flamboyant and energetic as ever, if not more so as the radiance of her smile could practically light up any room.
As Ainz expected, Nero was just like she was in the game, albeit, there was life and flare in her right here and now. This was the genuine Nero, and not just a congregation of data crystals forming a personality.
"I am pleased!" Nero stated before abruptly moving to clap Arche in the back. "I am beyond genius, if I do say so myself! Choosing you to recruit people was the right choice!"
"Not to interrupt, but what exactly is it that you intend to ask of us?" Ainz cut in boldly. From his experience in YYGDRASIL, he had an idea of the type of character Nero was.
"Ah, daring and decisive to interrupt this emperor, I like it!" Nero beamed before growing more serious. "Umu, I'll get to the point then. There have been cases of missing persons lately, and I need members to join a team to speed up and conclude their investigation."
Missing people's cases?
Ainz suddenly felt a shudder travel down his bones. For one reason or another, he felt that Demiurge may be involved in this matter.
This was even more reason to get involved.
He had to tread carefully.
He didn't want to make Nero an enemy if he could avoid it.
"Very well, my partner and I will take on this request," he agreed after a moment, causing Nero's countenance to visibly brighten.
"I am content! I can tell that you are a capable warrior! Soon, there will be nothing left to lament over this issue, and nothing but praise will be cast upon me!" Nero expressed her confidence.
Silence stretched. Nero sounded almost full of herself, yet Ainz was inwardly content.
This was still the Nero he knew.
Arche evidently didn't know Nero as well as Ainz did since she felt that the silence was awkward and tried to mediate it.
"Your wisdom knows no bounds Lady Nero, and er, uhm," Arche wet her lips, obviously not too well versed in flattery, but seeing well enough that Nero glowed under praise that she tried to put in some effort. "Your decisiveness will surely beget much inspiration to the masses!"
Don't encourage her! Ainz inwardly pinched the bridge of his nose.
"It's never enough! Praise me more!" Nero said uproariously, an almost uplifting sensation once again permeating within Ainz from fond memories of Ainz Ooal Gown's earliest Guild days in Alfheim.
Narberal's dark expression however pulled Ainz away from his musing.
"How narcissistic," Narberal murmured to herself, unable to see what her lord saw in Nero to leave a good impression or to take on Nero's request.
Ainz subtly gave Narberal a look in order to stop her sabotaging him, causing her to keep her features even more stoic before addressing Nero again. "It will be a pleasure to work with you, Lady Nero," he said in earnest.
Nero seemed touched at the remark. In her days as Emperor, it was simple for her to tell when someone was being genuine or not. She started to feel some favourability for this collected looking black knight in full body plate. As Nero was always one to act on her whims, she did so without hesitation.
"Umu, prove capable and I may offer a new post for a centurion, ah-wait, don't I need my army for that? At least a one-hundred? Uwu, I'll just mooch off of Jircniv, yes. Yes, that can work!" Nero puffed up her chest and placed her hands over her hips imperiously before pointing at Ainz and Narberal. "Do well, and I won't mistreat one of my own! If not a centurion, then you may use my name should you operate as an Adventurer. Know that if any would dare cross you, they'd cross me too! Is this not a good reward for a job well done?!"
Narberal's features twisted while she kept her head down. To dare even insinuate that the leader of the Supreme Ones was beneath another infuriated her to the point that she just couldn't hold it in.
"Its you who should-"
"Nabe," Ainz placed a hand over Narberal's shoulder, but she was obviously unwilling to conced this point. She looked like she'd swallowed a fly. Her teeth were gritted, and her countenance sour.
Fortunately, Narberal's face had always been directed towards Ainz, so no one had really seen much of her expression aside from her stoic side profile.
"This is the guise of Momon, not the Supreme Lord of the Great Tomb," Ainz whispered sternly, cowing Narberal.
Narberal pursed her lips and huffed, hand balling into fists before gradually unclenching as she calmed down.
Meanwhile, Ainz nodded to Nero who tilted her head at Ainz's abrupt whispering with Narberal.
Nero could listen in on the conversation if she wished, but Ainz knew that it wasn't in her character to snoop so openly. If she wanted to know something she was the sort to directly ask.
"My apologies, my companion wished to express her opinion on this matter," Ainz made a believable excuse by stating the truth for what it was.
"And?" Nero asked eagerly.
Ainz nodded in his guise as Momon.
"We will fulfill the request to the best of our ability."
Ainz had underestimated how eagerly Nero wanted to complete this assigned task. No sooner than he agreed did he find himself and Narberal escorted by Arche towards the company of two strangers.
Each were geared up in simple travelling leathers, but had the bearings of experienced individuals. The one with red hair seemed less closed off as the gruff looking one with a scar running down his face.
Ainz carefully observed the two shortly after Arche took her leave and left them on their own to discuss how'd they go about this operation.
Shirou Emiya and Gemas Hawthorn were the names of these two, but this wasn't the main point.
Ainz was more curious about their relationship with Nero, and if they were worth getting to know. To be trusted this much by Nero, they must be people from the New World that were quite capable as Ainz had no recollections regarding Shirou's or Gemas's characteristics anywhere in YGGDRASIL.
Ainz theorized that he could also just be overthinking. Perhaps like himself and Narberal, Nero had someone sent to recruit them for the task?
"We're from the Roble Holy Kingdom and simply stumbled into this case. That's why we're dressed so differently." Gemas said curtly before Ainz could ask anything about them.
Gemas had likely mistaken the meaning of Ainz's focused gaze. Though, it was true that Shirou's and Gemas's attire was different from the togas most citizens and people in Baharuth wore, Ainz had no interest in this considering he was in full plate armour.
"Sorry if I seemed as if I was being intrusive, but that wasn't what I wanted to honestly ask," Ainz quickly sorted his thoughts out before shifting onto the main point. "How did you both get to know a Noble of the Baharuth Empire?" he inquired curiously.
Gemas merely grunted and gestured to Shirou in response.
Shirou smiled wryly, trying to downplay the strength of whatever connection he had.
"It's complicated," Shirou expressed. To be honest, he still didn't know how to feel considering one of the reasons he'd created Nero was her similarity in appearance to Saber. He evidently would never say or reveal that given the circumstances, but he could also notice the stretching silence. "We got to know each other fairly recently, and we hit it off, kind of like friends?" He tried.
It wasn't like Shirou was lying either, since it hadn't been that long since the NPC's he'd created suddenly came to life, allowing him the opportunity to truly know them.
The same description was true for Ainz as well.
Ainz soon accepted the explanation for what it was since Shirou didn't appear to be lying. He also had no doubts that Shirou would be the focus of much envy if any hardcore Nero Fans ended up transmigrating over to this New World. Even Ainz himself was somewhat affected by Shirou's luck. He was practically holding onto a golden thigh and Shirou didn't even know it- he was that lucky to be noticed Nero.
Still, Nero wouldn't just take interest in anybody.
Ainz trained his gaze on Shirou with scrutiny. There had to be something about Shirou that was different from the rest, but this was more of a personal observation than something related to the current task.
Suddenly, Gemas called for everyone's attention in order to get them back on the topic at hand.
"We're currently looking for any information about missing persons cases. I believe that it might have something to do with a branch of the Eight Fingers, an underworld syndicate focused on crime and drug smuggling," Gemas recounted gruffly, a hand scratching over his stubble of a beard. "I'll state this now, but I'm only doing this job out of principle. I came to the Empire to contact my wife, so I'll be parting ways when this is all over."
"That's fine," Shirou expressed agreement.
"Do you happen to know where this branch is?" Ainz crossed his arms and assumed an imposing figure due to his tall height and the broad frame of his armour. Meanwhile, Narberal acted indifferent and acted as if she'd agree to anything Ainz decided on.
"Nope," Gemas admitted. "But I can probably find it. I already have a few leads. Shall we?"
"You're that confident?" Narberal spoke up for the first time. "Humans are fragile, and often fall to numbers. This branch sounds like a nest of insects."
Ainz raised a brow, but sighed in relief when neither Shirou or Gemas reacted too much regarding Narberal's scathing tone nor choice of words.
Gemas shrugged. "Shirou's here, and he's a Knight of Roble's Valkyrie, our Kingdom's national Hero. There's nothing to worry about with him here, then there's also myself, and Mr. Momon. I may not be the best judge of someone's capability, but I have a third-sense for things. Mr. Momon, my senses tell me that you are one to be feared."
Narberal blinked in surprise, actually growing a bit rosy at someone finally realising the glory that was her lord and Supreme One of the Great Tomb. "You, you're actually quite wise and bearable for a lesser-"
Ainz muffled Narberal's mouth before her compliment turned into an insult.
"I see. Then us four should be capable enough to settle things. Nabe here is a proficient Magic Caster, though she had a sheltered upbringing and isn't the best with conversing with others. Due forgive her if she slips up. She doesn't mean it," Ainz mediated.
"But I do me-"
Ainz patted Narberal's shoulder and she pulled a face, yet didn't say anything else.
"When should we depart?" Ainz decided to move things along before things got awkward.
Gemas nodded curtly and stood up to lead, Shirou following after with Ainz and Narberal who had her chin turned up almost haughtily.
"Again, please don't mind her behaviour," Ainz felt somewhat exasperated.
"No worries," Shirou shook his head. "I've dealt with my fair share of similar people. So, what brings the two of you here? Don't get me wrong, but you don't seem the sort to just take up any task."
Ainz considered the question before coming up with something reasonable. The quality of his armour and his grandiose demeanor practically screamed nobility of sorts. He could work with this. "My partner and I have to complete a mission I cannot simply disclose. To that end, we planned to become Adventurers in Baharuth before we were recruited for this venture."
"Ah, I see," Shirou mused.
Ainz glanced over and idly assessed Shirou. He seemed like the optimistic sort, but during the explanation of missing people's cases and the implied abductions, he had an uncharacteristically serious demeanor. It was almost reminiscent to how Touch Me may have reacted.
"And what of you?" Ainz voiced. "Surely you didn't just come here to fulfill a single task? One shouldn't prioritize others needs over their own after all, granted Lady Nero is the hard sort to refuse."
"And why shouldn't you prioritize the needs of others?" Shirou frowned at Ainz's advice. He agreed with Nero being hard to refuse but rejected the prior statement.
Ainz hummed in response, neither denying or accepting before speaking once again. "You shouldn't prioritize the needs of others since they'd never do the same for you."
"That doesn't mean anything," Shirou said bluntly. "It doesn't matter who I save, so long as they need it, I'll be there. It's what a Hero of Justice would do. There's no point to considering personal cost or benefit."
A Hero, huh? Ainz was reminded of an old friend and founding member of his guild. Looking at things now, Touch Me and Shirou likely would have been fast friends.
Ainz laughed good naturedly, feeling somewhat favorable towards someone who could remind him so well of one of his old friends. Unnoticed, but the ever-stoic Narberal seemed shocked that Shirou could illicit that sort of reaction from Ainz. This was grounds for keen observation…
Narberal fisted her hand and began watching Shirou intently in hopes of replicating the feat, yet alas, there was no longer any time.
"Keep quiet," Gemas cautioned from up ahead.
Gemas had led the four of them through a busy street before cutting a sharp right into an eerie side alley where the entrance of a large building could be seen up ahead. There was a grungy guard in front of the door with a plaque reading 'Eternal Dreams' overtop.
"It's a whore house," Gemas said bluntly.
There was a pungent muskiness in the air contrasted only by cheap perfume of sorts.
"From an earlier encounter of an Eight Fingers operative, I was able to track him here," Gemas explained while readying a few potions around his waist and arming himself for a stealth operation.
"We'll split up," Gemas spoke while analyzing the building up and down. "Shirou will take the front. I'll sneak in unnoticed to see if they're holding any prisoners, and Mr. Momon and Ms. Nabe can break in from the rear."
Neither Momon or Shirou seemed the type for stealth which was why Gemas had suggested the plan in the manor. In the commotion caused by the other two, it would be simple to slip in and locate any missing people.
"I have no problems with this arrangement," Ainz voiced. With his agreement, Narberal's was a given.
Shirou too had no problem with the plan, and soon enough they began to enact it. Shirou went to the front, Gemas hopped into the darker shade of the alley and waited for an opportunity, while Ainz and Narberal made their way to the back.
Ainz noticed that the back entrance was locked, but he simply twisted the knob broken and pushed the door in.
Inside, at least a dozen grungy and startled looking men and women stared at him in shock.
Ainz glanced to the side where a dagger and harmlessly clunked against his armour and clattered to the ground.
"Narberal," Ainz gave the order. No one in the New World aside from the Raid Bosses he'd ran into seemed up to par with YYGDRASIL's standards.
"Yes, Lord Ainz," Narberal snapped her fingers, and her unassuming form immediately transformed.
Snakes of lightning danced from her person, lifting up the hem of her gown and branching out to encompass her and reveal a maid's uniform. Her impassive features, icy and detached grew murderous.
A heeled boot clicked as it tapped on the floor's surface, magic energy forming a flame of suffocating blue, a sadistic glint twinkling in Narberal's eyes.
"Magic Caster!" The warning was issued immediately, yet to what extent would any warning give?
Magic runs to the core…
Lesser beings, mortal beings, ignorant beings…
Sparks crackled into a roaring mind-numbing static.
"Filthy bugs," light illuminated Narberal's cold features, a dark grin tugging her lips upward. "You stand in the presence of the Supreme One! Kneel!"
Tendrils of arcing light struck all in an instant, shattering their knees from the impact and scorching though flesh and bone.
Pained yells and shouts echoed, but like the silence of the lambs, those voices stopped with no chance of ever repeating again.
"Narberal, leave two for questioning," Ainz said.
"By your order," Narberal nodded, a hand pointing outward. "Electrosphere."
The acrid scent of burning flesh permeated throughout the room, dust and blackened ashes left behind on the floor creating distinct residual marks.
Only two were left terrified amidst the storm before Narberal clicked her tongue and reequipped her Adventurer's uniform. Craning her chin up, she didn't deign to give the two bugs anymore attention.
Ainz ominously stepped forward. "I will only ask once. What do you both know about the reported Missing Persons cases?" He questioned darkly.
Don't let it be as I thought. Ainz inwardly prayed.
"Missing persons cases?" One of the men echoed in panic, pupils dilated before hastily screaming out an answer. "W-We have nothing to do with it! We swear! Jeff, c'mon man why aren't you talking!"
The named individual backed away with his hands in fear and anxiety. Narberal had blown their shins, but the man still crawled as if fleeing from a monster.
"I-It's not my fault! I-I had no choice!" The man squirmed on the floor, desperately trying to escape and floundering. "A masked demon with a silver tail was looking for tributes! He'd kill us all if I refused to help! He's here! He's definitely watching!"
Ainz inwardly sucked in a breath at the description while the man fell into hysterics.
It really was Demiurge.
"Who else knows?" Ainz pressed, the weight of his stare suffocating.
"N-No one else. You've already killed the others," the man stuttered while looking at the ashes of his former compatriots.
Was Demiurge just being careless to use a blabbermouth like this?
No-wait, what if this was already in Demiurge's considerations?
Ainz had told Demiurge to be discreet in his dealings, so why would he let someone like this live? No, it was even more likely that he just couldn't see the true meaning or objective of Demiurge's actions, forcing him to just act like he did which usually worked.
Alas, in this case, the Great Tomb's safety superseded Demiurge's intentions.
Without warning, Ainz beheaded the two men, silencing them, and unintentionally conforming to Demiurge's machinations. Ainz was at least right about one thing, given the loose nature of the man's mouth, Demiurge was certainly going to kill him eventually. Ainz just saved him the trouble while conveniently doing so under the righteous guise of purging a branch of the Eight Fingers.
"It's done," Ainz muttered before gesturing for Narberal to stick close.
The entire building was in chaos, and Ainz had already gotten confirmation of Demiurge's involvement.
After silencing the member of the Eight Fingers in the Baharuth Empire, this mission granted by Nero was essentially complete. The branch was practically uprooted, and any remaining members wouldn't have the required information to make a case to implicate Demiurge.
Case in point, Ainz noticed immediately when half the building caved and Shirou came stumbling out of the smoke, looking almost apologetic at Ainz and Narberal for nearly dropping the place on them.
Ainz nodded his head. He was correct that Shirou was probably capable, but as for how capable, Ainz was somewhat habituated to things. Toppling this whore house would be a simple matter to him, so Shirou's feat didn't rank too high in his list of 'Impressives.'
Not too far off from Shirou, Gemas appeared escorting at least a few dozen people in rags and various states of duress, creating a new problem all together.
"There are too many people, and not enough transport," Gemas analyzed. "Most can't even walk either due to malnourishment, abuse, or…" Gemas trailed off grimly, his countenance furrowed in a specific direction where several men and women appeared particularly lifeless. "Hah, in any case, I took the liberty to stop a carriage from the roadside, but it can't fit this many people."
"Are these the people from the missing persons cases?" Shirou inquired.
Gemas securitized each face, and indeed recognized a few. "Yes," he verified. "But not all of them are here. They must have been sold already. A pity, but at least the place was shut down, so case closed."
Shirou nodded solemnly feeling bad for those he couldn't save in time. He shook his head and decided to be proactive. In doing so, he did something that frankly stunned Ainz into a stupor.
"About the transport, I'll see what I can do."
With this said, Shirou walked up to the carriage Gemas had commandeered and did something weird.
Ainz was certain he didn't imagine it, but when Shirou placed his hand on the carriage, circuit-like patterns of magic seemed to scan through the entire structure. Alarm worked its way through Ainz's mind as he'd never seen anything like it before.
A magic of the new world?
Ainz's interest was peaked, and he watched intently, foregoing to even account for Narberal who seemed disgusted at the prospect of sharing a carriage with so many humans.
Meanwhile, Shirou had shut his eyes. With a thought, pulses of magical energy scanned through the carriage, analysing its components and properties long enough to store it temporarily into his mind.
This wasn't his most proficient skill, and was more a downgrade, but it was still usable.
Projection Magecraft (Gradation Air): A magecraft that materializes objects in accordance to the user's imagination through magical constructs.
Shirou's Tracing was a higher tier variant of Projection to begin with able to create even Noble Phantasms, but it didn't mean he couldn't use basic Projection. After all, the only real drawback was the cost, general quality, and difficulty of understanding components that weren't swords. However, Structural Analysis allowed him to have an accurate enough understanding of an object that wasn't a sword as long as he was using it. Hence, the reason Shirou was maintaining his grip on the carriage with one hand, while the other was facing the empty air beside him.
Shirou's expression was one of focus, and right before everyone's eyes, the unbelievable seemed to occur.
A pulse of magic energy formed a layer and structure identical to the carriage before flickering and hardening. A copy of the carriage appeared with a little of Shirou's exertion, followed by another to accommodate all the rescued persons.
Watching all this occur, Ainz felt his thoughts shifting into overdrive.
What sort of magic was that? No, what implications does this entail? Moreover, could it be replicated? Was there truly a way to learn this power?
Regardless of effectiveness or specifications, Ainz saw Shirou's ability for what it was.
"You can recreate anything you've seen or experienced?" Ainz tried hard to keep any excitement from bleeding into his tone. He was inspecting the copied carriage in an instant, unable to determine any real differences from one carriage compared to the other. There was practically a gold mine in front of him, no, maybe even a grand treasury!
Ainz shuddered, staring hard at Shirou who'd still yet to answer.
"Essentially, without going too much into specifics, yes," Shirou shrugged as if it wasn't a big deal, but how could it not be for Ainz?
The prospect of saving up on materials by just having Shirou duplicate them was beyond mere calculation.
No. No- Think bigger! Was there a limit to this…?
Ainz found himself in front of Shirou before he even realized what he was doing. One of his two Great Swords strapped over his back was eagerly being shoved into Shirou's grasp.
"Could you make this as well?" Ainz requested, before thinking better of it and trying to come with a more convincing reason. He cleared his throat. "It may not be to your taste, but it's still a good weapon in case you'd need it against a difficult foe."
This was an understatement. Compared to any weapon in this New World, YGGDRASIL's items were several tiers higher. The offered Great swords alone created in tandem with [Perfect Warrior] were Relic-Class level weapons, just two tiers lower than Ainz's main gear.
Ainz stared hard at the offered Great sword, waiting for Shirou to analyze it, and give copying it a try. Yet in this instance, Shirou didn't even need to bother inspecting it.
"A magic sword," Shirou accurately deduced. "I appreciate the gesture, Mr. Momon, but I should be fine." Shirou smiled wryly, before suddenly guessing something in his mind. "Still, if you just wanted another demonstration, I guess I can understand. We currently are still teammates since it's important to know each other's capabilities."
Ainz merely blinked, and suddenly an exact copy of his sword appeared before him. He also didn't miss how it had been created faster than the wagon despite its material and make being incomparable to regular wood.
This begot the question…could he duplicate World Items?
For a moment, Ainz just stood stunned.
"Does this satisfy your curiosity?" Shirou asked kindly, finally snapping Ainz out of his stupor.
Ainz was quiet, a deceptive calm pervading around him despite the various thoughts filtering through his head. If one looked closer, one could see the barely repressed agitation and Ainz's emotional suppressant effect sounding off numerous times.
No matter how Ainz thought about it, Shirou would be useful, his ability too unique.
Need to rope him. He'll be the second ally after Nero in this New World. I can't use force either if he become unwilling to use his power- need a different approach.
"You wish to be a Hero, yes?" Ainz worded slowly. "Is this not why you've helped complete this task? I'll tell the truth, I'm in need of a Hero such as yourself as I plan to take even more missions to aid the people," he spoke righteously.
He couldn't let this opportunity go no matter what.
Ainz held out a hand to Shirou.
"Will you join my Adventurer Party?"
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