Inside a dim lit room where the walls were of a lustrous marble, and the floors were tiled smooth, an ancient being rested in a vast auditorium, a large white dragon. It rested curled up on its side, vast wings furled around its scaled hide shining with a radiant luminescence best described as majestic, graceful, or elegant. The radiance shone with the sparkle of stars in the night sky, a wonderous piece of art bellying a capability great enough to level the entire kingdom of the Slane Theocracy should a battle occur there.

Stone columns of composite design lined parts of the inside and perimeter of the building for stability, yet a majority of what should have been in the auditorium was removed to free up space for the dragon.

A pair of reptilian eyes gradually blinked open, emanating with a type of regality and intelligence brought about from wisdom. It craned its long neck up, staring into the roof before its clawed forelimbs pushed off the ground and heaved its body up onto its hind legs. A long tail served to act as support, while the dragon's underbelly was revealed to possess interlaying veins of teal magic energy in the form of draconic markings. The horns adorned around his head resembled something of a crown.

In the age of the ancients, the first iteration of the New World began not with anything less but the Age of Dragons, wielders of Wild Magic corrupted since the arrival of Tier Magic. The white dragon situated in the room was one such entity, having lived through several centuries and experienced the best and worst of the world.

His name was Tsaindorcus Vaision, son of the first Dragon Emperor, and known as the Platinum Dragon Lord.

Dragon Lords were a title for the most powerful dragons in the New World, and Tsaindorcus was one of only handful left after the war with the Eight Greed Kings five centuries prior who ironically ended up backstabbing themselves to their own demise.

Thus was the nature of greed Tsaindorcus supposed, but alas, he knew that no trouble would solve itself as seamlessly ever again.

…So, it has begun.

Weariness flickered across slitted pupils, scales clanking with the consistency of metal grating as Tsaindorcus heaved out a sigh and regarded the cloaked messenger before him.

This was deep in the heartland of the Argland Council State that Tsaindorcus had founded for the safety of the New World. Different from the other remaining Dragon Lords who preferred to isolate themselves, Tsaindorcus was more involved in the New World's affairs.

The council room of the Argland State itself where he presently resided in was in fact, the former Guild Base of the Greed Kings, housing the items and equipment of the Eight Greed Kings. He was its guardian, treasurer, and administrator.

It was he who helped supply the Thirteen Heroes with the equipment required to combat the Evil Deities. Meanwhile, the country of the Slane Theocracy possesses access to the items and equipment of the Six Great Gods of six-hundred years ago, so he had no need to supply them with anything.

Ah. The memories of yonder youth, but it may no longer just be history any longer.

It had been six-hundred years since the time of Dragons, five-hundred for the Great Gods, and two-hundred since the arrival of the Evil Deities.

More than two centuries had passed, and if there was a recurring theme in the ages, a new dawn should soon be rearing its head.

Tsaindorcus had the 'joy' and responsibility- no obligation to administer peace through it all.

"Speak," Tsaindorcus spoke tiredly to the cloaked figure. "How many died?"

"Two, and many injured." The cloaked figure shuddered, shifting weight from one leg to the other almost in discomfort. He was not a man of the Argland Council, but a delegate of the Slane Theocracy living in an embassy building in the state.

"Hmm," Tsaindorcus hummed in thought.

Relations between nations were always complicated, but Tsaindorcus and the Argland Council shared a more respectful one with the Theocracy knowing that each nation owned the items of Players.

Describing their relationship was fairly simple: Business partners and comrades in times of great unrest, yet nothing more.

Tsaindorcus feared that this was going to be another case of unrest.

Inwardly grimacing, Tsaindorcus recalled what he'd seen through one of the items from the generation of the Greed Kings, a fully autonomous armour set. This armour made of finely crafted material and woven magic acted as a medium in which he could control through his consciousness once branded with his magic.

As the keeper and protector of the vault of the Eight Greed King's, Tsaindorcus hardly ever left the Guild Base. Instead, his preferred form of intervention was precisely the autonomous armour. This was how Tsaindorcus participated as a member of the Thirteen Heroes who combated the Evil Deities.

Few knew that there was no one underneath the armour plate of the Platinum Lord, but Tsaindorcus digressed.

The current incident was a recent one, and one that also forced him to retreat lest his autonomous armour become ruined.

Tsaindorcus was with the Black Scripture on a cooperative mission to mind control the Catastrophe Dragon Lord using the World Item, [Downfall of Castle and Country]. This item allowed the user to mind control anyone regardless of resistances, making it dangerous and game breaking. Although regretful that he was aiding in the ambush of a fellow Dragon Lord, the Catastrophe Dragon had to be reined in due to her more destructive tendencies with no signs of restraint.

It was either coincidence, or just sheer misfortune, but the group had run into a problem out in the middle of nowhere: A True Vampire.

Sure, they weren't common, but this wasn't the first time Tsaindorcus or the Theocracy's Black Scripture had dealt with one before. They employed all the necessary countermeasures and underwent standard protocols.

It should have been easy, simple.

Tsaindorcus sighed regretfully, not knowing the full picture of what had happened after he decided to retreat, but knowing the root cause of why he'd had to retreat.

Unexpectedly, the True Vampire was immensely powerful, forcing Tsaindorcus to choose to abandon the Black Scripture and focus on retreating with his autonomous armour. If it were his main body, he may have been able to do far more, but just as the autonomous armour was convenient, it had its draw backs. Only a fraction of Tsaindorcus's strength could be shown.

Just before he'd left, he was made aware of what the Black Scripture members were planning. Knowing that the mission to attack the Catastrophe Dragon Lord was compromised, Kaira the user of [Downfall of Castle and Country] decided to use her world item on the True Vampire instead.

Tsaindorcus didn't know whether Kaira had succeeded or not, hence the reason he called for the Theocracy's delegate in the Arglan Council's embassy. As 'allies' they did well to keep each other informed.

"What of Kaira's efforts?" Tsaindorcus inquired. "Did she manage to round a new force to our side?"

The cloaked figure opened and closed his mouth, before deciding to just be truthful. "The [Downfall of Castle and Country] was a success, but also a failure."

"If it's a success, at the very least the True Vampire is under control?"

"Not quite."

"What happened?"

"Old lady Kaire was struck dead upon the item's usage. Fear must have clouded her mind at that moment as it would for any seeing death flash before one's eyes. In the end, she managed to give it a command before she and another were stabbed through the hearts. Honestly, the command was probably meant more for her teammates then it was for the True Vampire."

Tsaindorcus placed a scaled hand beneath his maw and narrowed his eyes. "What was the order?"

"Kill," the cloaked figure emphasized grimly. "She likely meant to yell 'kill it,' but she died too soon to know. The True Vampire went out of control thereafter, killing indiscriminately. It was too powerful, and many of the Scripture's members were injured or severely incapacitated."

"It started a massacre then," Tsaindorcus mumbled before staring right into the cloaked delegate's eyes. "I'm surprised you got away with only two dead."

"Only by a very close margin," the cloaked figure shivered. "That True Vampire was a monster that even had its own set of armour and a lance that let it keep regenerating. Our numbers were our disadvantage, forcing everyone to retreat."

"You left the True Vampire unattended?"

"There was no choice. Last I heard, the Vampire was heading either towards the Slane Theocracy's land or the Re-Estize kingdom, neither option of which benefitted the scripture. An immediate decision was made."

"Pertaining to?"

"Guess."

Tsaindorcus mused to himself in silence, trying to consider the Slane Theocracy's interests and potential actions before he grimaced while clicking his tongue. "If the True Vampire was induced into a killing spree, you're right that they'd rather not direct it in the direction of the Theocracy nor Re-Estize where the Catastrophe Dragon Lord's informants may be stationed. After all, if they still intend to go after my fellow Dragon Lord, then causing him to grow wary of this vampire would be detrimental if he went into hiding."

Silence stretched across the room as Tsaindorcus took a few more moments to link and patch things together.

"Baharuth?" He then blurted out.

The cloaked figure merely nodded before elaborating. "The Black Scripture couldn't kill nor subdue the Vampire, but that didn't mean that they couldn't redirect her. With the True Vampire's speed, and capability, she'll descend on the Empire in a week if not mere days. A necessary sacrifice until we can gather a team to subdue or kill the threat."

A sacrifice indeed. Tsaindorcus's countenance darkened.

The Baharuth Empire wouldn't stand a chance against a True Vampire this strong any better than Re-Estize could have. No present day Adamantite Adventurer teams would be able to even hope to resist, even his close associate, Evil Eye.

"Tell the Theocracy that they better handle this cleanly. I'm sure that they already know after this unexpected tragedy, but I fear that harrowing times are ahead."

"Then, the Baharuth Empire?"

"I'll take a look myself, and may contact close associates from the Thirteen Heroes to help contain the fallout. Too much can change if the strength of a kingdom could fall into shambles overnight."

"Better them than us," the cloaked figure muttered.

"You may be dismissed," Tsaindorcus scowled.

"By your leave, Lord Chairman of Argland Council."

The cloaked delegate bowed and left as silently as he came.

Tsaindorcus shook his head at the lack of empathy humans seemed to have for their own in the pursuit of interest. Even he would need a better reason before targeting any of his fellow Dragons, and even then, its to keep the balance and peace.

The emergence of such a strong True Vampire of all times didn't bode well.

It would seem that a new era was being ushered in by the next cycle. Were 'Players,' the greatest threat to the New World already roaming the lands?

The tragedies of the Eight Greed Kings and Evil Deities of yonder lore couldn't be allowed to repeat.

This responsibility weighed heavily on Tsaindorcus more than any other. It wasn't verified, but there was reason to believe that the emergence of these Players was at the machinations of his own father, the former Dragon Emperor in the age of the Dragon Lords.

Curling up into a comfortable position, he wrapped his wings over his body and laid his head to rest on his forearms. As his reptilian eyes closed, a hum of magic elsewhere shot to life in a ruin where his autonomous armour lay stationary.

The platinum-coloured armour of the thirteen heroes clanked onto its feet and began a journey to the distant empire before it was too late.

He couldn't engage recklessly on his own, but the least that he could do was observe.


"Will you join my Adventurer Party?"

The words still rung in Shirou's ears mostly because he hadn't expected such an offer at all from the fully armoured black knight that Nero had scouted to aid him. It was too sudden, but when he thought about it, not too unexpected considering what he'd gleamed from the swords Momon used.

[Magic Sword]

[Recently created]

[Lacks history, but is of good quality]

[Created by a high tier Magic Caster]

[Killed two]

[Durability: Permanent until caster dispel]

The information gleamed from the sword he'd Traced as a demonstration was aptly summarized in his mind as well as the fact that both the armour and swords Momon were using could only be used by [Warrior Classes]. It was likely that Momon had good connections with people in high places in this New World to know a magic caster capable of crafting such weapons.

Merlin could probably do something similar, but he'd yet to see anyone on Merlin's level in terms of magic in the new world. Still, if the swords Momon wielded were anything to go by, then a comparable magic caster may exist. Moreover, if there was one thing to know about magic casters, all were relatively intellectual and knowledgeable.

This could be a good chance as any to get a better grasp of the new world, and what better way than to question a caster?

Momon's suggestion could benefit the both of them, and it only helped that the black armoured knight seemed righteous. The fact that he'd gleamed how inexperienced and lack luster Momon was in terms of sword skills despite trying to save others spoke volumes to Shirou about his character.

This was the main tipping point, but it was still something he had to decide carefully over.

Where was Merlin and his wisdom when you needed him…oh right. Likely in the nearest brothel. The best wisdom could be found there in the bosom of a lascivious embrace that he had no doubt Arturia would mutilate Merlin over should he drag Shirou in with him.

Clearly, Merlin had to take the plunge into such an establishment as a sacrifice for the greater good. Merlin had done so to obtain information on the missing persons cases, but that was already solved.

The fact that Merlin wasn't here yet meant he was either messing around or he was messing around.

Relying on Merlin was give or take. There was no denying the Wizard's capability, but there was also no denying his flippant personality. In which case, Shirou would have to decide this matter on his own.

Shirou furrowed his brows and thought deeply on what to do, and how this could best aid him and the others.

Was there a benefit? Of course. Being an adventurer would allow him to garner first-hand experience in the new world, and at the same time, if he was correct about Momon's connections, he could facilitate cooperation with powerful individuals.

Now, were there any cons?

Right off the bat, the biggest problem was keeping his connection to his NPC's a secret. Knowing them, they could likely get into a whole host of trouble, or rise quickly to fame and then shove him into the spot light with a careless remark.

Merlin would certainly have no problem doing so for entertainment.

Shirou wasn't one to buckle under scrutiny, but he'd never wanted to be a hero for the fame to begin with. It made his ideal less like a selfless and meaningful endeavor, and more like an attention seeking thrill seeker.

Shirou sighed, thinking about how he was going to go about things, brows furrowing, arms crossing.

A short silence stretched, and only Ainz knew how tense he was as he waited for Shirou to make a decision. Even Narberal had nothing to say arguably because she too could understand the ramifications Shirou's Tracing could have for the benefit of Nazarick. Different from Ainz, she felt that this was an offer Shirou would never refuse.

Already Narberal was expressing her reverence, suddenly coming to divine realization.

Indeed, the leader of the Supreme Ones was a master strategist and all seeing greater than even Demiurge and Albedo. She should have never doubted him, nor questioned why they'd stoop so low as to take on a mundane quest she saw no benefit in. Surely, her lord Ainz had known that an indispensable individual existed near Nero's employ and devised a tactic to reel the valuable commodity in.

As expected of Lord Ainz.

Narberal's eyes were shining and for the life of him, Ainz felt even more stifled, shoulders slumping on the sheer weight of the expectation he was lugging around.

"If it's fine with you, I'd be honoured if you'd have me," Shirou finally ended up deciding. The risk was worth it for information, and the fact that ignorance may lead him astray. The fact of the matter was that he was brought to this world for whatever unknown purpose, and he didn't want to just remain idle and push such duties to his NPCs. Then there was also Cu's matter and the need to raise funds. He could rely on Nero, but he wasn't sure if the Baharuth Empire's treasury could take the blow required to respawn NPCs. Sure enough, he had to earn things with his own merit.

On the opposite spectrum.

YEEEESSSSSSS!

Rapid emotional suppressant echoes soon suffocated Ainz's over excitement at success, causing him to calmly nod his head. "No, it's our pleasure to have you join," he said politely.

"Indeed," even Narberal chipped in, her features softening as she tried to smile yet came off as too robotic. Flushing, at the weird look Ainz was sending, she panicked and blurted out her true thoughts. "B-Be proud. Y-You shall be granted the status of an honorary ins-"

"Nabe," Ainz interjected before disaster.

Narberal blushed, bowing her head in apology.

"Please don't mind her," Ainz placed a hand over his helmet, already picturing how difficult it was going to be educate Narberal how to act civilly around humans.

Shirou had a distinct feeling he understood how Ainz was feeling right now. He had his own fair share of temperamental acquaintances and the one at the top of the list was the blond who went around calling everyone mongrels.

"I don't mind," Shirou smiled wryly before glancing around to shift the subject away from the awkwardness. "Let's board a carriage. We can discuss our cooperation along the way as we don't want to hold up these people. Who knows how long they've been kept in captivity?"

"Why does that mat-"

Wordlessly, Ainz muffled Narberal's mouth and ushered her into a wagon already packed full with captives. She looked appalled, but fortunately, her expression was in line with how any noble would feel with getting close to 'commoners' or the 'filthy.' Admittedly, it wasn't the best impression to leave, but it was better than the alternative. What was worse, was that Narberal was the last person they could fit onto the wagon, and as such Ainz and Shirou needed to board another one.

"No. Please no lord Momon…" Narberal's features darkened like she was being murdered, eyes narrowed, teeth biting on her lips in revulsion.

"Put up with it for my sake," Ainz whispered, and Narberal shut up all complaints through sheer loyalty.

Of course, this interaction wasn't unnoticed by Shirou, embarrassing Ainz to no end. He was nervous that Shirou would decide to reconsider his decision at this rate. It would be too much of a loss.

"Forgive her, she grew up sheltered," Ainz desperately kept trying to smooth relations over.

For his part, Shirou didn't even bat an eye. It was easy to judge others, but harder to judge those you can relate with. Just picturing trying to stick Gilgamesh on that wagon nearly caused him to wince.

"Again, it's fine. Let's just go," Shirou hopped onto a wagon and watched as Momon took the seat across from him while Gemas was helping organize the freed captives to be taken to the townhall in hopes of finding family.

The ride itself was uneventful aside from a minor scuffle on the other wagon when someone pushed into Narberal on accident. It was kind of amusing in a way to watch how many expressions could flicker across the magic caster's face in the span of a few second, but she certainly pulled it off much to Ainz's chagrin.

A lot of work was still going to be needed with her, Ainz lamented. Still, Ainz wouldn't say that he wasn't in a good mood.

He was elated.

With Shirou joining Darkness the future ahead looked that much brighter.


Ainz sighed, conflicted.

By now, he was back at Nero's accommodated manor, but was only now realizing the scope of whatever covert plans Demiurge had already conjured in the Baharuth Empire. Sure, he'd asked Demiurge to supply a stream of personnel to form an undead army, but he didn't explicitly say humans, now did he? Animals and livestock worked too, and then there were beasts and monsters in the forest of Tob.

Not, well, this.

The full scope of how many missing persons there were astounded Ainz when the entire city hall was filled to the brim. This many people missing, was it any wonder others would notice the disturbance? At this point, Ainz wasn't stupid enough to not understand that perhaps Demiurge wanted this to be noticed.

Ainz felt a headache from just thinking about how his next conversation would go with his overly enthusiastic floor guardian. It wasn't the discussion or socializing per say that stressed him, it was the posturing he knew he would have to do again. It was driving him mad. All the expectation, all the praise, all the digs at his intelligence and foresight.

It wasn't an understatement to say that Ainz was running 'his' operations at the cusp of ignorance, but really you couldn't blame him as he had no idea what Demiurge was doing all the time. Hence, it was always a constant game of catch up.

The conclusion of this incident was one such case, and he couldn't help but imagine how many more times this would reoccur. The thought itself felt demoralizing, but he patted himself on the back for making the most of it and gaining a new asset in Shirou Emiya.

Enough of this. It's better to focus on the matter at hand.

"If you'll excuse me, I have to find a friend."

Just before entering Nero's manor, Shirou ended up needing to leave when he realized someone was missing.

Shirou had promptly left and asked Ainz to meet up with Nero, something that Ainz was more than willing to agree with. Still, a sigh escaped Shirou's lips as he made the excuse to meet up with another man other than Gemas who'd apparently been helping with the missing persons case.

Honestly, Ainz had lost all interest with whatever associate Shirou had when Shirou began asking him if he knew any brothels in the area.

Sure, brothels were a fine place to gather information as men and women alike lost themselves in the thralls and passion of debauchery, but judging from Shirou's expression, Ainz could infer exasperation. Between Shirou's associate drowning in carnal pleasures or acquiring relevant information, Ainz was leaning more towards the former option.

Alright. Back on track.

"Narberal, you've performed admirably."

"Y-Your praise is worth too much my lord," Narberal had to take several moments to breathe in and out, her features almost haggard. Her eyes were drooped, her shoulders hunched, and she kept rubbing at her shoulders as if it could somehow rid herself of the shivers running down her body.

"Praise is due where it's due. You managed to keep yourself together."

"…Only barely. I was this close when that delirious child mistook me for her mother."

"Yes well, good for you," Ainz didn't know how else to respond, but he did place a hand on Narberal's shoulder. She perked up quite quickly at the contact, her expression taking a complete one-eighty and carrying a tinge of what almost seemed like guilt when Narberal thought of Albedo.

"Let us proceed," Ainz stepped into Nero manor where Arche and her former worker team welcomed them and led them to a waiting room. Nero was to be informed of their return, and would soon make her way to meet them.

Hekkeran was all too eager to stay and catch a few more glimpses at Nero, but he was dragged out by the ears by a grouchy Imina and a sighing Arche.

It would seem that Nero's newest attendant, Arche, had neglected to tell her associates just how beautiful Nero was, and now it was obviously backfiring.

Ainz saw the expression on Hekkeran's face and could instantly relate as he too was of the Nero faction with the rest of his guildmates. Peroroncino himself was almost inspired to model Shalltear's dress with Nero's see-through attire to evoke a risqué sense of fantasy and foreplay.

Ah, good memories…and now their Nero was as real as real could ever be.

Suddenly, Ainz subconsciously adjusted himself as if he was going for an interview with a dear boss. Nero might as well be for all the time Ainz could recall fighting alongside her. Speaking of which, would she recall his face if he introduced himself as Momonga? It was hard to say, but knowing just how many players flocked to Nero in YGGDRASIL, would she even be able to remember someone like him?

Inexplicably, he grew somewhat nervous and glanced at himself.

"Is my cape alright?"

"Yes."

"Does the armour seem polished?"

"It carries the shine of the stars."

"Is my visor on properly?"

"It fits well."

"Do my bearings seem noble?"

"Of course. There's nothing less to expect from the great one," Narberal nodded enthusiastically. However, she was wide eyed and confused at the sudden onset of questions.

"Good, have to keep a good impression," Ainz murmured to himself nervously.

It was only going to be a matter of time now before Nero was ready to receive them, and Ainz was using every second to check and double check himself. He realized quite quickly though that Narberal's feedback wasn't quite helpful when she lavished praise on him at every opportunity.

Truthfully, this waiting made him kind of jittery and somewhat elated that he could see someone both he and his fellow guildmates had once fought beside to make Nero ruler of Alfeim.

Soon, Arche knocked and informed them that Nero was ready to receive them in the audience hall.

Both stood up to make their way over, but Ainz and Narberal suddenly perked up in alarm as a sudden notification drew their attention.

An urgent message request? Ainz frowned. "Narberal," he whispered.

"I'll excuse myself here," Narberal inclined her head quickly and left to find a secure and vacated room to read the notice. There were many available in the mansion that Nero had accommodated anyway.

"See to it that it's done, then notify me immediately," he nodded.

"By your will," Narberal walked off when no one else was looking.

Left on his own Ainz made his way to the entrance of the manor's audience hall and stepped through the large oaken doors in laid with golden motifs.

Inside, Nero was obviously exuberant at their return and news of success only made this more apparent in the way her features lit up like a Christmas tree when she saw him, though it dimmed somewhat when she noticed he was alone. Regardless, she was still beaming in the same way she always did in YGGDRASIL regardless of race.

"Stalwart warrior of black, you have returned triumphant I hear!" Nero proclaimed, a flurry of rose petals descending from up high.

Ainz glanced up to a viewing gally in the room and saw the source of the petals. Utterly red faced and embarrassed at how over-the-top they were being were Arche and Imina. Both stood on either side of each other while throwing the petals down over the rolled red carpet in the center of the room for dramatic effect.

If Ainz had lips, he'd be smiling right now. This was the personality that many Players in YGGDRASIL had been drawn to. A natural charm you could say, or imperial privilege.

"I have completed the task," Ainz formally acknowledged.

"Umu. I am not stingy to those I consider my own."

"You mean-"

"Yes! Henceforth, you may have the honour of my sponsorship. Sadly, if I still had my legions, I'd appoint you a centurion. I intended to borrow some men from Jircniv, but the Knight Order he's promised me has yet to arrive," Nero pouted.

"It's all well and good. Your graciousness has rubbed of on me."

"You think so? Umu. I'm pleased." Nero strutted up to Ainz, hands on her waist, chest puffed out, and a megawatt grin on her lips. "Tell me, what did you think of my Prae- friend, Shirou?" Nero coughed at the minor slip.

Before Shirou had left to round up Merlin, he'd asked her to treat him as she would others in a public setting.

"An interesting man," Ainz said in all honestly. "He is a brave and compassionate one. The outrage he showed at injustice was truly admirable."

"Of course, I expect nothing less from him!" Nero nodded fervently.

"Might I inquire how you two met?"

"Well, I suppose it's no secret. Just between us and a job well done, I can tell you that I found myself in these foreign lands rather suddenly. I still know next to nothing about it."

Oh my God, same! "I see. I too come from afar," he ended up saying calmly instead. "And?"

"Shirou was the first person I met, and he helped me with something important," He gave an opportunity at a new life. Nero smiled fondly. "He is a dear comrade of mine, so you have my sincerest thanks for your work with him."

"I see," Ainz said again. Inwardly was different. A new world resident in the right place and the right time. Lucky bastard.

Shirou actually seemed quite close with Nero. The look in Nero's eyes reminded Ainz of himself when he spoke of his guildmembers, and he had cherished each one. Maybe, she could one day look at him like that after the memories he had of Nazarick's participation in Alfeim. At the very least, it was likely something his guildmates would have approved of, many jumping for the chance.

No wait. The goal may still be possible.

Ainz let out a small chuckle, causing Nero to glance at him.

"Oh, what amuses you? Umu. Do share!"

"It's nothing too serious. I just realized that if Shirou is your comrade then I may have to get used to your presence more. He's decided to join my Adventurer team."

"He did?" Nero blinked at the sudden news.

"He did," Ainz confirmed.

"Wait here one second," Nero suddenly bolted out of the room, and almost instantly bolted back while holding a small emblem with the motif of an eagle imprinted on it. "Take this. A symbol of my Aquila."

[Aquila of Rome: Passive aura effect +1 stat boost to all basic attributes within 30ft]

"Ah," Ainz said unintelligibly.

"A gift. A friend of my comrade is a friend of Rome," Nero said in all seriousness, a solemnness in her features. She knew that there was no way that Shirou would have just remained idle. Her potential descendant Arturia was just naïve to think otherwise. "Umu, Keep him safe, yes?"

"Of course," Ainz's answer couldn't be anything butt. Shirou was that important a value.

Besides, Ainz was quickly coming to a decision.

Should Nazarick ally with the Baharuth Empire?

If Nero was a noble of the Empire, then if he pulled the Empire to his side, did that not mean Nero would come along too? Once the thought emerged, it refused to go away. The prospect motivated Ainz to no end, and he wasn't shameless enough to deny it.

Now, how to go about it? Should he send an official delegation from Nazarick to the Baharuth Empire's Emperor? For Nero, it seemed worth it to at least try.

-Bang!

All conversation and thought crashed to a stop when the oaken doors of the audience hall were shoved open.

A man stumbled in, haggard, armour dented and stained with blood. The helmet over the man's head was stuck on, the metal bent in such a way that it couldn't be removed while the rest of his apparel was in tatters. Only the visor raised up allowed them to see the terror in his brown eyes.

"M-My name is Sleigar of the Empire's Eight Knight Orders," the man wheezed before focusing on Nero alone. "A-Apologies for arriving late, Duchess Nero, but there was trouble on the border. A monster, a Vampire. I-It killed almost all of us. I need to report to the emperor at once. I need a carriage. I fear my body can't go on, on it's own."

"Oh? A bloodsucker?" Nero mused at the news while Ainz felt oddly disturbed. "Umu, I suppose that means that's something I have to deal with."

Nero wouldn't be able to lecture Jircniv on the way of an Emperor if she achieved anything less than perfection in her task. So, it was as good as decided for her. "How far away is it?"

"Y-You're going to fight it?!" Sleigar stammered in disbelief before vehemently shaking his head in denial. "By all means, I implore you to reconsider! That thing's a monster!"

Nero wasn't perturbed.

"And I've bested many before! I even wrestled a lion bare handed!"

"It's not a lion though!" Sleigar considered the prospect of just passing out, but that was a guaranteed death sentence.

If Nero was injured, or God-forbid, died, Jircniv would not be merciful. Rumours had spread, and many in the Empire's upper echelon had noticed Jircniv's fondness for the newest appointed Duchess.

Self preservation instincts kicked in through Sleigar's adrenaline.

Sleigar took a different approach. "And what of your duties here? You can't just leave. You're the Duchess that must preside over the allotted land, and no one can replace you."

Here Nero frowned, completely agreeing with the point that no one could possibly replace someone like her. No one else had the flair, the style! "Umu. Y-You have a point."

Sleigar slumped in relief, but this wasn't the end to the sudden intrusions.

Another person suddenly burst into the room, looking pale, and almost shocked. This time, Ainz couldn't keep himself uninvolved.

Narberal? Ainz stiffened.

She'd left his side earlier to view an urgent message report, and now with how frantically she ran up to him and whispered in his ear, he was fearing the worst.

"We've lost communication with Shalltear," Narberal whispered only to Ainz under the scrutiny of everyone present.

Knots formed in Ainz's imaginary stomach, twisting and grinding, nausea assailing him.

The pieces connected all at once, filling him with a sense of dread and unease.

True Vampire, Empire borders…Shalltear.

Then he realized that Nero intended on going on a hunt. Nero wasn't strong in YGGDRASIL per say, but if she led a team, that was when she really shined as the Nero faction of the warring empires. The token she'd just given was one such example and that was a passive item.

Moreover, if Ainz's assumption that more of YGGDRASIL's Raid Bosses existed in the new world was correct, then causing any sort of large-scale disturbance was the surest way of attracting many of them. If they came, Shalltear was going to die without giving him any idea of what had happened to her. This matter had to be settled quickly.

Did Shalltear betray him, betray Nazarick? The possibility had always been there with the new autonomy of his NPCs, but they'd always been so loyal.

"We should move at once, call the guards, inform the emperor to mobilize the army," Sleigar suggested, and for once, Nero looked like she was contemplating it.

No. No.

Ainz could see Narberal staring at him for instruction, unwilling to believe that someone like Shalltear could commit the ultimate crime of betrayal of the supreme ones.

Ainz could hardly believe it either, but she was moving outside orders and refusing to report her movements. They were signs that she'd gone rogue, but just the idea that someone else would hunt down and hurt the precious memories and creations of his guildmates infuriated him to no end.

If Shalltear truly betrayed him, then it was up to him to decide what to do.

He couldn't stomach anyone else doing it.

Red light suddenly glinted from the visor of his armour before he addressed Nero.

"Team Darkness will move to intercept," he declared, leaving no room for refusal.

Ainz's directness was the most effective means to garner Nero's approval, and it worked.

"Umu, such boldness. I like it. I'll file a case for the Empire's Adventurer's guild and say a team has already accepted."

"But Duchess, that's not how the Adventurer system works. There are ranks and titles one needs to earn and prove written into the guild hall's law-"

"Redacted!"

"But-"

"Redacted! I'll just go to Jircniv if you keep arguing."

"…"

Team Darkness's first quest as an Adventurer team:

[True Vampire Hunt]

[Adventurer Rank: Adamantite]

Nero soon signed the papers and made it official.

The quest was on, but any good mood Ainz had had, was long gone…


Thanks for reading, and thanks to my newest patrons: HonorableGreen

A big thank you to Alex K for fan art from the last chapter:

Link here: Deviantart alex-kellar/art/A-UMU-of-approval-888386324

Next update: Vasto of White

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