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Chapter 24

 

“Hey! Number Six – you’re out of formation!”

 

Shalltear’s voice was magnified out of an enchanted loudspeaker held in one hand before her. In the skies high above E-Rantel, she was overseeing the exercises she had tasked to multiple groups of Frost Dragons in preparation for their display in the days following the formal announcement of the Baharuth Empire’s submission to their Master. With the coming festivities, it seemed everyone was sent into a flurry of activity.

 

Albedo had set the Human nobles and the prominent members of the city to work beautifying E-Rantel: refurbishing and decorating the city, along with the highways running through the duchy and the towns and villages they ran through. They had been informed well in advance to begin these preparations, which also provided the chance for them to ready themselves for all of the new opportunities that would surely come to Ainz-sama’s realm. The Guardian Overseer had issued a general directive to create as grand a display as possible to the rest of Nazarick’s servants as well, but it was hardly something that needed to be said.

 

Aura and Mare were nearly finished laying down the foundations for the new Demihuman quarter of E-Rantel, which would open some time during the proceedings, and many curious and excited subjects of different races from the surrounding lands would be moving into the city. Cocytus had been endlessly drilling and instructing a contingent of Lizardmen, alongside several other native peoples from his territory around the Great Lake who were capable of travelling over land. Pandora’s Actor had taken the ever-increasing levels of energy that followed the announcement just this evening, stoking them to even greater heights with his work as Momon. Now, commoners and aristocrats alike were infected with excitement for the upcoming event.

 

For her own part, she had taken her new charges – the Frost Dragons subjugated in the Azerlisia range – to the city to put on a show of aerial majesty that would be sure to impress the relatively weak peoples that came to visit. They would later be turned to helping her in establishing an aerial transportation network but, for now, she was confident that they would be one of the highlights: inspiring awe and wonder into all who would visit the capital of the Sorcerous Kingdom.

 

Once she got them to fly properly, that was.

 

Below her, even as Number Six moved to correct his flight path, Number Three – the Dragon leading the formation – reacted by edging away cautiously.

 

“HEY! Where are you going with your entire formation!” She seethed at the Dragons below, who had altered their course entirely due to the movement of their flight leader, “At this rate, we’ll be the laughingstock of the whole event! Maybe you would look more impressive being displayed in the markets as a purse?”

 

It was an empty threat, but they didn’t need to know that. Compared to the teeming populations of Humans and Demihumans, there were only about a dozen and a half Frost Dragons of varying ages. She could not callously squander the Dragons entrusted to her by Ainz-sama in a fit of pique. Thus, she was reduced to shouting and making threats, which felt decidedly inelegant – annoying her all the more.

 

According to Peroroncino-sama’s Encyclopedia, this type of Dragon was among the smallest and weakest out of all the species that could be considered true Dragons. They were naturally solitary and independent, so it was a wonder that they had been found living together in such large numbers. They weren’t overly bright either, until they exceeded a certain age. Even then, it varied widely by their individual personalities: intellectual development was generally looked down upon by their kind, leaving most possessed of an extraordinarily cunning, albeit feral mind. They tended to act first, relying on their natural advantages and instinct until experience tempered their behaviour.

 

Despite their disadvantages, they came with quite a slew of advantages over other Dragons as well. They were agile, maneuverable and could fly long distances at incredible speeds. Despite lacking in what might consider raw intellect, they had something like a perfect episodic memory, unique to their species amongst Dragons. And, like with all Dragons, innate spellcasting ability came with age as well which could aid them in all manner of things. With these qualities in mind, their role as couriers for the Sorcerous Kingdom was an obvious choice: once they were trained and became accustomed to their duties, further worries should be few and far between.

 

Shalltear continued shadowing them from above them as they turned over a waypoint indicated earlier when laying out their flight path, where they made a slow pass over the southern gate of the city. She had only needed to show them once and none had ever forgotten it, so what was said about their memory certainly seemed to be the case. Not that she would ever doubt her esteemed Creator’s gift of knowledge. As long as nothing interfered with their course and they weren’t being sloppy, they would never make a mistake along it, no matter how complicated it became or how much time had passed.

 

The sun dipped below the horizon as the exercise continued and, as she swooped down to poke a Dragon back onto the proper course, a disembodied voice reached out to her.

 

『Shalltear-sama.』

 

It if was by voice alone, she might have recognized it as something vaguely annoying from recent times, but the Message spell expressed the sender’s identity in more concise terms. It was Nonna: the ‘administrative attaché’ that Albedo had pushed onto her Human vassal. The name the Elder Lich was given had sent Pandora’s Actor into a panic when he realized what he had heard was what was actually being said, until he finally concluded that it did not have any current association to Players from Yggdrasil.

 

When Shalltear had asked her one day about it, the baroness explained that it was a trick of language: if one knew multiple languages, they could convey multiple meanings through a single expression via the systems of the world. At least one of the meanings stemmed from a language of the Supreme Beings, which the Area Guardian of the Treasury had fretted over until he had decided that it was simply a vestige of Players long past. It was a number embedded in the language of the Slane Theocracy, which they had long suspected to have ancient ties with beings from their former existence.

 

After correcting the flightpath of the Frost Dragon formation, she regained altitude and turned her attention to the Message while continuing to monitor the Dragons below.

 

“Yes, what is it–arinsuka!”

 

She did not actually need to yell over the sound of the wind – or speak out loud at all, for that matter – but it was a hard thing to rein in for some reason. If the Elder Lich thought anything of it, she did not make it known through her reply.

 

『Baroness Zahradnik has requested an audience.』

 

“Did she say what it was about?”

 

『No. Only that she would like to see you at your earliest convenience.』

 

“Alright, I got it.”

 

The spell ended, leaving Shalltear to ponder her vassal’s request as she soared through the night sky. Had her vassal actually ever asked for anything? Unlike the Frost Dragons she had recently been granted responsibility over, the young Human Noble she had taken under her wing did not require much effort on Shalltear’s part at all.

 

Baroness Zahradnik knew enough about her own duties and was talented enough to deftly adapt the Sorcerous Kingdom’s new ways to the advantage of her own demesne. Her insights and the data she provided were used to fine tune some of the initial workings of the administration. It was a shame that nearly all of the credit went to Albedo through her forcefully placed agent, but it was more to the relief of all of Nazarick’s denizens working in the region that things were now moving in the direction that Ainz-sama desired.

 

She was complementary, yet forthright in their interactions: she did not snivel or grovel like some, or seek to deceive and put on airs like others. She accepted her orders without voicing complaint, and she kept her head down as she worked to produce results. With the mechanisms of the Sorcerous Kingdom beginning to work properly, Shalltear saw that the quality of its citizens varied widely, and she could have ended up with far worse.

 

If only she could sink her teeth into Baroness Zahradnik’s friends as well. Unfortunately, the sheer productivity they represented between them was something Albedo immediately recognized, so she had jealously retained them as part of the duchy’s immediate jurisdiction. Encouraged by past successes, the Guardian Overseer had also appointed the most experienced of the ducal nobility – Countess Jezne – as an Advisor to the Royal Court, but the decision had yet to bear substantial fruit beyond streamlining communication between the Royal Court and the House of Lords.

 

As their flight path crossed over the central district of E-Rantel, Shalltear folded her wings and dove towards the city below. The fact that she could do so worried her as a Floor Guardian: the enchantments that restricted teleportation in the Central District amounted to a layer of protections at street level. Filling the entire sky above the city to prevent teleportation would cost far more mana than all of Nazarick’s combined forces could keep up with, so it had become a constant thorn in their defensive preparations.

 

Even Demiurge was unable to come up with an answer, to his great chagrin. All an enemy Player would need to do was teleport high above the city, devastate it with Super-Tier magic, and all of their work here for the past few months would be for naught. Certainly, it was not Nazarick, but the thought of failing to defend Ainz-sama’s dominion was still unacceptable.

 

Nearing the rooftops, she slowed her descent and alighted on the manor she had provided to the baroness.

 

“Leave us,” she said. “Do not come back until I have departed.”

 

The Hanzo guarding the roof shimmered into view, bowing deeply before it leapt away towards a different building. She looked around for a moment before, satisfied no one was trying to observe her, she dropped down into the courtyard below. Her plated boots made a light clink as she landed on the stones of the patio, and a head peeked out from one of the rooms in the hallway in response to the sound.

 

Baroness Ludmila Zahradnik came out into the hallway and quickly made her way towards the courtyard. She was not in the green dress that she often wore around the city, instead wearing a more casual outfit that Shalltear had seen her in as she ran around her demesne overseeing its development. The young noblewoman had changed slightly, growing in the strange way that these Humans did. Her dark chestnut hair was a little bit longer, and the features of her face had become a little bit more refined. It seemed that she had grown slightly taller as well: she was the same height as Yuri Alpha now.

 

“I hope the evening finds you well, Lady Shalltear,” her head dipped low in front of her as she curtseyed in greeting. “Thank you for taking the time to answer my request.”

 

“I take it you wanted to speak to me in private about something?” Shalltear said, “Something you did not want the Prime Minister to know about.”

 

“Yes, my lady,” the baroness nodded. “I have instructed my household to not interrupt our discussion. Please, this way.”

 

Shalltear followed her up the stairs and into her solar. With the baroness’ Talent providing her with the awareness of her liege’s nature, it was a bit of a curiosity how remarkable her vassal’s mental fortitude was. Knowing what she was, the last thing most people would want to do was invite Shalltear into their bedchamber. At first, Shalltear wondered how she would deal with a Human with Truesight: surely they would spend all of their time screaming and crying and soiling themselves when presented with her appearance. While admittedly amusing at first, she decided it would quickly become tiresome. The baroness, however, barely reacted with any aversion at all, and it had taken just a day before all traces of it had vanished.

 

She waited as the baroness checked each window to ensure that they were closed and the drapes drawn tightly. Actually…

 

“「Silence」” She layered the room in an enchantment which would block all sound from passing.

 

“「Darkness」” She directed a thin film of pure darkness to line the walls.

 

“「All Appraisal Magic Item」” The last thing she needed to do was ensure there were no magic items in the room that were capable of monitoring them in some way or assisting in scrying attempts that would normally be defeated with the countermeasures over the central district.

 

Shalltear peered around the room and her eyes widened slightly when she realized that, aside from several of the perfume vials that they had purchased over a month ago, the baroness did not have even a single magic item in her possession. Maybe she had been neglecting her vassal too much.

 

Though he ruled over them sternly, Cocytus was nurturing and open-handed with his own vassals. Albedo shrewdly brokered magical items out as favours to her various agents. Nigredo, Pestonya and Yuri Alpha, who were setting about making the finishing touches on their orphanage, were sparing no expense for the children that would live there. Needless to say, the disparity in treatment between her far more productive vassal and the beneficiaries of the others made her feel miserly in comparison.

 

It would not do to have matters remain as they were, but the problem was that the others had been allocated resources to assist in their efforts. Only Shalltear’s assignment with the Frost Dragons had been budgeted, and siphoning away resources meant for this duty was not an acceptable option. She filed the issue away in her mind as the baroness returned to stand before her, folding her hands in front of her lap before she spoke.

 

“My lady, there is something I would like to have your consultation with,” she faced her directly as she began. “You are one of the few I can confide in – and the only one who I believe can help.”

 

Confide? In her? Shalltear thought it decidedly odd. Most of the confiding done by the Humans of the duchy was directed towards Pandora’s Actor, consisting of any number of ridiculous things. Seeing that the baroness had that same look of wanting to ask for something while being unsure of whether to actually ask, Shalltear unequipped her Pipette Lance…just in case.

 

“Let’s hear it, then.”

 

At her prompting, the young noblewoman spoke.

 

“Yes, my lady,” she said. “I was wondering if there was any way you could have me assigned to the Judiciary. There is som–”

 

Shalltear reached out, and the baroness’ voice turned into a surprised cry as Shalltear snatched the noblewoman by the arm and sent her flying into the nearby wall. A thud accompanied her impact – or at least there would have been, if the structure had not been coated in silence – and the baroness rolled once after bouncing off of the wall and hitting the ground, lying stunned on the floor.

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Aeridinae Lunaris

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