A sigh escaped Shirou's lips as he navigated his way through cat calls and delicate hands trying to get a touch at him as he passed by. The overpowering scent of perfume that wafted through the air, almost like a thin mist throughout the establishment before him, caused his nose to twitch.

"My my, who do we have here? Come for a good time, gorgeous?"

Soft dancing voices and bell-like giggling echoed from all around him.

Smiling curtly, he shook his head and continued on his way forward, much to the dismay of the women who kept staring at him in a daze. Much like the handsome magic-caster that was visiting their establishment, the 'air' Shirou emitted was different from the common man or noble. It wasn't the demeanor or behaviour of sneaking nobles, but of a higher sort. That, or the red hair and bronze-coloured eyes, appeared just as exotic as the Magic Caster's white hair, lofty expressions, and flower tricks.

Sighs escaped the mouth, and this time it wasn't Shirou, but the women staring at his departing back, as he delved further into the most lascivious brothel of the Northern Baharuth Empire.

Only Merlin…

Shirou resisted the urge to slap a hand over his face, trying to maintain a façade of calm to treat the people around him as courteously as possible. Everyone had their stories, professions, and goals. There was no need to belittle anyone for their lot in life, nor would he judge as he didn't know their circumstances. However, this wasn't true for one person in this establishment.

"Ladies, beautiful ladies, why the hurry? There's a flower for each of you."

"Oh, Merlin you~"

Pleased humming and a chorus of faint laughter echoed through the brothel's walls, but Shirou would recognize that 'pansy' voice (As described by Arturia) anywhere. It was smooth, and pleasant to the ear, but playful and aloof at the same time. However, none of those virtues and charms were meaningful when the context was changed from an advisory role to a brothel customer. Arturia hated how it felt like her renowned teacher never took a woman seriously, and was just playing with their feelings. Merlin argued about what else he'd do in a brothel, but it only further cemented Arturia's impression of Merlin as a womanizer.

The present situation with both Merlin and Shirou now inside a brothel was exactly what Arturia had been wanting to prevent, yet here it is.

Shirou rounded the corner, and entered a plaza room fitted with cushions and lined with low hanging candles.

"Dammit, Merlin…I knew I'd find you here," Shirou grouched almost irritably.

There he was, Merlin, Wizard of Flowers sitting in a circle with a woman in each arm, and one woman resting her head on his lap. The envious gazes on the other side of the plaza appeared as if they wanted nothing more than to 'kill this bastard.' Worse, the expression on Merlin's face was if the situation was completely natural.

"Oh Shirou, you're here!" Merlin called, drawing the attention of the women around him onto Shirou himself. The way the eyes of the women brightened at once was all too telling for Shirou who almost took a step back at the sheer voracity directed at him.

Either Merlin didn't seem to register the reaction, or he was just too used to it, but Merlin simply gestured at him while waving an expensive bottle of wine.

"Come! Sit! Join us! You see this? They say this is the best in the Empire!"

Silence ensued between the two, Shirou's features going into deadpan.

"Hassan," Shirou said to no one in particular, but Merlin knew better and immediately sobered. "Give a report to Camelot."

"No! Wait! Mercy!" Merlin immediately scrambled forward, leaving the grasp of the ladies around him and tapping the butt of his staff on the ground just in time before a hidden figure moved.

A bounded field of rose petals encapsulated the entire area, and when next Shirou realized it, he, Merlin, and a woman's persona of the Hundred Faces were spirited outside into an alley.

"Alright, alright none of that," Merlin coughed lightly. "I just got out, is it too much to ask to just stretch my legs a bit?"

Hundred Faces scoffed, turning around to carry out her order and forcing Merlin to sidle up to her with an ingratiating smile. "Now, come now, none of that. Shirou, if you would just rescind your prior request."

Hundred faces paused, her tied pony tail swaying as she tilted her head to face Shirou for confirmation. The vindictive part of her persona saw nothing more righteous than to met justice at this perverted bastard of a kingdom's chief advisor. Nonetheless, she deferred to her creator's choice.

"It's fine, forget it," Shirou relented while pinching the bridge of his nose.

Hundred Faces clicked her tongue, while in contrast, Merlin beamed as bright as a Christmas tree.

Seemingly disgusted by Merlin's behaviour, Hundred Faces shoved the man off of her, before jumping back into the obscurity of the shadows. Merlin, having been shoved into the dirt, hardly reacted and simply brushed himself off before standing back on his feet.

"That woman's quite lithe beneath that misleading figure. Her bust was actually kind of supple when it pressed against me. Now if only I just had more time to give a little squeez-"

A dagger grazed the side of Merlin's face, a low growl escaping from somewhere in the shadows, daring the bastard to continue.

"Ah yes well, ahem." Merlin snorted, languidly stepping to the side to avoid another thrown dagger. Much loved he was. "Honestly, I really was working diligently. It's about the mood you know? Too serious and they think too much, too carefree, and they treat you like a fool. The trick is finding an appropriate balance."

"A lady in each arm, more fawning over your lap?" Shirou uttered incredulously.

[Sleazy perve!]

"A perfect balance," Merlin pretended as if the shadows weren't trying to make a game of swallowing him up. Besides, what he said was perfectly reasonable; what wasn't, were the various attempts on his life.

Dodging another thrown dagger and a louder curse for 'lucky fops,' Merlin craned his chin up at this unseen attacker.

"Shouldn't you be somewhere? Or perhaps my charms make me more dashing than I had originally believed? Oh Merlin, dashing Merlin, you devil you. You're irresistible."

"…hmph."

A potted plant was kicked in Merlin's direction, before the persona of the Hundred Faces could no longer stand the Wizard's presence. Originally, she had been tasked with keeping tabs on Shirou to keep him safe, but was now opting to switch with Zayd the Swift as soon as possible.

"What a charming woman, but I suppose Kuudere's have their appeal? Prickly and cold on the surface, but caring on the inside."

"Merlin. Please," Shirou interjected.

"Alright, alright, I can tell when my expertise isn't being appreciated, but this comes from one womanizer to another so it's to be expected."

"I'm not a-"

Merlin shot Shirou a deep look, which somehow managed to cut Shirou off before he could finish his sentence. Frankly, earning Arturia's affection was already an incredible feat. There were also the way other women looked at him, but he was always clueless to it. Hell, if Shirou had a book of tips and advise, Merlin would have been the first to buy it.

Suddenly, an irritable feeling of nostalgia assailed Merlin. It was an odd and distant memory in which Shirou was also his student? Some Ashton person? How strange, but the memory came unbiddenly and was rather vague. However, what wasn't vague was the sense that Shirou had a secret in picking up women in the memory.

It all led to a single conclusion.

Merlin's eyes flickered before brightening considerably…Shirou really might have a book of playboy tips.

"Merlin, I don't like the way you're looking at me."

"It's your imagination, I assure you."

"Then stop reaching for me as if I'm going to run away."

"Reaching? No. What sort of person do you think I am?" Merlin began patting Shirou down. "Searching is all it is. Such a precious item would surely be kept on your person rather than in an undisclosed location. As your advising Wizard, I believe that I should get a share of the cut, yes?"

Shirou felt the conversation careening away from topic, and did his best to try and divert it back.

"Merlin, focus." Shirou batted Merlin's probing hands away. "We had a mission to save people, and you just spent the entire time hitting on women in a brothel?"

A look of offence curved Merlin's mouth down, but at least things got back on track.

"What if I told you that it may not be as simple as an underground syndicate abducting free citizens for profit?" Merlin justified.

"Say that I believe you, but in the end it doesn't matter. You were too slow and the organization behind this has already been apprehended," Shirou disclosed the conclusion of the matter to Merlin, who hummed in thought and didn't say much else under Shirou's scrutiny. "Well, did you at least discover anything else, or were your 'efforts' really just fruitless?"

Merlin shrugged. "Nothing concrete, just rumours really about a Demon calling himself Jaldabaoth- the true mastermind of the operation. Of course, 'Demon' could refer to a title of someone truly cruel rather than a race, but since you arbitrarily ruined my information gathering, it's difficult to…ascertain."

Merlin wiggled his eyebrows, but Shirou wasn't impressed despite mulling the new information Merlin had given. In the end, Shirou noted what merlin said, but couldn't help but remain skeptical. Hence, he probed.

"If you're using this as another excuse to find another brothel, then-"

Merlin's brow twitched, immediately getting the man to place his hands on Shirou's shoulders and shoo him off.

"Forget I said anything then," Merlin quickly dismissed, lips curling at the scorn playing on the edges of Shirou's brows. How similar he was at times to Arturia. The two could make the most interesting facial expressions. Moving on,

Shirou haphazardly knocked aside Merlin's hands from his shoulder and began walking a distance off before abruptly pausing.

"What do you plan to do now, Merlin?" He asked.

Merlin slumped his shoulders in acceptance. It really didn't seem as if he would be able to turn this outing into one of relaxation away from Arturia's strict eyes.

"If I can't lounge, then I might as well see what I can find lest my barbaric student becomes further convinced I'm a bad influence on you- when obviously, I'm the best." Merlin helplessly tapped the butt of his staff on the ground, and soon enough his body began to fade into flowing pink petals.

"I'll be on my way, so do remember. 'The flowers talk,' I'll contact you if I find anything."

Shirou nodded, and in that second, Merlin was gone, leaving Shirou alone to return to Nero's manor where his new Adventurer team was surely waiting for him.


Back in Nero's manor, Ainz could barely resist the urge to palm his hands over his face in his growing apprehension. He shuddered, something that obviously wasn't easy to do as a skeleton, but the feeling transmitted to his skull was similar enough to be described as so.

Ainz was not the monster his physical appearance depicted him as, but a human who found himself in an inexplicable situation. Nonetheless, there's a thin line between humanity and deprivation that marks the transition from human to monster. All it would take was that final push off the edge…

Regardless, the only people Ainz truly cared for in this New World were the friends he'd made in his guild, and the NPC's they'd created alongside him. They were his main motivations, and the driving force to take on the name of Ainz in hopes that the name of the guild would resound and attract the attention of any of his guildmates that may have transmigrated over.

Alas, before the goal could even truly start, Ainz was now facing the heavy realization that the NPC's of his guild weren't as cohesive in thought and belief as he'd taken for granted.

-Shalltear Bloodfallen.

The name of one of his guild's floor guardians kept appearing in his mind while his gaze lingered downcast over his clasped palms.

Ainz was presently with Narberal in one of Nero's guest rooms trying to put some sort of plan in place before he was due to begin the mission assigned to him by Nero. Understandably, however, he was finding himself coming short with any sort of answer.

To begin with, he had no clue about what had possibly happened to Shalltear to make her betray him and the guild. Had she simply become dissatisfied with him, or was it something more underhanded?

No. The better question was if he had a right to stop her?

If Shalltear's actions were of her own volition, then he knew that he wouldn't have the heart to impede her.

His armour clanked as his fingers interlaced, and his body leaned forward, elbows propped over his knees.

In the end, what he wanted for his floor guardians and members of Nazarick, was for each to find their calling and live the life that they wished to live. His duty would be to guide and care until the point he was no longer needed in tribute to his fellow guildmates. It was certainly something that they would have done in his shoes, but...Shalltear should have known better.

Ainz recalled his last meeting with the petite looking true vampire of Nazarick.

She'd shown no indication of dissatisfaction or bitterness in his presence. In fact, she looked all too eager to please him in any way or form. The very moment he'd even suggested potentially sending her out to scout the area between Re-Estize and its borders, she'd jumped over Mare and silenced Aura's opposition just to get the position.

Now betrayal?

No matter how Ainz thought about it, something just wasn't adding up.

The issue however was how he was going to deal with it. He couldn't afford to jeopardize the safety of the Great Tomb should Shalltear be discovered or taken down. Worse yet, he'd all but verified the existence of YYGDRASIL Raid Bosses walking amidst the population of the New World.

If any good aligned or righteous Raid Boss caught wind of Shalltear and managed to track where she'd come from, the whole situation with Cu breaking into the Great Tomb could reoccur once more. Then there were the inexplicable new abilities and skills this world's version of YYGDRASIL's Raid Bosses possessed.

Ainz inwardly trembled.

Gae Bolg should have travelled in a straight line, and be imbued with absolute defence penetration and death chance. However, when used in Cu's hands, the spear contained causation properties that bordered on time magic. Rather than a straight line, the spear bent, twisted, and curved, as if the success of its strike was already guaranteed.

This wasn't an effect Ainz remembered Cu's red spear possessing, and logically, he had to assume the same possibility existed with the others.

There in lied the question though.

If Shalltear's betrayal jeopardized the safety of Nazarick, then did Ainz have the resolution required to put her down?

He didn't know. Likely, he just didn't want to acknowledge it, and held onto the hope that this was all just some big misunderstanding or miscommunication.

"Lord Ainz," Narberal murmured.

No reaction. Narberal's call had barely even registered in Ainz's deep thoughts.

Narberal fell silent, realizing that there was nothing that she could really say to contribute anything meaningful, or comfort the last of the Great Ones.

If Shalltear really did betray the tomb, then Narberal promised retribution for causing distress to Lord Ainz.

Silently, Narberal gnashed her teeth and reigned in her icy surging wrath. Her hands balled into fists, as she wondered how Albedo and the others were taking the news. Knowing Albedo, she was probably planning swift and vengeful countermeasures.

"Narberal."

Narberal blinked when she noticed that Ainz had actually called out to her. Immediately, she straightened her back, placed her hands together in front of her waist, and inclined her head in a show of servitude.

"Yes, Lord Ainz?" She awaited instruction.

"Get ready for departure."

"I am always ready, my lord."

"Yes, well, good," Ainz muttered more to himself than Narberal. He cleared his throat. "Nero has always been a bold leader, but she won't keep still on this matter if we end up delaying for too long."

"Might I ask why we are waiting then?" Narberal tilted her face to the side in confusion.

"Team darkness is still missing its newest member."

"We're waiting for the bug- I mean special human?" Narberal's cheeks coloured at the look Ainz was directing at her after her slip of tongue. Neither anger or frustration, but resignation.

She blushed, stammering out feeble excuses that even she couldn't register. The way she viewed humans was ingrained, habit if you will, and habits were difficult to change without a reason. Change herself to better get along with humans?

What was the point?

Because the Great One asked this of you?

Ainz had instructed for Narberal and members of the Nazarick to show Shirou the utmost courtesy due to the sheer potential of Shirou's skills.

He was a practical golden hen.

Narberal hunched her shoulders and inwardly squirmed at her lapse in judgment. She was just high-strung from Shalltear's matter was all.

"I told you not to call him special human- and no. Honorary Human doesn't work either." Ainz kind of felt bad when he noticed Narberal flinch at yet another error, but as leader of the Great Tomb, he couldn't show hesitance. Instead, he did his best to brush the matter off. "But yes, we must wait for him before we depart."

"Why?" Narberal asked, trying to buy time to compose herself, a hand placed over her chest, breaths light. "Is this not a matter for the Great Tomb to handle?"

"In truth yes, but on the surface, this is a matter of the Adventurer Team Darkness."

"So?"

"Shirou has agreed to join our team, and is seen as a member. We can't just leave him behind, nor do we want to burn bridges. He's also someone who doesn't seem mindful of how quiet you are when around him, as if he's used to dealing with headstrong women. What, or would you rather that Hekkeran person as a teammate?"

Narberal nearly snapped the side of the side-table she was seated next to at the comparison. "Noted," she said in monotone. "However, my Lord, isn't it still a bad thing to bring, uh, him along."

Narberal settled on a simple pronoun to call Shirou's name, but at least it was better than the alternatives.

"We'll try to keep him as far away from contact with Shalltear as possible. Besides, bringing Shirou along isn't entirely bad. On one hand, we can assess the limits of his ability while judging his personality and character. On the other hand, we can also foster better relations and work out a team dynamic."

"Is he really worth the effort though?" Narberal scrunched her face, her brows knitting together. "The skill that he demonstrated is impressive, but surely it has its limits?"

"Limits that we do not know, Narberal. This bridge shouldn't be burned so readily, but the matter with Shalltear takes precedence. Remember, I'll need you to distract Shirou if need be while I ascertain Shalltear's intentions."

Narberal relented, but still frowned.

"By your order."

/-/

The crunching of boots echoed under the dense foliage of trees further surrounded by a landscape of forest shrubs and bushes in a region of the Empire's northern border with Re-Estize.

Team Darkness escorted by a detachment scout from the Empire's Eighth Corps was trudging through the terrain on route to where the True Vampire had been sighted.

Expectedly, Shirou had been confounded at the events that had transpired in his absence in Nero's manor, but then again, he knew how boisterous and flippant Nero could be about 'dangerous' missions. Boldness was certainly in her personality. Nevertheless, he saw no reason to disagree with participating as a member of Team Darkness.

It would further help Nero consolidate her position in the Empire if this venture proved successful.

If there was a single suspicious point though, it was the way Momon and Nabe were acting over the journey. Other than mentioning that they were to deal with a True Vampire, the two were tight-lipped and reluctant to offer more details. It almost appeared as if this was more of a personal venture than a professional one. Shirou could tell this at a glance.

It was in the subtle cues that they were giving off in their silence.

Body language could convey emotions just as clearly as words.

Momon's pace was constantly brisk, hurried. Meanwhile, Narberal hadn't so much as given him a glare for her clear dislike of him. Her focus and determination spoke volumes of personal investment. In this regard, Momon differed little.

There was a story here, but Shirou didn't know if he should butt in or not.

In the end, he determined that it was best to trust in his new allies rather than doubt them from the beginning without reason.

For now, Shirou would just see how things played out.

At a certain point in the escort, the main leader planted his feet into the ground and refused to move any further, turning to face Momon directly.

"Apologies Sir Momon, but I'm afraid that this is as far as I'm willing to lead your team," the escort shivered, staring in the direction ahead.

It was obvious that the knight had little faith in Team Darkness and believed that the new Duchess of Northern Roble had just been too whimsical that she'd agreed.

"Leave," was Ainz's curt response. He cared little for the actions of a cowering knight. More so, if it was all just a waste of time.

The escort didn't hesitate to flee from the area after pointing in the general direction of the reported True Vampire.

"Snivelling insect," Narberal snorted in disdain, before blinking when she noticed Shirou looking at her weirdly. Rather than explain anything, she huffed and put an effort to appear 'amiable,' an odd mix of half-smiling, half-sneering.

Shirou chose not to comment, as Ainz was in no mood to wait.

The moment the guide had left and assured them that the vampire was just ahead, Ainz had shifted from a brisk pace, to a sprint. With his stats and parameters, his and Narberal's speed would be difficult or impossible for anyone in the New World to match. However, Shirou managed to keep up just fine, a point neither Ainz or Narberal took note of.

Soon enough, an area of toppled trees and splattered blood came within view.

At the center and illuminated by the light of the rising moon of the cloudless sky above, a petite woman that appeared no older than a buxom fourteen-year-old girl. She had pale shiny skin, seductive crimson-red eyes, and fine facial features. Her silver hair was tied in a ponytail through a large ribbon on top, allowing a full view of her face.

A soft black evening dress with a big heavy skirt adorned her body. On her top, she wore a lace embellished ribbon and a short-tailored jacket. Her hands were donned with long lace gloves that did not expose any bit of skin whatsoever.

She was young and beautiful, making it a tragedy in Shirou's eyes for the girl to have been attacked and turned into a creature of the night at such a young age.

Ainz however, had an entirely different perspective from Shirou.

She's not moving?

There had to be something wrong with her, Ainz quickly noted. She was just standing there, doing nothing, a vacant expression on her face that reminded Ainz of how she was in standby-mode in YYGDRASIL.

Trying to test something, Ainz palmed a rock into his right hand, and tossed it into the area before Shalltear.

No reaction, not even a blink or a glance.

In a way, it reminded Ainz of status-debuff effects in YYGDRASIL, mainly those focused on targeting an adversary's mental state or mind. Yet the level of Shalltear's mental resistances should have made that impossible…and yet the truth was before his eyes.

What could have happened?

Ainz furiously surveyed the area around Shalltear and quickly noticed how chaotic it was. This was the sight of a battle, and Shalltear hadn't been one to not resist. Disfigured corpses were strewn around, and pieces of crafted wood and debris were tell-tale signs of some sort of carriage shattered into pieces.

In the end, Shalltear seemed to have been able to fight off her adversaries, but at a cost that was too difficult for Ainz to swallow.

A failed Mind Control attempt, was the skill at the top of Ainz's mind. Shalltear had likely killed the Caster before any order was given, forcing her into this monotonous state of inaction.

How was this all possible though? Shalltear would never fall prey to conventional mental attacks.

The only other possibility was something that could disregard absolute defences and break common rul- a World Item!

WHO DARES!

Ainz seethed as he reached a conclusion, his anger palpable and only repressed by the nature of his emotional suppressants. World Items needed a user, which indicated to him that threats, outside of YYGDRASIL's Raid Bosses, also existed in this New World.

I'll kill them. In the name of Ainz Ooal Gown, vengeance will come.

Ainz's bones grated from the erratic flow of magic energy within him, caused by his surging emotions.

Before vengeance however, Shalltear came first.

The thought sobered Ainz, at what he realized he had to do if he couldn't break Shalltear out of the effect of the magic.

Ainz was considering a plan of action when he failed to account for the proactivity of his newest team member.

A rustle in the leaves alerted Ainz to Shirou standing up to push his way forward into confrontation.

Ainz had completely missed the opportunity to have Narberal distract Shirou and direct him elsewhere in his haste. Narberal had known that Ainz had asked her to distract Shirou, but since Ainz had neglected to say anything, she hadn't dared act on her own.

It was a case of a lapse of judgement and miscommunication.

Alas, it was too late.

Shirou appeared determined to free what appeared to be a young woman cursed into Vampiracy.

Ainz could not allow it.

"Wait!"

Ainz suddenly placed a hand on Shirou's shoulder and pulled him back, but this served to exacerbate Shirou's earlier suspicions that something was wrong.

Shirou stared at Ainz and Narberal and frowned.

"Is there something that you two aren't telling me?" He decided to ask directly.

Narberal and Ainz glanced at each other, one with a sharp stare seeking confirmation to neutralize a target, the other, a firm shake of his head.

Ainz motioned Shirou towards a clearing in the forest by a river and gave a proposal.

"Let us, have a talk?"

With the True Vampire not going anywhere, and no living thing that dared to draw near it, there really was no rush.

Slowly, Shirou nodded.

/-/

It was already late in the evening when the escort had left them, and now with this discussion, it was abundantly clear to Shirou that he'd be spending the night here in the forest. Fire would be essential for warmth, so it was no surprise when one was lit, and everyone gathered around it.

The mood wasn't tense, but it wasn't pleasant either. Awkward would be the best way to describe it, but Shirou was more curious if anything.

"Her name is Shalltear Bloodfallen," Ainz opened while seated around the campfire with Narberal and Shirou beside him.

Ainz's admissions seemed to confirm a speculation that Shirou already had.

"An acquaintance then? A friend maybe?" Shirou ventured while prodding at the fire with a stick to keep things burning.

A flicker crossed Ainz's visor, several thoughts running through his mind as he momentarily kept his silence. There was absolutely no way he was going to disclose Shalltear's true relation with him, considering how Shirou just might react to it. Instead, he was hurriedly using the short reprieve to consolidate his, Narberal, and Shalltear's 'background.'

"It's complicated." Ainz grunted for nothing better to say.

"Then start from the beginning," Shirou suggested. "From her attire, and demeanor, your friend seems to be from a circle of upper nobility. How did she suddenly become a True Vampire? What happened to her? Was she attacked?"

Ainz found himself nodding before he realized it. Thinking fast, he felt as if he could work with something here. The best lies, were those that were conjured by the person themselves.

"Sadly, yes, and that's why I wont stand by and let others hurt her."

"She's a monster that's killed indiscriminately," Shirou reasoned, glancing off to the side where patches of dried blood stained the bark of trees.

"Indiscriminately?" Ainz scoffed, the background in mind getting clearer and clearer as the talks continued. "She wasn't always," he said decisively.

"Are you insinuating that she's being controlled?" Shirou lifted a brow, watching Ainz seemed to hesitate over something before 'coming clean.'

"I know that she wouldn't kill without reason. Her circumstances forced her to leave our homeland, and I, to take responsibility and end her. However, this arrangement was more of a fabricated ruse to prevent others from hunting her while she lived as ordinary a life as she could. I was just as surprised when I heard of her actions, hence my urgency. There's clearly something wrong." Ainz grunted, crossing his arms and getting himself further into the role he was imagining. He cleared his throat and stared hard at Shirou. "She's not in her right state of mind. Indeed. Some sort of magic must be controlling her actions. Is it not evident enough that she just mindlessly stands there and waits for any hostiles to approach her before she's likely to attack?"

A moment of silence stretched as Shirou digested what he'd just been told. Meanwhile, Ainz shifted his gaze towards the fire before continuing in a mellowed tone.

"Will you fault me for not telling you?" Ainz asked while absently adding another log to the fire. "Most don't take well to hearing the Vampire that a foreign knight was tasked in slaying, was in truth, someone that the knight wished to grant solace."

Shirou took in a deep breath and got straight to the heart of the matter. "How many must she have already killed in her present state?"

"It wasn't intentional. She isn't the sort to kill without consenting me first, lest our arrangement be jeopardized and she be seriously hunted down. This is the work of someone else."

"Therefore, your goal is to save her?"

"She is my friend."

"…"

Four words effectively cut off whatever reasoning Shirou had in mind about doing the right thing. If Ainz and Shalltear were really friends, then perhaps Ainz could spare Shalltear from the torment of Vampirism by ending her suffering. However, from how Ainz described it, the two were happy in their arrangement before this unexpected debacle.

Shirou's mouth gradually closed, his thoughts indiscernible to Ainz and Narberal.

The notion of risking one's all for someone worth saving, resonated deeply within him. If what he was being told was the truth, then the only reason that this massacre had happened was due to some mind-controlling magic.

In that case, wasn't there a simple fix?

"How do you plan on saving her?"

"…" At this simple question, Ainz had no response.

Left unsaid, but if there was no solution, it would mean that Shalltear would likely be put down.

The way 'Momon' and 'Nabe' tensed in agitation at the inevitable thought spoke volumes for their sentiments regarding Shalltear. Strong relationships aren't formed through simple first meetings, but through time. This gives credibility to the story Shirou had been told.

For the sake of saving others…was there ever a need to hesitate?

It was tragic enough that a young woman had been turned into an undead so young, and now there was even more suffering?

Surely, Shalltear must be hurting at the actions forced upon her?

Not just her- Shirou glanced at 'Momon's' clenched fists and 'Nabe's' worried features which broke her monotonous façade. Those two didn't elaborate on their background or history, but their reactions were genuine.

They were anxious, stressed.

"Perhaps," Shirou began slowly, raising a hand before him and concentrating. "I may have a solution."

"It is a sword of negation, and betrayal."

Magic gathered and swelled in a soft glow, interface patterns flashing across Shirou's skin and converging atop his open palm. The outline of a weapon formed, followed by distinct features. An ornate pommel and hilt, a severely crooked blade, and the gleam of magic on its surface.

"All spells must be broken."

Shirou grunted, feeling a dip in his magic reserves as a certain weapon formed in hand. Inadvertently, he failed to notice how quiet the area around him became aside from the crackling of the fire.

The dagger Shirou had just formed, and its function were things that were well known in YYGDRASIL as an ultra rare drop that rivaled World Items in practical use.

"T-That dagger…Lord Ainz it can't be, can it?" Narberal whispered dsicreetly, her voice stammering in agitation on the side.

Frankly, Ainz didn't even know when he'd nodded in reply, but it was clear that he was no longer thinking to begin with.

For the longest time, Ainz and Narberal just stared and stared for even longer in disbelief.

'I-I should have never doubted a Great One's judgement…'

Narberal bowed her head in defeat.

Ainz was a different story. For the time being, how or why were the last questions on his mind, as it felt as if an incredible weight was lifted from his shoulders in the midst of ascertaining the dagger's authenticity.

This dagger alone would solve all of Nazarick's present problems, and it was clearly being offered to him!

"Do you think this will work?" Was Shirou's solemn question, still ignorant of the impact he was having.

For a second, Ainz felt like he was staring at a divine goddess.

'Shirou, you beautiful bastard you~ A treasure. A fucking treasure!'

Neither of the two had any words.


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