In The Flesh
Chapter 1: "Humanity Restored"
Even though I've been playing the role of a peerless ruler for quite some time now, there are still some things I'll never get used to… things that make the proverbial heart of this undead salaryman race anxiously.
Things like this:
"We pledge ourselves wholeheartedly to the Supreme One, and humbly present ourselves before him in answer to his call!" six prostrating individuals cry out in unison. They are of course the floor guardians of the Great Tomb of Nazarick.
You'd think I'd be acclimated to my circumstances at this point, but, well... what can I say? The transition from low-class salaryman to Supreme Overlord is a big one...
"Hmm. You have all done well to gather so quickly," I commend in a deep, authoritative tone.
"We are unworthy of such kind words, Ainz-sama. It is our duty to answer your call immediately, no matter the time or place," Albedo states promptly, her head lowered.
"Rise," I command from atop my ornate throne in one of my most practiced regal poses - sitting position #13. Back and neck, perfectly straight; arms, resting firmly and flatly on each armrest; and finally, my legs, which, spread at a forty-five-degree angle, exude the perfect amount of confidence and masculinity without seeming boorish. Well, at least, that's the conclusion I came to after looking myself over in my bedroom's mirror so many times.
The floor guardians all stand up without so much as a sound, save for the quiet hiss of a small expulsion of cold air from Cocytus.
"Aura," I address the androgynous dark elf first. She immediately straightens up upon hearing her name called, bringing a hand to her forehead in salute.
"Yes, Ainz-sama!" she replies enthusiastically.
If I had the capacity to do so, I would surely smile every time Aura spoke: her devilish grin coupled with her energetic voice is a dangerously infectious combination. Although now that I think about it, I guess I'm always smiling, thanks to my skeletal face... Ah, I'm getting lost in thought, she's awaiting my answer.
"How is your mission going? Has there been any success in either task?" I inquire.
"Weeell… ehehe… not yet, Ainz-sama, we're still in the… adjustment phase of things, as the beasts get acquainted with each other. My pets are only just now learning to stop cannibalizing their new friends…" she admits embarrassedly, scratching the back of her head.
It's to be expected, I suppose. The mission I had assigned to Aura was very experimental, and I knew from the very beginning that it would take a while to reap some, if any, results. The first task I entrusted to her was to capture a number of New World beasts identical to those within her collection from Yggdrasil. Aura has hundreds of magical beasts, both rare and common ones, readily at her disposal: naturally, finding some of the same species within the New World was inevitable.
The primary reason for having Aura do so, among others, is because I wanted to experiment with the leveling rate of this new world. There is such a vast discrepancy between the levels of creatures in Yggdrasil and the ones in this world, and I've been dying to find out why. Is it because creatures of this world have significantly lower level caps than those in Yggdrasil? Is it because the rate at which they level up is much slower? Is it possible for a creature from the new world to even reach level 60 or higher? The most powerful creatures we've encountered so far in this world were the frost dragons, and even then the most powerful among them was only a paltry level 50. A handful of my middle-tier undead summons could've defeated him.
Incidentally, there are beasts from Yggdrasil within Aura's collection that have low-level caps, mainly because they were intended to be fought by low-level players to gain experience points. For instance, within Aura's collection is a large handful of creatures known as Manglyan Sheep, a lizard-tailed sheep with 3 eyes that can use first-tier lighting attacks; they commonly spawned in fields on the outskirts of low-level cities and villages. They have a level cap of 25, meaning that no matter where you searched in any of the 9 worlds, (well it was only native to 3, but that's beside the point), you would never find a Manglyan sheep with a level higher than 25. Although, their levels could be raised beyond their limit if they were summoned, or buffed by a spell or cash-shop item. But no competent player would ever expend mana or real money to boost a Manglyan Sheep: that would be a monumental waste. But because of the existence of level caps, and the fact that many weaker creatures from Yggdrasil are birthed into the world at very low levels, we can accurately judge the difference between the leveling rates and level caps of New World creatures with their Yggdrasil counterparts. Ah, I went on an inner monologue again, I must respond to Aura.
"Hmmm, that is somewhat disappointing," I muse.
"I am very sorry, Ainz-sama!" Aura apologizes in a regretful tone, bowing her head shamefully.
I raise a hand in response.
"It is not your fault. I did not expect any results this soon: I misspoke when I said I was disappointed, please forgive me and ignore that comment".
"Understood! But please, don't apologize Ainz-sama! There is no way a being such as yourself could misspeak anyway!" she assures in her typically cheerful tone.
I feel my anxiety levels skyrocket after hearing her last comment; luckily, my emotion suppressor kicks in, quickly curbing my distress.
"Ahem, right... anyway..." I trail off awkwardly, coughing into my hand.
Oh right, I've been meaning to ask her how many species she's been able to capture so far. Last I checked, she had captured around... 21?
"Aura, how many different species have you been able to gather for this experiment?"
"32, Ainz-sama. Would you like to go over each one in detail?" she asks, her eyes brimming with excitement. As a fellow collector, I can relate to her desire to discuss her passion.
However, 32 species… that gives us more than enough different test subjects for accurate results.
"Not right now Aura, there are other things to discuss. However, you have done very well to gather so many beasts: I am pleased," I commend with a nod of satisfaction.
My heart lurches as I see, from my rejection of her proposal, the glimmer of excitement in Aura's eyes vanish while her ears droop ever-so-slightly.
Ahhh, I can't bear such a disappointed look!
"Er, but I would be happy to join you for a while tomorrow in order to learn about all of your pets, Aura," I quickly add, letting out a sigh of relief once I notice her ears perk up again.
"Understood, Ainz-sama! I will be looking forward to it!"
"I see. Well, keep at it, Aura. I have the utmost faith in your abilities," I respond conclusively.
"I will do my best to meet your expectations!" she exclaims resolutely with a bow.
Alright, now that that's been addressed, the next thing to discuss would be... ah, I almost forgot!
"Incidentally, Aura, how is the Lizardmen's martial-arts training with Hamusuke and the death knight progressing?" I inquire.
Expecting another embarrassed reply, I'm surprised to instead be met with an expression teeming with satisfaction. I raise a nonexistent eyebrow.
"Right! As it turns out, Ainz-sama, the Lizardmen say they've noticed an improvement in Hamusuke's performance, and that he's reportedly learned a simplified version of 'physical boost'!" she explains happily.
"Hoh?" I shift in my seat, leaning forward earnestly; "have you seen it with your own eyes, Aura?" I press in a nonchalant tone, befitting of a supreme ruler.
But on the inside… I'm very excited! This is great news! The Lizardmen had claimed Hamusuke performed a 'vertical slash' martial art when the Empire's workers had invaded Nazarick… but I was skeptical as it appeared discouragingly similar to any other normal attack Hamusuke could do. However, a skill like 'physical boost' can easily be tested for with a simple stat measurement before and after its activation.
"I apologize, Ainz-sama, I have not had the chance to witness it myself," she replies solemnly.
"I see. Well, no need to apologize, you've been working diligently. When next you decide to check in on Hamusuke's training, tell Zenberu and Zaryusu that I am pleased, and that I would like a report of Hamusuke's progress drawn up. Ah, but no need to do so right away, it is not very high on the priority list. I do not need a report immediately," I add unequivocally.
"I will do so immediately, Ainz-sama!" she assures, despite what I said.
Sigh. No matter how hard I try to emphasize its unimportance, any request I make is immediately treated as a matter of utmost significance.
"R-right. Ahem. Keep working hard for me then, Aura," I say with a nod before directing my attention to the well-tailored demon before me.
"Demiurge, how goes…"
I lean forward and lower my gaze at him:
Demiurge leans forward as well, pushing up on his glasses with a sly smile.
"And by 'that matter', I presume you mean, THAT matter, Ainz-sama?"
As always, I'm clueless as to what Demiurge is doing. I somehow managed to make it through the entire Holy Kingdom fiasco while maintaining an omnipotent, knowledgeable position: but now that it's mostly over, I feel completely left in the dark again.
"Y-yes," I nod affirmatively: "yes, that matter we discussed… the one with the thing..." I trail off, hoping to elicit some form of elaboration from him.
"Yes," he responds plainly, still with a knowing smile.
"... and that other thing..!" I continue ambiguously.
"It is as you say, Ainz-sama!"
Time and time again, I'm astounded that someone of Demiurge's intellect has yet to catch on that I actually almost never have any idea what he's talking about. Of course, I can't say that, or admit ignorance - that would tarnish the image of a supreme ruler I have worked so hard to cultivate. As usual, I'll just have to give another vague response that will somehow allude to my complete understanding of the matter.
"Well given the circumstances of that thing, Demiurge, I trust you now understand what needs to be done?" I bluff. Demiurge is silent for only a moment.
"Amazing, Ainz-sama, I hadn't thought of that! I am humbled once again by your insight!"
Thought of what?!
"Demiurge, it seems we are on the same page now. Proceed as planned".
"As you wish, Ainz-sama!" he affirms with a bow.
And now, the final order of business before I can give Suzuki Satoru a break.
"Yes, Aiiiiiinz-sama?" She inquires in a loving tone, her wings fluttering passionately. In the corner of my eye, I see Shalltear grimace.
"How are things proceeding with Jircniv? How go the military arrangements?"
"Very well, Ainz-sama. Despite some minor protests from soldiers and commonfolk, Jircniv has been most accommodating and things have been going smoothly. The active implementation of Nazarick's forces within the Baharuth Empire and its borders is well underway".
"Excellent. Now that that triviality is taken care of, complete subjugation is assured: Albedo, I would like you to try and introduce runecraft technology to the Empire. It was in my opinion, that you could go to the capital's gladiator arena and equip a strong looking warrior with this-" I reach into my pocket dimension and withdraw a steel longsword with two runes etched into it: one of the dwarves' latest successes with which I am most pleased.
By Yggdrasil standards, its runic enchantments are very low quality - a simple reinforcement rune to increase its durability and sharpness, and a low-tier fire rune, which allows the blade to magically catch flame and inflict a small amount of fire damage. However, considering the fact that not so long ago, runecraft was considered a long-forgotten and useless art, the fact that the dwarves are now able to inscribe two runes to a single object is a phenomenal achievement.
"The coliseum is a very popular attraction," I continue, a bit hesitant, as I always am when I'm about to divulge the reasoning behind my actions to the guardians - particularly to Albedo and Demiurge.
"Thousands of people - from commoners to nobles, hailing from a wide range of countries, will see the glory of our runecraft weapons on full display. Word will spread on an international level: especially if our chosen warrior becomes champion. Naturally, a demand for runecraft weapons will be created, and we will acquire a new means to financially support our endeavours. Of course, if it reaches that stage, we will withhold any powerful - by our standards - armaments that could potentially pose a threat to Nazarick, and we would also withhold all information regarding the development and production of runic technology. Since we have effectively monopolized the dwarves' services, no other country should be able to replicate it - this will ensure that a constant demand for our products is maintained. Competition for runic weapons and armor between countries wanting to gain the upper hand over one another is sure to blossom as well".
I take a moment to pause.
Uwahhhh, they're all staring at me so intently! If I was biologically capable, I would've surely gulped audibly.
"By selling off runic equipment to various nations, it will not only serve as an abundant source of income for Nazarick, it will also present us in a better light on an international scale - the Sorcerer Kingdom will be known as a generous and technologically advanced land. Particularly, I expect this will greatly influence the Holy Kingdom's perspective of us in a positive way. Most of their denizens remain skeptical because of our kingdom's largely undead nature - but since they have recently faced a national catastrophe at the hands of Jaldabaoth, many of the citizens and nobles remain fearful and paranoid. Therefore, if the gracious Sorcerous Kingdom were to sell them - or even donate - runic equipment, how do you think our status would change in the eyes of their people?" I conclude.
Phew. At least this is a plan I - as Suzuki Satoru - has some confidence in! I was a salaryman in real life, so business plans concerning 'supply and demand' and advertising are my forte. Still… I gave such a long-winded explanation, I hope I didn't mess up. My emotion suppressor even had to kick in about halfway through... I felt like I was delivering a pitch to my boss and coworkers at a conference. Ahhh, how scary!
I'm met with an unnerving silence for a few moments before I notice Albedo begin to shudder violently, and I start to panic. Was my plan so bad that it made her upset to the point of feeling physically ill?!
"Er, of course," I stammer, trying to save face: "if you don't believe that that is an appropriate course of action, I am open to-"
"Amazing, Ainz-sama!" Albedo pants out, a fierce blush gracing her ivory features.
"Eh?" I mutter out by accident in astonishment.
"Ainz-sama!" Another loud voice cries out. I turn to face the source of the sound, and my jaw drops at the sight of Demiurge, with his forehead pressed to the ground.
"You have once again deepened my belief that you truly are the incarnation of wisdom, Ainz-sama! And to think I foolishly considered myself even a fraction as intelligent as you!" Demiurge shouts.
If I came up with it, it can't be that good of a plan, can it?!
"I-is that so? Thank you for your praise. Although there is no need to hold such an inflated opinion of me - you and Albedo are both my equals in terms of intellect".
And even that is a lie! I feel so guilty! But it can't be helped. This was a perfect opportunity to play to my strengths and come off as an ingenious ruler. It seems to have worked, but I'm still embarrassed.
"What are you saying, Ainz-sama?! Albedo and I are far inferior to you in all respects!"
I look to Albedo, who unfortunately nods emphatically.
"What he says is the truth, Ainz-sama! Please, do not insult yourself by comparing yourself to our standards!"
"Ainz-sama. truly. is. the. only. one. who. deserves. the. title. of. supreme. ruler. of. Nazarick." Cocytus chimes in with a gruff voice. At this statement, the other five guardians nod happily.
Why do they always have to say stuff like that?! Only by the clemency of my emotion suppressor am I finally able to clamp my gaping jaw shut and take a deep breath.
"I-I see. Ahem, well, to conclude my earlier explanation - should my plan prove successful, I would like to open up runic equipment shops in the capital cities of all countries we have come into contact with. I will have CZ talk with Neia Baraja and ask her to scope out prospective venues. Lupusregina will handle Carne village. Albedo, Demiurge," I address the two individuals, who both nod with bewildered expressions of anticipation for their impending orders: "when the time is right, I will count on you two to find suitable shops within the cities of Re-Estize and The Empire, respectively".
CZ has a positive public image and connection to Neia within the Holy Kingdom. Albedo is the leading mediator and prime minister representative of Nazarick in the Empire. Lupusregina, is of course a trusted and well-liked figure in Carne village - though it could almost be considered a city now, as it continues to grow in both population and size at an unprecedented rate.
"Understood, Ainz-sama," Albedo and Demiurge reply with a bow.
I may just be getting the hang of this supreme ruler schtick after all!
"Good, now: everyone, continue to serve Nazarick wholeheartedly. Dismissed!" I decree, swinging my arm in a dramatic slicing motion parallel to the ground.
"We will, Ainz-sama!" 6 resounding voices shout out.
I activate the Ring of Ainz-Ooal Gown, teleporting myself to a poorly lit sleeping chamber.
Ah, that was exhausting! I look into the ornate mirror against the eastern wall and stare at my skeletal reflection, causing me to bring a bony hand up to rub my cheekbone. Man, how I sometimes wish I could've retained my humanity - To be able to feel physically tired one more time - to be able to sleep again, and wake up with morning breath. To be able to eat food again, revel in my emotions, and remain giddy for longer than this stupid emotion suppressor will permit. To be able to properly enjoy a bath!
But no, it is wrong to condemn my inhumanity: I would have lost face long ago without it. But still, in this body bereft of flesh, the essence of Suzuki Satoru yearns for the things that only the living are afforded.
I turn to my bed longingly. If only I could faceplant into it, relish in its silky texture against my flesh and just fall into a catatonic state for 12 hours. Imagine how worried the guardians would be at that - they would likely think I had succumbed to the effects of an enemy spell...
Ah, all these thoughts have reminded me:
I reach into my pocket dimension and withdraw a private journal of mine. A little something I've been writing in now and again since I found myself in this new world. Aside from using it to note down the things I learned about the new world and how to behave as a supreme ruler, I've recently found myself reaching for it more and more often for the sake of documenting personal research - magical research, of course. With the entirety of Nazarick's library at my disposal, as well as my own - not to toot my own horn, but - extensive magical knowledge, I've been able to entertain the ideas of creating my own unique spells.
Now that I'm essentially uninhibited by any sort of constraints or limitations that had been in Yggdrasil, it isn't an impossible feat. Ironically enough, a lot of the content in Yggdrasil's books pertaining to magic was mostly useless before. After all, they were just books generated in the world for the purpose of making the game seem more realistic, or in some cases, granting skills or spells. Of course, players, myself included, never actually read any of the books - allowing a player to learn a spell or skill at their own pace based on their own understanding of the information would be far too complicated for a game to allow for. As such, so long as a player met the necessary level and job/class requirements, they could simply click 'read' on the book item in their inventory and instantly learn its relevant contained data. But in this new world, the information they contain can actually be applied to reality.
And recently, I've been trying to create a spell that could counter my emotion suppressor. I've summoned many skeletons over the past few days to use as guinea pigs, but it's had no effect on any of them. I was about to give up on this selfish pursuit, when last night I came across an interesting bit of information regarding the manipulation of mana while I was studying "The First Wizard, Belumias": a book documenting the first known wizard's accomplishments - how he came to understand 'mana' and create the very first spells. This was just a useless book in Yggdrasil, as its sole purpose was to generate a modicum of world-building lore: but now it's one of my most coveted resources.
Now my spell, which I have decided to call [Greater Elicit Emotion], is nearly complete.
Should I try it on myself now? Or would that be too risky?
Ah, they always say that fortune favors the bold! And besides, I've gone so long without being able to feel human, perhaps it would be good for my sanity to indulge myself a little bit.
Besides, what's the worst that could happen? Nothing terrible has happened to any of the lower-tier undead that I've experimented on… well, except for that one skeleton the other day who spontaneously bludgeoned itself to death after I had cast the spell… maybe because it had actually worked and it couldn't handle its newfound emotions? But that's irrelevant! It won't have nearly as dramatic an effect on me, as someone who had emotions in the past and still does to a limited extent. Plus, I'd like to think that skeleton was an exception, and ultimately just serves as a testament to the spell's potency.
To think, I could create a spell!
With a profound sense of pride for my accomplishment, I raise both arms above my head in preparation to invoke my spell.
Time to see if these last three weeks have paid off! It would've taken even longer, had I been any species that wasn't undead, as that allowed me to work many extra tireless hours in research during the night.
With a booming voice, I cry out triumphantly: "[Greater Elicit Emotion]!"
I check my mana reserves. Well, the incantation seems to have gone through, as it still depleted some of my reserves… more than expected, in fact. But I don't feel any different. I suppose I need more research… or maybe, it's just impossible to counter an innate species trait? No, I can't give up so easily. Like Ulbert-san once told me, there truly is a spell for everything.
Or maybe it did work? There's only one way to find out.
I start to think about things that stress me out the most.
I think of how I, a simple salaryman, have been thrust into a world where I must act as an omnipotent ruler.
How I'm always playing catch up with Demiurge's plans.
The fear I have for the day when my facade is exposed in front of all the guardians, and they shun me.
The fear I have that I may be the only player in this entire world.
Ahhhh I'm so stressed out now! The emotion suppressor should be kicking in by now!
I wait, allowing myself to dwell on those terrifying topics for a bit longer.
10 seconds pass.
The emotion suppressor didn't kick in! I'm still concerningly stressed out! Hooray!
The spell has worked! Hahahaha… ah...oh God, I want to curl up in a ball and die, this anxiety is crushing! Why did I choose such a displeasing emotion to focus on to test this!? Well, now that I know it works, I suppose I can dispel the effects now. Since [Greater Elicit Emotion] is essentially just a status effect infliction, it should be easily removed with a simple dispel.
I extend both hands outwards.
"[Dispel]!" I shout, casting the third tier spell. Hmm, I'm still feeling anxious, perhaps it wasn't potent enough.
Nothing?! Perhaps the effect of [Greater Elicit Emotion] falls under a different category of status effect that isn't covered by those spells. I suppose I have no choice but to go through my repertoire of spells and try every relevant one I can think of. Ah, what a waste of mana, I chide myself.
Hmm… My eyes narrow. I'll have to use some higher tier debuff spells. Thank God I had specialized as a jack-of-all-trades 'Wildcard' character, and thus have a lot of options to try. But rather than waste any more time or mana than I need to, I should probably just use the most powerful ones at my disposal.
Ahhhhhhh none of them are working! Perhaps it requires more specialized spells? I hesitantly raise both arms once more, praying that one of them will work. Please please please please please please.
Not even [Clean Slate] worked?! But that's a tenth tier spell which removes all buffs, curses, debuffs, and status effects within a large AOE! There's no way I should still be under any sort of effect. Unless I somehow managed to develop a new super tier spell… but no, the cast time and mana cost were too low for that to be the case…
I pace back and forth in my room, desperately wracking my brain for another spell. But despite my immense repertoire of over 700 spells, I can't think of any other that could work if [Clean Slate] and [Full Reset] had no effect. Perhaps I should go and reference Nazarick's library…
I open the door to my chamber and step outside.
"Ainz-sama, is everything alright, I heard you shouting and could sense a lot of spell casting, is there a problem I can-" A familiar voice calls out as I enter the throne room. I look to the source - Albedo. Hmm, that's strange, she cut herself off before finishing her sentence.
"Albedo? What were you saying?" I question in my kingly voice. I look into her narrowed eyes and flinch, taken aback by the blatantly murderous intent reflected in those golden slits.
"Hmm? Albedo, what's-"
Suddenly, I'm on my back, unable to move. Shocked, I blink twice and look up to see Albedo on top of me, cloaked in a sinister violet aura. She's gazing down at me with hate-filled eyes and… contempt?!
"Albedo!" I shout out, vainly struggling to get out from under her. "What is the meaning of this! Get off of me this insta-"
"Silence you worm!" She practically screams at me, causing all words to catch in my throat.
What is going on?! Has… has Albedo decided to revolt against me?!
Before I can think of what to do next, she suddenly lowers her face down to my own, until we're just inches apart. With a savage glint in her eyes, she snarls through bared fangs:
"How dare you sully the garments of the Supreme One, you filthy human! Who are you?! How did you get in here!? And most importantly… WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY AINZ-SAMA!"
AN/: I hope you enjoyed the start of this new story! Will Bone Daddy be able to maintain his position as a supreme ruler without his emotion suppressor and expressionless face to hide behind?