*Sorry for the long wait people! Also, before we get into things, be aware that due to how differently events played out in previous chapters, the butterfly effect is now in full swing. So the order of certain canon events have either be changed outright, or don't happen at all. You'll see what I mean as you read. So without further ado, enjoy~!*
CHAPTER 15-DANCING WITH DEMONS
'Dammit, dammit, DAMMIT! DAMN IT ALL TO WHATEVER HELLS EXIST! WHO'S KILLED ENTOMA?!'
Black, cloying, and terrible fury, the likes of which could consume even flame, boiled within the now disguised Overlord of Death, Ainz Ooal Gown. As the Adamantite-ranked adventurer called "Momon", both he and Nabe awaited an emergency meeting being held by Princess Renner Theiere Chardelon Ryle Vaiself. The somewhat cramped room was packed full of men and women dressed in battle gear, with no unifying theme among them.
All present were adventurers within the Royal Capital, all responding to the hasty, emergency summons. Even lowly Iron and Copper-ranked adventurers showed up in response. Leaning against a far wall with arms folded, he practically oozed hostility from his location, and even his [Emotional Inhibitor] could not completely stifle his rage.
"U-Um, Momon, sir?"
Narberal's timid voice drew him away from his sea of blackened thoughts, and as he looked upon her worried expression, he realized his mistake. His disposition was radiating so much that some of the other adventurers were taking notice, and began to whisper amongst themselves. Some in awe, some in fear, and others still simply unnerved by the amount of "blood lust" he was exhibiting.
Breathing a calming breath that somehow helped to soothe the tempest of his now rampant emotions, "Momon" calmly spoke in a low tone.
"Umu... Thank you, Nabe."
Things were still a mess, but now that Ainz could think more clearly, he went over recent events in his mind. Demiurge, under the alias of "Jaldabaoth", appeared in the capital for some other type of purpose beyond attacking Eight Fingers as retribution for kidnapping the human girl under his protection, Tsuareninya Veyron.
He saw the signs of magical combat from the skies as Magician's Guild magic casters had been transporting himself and Narberal to the capital, per a request from Elias Brandt Dale Raeven. In truth, he only did it to make a big splash and hopefully increase Momon's renown, as well as earn his keep. Never did he expect Demiurge to be a part of it, and he most certainly did not expect two members of Blue Rose to be knocking on death's door.
Thankfully, he was able to maintain his presence of mind and play along. After a brief exchange where the two of them played their roles, Demiurge's cover story about a powerful item capable of summoning them made sense. However, it was the line about "making this city pay" for what it had done to one of his "children" that brought total confusion.
It was right before Demiurge flew off without a fight, saying that Momon's might was enough to make him fallback and reconsider how best to go about his goals. Another surprise for sure, but it was a respite needed to get to the bottom of things. Finding a moment away from Evileye of Blue Roses, he had Narberal contact Demiurge to find out what was going on, and what his plans were. Especially with the [Flames of Gehenna] spell becoming active in the area.
It was then that the news and details of Entoma's death came to light. A death confirmed by Albedo back in Nazarick as she checked Nazarick's list of NPCs. This news pierced Ainz to his very core. How negligent was he to allow something like this to happen?! If only he kept a closer eye on what his NPCs were doing to carry out his orders!
Of course, it was far too late for "what-ifs", and even though Entoma could easily be revived for a fraction of Shalltear's cost later, his anger at both himself and the assailant did not lessen. Not to mention how Narberal must feel, since Entoma was like a sister to her after all.
'Cheh! It's just been one thing after another, but the first thing to do is to make something of worth come from this. Or else Entoma's death would have been in vain, and I will NOT accept that! No matter what it takes, I will make sure Nazarick comes out on top of this, and whoever killed Entoma will pay.'
The illusionary face under Ainz's helm, if it could be seen, possessed a firm determination and resolve as he made that declaration in his mind. However, unbeknownst to him and the others in the room, the source of his undead ire was little over a two-dozen paces away at the other side of the room.
The adventurer persona of "Mortis", along with the rest of his team in Unity Four, responded to the emergency summons like most other adventurers in the capital. He would have reported the results of his misadventure with Entoma, if he didn't have to maintain his cover in the team with Madara's three young disciples. Speaking of whom, he knew they silently communicated with each other via their new-found telepathy, stealing glances at "Momon" at the far wall.
'Woof~! What's got 'im all worked up?' Denys blithely commented via their link.
'I have no idea, Denys. But one thing's for sure, that aura of hostility he's giving off is simply unnerving!' Nigel seriously replied.
'I know what you mean, brother. Even though he's eased off on it, it still gives me chills.' Suvi replied in trepidation.
'Yeah, and the combined sensitivity of our senses really doesn't help. Especially yours Denys. You've got the keenest senses out of the three of us.'
'Hah! Ya' got that right!
'Uuuugh... Gloating aside, we all saw the cause of this ruckus as I flew here with brother, and you following us along the rooftops, Denys.' Suvi mentally commented whilst rolling her eyes.
'Yeah~! Runnin' along rooftops is fun as hells... But enough 'bout that. What could've created that... wall of flames in the warehouse district?" Denys asked with a now more serious and professional tone that likewise brought the others into focus as Suvi likewise answered.
'Truly, I have no idea. The magic required for something of this scale is beyond human ken. I can't even imagine what could have caused it, but it's obviously the source of the guildmaster's summons.'
'Speaking of whom, there she is.' Nigel said, as the attention of everyone in the room was drawn to the guildmaster of the capital's Adventurer's Guild, Ameillia Grann. (A/N:CH.13)
As the guildmaster stepped out from the opened great door to the chamber, what appeared to all present was a group of women and one man. There was instant recognition, causing a quiet stir among those assembled. Standing next to the guildmaster at their head was Blue Rose's leader, Lakyus Alvein Dale Aindra. None would fail to recognize the leader of one of the Kingdom's three Adamantite-ranked adventurer teams.
Close behind her was the "Golden Princess", with a graceful smile that could enchant the hearts of most in the room. Then there was Evileye, along with one of the twins that wore red in her garb. Of course, the one at the back of this group was someone who likewise needed no introduction, as he was the Kingdom's strongest warrior, Gazef Stronoff.
As they stood before those gathered, a youth with intense blue eyes, wearing shining mythril armor unrolled and pasted a scroll onto the wall behind him. This revealed it to be a rather detailed map of the Royal Capital. The members of Unity Four gave the guildmaster their undivided attention as she stepped forward to speak with an earnest expression and tone.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for being able to arrive on such short notice for this emergency gathering... Now, normally the guild would never be involved in national affairs..."
There was a brief pause as nearly every eye silently glanced at the Blue Rose members. After all, the rumors of some of their activities going against that guild policy was hardly as secret among them as some would like to think. Only newcomers like Unity Four or Team Darkness in the back would be unaware of them.
"Ahem~! However! We have before us an exceptional case. The Adventurer's Guild has decided to throw its full support behind the Kingdom, so that we can quickly resolve a grave problem before us. The princess will relay the details, so I pray you'll all be quiet and listen."
It was then that the princess slowly advanced, flanked by Gazef Stronoff and the members of Blue Rose. Before she cleared her throat and began speaking however, the three young members of Unity Four quietly held their own conversation.
'Argh! Enough, Denys!' Suvi and Nigel loudly protested in their minds.
'What, what~? I'm just sayin' that I'd die a happy man if I could spend some quality time with those Blue Rose ladies. I mean, WOW! This's the first time I've eve' seen 'em, and the rumors don' do 'em justice~!' Denys excited chimed as he gazed upon Lakyus and Tina.
'Uuugh... Give it a rest, Denys. Even I can tell you wouldn't stand a chance with them. They'd sooner kill you than look at you.' Nigel retorted in an annoyed tone as he sighed and shook his head, confusing some other oblivious adventurers near them.
'Aye~? Ya' really think so?'
'Well, if the rumors about her are true, maybe Gagaran would be willing to "entertain" you. Or maybe she would just squeeze you to death.' Suvi snorted back in annoyance.
'Really? Wait, who's she again...? Ah! Right. The "no chest, just pecks" lady in red armor. I think I've seen 'er before... Okay~! I'll give it a shot. Thanks guys~!'
'"DON'T THANK US!"'
Denys simply grinned like an idiot as he boisterously laughed at his teammates' discomfort in his mind. It was then they gave the princess their full attention as she stepped forward to brief the room on the current situation. Her smile and demure bow to the room set many hearts aflutter, with several sighs of affection rising from the gathered adventurers, seeing the delicate sight before them.
Truly, she was their "Golden Princess" and no one, not even the normally amorous Denys, had a single lewd thought as they gazed upon her radiance. As the trio listened, with "Mortis" silently listening with arms folded and leaning upon the wall behind them, the situation became clear.
To summarize, a powerful demon calling itself "Jaldabaoth" had attacked, erecting illusionary walls of flame over 30-meters high in a section of the capital. Inside the walls were wandering low-leveled demons that were clearly under its control, who some members of Blue Rose had encountered.
When the question of what the demons' objective was broached, it was first revealed that they were attempting to retrieve a powerful item from somewhere in the capital. This revelation made the reason why the warehouse district was targeted all the more plain for everyone that was gathered.
Of course, it was then revealed that this attack was "retribution", as the demon apparently lost one of its "children" to an unknown assailant, presumably whilst they were quietly looking for said item. This sent the room into worried confusion as a cacophony of murmurs erupted. This was because someone had pulled on the tiger's tail, thus putting the entire city at risk.
Granted, given what happened with the Evil Deities 200-years ago, it was commonsense that nearly ANY demon found was to be exterminated on sight. It was unspoken policy that's been in place since that time, as demons nearly destroyed the known world. However, if said demon was a minion of another, more powerful one, then the circumstances, and the consequences, would change drastically.
This realization gave way to numerous disgruntled murmurs, as the natural impulse to lay blame for this potential catastrophe started to take root. Noticing what was about to happen, it was then that Guildmaster Ameillia Grann stepped forward with an approving nod from the princess, as she pointedly, professionally spoke up to address the room.
"Ladies and gentleman, hear me! I share in your concern. Truly, a demon wishing to enact some kind of revenge for the loss of one of its kin is unsettling. You're thinking perhaps this situation could have been avoided if someone did not poke these demons with a stick. However! Don't be so sure. It is naïve in the extreme to think that any monster capable of what this Jaldabaoth is doing this instant, would not have done something like this regardless. Think about it, and consider the possibility that this could have been far worse, if they had already found that item, without any of us being the wiser for it."
The numerous murmurs of discontent died down as Ameillia's words seemed to sink in. Indeed, any demon like that, and those that would follow it, would be up to no good. Especially if it involved the search for magical relics.
Some of the more knowledgeable adventurers present gave approving nods at this, as it was common knowledge that magical items tied to demons could be exceedingly powerful. Seeing that the room had calmed down, the guildmaster once again spoke, but now in a more relaxed, placating tone.
"Now that everyone is ready to continue, I ask that all remain silent until Princess Renner is finished speaking. Although on the subject, does anyone know anything about who or what clad in black armor could have slain this demon's kin?"
There were quiet murmurs as all glanced at each other, with a wave of heads shaking in the negative to reply. Even when a few glanced at Momon in the back, he too shared in that chorus indicating ignorance on the topic. Though none noticed that when this topic was brought to light, Ainz underneath his "Momon" persona was positively gritting his teeth under her helm.
It wasn't until the guildmaster's professional and logical words struck a cord with the remnants of his past life as a salaryman did the rising waves of his anger calmed down. She had honestly impressed him, and a small part of Ainz wished that she was guildmaster back in E-Rantel. His quiet musings then ceased when her firm but calm tones echoed out into the chamber.
"Then moving on, if you would be so kind, Princess." Ameillia said as she stepped to the side with a bow.
"My thanks guildmaster. Now then everyone, time is of the essence, and any further inaction on our part will mean watching the worst-case scenario unfold before our eyes. Therefore, we must seize the initiative. After conferring with Blue Rose, I believe I have a plan that can help us seize that initiative. So, before we begin discussing strategy, are there any questions?"
As Renner's voice took on a decidedly more serious tone, the attentions of all were place on her as a Mythril-ranked adventurer in the crowd responded.
"Aye, Princess. I have a question. Just how strong is this 'Jaldabaoth'? I don't remember reading or even hearing about a demon with that kind of name, so it would help us in formulating plans if we knew his difficulty rating."
There was a round of approving nods at the question that was shared by the members of Unity Four. Even Ainz under his Momon persona approved of such a question, since even if one lacked in specific information on a target, at least having a general notion of their strength and level would be helpful. Since coming to this new world, he learned that adventurers rated the dangers of monsters and quests encountered by a "difficulty rating" system. It was simple and straightforward, as the higher the number, the stronger the opposition.
However, it was also an unspoken rule to not rely too heavily on difficulty ratings, since it could lead to tragic surprises. It was commonsense that the strength of monsters could vary, even among their own species, so at best a difficulty rating was an educated guess, and not a value to be taken as gospel. In this situation, it was just a simple way to quickly establish things to all the mixed and varied groups present.
Knowing all of this, Renner turned to Lakyus, whom stepped forward with a stern expression on her face as she spoke with a matching tone.
"My teammate Evileye is the one most familiar with Jaldabaoth's strength, but we do not know the specifics as of yet. Until we can send updates, if you would Evileye?"
Giving her leader a silent nod as she stepped forward, Evileye spoke in a clear and steady fashion as she addressed the room.
"I shall speak of what I know... My comrades were investigating a strange occurrence of magic, when Jaldabaoth appeared before us, declaring his identity as a 'Demon Emperor' and intent on exacting vengeance upon the land for the loss of one of his own as they continue searching for the artifact mentioned. Afterward, he engaged myself, Gagaran, and Tia in battle..."
As Evileye paused in the brief recounting of her tale, the absence of her named comrades was already noticed by the adventurers present. Realizing this, Evileye steeled her revolve as she then finished her summation.
"Jaldabaoth then defeated them... With a single blow."
The resulting pandemonium from Evileye's statement should have been expected. Afterall, Adamantite-ranked adventurers were the pinnacle of humanity, akin to living legends. It was unthinkable that they could be so easily defeated in a single blow. If members of Blue Rose could be so easily humbled, then what chance do they have?
Suddenly, a shrill whistle cut through the air, making almost everyone cover their ears and wince in discomfort. It was then that all those present turned to its source, finding it be Denys Shkoda of Gold-ranked Adventurer Team, Unity Four. The first three members wore stern expressions whilst the fourth remained stationary in indifference. Their team-leader Nigel Tvenstrup, then stepped forward as he firmly spoke with surprising steel in his voice.
"What kind of pitiful display are you lot playing at? A little bit of information and everyone starts panicking like a room full of greenhorns? Get it together! Didn't you lot pay attention when they said that they have a plan? If so, then shut the hells up and let them finish!"
"Hm! Indeed! Thank you, Nigel of Unity Four. You're a credit to the adventurer profession." Ameillia Grann affirmed in approval, positively beaming with pride at his reaction, as if she were a mother witnessing the growth of her son.
"Yes, exactly! I can assure you that there's still hope. Jaldabaoth certainly is powerful. Having faced him with nothing to show for it but defeat, I can vouch for it. He's truly a monster that no one could possibly defeat, even if every adventurer gathered here to fought him. Still, there's no need to worry. There exists a man who can do battle evenly with Jaldabaoth!"
As she spoke with exuberance and hope in her tone, some of the more quick-witted among those present turned their heads to the one in the back that wore a crimson cloak over his obsidian-colored armor.
"Most of you should know of this man from the third adamantite-ranked adventurer team recently founded in E-Rantel. He stood up to Jaldabaoth, forcing him to retreat when my comrades were faced with death. He even acknowledged his might to be on par with his own. Yes, he is that man, the Dark Hero of Team Darkness, Sir Momon!"
There were exclamations of awe and wonder as the realization of who they were and what they had managed to accomplish sunk in. Indeed, if such a powerful demon could so openly admit to being wary in fighting this man, then hope still remained for them. With these revelations, there were pangs of shame as they soon realized their earlier shameful displays. Paying such things no heed, Princess Renner forged ahead with the briefing.
"Thank you, Miss Evileye. Now, as she has said, we have a warrior capable of standing against Jaldabaoth. So please be at ease everyone, and know that we are not picking a fight we cannot win. If that is understood, then I shall explain the details of tonight's operation..."
As the Princess began her briefing in earnest, the human trio of Unity Four held their own discussion via their link, with Denys praising his friend and team-leader.
'Nice goin' there Nigel! I think the guildmaster likes you even more now.'
'Oh, shut it, Denys! I simply did what needed to be done, and what I felt you and Suvi wanted to do when our so-called "peers" started to lose their nerve. Still, who would've guessed that we'd cross paths with Momon and Nabe again.' (A/N:CH.2)
'Indeed, brother. It's quite the surprise. Still, ever since our training, I can't help but feel that there's something... "off" about those two. I can't quite put my finger on it though.' Suvi replied with a measure of uncertainty in her voice.
'Aye, I kno' what ya' mean there. That earlier bloodlust they was givin' off was spicy without a doubt, but they just don't seem right.' Denys commented in uncharacteristic seriousness.
There was a brief pause as they pondered on what their newly honed instincts told them, but came up short as Nigel shook his head.
'Let's worry about figuring that puzzle out later. For now, let's pay attention to the princess' briefing. We've got a city to save, and since this is an emergency, let's agree here and now to not hold back. Alright?'
'Hehe. That won't be a problem leader. I hate demons anyways.'
'Of course, brother. This is what we all trained for. I won't let what happened when Madara saved us happen again.'
Thus resolved, the three of them nodded to each other in unison as they agreed to use the full extent of their newfound ability to end this crisis before them. As they looked towards the silent figure of their fourth member Mortis, he gave them a similar nod in agreement. Though he could not share in their telepathic conversation, he instinctively sensed their determination. As they listened to the continuing briefing, he wondered if it would be enough.
Lakyus strode forward as Evileye and Tina silently followed behind to a guest room provided by the princess to act as their base of operations. After the meeting concluded and their course of action had been decided upon, they would use the 1-hour intermission to rest and prepare themselves for the fight ahead.
They would have preferred to get to know their famous collogue in Momon of Darkness a little bit more, but the situation didn't lend itself to such idle talk. The princess needed to meet with Marquis Raeven and Prince Zanac, and Momon had decided to use this time to get to know the various adventurers. Lakyus thought it an admirable thing to do, since she noticed that it lifted the spirits of nearly all of those that met him.
Well, except for their very own Evileye. Ever since they had healed and retrieved Gagaran and Tia, and relayed her experiences with them, she had been uncharacteristically quiet and sullen. She would have inquired about it if things hadn't been so frantic. Perhaps the opportunity to ask would present itself, now that they were checking on the recovering duo.
Reaching the room in question, Lakyus entered without preamble, finding themselves in a common area that linked with four bedrooms. The twins would obviously have to share one of them, but they usually did regardless. Turning her head to the side, she saw Tia leaning against a nearby wall, with arms folded, head lowered, and eyes closed. As if she were meditating.
Gagaran however wasn't nearly as quiet, as she was hurriedly partaking on some of the finest food and drink the palace could offer, compliments of Princess Renner. Slurping down a gravied slip of meat, she wiped her mouth with a linen napkin as she addressed her comrades in her usual boisterous tone.
"Yo~! How'd the meeting go?"
Lakyus shook her head as her comrade's demeanor showed that she was well rested despite her recent experience. It was refreshing, even if everything was rather dire at the moment. She smiled warmly at her comrade as she replied in a casual tone.
"It went fine despite a few issues. Although I'm sure you already knew that."
There was a smirk from Lakyus as she eyed Tia to the side, whom was joined by her twin sister. To this Gagaran simply laughed as she replied.
"Haha~! Figured that wouldn't get past you, Lakyus. Yeah, Tia was listening in on the whole thing, so we're more or less up-to-speed."
"Hm. Yes. I heard everything, fiendish boss. As well as Prince Zanac and Marquis Raeven. They were listening in from a secret room." Tia chimed in with a low tone and nod.
"Oh? No surprise that you found any hidey-holes this palace might have." Lakyus replied, even as she grimaced at their "usual" moniker for her.
"Aye, leader. Tia just didn't want to relax and enjoy the food with me. Still, this Momon must be something else to be our 'Arrow' in striking back against these demons." Gagaran nonchalantly remarked as she stood up, stretched, and hefted her weapon over her shoulder.
"Well, I haven't seen his strength, but feeling his presence for myself, brimming with anger and bloodlust at Jaldabaoth's actions, I'm convinced he's the one for the job. It gave me shivers just being close-by." Lakyus replied in a professional tone as Gagaran walked over to join hers and Evileye's sides.
"Hoh~! Well, if you and Evileye say so, then I've got no reason to doubt. But there's one thing I'm still not clear on. Why isn't our shorty going with Darkness on this?"
"Hmph... What's the point? I'd just get in the way..."
The room grew silent as Evileye's defeated tones filtered into everyone's ears. Not that Tia and Gagaran could blame her for how she felt. They whom were defeated and rendered useless with but a single blow could not really comment. Still, never have they seen Evileye so utterly downtrodden and defeated.
This would not do. Not while she, Tia, and Gagaran were tasked with leading a large group of adventurers past a section of the flame wall to engage the demons in battle and draw their attention. A strategy meant to create an opening for Momon and Nabe to slip past.
After all, the threat posed by Adamantite-ranked adventurers would be something low to mid-level demons could not ignore. Meaning, they needed her focused and ready for the fight to come. Letting out a weary sigh, Gagaran casually looked to the side as she allowed the flat-side of her Warpick to slide off her shoulder, and land squarely upon Evileye's head.
Evileye wailed more from shock, surprise, and indignation than actual pain from Gagaran's little trick. She pointed an accusatory finger at her comrade-at-arms, hissing and spitting with venom and spite in her tone.
"W-What the hell you musclehead?!"
"Oh? Sorry 'bout that. It must've slipped." Gagaran whistled innocently in an overly fake and exaggerated manner that only served to further fuel Evileye's ire.
"Don't bullshit me! That was on purpose!"
"Eh... Aye. Maybe it was. I just figured that gettin' angry's better than standing around feelin' sorry for yourself."
Gagaran levied a firm gaze on her teammate, whom froze as soon as the words reached her. Looking around, she saw Lakyus looking upon her with pity and sympathy, while the twins remained as blank-faced as ever. Though she could tell they were all thinking the same thing as she sighed in defeat, speaking with a matching tone.
"You guys don't know... That monster was going to make me watch as he was about to kill you, and I was powerless to stop it. Momon... Without even fighting it, with just his presence alone, forced that demon to recognize his strength and retreat. What good would I be to someone like that? No, I don't want to be a burden to that man. The best I can do is help keep the rest of you safe, and make sure that he can have a fallback position if things don't work out."
"So that's why you didn't volunteer to go with him? You felt useless to his efforts?" Lakyus asked with a gentle, sisterly tone as she sidled up to Evileye's side, since it was so rare for her to be this open about her feelings.
"Yes, leader. Since he didn't ask for help of any kind from us, he must have some kind of a trump-card to use or something... Not that it matters. If he fails, we're all doomed anyways."
"Oi, oi~! Isn't it a little too early to say that? I mean, what about Lakyus' demonic blade, [Kilineiram]?" Gagaran retorted in worry, as a confused expression washed over Lakyus' face.
"Eh? What about my sword?"
"Oh, yeah. I heard from Gagaran that if you released the blade's full power, it could swallow up an entire country."
Evileye dryly replied as she lifted her head up, suddenly remembering that tidbit of information from a previous conversion. To this Lakyus' eyes widened to the size of saucers, with her face reddening from what the group could only assume anger and panic at how a dangerous trump-card was just casually revealed.
"N-No! Absolutely not! That's not an option!"
"Hm. Not that I disagree. The same goes for my own last-ditch trump-card. It's too dangerous." Evileye calmly said with a dismissive shrug, to which Lakyus seemed to breath an odd sigh of relief.
"Then we just have to believe in Momon's victory, and hope that neither of you have to use such dangerous abilities." Tina stoically chimed in as she and her sister approached, with the latter speaking up.
"Yes. If fiendish boss is so worried about it, then it must be bad."
Lakyus' expression changed once again to that of annoyance as she glared at the twins, whom quickly ducked behind Gagaran's large frame as if in panic. Gagaran simply turned her head and perked a brow as their blank expressions peeked out from either of her sides. A scene that struck her as hilarious as she laughed without reserve.
"Oh! You two!"
Although Evileye remained silent, even as Lakyus rebuked the twins with a fully reddened face, she could not help but smile underneath her mask at such a scene. She resolved that no matter what, she would hope and pray for Momon's victory, and even if she had to sacrifice this entire city, she would keep her friends safe. They who were among the few connections she had left in this world.
The sounds of chaos and destruction filled the air as Momon and Nabe were in flight above the capital. They had just saved a group of city-guardsmen that were being decimated by a large group of demons. Much to Ainz's surprise, one of their number was a Scale Demon. While by YGGDRASIL standards it was low-leveled, by this world's standards it was quite formidable.
By his estimation, even the likes of Gazef Stronoff would have some trouble fighting it in a one-on-one confrontation. Ainz hummed in contemplation under the helm of his "Momon" persona as he absentmindedly spoke aloud.
"Hmm... Demiurge must be summoning stronger demons in an attempt to flush out Entoma's killer..."
"As expected, Momon-sama. His last [Message] did indicate that he would be having the Evil Lords summoning stronger and more numerous demons, once the adventurers began to sortie." Nabe replied in a dutiful, stoic tone.
"Umu... Very well. Still, tell him to set the stage for our arrival. This mock battle would be worthless if it doesn't have an audience to boost Momon's renown."
"Of course, Momon-sama."
As Nabe silently invoked her [Message] spell, Ainz contemplated what this would mean for the adventurers down below that he had acquainted himself with. Those that had looked up to him with such admiration that they now practically worshipped Momon of Darkness. Stronger and more numerous demons like the Scale Demon would mean a great deal more casualties among the adventurers that now looked up to him... And he did not care.
If he still had a heart within his ribcage, it would be bursting with rage at Entoma's death, and his own carelessness that allowed it to happen. He would address that at a later time, as well as Entoma's revival. If sacrificing the capital's weaker adventurers meant getting her killer to show himself, then all the better.
A part of him still wondered is this was somehow linked to Shalltear's brainwashing, but oddly enough a small part of him had doubts about that. If these incidents were linked, would they not do more than simply kill Entoma? Frankly speaking, her death would not incur significant material loss to Nazarick's Treasury. Nor would it put a dent into their overall strength.
The more he though about it, the more likely it seemed that the NPCs had inadvertently provoked someone or something they were not aware about. Whatever the case truly was, he resolved himself to not waste the opportunity that her death opened for them. With Demiurge acting under the guise of "Jaldabaoth", her death was used as the "casus belli" for this demon attack. They would make the most of this situation, and see what happens.
Not far from the location that "Momon" had saved a group of guardsmen, the gold-ranked team Unity Four were covering for a group of wounded and exhausted adventurers that were retreating from a group of demons comprised of Gazer Devils and Hellhounds. Nigel stood to the front as a vanguard as he bellowed out orders to the retreating adventurers, swiftly cutting down a pair of Hellhounds that tried to rush him, and bashed a third away with his shield.
"Don't look back, and don't worry about us! Just be silent and keep going!"
The group of a dozen adventurers grimaced at the instructions for various reasons. Those of equal or lower rank felt like they were leaving them to their doom as they retreated to safety, while the single platinum-ranked team present felt ashamed of themselves for having to rely on them to cover their flank. Still, they were professional enough to swallow that pride and do as instructed.
Once the group behind them were out of sight, no words were exchanged between the Unity Four members as they all simply nodded to each other. A sickening roar echoed from the packs of Hellhounds, but in that instant...
In a flash, the armored, mythril-clad form of Mortis charged forward. With shield readied on his left-arm, he plowed through the lines of demons with a speed that caught them completely by surprise. With their lines broken up and their attention distracted, none felt the presence of Denys Shkoda above them, as he leapt into the air at that exact moment Mortis made his move.
Upside-down in midair, and in total defiance to gravity, he spun like a top before unleashing a hail of throwing daggers upon the Hellhounds. A brief flash of a red-colored aura was all the indication given that he had invoked a [Martial Art] of some kind to accomplish such a feat, before he gracefully flipped right-side up in the air, and then...
The packs of Hellhounds exploded without warning, tossing aside burnt chunks of their hides as Denys landed on the ground upon his two feet, almost without making a sound. As his face was lit up by the nearby fires, one who knew him would be shocked by the countenance on display. Gone was his usual mischievous humor, and in its place was a deadly, razored edged focus.
Taking another throwing dagger from one of his pouches, it shined with a glowing red aura, before he threw it into a nearby wall. It bounced and ricocheted off other buildings before lodging itself into the skull of a Hellhound that thought to take him by surprised from behind from the shadows.
Of course, given how his comrades spotted the beast behind him, and with their connection via Madara's [Ninshu] rite, there was no way it was going to take him by surprise. Even if they hadn't spotted it, Madara's training had honed his already sharp senses to incredible levels. Which is how he noticed a group of a half-dozen Gazer Devils descending from the sky themselves, ready to pounce upon his position.
Neither Nigel nor Suvi seemed to be worried, as they dealt with their own foes with calm, stoic expressions. Denys' expression was akin to boredom as he unleashed a fusillade of shuriken from both his hands in a crossing "X" motion. Augmented with a [Martial Art] that made them shine a bright red aura, they shredded their targets with a speed and ferocity that ran counter to their small sizes.
However, one managed to survive, since it was shielded by its fellows to its front. The timing was near perfect, for just as Denys was reaching for the pair of short-sword sheathed on his waist, the demon's gapping maw had nearly reached his neck. By the time he had drawn his weapons, it would be too late.
Or rather, that is what most outside observers would believe. For in that moment when his elbows crossed as he was seemingly reaching for his weapons, curved blades sprouted from his armguards that covered the entire length of his forearms. In a flash, these blades severed the demon's head in an outward cleaving motion that caught it completely by surprise.
As he stood erect, it became clear that the sheathed short-swords were never his choice of melee weapons. Rather, they were decoys meant to fool his targets into believing as such. A fact proven when, as his body shined with a bright-red aura, he mercilessly began to pick apart the group of demons that remained to his left.
He was a twirling, graceful dervish of death as his elbow-blades cleaved through the opposition with elbow-swipes and strikes. Another demon tried and failed to take him from behind, but another curved blade sprouted from his boot-heel as he performed an upward back-kick into the demon's groin. It howled in pain for only a moment before a backward swipe relieved it of its pain, and its head.
Meanwhile, his teammates Nigel and Suvi were holding their own with similar calm and stoic demeanors. Shining with a red-colored aura as he silently invoked a [Martial Art], Nigel charged like a bull with shield held diagonally into a group of demons. With near perfect timing, his sister floating behind him silently cast an enhanced version of the [Magic Arrow] spell, impaling the demons with spears of light.
Not missing a beat, Nigel twirled around, focusing inertia through his hips as he cleaved a trio of demons in twain at the waist. All the while his blade continued shining with an active [Martial Art], enhancing its power and cutting ability. Once again, a demon tried to get the drop on him from behind, only to be impaled by a spear of light from Suvi, whom didn't even call out her spell before casting it.
This was one of the results of their "connection" with each other via [Ninshu]. Vocally calling out spells and attacks was little more than a way to focus the mind and solidify one's will, outside of signaling each teammate what powers and spells were being used. Their connection however made none of that necessary.
Not only did they know their minds and intentions as clearly as if they were their own, but their mental focus, discipline, and wills was effectively tripled as well. In the heat of battle, they were in essence of one mind, one heart, and one spirit. Drawing upon one another for strength and support. Combined with their ability to wordlessly warn each other of dangers, they were as formidable as adamantite-ranked adventurers with years of experience.
These things were not lost on "Mortis", the public persona of the Deep Darkness Dragon Lord's avatar. The armor watched carefully, nodding in satisfaction at their performance as they were systematically picking apart these demons. While stronger inside the confines of this "territory" created by the walls of flame, the demons seemed rather simple-minded in their approach to combat. While effective against normal humans, against experienced fighters it was different.
Retrieving his blade from the nearby corpse of an Overeating demon, Mortis wreathed his blade in a shadowy aura as he charged forward. With a single swipe, he dispatched the last of the fiends in a wave of flowing darkness that looked as beautiful as it was haunting when contrasted against the dancing lights of flames that filled the area.
The trio converged on Mortis' location with a single nod to each other before Nigel stepped forward to address him in a firm, but respectful tone.
"Thank you, Mortis. Despite not knowing much about you, I'm glad that our teacher chose you to watch over us."
"Hmph... Indeed, young man. Still, this must wait for another time. I'm sure you sense others beings approaching our location, yes?" Mortis stoically said as he turned around to face the street before them.
"Aye, I feel it too. There's two of 'em, but damn. They're a helluva lot stronger than da' fodder we jus' killed." Denys said in a cautious tone as he readied himself.
"Suvi, reinforce your enhancing spells on us. Just in case."
"Of course, brother. I was going to do that regardless."
Doing as instructed with a soft smile, Suvi wordlessly cast enhancing and protective spells on them, making the trio glow in a broad spectrum of colors. She did not do so for Mortis, since in the past he had told them it was unnecessary, and they knew full well his strength was far greater than all of them put together. Just as she finished...
A pair of gigantic forms descended from the air, thunderously touching down upon the ground in-front of them. Suvi gulped at the sight, whilst her brother remained steadfast, and Denys huffed in exasperation while rolling his eyes.
"Hmph... Scale Demons. And two of them at that. Quite the surprise."
Mortis' voice was the epitome calm and unmoved as he assessed the situation. He was very familiar with this type of demon, and knew that they could handle them. Whilst he had some doubts as to whether or not others in the city would be as fortunate, there was little time to worry over such things.
"Nigel, you and the rest take on the one on the right. I will drive the one on the left away and dispatch it myself."
There was collective silence from the trio behind Mortis. While they knew he could take one of these monsters without question, they were less sure of whether or not they could do the same themselves. They all felt the monster before them to be the strongest single creature they have ever faced, and naturally doubt crept into their beings. As if sensing their hesitation, Mortis spoke in a more "reassuring" tone.
"Fear not this demon's strength. Remember your teacher's training, all you have done to get here, and the connection you now share. You are ready for this. Set aside your foolish doubts, or die like the rest."
They were simple words, yet they struck a cord with the trio as each reacted in their own way. Nigel's expression became firm as he solidified his resolve. His sister indignantly wrinkled her nose and narrowed her vision on how overly blunt Mortis' "pep talk" was, whilst Denys smirked and chuckled at how much it resembled something Madara would have said to them. Whether it was deliberate or not.
They had little time to mull further as the pair of Scale Demons roared in unison, signaling the start of the battle. Mortis' Scale Demon, as if understanding what they had said about dividing the battle between them, slammed into the avatar's readied shield. Their collision explosively displaced the air around them, creating a shockwave that violently fractured the ground beneath them.
Meanwhile, before the other Scale Demon could reach the trio, Suvi mentally invoked the 3rd-tier spell...
The demon's weapon swiped at nothing but air and debris as the three of them vanished in a flash of blue light. Of course, disappearing as they did was quite astonishing, as the spell Suvi used was a short-ranged escape spell used to put distance between a magic caster and their attackers, and normally could only be used on the caster themselves.
However, thanks to their connection via the [Ninshu] rite, it was an element to the spell that had changed. Now her teammates were essentially extensions of herself, allowing the spell's effects to be passed on to them, and for the briefest of moments the demon was confused. It truly did not expect these lower lifeforms to be able to use teleportation magicks of any kind.
Its confusion was then magnified with anger as it noticed all too late a dozen small objects laying at its feet that then suddenly exploded. Whilst the explosions and resulting shrapnel themselves caused no damage to speak of, it disoriented it long enough to where it could not track the trio of adventurers.
The fury at letting them escaped from its sight only further clouded its judgement as it brought it weapon down upon the ground in a titanic blow that shook the earth as surely as it was a groundquake. This proved a fatal mistake, for in the moment that its weapon was no longer in a favorable position...
Reappearing without warning was Nigel, as his shield bashed the top of the demon's head. The both of them glowed a bright green color as a spell took effect, weighing them down. Of course, such a rudimentary spell was not going to keep it bound. As quickly as it felt the extra weight upon it, it reared up and threw Nigel off as if he were a careless rider upon a wild horse.
Hefting its weapon, it mercilessly brought it down on Nigel who, at the moment of impact, invoked the [Impenetrable Fortress] art. The force of this clash resulted in another localized quake, as Nigel found himself at the epicenter of a crater explosively created as a result. To the outside observer, he looked as a nail driven into a post.
Nigel grit his teeth with the strength of a vice-grip, his gums bleeding as he braced himself and weathered the blow, feeling his bones rattle like a midday bell. He was certain that if not for the items given by Madara, and the protective spells of his sister, he would have surely been pulverized. Still, the gambit paid off, for in the moment he came into contact with the demon's weapon, his sister used his body as a focus to transmit another weight spell onto it.
For a moment the demon failed to lift its weapon, and while it had shown itself capable of shrugging off the spell, a moment's hesitation and distraction was all they needed. In the split second it was enraged enough to focus only on retrieving its weapon, putting all its strength into lifting it high to flatten the still stationary Nigel, Denys shocked it when it suddenly appeared over its head.
Their eyes met for only a moment when the demon looked up in surprise, and Denys carried none of his normal joviality. His own gaze was a cold, intense desire to kill the beast before him. That icy stare was the last thing the demon saw, for in a flash both of Denys' short-swords were buried in each of the demon's eyes.
Skillfully leaping off his target with a grace and agility that would put even jungle cats to shame, the demon howled in agony as it dropped its weapon, blinded by Denys' attack. With both of his weapons still lodged in the demon's head, the enchantments in them activated, electrifying it and not only intensifying its pain, but paralyzing it.
With that opening, Suvi hovering up above did not fail to take advantage as she cast another weight spell, along with a binding spell. Its strength and magic resistance was monstrous, and they all knew that it would free itself within a matter of seconds. However, a few seconds was all they needed as Nigel hung his shield on his back, and brandished his sword in both hands.
Invoking a number of self-enhancing [Martial Arts], he called forth an image that was seared into his mind, ever since he, his sister, and his friends attended the Grand Tournament hosted by the King. Bearing witness to the marital display that became subjects of song and praise, the image of Gazef's final move that ended the tournament's final round forever motivated him to improve his swordsmanship.
Now, with his training, and his newfound connection with his team via Madara's [Ninshu], that image now became reality as he, for the first time since this fight began, uttered the name of his [Martial Art] as he charged forth...
"[FOURFOLD SLASH OF LIGHT]!"
Time all but stood still as Nigel dashed past the demon, and four luminescent streaks of light cleaved through its body. A light that was all the more intense from Nigel's sword. A weapon that Mortis called, [Soul Cutter]. It was a blade that was infused to cleave through not only the physical, but the soul of the target itself. An effect that responded well with the use of a warrior's [Martial Arts], and unbeknownst to them, a relic that was made with [Wild Magic].
The Scale Demon slumped down on its knees, feeling the effects of the blows sever its tendons, rend its flesh, and inexplicably cut its strength down. Though miraculously it still lived, Nigel leaped out of its area as Suvi, like her brother, for the first time called out the names of her next spells...
"[TWIN MAXIMIZE MAGIC: MAGIC LANCE]!"
A pair of bright, orange-colored lances were conjured by the 4th-tier spell, combining magic and physical damage in the attack. The lances were launched towards the weakened demon with pinpoint accuracy, impaling its chest, and thus ending its life in one last stroke.
With a thunderous boom, its massive frame slumped down, staking the ground with the pair of [Magic Lances], its body sliding down them before they disintegrated into particles of light, with the demon's bloodied body following suit, slowly burning into a pile of darkened ash.
Nearby, the fallen body of Mortis' demonic opponent lay at his feet with his own darkened sword, still writhing with a shadowy aura, protruding from its head. Nodding in satisfaction at their performance, he retrieved his weapon from its impromptu demonic sheath as it too began to crumble into ashes. He approached the triumphant trio, speaking with a now soft tone.
"Well done. I do believe your teacher would be most pleased with your performance just now."
Still breathing hard from the recent battle, the trio joined Mortis as Nigel smiled with pride at their success.
"Ah, hah, ah... Yes... I suppose he would at that. Heh. Thank you, Mortis."
The incognito Deep Darkness Dragon Lord simply nodded in response as the young trio basked in their victory, and Dy'vom behind his avatar's persona took in how their battle unfolded. Their movements, tactics, and actions were very... efficient. They fought with guile, subterfuge, and a not inconsiderable amount of guts. Everything was done with a purpose behind it, and the way they fought bore a resemblance to their teacher Madara in spirit, if not in form.
'Hmph... You taught these whelps well, didn't you Madara? I wonder...'
Their moment of victory was cut short as a titanic tremor rocked their environs to their very foundations. The four of them collectively looked in the same direction, and all at once they reached the same conclusion Suvi earnestly spoke.
"That's... That's where Momon went to battle Jaldabaoth!"
"Aye... That it is. Hmm..."
As Nigel contemplatively hummed, Mortis looked at the young man, speaking in a flat, dispassionate tone.
"Are you thinking of going there?"
There was no immediate answer at first. After all, despite their recent victory against a Scale Demon of all things, it was all they could do against one of them. Still, the eagerness for battle did not completely wane from his mind. Either was the curiosity of seeing the famous Team Darkness in action. Although before he could give voice to these thoughts, Denys happily slapped him upon his back as he hung on his shoulder.
"Hah! O' course he is~! We all are. So how 'bout we cut a bloody swath through these freaks an' see what the newest adamantite-ranked adventurers can do, eh?"
Suvi wore a deadpanned expression as she struck Denys over the head with her staff, and her comrade looking back at her in mock surprise.
"Oh, whuzzat for?"
"Hmph... Because our teacher isn't here to do it."
"Hah! Right. My mistake."
Dy'vom held back to wearily sigh at Denys' antics. Especially given the more serious shift his personality would have in the heat of battle. Still, the more immediate concern was whether or not to allow the trio to advance towards that location. Madara made it clear that he wanted them watched, and afforded the opportunity to grow, change, and evolve through these battles, but if they bit off more than they could chew, what then?
The Dragon Lord could only do so much with his avatar operating at the lowered capacity that it was, and if they got involved in "Momon's" fight, things would quickly spiral out of control. With this in mind, "Mortis" spoke up in a firm, cautionary tone.
"If we go to Momon's location, we only to watch. Despite the progress you've made, the battle being fought there is far beyond you."
"Hm. Agreed. I wasn't planning on jumping in. At least not without more backup. But still, we did our job in covering for the retreating adventurers, and this area's more or less clear of demons, so there's little point in standing around here doing nothing. If Momon's victorious, then our help won't be needed. If Momon's not victorious, it won't really matter if we're there or not. We'd be dead either way."
As Nigel's teammates nodded in solidarity, Dy'vom had to admit that he was impressed by not only the steel in their resolve, but the logic as well. From their point of view, if the "Arrow" in the princess' plan were to fall, so would the plan, and then the rest of the city. So, better to face death, spitting in the face of one's enemy, rather than cowering in a corner waiting to die.
It was a sentiment he could relate with, if not for his more inside knowledge of who/what "Momon" actually was. With that in mind, and the possible reasons for this attack, the odds of the trio actually being in danger once they reached Momon seemed less likely, when coupled with the fact that this whole farce seemed to be in favor of raising Momon's renown. With this in mind, Mortis spoke in agreement.
"Very well... I'll take the lead. Let us go to where Momon is."
"Right. Let's go!"
With Nigel's surprisingly enthusiastic reply, the team of "Unity Four" ran into the night towards Momon's location. However, upon a rooftop some distance away, Tina of Blue Rose had watched the entire scene from afar through an enchanted [Looking Glass].
Despite her stoic expression betraying none of her feelings, she was honestly quite surprised at what she had witnessed. A mere gold-ranked team had dispatched two Scale Demons. A type that had inflicted considerable damage on even the orichalcum-ranked adventurers that tried to face them, and gave her team a great deal of trouble. Even Gazef, now taking to the field in his full panoply had trouble facing one. Although his formidable blade helped even the odds.
This was something she would have to report to her team leader later but first, now that her reconnaissance had been a success, she needed to signal the rest of her comrades that the way was clear to link up with Momon, and pray that it was not too late to give him some kind of support.
As they ran through the streets and neared a courtyard ahead, the Unity Four members halted in their tracks when they came upon the scene of a battle in-progress. Nabe of Darkness was using [Fly] to maintain speed, mobility, and distance from three masked, female figures. One was a blonde with "drill hair", a first for the human team members, and she moved with an unnatural fluidity and grace that made it clear that she wasn't human.
The second wore her dark hair in a bun and favored in-close melee combat with a set of vicious looking spiked gauntlets that guaranteed extreme pain and damage for any that came into contact with them. The third and final figure had red hair tied in two long braids, and used an imposing black and silver scepter as her main weapon.
Though the styles were different, the unifying theme between all of them was that of a maid. To this Mortis was not surprised, though the human trio gawked openly as Denys' thoughts raced, broadcasting them to his friends via their link...
'By the gods... Masked demonic combat maids?... Hah~! That's so stupid it'd almost funny.'
'Hm. Agreed Denys, but through your senses and mine, Suvi and I can vaguely feel how strong they are. They're in a different league from that Scale Demon we fought.'
'Agreed, brother. Unless Nabe gains the upper-hand or Mortis gives some kind of signal, no way in hells we should attack.'
There was a collective nod from the three of them as they continued to watch Nabe's fight unfold. She was covered in dirt, grime, bruises, blood, and a great deal of battle damage as she fought the masked demon maids to a standstill. She fired off volley after volley of the 3rd-tier [Lightning] spell to keep them as a distance.
She then successfully struck the masked blonde, electrifying her body, which had seemingly incapacitated her. The group watching surmised that Lightning-element was the demon's weakness, making a mental note of it since Suvi could cast similar spells.
Nabe's stoic expression and tone betrayed no discomfort, despite her wore appearance, as she ducked under the red-headed demon's scepter swipe, wielding it like an axe. She countered this using her own sword, batting the scepter away as the bun-haired maid closed in with a straight thrusting punch.
The blow's strength was evident as Nabe doubled over and was knocked back in an explosion of displaced air. She twisted and rolled over the ground several times before coming to a stop and jumping back to her feet. Although the violent shock of the surprise attack to her stomach left her bereft of her weapon, she did not falter as she clapped her hands and spread them wipe as she chanted out her next spell.
"[Twin Maximize Magic: Electrosphere]!"
A pair of crackling balls of Lightning-element were launched with practiced precision and grace, and took her charging opponents by surprise as they collided headfirst with the 3rd-tier projectiles.
Each of the demonic maids wailed in pain as they were blown back by Nabe's counter, joining their comrade who was still recovering. Catching her breath, Nabe continued to stand her ground, and they seemed to reach an impasse in their struggle. Especially when the three demon maids noticed Unity Four in the distance behind Nabe.
Mortis turned slightly to his teammates, who each gave a nod, understanding his intensions. It would be better to join Nabe's side and cover and support her, since it was evident she could hold her own. Of course, Dy'vom behind Mortis' persona knew that the was a mere play fight, but knew playing along and acting as adventurers would do would be the most advantageous thing to do.
Springing into action, the group quickly closed the distance with Nabe, as Mortis stood to her front, brandishing his sword and shield to act as her defense. After all, from the perspective of the human trio, he would have the best chances of survival. Nigel took position to Nabe's left as Suvi stood behind him, pulling out a [Spell Wand], and chanting its stored magic.
Nabe seemed more annoyed than relieved to have the backup. Especially when she seemed to recognize them, and her frown deepening as she dismissively spoke.
"Hmph... You lot."
"Oi, oi. Try ta' be a lil' more grateful. We're here to help ya' out." Denys nonchalantly said from her right.
"Silence, click-beetle. I do not recall asking for help."
"Hah~! That's a new one. I like it! Tha' icy cool demeanor is jus' so you."
Denys merely grinned as his jovial tone filled the air. Nabe simply narrowed her vision on him before falling silent herself. There seemed to be a hint of confusion, and even recognition from Nabe. As if the scene between her and Denys had played out before somewhere else. It was then Mortis' firm tone brought them back from the moment.
"Dispense with your impromptu comedy routine. The demon maids recover."
All air of joviality disappeared so suddenly, it was as if it were an illusion. The abruptness took Nabe by surprise, but quickly adapted as she readied herself. Just then...
Suddenly, a slim male figure was explosively blown through a building as it collapsed. The figure was limp like a ragdoll as it flew through the air, and then bounced several times along the stone ground, tumbling head-over-heels a few turns before grinding to a halt. The late-comers of Unity Four were greeted with a full view of this figure as it unsteadily got back to its feet.
Its garb was something they were familiar with in a stripped "suit", which was an article of clothing from the south. Importing one would have cost a small fortune, and despite the battle damage it suffered, it fine make was obvious to them. The male figure was masked, but its inhuman features in its elongated ears, claws, and metallic tail made its identity clear for the human trio of the group; this was Jaldabaoth.
Dy'vom meanwhile immediately recognized this figure from when he had killed the Insectoid maid, and it had interrupted before he could retrieve the maid's items. Before he could mull on this further, Momon's jet-black figure emerged from the collapsed building where Jaldabaoth had been thrown from.
His armor was heavily damaged, clearly showing just how intense their duel had been. Although despite this, the adventurer of Darkness did not waver in the slightest. As if taking a midday stroll, he casually walked towards his quarry, which showed Momon's clear superiority over the demon Jaldabaoth. The human trio cheered in their minds as Momon lowered his weapons and spoke to Jaldabaoth in a pleased tone of voice.
"Well, that was fun. How shall I put it? Hm! It felt... real. I could feel myself really battling with you. Huh... So, this is what it feels like to be the vanguard. In the past, I'd overpower all of my opponents in melee combat, so I really didn't get to feel anything, but now? I feel like a battle maniac. So, how about we stop playing around. Show me your full strength now, before this feeling goes away. Heh-heh-heh..."
The eyes of Nigel, Suvi, and Denys went wide at Momon's carefree chuckle, coupled with his proclamation. After all, telling one's opponent to use their full strength was a grave insult. But thanks to time spent with their teacher, they understood that perhaps this was his true desire. Someone like Momon, or their teacher Madara, would rarely have the opportunity to go all-out. Their foes would get slaughtered before they could get serious, so a man like him would be overjoyed at the prospect of facing an opponent requiring their full strength.
"Is that so? Then allow me to grant your wish." Jaldabaoth said with exaggerated, sarcastic politeness as he took a bow.
In that instant, the two of them dashed towards each other, and an explosive displacement of air was released as they clashed in the center of the plaza. What followed was an awe inspiring scene as these to titans of power attacked, countered, parried, and counterattacked each other through melee, magic, and martial displays that would have reduced any of them to paste.
All of them, from the demon maids nearby, to Momon's own teammate Nabe, to the members of Unity Four, were all frozen in place as they watched the battle taking place. The human trio of Unity Four gawked, slack-jawed at the scene. Even with their combined senses, linked via the [Ninshu] rite, the best they could manage to make out were the afterimages of the pair as they continued their duel.
'B-By the gods, Momon's a beast~! He'd even give Madara tha' challenge he said he one day wanted.' Denys excitedly said via their mental link.
'Yeah, I can't argue that. Although I'm kind of glad they didn't fight when they first met. Something like this... It's way out of our league.' Nigel cautiously replied.
Suvi could only numbly nod in reply as they continue to watch the spectacle that took place before them. This was beyond them in so many ways. It was any wonder the demon maids weren't getting involved. As strong as she felt them to be, Momon and Jaldabaoth were in a league of their own, and any that tried to jump into the fray would be pulverized.
Of course, as she continued to watch their exchange, a realization hit her; Madara held himself back in their training. Now that she had something comparable to draw from, it became clear to her that Madara was very bit their equal, and the prospect both awed and terrified her. She trembled from all of this for but a moment, until the link she shared with her brother and friend stabilized her emotions. All looked at each other an smile, support and solidarity clear to see.
Soon the fight, which reached several highs, lows, and unexpected respect reached between the two combatants, reached a stalemate. The glossy sheen of Momon's armor had faded due to its melted surface from Jaldabaoth's attacks, and the demon's suit was a shredded mess of what was once pristine garb. They both looked like they had been through a war, but despite this, they who had dueled each other in a domain beyond humanity seemed like old friends.
"Your puissance is unparalleled, Sir Momon."
"Hm... So is yours, Jaldabaoth."
"Ah, my thanks. This encounter has been most enlightening. I daresay... Oh. Forgive me. I'm getting ahead of myself. What I mean to say, might I make a proposition?"
Momon tilted his head, seemingly confused by the sudden proposal. Something that would have been completely normal. Still, he seemed to relent as he then raised his chin to the demon, signaling Jaldabaoth to carry on.
"If I concede victory to your esteemed personage, perhaps we both can take a step back from the precipice? If you agree, I will withdraw myself from this incident, and I hope you will cease your pursuit of myself."
"Oi, oi~! Izzat some kinda' joke? 'Cause if it is, I ain't laughing."
All heads turned towards Denys who, despite his casual tone, wore a displeased expression that was shared by his teammates. The Kingdom's capital, which had slowly started to feel like home to them, had been filled with so much chaos and death that asking for this kind of leniency was nothing less than absurd. Especially when they held the advantage.
"Fine then. I agree to your terms."
Once again, all eyes turned towards Unity Four, and this time it was Nigel who gained attention as his blade impaled the ground beneath him as he stepped forward. His stern countenance and tone was clear as he spoke.
"What is the meaning of this, Momon?"
Jaldabaoth levied a pitying sigh toward's Nigel as he shrugged his shoulders, and as Suvi and Denys hated to admit it, he looked quite stylish as he did. The demon then spoke in an equally pitying tone, akin to a disappointed teacher instructing his slow students.
"It baffles me why Momon the Black would waste his time and energy defending such a foolish, shortsighted race. Honestly, a moment's consideration should reveal why he accepted my proposition, young man."
Folding his arms behind his back as he stood straight, he turned his complete attention to Unity Four as he continued.
"To ensure Sir Momon could arrive here, and to keep others from interfering with our battle, you committed a great deal of your allies to this fight, did you not? Now ask yourselves this; would that truly be enough to keep the demons from intruding into this conflict?"
The eyes of Unity Four widened in unison at the implications, and there was a triumphant chuckle as Jaldabaoth continued.
"You now seem to comprehend the situation. Yes, my demon hoards are simply waiting for a chance to assault the capital. Even if you kill me here and now, would they simply vanish? I have but to give one mental command, and my infernal hordes will immediately rampage through your city. Yes, their numbers might be somewhat diminished, but how many casualties do you think they will cause in the time it takes to kill them all? Quite a few by my estimates."
Nigel and Denys grimaced at the demon's cunning and manipulative maneuvering. Jaldabaoth was essentially holding the city hostage, and if Momon killed him here and now, he was going to take everyone with him, or something to that effect. However, Suvi seemed to have a much more contemplative expression as she stepped forward to speak.
"We understand the situation, Jaldabaoth. But if I may ask a question?"
There was a curious head-tilt from Jaldabaoth as he examined Suvi. It was like he was studying her before he answered in a surprisingly cordial manner. Even if there was an undercurrent of mockery there as well.
"Since you have demonstrated a measure of decorum, unlike your teammates, then I will be more than happy to entertain two questions, young lady."
"Hm. Then if I may, why are you backing down now? We were told that you seek revenge for the loss of one of your... children, at the hands of an unknown assailant. Even if it's in an act of mutually assured destruction, would you not attain that revenge?"
Suddenly, a wave of oppressive air, thick and cloying, hit Suvi from Jaldabaoth's direction. The demon's killing intent was so palpable that it physically manifested in the air. Suvi herself felt like an icicle had stabbed her spine, and even the combined support of her teammates through her link was nearly not enough to keep her from collapsing from shock. Then, as quickly as the sensation appeared, it eased its hold on her as Jaldabaoth spoke in a firm but even tone.
"Do not confuse it young lady. One day revenge shall be mine. However, you should give thanks to Sir Momon. He has acquitted himself and everyone here quite nicely. I never thought such a thing possible, but he has earned my respect and as such, earned this reprieve on behalf of everyone. Do not waste it. Furthermore, destroying oneself for the sake of revenge is nothing less than insanity. I have no need of such things. Not when I have greater goals to achieve."
Suvi breathed a heavy sigh of relief as she stepped back to her brother's side. While the three of them were quite shocked at the level of logic this fiend possessed, they could not help but agree with his words. Which only made him all the more frightening. This was a malevolent and powerful force that moved not through emotion only, but planned and schemed his every move.
If it did not bring him some sort of gain, he would write revenge off as a fool's errand and move on. This was the worst kind of foe, because that meant you could not manipulate his emotions to your advantage. On the contrary, he would sooner do that to you before you could do so to him. The respect that the trio had for Momon rose several notches as they realized that the leader of Team Darkness already took this into account, and was the reason why he relented.
"Well then, since these outsiders have accepted our agreement, I shall my withdrawal. Though it is a shame I could not recover the item, nor find the one responsible for the transgressions against us, I have all the time in the world to see those goals to completion. I bid you farewell, Momon the Black. I pray we never meet again."
"Hm... Same here, Jaldabaoth."
Chuckling under his mask, Jaldabaoth walked towards and gathered the maids around him before they then vanished via a high-tier teleportation spell. All was still for a few moments before Nabe took to the air, confirming what all present knew.
"The flame wall is gone. It's over."
There was a collective sigh of relief from the human members of Unity Four as Mortis sheathed his sword and approached Momon. Nabe swiftly joined Momon's side, protectively stepping in-front of him as Mortis calmly spoke.
"A fine job, Momon. It appears that you've driven that piece of filth away. Shame he couldn't have died though. Especially after all the misery it spread."
There was no reply at first, but at Mortis' words Nabe tensed up. To an outside observer, one would assume that she had been offended that her teammate's ability had been ever so subtly questioned. However, to one like Dy'vom who knew the true natures of "Momon" and "Nabe", it was a subtle jab meant to see how far they would be willing to maintain their charade. To which he got his answer as Momon calmly spoke with a sigh.
"It would not be helped. Although you have me at a disadvantage, mister...?"
"Mortis, of gold-ranked adventurer team Unity Four."
"Hm. A pleasure."
"Hey now! Looks like we've got company." Denys casually announced.
Suddenly, whatever tense atmosphere was developing between the pair vanished as the first rays of dawn shined down upon a whole host of people entering the plaza. Much to their surprise, it was Gazef with some of his Warrior Troop, along with Blue Rose, and a mix of other adventurers of various ranks.
All of them were covered with dirt, grime, and blood which clearly showed the intense battles that they had participated in. Turning to face Momon, Mortis spoke in a low tone that only Momon and Nabe could hear.
"They are waiting for the hero of the hour to lead them in a victory cry. I doubt that you'd want to disappoint them."
Momon simply nodded at Mortis words as Ainz internally mused to himself.
'What the hells with this guy?! Is he mocking me? Or is he just jealous of Momon's success? Ah, forget it! I'll worry about it later. Still, how is a victory cry supposed to sound? Dammit! I just don't want to make Momon look bad in-front of these people. Not after everything...'
Taking in a breath he did not need, Ainz under the Momon persona rose the sword in his right-hand high, gripping it tightly as he mustered the best utterance her could to what he felt fit this situation.
Immediately after, all present joined in on the victory cry, raising their fists and weapons high, shouting in celebration of their victory. In everyone's mouths was the name of Momon, the hero who had saved the capital, if not the entire nation...
Elsewhere, while those in that plaza celebrated their "victory" over Jaldabaoth, Madara smiled with cunning and satisfaction over what he had witness. With his [Rinnegan] engaged, he saw and heard most of everything that had transpired via his clones and summons in the area. Walking into his meditative area, Lottus bowed deeply as he reverentially addressed his master.
"'Tis a rare thing to see you smiling, milord. May I take this to mean that things had progressed well?"
Standing up from his desk, Madara's smile did not fade as he answered in a lighter tone than Lottus had ever recalled his master using.
"Hm... Indeed, Lottus. It was an interesting display to say the least. I now have a better grasp of the mentality, capabilities, and behavior of this 'Ainz Ooal Gown', and those that serve him. Also, I have seen for myself the progress those three young people have made."
"Oh? Nigel and the rest? How did they fare, milord?"
"Their performance showed that perhaps their growth could be enhanced even more, were they to dance upon a different stage. Indeed, they have proven the use of [Ninshu] being a viable means to further my own plans." Madara replied as his smile continued in a way that seemed almost predatory to Lottus, sending a shiver up and down his undead spine.
"S-So, what shall your humble servant do for you next, milord?"
"Hm. Has the woman settled in?"
"Ahem! Well, she needed to lie down after her retrieval, but not to worry, milord. I shall attend to her needs upon her awakening."
"Umu... Do so. She will be useful. Once that is done, prepare the summoning chamber for the next set of [Edo Tensei], and have her brought there. She will likely want to see the resources she will command for my next task for her."
"As you wish, milord."
As Lottus gave a deep bow, Madara walked out of the room as his [Rinnegan] continued to shine. Yes, this "Demonic Disturbance" was quite informative, and had proven to be worthwhile in watching. The stage was set, and all danced the way he wished, revealing to him many things. Now as the Kingdom's capital rebuilds, he will continue to watch, wait, and build for the next encounter. He could only hope that it would be as interesting as the last.
*A/N: Once again, sorry for the long wait folks. IRL/personal shenanigans got in the way more than once. No clue when the next chapter will arrive, but it will deal with the aftermath of these events, as well as setting up the future. Until then, everyone take care, and hope to see your there. Later true believerz~! ^_^*