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Overlord (LN) - Volume 16 - Chapter 5.2



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Part 2 

The Theocracy’s assault turned fiercer, finally breaking through the capital’s outer defenses.

Seeing that the Theocracy’s soldiers had begun entering the city, Ainz and his party started to move quickly.

The first thing Ainz did after infiltrating the castle under [Perfect Unknowable] was to find an elf who was alone—with no witnesses around—and capture them.

After passing up multiple opportunities because of the possibility of being discovered, he finally captured a female elf who looked like a servant.

Ainz immediately charmed her and returned to the twins’ location using [Gate]. Then, he questioned her just like they did with the elf before. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to get much useful information out of the woman.

Realizing there was no more useful information to be gained from the elf, Ainz immediately killed her with [Death] without hesitation. There shouldn’t be any problem with a single woman disappearing from a castle that was going to fall soon.

After divesting the elf of her clothes and other things that could be used to identify her, they moved her body to a faraway place—to the place they initially discovered the ‘Ursus Lord—using [Gate]. The wild animals would probably pick her clean. Even if she was discovered before that, she would just be a mysterious corpse without a single wound. It’s very unlikely that someone would connect it with Ainz and the others.

He thought it would be more natural to teleport her above the castle and have her die from the fall as it would have been a reasonable action for her in this situation. However, given that they might need to use her identity later, he just made her disappear.

Some MP exhaustion was necessary to deal with the body, but with Ainz’s MP recovery rate in mind, it was not a big deal. Plus, even if he wanted to wait until it recovered, they didn’t have any time left to observe things from the sidelines anymore.

The Theocracy’s forces were still having a hard time against the Elves’ guerilla warfare in the city. That said, considering the difference in their fighting strength, their victory was just a matter of time. No strong individual had appeared on the field yet, so it was probably correct of them to think that there was no one like that present here.

The Elf King, who was said to be a strong person, was nowhere to be found on the defending side, probably because he had already escaped from this place.

In that case, the magic items would have followed him, rendering their actions here into a meaningless endeavor. Ainz muttered such thoughts internally and then called out to the twins.

“—Well, let’s move.”

They now knew the general position of their destination, but it was unfortunate that they didn’t manage to find out the abilities and items of the king who was known as the strongest individual in this kingdom. Maybe they should have chosen a more important-looking Elf, but there wasn’t enough time to carefully select their target.

There’s only one problem left.

{How should we—no, to be more accurate, who should be the one to conceal themselves?}

In this hostile territory, each of them moving independently was out of the question.

They had acted out of sight up to this point, so moving brazenly in the open now would render all those efforts meaningless.

It would then be best if all three of them moved in stealth.

They certainly had the means to do that, but it also created a new problem.

Aura was the only one who could sense Ainz in [Perfect Unknowable] and even then, she could only sense that he was somewhere around them. Druids have a spell to see through [Perfect Unknowable] but Mare, who mostly specialized in the use of offensive spells barring a few exceptions, didn’t have that particular one.

If Aura went into stealth with her Ghillie-Ghillie Cloak, even Ainz and Mare couldn’t find her.

The Sunlight Dapple Cloak that Mare usually equipped had extremely high stealth capabilities outdoors, especially in the forests, but its ability would be reduced to half while indoors. Unfortunately, it seemed like this place was considered indoors even though the castle was made out of trees, reducing the cloak’s ability to the point where even Ainz could sense him more or less. If both Aura and Ainz could sense Mare’s location, it was highly likely that the enemy could as well, so it would be meaningless.

This meant:

If Ainz hid, Aura could find him but Mare couldn't.

If Aura hid, both Ainz and Mare couldn’t find her.

Mare’s Sunlight Dapple Cloak was weakened, and even if he used the Ghillie-Ghillie Cloak the result should be about the same. It’s highly possible that a third party could discover him as well.

They finally concluded that if the three of them could not move covertly together, one of them should hide to act as their trump card in an emergency. While Aura was the most appropriate one for the role, it would be troublesome if Mare and Ainz couldn’t grasp her location in a pinch. If they were too unlucky, they might even end up crashing into her while trying to move.

{This is really a large mistake on my part...}

They had a week of time to prepare. They absolutely should have discussed this before coming here.

Ainz went through such stealth operations many times in YGGDRASIL. For example, during Nazarick’s first clear, they had to secretly travel through the Tuveg-filled swamps. 

But, all of his guildmates generally prepared their own measures for stealth operations. As everyone was generally used to it, a little talk before taking action worked well enough for them even if they didn’t discuss it before.

Ainz got a little excited at the word “kill steal” because it made him remember things from YGGDRASIL, so he completely forgot about discussing the plan with the twins.

Then why didn’t the other two point it out to him? He didn’t confirm if his hunch was true since that would be scary for him, but they were probably thinking that “Ainz-sama probably has some plans” with full trust in him. Actually, their eyes were gazing upon him with absolute faith right at this moment.

He couldn’t tell them that he had no plans right now. He spun his non-existent brain matter at full speed enough to heat his—also imaginary—brains. Ainz could instead ask them about what they should do right now, but they couldn’t waste time here, so he should propose his idea first.

“—Then I will use [Perfect Unknowable], Aura will be the vanguard.”

Ainz decided.

The twins would not hide. They would just have to rely on Aura’s senses to avoid others.

If something unexpected were to happen, the twins would face them openly with Ainz ready to support them at any moment. He was more worried about them becoming separated during an attack than he was about them being discovered by someone, because they wouldn't be able to find each other in the first case.

The twins raised no objections.

{Is it really, really fine? You can speak your mind if you notice something you know?}

Honestly, Ainz would be happier if they had any objections.

Three heads together instead of using Ainz’s alone would probably think up a better plan.

There was also the possibility that the twins agreed just because it was Ainz’s plan. Strictly speaking, they were throwing the responsibility onto him. If Ainz overlooked something or his plans failed—which was a common enough occurrence—what were they going to do? They probably wouldn’t say anything even if things went awry, but that was most definitely not a good thing.

{...That’s the problem with the NPCs. But...even if I force them to squeeze out some ideas here, there isn’t enough time...Let’s just ignore this problem for now and be more cautious the next time around.}

He explained various countermeasures to Aura and Mare, and then walked after them into the castle with his spell active. There were barely any Elves, just like when Ainz infiltrated alone before, so they didn’t meet anyone on the way. Of course, the fact that Aura was listening to the footsteps around them and timing their movements so that they would avoid them was also a major factor in this situation.

{There were barely any people in the Kingdom's royal castle during its last moments as well, but they worked to create barricades at the entrances at least...}

There were no such things here even though the Theocracy was on their doorsteps. In fact, the mood here felt like nothing unusual was happening outside at all.

{It doesn’t feel like they intend to defend it...As I expected, did the country’s upper echelons leave the city to its own devices and escape already? From what I’ve heard there doesn’t seem to be any other Elven countries around here but the Great Sea of Trees is rather huge. It’s entirely possible that there are lands further south with cities and we just don’t know about them.}

All this trouble would be for nothing if that’s the case.

Anyhow, they would have an answer soon. It would be dumb of him to continue thinking about matters they could do nothing about.

The restricted area—likely the treasury—seemed to be on the upper floors.

It was two floors above the one where the king’s personal room was and it was the highest point in the castle. He initially thought about entering it from the outside, but abandoned the idea when he considered that it was unlikely that such a place had windows.

And so the three of them continued to advance up the stairs.

They climbed the floors without getting discovered. Upon reaching the floor of their destination, Aura raised her voice with a hint of suspicion.

“What is this place even?”

The entire ceiling, which was about 15 meters high, was filled with lights covering all of its surfaces. There weren’t any windows around so there was no doubt that it was done through some kind of magic.

But, it wasn’t bright enough to be called dazzling.

Ainz moved his body a little to try and see if he received any debuffs.

It would appear that this was not the kind of light the priests would use that negatively affected the undead. Considering that this was the Elven Country, it was probably some divine magic related to the druids.

The phenomenon itself wasn’t that weird. After all, Nazarick's sixth floor was similar. Even Arcane magic and Psychic magic had light-emitting spells after all, but the lack of secondary effects made it hard to know which type of magic this light belonged to.

But that was not what made Aura raise her voice. It was the thing directly opposite the ceiling, the floor—

—which was completely covered with soil.

Most of the floor, free of any walls or partitions and about a hundred meters wide in every direction, was covered by soil.

There were some areas free of the soil coverage but the area around the huge door further in was completely covered.

Aura lightly kicked the soil a few times and turned some over. It didn’t take that long before she hit the floor beneath it. It wasn’t that deep.

“A substitute for a carpet, maybe?”

Hearing that, Ainz felt like that was probably the case. The Dark Elf village didn’t have a culture of using carpets either. They at most used some floor cushions weaved from grass.

“Eh—, wait...no, culture is a diverse topic, but doesn’t this feel a bit primitive? Or is this a measure of caution? To make intruders leave their footprints?”

“B-but, in that case, s-shouldn’t there be a patrol or a guard watching this area?”

Ainz concurred with Mare’s words. There didn’t seem to be anyone around here.

{Too careless...to think no one’s here...no, maybe even the ones who were here were mobilized to defend against the Theocracy’s assault? That servant said this area was restricted, though nothing about soldiers being stationed here...}

“...M-maybe they planned to cultivate vegetables and stuff if they ever need to hole up in the castle...”

Aura raised an “ah” in agreement with Mare’s hypothesis. Ainz agreed as well.

It was possible for druids to cultivate crops here even though there wasn’t any sunlight coming in. Maybe this light substituted for real sunlight to grow plants here.

Though the area Aura kicked over was shallow, it was near the edge. It was possible that the soil further in was deep enough to grow plants.

{I can test this better if someone like Shalltear, who receives a penalty from sunlight, was with us here...I could use [All Appraisal Magic Item] if it’s a magic item, but...}

If they didn’t find anything good in the treasury, they can try taking this along with them as a consolation.

Ainz settled on that decision and started walking after the twins. Those two used skills to not leave any footprints behind, while Ainz cast [Fly]—while maintaining [Perfect Unknowable]—to do the same.

As the group neared the center of the room—

“—Hoo. I felt some strange presence and came over to check but to think it was some Dark Elves. Twin kids at that.”

A voice suddenly spoke.

Turning back, they found an elf standing about 10 meters away from them.

He had a cold-looking but handsome face, with each eye being a different color. He was definitely not a servant.

They could feel that this elf was used to ordering others around—one could feel the haughtiness that was radiated around him.

“—What?”

Ainz let out a surprised voice that no one else could hear. There shouldn’t have been anyone there. He was sure. Ainz and Mare may have missed him but there’s no way Aura would have as well.

He had not been invisible either, Ainz would have seen him if that was the case.

Maybe he deceived Ainz’s eyes with a special concealment skill while using invisibility at the same time to hide from Aura. Or else—

{—He teleported here? Shit. I should have deployed [Delay Teleportation].}

Aura moved gracefully to position herself between Ainz and that elf while Mare took on a fighting stance, gripping his staff with his two hands.

In contrast to the twins, the elf didn’t change his stance at all. Ainz found him full of gaps but maybe that was the opponent’s attempt to bait them.

A skilled warrior could probably judge if he was being genuine or if it was a bluff, but Ainz couldn’t.

Ainz moved a little and tried waving his hand at the elf.

The elf didn’t turn his gaze at all.

So, he couldn't see through Ainz’s [Perfect Unknowable].

Ainz turned to look at the twins.

His orders before the infiltration were, “in case we were to meet any mysterious individual, focus on gathering intel from them until they attack us.”

Aura nonchalantly extended her hand to grasp her necklace. The twins probably intended to gather the information while having a discussion among themselves.

He could understand their intentions, but they were being a bit rash.

If it were Ainz, he would have immediately attacked the infiltrators if they made any suspicious movements before him. Touching equipment was the same as drawing a gun in his eyes.

Expecting the mysterious elf to start attacking them at any moment, Ainz readied himself to meet him with magic at any time. But, he ended up tilting his head in puzzlement after observing the elf.

There’s no change in the elf’s attitude.

He saw Aura’s actions but didn’t look like he was particularly bothered by them.

Was it because he was highly confident in his strength or was it because he couldn’t understand what Aura was doing? Or maybe he was trying to gather information just like they were and so was hesitating to attack them?

“—nnnn. What’s the meaning of this? Those eyes...I don’t remember bedding any Dark Elves...No, maybe I did? Hmmhmm. Let me test you then.”

The elf’s air of intimidation became stronger. It even felt like the elf had swelled up a little.

Tch, Aura clicked her tongue.

“[Body of Effulgent Beryl].”

“Hoo. hooo. Hoo. So you can withstand this. This is probably the first time ever that I’ve seen someone being able to do that.”

“Hey, why did you point killing intent at us? Do you want to die?”

“[Indomitability].”

“—hah, hahahahahaha!”

The elf laughed like he had just heard the greatest joke. Aura furrowed her brows in a manner that screamed “danger.” She made a fist with a scary amount of force behind it, but gradually loosened it as Ainz continued to watch.

“[Greater Resistance].”

“That was splendid! No, no, I see. I see! I never even had an inkling. Grandchildren, I see. I understand now! So even if it doesn’t awaken in the children, it could awake in the grandchildren’s generation! To think that I didn’t realize it, that was somewhat stupid of me.”

“What nonsense are you muttering about?”

“[Greater Potential].”

“No, no, it just means I had the right idea all along. Well then, my grandchildren.”

{Grandchildren? What the heck is he saying? He seems to be having some sort of misunderstanding.}

“Eh? ...No way, are you Bukubukuchagama-sama’s...?”

That made Ainz panic for a moment. He realized that there was a possibility that Bukubukuchagama had arrived in this world alone and left this guy behind. But—

{—there doesn’t seem to be any slime bits left in him. Maybe he can change his form like Solution!?}

“Chagama? What are you talking about?”

{No...? In that case...could it be Akemichan-san!?}

Yamaiko had a sister named Akemichan. She had made an elf character, but as she wasn’t that into YGGDRASIL, he barely knew anything about her.

“Nnn—, you there, you are a pure elf, right?”

“...Oops. [Breath of Magic Caster].”

“What is this odd question—There’s no way you don’t know who I am, right?”

“We know, we know.”

“Y-yes. We know.”

“The two of you are shit at acting!”

Their perfunctory attitude and the monotone reply were enough to make Ainz retort unintentionally. The elf didn’t believe them either, opening his mouth in surprise.

“T-to think that you didn't know…It’s impossible… good grief. I heard Dark Elves live near the borders but to think you are so uncultured…”

The elf sent them an intense glare.

“I will forgive this once because you are my grandchildren, but ignorance is a sin. I will educate you thoroughly under my guidance.”

“Even if you say you will teach us...wait, actually, who are you? I am just making sure, but you are the king of the elves right?”

Aura likely made that conjecture because the Elf King was the only strong person they were informed about. 

“[Life Essence]. Hoo!”

Ainz let out a voice in surprise. The elf’s HP pool was huge. It easily surpassed the Pleiades and was probably at least level 70 by YGGDRASIL’s standards. This made him an opponent they couldn’t be careless around.

“Haa...I am stunned. What did your parents teach you until now? There shouldn’t be anything more important than the name of the pinnacle of all the Elven races...at present anyway, and the king of the elves, {THE} Decem Hougan”

{Shit.}

Ainz cursed.

He expected this, but he couldn't help but curse after receiving confirmation.

All their effort until now to stay hidden was in vain. He could only lament at all of their wasted efforts.

Now, they would have to kill this person, the greatest combat entity—probably—in this nation, one that they could have expected to decimate the forces of their hypothetical enemy nation, the Theocracy.

They certainly couldn’t leave him alive after this. Overwriting his memories was one option if they could incapacitate him and make him unable to resist, but after seeing his [Life Essence], Ainz realized that this king’s battle strength—his HP to be more precise—was surprisingly huge for a denizen of this world.

Of course, they would win without a doubt if they fought normally. There are three level 100 entities here after all, but it would probably be hard to incapacitate him without killing him, as holding back here could turn out to be a mistake.

Considering his sudden appearance, it’s highly likely that this elf—Decem—had some abilities unknown to them. It was dangerous to prioritize incapacitating him when they didn’t have enough information on his true strength.

After seeing that Akemichan’s name wasn’t mentioned, he was 90% sure that there was no relation between them. If there was any, she would have named him something recognizable.

He would only kill him if they were driven to the wall, if he really was the Yamaiko household’s child.

“The king? Is it fine for you to be here? Aren’t the humans attacking? Why won’t you immediately go over there and save your people”

“[Mana Essence]...I see.”

Even Decem’s mana was quite high for this world’s denizens. It was about the same as Shalltear’s.

HP and MP. Taking Elven culture into account, he most likely had the same class as Mare, a druid. A backline druid, to be specific.

“Why should I do something like that? Seems like you are misunderstanding what being a king means. A king is someone who should be venerated as a supreme existence by his people, not someone who works for them. Mercy is the only thing the superiors give to those inferior. Understood? And mercy can only be pleaded for, not demanded. They should be satisfied even if they don’t receive it.”

What the hell was this guy saying?

Ainz was stunned. If Decem was really being serious, then there’s something wrong with his brain. Ainz even found the Elves pitiful for having such a king.

“So you don’t feel like saving them? But, well—I can agree with a part of what you said.”

“Y-yes. We can’t say he is entirely wrong either...”

“—Haa?”

Ainz stared at the twins’ faces, flabbergasted at their replies. It didn’t seem like a tactic to loosen the opponent’s tongue by flattering him.

Which part of his utterance did they think was acceptable?

{N-no, maybe it’s me who was in the wrong? Maybe that is how a king should think...? Jircniv also had an air like that about him…How was the Quagoa King like? That one was too servile.}

“Hoo. As expected of my grandchildren. Even though unlearned, your minds can understand the truth”

“—Ah, not again. I wasted time...I have my own tasks to do. [Magic Ward - Fire]”

“But you made one big, critical mistake. Only the Supreme Beings can be objects of veneration, not a small fry Elf like you. Well, you can get venerated however you want as long as it’s only the Elves around here, I guess.”

{No, no...that’s completely wrong...But they won’t change even if I reproach them...and it’s not like I don’t understand their feelings...If only they made friends outside of Nazarick...From this point of view, I have hopes for Shizu who became friends with that girl with the scary eyes...This trip was a failure unfortunately. No, considering our talk on the way back, even Shizu’s a bit...as I thought, only Sebas—Ah! I am thinking about useless things again!}

“What? Supreme Beings? Did Dark Elves have such oral traditions?” Decem pondered a bit and slightly shook his head. “Well, whatever. I can just hear about it in detail later.”

“Do you really have the time for it? Like I said before, isn’t the human country knocking on your doors right now?”

Ainz was flustered at the time he had wasted, so he immediately cast the next spell.

“[False Data Life].”

Right at that moment, a rumbling came from under them, shaking the floor. It looked like the Theocracy finally brought out the siege engines.

The twins and Decem turned to look at the floor and closed their mouths. Ainz continued to cast magic.

“[False Data Mana].”

“—Tch. Humans are really troublesome. I could go over and wipe them out myself but...it’s bothersome. Let’s go.”

“...Where are you telling us to go?”

“[Penetrate Up].”

“I haven’t thought about it but, well, nowhere should be a problem with my strength.”

“To think you had no plans, aren’t you the worst...And what are you going to do if we follow you?”

“Is it earth...It would be a waste if I got it wrong...” Ainz hesitated for a moment before taking out a scroll and activating it. “[Earth Master].”

“Aah,” Decem stared intensely at Aura’s body. “You are still a child, huh. It will be some time before you mature...but there’s nothing to be done about it. I have already waited for this long. A few decades is too long to be seen as a mere miscalculation, but we will just have to think of it as inconsequential. You asked what will happen if you come along, right? That answer is simple. You will have children with me.”

“—Eh? What are you even talking about?”

“—Ah? ...[Greater Luck].”

“You too,” Decem turned his gaze to Mare. “After the women become pregnant, it takes time before they can bear a child again. I expect more from you on that account. You will also be making multiple children alongside me. I assume the blood will be further diluted, but seeing how it awoke in the grandchildren’s generation, it should be possible for the great-grandchildren as well. I should take time to experiment. Aah, it will be troublesome but I will probably have to take some people along with us to become your partners. But...why are you wearing a female’s attire even though you are a boy? Is it the Dark Elves’ tradition? Honestly, the fact that you are not a pure elf is a bit irritating, but it’s far better than extending my hand to all the humanoid races.”

Aura and Mare stared at Decem with their mouths agape.

“—”

“Well, I don’t mind if you don’t understand it yet. Let’s go.”

He was unsure what Decem was thinking, but he approached the twins who stood rooted to their place and extended his hand towards Aura.

—Ainz brushed that hand away. Determining the action as an attack, [Perfect Unknowable] got dispelled.

Before Decem could turn to look at Ainz in surprise, his bony fist planted itself in Decem’s face.

Decem flew away, sprawling on the ground.

“—This pedoshi. To think you dare to stare lecherously at the girl entrusted to me by my friend. Die.”

While he continued to hurl abuse, the small part of him that managed to stay cool clicked his tongue at his mistake.

He went through all that trouble to maintain [Perfect Unknowable], but ended up throwing a punch because he lost his temper. There’s nothing more wasteful than this.

Ainz’s emotions would be suppressed if they cross a certain line. He would have acted more rationally just now had that been triggered—instead of punching the guy, he would have cast instant death magic on him. However, it didn’t trigger, probably because he was more disgusted than angry. The extent of that emotion probably didn’t cross the line either.

“Wh, wha—”

Decem stood up in a fluster, with blood flowing from his nostrils. But, he didn’t receive much damage. [Life Essence] showed Ainz that only a little bit of his HP was gone.

Even though he received Ainz’s full-powered punch defenselessly, that’s all it managed to do to him.

There's a possibility that he was faking it with a skill like [False Data Life] or some equipment, but that was most likely not the case.

Ainz showed his open palm to the twins, making a pose to tell them not to move.

From his estimates of Decem’s HP and MP, he seemed to be above level 70 but below level 80.

That said, although it’s very unlikely, they should be on guard against one possibility.

YGGDRASIL had no such classes, but maybe this world had some that wouldn’t raise HP and MP when leveling up. Those could make it possible so that someone is at level 100, but their MP and HP would stay at level 70.

He would probably be right in assuming that there was nothing like that, but there is no such thing as an absolute.

{—The three of us can gang up and kill him, but that’s a bad idea for now. At least not until we figure out the method behind his teleportation...}

While Ainz continued to think up their battle tactics for the hereafter, Decem raised his voice.

“—An U-undead! Why, here, and so suddenly.” He turned his gaze to the twins.

“Is one of you a necromancer!?”

Ainz answered before the two could speak.

“Just like you have surmised. These two are peerless necromancers, and I am their guardian who was born from the power of these two and their parents, from the combined powers of four people. I will definitely not allow the weak to touch them. I wouldn’t mind you taking them away on the dawn of the day you defeated me but—” Ainz used his full effort to laugh scornfully, trying to anger the opponent. “—Well, I think that’s impossible for you, right?”

“Hoo...” Decem removed his hand that had been pressing down on his nose. It seemed like the bleeding had already stopped. “I am a little surprised. To make me bleed...how many decades, no, centuries has it been? I see. You are strong enough to match your boast, but that’s not the way to speak to a king. That said, this is rather fortunate. Rejoice, I shall teach you the difference between our strengths and discipline you.”

He said those words while looking at Aura and Mare. It looked like he really believed Ainz.

So, Ainz continued to think.

Why did it look like Decem believed his (the enemy’s) words without a doubt?

Did he really not have any abilities that could see through invisibility? If he had any, it should have crossed his mind that Ainz suddenly appearing was not because he was summoned, but because he was hiding using something like [Invisibility].

If he really didn’t, then he was probably a specialized druid like Mare.

{Or, in case this was all an act and he knew I was already here—a bluff in a sense—what is he aiming for?}

He wanted to simulate what he would do if he was in that guy’s place, but spending too much time pondering on it would look suspicious.

“Then why don’t we fight one-on-one, fair-and-square? That should make it easier for my masters to understand who is stronger, you or them, right?”

Decem widened his eyes and laughed like he just heard an interesting joke. Meanwhile, Ainz used the silent metamagic to send a [Message] to Mare.

{—Mare. That was a big lie just now. If it looks like I am in a bad situation, cooperate with me to absolutely kill that guy. Pass that along secretly to Aura as well.}

Obviously, he had no intentions of handing the twins over to the guy. Also, fighting one-on-one, fair and square in a fight with one’s life on the line was an act of utmost stupidity. Some battles were fine to lose, but not those where people were trying to take each other’s lives.

But—

Ainz felt like he had made a mistake.

He wanted to spend a little more time buffing himself, but there was no way he would let a pervert like that touch Aura. The elf also could have had skills to force teleportation that Ainz didn’t know about, which would have been dangerous if he had let him touch her.

“The sight now—the sight of you two commanding an undead made me sure that you are my grandchildren.”

Then, the floor moved.

Like waves receding back from the beach, the soil roiled towards Decem.

Ignoring it, Ainz took out a scroll from under his clothes with deliberate movement and activated it.

It was extremely wasteful, but he had no other choice. Until he knew how much the opponent knew, he couldn't let the enemy get cautious.

The activated magic was the Eighth-Tier spell, [Dimensional Lock].

This spell had the same effect as the special ability used by extra-dimensional beings like devils and angels. It blocked beings from teleporting out of a specific range with instant teleportation magic.

While he was doing this, the earthen lump that coalesced before Decem turned into something huge.

It was in the form of an elemental that Ainz knew.

He could hear a gasp of surprise from Mare, but Ainz was surprised as well.

{A Primal Elemental!?}

Upon seeing the elemental that couldn’t be summoned by normal means before him, Ainz instantly raised his level of caution.

Unlike Mare, Ainz suppressed his sound of surprise from leaking out. One of the fundamental teachings of “PKing for Dummies” was that you couldn’t let others find out that you knew. 

Mare’s surprise could be misunderstood as a kid’s terror at seeing the elemental, but in Ainz’s case, it would make it clear that he had knowledge about it.

So Ainz lowered his shoulders in an exaggerated manner.

“—hnn. So what? You created a big lump of soil called an earth elemental? Are you going to make it fight me instead of fighting by yourself? Aren’t you underestimating me?”

“Hohoo. So you know what this is?”

Decem smiled haughtily.

{Good!}

“—Of course. That’s just an earth elemental, right? I destroyed one that was summoned against me in the past. Well, that wasn't nearly as large as the one here, so you should be quite strong to be able to control one so large. Size is one of the marks of strength after all, but size is not everything.”

“Yes. You are correct. Dragon Lords who only have their large bodies to speak of can be defeated by Elves after all—But I am surprised. Your knowledge is not incorrect. You were right that this is an earth elemental. Hahaha. Your discerning eye—no, memory? I would bow to it.” Decem’s clearly scornful grin deepened further.

“—This is a rare chance, so why don’t you take a blow with your body? A blow from an elemental you called trivial”

The Primal Elemental slowly raised its fist.

{...It should move faster if it was a Primal Earth Elemental. Was this intentional? Well, I am thankful for it.}

Its behavior, like a cat playing with its prey, was a welcome thing for Ainz.

{Isn’t this the best?}

While hiding his smile—of course, his face won’t move in the first place—Ainz tried to recollect Primal Earth Elemental’s abilities.

The Primal Earth Elemental that was over level 80 played the tank role among the Primal Elementals of the same level. No, fundamentally, all earth elementals filled the same role.

Its attacks were considered to have nearly all of the metallic attributes under its level to be included in them.

For example, if beings like Lupusregina who had a weakness against silver got hit by it, it would trigger that weakness.

Also, as long as both the opponent and itself stood on earth, it would have a bonus to all of its stats, even though meager. But, that shouldn’t work now as the original floor that was exposed after all of the soil had collected near Decem was made from plant material. It also supposedly had the ability to hide in soil, but that couldn’t be used here either. All things considered, he could say that this was not a good battlefield for the Primal Earth Elemental.

What he should be on guard for were the punches from those fists. It was a simple way of attacking, but it was highly destructive. They were not exactly fast or precise, but it was hard for a backliner like Ainz to evade them. Furthermore, it does bludgeoning damage, which was particularly effective against Ainz.

It could also extend its arms like whips and do long-range attacks, but in that case, its power would go down a lot.

Just like its attacks, its defense was also supposed to have metal attributes imbued. It also had [Weapon Resistance V] against all weapons and physical damage reduction on top of that. Considering all of the above, it was the ideal tank and was troublesome to deal with using only physical attacks.

That said, it also had some weak points, naturally.

For example, it didn’t have any dangerous trump cards—that is, it had no special skills. That meant that it had no attack that could turn the tide in a battle.

The other weak point was that everything that worked against metallic attributes worked the same on the elemental.

{...Herohero-san could probably take it down easily.}

It was weak to acids and—there was one more element it was weak against.

Ainz made preparations to take out the staff from his inventory when needed. He wouldn’t be taking it out yet though.

Since the opponent was assuming that he was just a simple undead, he should play along and not display any skills that would put him on guard.

The question was whether or not he should take the incoming hit or not.

It would make for a good act if he made it look like that single attack was what made the undead being realize that this was no simple earth elemental. The demerit in this scenario would be that the enemy would turn cautious after seeing that one serious blow wasn’t enough to kill Ainz.

{...Right. There’s no doubt that he is specialized in summoning. The earth elemental’s attack will be more powerful than usual. It will be disadvantageous for the fight hereafter if I receive damage for no reason. In that case, what I should be doing here is—}

“[Wall of Skeleton]”

Ainz created a huge wall made of bones in front of him at the same time the elemental brought its fist down. The wall was instantly destroyed and disappeared into thin air.

{As I expected...did his mana just go down?}

“—W-what is this!” Ainz exclaimed in a voice loud enough for the elf to hear. “Why, why can it destroy my wall in a single hit!!”

“Hahaha. To think it was broken in a single hit from a simple earth elemental, isn’t your wall too brittle?”

Taking advantage of Decem’s good spirits, Ainz immediately shot a spell at him.

“[Lopsided Duel].”

This was a Third-Tier spell that made the caster teleport to the same place as the person he cast it on if they tried to escape by teleportation. Furthermore, even if the opponent was protected by [Delay Teleportation], it would still ignore it and instantly teleport the caster at the same time.

Still, this obviously had a fatal weakness. If the opponent teleported right into the middle of his comrades, the caster who followed them would also teleport to the same place and would end up as their punching bag. That was why, even though it looked like an extremely useful spell at first glance, it was relegated to the Third-Tier. Before it was patched, it could be cast on allies to teleport along with them. After it was patched out, the spell could only be cast on enemies.

So, Ainz should be prepared to escape if there were people on the same level as Decem waiting at the place he would teleport to. Luckily, [Lopsided Duel] had the small mercy of not taking the enemy along with the caster if it was the caster who used teleportation instead, so it would not be that difficult to escape.

“—What did you do?”

“...I cast an instant death spell. I see, so you already have measures against instant death?”

“...Well, it looks like you are somewhat intelligent, so you tried to deal with me after seeing that you can’t win against Behemoth. But, do you really think that I am weaker than the elemental?”

{Summoners being weaker than their summons is impossible in YGGDRASIL, but you are probably the lower-leveled one here. Keeping that aside, why didn’t he answer my question even though he is looking down on me as a weakling? Is it because he really had no anti-instant death measures? And, what is this “Behemoth?”}

Decem jerked his chin, making the Primal Earth Elemental lift its fists again. It was far quicker compared to the last time. He could also hear Decem cast a spell at the same time.

“[Mercy of Shorea Robusta].”

{Tch. His use of Tenth-Tier magic was within my predictions, but that’s a really troublesome spell. Now I will have to use twinned metamagic to kill him.}

[Mercy of Shorea Robusta] was a Tenth-Tier spell, and its mana consumption was one of the highest among them, on the level of [Reality Slash].

This spell had three effects.

First, for a limited period of time, it would gradually recover HP. However, the recovery rate was trivial and so it was hard to call it useful for people at this level range.

The second one was absolute immunity against instant death. There were far better spells in the Third-Tier if one only wanted to acquire resistance against instant death, but there was a reason why a lot of druids learned this spell despite that.

That reason was the third effect, which automatically resurrected the target when their HP reached 0 and died. This would not cause a drop in levels from resurrection. The trigger condition of HP going to 0 made it useless against deaths that weren’t caused by damage like those by drowning, but it was still a very useful spell. Priests had resurrection spells that wouldn’t cause level loss if they were cast right after death, druids also had spells like [Phoenix Flame], but many use this spell to cover for any careless mistakes. That said, they would be at low health upon resurrection, so they were very likely to die anyway after a few hits. Still, there were a lot of cases where people were saved by this spell.

Incidentally, it could avoid death from Ainz’s ultimate skill, [The Goal of All Life is Death] as this spell was considered resurrection magic. In that case, however, the spell would end even if there was still some active time left. It was because the spell was dispelled after it activated the resurrection portion.

{He is probably guarding against my bluff about using an instant death skill...I made a mistake. My bluff should have been about some magic I can’t use. Let’s do that next time.}

“[Triplet Magic - Wall of Skeleton].”

As he expected, the first wall was destroyed with a single attack and the second wall soon followed. While the third wall was obstructing Decem’s view, Ainz slightly changed his position, took out a scroll, and activated it.

[Piercing Cacophonous].

It was a buffing spell that he didn’t really need right now, but he used it just to be sure.

Primal Earth Elemental attacked again.

The [Wall of Skeleton] shattered and—

“—[Triplet Magic - Wall of Skeleton].”

At the same time the first of the three new walls he created was being destroyed, he heard Decem chant a spell.

“[Aspect of Elemental].”

It’s an Eighth-Tier druid spell that gave resistances similar to the elementals. It gave immunity towards bad statuses like poison and disease. Other than that, it also nullified critical hits and attacks with similar effects. 

There was also a similar spell in the Ninth-Tier named [Elemental Form].

The areas Ainz specialized in were being mitigated one-by-one, which was troublesome.

That said—

{—how much of his mana can I exhaust.}

[Triplet Silent Magic - Greater Magic Seal]

Ainz changed his position a little more. With this, he had moved ninety degrees from his initial position with Decem as the center, he was now closer to the stairs.

The Primal Earth Elemental destroyed one more wall. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make new walls of bone right now.

[Triplet Maximize Boosted Silent Magic - Magic Arrow]

His mana went down by a lot instantly.

Naturally, even a low-tier spell would consume a lot of mana after being strengthened by four metamagics.

If this Primal Earth Elemental was a summon, all it needed was a single successful [Greater Rejection] and he wouldn’t need to prepare all these spells. However, if Decem really was specialized in summoner classes as he assumed, it probably wouldn’t succeed in dispelling the summon even with their large level difference.

Plus, [Greater Rejection] could only dispel summons, not creations.

{Could it be an Elemental Adjutant? If it was created by sacrificing experience, it could be maintained nearly forever. But, it looks like he was consuming mana to maintain it so that shouldn’t be the case...I can’t really gamble on it though.}

Then, he should also be prepared for that possibility.

“Fina—” Decem stopped speaking, looked at the twins, and then looked at Ainz’s position with a puzzled expression. “—Why did you move over there? Are you planning to escape while calling yourself their guardian?”

“Tch!”

“Hahaha! Then let me lend you a hand.”

The Primal Earth Elemental landed a punch on Ainz’s defenseless back as he ran towards the stairs. The knockback caused by its gigantic fist blew Ainz away.

“Hooo? To think you weren’t smashed in a single blow, it stands to reason why you would talk big. Well, your resistance was futile in the end anyway.”

Ainz was sent flying away, but he managed to keep his posture with [Fly] and took his position before the stairs.

“But seeing that you are running away, can I assume that you are going to leave your masters behind with me?”

“There’s no way I would do that.”

Ainz created another [Wall of Skeleton].

“That again? How do you even expect to win without damaging my elemental? That is an idiotic plan you got there.”

Upon hearing Decem’s exasperation-filled voice, Ainz returned a sneer from behind his wall.

“Hahaha! I know that humans are assaulting this country right now. Hey, Elf King, don't you think time is on my side?”

“...I see. So that’s how it is. Aren’t you clever? But, that’s meaningless. Your plan’s impossible.”

“What? Impossible, you say?”

“Yes. Did you perhaps think that something like humans could take me down? Me, the one who controls this elemental?” 

{I was exasperated at similar words I had heard from the guy who summoned an angel in the past, but the Primal Earth Elemental is truly a top-class being. ...Is the Theocracy attacking while knowing Decem’s strength? If that’s the case, it means that they have a method to defeat him. Yet, this guy looks like he hadn’t even thought of that possibility yet. Either the Theocracy is ignorant, or this guy is. But, if the Theocracy really knew Decem’s strength, would that person at that time really have called that the highest angel?}

It’s unsure what he thought about Ainz contemplating silently, but Decem spoke in an utterly fed-up voice.

“You should have probably understood it if you thought about it a little bit, right? You really are such a shallow person. Well, maybe it can’t be helped. You are an undead after all. All you have is air for brains.”

{I don’t know. If they are prepared for a fight with the Elves, it stands to reason that there’s someone in the Theocracy's camp on the same level as this guy at the very least. In that case, time really isn’t my ally here. I want to avoid consecutive battles but...}

How much of his opponent’s energy could he exhaust?

While thinking about that, Ainz cast another [Wall of Skeleton].

As he said to Mare in a [Message] previously, fighting one-on-one is an idiotic thing to do when one really wanted to win, but he had to continue doing so this time unless he felt like he was in danger of losing. This battle also had one more irritating factor. 

He had to fight with a hand tied behind his back.

Ainz already concluded that Decem couldn’t see through [Perfect Unknowable]. He could easily win if he used that.

But that wasn’t an option.

Why?

What was the most likely development if he started to have an overwhelming advantage using [Perfect Unknowable]?

Or, say, what would happen if he used a high-tier spell like [Time Stop] and outed himself as a strong opponent?

Decem would likely run upon realizing that he couldn’t win. Luckily, he wouldn’t direct his attacks at the twins—well, he couldn’t be certain of that, but it was very unlikely. That guy’s aim was to capture Aura—and then, Mare. It was reasonable to think that he would not cause them fatal harm.

Ainz didn’t want to let him escape without finding how Decem teleported here. He appeared suddenly, so he could probably disappear suddenly as well. No—in fact, he should imagine the worst and assume that he had the ability to do just that.

If he let this guy escape, this pervert could continue to aim for Aura and Mare forever.

That was one thing he certainly couldn’t let happen.

The twins could be standing at a dangerous precipice depending on Decem’s true strength, which he was yet to be certain about.

That was why he was putting into practice what he said to them with the [Message].

—He would be sure to kill Decem here, and not give him a chance to escape.



That was why Ainz didn’t ask the twins to help.

Difference in numbers was one of the main factors that decided victory. The first thing Ainz would do if he were to encounter a group of opponents of unknown strength that outnumbered his group would be to escape. He should assume that Decem would do the same.

It was better not to make the enemy realize his disadvantageous situation before he could create an opportunity to take them out. So, not only did he not ask for the twin’s help, but he didn’t even summon any undead.

His great lie about Decem being allowed to take the twins if he was defeated was also for the same reason.

By restricting his opponent's actions, Ainz led his opponent into not wanting to leave the battlefield and gradually made him not able to leave it even if he wanted to.

{Su, su...what was it again? Yeah, the sankyuu-cost effect. The important thing is whether or not I can make him accumulate enough of it...I hope that he doesn’t see through it...Let’s just pray that he doesn't have much battle experience...I should break his will at the very least.}

(T/N: Ainz is trying to remember “sunk-cost fallacy” and mistook ‘sunk’ with ‘sankyuu’ (how ‘thank you’ is pronounced in Japanese))

♦ ♦ ♦

“「S-scary」”

Upon hearing Mare’s trembling voice echoing through the necklace, Aura immediately concurred.

“「Un. Scary.」”

“「So Ainz-sama can be this scary.」”

Aura and Mare understood well why their master was intentionally fighting like that.

To gauge his opponent—that was probably one of his aims, but that was not the only one.

He was aiming for one other major objective.

He was slowly dragging the opponent down like quicksand to stop him from escaping and would then go in for the kill.

When should someone choose to escape in a situation where they couldn’t get a read on the other party’s health? There were various opinions on this topic, but excluding cases like their attacks being completely ineffective on the opponent, it would be when their own health went below a certain threshold.

Then, what if their health mostly remained the same, but it was their mana that was getting worn down?

What if they already used a lot of their mana up till that point?

What if they felt like they could win with just one more push?

It was in everyone’s nature to be reluctant to cut their losses even when they knew that was the right thing to do. That was why everyone made their own rules from their own painful experiences and the information they had gained from others.

That meant that when one’s battle experience was meager and the information they had on their opponent was nearly non-existent, they would have trouble deciding on the right moment to cut their losses.

Their master saw through that very point.

Especially since the opponent was a king, someone haughty and inexperienced at battling others whose strength was on par with himself. He was pushing him to a point where he couldn’t easily cut his losses and escape.

“「All of those shameful utterances were a bluff. Although it’s rude to call him a monster, Ainz-sama really is one when it comes to a battle of wits isn’t he... 」”

Aura’s body slightly trembled.

“「It’s understandable why Demiurge-san said that he is someone above even him...」”

Mare also trembled in sync.

“「It’s also awesome how he is deliberately showing the guy that he is using the scrolls」”

“「All because he is trying to hide his own strength.」”

They couldn’t help but feel fear at the deliberate actions he had taken. They also learned a lot at the same time.

Both of them felt how blessed they were to have one such as him standing above them.

♦ ♦ ♦

A new wall appeared the very instant the previous one was smashed apart.

Decem hid his irritation behind a smile, realizing that the opponent was uselessly stalling for time.

He wondered how many times they had repeated this. Though he didn’t count because it was tiresome, it should be at least 20 times by now.

The walls were weak enough to break apart in a single hit, but the opponent was deploying multiple at a time to avoid Behemoth’s blows.

{Mooks will use their brains in their own way...no, it’s different. Maybe I should say that they need to be so desperate because they can only use such weak magic.}

It was probably incorrect to call him a mook, but that undead was certainly weaker than his Behemoth. What Decem saw till now in this fight showed that he was right.

If that undead was stronger than Behemoth, he would have proactively attacked them. However, all he did was fumble around while doing his best to defend against Behemoth with spells. It was like he was relying on some third party to do the real work. Sure, Behemoth was taking damage every time he broke one of the walls, but that was trivial. It was unlikely that the undead was stupid enough to think that he could take down Behemoth with that alone.

{His attempt to damage Behemoth bit-by-bit was probably a ploy to help the humans who he’s expecting to come here later...brings tears to my eyes really. Behemoth’s got far more health than you think, you know? Won’t your mana run out first?}

Another wall was smashed and he can see the next one behind it.

Decem sighed.

Continuing with this farce any longer would be tiresome.

{Maybe that was his aim all along. To make me just leave them alone because it felt tiresome—how do I quickly deal with him?}

He already understood that it was not wise to deal with those walls one by one, but Behemoth unfortunately didn’t have any special skills. If he wanted to ignore the walls, the only other choice was to walk around them. If he did that though, the enemy would just make another wall.

It would end up being a game of cat and mouse.

Decem could control and order elementals stronger than him. Generally, it would be impossible to summon or control those stronger than yourself, but due to one of the classes Decem had, he could ignore that restriction. However, it came with the price that his mana would be gradually consumed while the summon was fighting.

It was not like he had to concentrate while using Behemoth, so Decem could use magic at the same time. Although, doing that would reduce the time he could keep Behemoth active.

{It can’t be helped. Should I just use an attack spell? Behemoth and Me. He shouldn’t have any leeway to create new walls while taking on both of our attacks.}

Decem could use Tenth-Tier magic.

A realm that the magic casters of this world could never reach even with all of their efforts—a tier only allowed for the chosen few.

That said, he could only barely use it because he had specialized in summoning. He was certainly not good at it, though it should be enough to deal with something like that undead easily. But—was it fine to use his precious mana like that? He hesitated, wondering if he should save it for Behemoth instead.

{I have to somehow make that undead understand that humans can’t do anything to me. That would probably make him stop trying to buy time...}

He already said as much, but it didn’t look like the other side believed him.

No, even he could understand that it was only natural that they wouldn’t believe him.

One does not simply believe the enemy’s words, but it’s not like Decem was lying either. No one was able to beat Behemoth till now, even the ancient dragons weren’t a match. Though they used Second-Tier magic to strengthen their bodies, they were still beaten into a pulp by Behemoth in the end.

Even Decem himself would inevitably die if he turned Behemoth into his opponent.

His father was probably the only one who could defeat Behemoth, but he was already dead. That meant that there was no one left who could.

{He’s probably thinking that he can win if I exhaust my mana, but that’s wrong too...}

The undead was likely counting on taking down a magic caster whose mana was exhausted easily. That was probably a prediction made from his own experience as a magic caster.

Decem deigned to recognize that a part of its reasoning was correct.

If Decem—someone who specialized in summoning—used up all of his mana and was unable to use Behemoth anymore, his battle strength would drastically drop. However, that didn’t mean that he himself was weak. As someone who stood at the pinnacle of druids, his body was stronger than most living beings.

The brittle human body would split into two with just a single blow from his fist. If he kicked someone who wore armor, it would leave a footprint on it while turning the soft meat inside into pulp from the impact.

He was confident that he could wipe out a human army of thousands, nay, tens of thousands with just his bodily strength alone.

Yet, if he was asked if it was alright to exhaust his mana, he couldn’t be so sure.

He was a bit uneasy about it as he entrusted most of his battles to Behemoth till now. Killing a few thousand soldiers would mean that he would need to swing his fists thousands of times as well. He wouldn’t know if his stamina would hold unless he tried, and most of all—

{To fight directly by myself—to do an act as barbaric as dirtying this body with human blood is unthinkable.}

As someone proud of his nature as an elemental user, to swing a weapon at his opponent personally was nothing but savagery to him. He wanted to avoid that kind of battle at all costs.

What should he do then?

{I already consumed a lot of mana. I can still fight but...that doesn’t mean I can do it for long using Behemoth. I will have to kill humans while keeping the grandchildren bound with magic. Taking that into account, I really don’t have much leeway with my mana.}

He couldn’t spend any more mana on that undead.

{Should I just ignore him and leave with the grandchildren? But he will probably just be summoned again...}

Then they would end up going through a similar fight again.

That’s not the way he wanted to do this at all.

He wanted to break their will by showing them who was the stronger one. He wanted to win the battle here and imprint on them that he was their superior.

Those two would continue to rebel against him if he didn’t do that.

So that undead had to be destroyed completely.

{It all comes back to this, but how should I eliminate him?}

All of his opponents till now were no more than brittle branches that broke with a single punch from Behemoth. He never imagined a battle where he had to chase after the opponent who scurried here and there, trying to stall for time.

{Hnnn—this was a good experience. I should practice by killing those escaping worms as well the next time around. First, I should deal with—that.}

Decem glared at the wall standing in Behemoth’s way. Or, to be more precise, he was staring at the undead behind it.

{As I thought, there’s no way around it. I should quickly kill him even if I have to use a large amount of mana. It’s extremely, yes, extremely inelegant that an elemental user like me has to use attack magic but...it can’t be helped. I don’t want to fight physically so let’s just bear with it.}

After resolving himself to it, Decem selected a spell and activated it.

[Shining Burst].

The Seventh-Tier spell caused an eruption of heat and light which manifested like the sun. The wall made of bones was blown away the instant the hemisphere of white light touched it, but the walls behind it stood undamaged.

{I see, so even a wide-area spell can’t break through the inner walls.}

It would have been better for him if all the walls were dealt with at once, but finding out one of its characteristics was good enough. He would just have to choose a different spell next time with that information in mind.

Even wide-area spells differed slightly; some scattered and some exploded, while others radiated outwards.

Behemoth’s huge right fist of stone smashed through another wall and without a pause, his left fist also brought the last wall down. He finally caught the sight of the undead who looked flustered.

{He will just make another wall, won’t he?}

Then all he had to do was cast a more suitable spell based on the now known information.

But what happened next was unexpected.

The undead started to walk away in an attempt to create some distance from Behemoth, and took an item out from under his robe. It was probably another scroll.

The Elves used the bark from a special kind of tree to make scrolls and could only inscribe druid spells up to the third tier on them. That undead’s magic was not druidic, so Decem thought that was probably how scrolls looked for spells from a different system of magic.

{A low-tier spell? Is he mocking me? Does he think he can defend with just that? ...Or do the scrolls he uses contain higher-tier spells? ...But when did he even get them? A special type of summon?}

The undead burned the scroll, activating the spell stored.

“Wha!?”

A dense fog spread out with the undead at its center, covering Decem’s entire field of vision, reducing his visibility to only a few meters. The fog was so milky thick that he could only look ahead by maybe five meters at most.

More irritating magic from his opponent.

He was about to cast an attack spell, but it wouldn’t be effective unless he had a clear line of sight; It was the same for wide-area magic. That undead used the scroll while walking, so he should be moving right now. It was possible that the target was not in range even if he attacked the spot he last saw him.

Decem commanded Behemoth to search for the undead but realized that its movement was dull.

Behemoth’s senses relied on its eyes, so it couldn't find the enemy because of the fog.

{If that’s how it is going to be,} Decem thought. He cast the Fourth-Tier spell, [Tremor Sense].

This spell allowed him to sense even the smallest amount of tremors, allowing him to find his opponent's position. It was more effective on land but a floor should work as well. But—

{—What? He is nowhere around, you say?}

[Tremor Sense] told him that the two grandchildren were still here even though he couldn’t see them through the fog. The tremors were probably caused by them changing their postures. It was hard to think that the undead would escape by teleportation, thus leaving them behind. It was even harder to believe that the summon was canceled. Then, what happened? Decem soon stumbled upon the reason.

{He is not touching the floor! He is floating in the air!}

He didn’t realize it because the enemy previously only used his legs to run when he tried to escape, but he had to be floating through some means.

[Tremor Sense] could sense even the most trivial of vibrations from the floor, but its range did not extend to air.

The undead was doing a splendid job at getting on his nerves.

“Such attempts at stalling for time are meaningless! You irritating mook!”

This was starting to get really unpleasant. Maybe he should just call the humans over and wipe them out together, it would probably be quicker than this.

{This weakling! He would have been dead already if we had been fighting outside!}

He couldn’t immediately think of a way to drag the children and the undead outside. He could blast the wall and push them outside, but he doubted that it would go as expected.

Decem hurled an order at the Behemoth—who was stumbling aimlessly—and made him stand by his side.

He was not sure about the guy’s movements inside the fog, but it was possible that the undead was targeting him. That wasn’t something he had to worry about as he wouldn’t die in a single hit, but he didn’t really want his blood spilled again by such a lowly being.

Time slowly passed by as he tried to sense the enemy’s movements. It hadn’t been that long since, but the sensation of his mana gradually going down made him feel like time flowed slower than usual.

{—I can’t waste any more time!}

He would just blow the fog away. Decem tried to remember the spells he hadn’t used for a long time. As Behemoth had mowed down all of his enemies up till this point, there were a lot of spells he hadn’t used after learning them. He knew at least one spell that could blow this fog away.

He chose a Ninth-Tier spell—[Tempest].

A storm started rampaging, clearing the fog in an instant. However, the fierce rain that came along with it obscured their vision again. The swirling winds were ferocious, strong enough that even Decem had to spend his full effort just to stay put. It was extremely difficult to move amidst this.

As expected, only Behemoth with its huge body could withstand the raging winds enough to move around even though its speed would go down.

{That guy shouldn’t be able to move in the middle of this storm either.}

Nothing was visible inside this downpour, even Behemoth couldn’t find that undead amidst this. But, it was different for Decem. [Tremor Sense] would pick up the vibrations caused by all of the raindrops falling on the floor, so he couldn’t discern between them and the steps made by some entity even if they walked around him. On the contrary, he could sense the spots where the tremors from raindrops were weaker. Inside the image of the flat topography this room made inside his head, he found two such spots where the rain was being obstructed. One was the place where his grandchildren stood, the other one was naturally the undead’s location.

{—he is moving?}

This fierce rain was one in which he couldn’t even see before him. Even Behemoth, with all the strength its huge body provided, could barely move around in the ferocious winds. 

Then, how was that undead moving inside this storm? He should have been caught by the winds even if he tried to fly.

Decem was only puzzled for a moment. He immediately dispelled [Tempest].

The rain and the winds borne of magic disappeared like they weren’t there in the first place, but the wet floor and his soaked clothes proved that it hadn’t been an illusion.

Decem swiped away the wet hair that was stuck to his face and saw a wall standing between him and the undead’s location. The undead probably made it when the spell was dispelled.

“Cut it out, you bastard!!” Decem shouted angrily. “What was that about fighting fairly?! Sneaking behind one wall after another! Such cowardice!!”

“—isn’t it normal to use tactics in a battle? Please don’t ask me such obvious things. I have some questions as well that I would like for you to answer.”

The undead spoke from behind the wall.

He should have ignored it, considering his mana was vanishing by the second, but it sparked his curiosity. That undead’s words should contain the ideations of those twins—and by relation, their parents—behind them. He should listen.

“...What are they?”

“Is it fine to leave the humans alone? It had been some time since we started fighting here. Maybe the Elves below are being massacred right now, you know?”

He was stunned at the somewhat unexpected question, but decided to give an honest answer.

He momentarily thought about canceling Behemoth’s combat form, but then it would take some time if he wanted to return Behemoth to its present form again. We were talking about that despicable undead here. Even if they were in the middle of a conversation, he would surely come attacking if he saw a chance. A single hit would be far from fatal, but he wanted to avoid taking one head-on. So Decem decided to continue maintaining Behemoth in combat form even though it would continue to consume his mana.

“From a certain point of view, it’s probably better to save them considering that they could awaken their blood in the later generations like those two, but there are Elves elsewhere too. Plus, I have more expectations for those who could escape by themselves. In a gist, there is no need to save those who are weak enough to get killed by something like humans.”

“Onto the next question then. I heard there is a hidden treasure of the Elves?”

“A hidden treasure of the Elves? Are they talking about me? Or is it about this thing here?”

“... By ‘this thing,’ you mean Primal Earth Elemental?”

“Primal Earth Elemental?”

“Of all things, that’s what caught your attention? A Primal Earth Elemental is what you’ve summoned, right? Or is it a different race...an elemental with a different name? Do you call it by a different name?”

Even though it was fine if the lowly worm died in ignorance, Decem was irritated that he thought Behemoth was just a simple earth elemental or something from a similar race. Considering he also had to educate his grandkids correctly, he had to correct the enemy’s misunderstanding here.

“That’s Behemoth. The Elemental Guardian of the Land, Behemoth.”

“Behemoth? So I didn’t mishear it...Elemental Guardian of the Land? Not the Great Magic Beast of the Continent? The raid boss? The Behemoth I knew looked a lot different...Who was the one that named it first? You?”

“Someone else, but—”

“—Then, who?”

The questioning tone felt a bit forceful. Why was he interested in that of all things? What’s this Great Magic Beast of the Continent? He felt like he heard the term raid boss (a strong enemy that required a party to defeat) though... This guy—or his grandchildren to be more accurate; maybe they knew some things not even he knew about. It would be better to not answer the undead’s questions anymore.

“...How about taking down that wall if you want me to answer? Isn’t it rude to talk without even being able to see each others’ faces?”

“Then it’s fine if you don’t answer. I only asked that question out of intellectual curiosity.”

Was it the undead who wanted the information, or was it the grandchildren who somehow got their hands on some information and wanted to know more? The two kids who were drenched from the rain had blank expressions so Decem couldn’t read anything from them.

“And another question—”

“That’s enough. There’s no longer any reason for me to continue talking with you.”

Feeling anxious, Decem put strength in the stare he was directing at the twins. The questions were completely different from what he was expecting them to be about and he couldn’t expend any more mana. There’s no need to talk anymore.

“That’s the end of our conversation.”

Suddenly, the wall disappeared.

He was stunned at the unexpected development, just as he was about to use [Green Chain] on the twins. He hesitated for a moment about who he should target.

“—this should probably be your limit. Anyhow, your mana should be reduced by a lot at least.”

“...what?”

Decem was confused by the undead’s extremely cold voice.

Why could he sense complete calm from him?

An incompetent undead who could do nothing but stall for time—

He should just command Behemoth to crush him into a pulp—

Decem turned his gaze towards the stairs behind the undead. He thought that maybe this attitude was because he had achieved his goal to stall for the arrival of the humans, but he couldn’t see anyone coming up the stairs. Even if he concentrated on listening, he couldn’t hear any human footsteps—or any other footsteps for that matter.

He didn’t know what the undead thought of his actions just now, but the undead started speaking again.

“I said your mana should mostly be gone by now. How much longer can you maintain Pri—Behemoth? Probably a few more minutes at least I think.”

“Ah, so that’s what this is about. You thought that you could win against me without my mana. Sure, I wasn’t able to avoid your punch at the start, but that’s because you were summoned suddenly. I could have easily avoided it if I knew you were going to appear.”

“—I know.”

The voice was as cold as it was before. Decem took a gulp unconsciously.

Why does he behave like that?

Strange.

Why was he getting pressured by such a weak undead?

He, whose blood came from the one who dominated the world in the past.

He, who stood at the pinnacle of the Elves as the current strongest Elf.

Decem gritted his teeth and suppressed the shameful emotions welling up inside his heart.

“I see it now!” he shouted with a thunderous voice. “You made me bleed with your fist so you’re thinking that you can win in a physical melee. That punch barely did any damage to me you see!”

“I know that too.”

Upon receiving the undead’s calm response to his anger-fueled shout, Decem felt an unpleasantness that couldn’t be put in words.

Maybe he was—

Just for a moment, an impossible thought flitted across his mind.

Then why?

Why did he fight like that?

This was a bluff.

The enemy was trying to deceive him by acting calm.

There’s no way it could be anything else.

“Behemoth!” He wasn’t sure if that was an angry shout or a scared shriek. “—Crush him!!”

“Let’s start then”.

Decem understood the reason behind the undead’s calmness the very next moment. 

“[Triplet Maximize Magic - Cacophonous Burst]—Release”

There was an explosion of sound waves at first, then a pair of angel wings appeared next.

A storm of shockwaves hit Behemoth who stood between Decem and the undead as a rain of light rivaling the downpour from before pierced its body. The Elemental Guardian of the Land’s health was being blown away by the second. It didn’t bleed or lose parts of its body like a living being, but Decem, as its master, knew Behemoth was standing on its last legs.

Confusion.

Nothing but confusion.

Behemoth was the greatest elemental. No one was on par with it. Even though it received damage in fights until now, they were no more than a few scratches considering its enormous health.

And that—

Like this—

Not once was its health reduced to the verge of death like this.

“N-no way...”

“Well now. I didn’t expect that even six hits weren’t enough to take it down even though I triggered its weakness. Would it have been different if I was more specialized in offensive magic?”

Just like before, Decem couldn’t feel a single emotion from the undead’s calm voice. It was like he was a completely different person from the undead before.

{W-what the hell is even happening?}

The confusion welling up in his heart calmed down for a bit and in its place, fear ran through his body.

The fleeting thought from before loomed larger now.

That, perhaps, this undead was stronger than him.

“No! Behemoth! Protect—”

{Me}—Behemoth, upon sensing his thoughts, moved to cover Decem from the undead’s sight and brought down its right fist on the enemy.

“I did it!! —nn? What!?”

Behemoth followed with a punch from his left hand, meaning that undead wasn’t killed in a single hit.

Even though he had received two hits face-on, he saw that the undead still brazenly stood on the other side.

He wasn’t crushed.

Although it had crushed every enemy until now, that undead stood there like it was nothing.

“[Triplet Maximize Magic - Cacophonous Burst].”

In front of Decem’s eyes, Behemoth—the invincible great elemental— turned into a large pile of dirt.

He was assaulted by a great sense of—

| ||
|| |_

—in that instant.

Something that was inside him had now disappeared without a trace, leaving a gaping hole behind.

“So it’s overkill...but considering you might have some skills up your sleeves, I don’t think I made a wrong choice. What do you think?”

“—Hiyeee!”

Impossible.

The absolutely invincible elemental, his own shadow. It’s impossible for Behemoth to have lost.

But it’s a fact that it was not standing in front of him right now.

Then what should he do?

What action should he take?

Who the hell was the undead before him—.

“You don’t have to be so scared—[Reality Slash].”

He was assaulted by a flood of pain.

The kind of pain he never experienced till now.

“AA, AAAaaaa.” Looking down, he saw that his rain-drenched clothes were now soaked red. 

“Hurtss, It hurtssss!!”

It hurts.

It hurts.

It hurts.

That was the only thing echoing inside his head.

“I understand the feeling very well. If not for this body, I would have become hysterical from just a single one of those hits before. Well then, I have a proposal. Surrender. I will not cause you any more pain if you do that, and will guarantee your safety afterward.”

“Ah, ah, Aah, it hur...r-really?”

With tears welling up from the pain, Decem posed the question to the two grandchildren.

The two looked flustered for a moment, and then the granddaughter replied with “yes, really.”

“Now we have my masters' permission as well. Start removing your gear. Don’t fear. I will return them back after confirming if there’s anything dangerous with them. Really. I am not lying at all. I will swear it in the names of my masters. Trust me.”

The undead spoke with a sincere and gentle voice. Decem felt like believing him.

It hurts.

[Mercy of Shorea Robusta] was slowly healing the wound, but it didn’t take away the pain from the deep, deep wound.

Just for a moment, he felt like surrendering if it could take away this pain. But—he still had some pride left.

As someone who reigned over this country for a long time as its king, he was reluctant to plead for his life from people far younger than himself, even if they were his grandchildren.

It hurts.

He had no mana left. No, there was some, but he couldn’t see himself winning against this undead with the remaining amount.

Should he attempt to settle this in a melee?

No, first of all, he was not confident in himself right now. He would probably die first if he were to take multiple hits from the undead’s spells as strong as the one from before.

It hurts.

Decem turned his gaze behind the undead—towards the stairs.

There’s no one there.

In that case—.

He should run. That’s all he could do.

It hurts.

It hurts.

It hurts.

It hurts.

Even so, Decem started to run.

The blood he left behind was a sign of his declining health.

The fear of death welled up in his heart. Even though he had equipped magic items that resisted fear, it couldn’t eliminate what was born from inside him.

That was why—because he was being urged onward by his fear—his body followed exactly what his mind demanded of it. He kicked the floor with a speed he had never reached until now.

His vision of his surroundings blurred as he picked up speed, instantly reducing the distance between him and the undead.

“Stop! Or I will kill you!”

He ignored the undead’s warning as he passed by him, hearing a tongue click and then a spell being cast.

“[Time Stop].”

He expected more pain from the spell but didn’t feel any. No, maybe there was. Perhaps the pain from his deep wound had taken a turn for the worse from him running, to the point where he couldn’t even notice any other source of pain even if there was such a thing.

So—Decem continued to run. The stairs were very close.

The pain in his chest was surprisingly strong, but there was no hesitation in his legs.

“Aura!”

It seemed like the undead chanted another spell, but once again, this spell didn’t affect him either.

Then, all he had to do was run.

He reached the stairs—and the floor under his feet exploded. Three times at that.

His body flew in the air for just a moment, but by wringing the utmost effort out of his body, he managed to keep his posture and continued to flee without reducing his speed even a bit. He didn’t feel much pain from his legs. Or rather, he couldn’t really feel anything due to the pain in his chest and the overwhelming fear he felt.

He felt like the undead was saying something behind him, but he didn’t have the composure to hear it.

Decem ran like he was flying over the stairs.

He couldn’t hear anyone chasing him from behind. The moment his tension melted a bit, a fierce pain ran through his legs.

Decem nearly cried out by instinct, but suppressed it in a panic. It would be extremely bad to make a loud sound right now.

Looking down at his legs, he found them in shreds, probably due to the explosion before.

Acknowledging the wounds made his pain that much stronger.

Decem looked back the way he ran and saw the trail of blood his escape had made. Even if they were not good at tracking, they could probably follow after him very easily.

It hurts.

He didn’t want to run anymore.

But, he was sure there would be more pain waiting for him if he didn’t.

And most of all—he didn’t want to die.

With his mind filled with that single conviction, Decem bore the pain and willed his legs into motion.

{Why do I have to do something like this? Why won’t my grandchildren listen to me?!}

He couldn’t understand at all.

Why won’t they cooperate for the sake of the Elven race?

{Damn it all!}

Shouting silently inside his heart—because he was scared of giving his location away by his voice—Decem spat profanities, wiping his tears away as he ran.

♦ ♦ ♦

Ainz called for Decem’s surrender in the gentlest voice he could muster. Maybe because he couldn’t use that strange teleportation technique anymore or maybe because Ainz had succeeded in his attempt to guide the guy’s thoughts down a certain path by pushing him to the edge, it looked like he would accept his proposal.

{Finally,} Ainz smiled scornfully in his heart.

Of course, the proposal was a complete lie. He had no intention of guaranteeing the Elf King’s safety. He would be dealt with the moment he took off his equipment.

The guy probably wouldn’t target the twins anymore with his will broken, but [Death] was the more surefire way.

Yet, he felt a fire burning in Decem’s eyes the very next moment.

“Nn?”

Decem suddenly broke into a sprint. Straight towards Ainz at that.

“Tch! Melee!? In that case—I don’t mind at all!”

Ainz hid his smile from his face and instead adopted a voice of surprise and fear.

As an Arcane-type magic caster, Ainz hated fighting in close quarters so it could be said that the opponent was treading on his weakness. However, the fact that the guy still wanted to fight was a welcome fact for Ainz. He would now be able to kill Decem for sure in return for some of his HP. But, what happened next really surprised Ainz, so much so that it felt like even his face that couldn’t make expressions looked surprised.

Decem’s trajectory was just a bit off from Ainz, and it looked like he didn’t intend to reduce his speed either.

Ainz immediately realized that his predictions were off.

{—Damn it! He is making a break for it!}

This made his opinions of Decem go up by a level—or maybe not, but it was raised by at least a little. The most troublesome scenario for Ainz was the enemy giving his all to escape. Ainz would do the same as Decem in a situation like this, although far sooner, before things would reach this point.

It was because he understood this, that Ainz put many countermeasures in place to prevent the opponent from escaping through magical means like the way he came in. However, he didn’t prepare much against him escaping by physical means. There hadn’t been enough time to prepare and it had been difficult to set up the countermeasures in place while trying to hide his true strength.

“Stop! Or I will kill you!”

He shouted a warning but didn’t really expect the guy to stop. Plus, it’s not like he wouldn’t kill him even if he did stop running. Ainz immediately started thinking of the next card to play.

The opponent could just jump over any walls he made. They would instead obstruct him from seeing the guy’s escape, making it more difficult to deal with him.

Psychic magic could end this in a single blow, but it’s doubtful whether it would work on Decem who was expected to be over level 70. Skills or items to resist mind control were very easy to obtain in YGGDRASIL. It was hard to prepare against every type of mind control magic but he probably had countermeasures against at least some.

Jircniv had a magic item against being affected by mind control, so to think that Decem wouldn’t have any would be idiotic. Personally, he wanted to kill the guy with instant death magic, but considering that he was protected by [Mercy of Shorea Robusta], it was meaningless.

So, he finally chose [Time stop]. This could be resisted as well if he had measures against it, but it should be harder to deal with unless he used a magic item.

“[Time Stop]!”

He didn’t stop.

Decem didn’t stop.

Ainz didn’t click his tongue. He had already thought about this possibility in a corner of his mind. In this case, he only needed to borrow the help of others.

He immediately shouted a command.

“Aura!”

“Yes!”

Aura nocked an arrow and—

“[Shadow-Sewing Arrow].”

—shot an arrow that pierced Decem’s shadow, but that too failed at stopping Decem even for a moment. He managed to reach the stairs. Luckily, Ainz made the minimum amount of preparations while he was hiding behind the [Walls of Skeleton] from before.

[Explode Mine] activated under Decem’s feet.

“It’s useless. At your feet—”

Decem ignored him and fled. He could hear footsteps going down the stairs, gradually turning faint.

“—did he realize I was bluffing? Or was he just not in the mood to listen to anything? He was not knowledgeable enough to use piercing magic against wall-type magic, so I ended up underestimating him.”

He tried to stop him with a bluff, but it wasn’t effective.

Decem was a druid. Though from a different system, as a magic caster, it was entirely possible that he saw through Ainz’s magical traps. Generally, one couldn’t cast multiple instances of the same spell at the same time. It’s just like how one wouldn’t be able to amass a lot of monsters by summoning them repeatedly.

“Sorry for letting him escape!”

Upon hearing Aura’s apology, Ainz turned his gaze from the stairs that Decem had disappeared under to her.

“No... No, you are right...that skill was a poor choice, Aura. You saw that he had countermeasures against time stop and instant death during that fight. You should have also assumed that he had some countermeasures against crowd control.” Ainz lifted a hand to stop Aura, who was trying to apologize again. “But, I am also at fault for not warning you about it. In fact, I didn’t expect him to have measures for crowd control either. That aside...what do you think we should do now?”

“I will chase and kill him.”

“Wait!”

Ainz stopped Aura, who was on the verge of charging out.

Considering Decem was probably a druid above level 70, it was highly likely that Ainz couldn’t overtake him with his speed. Only Aura and Mare could do that. However, in that case, Ainz—who had exhausted a fair bit of mana—would be left alone.

{I should get some reinforcements from Nazarick through a [Gate]—no, there’s not enough time. First, I have to decide if I want to let him escape this time or kill him here.}

Even with most of his mana exhausted, Decem’s physical capabilities were comparatively high. Ainz couldn’t win in a melee where he wouldn’t be able to use his magic. Of course, that’s assuming he didn’t use [Perfect Warrior].

{Without her beasts, it’s possible that Aura may not be able to deal with him if he were to bring out some trump card he might be still holding on to. Maybe I should summon an undead...No, what if he summoned another Primal Earth Elemental? No, no, no...that should be impossible.}

It would be broken if one could just summon elementals stronger than them multiple times. Even Ainz, who specialized in necromancy, couldn’t do that. That said, what was "impossible" to Ainz was ultimately according to YGGDRASIL's standards and it was entirely possible that those rules didn't apply to this world.

Even though his game knowledge had been applicable till now, Decem’s command of that elemental was impossible by the game’s logic. In that case—

“—Mare!”

“Y-yes”

“It’s probably going to be dangerous, but you will have to kill that Decem by your strength alone. You are wearing different gear than usual so don’t be careless. If you feel like you can’t win, conserve your mana and stall for time.” Ainz wanted to give him more directions, but he couldn’t waste any more time. 

“Go!”

“Yes!”

Mare gave an unusually energetic reply and started racing down the stairs, following after Decem. He was fast as Ainz had expected, his steps already becoming fainter by the second.

Seeing him run alone, Ainz wanted to summon an undead to go after Mare as support, but decided to hold it back so that they could use it as a shield if there was an emergency. In any case, [Lopsided Duel] was still active. Maybe he could use the undead to quickly deal with him if he had to fight that king again.

“—Aura! You will be guarding me. Let’s go through the treasury as quickly as possible and get everything. We will then regroup with Mare right after!”

“Okay!”

--------
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