Issei was having a bit of a problem.
Namely, the elderly gentleman in the massive throne-room was giving him a severe glare while Issei felt as if he had asked something thoroughly inappropriate.
'Shit! What if Sebas decides to turn me into a bonemeal and sprinkle it on his lawn?! There's no way that my question didn't come out as inappropriate like 'Oho, so she's your girlfriend? In that case, I'll be taking her virginity!' and other Riser-like lines!' Issei was feeling as if he'd die at any second, but he had to make sure what the relationship between Sebas and Albedo was.
Even more so since Albedo was clinging to him and was surprisingly strong (which in retrospect didn't surprise Issei all that much, as she was a Fallen Angel after all), forcing him to stay still. 'What game are they playing? Moreover, what are those… Erm, maids? Don't tell me they're just, um, dolls or something. They all seem to be just frozen still, and erm, that one looks like she's some sort of bug…'
"My lord! I have not had any relationships with Sebas! My heart only beats for Lord Momonga-samaaa! Please believe me! There is no-one else! I swear this upon everything I know! Please believe me!" Albedo cried out in despair while her amber-like eyes wavered in terror.
"My lord! I swear upon the honor of Touch Me and my rank as House Steward that I have not touched Albedo-sama and have no intention to disgrace either myself, her, my lord, or my creator by desiring her! She is strictly my superior and nothing more, my lord!" Sebas had his gloved hand against his chest, and his look was more intensive than ever before, making Issei quite frightened.
The pair denied the allegation quite aggressively, making Issei more than a bit confused. Specifically over the old man's statement. 'Swearing upon the honor of touching him? Oh, so it's like some sort of fighting thing, right? 'You're worthy of my respect if you can touch me' or something?'
'Right, um, I think I misunderstood something…' Issei felt as if he'd die if he kept prodding, so he instead tried to negotiate. 'Time is of the essence, I can't let Rias-buchou be in that monster's claws for any longer than needs to be, and that 'needs to be' is exactly zero seconds…'
'Heeeeee?! Albedo and I? Is this a joke? No, Momonga-sama looks intense! He looks like he's ready to tear a World Boss into pieces by himself! This is bad! This is seriously bad! Did someone make a snide comment and Lord Momonga overheard it?! Perhaps some of the homunculus maids of Ninth Floor had spare time and gossipped instead of scrubbing the floors and Lord Momonga overheard?!' Sebas was fairly sure that if he had black hair, it would have turned into white hair over the stress of the past few minutes. However, he kept his cool with herculean effort. 'I need to focus, do I have an alibi? No, I've been in Ninth Floor this entire time, and Albedo has been in Ninth Floor as well- No! This just makes me more suspicious! I have no choice! I- I must…'
"Momonga-sama. Please accept my humble suicide as recompense for the shame that I have caused upon Albedo's honor by allowing baseless rumors to spread." Sebas sat up to his knees while his face was stuck in a stern, calm expression.
He then pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and tied it around his temple like a white sweatband.
Sebas then picked up one of the daggers left floating around in Solution nearby, and moved it in front of his stomach. 'Touch Me-sama, I overheard such things as 'Harakiri' when you were speaking to Tabula-sama… I thank you for parting me with this knowledge, and apologize for shaming you with my inaction. Farewell.'
"Wait, wait wait wait, I think we have some miscommunication here somewhere! That's dangerous!" Lord Momonga bolted instantly for Sebas and put his hand on Sebas's. "Right- Sorry! I got that wrong- I thought… Right nevermind. Um… Also, who are those six over there? Are they dolls or… Erm, I think I saw that one move, actually…"
Sebas blinked in abject confusion and glanced at Albedo, who decidedly didn't glance back.
Sebas understood quite well that Albedo wouldn't want anything to do with him after such an allegation, but at the same time Sebas was utterly confused over what was going on and was in need of Albedo's guidance. 'This… Surely Lord Momonga knows the Pleiades? He called our names just earlier, when he instructed us to follow?'
It seemed that Albedo was following the similar line of thinking as she scrunched her eyebrows at Lord Momonga who was eyeing Entoma a bit warily, which caused the maid to curl up into her chitin and let a small, scared chitter-noise.
And the act seemed to cause Lord Momonga to jump a bit, as if he hadn't expected such a thing.
Albedo finally glanced at Sebas, and it was as if the two had realized something in unison.
"My lord, when the thief stole your equipment- Did he cast [Control Amnesia] upon you as well?" Sebas asked, at the same time as Albedo spoke out. "Lord Momonga, do you wish for me to get rid of Pleiades and Sebas so we may consummate our love?"
Lord Momonga's mouth hung open after the two statements while he stared at them both.
'Eeeeh? Amnesia? Stealing equipment? Wait, if he's talking about [Boosted Gear]- No, he can't be. This… Don't tell me, I should have been implanted with knowledge of the afterlife or something when I died, but didn't? Figures, I've died twice already… It's just my luck that some wires got crossed.' Issei thought hard about what the stern butler had been saying, after the man had tried to commit suicide for some reason. 'But if he's not in a relationship with Albedo, then why is he glaring at me so harshly? Wait, could it be that I have something on my face?'
He walked over to the odd puddle in the throne room and looked down at its reflective surface, which seemed to quake a bit almost as the goo it was afraid for some reason, and saw in the reflection that the facial structure of his skull definitely didn't belong to a human. '...That means… I've become some sort of undead devil-thingmagic? Do all devils become something like this when they die? Dammit, I've never seen devils that look like what I am now, so chances are that no-one else has escaped the afterlife… I should have listened to Rias-buchou more when she spoke about devil's nature and so on. But her breasts were just too erotic for me to concentrate on anything else!'
Nonetheless, Issei realized that the butler was giving him the glare again and had given him a good excuse at the same time- And while Albedo's offer was quite tempting, Issei would not be seduced from saving Rias by a pair of incredible breasts. Well, maybe for a few hours. But that'd be it. Hopefully.
"Yes… I've lost my memory, I think. I should know more about this place, right? But at the moment I can only remember… um, Albedo." Issei used the amnesia card that the butler had given, and instantly regretted it as both of their faces fell. Or at least Sebas's face fell, while Albedo's cheer popped right back after Issei mentioned her name. 'I don't have [Boosted Gear] so I'm completely at that Fallen Angel's mercy… I need to fashion a weapon from something soon so that I can at least defend myself if they decide to drop the act and turn me into a chicken drumstick without the meat…'
"I see… That explains some things." Sebas seemed to stroke his chin in deep concentration. "Could it be that one of the Supreme Beings cast this spell on you before, ahem, acquiring your loot? Maybe one of the intruders from the Great Siege remained within these halls somehow, and chose that moment to strike. Or… Maybe we were betrayed by one of… our own. I've heard that such a thing had happened once before, much to my dismay."
"But Lord Momonga had his-"
"Please call me Issei." Issei interrupted for the second time.
"A-ahem, yes, Lord Issei, had his gear just moments ago… Could it be that the thief also somehow managed to cast [Time Stop] even though Nazarick is warded against time manipulation?" Albedo seemed both thoughtful and mournful. "Ah! How shameful, that we'd let someone steal from our lord and manipulate him right in front of us… My pride as Guardian Overseer is shattered…"
"...Albedo-sama, if I may. We should probably collect all Floor Guardians and ask if someone saw something." Sebas noted while scratching his chin, stern as ever but at least this time he was staring at someone else than Issei. "By all accounts, someone must have realized someone had snuck in and out, even [Time Stop] has its limitations. Whoever did this, must have a copy of Lord Issei's memories, which we could use to restore his memories. This vile act of terrorism will not stand."
"Sebas- Of course. Indeed, forgive me. I've slipped into outrage on behalf of our Lord instead of thinking straight. My lord- Please rest assured that we'll catch the thief who stole your belongings and memories soon enough." Albedo bowed to Issei, causing his eyes to bow in turn as the woman's bowing gave quite a nice view into her cleavage.
"Yes, of course… Ahem, In the meanwhile, I'd like to go and observe our surroundings. As it happens-" Issei tried to go for it, but Albedo gained a frightened expression for a nanosecond which paused him even before her words did.
"My lord… Forgive me for being so forward, but you may not remember Nazarick's surroundings properly. It is likely that you'd be lost in the swamp. Whoever attacked you may still be on the prowl." Albedo finished by bowing deep to Issei. "I, of course, believe that under normal circumstances our lord would be capable of defeating any threat, but at the moment…"
"I am vulnerable. You can say it." Issei sighed a bit, causing Albedo to nod while flinching a bit. "Very well. However, we should send scouts to take a look at our surroundings and ensure that my vulnerability is not being exploited."
The woman's expression brightened quite a bit and she nodded rapidly. "Of course, my lord! I had planned on ordering Nazarick to enter a state of lockdown to trap whoever snatched your memories inside, but in retrospect if the snatching was a opening move in a larger campaign aimed to destroy Ainz Ooal Gown amidst internal turmoil then by closing our gates from the outside world would just make us fish in a barrel, and make it very hard to set foot outside ever again if we were surrounded on all sides. I am eternally glad that while your memories may have been taken, your strategic mind remains sharp as ever!"
Issei analyzed the woman's tone, and it caused him to come to a conclusion on what exactly the 'pecking order' was. Or rather, what the perceived pecking order was. 'So… They think I'm some sort of big-shot who's lost his memory, whereas in actuality it's just me, Issei. And the fact they're taking my orders on board and seem enthusiastic to carry them out seems to support that… I'm not sure about that whole 'strategic mind' part, I just want someone to go outside and check if we're in Japan or Underworld, or somewhere else… I need to find a way to send a message to Rias, to know that she's safe…'
It seemed that the heavy sigh that left Issei wasn't missed by either Albedo or Sebas, who bowed deep towards him. "We shall depart at once with your permission, my lord!"
"Very well, go ahead." Issei waved his bony hand a bit, lamenting his body's state all the while. "Ahem, and… Could I get some clothes, please?"
Sebas paled a bit, almost as if he had forgotten the fact Issei didn't have even a strand around him, even if he was just bones. And then the butler clapped once at the row of maid-dolls who were in various states of disrepair… And the dolls stood up as one.
"Pleiades. You have a new task. See that our lord finds clothes befitting of his glory." Sebas instructed, and then turned to bow at Issei. "I shall depart, my lord. If I may be so bold, could I request that you meet the Guardians at the Arena in an hour from now?"
"I… Don't know where that is." Issei furrowed his brow mentally. 'Arena? Is it like the Rating Game arena? Could it be that the Underworld and whatever this place is are connected? I might be able to slip off and sneak back into the fight… Or, well, sneak back into the Underworld since the fight is already over…'
"Ah. Of course. Ahem… Yuri, could you please show Lord Mo- Lord Issei to Arena when he is ready?" Sebas turned to address a maid who was clearly on the brink of hyperventilation.
Issei failed to keep his eyes in check and roved them up and down the woman. 'Ooh? A true victorian-era maid beauty?! My eyes have been healed! My mind is healed! Aaah, such a pretty, wonderful sight… And her breasts look truly fantastic in that maid-getup, if only I could grope and fondle them to my heart's content… If I could actually feel them. Truly this is hell disguised as a paradise…'
The maid clearly felt the lustful gaze and blushed quite a bit, and then paled to the complexity of a sheet of paper while looking at something past Issei.
Issei thought he heard some sort of growling behind him, as if there was a wild, frenzied bear or a dragon growling in abject anger… But as soon as he turned around he saw just Albedo, who was blinking innocently at Momonga and batting her eyelashes at him. That was, until Sebas returned to push Albedo out of the throne room despite her weak protests and teary hand-waving.
Issei was fairly sure he heard Albedo say something about 'reverse striptease' to Sebas before the double-doors slammed shut, and felt suddenly quite glad that Sebas had taken the woman away as it was quite embarrassing to stand naked in front of so many people, flesh or no flesh.
That was, until he realized that the victorian-era looking maid was curtsying towards Issei and was clearly expecting him to talk.
"So… Um, you are Yuri, right?" Issei opened the conversation and then glanced at the other maids. 'Er, wait, I don't think I saw that blonde maid before, where did she come from? Man, those boobs are gigantic! And, er, um… That black-haired maid looks pretty cold- Don't tell me that she's a tsundere? Tsundere maid with moderate breasts and long, pretty black hair! And a red-head! She even has a wolf's tail! That is so erotic! And that one with the camo stuff, she's so pretty, like a doll! It's like if Asia and Koneko combined and grew their hair out! And… um, does that maid have a skin condition? It's as if she has chitin all over her…'
The last maid, who had just gotten to her feet a bit warily, clearly felt Issei's stare and jumped a bit on the spot while bringing her hands- Or rather, now that Issei looked into it, cockroach-like claws to her face and looked around in panic while uncertain sweat seemed to fly off her temple. That was, until she made a 'swish' motions to both sides of her body to calm herself and finally curtsy towards Issei.
'Lord Momonga is looking so intensely at Entoma… Does she strike his fancy? Albedo-sama was so scary just now… I hope we'll survive.' Yuri looked at Lord Momonga's, or rather, 'Lord Issei's body language. 'Issei, huh… It is an odd name, but I shall not question the decree of the Supreme Being. And…'
Yuri tried her best to ignore the burning feeling in her chest, which had ignited when Lord Momonga had roved his eyes over her body like a beast looking up at his next prey. 'S-surely someone as lowly as I cannot possibly strike Lord Momonga's interest? Moreover, I'd die. I'd die for sure once Albedo-sama learned of the forbidden love between master and his maid- Wait, no I already thought of such inappropriate things as Lord Momonga desiring me as facts and not as wild fantasies! Shameless! [Iron-Fisted Punishment]!'
There was a meaty schwack that interrupted Issei's stare at the bug-looking maid, and he turned to look at Yuri who had just caved her own face in with a spiky-looking shell-like gauntlet.
The maid's face popped back into place after a horrifying second, albeit her glasses were slightly wonky and she had a nosebleed that Issei could have sworn she had had even before hitting herself in the face. "Issei-sama. If you'd follow me, I shall lead you to the changing room. Right his way."
"Of course, lead the way." Issei tried to sound authoritative, using his best impression of a teacher's way of talking while moving to lock-step with the maid who blushed a bit. 'Er, is she prone to spontaneous violence? That looked like it hurt a lot… And her face just now, it was caved in and looked like a butthole, but she recovered so easily… Scary...'
The rest of the Pleiades maids were left to the Throne Room… And as soon as Lord Momonga and Yuri had left the room, the five remaining Pleiades maids scurried off to their duties. Namely, to their emergency tea-time as they had experienced quite an unusual situation.
"Lord Momonga was so intense-su! I felt as if my heart would stop-su! Or that my virginity would just jump out-su! It was really hard to keep it in-su!" Lupusregina babbled while she had w expression. "Is Yuri-nee going to have an affair-su? We need to prepare baby-socks for when she comes back and looks like a volleyball-su! And a coffin for when Albedo-sama finds out-su!"
A whack rang in the comfortable victorian-era decorated tea-room that had a round table at the center, which was laden full of snacks, cakes and exotic teas that seemed to never run out.
"Owwwwiee-su…Nabe-chan is harsh-su…" Lupusregina's face changed to a x.x expression while she cradled her head after Narberal Gamma had whacked her over the head with the sharp of her palm.
"I thought Lord Momonga would gobble me up… Like this- crunch- crunch- crunch." Entoma was clearly stress-eating, or rather, eating like a lovesick teenage girl as she produced a fist-sized cockroach and ate it by putting it under her chin and lifting it into her 'real' mouth that was located under her jaw. "He looked at me so intensely! I felt as if I'd molt on the spot!"
"I saw. Very intense. But Solution-san was unsightly in front of Momonga-sama." Shizu agreed while staring at her cup of tea like a doll with its strings cut. In fact, Shizu had retreated her head down into her camo-scarf so that half of her face was hidden inside it, and it was clear she was depressed even past her usual emotionless expression. "I overloaded, like Solution-san, and was unsightly in front of Lord Momonga as well. I am ashamed…"
"It was too much! I felt as if I'd burst! I couldn't hold it in… That kind of power, charisma… Haaaahn… What I'd give for just a small lick…" Solution was playing with her dagger instead of sampling the treats. However, she seemed to grow bored of it quickly and put the dagger's tip against her chest… Before sliding the dagger into her body entirely, whereupon it became one with the living slime's 'inventory'. "Albedo-sama is so lucky- Did you see that? I could have sworn Lord Momonga was about to sample Albedo in front of our eyes… But then, did you hear that rage in his voice!"
"Someone has stolen something from Lord Momonga." Narberal confirmed while drinking a bit of tea. "Such foolishness befits the worst sort of punishment. Eternity in Kyouhukou's house."
"That's not a punishment… Everyone is friends and snacks! It's like an all-you-can-eat buffet!" Entoma commented while she smiled innocently and waved a pair of buzzing cockroaches in the air.
"..." Shizu was glaring at the cockroaches and her expression was a bit severe. Entoma noticed it and started to munch on the critters, making Shizu a bit calmer. "...Buzzing things makes me uneasy. Except for Entoma-chan."
"Ehee…" Entoma smiled at Shizu while munching on the cockroach.
"Still, who'd ever manage to sneak into Ninth Floor and steal from Momonga-sama?" Solution spoke again after a while.
"It must be someone of exceptional skill."
"Maybe it was a ghost?"
"It must have been a butt burglar-su! I heard about such things from Shalltear-su! They come into your house and steal your virginity-su! The only cure is to put bear-traps under your windows-su!"
"...Did you just imply the thief stole Momonga-sama's virginity?"
"No-su! Not at all-su! Albedo-sama must have stolen that-su… Wait! I got it!" Lupusregina pat her hand in sudden realization. "Did you hear when Momonga-sama spoke to Albedo and Sebas at the same time-su? He said 'were you two having an affair-su?' Could it be that Momonga-sama was about to sample Albedo-sama-su, but found out Sebas-sama had already stolen Albedo-sama's virginity-su! They were about to do it in the throne room's floor-su, but then Momonga-sama said 'No way, you're used goods-su' and then kicked Albedo-sama off-su!"
A sudden dread fell upon the Pleiades as they realized the terrifying truth. "Sebas stole Albedo's virginity before Momonga-sama!"
"He must be punished."
"Ten thousand years of pain!"
"Sebas is the butt-burglar-su!"
"Are. you. cold. Sebas-san?" Cocytus asked while rummaging his side for a moment, and pulling a comfortable-looking blanket from his inventory. "Please. put. this. on. I'd. rather. not. accidentally. give. you. a. cold."
"No, it is quite alright." Sebas felt as if the cold had come from some different source than the gigantic ice-clad insectoid warrior, even if he radiated the cold of eternal frost wherever he went. That wasn't helped by the fact that the Fifth Level of Nazarick was modeled after an eternally-howling glacier that was purposefully designed to be as inhospitable and uninhabitable as possible. "Ahem, as I was saying, Lord Momonga wishes that all Floor Guardians gather in the Arena of Sixth Floor in thirty minutes. Moreover, have you seen anything suspicious at all recently?"
"I. have. not. seen. anything. out. of. the. ordinary." Cocytus paused for a moment. "However. I. felt. something. strange."
"Can you elaborate?"
"I. was. meditating. in. the. icy. waterfall. and. felt. something. move." Cocytus made vague gestures as to the effect. "It. was. like. landslide. coming. to. a. stop. but. nothing. had. moved. I. felt. it. because. I. was. meditating. but. when. I. asked. the. wraiths. they. said. they. had. not. felt. anything."
'A landslide coming to a stop inside the Fifth Floor… Hm…' Sebas furrowed his brow while stroking his chin as he committed Cocytus's words to memory. "I see. This has been most helpful, thank you. I've already told the Floor Guardians of Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Floors of this event, and Albedo is arranging scouting patrols to go outside Nazarick. Our lord believes that we may become under attack soon, and that the enemy may seek to circle us, however he has not said this expressly which leads me to think that he may be suspecting that there is a traitor among us- Or rather, that the enemy may have been listening. The fact he has approved of gathering the Guardians makes me think that the enemy is not one of the Guardians, however."
"That. is. concerning. What. makes. you. think. that. we. have. a. traitor. among. us?" Cocytus sounded quite surprised.
"When I was acting upon Lord Momonga's orders, I witnessed the most curious event- Lord Momonga's gear was stolen right in front of me, alongside his memories. The assailant was unseen, and we couldn't even sense its strike nor its passing. Albedo suspects that there may be a hostile Supreme Being who lurks inside Nazarick and has struck our lord in his one moment of weakness, as he was preparing to create his sire with Albedo and had brought us to safeguard the act." Sebas was quite severe when he spoke.
Cocytus was silent. "And. you. failed. to. keep. Lord. Momonga. safe."
Sebas could only nod in abject shame.
A huge gust of steam rose to the air as Cocytus breathed out while aggressive clicking filled the air, even passing the howling of the freezing gale.
Sebas saw that Cocytus's normally crystal-blue eyes now had clear tint of glowing red, and there was a clear streak of red light left behind by the eyes as the insectoid warrior heaved hard while bracing himself against the ground with the butts of two halberds that he brought out in an instant. "To. commit. such. a. atrocity. again. the. Supreme. Being, to. be. denied. the. joy. of. fatherhood… And. for. me. to. be. denied. the. joy. of. being. an. uncle. and. teaching. the. son. of. the. Supreme. Being. the. art. of. swordplay. I. shall. never. forgive. the. intruder…"
"Please calm yourself, Cocytus-sama. The enemy may yet be lurking in Nazarick, and we need to keep a close eye on everything in order to catch it." Sebas bowed slightly to the Floor Guardian, and Cocytus's clicking noises subsided a bit.
"Indeed. Thank. you. for. this. information. Sebas-san. I. shall. be. in. the. Arena. Will. you. tell. Shalltear. of. this?" Cocytus asked after a moment of calming down. "For. the. record. I. do. not. fault. you. solely. for. failing. to. protect. Momonga-sama. If. the. enemy. is. a. hostile. Supreme. Being, then. it. is. likely. that. multiple. Floor. Guardians. would. have. been. necessary. to. stop. the. attack. This. shame. is. shared. for. we. did. not. see. that. we. had. been. bypassed."
"I shall. And thank you."
"...It. may. be. best. if. you. did. not. mention. to. Shalltear. as. to. why. you. were. at. the. throne. room, nor. what. Momonga-sama. and. Albedo-sama. were. preparing. to. do." Cocytus noted a bit warily. "Shalltear. might. react. a. bit… differently. than. I."
"...I see, thank you. I'll keep your advice in mind." Sebas nodded. "However, we need to be transparent in this if we are to catch the enemy. After all, Supreme Beings are not named thus for mere show- Even the slightest hint, the smallest strand of hair turned the wrong way, may be crucial information leading to the capture of the enemy."
"Very. well. in. that. case. I. am. off." Cocytus turned and stomped off, and Sebas bowed to his back before heading off to the Third Floor of Nazarick.
Issei looked up as he thought he heard something while he was in a dressing room of sorts. Yuri was blushing up a storm as she was fitting a billowy dark blue robe on him, which for some reason matched quite well with Yuri's blue ribbons.
For some reason Issei could have sworn he had heard something akin to the screech of a banshee, or one of a particularly bloodthirsty mosquito, or perhaps the desperate wail of Matsuda or Motohama if they were told their favorite eroge had been canceled.
He was fairly sure he was just hearing things, so he didn't think much of it and just let Yuri do her thing while he was stuck in a T-pose.