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  1. Chapter 3: The Impending Crisis
  2.  
  3.  
  4.  
  5. 1
  6.  
  7. The Great Rift.
  8.  
  9. It referred to the huge chasm that ran along the western side of the Dwarven Capital, Feoh Gēr.
  10.  
  11. It was a massive crevasse, over 60 km long and 120m across at its narrowest point. Its depth was unknown. Nobody knew what was waiting down there, and nobody had returned alive from the two expeditions that had been sent out to investigate it.
  12.  
  13. For the longest time, this natural barrier had protected Feoh Gēr from all manner of monstrous attacks. They could thwart any monsters from the west who tried to invade so long as they defended the suspension bridge which ran across the Great Rift.
  14.  
  15. Yet today, Feoh Gēr’s garrison — the military base that stood between the Great Rift and Feoh Gēr — was in a whirl of shouts and confusion.
  16.  
  17. “What’s going on? Someone tell me exactly what is going on!”
  18.  
  19. That cry came from the commander of the Dwarven Army, a veteran of over 10 years.
  20.  
  21. The information coming in was garbled and contradictory, and nobody had any idea of what was happening. The only thing of which he could be certain was that something had happened at the fort which defended the Great Rift.
  22.  
  23. “The most recent information we have says that the Quagoa are attacking!” one of the platoon commanders said, repeating a report from the fort.
  24.  
  25. News like that was hardly uncommon. The Quagoa and the Dwarves were mortal enemies, and they frequently attacked in their hundreds. There had been more attacks during the commander’s ten years of service than he could remember, but until now all of them had been turned away at the fort. None of them had managed to get close to the garrison, much less Feoh Gēr itself.
  26.  
  27. This was because the Quagoa were a race that was strong against weapon attacks, but very weak against electrical attacks. Knowing this, they had stocked the fort with magic items that could produce [Lightning] and comparable effects.
  28.  
  29. [Lightning] was a spell that pierced the enemy in a straight line, and thus extremely effective against an enemy which lined itself up to attack a bridge. It could wipe out an entire wave of Quagoa in one shot, and on top of that, the Dwarves guarding that place were armed with crossbows enchanted with the ability to inflict additional electrical damage.
  30.  
  31. In contrast, the Dwarves in the garrison were inferior in both gear and numbers. However, that was not because they did not wish to allocate military power to an important base, but because the Dwarven Army had always lacked in manpower. Thus, the fort had to draw its defenders from their meager pool of troops, and they had to do so in numbers which would not invite censure.
  32.  
  33. Despite all this specialization against Quagoa attacks, the fort was now in a state where they did not even have the people left to call for aid. What did that mean?
  34.  
  35. “Don’t tell me they were attacked by too many people for them to fight off! Have there been any other messages from the fort’s protectors?”
  36.  
  37. “Nothing until now.”
  38.  
  39. Cold sweat poured down the commander’s back.
  40.  
  41. The words “big invasion” appeared before his eyes. There had been rumors of such a thing several years ago, but even so, he had been trying his best to deceive himself, saying that there was no such thing. Yet, it was unfolding before his eyes.
  42.  
  43. The commander pulled himself together. Now was not the time to contemplate such ghastly things.
  44.  
  45. What was the right thing to do now?
  46.  
  47. A gently-sloping tunnel in the shape of a spiral led from this garrison to the fort, and ahead of them was the capital Feoh Gēr. The cavern where the garrison was located at was their final defensive line, and on top of that, they had gates of mithril which were alloyed with orichalcum. They could withstand an enemy attack from the tunnel if they closed the gates.
  48.  
  49. Should they close the gates?
  50.  
  51. If they did so, they would not be able to send out reinforcements from here. In other words, they would be abandoning their comrades, who might be fighting for their lives at the fort.
  52.  
  53. Still, his hesitation only lasted for a moment.
  54.  
  55. There were less than 20 people in the fort. There were over 100’000 Dwarves in Feoh Gēr. There could be only one answer when one thought of which side had priority.
  56.  
  57. “Close the gates!”
  58.  
  59. “Relay the orders! Close the gates!”
  60. 「覆诵!关闭大门!」
  61.  
  62. Before the echoes faded from the air, a thrumming sound came from the earth. Slowly, the gates covered the entrance. These gates, which had not been touched except during training, were now being used for their true purpose.
  63.  
  64. “Commander! It’s the Quagoa!”
  65.  
  66. “What?!”
  67.  
  68. After hearing the cry from the soldiers guarding the tunnel entrance, the commander turned in to look. He saw the disgusting form of a demihuman, foaming at the mouth, its eyes bloodshot.
  69.  
  70. Without lightning-enchanted weapons, even one of them was a formidable foe. And now, hordes of them, so many that one could not count them on two hands, were rushing at them.
  71.  
  72. How could this be? Had the fort really fallen? How many men had the Quagoa brought with them? Could they hold against them even if they shut the gates?
  73.  
  74. The commander had these and many other questions in his heart, but in the end he shook his head.
  75.  
  76. “Don’t let them in! Spearmen, forward!”
  77.  
  78. With great cries, the soldiers formed up into a spear line.
  79.  
  80. Even seeing this did not slow the speed of the Quagoa charge. This was because they trusted in their fur and hide to protect them against metal.
  81.  
  82. The commander clicked his tongue. The Quagoa had made a wise choice. Their skin was such that crossbow bolts might bounce off when fired at them. The only thing a spear line could do was to hold them at bay. However, the people here had anticipated that the Quagoa would try something like this, and they had naturally taken steps against it.
  83.  
  84. “Mages! Blitzkrieg!”
  85.  
  86. A third-tier area-of-effect spell, [Thunderball] and two second-tier spells, [Thunderlances] came from the balcony overlooking the spearmen, at an angle which would not hit them.
  87.  
  88. The casters of these spells were the three most powerful mages in the army.
  89.  
  90. The group running at the head of the horde was instantly slain by the [Thunderball], as one would expect of the Quagoa’s bane. The people behind them stopped to avoid being hit by it as well.
  91.  
  92. It was only for a short period, but it gave them breathing room.
  93.  
  94. The gates closed with a great clang. The sounds of hammering and banging filtered through from the other side of the sturdy doors.
  95.  
  96. The tense atmosphere in the air lightened somewhat. However, the commander, the men around him, everyone here knew that this was not over yet.
  97.  
  98. The gates were very tough. The teeth and claws of regular Quagoa would not be able to damage them. However, some Quagoa had teeth which were said to rival the hardness of mithril. While these were leader-level beings, it would not be unusual to find such entities participating in an attack like this. There was no way to rule out any problems.
  99.  
  100. “Dammit! If only the gate was electrified!”
  101.  
  102. That was a suggestion the commander had made when he had first taken his position. After all, the gates alone were not reliable enough as a final line of defense. Of course, there had been various reasons for why they could not enchant the gates, such as a lack of national power, but a big part of that had been because the fort had always managed to stop any enemy invasions. Thus, the higher-ups had the attitude that “as long as the fort holds, everything will be fine”.
  103.  
  104. Looking around, he saw grim and dark expressions on everyone’s faces.
  105.  
  106. This was bad. If they lost their hope for the future, they would end up losing when the fighting became desperate.
  107.  
  108. The commander decided to turn the situation around, and shouted:
  109.  
  110. “Well done! We’ve ensured the city’s safety! But it’s not guaranteed by any means! Start setting up barricades in case the enemy breaks through the gates! Hurry up!”
  111.  
  112. New determination filled the faces of the Dwarven soldiers. The knowledge that there was still something they could do rekindled their motivation. Even a fragile hope was better than none at all.
  113.  
  114. The commander’s chief of staff stood beside him and whispered into his ear.
  115.  
  116. “Commander, should we bury the gate with sand and dirt?”
  117.  
  118. The commander pondered the chief of staff’s words.
  119.  
  120. If they sealed it off completely, many Dwarves would express their disapproval.
  121.  
  122. “That lot has no idea what’s going on.”
  123.  
  124. The commander noticed his chief of staff’s expression. He had probably assumed the commander’s statement to be a reply to his question.
  125.  
  126. “Sorry, I didn’t mean you. I meant that lot — the Regent Council.”
  127.  
  128. “You’re one of them too, aren’t you, commander? So that’s their response to a complete lockdown? Personally, I don’t think sealing it off is enough. We should abandon Feoh Gēr.”
  129.  
  130. The commander narrowed his eyes and dragged his chief of staff by the hand to a place where the men would not hear them.
  131.  
  132. He did not want their conversation to be overheard by anyone.
  133.  
  134. “You think so too?”
  135.  
  136. They had no idea how many Quagoa were on the other side of that gate.
  137.  
  138. The enemy attack had been too swift and they had been forced onto the back foot. Thus, they had lost many chances to learn about the enemy. What they were doing now was like locking themselves up and closing their eyes.
  139.  
  140. The only solid piece of data they had was that the enemy had enough fighting power to bring down the hitherto impregnable fort, and they had to think of a way to deal with that.
  141.  
  142. Under these circumstances, it would be extremely difficult for the Dwarves to open the gates and beat back the enemy, after taking their fighting power into consideration. The best solution might well be to abandon their capital.
  143.  
  144. “Then, how much time will burying it in earth buy us?”
  145.  
  146. “If we collapse the cavern, we’ll be able to buy a lot of time, but if we use sand and dirt alone, we’ll only gain a few days at most.”
  147.  
  148. “What dangers will a collapse pose?”
  149.  
  150. “As you know, we aren’t far from Feoh Gēr. Although I can’t really be sure without having the Tunnel Doctors check, there’s a chance that it might affect the city as well. The worst case scenario is that a shortcut opens up from beyond the gates and the Quagoa pour through it and into Feoh Gēr…”
  151.  
  152. “In other words, we need to find out right now. Then, next question. Do you think the fort fell under sheer weight of numbers? Why didn’t the people in the fort inform us sooner?”
  153.  
  154. “I thought of a few possibilities. Personally, the most likely option is that the Quagoa have enlisted the help of another species.”
  155.  
  156. “Could it be the Frost Dragons?”
  157.  
  158. The Quagoa had conquered the former Dwarven capital of Feoh Berkanan, and had taken it for their home. However, the Royal Palace at the heart of the city was ruled by a Frost Dragon.
  159.  
  160. Both parties did not have a perfectly cooperative relationship, but since they lived together, they might help each other out.
  161.  
  162. The commander’s face blanched. Frost Dragons were essentially natural disasters once they reached a certain age.
  163.  
  164. There had originally been four Dwarven cities.
  165.  
  166. Feoh Berkanan, which had been abandoned during the attack of the Demon Gods 200 years ago.
  167.  
  168. Feoh Gēr of the east, which was their current capital.
  169.  
  170. Feoh Raiđō to the south, which had been abandoned several years ago.
  171.  
  172. And finally, Feoh Tiwaz, to the west.
  173.  
  174. This western city had been destroyed during a battle between two Frost Dragons — Olasird’arc=Haylilyal and Munvinia=Ilyslym, and it was little more than tumbled ruins.
  175.  
  176. “I feel that it’s very likely. While I don’t know what they did to induce that arrogant lot to take action, the other alternatives are that they relied on themselves; either they invented some kind of spell, or they found a route that bypassed the Great Rift.”
  177.  
  178. “Even we Dwarves haven't found a way around the Great Rift.”
  179.  
  180. “Still, how many years ago was that? Perhaps the Quagoa dug a tunnel or something as other monsters moved, or the earth’s crust shifted and gave them a detour. If you think about it, they might have gone above ground too.”
  181.  
  182. “The Quagoa on the surface?”
  183.  
  184. “There might be an individual with that ability.”
  185.  
  186. The Quagoa were completely blind under the sun, so it was impossible for the Quagoa to move their forces on the surface.
  187.  
  188. However, that was merely wishful thinking on his part.
  189.  
  190. No, it was too late to regret it now. He had to take that into consideration when planning future strategies.
  191.  
  192. “Chief of Staff, we need to consider that they might be able to travel aboveground and enhance our surface defenses accordingly. Send a few people over without compromising our defense here. We also need to get word to the Council and have them evacuate to the south.”
  193.  
  194. In addition to this garrison, the fort in front of the Great Rift and the Council Chambers in the city itself, there was one more military base in the Dwarven city of Feoh Gēr.
  195.  
  196. That would be the fortifications erected for the benefit of those people taller than Dwarves — humans, for example — at the exit leading to the surface. The commander gave the order to reinforce that area and stay alert for any surface attacks.
  197.  
  198. “Understood!”
  199.  
  200. “Also, have the men prepare to bury the door. If we need the Council’s permission, I’ll find a way to convince them.”
  201.  
  202. “What if the Council takes their time deliberating?”
  203.  
  204. “Do your best. I’ll do my best too.”
  205.  
  206. That was all he could say. Of course, his plan was to push for it as hard as possible, in his position as one of the eight councillors, but if the others vetoed him, then all he could do was try as hard as he could on his own.
  207.  
  208. “Report! Report! I have a report! Where’s the commander?!”
  209.  
  210. Looking toward the source of that voice, the commander saw a Dwarven soldier mounted on a Riding Lizard.
  211.  
  212. Riding Lizards were a kind of Giant Lizard. They were large reptiles that measured three meters from head to tail. They were not very numerous, so the Dwarves raised them as mounts and used them as pack beasts for day to day work.
  213.  
  214. However, most runners would not use them to relay a message. They were only employed in dire circumstances — when they needed to let the garrison know about the conditions on the frontline.
  215.  
  216. Unease swallowed the heart of the commander.
  217.  
  218. “Where’s that man from?”
  219.  
  220. “He should have been posted to the fort at the surface entrance this week.”
  221.  
  222. That validated the feeling of dread in the commander’s heart. No, given the man’s expression and his near-crazed tone, it was plainly obvious. Asking that much was simply because he did not want to acknowledge the reality before his eyes.
  223.  
  224. “I’m here! What is it?”
  225.  
  226. The messenger ran towards the commander at full speed. It could not be delayed. This was something which had to be heard immediately so a course of action could be quickly determined.
  227.  
  228. The messenger fell off the Lizard’s back, and shouted as he desperately tried to right himself.
  229.  
  230. “Commander! There’s an emergency! Mon-monsters! There’s monsters!”
  231.  
  232. He had expected it to be about Quagoa, but he quickly ruled that out. The man would not have used those words to describe Quagoa.
  233.  
  234. “Calm down! We can’t figure out what you’re saying! What happened? Is everyone else alright?”
  235.  
  236. “Y-yes! There’s scary monsters at the entrance! They say they want to talk about the Quagoa army headed this way!”
  237.  
  238. “Whaaaaaaat?!”
  239.  
  240. Their timing was too perfect. He could not imagine that the two of them were unconnected. Could they be the bosses of the Quagoa, or the ones who helped them cross the Great Rift?
  241.  
  242. “Who, who are they? What do they look like! Chief of Staff! Gather every man who can move right now!”
  243.  
  244. “Understood!”
  245.  
  246. The commander did not even have the time to watch his panicked subordinate leave.
  247.  
  248. “How many of those monsters are there?! What are your losses?!”
  249.  
  250. “Y-yes! There’s about 30 of them. But they don’t seem to want to fight! They even said they wanted to make a deal with us, but they looked very evil, so I don’t think that was their real intention. There must be some sort of scheme at work!”
  251.  
  252. How exactly did they qualify as evil? More importantly, this man had not described them yet. After being questioned again, the soldier gulped and explained,
  253.  
  254. “They’re fearsome-looking undead surrounded by an inauspicious-looking aura!”
  255.  
  256. “What?! The undead?!”
  257.  
  258. Beings who hated the living, who sowed death in their wake, the enemies of everything that lived.
  259.  
  260. Several images appeared in the commander’s mind as he heard the word “undead”. For instance, Freezing Zombies, Frost Bones, and the like. However, none of those undead were powerful adversaries. This man should have known that. In that case, why was he so afraid?
  261.  
  262. Besides, why had the undead come here? Were they here to delight in the mutual massacre of  the Dwarves and Quagoa, both of which were living beings?
  263.  
  264. “Chief of Staff, are you ready yet?! Move out once you’re done! We don’t know what kind of undead are out there, but do not take them lightly! Don’t let them underestimate us! They may not be acting haughtily, but if they look down on us, we’ll be in danger!!”
  265.  
  266. 2
  267.  
  268. The group advanced, led by Gondo.
  269.  
  270. Since Gondo usually travelled underground, he was not very familiar with the surface. Therefore, he had to rely on his sense of direction over the terrain when it came to moving forward. Initially, Ainz had been worried about this. But after seeing Gondo advance without hesitation, he began to trust the man. Now, he had wholly entrusted the task of guidance to him.
  271.  
  272. The fact was that Gondo had no reason to deliberately lead Ainz astray now that the Quagoa were attacking the Dwarven capital. That being the case, there should be no problem having him lead the way.
  273.  
  274. Under Gondo’s leadership, Aura’s magical beasts moved across the snow like it was a grassy plain.
  275.  
  276. They boasted high dexterity and great stamina, as expected of high-level magical beasts. Even in the thin air of the snowy mountains and bearing Ainz and the others on their backs, their speed did not decrease one bit. They headed north at speeds of over 100 km per hour.
  277.  
  278. They had spotted several flying monsters during their journey, but a few threatening growls from the magical beasts scared them all away. Thanks to that, their travel time was cut to a minimum.
  279.  
  280. In less than a day, they had reached the sole remaining Dwarven city, Feoh Gēr.
  281.  
  282. Ainz guided his beast over to Gondo and asked him a question.
  283.  
  284. “...Well then, Gondo. The southern city of Feoh Raiđō was accessed through a fissure in a cave. Is Feoh Gēr like that as well?”
  285.  
  286. If that were the case, they would not be able to find a way in without searching for it. Gondo — who had initially been frightened by his magical beast, but was now used to riding it — replied:
  287.  
  288. “Umu. Most cities where Dwarves live are like that. However, Feoh Gēr was designed with considerations for large-scale trade with humans, so it’s slightly different from Feoh Raiđō. Firstly, it’s easy for humans to find, and in order to minimize any discomfort for visitors, they built a huge fort on the outside. You’ll know it when you see it.”
  289.  
  290. Ainz looked around after hearing that, but he still could not find any trace of a structure.
  291.  
  292. “You won’t see it if you don’t head further northeast.”
  293.  
  294. Gondo’s words were full of confidence. It would seem he was quite certain of where their destination was. Since he was the only one who could lead them, there was nothing Ainz could do if he was wrong, so all he could do was trust him.
  295.  
  296. With an “Is that so,” Ainz cast his [Message] spell.
  297.  
  298. The captured Quagoa had been taken to Nazarick. There, they had been questioned, and their knowledge used to supplement Gondo’s report.
  299.  
  300. The Quagoa were a race that submitted to the strong, but the Quagoa of the Azellisian Mountain Range were divided into eight clans, all of whom were united under the Clan Lord. They numbered 80’000 people in total.
  301.  
  302. After analyzing this information, Ainz stamped them as a race which held no charm for him.
  303.  
  304. If he had to choose between helping the Dwarves or the Quagoa, Ainz would choose the former without hesitation.
  305.  
  306. However, he learned that the metals which the Quagoa ate when young determined their strength when they matured. If he let them eat the metals of Nazarick, it might result in the birth of a powerful individual.
  307.  
  308. Then, he thought about the prismatic ores in the Dwarven Kingdom.
  309.  
  310. Even if he had not eaten one of the prismatic ores, perhaps this Clan Lord had reached his station by eating one of the rare metals of YGGDRASIL.
  311.  
  312. If he was strong enough to capture, then it was worth investigating him.
  313.  
  314. I should consider taking them in if they can obey the Sorcerous Kingdom, even though I’m not confident of taking in 80’000 people. After all, that’s the sort of country I want.
  315.  
  316. The country Ainz wanted.
  317.  
  318. It was a nation where many races lived in harmony under his rule. It was a nation which reproduced the image one had of the guild Ainz Ooal Gown.
  319.  
  320. It was a nation where his friends, wherever they were, could live and smile.
  321.  
  322. That being the case, he ought to show these Quagoa some mercy.
  323.  
  324. Still, if they swear their loyalty to me, where should I put them? This mountain is a little sparse… what about the mountain range to the south of E-Rantel? But there might be residents there too… Umu, what a pain. The Lizardmen have the same technology level as them. Perhaps my experience in ruling them could be put to use. It might be a good idea to let Cocytus handle them.
  325.  
  326. After thinking this far, Ainz considered the opposite side of the coin.
  327.  
  328. What if they don’t bend the knee? Shall I rule them by force? Shall I exterminate them? Or should I kill all the adults and use the children for experiments? Is forcing them into one clan and then ruling over them the best way?
  329. (那如果不屈服的话——该怎么办?用力量去支配么?还是歼灭掉呢?或者说把大人处理掉,只把小孩抓起来用作实验呢?比起这样,既然是氏族联合,把他们弄成一个氏族再支配的话或许是最好的方法了吧?)
  330.  
  331. As he considered various matters, Gondo’s shout interrupted Ainz’s train of thought.
  332.  
  333. “Over there!”
  334.  
  335. Ainz looked where Gondo was pointing, and sure enough, there was something which looked like a fort built up against the moutainside.
  336.  
  337. The group headed straight for it. While there were many ways to conceal themselves, there was no point in doing so, and thus they proceeded directly and openly.
  338.  
  339. As they closed the distance to the fort, the defenders at the fort spotted them, and the sentries came to life.
  340.  
  341. Much like what he would do before a sales pitch, Ainz inspected his clothing, and made sure his robe was not wrinkled. Of course, it was a magic item and could not get torn or wrinkled, but his memories as Suzuki Satoru told him that he should do so.
  342.  
  343. After they approached the fort, the Dwarves cocked their crossbows and took aim from the windows.
  344.  
  345. The only people who might be lethally wounded by the bolts were Gondo and Zenberu.
  346.  
  347. While he had thought of sending them to negotiate to prove that they had no hostile intentions, they might end up being shot by bolts if things went wrong, so he abandoned that idea. Instead, Ainz would proceed first, while Gondo and Zenberu would show up later.
  348.  
  349. He halted his beast outside the effective range of their crossbows and then dismounted. Because he was still within the maximum range of the crossbows, he ordered Shalltear and Aura to stand by and protect Gondo and Zenberu.
  350.  
  351. After this, all that’s left was anti-player strategies.
  352.  
  353. If there were any players, they would immediately take a defensive stance and fall back. While he could not confirm the presence or absence of players during his talks with Gondo on the road, it was more likely that they did not exist. However, if he was careless, he might end up losing the NPCs (the children) and Ainz did not want to experience that a second time.
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