Chapter 6 Second Run

You didn't even last a decade on this one.

Harry huffed at Death's mocking tone, coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. His surroundings were nothing but darkness, and he was… hmn. Floating, would probably be the best way to describe it.

"I'll wake up soon enough, I managed to activate the self-recovery on the staff before passing out—"

You mean dying.

"I said passing out," Harry insisted, passing a hand over his face tiredly, "I don't think death is the best description, considering that's supposed to be permanent."

It is. Death strongly asserted. You could stay for an eternity here, if you so wished.

"Time is relative. An eternity or two, I'd still wake up at the exact same point I was where I died… a second for them, eons for me."

And even then, you never stay to chat. Death complained with a dramatic, long-suffering sigh.

"Last time I did, I couldn't recall anything about the life I had paused and what I was doing."

Well, your mind is not prepared to handle eons of life.

"Something I complained about when you granted my immortal title."

I taught you how to keep the memories in your subconscious. Isn't that enough?

"Has to be, considering there's no other option," Harry huffed lightly, which became a groan when he felt a thin, long hand patronizingly patting his head. "You're insufferable."

You'll survive. Pfft, he could hear the mocking practically dripping from that sentence.

"I always do. Don't I?" Harry smiled at last, giving a reassuring pat at thin air when his surroundings started to gain light, rays coming from the edges before illuminating everything with a blinding intensity.

You shouldn't survive, you should live. Life is a present, after all. Was the last thing Death muttered before his senses returned to him.

Lethargically blinking his eyes open, the first thing he did was take a one-armed hold of Pandora — who was hovering over him, chanting a frenetic no, no, no, no — forcefully immobilizing him with an embrace because the way the doppelganger had raised his hand denoted he had been a second away from sending a [Message].

The last thing Harry wanted was for Momonga and the NPCs to worry, or feel guilty about this whole mess.

"I'm fine, I'm— Pan, Pandora, I swear, look at me—"

"I'm so sorry, it's my fault, your HP was low because I—"

"I'm alive, I'm— bloody hell, we better leave." Harry muttered when he detected the approach of what he now recognized as Momonga's detection-specialist undead summons.

Strengthening his grip on a still-crying-and-beggingly-apologizing Pandora, he apparated away with a loud Crack! Going back to the one place he knew was protected and far away enough to give him some time to regain his HP, and calm Pandora down before the NPC went and caused a worried havoc among Nazarick's denizens.

Hopefully the room he had with the dwarves would be empty. He didn't feel like answering questions.

(x)

There were two reasons Ainz had chosen Pandora to fight alongside him.

One was the use of super-tier spells.

Under ideal circumstances, a player could learn one super-tier spell for each level after 70. Once learned, it could only be used one time per day, the number of uses increasing by one for every ten levels. Thus, a player who managed to reach level 100 in YGGDRASIL could use Super-Tier Magic at least four times a day and could have about thirty super-tier spells in their arsenal.

This applied mostly to Magic Casters though, since one needed to have reached 70 levels in total in magic-related classes (either racial or job classes) to unblock the use of super-tier magic. It was rare for players to make a build with all classes magic-oriented though, so it was common to learn less than 30 spells due to mixed, complex character builds.

Characters that specialized in physical combat, like Touch Me, weren't supposed to be able to have any in their arsenal. To be fair, the only reason his paladin friend had been able to gain one was due to the completion of a special, time-limited event.

Nazarick's NPCs, for sure, didn't have any in their arsenal — except for Rubedo's ultimate skill, and he wasn't sure that counted — since it was difficult to conjure the special build that would enable an NPC to use Super-Tier magic. Ainz and his Guildmates had agreed that, even if they somehow managed to, it would be redeemed useless due to the activation time since the NPCs couldn't use cash items to neglect it, and thus didn't even try to give any to them.

Besides, once any member of a team casted a super-tier spell, the whole team would be penalized by being unable to cast such spells for a certain period of time — in other words, a cooldown period. This restriction was put in place to prevent Guild Wars in YGGDRASIL from being decided by who could vomit out the most super-tier spells.

In simpler words, the NPCs didn't have use for it, and the cooldown penalty affected the players as well the NPCs… at least, that was the case back in Yggdrassil. Upon arriving to this new world however, Ainz had discovered that this restriction wasn't in effect any longer. It had been lifted, in the same way party system elements like "no friendly fire" had changed.

Thus, having an NPC that could use such spells was dramatically useful, but the only one able to do so was Pandora's Actor.

That important factor aside, the second reason Ainz had chosen to fight along his own NPC was that, apart from himself, the Greater Doppelganger was the best choice in terms of intelligence and adaptability. Unlike the other NPCs who obeyed Ainz's every order without question, Pandora's Actor was willing to question his orders when needed, clarifying his duties and giving suggestions whenever possible.

Thus, despite his— uwah… — "peculiar" personality, he was the perfect executioner for this kind of delicate tasks, since Pandora wouldn't misunderstand his intentions, unlike others — Albedo and Demiurge coming to mind.

In that regard, since Pandora was better at understanding the extent of his creator's ways and motivations of achieving victory, even if this ended up badly the doppelganger should be able to see one's defeat not as a loss, but as a win. His creation was flexible enough that Ainz trusted him to do what he considered best for Nazarick even if the enemy were to— to…

The communication thread that linked him to Pandora was suddenly severed.

Ainz felt a pang of worry, sadness, and anger all at once.

They had prepared for battle, as best they could, but there was no way to completely nullify all risks. In the end, they had had no option other than to accept they wouldn't be able to prepare against all odds in such a limited amount of time, and hope that improvising and drawing support from Nazarick's proximity would be enough.

One could go on and on, analyzing the endless possibilities all day without reaching a conclusion. All Ainz could do was accept that he was compromising their safety to some degree as they took action. This was something that Ainz had learned when he fought against the brainwashed Shalltear.

Please take care, Ainz thought pleadingly, almost like a prayer.

"Albedo, what's Pandora's status?"

"Still active and loyal to Nazarick. I will inform immediately if anything changes."

"Umu, please do. What's the enemy's position?"

"Yes." Albedo answered without missing a beat, double-checking with remote surveillance before confirming, "their last sighting was at The Ending area. The magic in effect seems to be the same as the one placed around Aura and Mare, since I'm unable to locate them."

Isolating not only the individuals, but containing their attacks as well. And for such an extended period of time— honestly, how broken could a Raid Boss be? No wonder it had been so hated by the player's community.

"Make the zerglings specialized in detection examine the zone underground, to delimit the affected area of that spell."

"Yes!"

Now, what should he do to help Pandora? Could Ainz still prevent a brainwashing?

No, we didn't lose communication with the twins after the isolating magic was put in place. Which means that… Pandora is probably in the process of being controlled, since his status hasn't changed to "enemy" in Albedo's Guild list.

"Pandora's current status."

"Still marked as ally. The zerglings registered the zone, Jarvis reports the affected area to be around 15 ft sq."

That was surprisingly small.

"The magic is right in The Ending area, correct?"

"Yes, Ainz-sama."

Ainz hummed. Perhaps the enemy needed to stay still, or something else equally disadvantageous, while brainwashing the target, in which case Ainz may be able to interrupt it on time.

Under these circumstances, it was best to see if Super-tier magic was enough to break through the isolating spell.

He had casted [Perfect Unknowable] at the beginning of the battle, but still made sure to reinforce it before casting [Greater Teleportation], grip tightening over the Guild Weapon.

When the Guild master equipped the staff of Ainz Ooal Gown, it granted him an enhancement over his racial skills, strengthening the effects of his Despair Auras and other undead skills to the point where he was able to affect even level 100 enemies.

His magic had only started affecting Jim after equipping the guild weapon, which meant that the item provided him enough of a buff to consider him on Jim's level. Or perhaps he only needed to be slightly superior to a Level 100 player?

Whatever the case, his ultimate skill should be able to cause an impact now, to kill him, since his HP bar was now visible like a normal player's would.

[The Goal of all Life is Death]

The world around him — the earth, the air, the few summons that had still been in the area — died all at once. The area around changed, the fertile forest disappearing from existence, converted into a scorched desert.

Since the enemy was strong enough to withstand resurrection magic, killing him shouldn't cause any issues. Besides, even if Pandora had been unable to leave The Ending area, his NPC's was equipped with a self-resurrecting item. He would be fine.

Momonga surveyed the area, but… he still couldn't see anything.

"Albedo, do you see them?"

"I was able to see them for an instant, right when they received the attack," Albedo confirmed worriedly, the sound of feathered wings flapping in the background. "But they disappeared right after."

That didn't sound good.

"Aura, Mare." If the enemy had died, then the spell that was trapping them should be—

"We can move!" The twins chorus resonated. Ainz inwardly sighed with relief.

Jim had truly died then… but then, why had they disappeared again?

Did Jim use an immediate-resurrection item, like Shalltear had? And where was Pandora—

Eh?

He was receiving another request for [Message], different from the connection he already had established with Albedo. Who was it? Everyone in Nazarick had orders to communicate with Albedo for anything— unless it was an emergency, thus they reached out directly?

"Albedo, is someone from the Tomb trying to communicate with me directly?"

"No one should be, I was very clear on the subject." Albedo hmphed, apparently bothered by the mere idea of it. "Please reject the attempt, you won't be able to keep both channels open at the same time, Ainz-sama."

He hesitated for a short moment. He couldn't help but remember how dismissing a [Message] in favor of doing other things had made him ignorant of Shalltear's brainwashed status in the past.

He had a strong feeling this was similar.

"…Demiurge."

"Yes, Ainz-sama!"

"Come back and protect me. Albedo, don't stop surveillance, I will momentarily close off our network to receive the [Message]." He ordered even as he summoned high-tiered undead, so he had multiple guards to protect him.

"Wh— but— please reconsider! If this is a trap—"

"I won't listen to their words, just identify the sender."

"… please be careful."

"Umu."

Demiurge landed just at his side. The area was still suspiciously deserted.

There's something I'm missing. Even if Jim had teleported to another side of the battlefield, becoming invisible, the summons that could see through it should have found him already… not to mention that Albedo was surveilling while sitting down in a World Item. Nothing should be able to elude her gaze.

"Still nothing?"

"No…"

The [Message] request had yet to leave, still tingling at the back of his mind.

"I will reply now. Stay alert." He said at last before temporarily closing off the network with Albedo, accepting the request so a new communication channel flared to life.

"Momonga, can you hear me…?"

That voice!

"Harry?!" Ainz exclaimed with disbelief, unconsciously strengthening his grip over the Guild weapon. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Demiurge's eyes visibly open, body tensing up.

"Oh, thank Merlin." Harry's voice — how? And why in the middle of such a big event?! Your luck sucks Harry! — sounded incredibly relieved, if albeit a little breathless. "The spell didn't work until I directed it to 'Ainz Ooal Gown' instead of 'Momonga'. I had no idea the name was a big factor."

Ainz laughed with unbidden glee. Relief, disbelief, excitement, happiness, concern, all sort of emotions battled amongst themselves to come on top, but in the end they all were equally repressed by his emotional suppression.

Still, the nice feeling bubbling under his bones remained, as did his now much brighter humor.

"Hahaha, I didn't either! Harry—" where are you, what happened that made you lose your lance, what do you know about someone called Jim? All questions seemed equally important, but in the end, he settled for, "—are you alright?"

They couldn't afford to lose this battle, against this terrible enemy, but if Harry was dealing with his own fight, was injured or anything of the sort, Nazarick's priority would be to help him. If Ainz had to choose between the victory against Jim and Harry's well-being, he would pick the later in a heartbeat.

"Yeah. Happiest than I've been in a long time." The words felt like a punch to the ribs, did that mean Harry wasn't coming back? Did he also prefer the life he had constructed outside of Nazarick? "After all, I get to see you guys again."

Ainz couldn't help but sigh with relief. Harry really had a terrible way to phrase things.

"Same here. But Harry, right now Nazarick is—"

"Yeah, I know. Fighting against Jim."

How had he known?

"Yes, exactly. What can you tell us about him? Bastard's got your lance; we need to ensure—"

"Yeeeeah, tell you what. Send me a [Message] so you know I'm— uh, really who I claim to be. We can continue to chat after that?"

Oh. Yeah right, why hadn't he thought about double-checking that? Sentiment had gotten the best of him, hearing the familiar voice was… nothing short of a blessing, even if it wasn't under the best circumstances.

"Very well." Ainz forced himself to cut off the spell.

"Ainz-sama, was that…" Demiurge asked surprisingly softly, a mix of disbelief and mistrust apparent in his expression. Ainz hummed in response, two skeletal fingers coming to rest at his temple.

"I'm about to confirm it, the [Message] won't reach if it's not really him… but, if you see it works, then let Albedo know as well," he instructed, impatiently waiting for some time to pass before sending a new request.

He felt positively giddy upon feeling the connection take hold. How many times had he attempted that, without success, since his arrival into this new world? Each time things had gotten out of control, when he had made terrible mistakes, countless days and nights where he would have done anything to have a friend with him, to have someone to rely on, to go through each challenge together and be able to support each other.

"…Harry?" He greeted tentatively after swallowing inexistent saliva, suddenly worried. What if—

"Most certainly. How ya' doing?" Harry asked with a weak chuckle, but continued without pausing to hear the answer. "I know you— I mean… ugh, the fight is kinda over, you know? Look, it's difficult to explain, but— er, can you stop by? Better see it with your own eyes, I guess."

It wasn't unusual for Harry to utterly suck at explaining things, but that was abysmal even by his standards.

"Harry, what the heck."

In his peripheral, he could see Demiurge perk up like a child in Christmas eve, hurriedly saying something to Albedo in their shared link.

"Ugh, I know, I'm sorry, that doesn't clarify— um… I guess you could say Jim was defeated. Fight's over. That's what I need you to see, actually, otherwise this is… kinda messy."

Uwah, that explanation was awful!

"Pfft hahaha! Harry, you've really not changed. That was the worst way you could have chosen to say that we won!" His friend was just below Touch-Me in terms of best builds, so Ainz didn't doubt that the Raid Boss had been neutralized—

Neutralized?

No, wasn't that… No, wait, that didn't make any sense—

"Wanna bet? I think it could have been worse if— haah, you'll understand once you see me. By the way, Pandora said he's restored communication with Albedo now, he's speaking with her at the moment— eh? Oh, Demiurge too— and Aura and Mare? Wait— Pan! Pan, don't mention it!"

"…mention what?" Ainz could vaguely hear someone dramatically sniffling.

"No buts, that's an order— eh? Ah, I'm kinda hurt, but I don't wanna worry—"

"You're hurt?!"

Demiurge flinched, before demanding answers on his side as well.

"Shut up, isn't Dem with you—" Harry started to hiss at him before getting distracted again. "No, Pan, tell them I'm not— what? No, don't tell them that!"

"Harry, where are you?!"

"Bloody hell— I'm in my room with the dwarves, I teleported us here after— uh, after getting…"

He seemed unable to finish that sentence. Something in Ainz' mind clicked.

"You teleported… along with Pandora?"

Harry seemed to know he had put the pieces together, because he sighed softly.

"It's ok, don't— don't feel guilty or anything, it's not too bad. I'm with Pan, he took Yamaiko's form and is healing me. It's cool, really. Just… come pay me a visit?" Harry stated softly, an attempt at reassurance.

"… where to?" Ainz confirmed, a weight dropping in his non-existent stomach.

He had checked, and then double-checked, he had done everything he could think of, used his extensive knowledge to be able to see through illusions or shapeshifting. He had equipped a World item.

There was no way, no way, that he had been mistaken, that Jim was Harry.

But apparently, he was.

And Ainz had missed it, and he had— Nazarick had— they all had just attempted to murder

"Ainz-sama…" Demiurge's voice was small, like a lost child, expression one of pure horror. Whatever conversation was being held on the Floor Guardian's side, he seemed to realize just who, exactly, they had been fighting against.

This was it. This was the mistake he wouldn't be able to recover from. The one he had been fearing since their arrival to this new world, the one that would break the Guild from the inside out, the one that—

Crack!

Harry was suddenly in front of him, looking pale and tired but not in the brick of death, along with Pandora-turned-Yamaiko, who was still fretting over Harry and doing everything he could to heal him.

The robes were the same "Jim" had been wearing.

"Why did you end our [Message]?" Harry asked him through clenched teeth, flinching when the healing magic made one of his ribs pop back into its right place. From his peripheral, he could see Demiurge flinch at the unnatural sound.

Ainz didn't know what to say. There was no excuse, nothing to justify—

Clank.

Harry had lightly tapped his shoulder with the blunt end of his lance.

"My magic is stronger than yours. There was no way you, or anyone, could have seen through my disguise." Harry reassured matter-of-factly, like there was no room for discussion, green eyes drilling at Ainz before flickering towards where Demiurge was standing. "No one."

Ainz chocked up on thin air.

"I had equipped my World item! I did—"

"—everything you could have and still found nothing." Harry interrupted him with a steely voice, one hand raised in a request for silence. "My magic is different. Is not from Yggdrasil, you don't know the counter to it— no one does. There was nothing you could have done."

Harry stressed the last sentence, delivering another harmless tap with his lance as if to reinforce his point.

"…but how?" Demiurge whispered before Ainz could say anything, taking a hesitant step towards them, towards Harry, diamond eyes open and vulnerable in a way that Ainz had never thought possible.

The homunculus blinked tiredly, lowering the lance with a small sigh as Pandora's healing finally ended, the opaque green glow dispersing from his figure. "I know this is hard to believe, but I'm actually—"

"SIR!"

Ainz had always imagined that a reunion with one of his long-lost friends would be filled with gleeful laughter and crushing hugs; but he couldn't do either of those things, not after what he did. Demiurge and Pandora seemed to feel the same way, hovering nearby as if itching to approach, to make sure Harry was here for real, but the weight of their past actions immobilized them.

Jarvis didn't seem to have that issue.

The zerg hug-tackled his creator in an embrace that looked almost painful, long boney wings enclosing around them as if to make sure Harry wouldn't be able to step away.

"Jarvis!" Harry all but squealed, expression filled with unaltered glee as he returned the hug. "Merlin, I can't believe I was trying to kill you!"

What.

"And I sent my zerglings to kill you." The overmind immediately replied, tightening his grip. "I'm sorry."

"We didn't know any better, don't worry about it. For the record, I'm sorry too." Harry stated calmly, lifting a hand as if to pat Jarvis' shoulder, but paused upon realizing the palm was dirty with dried blood.

The zerg nodded, gave another squeeze, and finally stepped back from the hug. Harry rolled his shoulders, cleaned the dried blood with a lazy wave, and turned to face his stupefied audience.

"I didn't really recognize any of you… I fought with the intent to kill just like you did." He admitted in a soft voice, giving them a sad, apologetic smile. "So we're kinda even, don't you think?"

Ainz ugh-ed guiltily. Demiurge seemed to be clenching his teeth, tail waving uneasily.

That was true, he knew it was, but there was no way something like this could be forgotten— nor forgiven. Ainz couldn't forgive himself, and he knew some of the NPCs wouldn't be able to either.

This error, this inexcusable mistake, might as well be enough to make Nazarick drift apart from the inside. The NPCs wouldn't forgive themselves, or they wouldn't forgive Ainz for not realizing, not when they had previously thought their Guild Master was some kind of infallible mastermind. There was no way they wouldn't blame him. Nothing that could—

"Ah." Harry interrupted his musings, expression deeply concerned. "I didn't think it would be that bad."

What was he talking about?

"I can read minds, under certain circumstances." Harry admitted lightly while summoning his wooden wand, and the casual admission echoed in Ainz' head. He was an undead, his mind was naturally protected from external forces. Harry shouldn't be able to affect him. "If you believe it's that dire, then let's change the past, hmm?"

…was that really possible?

He wanted to ask, but the harmless-looking wand was now pointed in his direction.

A small flick, and everything went blank.

(x)

The clean-up process took a long time, but he was sure he had covered everything. After all, so long they were within his wards range, Harry could transfer his magic to several individuals at once, distance and quantity rendered irrelevant.

The battlefield was now void of undead, demons, zergs, and mercenary NPCs.

An imperio-ed Mare had restored the Great Forest of Tob to its original state and he had repaired the wooden fortress, which was apparently constructed by Aura.

After the general clean-up, he had sent everyone — including Aura's beasts — back to the Great Tomb of Nazarick. The Guild was protected with his strongest set of wards, so it was the easiest way to modify everyone's memories at once, to ensure they matched.

He was sure he hadn't missed anyone. A mental command activated the imprisoning quality of the wards, ensuring no one could leave the territory until he was done with his tampering.

After the spell finished, he sighed, went through everything in his head to ensure he hadn't missed anything, and then nodded to himself, satisfied.

They were going to have a new first-meeting. This time without killing intent or bloodshed, he bowed to himself before disappearing with a loud Crack! just after lifting his control over Nazarick's residents.

Harry let a few days pass by, before going back to E-Rantel — this time as himself —and requested a meeting with the adamantite adventurer Momon.

Who, apparently, wasn't Momonga anymore, but Pandora. Why the sudden switch?

It was a good thing they were in a private room, that was under a set of privacy spells, when the "adventurers" met him, otherwise Pandora's shriek of HARRY-SAMA! would have crumpled the adamantite's supposedly solemn reputation irreparably.

Not like Narberal's reaction was any better.

Now, the doppelganger was enthusiastically speaking about their encounter in a [Message] — with Albedo and Momonga, probably. Perhaps even more people? — arms moving wildly to emphasize random words, almost like he was acting them out.

And he still looked like "Momon".

Harry snorted into his palm, coughing a bit to try to hide his amused grin. Pandora could imitate the appearance of all of his friends, right? So he could ask the doppelganger to— oh, the possibilities….

He let out a discrete snicker, grinning like a madman at the thought even as he motioned for the Pleiade to take a seat. She looked like she was on the verge of tears — happy tears, he hoped. Maybe he should offer a handkerchief or something— woah!

"HARRY! HAHAHA—" Momonga teleported right in front of him with scary accuracy, which probably was due to Pandora's detailed description of their position, and hugged him to death while laughing like a bloody maniac. After getting over his surprise, Harry smiled so wide his cheeks felt strained, and returned the hug with an iron grip of his own.

After a short moment Momonga's laugh abruptly cut off — which was really odd — but the overlord didn't stop the hug, so Harry considered it was his turn to huff a short laugh.

"Oh Merlin, I can't believe I had forgotten— no, doesn't your voice sound different? I'm pretty sure it wasn't like this!" Harry said what had been in his mind the last time they talked. "And— ugh, you weren't this tall either! Let my feet touch the ground, you damn tree!" He demanded, giving a couple of pats at his friend's back, which made Momonga laugh again before putting him down.

"Hahah— tch, stupid suppression." Momonga muttered when his laugh got cut off again, but Harry couldn't inquire on it since he continued. "I don't really know either, my voice just… switched along with me, I guess? From the very first day in the Throne room, I— I just…"

The lighthearted atmosphere changed into something heavier, but Harry couldn't really identify the feeling.

"Harry, that day, what… what happened?" the overlord asked dejectedly, shoulders dropping.

Harry sighed, meditating the question for a moment before shaking his head negatively. This wasn't the moment to explain about the whole "I'm immortal and automatically go to another world whenever I die" tale.

"That's a long story, and— well, I think we first need to settle down, don't you think? Did Pandora mention—"

"Oh, right." Momonga— or maybe he should start thinking of him as Ainz? That felt weird though — muttered distractedly, like he had forgotten his NPC was also present. "Pandora's Actor, you insisted I should come to evaluate the situation for myself. I'm here now, so start."

Huh, that sounded almost authoritarian. He had never heard Momonga speak like that before.

Pandora clicked his heels together and saluted — while still looking like Momon pfft —yelling "JA!" enthusiastically before dramatically raising both arms to the sky, and then dropping them to point at Harry's chest. "I apologize! But I think Harry-sama is better suited to explain it!"

Even with an expressionless face, Harry got the impression that Momonga wanted to facepalm. Harry laughed freely at the scene, in a way he hadn't in the last five years. Oh yes, it was good to be back.

"Why are you so— ugh, no, never mind. Harry, please try to explain in a way that actually makes sense." Momonga pleaded tiredly, which made Harry humph with mock offense.

"Excuse you, it's not my fault others can't keep up with—"

"Harry."

"…but yeah, ok." Harry relented, before summoning his elder wand. "An image is faster than a thousand words, so let me show you."

He waved it over his head, and kept talking even as his appearance started to shift, "so this is me when I— uh, well, you created the character 'Momon' to be a human warrior, adventurer of E-Rantel, right? But, you're still Momonga— or Ainz, whatever, but you're still you, yeah? Well, Jim is my own made-up character."

The change in his appearance ended and with it came a long, shocked silence.

Harry had erased their memories of the battle. As far as they knew, "Jim" had just escaped Aura's fortress a few days ago.

Momonga stared at his disguised form for a short time before cursing colorfully — Ulbert would have teased him for that sort of vocabulary — and covered his face with a skeletal hand.

"I didn't— how did you—" Momonga started to say before groaning miserably, muttering phrases of "how did this happen?" and "seriously, why?" among other things, all the while looking like he was torn between demanding answers and slumping in relief.

Harry decided to free him of his misery by walking closer to pat his arm. "Yeah, I know, I have a lot of things to explain. Let's go back home, and I'll tell everyone?"

The mood of the room seemed to brighten at his use of the word home.

"Of course." If the overlord could make expressions, Harry was sure he would be grinning from ear to ear. "But when you were in there— I mean, we didn't... are you not… hurt?"

…it had been a low-level demon summon. What, exactly, did Momonga think could have wounded him?

"Nah, I'm not injured. You can check my HP if you don't believe— that was fast! At least hesitate a little before stating you don't trust me, you prat!" Harry exclaimed with mock offense when the overlord rushed to check his health, not even waiting for him to finish his sentence. The action made Momonga snort unapologetically.

"Double-checking is never bad," his friend said instead, posture relaxing after confirming no damage had been inflicted.

"…you do realize it was a low-level summon? Have some faith." Harry complained, keeping a close eye on Momonga's reaction.

"That's— yes, you're right. Sorry, I don't know why… I just wanted to— I felt like it needed to be done? It's weird, I was honestly worried for a moment." The Guild master muttered confusedly.

Better not dig too deeply into that emotion.

"It's cool. Ready to go?"

The overlord easily let go of his line of thought —Harry's mind-altering magic strongly encouraging him to forget — and gave enthusiastic nod. Pandora and Nabe seemed disappointed when Momonga asked them to stay behind, since apparently the adventurer team needed to leave E-Rantel in a visible manner before they could teleport back to Nazarick.

Harry promised he would save the best of his tales until after they arrived back.

All in all, their second encounter had gone much more smoothly.

...

...

...

EPILOGUE:

Something's wrong, something's missing.

Albedo paced in her assigned room, biting her nails anxiously, black feathers ruffled messily.

She should be happy— no, ecstatic. She should be elated that Harry-sama had come back, that he had told them of his experience in this new world, learning for the past five years.

She would be, if not for the wrinkled note she had in a tight grasp.

One that had her own handwriting.

One that told her not to forget the unforgivable.

Unknown to her, a few days ago, when she noticed that she wasn't able to leave the Tomb, when Ainz-sama and everyone that had been fighting outside came back much too unresponsive, with unfocused gaze, acting like puppets, Albedo had had an inkling that she needed to write things down, fast.

She unwrinkled the note and read it for the thousandth time.

It wasn't possible, Nazarick would never commit such treason. Nor would everyone simply forget. Her subtle inquiries were always met with clueless expressions…

Except for Demiurge.

When she asked him, the demon had tensed up, lips thinning as if to prevent any words from slipping out. He was silent for a very long time, deep in thought.

"For some reason… the number of summoned demons of the 7th floor has diminished." He whispered, almost like he didn't actually want to think about it; didn't want to voice that particular oddity.

Albedo quickly discovered that the same had happened with the undead summons and the zerglings.

"What does it matter? They replenish on their own." Shalltear had said carelessly while filing her nails, not even bothering to look up at her.

"I feel like it's not worth looking into." Jarvis had stated, throwing her an oddly knowing look.

"Ah… so I slipped." Harry-sama said when— what? "Let me fix that little detail, I'm sorry I troubled you."

...

He was back, he was back, Harry-sama was back! Albedo chanted inwardly in her mind, rolling over her bed while hugging a body-sized pillow, her excited squeal muffled in the fabric.

This was the happiest she's ever been; she didn't understand why Demiurge was so tense during the welcoming ceremony.

And his odd line of questioning— pure nonsense.


AUTHOR NOTE:

I had half of this chapter done since January, but was struggling with the ending. A bit bittersweet for poor Demi… the only one that knows something's off, but instinct keeps him from investigating too deeply. The novels reflect him as someone that admires, fears, and respects Ainz for his "unreachable intellect" and superiority to his own strategic mind. I believe this would cause him to feel something similar to that, but a lot more strongly, towards Harry.

Something's off and no one notices, but if it's the Superior Beings wish then he shouldn't go against it… but it's still off. Can he truly move on without knowing? *Dramatic music in the background* You're free to imagine what would come of that.

At last, I'm happy to mark this short work as completed~ My second HP X Overlord fic that's finalized.

See ya' around~ dEBB987