Act II, Chapter 1—Preparations


I sighed, rubbing my eyes. Noa was snuggled into my side, sleeping peacefully without a care in the world. Archer was still awake, calmly flipping the page of a book. She was nestled under my other arm, seeming content with the way things were.

I won't bore you with the details of our exploration mission. It was a day of near-perfect silence, not a word spoken between us. One might think that Noa would grow bored of the constant monotony, but it was actually fairly common to go silent whenever we were inside a new dungeon in case any monsters were capable of targeting sound.

This realization came as both a relief and a disappointment. On one hand, it proved that Noa was capable of mature decision-making if put in a dangerous situation, which was a tremendous relief. On the other, I had been hoping she would grow bored and ask to return to Nazarick, which was far safer than wandering around with no protection save for a thin layer of cloth.

…Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Even if I still had little to no clue how to operate all my new abilities, she's far from a porcelain doll. The 'thin layer of cloth' is sturdier than a full set of plate mail, for one thing. For another, Archer was more than capable of defending Noa all by herself. And even if I hadn't tested if it still worked, a Racial Skill named Instinct should still alert me to oncoming attacks on 'my person', which both of my Maidens technically fell under due to a few loopholes.

Plus, if all else failed and Noa were killed, the Tree that was her true form would be fine. It would definitely wilt from the sudden loss of life force, but within a few days of care it would be right back to where it was. From there, it would just be a matter of time before Noa regained consciousness and returned to the physical world.

How do I know all that, you might ask? How could a man who's never taken care of a houseplant know the ins and outs of World Tree Spirits?

Simple.

Yggdrasil fuckery.

…Okay, that's a bit vague, but it's my acting theory on why I somehow have excruciatingly detailed instructions on how to care for Noa in every way etched into my brain. When the Devs had given me the Sapling, they had also given me the Title 'Guardian of the Tree'. When translated to real life, it stood to reason that the Title would be the representation of the World Tree's blessing. I haven't had the chance to see if it worked on all plants or if it was just Noa, but the fact that I was suddenly an expert botanist was telling.

…Anyway. Back to our excursion.

After I led us around for a bit in a mostly straight line, we finally reached the edge of the woods. And there, looking down from the hill we stood on, we beheld Carne Village. Not as it was in canon—here it obviously hadn't even been built yet. But the signs were there when you knew where to look. One day Thomas Carne would decide that this was a good place to build that first home, taking with him a few friends to start the village I knew from canon.

But that wasn't for a long time. The place was overgrown with tall grass here, wild plants that would take dedicated time and effort to remove. The shape of the land wasn't quite how the anime depicted it, though whether it was a change in time or merely an inaccurate translation wasn't clear quite yet.

The point is, I was somewhere in the past. When, exactly, I wouldn't know until I could learn of more events happening around me. Overlord never used a defined calendar to plot out the specific years things happened, so the best I would get was a general estimate.

Pity.

In any case, my uncertainties had been cleared. I was in the past, with no indication of how long it could be before Momonga arrived. My options were unlimited, and the skeleton would never know the difference if I created a few butterflies here and there.

But first, I had to create a solid information network to build off of. It would be utterly retarded to assume any change I made would happen in isolation, and the only way to tell for certain what consequences each action had was to ensure I had eyes and ears absolutely everywhere.

The Servants of Nazarick wouldn't be used for such a tremendous task, that would spread them out too thinly to be called on in case of an emergency. I couldn't exactly trust a human spy network, either. As such, I had to think of an alternative to both options that still managed to work with enough versatility to adapt to various situations.

Some form of Golem, perhaps? Hmm…

"Ancient-sama, we should really get some rest soon." Archer spoke softly, head nestled into the crook of my arm. "It wouldn't be good if we were tired for tomorrow."

I sighed, leaning over to kiss her forehead. "Archer… you do know you can call me by my real name when we're in private, right?"

The warrior blinked, mouth opening and closing. "…Real name."

"Of course." I shifted, gently moving Noa's head back onto a pillow. "I'm sure I've told you it at least once before."

Her brow furrowed in thought. "I… it's been a while, then. Would you care to refresh my memory?"

I paused before answering, mind slowing to a halt.

This was my third life. My first two names had been picked for me, and now I had a chance to pick my own. But at the same time…

"Keirou." I sounded out for the small girl, smiling down at her. "Ke-i-rou. Keirou."

"K-Ku… Kei…" The girl struggled. "K-ou. Kou?"

I laughed softly, ruffling her hair. "Sure. Call me Kou if you want."

I had outgrown that nickname. A name meaning "happiness", "light", or "peace". But now…

"…Ko." I decided. "My name is Ko. No last name, unfortunately, I grew up in the days that only the nobles had those."

Archer nodded, nuzzling into my side. "Ko. I like it."

"It's not exactly a name of ancient power, huh?" I joked.

She shook her head. "I don't mind. It makes you feel more… human."

"I was a human once." I reminded gently. "Back when the world was young."

Archer nodded. "I've heard that, but you've never actually told me the story. Rubedo can be maddeningly evasive, so I couldn't hear it from her, either. And no offense, but I think Whisper is trying to size me out for a body bag every time I show up."

I chuckled quietly. "Ah, yes… those two always were odd ones. That's what made them such good fighters. Though honestly, I'm shocked you never asked Noa."

"…Noa?"

"Mmhmm. Noa inherited the First Tree's memories, you know. She should be able to give you a general idea of what happened." My smile died on my face, falling away to a grim mask. "I'm not going to tell you directly. Not now, possibly not ever. Those were days when human life was worthless and monsters in flesh suits spoke lies to reassure the masses. You left your hell behind… I'm not about to make you relive mine."

"I understand." She stated simply.

Silence fell, comfortable and warm. My bedroom was made to be as comfortable as possible, almost radiating a homely glow that spoke of simpler times. It was a relief that all my time designing the place hadn't gone to waste.

"I'm going to go take a shower." Archer decided, voice still quiet so as to not wake Noa. "Wash off the sweat from walking all day."

My lips twitched. "Mind if I join you?"

She froze, cheeks reddening. Her tail coiled, then straightened, then coiled again. "N-no." She stuttered. "Not this time. I want our first time to be more than that."

I nodded, chuckling. "I know, love. It was just a joke." I glanced down at the gently snoozing Spirit. "Though, you really should consider what you do and don't want once that time comes. Noa would be more than willing to join in, but I understand if you want us to be alone."

The Archdemon's face was a bright red, and her hands were clutching the sheets with enough force to turn her knuckles white. Her gaze lingered on Noa's innocent face, a genuine hunger seeming to flicker within for a moment. Then she shook her head. "No. I… I want something private. Something romantic."

"I understand." I gave her a cheeky grin. "Just let me know when you want me to take you out on a date."

She rolled her eyes, grip relaxing on the sheets. "Wow, what a gentleman."

I shrugged. "Hey, with a body like that, it would be impolite not to ask." My smile faded, and I pulled her soft form close. "But honestly… you know I'll wait for you for as long as you need. It's your choice. I just thought that you might be starved from waiting as long as you have."

"If I were, then I think it would be bad to remind me." She teased in a huskily tone. "And if you don't stop reminding me, I might skip the romance entirely."

I chuckled, kissing her gently before letting go. "Go on and shower, love. I'll get changed and make sure Noa does too."

The Archdemon nodded, taking a moment to lean into me before pulling away. "…I love you, Ko."

"I love you too, Archer. More than you would ever believe."

A small smile played at her lips. "So I discover every day."

I waved her off. "Go on. I'll get changed as well."

The Archdemon laughed, turning and sashaying away. Her hips swayed enticingly, her tail twirling in amusement.

Mmm. Mighty fine rear, that.

I snickered to myself, moving over to the dresser and opening a random drawer. I reached inside, rummaging around until I pulled free a folded tank top and a pair of shorts.

No, I don't know where they came from. But honestly I really couldn't care less at this point.

I took off and folded my clothes, placing them back into the impossible drawer before closing it. Job done, I unfolded the seamless cloth shorts and tugged them on.

"Do I get a kiss, too?"

I paused, registering Noa's sleepy voice. Turning, I saw her watching my every move. I wouldn't even call it perving, she probably wondered why I even bothered putting clothes back on.

I raised an eyebrow at her. "…How long have you been awake?"

She blinked back at me, face in its typical emotionless mask. "Since you got up."

…Huh. You know, it's really hard to tell if she's lying when she looks like that. Hopefully I'll figure out how to read her in time, but for now I'll just have to accept her words.

"All right, then." I pulled on my tank top, walking back over to the bed. "Are you going to get ready to sleep?"

Noa looked down at herself. "Am I not ready?"

"Not unless you want to wrinkle your clothes by sleeping in them."

She frowned. "…Will you help me change, then?"

On the one hand, she should be perfectly capable of dressing herself. On the other, I'll be in close proximity to a voluptuous girl who has no problem with me touching her skin.

Hmm… choices, choices.

Ah, who am I kidding? If she lets me change her bra, too—

"Noa, I already told you what to wear when you go to bed." Archer's hard tone cut through my thoughts. "Just because Ko is willing to spoil you doesn't mean you have to make him."

Noa pouted slightly, which told me all I needed to know. Apparently she was gunning for the same skinship I was, she was just more willing to lie about it.

Pity.

I was still treated to the sight of Noa undressing without a care in the world, much to Archer's mortification. But unlike in every harem anime ever, she didn't immediately scold me for ogling the semi-naked Nature Spirit. Instead, she tried to tell her off for undressing in the presence of a male. Predictably, Noa didn't understand a word of it and just stood there, confused, until she could finally get a word in edgewise.

"Archer-nee…" She finally said. "If girls aren't supposed to undress around anyone but the man they love, why are you scolding me? I love Ko-sama and he loves me. I'm fine with him seeing me naked, and I'm not even all the way undressed. I've still got my panties on."

'So she was listening in on our conversation. Damn she's got a good poker face.' I paused, taking the time to examine said panties. 'Also, where the hell did those come from? YGGDRASIL never let its users add undergarments, so did they just spontaneously exist as soon as we transferred?'

Archer sighed, rubbing her temples. "…Ko? Can you talk to her? She always seems to understand when you explain it."

I shrugged. "Hey. I don't see the problem. She's not exactly going to be undressing around any other guy, right?"

Noa shook her head.

"So it's not an issue." I finished with a nod. "You forget, I had to bathe her myself the first few times, I've seen her in a lot less than that."

"She was a lot smaller than this when you bathed her." Archer snapped back.

Noa and I looked at each other. "Ah." Noa nodded once. "It's a cultural thing."

I had to resist choking on laughter. "Y-yes, Noa. It's a cultural thing."

Archer frowned, picking up Noa's thin nightgown and handing it to her. "How is this a cultural thing?"

"Simple." I pointed to myself. "I grew up in a desert village where people were so poor that people seldom wore any clothes that they didn't need. Sure we'd dress up for a sandstorm, but otherwise it wasn't worth something that would only make you hotter. And you—" I reached out to poke her on the forehead. "Grew up in Japan, where there's a huge nudity taboo."

It was a testament to the amount of bullshit I was used to throwing that I could lie so effortlessly without a second thought.

Noa made a 'aaah' noise, slipping on the nightgown. "I see. So Archer-nee was just raised to be a prude."

The word 'prude' coming from her mouth was so unexpected that I let out a bark of laughter. "Y-yes, Noa, that's basically it. We wear clothes because they're useful, and she wears them because they cover her genitals."

Archer threw up her arms, sighing in defeat. "You know, that's fair. I won't try to make you wear more clothes if you don't try to remove mine. Okay?"

Noa smiled faintly, which for her was basically a huge grin. "Ok. Thanks, Archer-nee."

I nodded once, chuckling to myself.

Was I subtly encouraging Noa to become a nudist? Maybe. Did I care? Hell no. There were far worse things than having a smoking hot Nature Spirit walking around the house without a stich of clothing on.

Especially once I'm able to use that lack of clothing to my advantage…

Heheheh.

"All right, we've delayed long enough." I said, stretching dramatically. "We have to get up tomorrow to see what we can do about our situation."

Oh, yes. A mature woman on one side, a well-developed girl on the other. Marshmallow heaven.

With a wide smile on my face, I drifted off to sleep.


"Servants of Nazarick…" I began, raising my voice to echo through the room. "I am afraid that I bring bad news. No Message Spell, Command Window, or Divination Spell can tell me anything about Momonga's current location. If he were anywhere in the universe, even as a corpse, I would be able to tell his location, but unfortunately I have found nothing. As such, that leaves me with two possible conclusions, neither of them pleasant."

I paused for dramatic effect, surveying the faces nearest to the front. Albedo and Shalltear both looked to be anxiously awaiting my verdict, though the Vampire was much better at hiding it beneath an air of indifference. Demiurge was patiently waiting, as was Cocytus. Mare was nervous, and Aura was… excited? Indifferent? Either way, she was staring at me with an odd gleam in her eye. Pandora was likely hiding somewhere away from the crowd of Servants to listen in, and Innocence never left her post. All Servants not present were likely using some form of long-range Scrying Magic to listen in regardless, meaning I had all of Nazarick hanging on my words.

"The first conclusion," I began, "is that he was forcefully returned to the Other Realm by the event that brought us here. If his 'connection' to this place was through the Staff of Ainz Ooal Gown and he was unable to take hold of it before it happened, he would be automatically bounced back to the origin of his 'connection'. Thus locking and barring the door back here forever."

I held up a hand, forestalling any reactions. "Fortunately, that conclusion is unlikely. If I'm here, chances are he will be as well. But since he wasn't in possession of Nazarick at the time, he was considered a separate entity. Think of it like a giant rubber band between us and him—right now we're sitting here as a placeholder of sorts while his 'connection' struggles to catch up. This is both good news and bad news. The good news is, he isn't lost forever. The bad news is, it's impossible to tell exactly how long it will be before he returns. It could be days, months, years, decades, centuries before he arrives."

Albedo collapsed, falling to her hands and knees. Not sad. Not angry. Just… tired. Empty. Defeated. Shalltear hesitated, visibly faltering. "Ancient One-sama… do you have an estimate?" She asked carefully.

"My best guess is between two and three hundred years." I replied somberly.

Silence fell. I looked around, gauging their reactions. Albedo was the most hurt by the knowledge, but I knew she would be. Shalltear seemed to be taking it remarkably well, seeming almost relieved by my estimate. She was very childlike, though, so chances were she hadn't realized exactly how long that was quite yet. Demiurge merely nodded in acceptance, likely already shifting his plans about to account for the lack of the bony spellcaster. Cocytus drooped slightly at the news, as did Mare.

Aura… continued to stare at me with an odd look in her eye. Utterly unconcerned by the news I had just given.

Huh.

…Moving on, then.

"Now." I crossed my arms, leaning back against a pillar. "I am not planning on taking the throne in Momonga's absence. That is and always will be his position. I do not plan on remaining entirely in the shadows, but Nazarick must remain hidden until the return of our Lord. As such, any actions I take will be taken as an individual and not as the acting ruler of Nazarick. If I am in danger, you will not come to my aid, and if I go to war, you will not follow me. Your priority is to keep Nazarick running until the day Momonga returns to lead it into the light. I do not have that authority, and I never will. Am I understood."

"""Yes, Ancient One-sama."""

"Good. Now. One last thing." My eyes scanned their faces, noting their expressions. "A question for you and everyone else in Nazarick. Immortality is a curse when you have nothing to strive for, and those who cannot stand its crushing weight will not be forced to. Ask yourselves, and those around you, if they are comfortable with the burden they bear. Once you have that answer firmly in mind, keep it there until the next time I speak to you."

My gaze shifted to Demiurge. "Now… chief strategist, I would like to speak with you in private. We have much to discuss."

The Demon nodded, moving to stand by my side. With a flick of my thoughts, our position changed, moving us to my workshop on Floor 7. I glanced around, brushing a pile of junk off a table and pulling out a chair. Demiurge stood politely aside as I cleared another chair, scooting it out slightly in invitation.

"My Lord, what is it that you require of me?"

I sat back in my chair, sighing. "Sit down and stop bowing. I appreciate your respect, but I won't stand on formality. I was born in an age when such mannerisms didn't exist, and I never quite grew used to them."

Demiurge nodded, taking a seat. "I understand, my Lord. I will refrain, then. What do you need my services for?"

I leaned back again, humming. "Well, you see…"

What it all boiled down to was a single problem for the future, one that I had never thought to plan for. Two problems, really, but they fe;l under two categories of the same general issue. 'Albedo' and 'everyone else'. I consider Albedo my main long-term problem when it comes to the survival of my plans, and everyone else is an afterthought.

Honestly, Albedo isn't all that important narratively speaking. She had no driving features, no life philosophies in her programming. All it said was that she was the head of Nazarick security and that she loved Momonga. That was it. She literally lived for those two things. That was why she was so over-the-top obsessed with him in canon—by her own admission, she lived to love him. Hence why we all just nodded along when she did sweet FA for the entire series. Her narrative purpose, her driving character, was to love him.

She casually threatens to rip Shalltear apart? She loves Momonga. She tears down the flag of Ainz Ooal Gown and questions why the other Supreme Beings even matter if they left? She loves Momonga. She literally assaults him in an attempt to rape his dickless form? She loves Momonga.

That's literally her only driving goal—to love Momonga and get him to love her back. That's it. And, in part, that is exactly what makes her so dangerous.

When someone is utterly consumed with only one life purpose, they do some crazy things to fulfil it. Albedo has no morals, no care for consequences, no desire to live beyond reaching her beloved. I never bothered to fix that glaring flaw because I never thought it would be a problem. Hell, from an outsider's perspective it would even be funny. But without anything to make her pause to consider save for perhaps her dedication to her job… what's to stop her from trying something extreme?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Now consider Shalltear. Think for a moment, just off the top of her head, what are her defining features?

Well, she's bisexual. She's into every fetish in the books. She loves Momonga, yes, but that's hardly made into a main plot point. She thoroughly enjoys molesting her Vampire Bridesmaids in a variety of different ways and would be more than happy to ignore the passage of time given a few sex slaves to break.

Shalltear is easy compared to Albedo. She's driven by carnal needs and isn't above spending a night or two with someone as long as the only male in her heart was Momonga. She can be placated, predicted, controlled.

But even so… let's take a step back from all that for a moment and consider just their feelings.

Albedo and Shalltear were in love with Momonga, a love that was quite literally a core aspect of their being. I could no more ask them to ignore it than ask Archer to ignore me. I had experienced firsthand how terrifyingly powerful the love of an NPC could be, felt the weight of it on my shoulders as my Maidens fell asleep in my arms.

It wouldn't be fair to keep them this way. It wouldn't be right. If they didn't go insane from the feeling of loss straining their minds, they would grow to resent me for being present instead of the man they loved.

So. Solutions.

I could use [Control Amnesia] on them, make them forget Momonga for a time. That would give me some extent of control over their settings, but it might not work. Or, worse, it would work but fail to remove the feelings themselves. Too much risk here, not enough reward.

But what if… what if I removed the problem entirely?

If I removed the problem rather than just the symptoms, that would fix the situation entirely. I'm not talking about removing their settings, I'm talking about removing them.

If I simply put Albedo and Shalltear somewhere they wouldn't feel the passage of time, somewhere they could wait until Momonga returned without the mental burden of time passing…

Well.

That would fix everything, wouldn't it? Albedo doesn't really do much except stand in the Throne Room all day anyway, guarding an empty throne that reminds her of what she's lost. Shalltear's position is a bit harder to fix, but all things considered she can simply be brought back to reality if something goes wrong.

All I need to do now is make a way to pull it off.

I finished explaining this all to Demiurge, finally winding down my constant stream of words. I omitted quite a lot, of course,but the general gist remained. "…And as much as I value Albedo and Shalltear, they are too much of an unknown to be kept active for several centuries without some option to escape if they start to feel trapped. Am I correct in this thinking?"

The Demon was silent for a time, mulling over the explanation I had given him. "…You are correct." He finally agreed. "Given the information we have and the personalities of the two you have mentioned, they may be an issue. I would hope that their loyalties would not change with time, but if there's any chance at all, we must remove it."

I nodded. "I thought you would understand. I'll begin construction of my solution immediately. I would appreciate it if you could start asking around, find out what others would like to spend their forever doing. I plan to distribute Peaches of Immortality as soon as I get Noa's permission, so every being in Nazarick will no longer be forced to bear the burden of time save by their own choice."

"As a long-term plan, it's highly efficient." He pushed up his glasses. "I look forward to what your designs are for the, ah, 'suspension chamber', as it were."

I nodded, smiling faintly. "Thank you, Demiurge. And might I ask, what are your plans? If there's anything I might be able to acquire from our surroundings…"

As soon as the question passed my lips, I immediately regretted it.

Demiurge's smile grew wide and sharp, needle-thin teeth below diamond eyes. "Well, my Lord, if you were to procure some humans for experimentation purposes…"

I sighed. Ulbert had never prescribed to my ideal that all NPCs should be indifferent towards humanity, a trait I couldn't bring myself to remove from his greatest creation. As such, Demiurge remained almost identical to the way he had been in canon.

Well. I mean. Aside from a few minor details.

"Aside from that." I grumbled.

"Honestly, my Lord, aside from a steady stream of women, I want for nothing. So long as I have a pretty face or two to experiment with, I don't particularly mind the passage of time."

…Yeah, Ulbert put that in there to make fun of me, and I left it because I thought it was hilarious. So sue me, the idea of Demiurge as a womanizer was pretty funny at the time. Though, I did tamper with him a bit when it came to his preferences. Nothing much, just enough to ensure he didn't go after every woman available.

Oh, don't get me wrong, Ulbert was fully aware of this change. It just showed exactly how twisted the change was that he was willing to accept it.

"I'll see what I can do." I relented. "Non-human women, yes?"

"I would have them no other way." He stated with pride. "Preferably of an age similar to my own."

I nodded once. "Well, in that case I believe I'm far more likely to let you have your pick of them as soon as we find a hint of civilization. As of right now, I'm afraid you'll have to content yourself with others in Nazarick."

His grin didn't so much as flicker. "Oh, don't worry, my Lord, I am more than accustomed to sating myself with the local stock. I simply wished to request that you keep an eye out for any… worthy candidates."

I decided I really didn't want to know what Demiurge got up to with the other Servants. I never looked at his finished code, and Ulbert could be one weird fucker at times. "As long as they remain sane after you're finished with them, I will oblige."

The Demon bowed low. "Thank you my Lord, and I assure you that I never harm any of my lovers. At least," his wide grin returned, "not unless they ask me to."

Nope. Nope. Nope. Done with that conversation. I could wait to learn about the shit Demons got up to in bed for the rest of my life.

Well. Unless Archer…

Hmm.

"Very well, Demiurge. I fear I must bid you farewell for now. Speak with Rubedo if you find yourself lacking in duties, I think she'll be more than happy to lend you some corpses to experiment on."

The last thing I saw before my surroundings shifted was the Demon's delighted face.


"Hmm?" Noa yawned, rubbing her eyes. "My peaches?"

I nodded awkwardly. I really hadn't been sure how this particular conversation would go, all things considered.

"Go ahead." Noa dismissed absently. "I don't use them, and they don't have enough power to grow on their own."

I smiled, reaching out to envelop her in a hug. "Thanks, love."

"Mmm." She nodded, curling quietly into my embrace. "No problem."

A smile tugged at my lips. The adorable kuudere had practically glued herself to my chest, her face silently blissful. "I take it you want to stay like this for a while?"

She nodded wordlessly.

"All right then." I picked her up in my arms, walking slowly over to the couch before sitting down. Her arms wove around my neck, and her head rested lightly against my chest.

Time passed, the gentle Spirit seemingly oblivious to our surroundings. I simply sat back and appreciated the waves of innocent adoration emanating from her, the tiny smile on her face speaking volumes of how content she was. Curled into my arms, snuggled into my chest, the girl couldn't look any more adorable if she tried.

"When are we going to have sex?" Noa asked, voice casual. As if she were asking about the weather.

I took her bluntness in stride, tilting my head in thought. "Why do you ask?"

"I heard you and Archer-nee talking about when you two were going to, but you still haven't talked to me about it." Noa said matter-of-factly.

…Honestly, Noa's bluntness was a tad refreshing. It skipped all the pointless small talk and told me exactly what she wanted in no uncertain terms.

Of course, that didn't mean I couldn't wind her up a bit.

"Is that something you'd want?" I teased, lips twitching into a small smile.

She nodded once. "Yes."

"Are you suuure?"

Her brow crinkled in adorable frustration. "Yes."

"Are you—"

"Yes."

"Really?"

She poked me, cheeks puffed out. "Stop teasing me."

"Fiiine." I smiled softly, leaning down to press a kiss to her forehead. "I'd be more than happy to do it with you, Noa, but I don't really have time. Once everything calms down a bit and Nazarick isn't in imminent danger, we can work something out then."

She frowned, shifting her position until she was sitting on my lap facing me. Her legs were wrapped around my midsection, and her face was only centimeters from mine. "We have time now."

…It was tough. It was really, really tough. But somehow, I resisted the urge to agree with the Spirit and teleport to the bedroom. She was fucking offering, and having some nice pleasure time with a girl perfectly suited to my tastes would do wonders for my stress levels.

But considering I made both of my NPCs heavily predisposed towards becoming sex addicts… getting them hooked while I still needed to be outside of the bedroom wasn't the best idea.

Sorry, my second head, but you'll have to wait a bit longer.

I heaved a heavy sigh, shaking my head. "…I'm tempted. Honestly I really am. But that's a slippery slope. If I have time to do it with you, I have time to do it with Archer. And once she tastes her Race's version of a perfect meal, I doubt I'll be able to do anything for a while."

Frowning, the beautiful Spirit relented. "Fine. Just cuddles, then." Time passed, then she spoke up once more. "So, when you say you won't do anything for a while—?"

"Yes, Noa." I smirked. "I'll be having sex with both of you for as long as you want."

She nodded once, looking distinctly satisfied. "Okay. I'll wait."

A pause.

"…Can you at least massage my breasts?"

My lips curled into a grin. "I mean, if you're offering…"


Good news. Noa is tremendously sensitive. Bad news. I now have a boner that she's extremely curious about.

So, with great regret, I aborted the mission halfway through.

Say what you will, responsibility is the greatest cockblock in the world.

I left the mansion several hours after I entered with a basket and a bra Noa refused to put back on stowed carefully in my Inventory. I picked a handful of peaches, stopping midway through as I realized I somehow knew exactly what I was doing.

Fun botanical fact. The stage of life Noa's peaches were in affected their properties. The small, barely-formed bulbs were a panacea of sorts, curing every status effect in the world with a single bite. The larger, more ripe ones that still hadn't changed colors could prolong a person's lifespan indefinitely, though they would still age extremely slowly. The fully ripe ones, though… they were the ones that were worthy of being World Items.

Complete immortality, healing all wounds short of death itself. A removal of the upper limit on your power. And finally, if one were to eat the pit within, the power it contained would allow you to change your Race to any other.

…Huh. I wonder if Noa will taste like peaches.

Heheheheh… goddammit. All this waiting is driving me insane.

Well, all the more reason to tie all the loopholes as soon as possible.


The room was silent, not a single sound to be heard. I stood to the side of the Throne of Kings, leaning back against a pillar and observing the gathered NPCs.

Was this the right choice? Would it hurt more than help? I didn't know, but I had to do something.

I inhaled, exhaled, then spoke.

"Greetings, Servants of Nazarick." I began, my quiet baritone rolling over the room like a physical force. "I have called you here to speak with you about a matter of solemn importance."

I let the words hang in the air for a moment before continuing.

"Our Guildmaster is nowhere to be found, and that he won't be returning anytime soon. I'm no figurehead, I'm merely a stand-in while awaiting his return. As such, I refuse to force any of you to stay in a Tomb controlled by me." I waved towards a door to my right, placed where a banner would normally be obscuring it. "As such, I have come to a decision. To those of you who cannot wait for his return, I have prepared a place for you."

"The moment that you set foot in that room, you will no longer be beholden to the laws of time. As soon as the door swings shut, you will no longer feel the effects of age. The next time someone opens the door, it will be as if no time has passed for you." I stated simply. "You may enter or leave as you please, so long as you have someone to open the door for you. You can wait there for Momonga's return without having to suffer the torture of a possible eternity without him."

All right. Confession time.

The door doesn't actually stop time for the room's inhabitants. Believe me, I tried every bit of phrasing I could think of. Nothing worked. [Time Stop] has a hard limit of ten seconds no matter how much flavor text I dump on, and simply stating that the door stops time just drains all of the Mana from the door the moment you try to activate it.

So I took a shortcut.

See, I might not be able to stop time, but when everyone in Nazarick is effectively immortal, that's not an issue. All I have to do is make it seem that time is stopped. So I made it so that the Door applied a stacking Debuff instead. Every second that the Door was closed, twenty stacks of [Mental Slow] were applied to everyone inside regardless of resistances. In-game the cap was four hundred stacks, but here it could theoretically apply to infinity.

As one might imagine, the Debuff was never meant to apply this way. It was supposed to slow the cast speed of Mental Spells. But as you may have guessed, it works a fair bit differently here. Each Debuff takes twenty percent off the victim's mental speed, which means that at a certain level their mind simply cannot process the passage of time.

I had accidentally invented what was, in effect, the perfect prison. You could go in, but on your own you could never get out.

"I will not hold your choice against you." I continued, lowering my arm. "All I ask is that you write your name down on the sheet on the door to ensure we know who all is in there. If an emergency occurs, we will require your services once more. But I cannot in good conscience force you to remain here against your will."

Silence fell. I had deliberately phrased it so it sounded as if they would be in the service of Nazarick either way, and that I wouldn't just be tossing them into the freezer to forget about them.

"This is not a test." I finished with a solemn shake of my head. "You will not be judged by your decision to stay or leave, by me or your fellow Servants, now or in the future. This is an option that has no strings attached, no dramatic reveal. You walk in that door, you can walk back out when Momonga returns with no consequences. You have my word."

I hardly expected them to cheer and pile in at the first opportunity. That wasn't what this was about. This was about me establishing a third option between 'obedience' and 'insanity'. If they were in so much pain that they might consider going against their core programming, having a place I was blatantly telling them they could go would be a godsend.

"Now." I clapped my hands together sharply, my tone of voice shifting to a more cheerful note. "As of right now, Nazarick has everything it needs to survive for an indefinite period of time. I have activated the security measures and enlisted Mare's aid in turning this place into a false mountain. To an outside observer, we do not exist and never have. Our safety and wellbeing is ensured, which means it is now time to do more than basic scouting of our surroundings."

A collective nod came from the gathered Servants, all save Albedo, who was still pale and unkempt. Even a day and a half later, she was dazed and unfocused. Even Shalltear, who would normally have laughed mockingly at her pain, was beginning to give her concerned looks.

I'll have to talk to her later.

"Now. I have a plan on how to explore the world without sacrificing any of Nazarick's defenses, but I'll need the aid of several humanoid Servants. If you believe you would be comfortable staying indefinitely in an area containing humans, gather in the Throne Room again in four hours. Worry not, you won't be leaving the Tomb for this mission, but you will still be involved. You'll learn more if you decide to volunteer."

"Does anyone have any questions about what I've said to you tonight?" I surveyed the room, nodding once when no one spoke up. "All right. Feel free to speak to me later in private if you have any, but until then, you all are dismissed. And… Albedo, you come with me."

The Guardians bowed, Albedo slowly walking up to join me as I prepared to Teleport. Noa waved sleepily, already moving over to where Archer stood so they could return to our mansion to wait.

I activated my Guild Ring, and the world shifted.

"A-ah… Ancient One-sama?" Albedo's voice was cracked and broken, wavering uncertainly. "Is this… the Treasury?"

"Yes." Or, the entrance to it, at least. Direct Teleportation into it wasn't possible. "We need to talk."

Her golden eyes widened, and she straightened immediately. "My Lord, please, I just need some time, I—"

"Whatever you're about to say, it doesn't matter." I cut in gently. "Please. Listen to me. Momonga's disappearance… it wasn't your fault. You know that, right?"

She nodded mechanically. "Of course."

I stared her down. "Albedo. Look me in the eyes and tell me. It wasn't your fault."

Her gaze shifted. "My Lord… please, this isn't…"

"Albedo." I repeated, reaching out to place my hands on her shoulders. "Please. Say the words."

"But… what if it was?" She finally whispered. "I was… right there. Right next to him when he… he just wasn't there anymore. What if I could've protected him and didn't?"

"Albedo." My grip on her tightened. "It wasn't your fault."

She shook her head. "No."

"It wasn't your fault." I repeated, voice gentler. "Listen. Albedo. I didn't see this coming. No one in the room saw it coming. There was no Spell, nothing to block, no way we could've prevented this. It's no one's fault, no even Momonga's. You need to understand that if you're going to move on."

She was silent, beginning to shake. I held her at arms' length, patiently waiting as tears began to stream down her face.

"Albedo." A firm statement. "It wasn't. Your. Fault."

"But it was!" She finally exploded, voice raw with grief. "He's gone, and it's because I couldn't do my one job right! I couldn't protect the man I love for one moment, so how can I expect to protect anyone else?"

She stood, panting, with golden eyes practically ablaze. I could practically see her horror as she realized what she had just done, anger cooling to raw grief.

"There was nothing you could have done, Albedo." I brought her close, encircling her in a hug. "It wasn't your fault."

She buried her face in my shoulder and began to cry.

Time passed. Her tears gradually dried up, only sniffles remaining. I spoke up at last, voice gentle. "All right. Listen to me. Right now I'm sure Innocence is just as lost and confused as you are, but she's still in there calming Pandora down. I want you to go join her until you can honestly accept that you did nothing wrong. Help her, or join Pandora in being comforted by her. Either way, you need closure."

"…Okay." She finally whispered after a long pause. "But you can't tell Shalltear where I am."

"She won't know a thing." I soothed. "She's dealing with this on her own, though, so perhaps once you're done here you can go and talk with her. Just to make sure she's not breaking down or anything."

"Y-yes." She pulled away, wiping her eyes. "I understand. Thank you, Ancient-sama."

I nodded once, stepping away and raising my Guild Ring. "And Albedo… if you ever need to talk, my door is always open."

And with that, I vanished.

…What? I said that she's dangerous and unpredictable if she's left to her own devices. I never said I'd leave her to rot. She's a living being. Sure she's dangerous and possibly insane in many regards, but that's no reason to be an asshole.

Pretty much every girl in Nazarick is insane, so it's not like it's anything new, anyway.

I'd still prefer it if both she and the problem she represents disappeared entirely until Momonga was around to s̶u̶f̶f̶e̶r̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶m deal with them. At least then I won't have to be constantly looking over my shoulder at every turn.

She'll likely never betray me, I know. She likely worships the ground I walk on, I understand. But there's still a nonzero chance that she could one day snap and try something drastic to bring her beloved home sooner.

So sue me, I'm playing both sides and hoping to win. At least it's better than just shrugging dumbly and leaving her to collapse in on herself. If talking with Innocence and Pandora helps her come to a conclusion she can live with, the problem will go away one way or another.

Comfort Albedo, check. Make announcement, check. Start exploration program… not check. Which is why I'm back in my workshop, staring out over my various tools.

Time to get to work.


More Servants turned up to the next meeting than I would've thought. Demiurge, Mare, a few of the Pleiades, and Sebas. Not that it was a bad thing, per se. The more faces, the better.

"All right." I clapped my hands together, gesturing to the table in the middle of the room. "Tell me. What do you see here?"

Silence.

"Um… a bunch of wax dolls?" Mare tried. I had to resist the urge to cringe at the voice of the greatest trap alive, reminding myself that I knew for an absolute fact that he was male.

…Erm… how do I describe Mare here… how about this. Picture a tall, delicate girl in a white vest and a skirt. A gently slanting chest to suggest a budding maturity, soft eyelashes framing sparkling blue eyes, and a shy demeanor that makes her look like the type guys would fall over themselves trying to protect.

Now have that girl tell you she's a boy in the most female voice possible.

There. Job done. Moving on.

"Yes." I agreed. "They are wax dolls. But what else?"

Demiurge picked one up, examining it. It was a very vague shape, one that could easily be carved to look either a male or female. "Is it… some form of magical construct?" He mused.

I smiled.

"Ladies and gentlemen… allow me to explain to you my plan."


Rows and rows of blank stone faces, all carved to the same perfect likeness. Humanoid forms wearing distinct clothes, holding miniature tools inscribed with whisper-thin runes.

Shabti Dolls. Golems designed only for one purpose. As soon as they were activated with a pulse of Mana, they would come to life. They could only ever be activated once, though, and after they fulfilled their purpose they simply crumbled to dust.

Shabti are a very esoteric type of Golem, simply because of their bizarre limitations. For instance, the material they were formed of directly determined their properties. Not just physical properties, but the quality of information they were able to retain as well. Second, upon their death all their data was copied into a small black box that had to be retrieved before it could be used. A big problem in the middle of enemy territory, as it usually made the whole idea pointless. And finally, Shabti may be a perfect image of who they were supposed to copy, but they were at a literal fraction of their original's durability, and thus were prone to shattering.

For infiltration? No. For pranks? Maybe. But the fact no one ever seemed to get was that, properly made, Shabti can make excellent stunt doubles.

I had mass-produced them in various materials as soon as each wax replica was a perfect likeness of the original in every way. The Guardians who had volunteered understood their role and had already activated their Shabti, sending them out according to my orders. My own copies had set out as well, each armed with my entire Skill set and effectively functioning as a perfect yet slightly fragile version of me.

After all… there's no need to keep secrets when your personal agents already know the secrets you need to keep.

This was my plan. My perfect idea to keep my head out of trouble while still learning all I can of the outside world. Once I know where I stand, I can begin to make changes as I see fit.

I had finished making the spares. And the spares for the spares. And the spares for those spares. All of them stood only a few centimeters high, ready to grow to my exact height at a moment's notice. And I had gotten it all done within the same span of time as I had done everything else needed to get ready.

More importantly… I used every opportunity given to more fully examine my Job Classes.

See, as amazing as my little trick was, it was far from perfect. The Job Classes I had while the world was still a game were perfectly ingrained in my mind. My Alchemist Class, for instance granted me perfect knowledge of how to construct extremely high-tier Golems as if I had worked on them for years, perfecting the exact processes needed. I knew how to save time, how to make the process easier, how to avoid making mistakes even experts might slip on. A perfect copy of a perfect skillset.

My grasp over my newest Job Classes, on the other hand, was tenuous at best. Yes, I had a vague idea on how the different Classes worked, but it was like instinctively knowing how to throw a punch. Even a beginner can satisfy the basic requirements of a punch, possibly break someone's jaw, but if you don't know how to throw your weight behind it or not to tuck in your thumb, you might end up with a dislocated thumb and an unhurt opponent.

Heh. Thank you, Pugilist Class, for the wonderful metaphor.

I smiled faintly to myself, opening and closing a hand. I could see tiny scrapes and scars on their calloused surface, trophies of countless battles. These scars had once been put onto my first Avatar, a living tank of a man that was covered in scars from head to toe. Despite me never taking the time to duplicate them onto my second Avatar, they showed through regardless.

I had always loved the idea of a scarred warrior, their scars tracing a roadmap through their history. That was what the scars were—a memorial. Every enemy that managed to kill me was given a memorial on my skin, a tradition I held even upon gaining a more powerful form. Even the PKers that once pinned me down with sheer numbers were given a grudging spot, a place just above my left shoulder where their killing blow had landed. They would never show as a Dragon, but as a human they were clear as day.

My eyes continued to trace the roadmap of scars, stopping at the line of my wrist. The branches of a Lichtenberg Figure wrapped around my arm, my representation of a lightning-based attack that had once killed me. I continued on, fading back to each individual scar. Each moment in time weaving into a magnificent tapestry telling of all I had done to get this far.

Time spent creating this beautiful world for myself. Time sacrificed to make this moment possible. Over seventy-five thousand hours spent in a virtual world, ignoring reality with the somber stubbornness of a man who had given up on it.

Even if I had left my past behind, I would never forget where I came from.

I lowered my hands, sighing. Opening and closing calloused hands. Hands of a warrior, hands of a smith. The hands of a man who forged war into an art, turning it into a tool to fulfil a purpose. Blood would stain these hands one day, and on that day I would cease to be the man I had once been. I was the Ancient One now, a being that only escaped the rivers of blood he created by standing atop the mountains of corpses. A man who slaughtered a world in cold blood.

It wasn't who I was. But it's who I am now.

I shook my head, returning to the present. Now wasn't the time to wax poetic. Perhaps it was just my exhaustion talking, making me drift to places I normally wouldn't.

You've seen glimpses. Little peeks into all I've been busting my ass to get done. I've been working nonstop for the past forty-eight hours just to get everything over and done with. Every Servant has individually been given standing orders, each security measure activated and sustained. I created new Golem Cores to automate new processes, fortifying and upgrading everything that could possibly need it within the walls of my new home.

Dragons may not need sleep, but we can still feel fatigue. And after everything I've done, fatigue doesn't describe the half of it. All I really want to do is find my Maidens and sleep for ages. Not even my sex drive is active right now, I just want to have a nice, relaxing night with nothing exciting happening.

…Good God, it's just hit me. I've been here for a full week, now. Seven days of various frantic scrambles intermixed with random naps. I've barely seen my Maidens at all.

Well, I suppose a return home is long overdue. I might as well surprise them, spend the rest of the night in their company. A date for three. Date Night.

I activated my ring with a flick of my thoughts, vanishing from my workshop without a sound.

"Archer? Noa?" I called, stepping into the foyer of my mansion. "Are you here?"

Archer didn't reply, but Noa's pink hair was visible against the dark grey of the sofa in the living room. She yawned sleepily, turning her head to look at me. She was swaddled in blankets from head to toe, looking as pleased as can be about her position.

"Noa." I said in amusement, approaching the couch. "If I might ask, why are you being held captive by a herd of wild blankets?"

"I am a cocoon." Noa stated sleepily. "See? If I stay long enough, I'll emerge as a beautiful butterfly."

My lips twitched. "Noa, you don't need to emerge as a beautiful butterfly. You're already beautiful enough as it is."

Noa blinked, considering my words. "…Would it be a problem if I were more beautiful?"

"No." I said, fighting back a laugh. "But it would be quite a long wait, and I doubt cocoons can leave the couch for Date Night."

Noa perked up. "…Date Night?"

"So you're done with work?" Archer asked, stepping into the room. "Also, Noa, I've told you four times already, being a butterfly would be pointless. You're already pretty and you can already fly."

"But I can't taste things with my feet." Noa argued. "And human eyes can only see three colors. Butterflies see fifteen."

I rolled my eyes. "Yes, I'm done with work for the foreseeable future. I have Rubedo covering for me for the next day or two, so I have plenty of time to spend with my favorite girls in the world."

Noa blinked. "…Does that mean we can—"

"Not yet."

"Dammit."

Archer frowned at the Spirit. "Noa, no cursing."

Noa tilted her head, ignoring Archer. "Why can't we?"

"Because Archer wants to be swept off her feet first." I stated. "She wants to be romanced like a lady should be."

Noa frowned. "…Pointless."

"Noa, respect Archer's culture. You're trapped in a wad of blankets pretending to be a caterpillar, you have no room to judge."

Noa nodded sagely. "This is true."

Archer raised a bemused eyebrow. "…I'm not sure if that conversation was even supposed to make sense."

"Trust me. You would be offended if you understood." I said drily. "So for now, let's just take a vote on how we're going to spend tonight. Any suggestions?"

Archer shook her head, wiping off her hands. "I've just been practicing my Magecraft for the past few days, I'm fine with anything at this point. Noa's been really tired lately from the transfer shock, so I doubt she'd like any sports or dueling. Maybe a movie."

I blinked. 'Sports? Dueling? What exactly is her idea of a date? Never mind, for people who fight for a living, that's probably on par for the course. Everything is an excuse to stay fit, even dates.'

"Sure." I agreed. "A movie sounds nice. We could even take out a puzzle and do it at the same time."

Noa struggled for a moment, then looked plaintively up at me. "I'm stuck."

"You can go into Spirit form, silly." I reminded.

She blinked. "…But wouldn't I be naked, then?"

"Your clothes go intangible too." I shook my head, bemused. "Come on, have you never noticed that your clothes don't fall off you every time you dodge an attack? Come on, up you go."

Noa tentatively stuck out a hand, then moved to a sitting position. The blankets she had been wrapped in slumped as she ceased occupying them, becoming a mere pile of cloth rather than a cocoon. Sure enough, her clothes remained on her form as she rose to her feet.

…Hmm. Pity. I almost hoped that they really did stay behind.

Actually, no, I didn't. I'm honestly too tired to perv on her right now.

"My panties are still there." Noa reported blandly. "The power of Spirits is not with the pantsu."

I shrugged. "When I made that for you, you weren't wearing panties. Or a bra."

Noa nodded sagely. "I was a fool to believe in the power of pantsu."

Archer rubbed her temples, eyes closed. "…You know what? I'm not even going to touch this one. Instead, I'm going to go upstairs and get into more comfortable clothes. When you two feel like having normal conversations again, I'll be waiting."

"Normal." I scoffed quietly. "What fun is normal?"

Noa giggled quietly, reaching into the blanket pile to pull free her bra and panties. "Let's go join Archer-nee before she stops being annoyed. She's always the most adorable when she has her annoyed face on."

"I know, right?" I grinned. "That cute little wrinkle in her brow, the little frown, the way she puffs up like an indignant kitten…"

Noa giggled again. "And she really doesn't know how to deal with teasing, either."

I nodded, turning to walk up the stairs. I could faintly hear her thumping drawers, likely getting changed. "How long do you think we have until she catches on?"

Noa tilted her head. "Depends."

"On?"

"How much we do it."

"Fair enough." I chuckled, stopping to knock lightly on the bedroom door. "You done in there?"

"All finished!" Archer called back. "I turned the T.V. on, too."

Ah, yes, the television. Something I originally got in the Technology Event as a microtransaction. All it really was was an embedded file player, really, and it was mainly used as a marketing tool in-game. But I downloaded literally every movie imaginable into my own system, storing it all on space I bought for a ridiculous price.

It would never stream live, but it could certainly play movies.

I turned the door handle, almost instinctively sending out a pulse of mana to deactivate the traps on it. Noa followed, carelessly tossing her undergarments onto the nightstand. I paused to open the cabinet underneath the wall-sized flatscreen, pulling out a puzzle and a large square board. I brought them over to the bed, setting them down.

Noa pulled off her dress and tugged on a nightgown, utterly unconcerned about Archer's spluttering. Said spluttering stopped abruptly as I picked up my nightclothes to change as well, untying my furs and revealing my scarred form. A moment later, the show was over, though I definitely saw a bit of drool still on the corner of my Maiden's mouth alongside her bright red cheeks.

Ah, yes. Teasing my adorable Archer will never get old.

"All right, then." I chirped, as if I hadn't just short-circuited one of my Maidens. "Snuggles and warm hugs. Romantic movies, maybe?" I squinted at the wall-sized television, sliding into bed and leaving room for Noa to join us. "It's been a while, but I think I have the Twilight Saga on there, at least. Oh, and Princess Bride. Bukubukuchagama was jealous of that, but she didn't compete in the Technology Event, so she couldn't complain."

"Don't talk about that Slime." Archer mumbled, snuggling into my side. "She is evil. Pure evil in distilled pink form."

I raised an eyebrow. "…What do you have against Buku?"

"She's a husband-stealing harlot, that's what." The tanned girl growled, steely eyes flashing. "She kept trying to flirt with your dense ass, even when I was literally right there. Shameless slut."

I blinked. '…Oh. I see. Bukubukuchagama must've made Archer jealous. Huh.' "Don't worry, love." I soothed, leaning over to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "I didn't make you my Maiden for nothing, you know."

She huffed, allowing me to put my arm around her shoulders and leaning into me. "Good." Her face softened slightly. "…You've never cheated on me before, and Noa only joined us after we both fell in love with her clueless adorability, but still…" She nuzzled my arm. "I got worried, sometimes."

"I want a horror movie." Noa stated, oblivious to the conversation we were having. She had been unboxing the puzzle, examining the pieces with an interested gaze. Evidently they passed her inspection, because she poured them out over the board and scooted back.

Archer sighed, a faint smile still on her face. "Horror movies aren't really standard fare for dates, Noa."

"Don't care." The Spirit lay back against me, her impressive chest pillowing pleasantly against my side. "No matter how scary it is, I have my Dragon here to protect me."

Archer tilted her head, considering. "That actually doesn't sound too bad. I'm all for a romance film, but those get boring after a while. Besides, we still have that stock of movies from Tabula-sama. We could pick from one of those."

I shrugged, handing her the remote. "Be my guest. I don't think Noa cares too much which movie it is, and I'm pretty sure that the two of us have seen too much to be scared by anything Hollywood can cook up."

"Hollywood?" Noa repeated, confused.

"The place movies come from."

"Ah." She picked up a piece, frowning at it. Then she set it down, picking up another.

Archer hummed, flipping through titles. "Trash, trash, below trash, trash…"

I chuckled, leaning over to whisper to Noa. "Give her a bit. She's picky when it comes to movies."

"I know." She whispered back. "She keeps trying to stop me from seeing the ones with sex in them."

"Those are called pornos, Noa." I said. "You shouldn't watch those, they're bad for you."

"Ah. I see." She nodded, raising her voice. "Are you done picking yet?"

Archer huffed, still whizzing past titles. "Give me a second."

"One-Mississippi."

"I didn't mean it literally!"

"Then say that."

"It should go without saying!"

I chuckled quietly, making them both break off. "Come on, you two. Calm down. We haven't even started the movie yet."

Both girls backed down, grumbling. Well, Archer grumbled. Noa just frowned slightly, which was about as expressive as she got. Archer clicked 'play' on a movie that had passed her inspection, and I dimmed the lights with a quick Spell.

One of Tabula's favorite movies, huh? This was sure to be interesting. Here's to hoping I survive without being mentally scarred.


Archer stared at the credits screen, wide-eyed and trembling. She was several shades paler than she normally was, and were I a normal human she would've snapped my arm with how hard she was squeezing it. I didn't mind the pressure, though, not with how her breasts were cushioning my elbow.

Noa reached over, calmly patting the Counter Guardian on the head. "There, there." She soothed in a monotone. "Ko will protect you from the evil witch hunters."

Archer blinked once, mouth opening. "You know what? I think that my first world isn't so bad now. I could've ended up there, instead."

I leaned over to peck her on the cheek. "It's fine, love. Just a movie."

She shuddered, nodding. "I know, but god was that creepy."

Noa nodded. "It was. But Ko is scarier than anything in the movie, so he'll just protect us like he always does."

Archer gave the innocent Spirit an amused look. "She's adorable."

"She is." I agreed seriously.

Noa yawned cutely, her head falling into the crook of my neck. "Do you mind if I go to sleep, now? I tried to stay awake until the puzzle was done, but I think we lost a piece."

"You tried to eat a piece." I corrected. "And succeeded. If cardboard could hurt you, I would be worried right now."

Noa frowned faintly. "…I thought you would be more upset."

I shrugged. "There's a difference between naïve and stupid. You're only the first one, and deliberately eating a puzzle piece when you know what a puzzle is is the second. You just wanted to see me fuss over you."

"Ah." She nodded once. "You caught me."

Archer rolled her eyes. The color seemed to have returned to her face, her grip on my arm easing considerably. "Are you done with the puzzle, now?"

"As done as we'll ever be." I picked up the piece of wood we had been doing it on, leaning over Noa to set it on the nightstand. "Are you less terrified now?"

"I wasn't terrified." She snapped, flushing. Her tail lashed in irritation. "Just… spooked. Temporarily."

Noa blinked, reaching out to touch the black ribbonlike tail. I caught her hand on instinct. "Noa, please don't touch that."

"What? Why?" The Spirit frowned.

"Because my Race has a special ability that has to do with our tails." Archer stated, cutting in with a frown. "And I'd really rather not test it on my little sister."

"Ability?" Noa tilted her head in confusion. "What ability?"

I reached out, gently picking up Archer's tail. It had a barbed heart at the end, but that bit definitely wasn't there just for aesthetic purposes. "Demons are natural emotiovores. They feed on various emotions in the human psyche, and if they drain too much, they can literally devour their soul. She's a Lust Demon, which means she prefers to 'eat' lust. Or the products of lust, at least. The more intense or concentrated, the better."

Archer looped her arms around my neck, kissing my nose. "Gotcha." She teased, almost mocking our close proximity.

I chuckled, rubbing my thumb along the heart-shaped barb. She shivered, eyes almost rolling back into her head. "She's made to tempt others into sinning so she can feed on their emotions as they do it. This little beauty is one of the best weapons in her arsenal."

I held out the tail so that the interested Spirit could see it better. "It's heart-shaped because the tip is actually a hyperthin needle capable of puncturing skin without their victim noticing. The skin to either side holds venom sacs, hence the odd shape. Succubus venom is the most powerful aphrodisiac in the world, and she's the evolved form of a succubus." I leaned in to give the girl in my arms another kiss, releasing her tail. "Well, hers is even stronger than that."

"Evolved?" Noa repeated, picking out the one word that interested her.

"Yep." I agreed, brushing the Archdemon's hair behind her ear. "She's at the top of the food chain in the land of the Demons, should she ever decide to go there."

Noa nodded absently, leaning in to scrutinize the tanned girl. "Shouldn't she have horns like Albedo, then?"

Archer sighed. "They grow in after I've taken a mate." She admitted. "It's how other Demons know I'm spoken for."

"But in stories—"

"I know what the stories say. Albedo has horns because she's a crossbreed mutation, and I'm a pure-blood." She coughed, glancing away. "…And with Demons, just because you have a mate doesn't mean you're loyal. Albedo says that most powerful monsters have a harem of over a hundred, and it's impossible for a Succubus to get the attention she needs when their mate is too busy, so…"

I raised an eyebrow. "You shouldn't have to worry about that with me. Dragons mate for life, and I really don't plan on having an enormous harem. That would keep me from fully appreciating your individual personalities and quirks."

Noa butted in, interrupting me. "What's my evolution?"

I raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

"Is there a form better than this one?"

"Yes, 'Greater Nature Spirit'."

"So why am I not—?"

I held up a hand, forestalling her question. "Your soul barely managed to stretch into that shell, so I dodn't think you could stand the evolved form. In time, perhaps, but not now."

The Spirit looked down at herself. "Why does Archer-nee have a better soul than I do? She was originally human, right?"

"First, humans have stronger souls than artificial lifeforms do." Archer spoke up, voice a bit firmer than mine. "And second, I have a Reality Marble. Humans normally don't have entire worlds built into their souls. Demons and Angels do."

"Ah. I get it now." Noa decided, likely growing tired of that line of questioning. "Just... don't touch Archer-nee's tail."

"As a general rule, yes." I agreed.

"I understand." She yawned, slipping out of bed. "I'm going to go to the bathroom. I'll be back soon."

She sleepily trudged into the next room, the door swinging shut behind her.

I turned to Archer, turning off the television and plunging the room into semi-darkness. All of us had nightvision, though, so I wasn't too worried. I scrutinized Archer's expression, momentarily tuning out the tantalizingly generous amounts of skin her nightgown showed.

My tan-skinned Maiden had a smile on her face, a smile that only widened as I met her gaze.

"Was that romantic enough for you?" I teased. "Our horror movie date?"

"You really do love her." She stated simply, ignoring my teasing tone.

I nodded, squeezing her hand. "I love you both. You're my Maidens."

She leaned in close, pressing a kiss to my lips. This one wasn't hungry or lustful, merely full of love. She broke it a moment later, shyly brushing a strand of hair out of her face. "Today wasn't exactly what I had in mind…" She murmured, still smiling. "But I think that's a good thing. I love you, Ko."

"Love you too."

She giggled, twining her fingers with mine. "You know… if you have time tomorrow, we can finally get around to that date we wanted."

My brow raised. "So soon? Are you sure?"

Her cheeks darkened slightly. "I-I'm not really certain I can wait much longer, so… yes."

I leaned down, kissing her lightly. "There's no rush." I reminded her. "I'll wait as long as I need to."

She shook her head, face still a faint red. "Honestly, after tonight, I'm having a hard time keeping myself from calling off the date part altogether. Being in extremely close proximity to you for long enough to be practically smothered in your scent really isn't doing my self-control any favors."

I fought back a grin. I had worked hard to get this far… it was time to get my reward. "Well, then." I teased lightly. "It would be cruel of me to leave a lady unsatisfied. Tomorrow we'll give you that date you wanted."

She nodded. "Tomorrow." Her cheeks reddened, and she repeated the word quietly to herself. "T-tomorrow."

"I'll stop by at six to start our date." I took her hand, my thumb brushing along the back of it. "It's your choice what we do. I'll spend the first half of the day making sure everything is in order and that Noa is sufficiently distracted."

"R-right." She took a deep breath, eyes widening slightly. "Tomorrow night. Date."

I frowned, leaning in to touch my forehead to hers. "Are you all right, love?"

"I am trying to resist the urge to jump you." She stated, taking another deep breath. "And I may even succeed."

I cupped her cheek, brushing my thumb along her cheekbone. "It's all right, love. Even if you snap, I won't do anything to you until you're capable of rational thought. We can stop talking about this if it's making it harder for you."

"Everything is making it harder for me." She whimpered, curling into me. "Your voice, your scent, even the way you're holding me right now. We're alone in the dark beneath the sheets, with only these flimsy clothes between us. Every part of me is screaming to mate with you."

I resisted the urge to grin. Sure, I was supposed to be calming her down instead ofwinding her up. But at the same time, I was glad that her design made it so difficult to resist me. Just a few words would tip her over the edge, and suddenly she would be begging to be fucked.

But no. One more night was an acceptable wait to do this 'right'. My impatience was no excuse to alienate a girl I would be spending the rest of my life with.

Pity, though… my sharp senses could distinctly pick out exactly how turned on she was. A soft floral scent accompanied by her subtly rubbing her thighs together. A pulse like an Olympic sprinter, hammering away in her chest. Nipples pressing into my skin, as hard as diamonds. She was practically salivating over me, her entire body aching for satisfaction.

And considering she's probably drinking my lust in as well, this definitely can't be easy for her.

"I'll tell you what." I murmured, my left hand releasing hers. "We won't be having sex tonight… but there's nothing wrong with some nice kissing, is there?"

A spark of desperation lit in her eyes, and I knew she was hooked. Her lips crashed into mine, and suddenly she was putty in my hands.

Oh, yes. It was all worth it for this exact moment. Every last second of it.

And if this is just the appetizer, tomorrow's main course promises to be absolutely scrumptious.

"Are you two kissing?" Noa asked sleepily, standing in the open doorway. "Can I join too?"

Archer pulled away, a wide smile on her face. "Of course you can." She hummed, licking her lips. "Just don't keep him for too long, all right? I'm still not done with my turn."


A/N:

Okay, before you rage in the reviews about how he's keeping others at arms' length, please keep one thing in mind.

The MC has not read this story. He only knows what canon is and the direct consequences of his actions. He doesn't know that Aura is in love with him because to him, his small kindness was just that. A small kindness. He doesn't know Albedo bears him no ill will because all he knows is that she once plotted to kill the other supreme beings.

I'm not willfully abandoning the character development of the story. I'm not saying that Albedo will kill the MC in cold blood for no apparent reason. All I'm doing is showing you the limits of a first-person narrative. There will be times in the future when the MC won't know something, despite you shouting at your screen. There will be times he fails due to a critical misunderstanding of the world around him. Because at his core, all he really is is an outside observer fully entering these NPCs' lives for the first time.

It's not that Albedo didn't react when Momonga vanished, it's not that the other Guardians weren't flat-out panicking in the background. You're just seeing the world through the MC's eyes, and he had much bigger things to worry about at that point in time.

...Okay. Enough lecturing.

Instead, I'd like to offer a little bonus segment as an apology for my continued game addiction making me late.

Enjoy!


Rubedo sighed, twirling her parasol back and forth. "Boring." She mumbled to herself, leaning back against the trunk of a tree. "So boring. You're bored too, aren't you?"

Silence.

To anyone else, it would seem as if there was no one else within a kilometer around. But Rubedo knew better. She knew that assuming she was alone was a trap more dangerous than any other, and most of all, she knew that the wind was acting strangely.

How strangely?

Well, quite simply put, Nazarick didn't have wind.

"Oh, don't play coy with me." She called, crossing her legs and pretending to relax. "I've seen men choke to death on thin air when you're involved, so you can bet your life that I know exactly when you're around."

The wind picked up, whistling around and shaking the treetops. A faint voice caught her ear, formed from the air itself.

"It was not my intention to offend…"

"Oh, come off it." The Witch of the Void dismissed, closing her eyes. "Aren't you bored, just wandering around? Existing for the sake of it? Waiting for the call to arms?"

"…I am the wind. I do not feel boredom."

"Of course not." She sighed. "You don't feel anything. No joy, no sadness, no regret. Pity. I think you'd enjoy the feeling of something's life draining under your touch."

"Life is sacred… do not dismiss its value so casually…"

"Oh? And who taught you that life was sacred? The same man who taught you to cut it short?" She mocked lightly. "Please. We're killing machines. There's no sense in denying what our strengths are."

"…We are no longer living that life… we are no longer fighting that war. The Ancient One… is at peace."

Rubedo sighed, opening her eyes. "Come, now, Whisper. Everything that the Ancient One does is utterly lethal and potentially dangerous to everyone on this planet. Do you honestly believe that this is any different?"

"…The females have calmed him. I believe it is for the best."

"Calmed him, yes. But you should know." A small, amused smile quirked her lips. "You more than anyone should know how dangerous he is when he's calm. I remember the days when the last things entire civilizations would hear were the words '[Mind of Undeath]'."

"That was then… this is now."

"Oh? Then let's take a look at his choice of mates." Rubedo held up a hand, counting them off on her fingers. "An Archdemon of unquestionable might and theoretically infinite power, whose entire soul is warped around him so severely she can't spend a single moment without him in her thoughts. The Spirit of the most powerful and dangerous Tree you could possibly imagine. Just think of how stupidly powerful their offspring are going to be."

"…That is not his intent… you know this."

"Oh, I know." Rubedo twirled her parasol lazily, leaning back to look up at the sky. "I just wanted to point out how much danger he can unleash upon the world without even seeming to realize it."

"…You relish the thought."

The Flesh Golem shrugged, casually adjusting her dress. "Oh, I wouldn't go that far." A wide, sharp grin stretched unnaturally across her face, marring her beautiful features. "I don't relish the thought, dear Whisper. I absolutely adore it."

"…So I see…"

"Hmm." Rubedo's expression smoothed back to one of polite disinterest. "Honestly, though… it's quite dull, waiting for him to do something earth-shatteringly tremendous. I mean, with him it's inevitable, but the wait is often tedious."

"…Do not worry, Black Witch…" The faint whisper grew fainter. "I'm sure you will get what you desire eventually… you merely have to wait."

"Indeed." Rubedo closed her parasol, smiling to herself. "But in the end… I suppose it's always the wait that makes the bloodiest days worthwhile."

If there were any wildlife remaining that day, they would've been treated to the sound of cheerful humming as the Flesh Golem began brutally devouring the corpses of dead monsters.