When one got down to it, the premise of their victory was flawed from the start. Or rather, the battle itself had been a waste of time.
All they could do now was end this with as few casualties as possible and flee to a safe place. However, that was not the right thing to do.
Weakness was a sin.
It was a sin to be so weak that they could not rescue anyone. That was why they had trained hard to this day.
She could not allow this to end with herself as a sinner.
If that happened, she would not be able to face that figure of absolute justice, His Majesty Ainz Ooal Gown.
Neia had prepared her soul for what was to come, and she unconsciously mentioned what was in her heart.
“It’s all ogre now.”
She was louder than she thought she would be. There was no telling if the people around Neia had been affected by her mood, or if they had been thinking the same thing as Neia from the start, but whatever the reason, they all bowed their heads.
This was the end.
The foolish dream of liberating the Holy Kingdom and helping the people had come to an end.
Come to think of it, they had dared to entertain that dream because of the Sorcerer King’s power. But they had ended up like this when they only had themselves to count on.
Neia knew that now was not the time to laugh, but she did. Then her face turned serious, and she looked toward CZ.
“...Can you get away?”
“...How about you, Neia?”
Neia held her chest high.
“I can’t run away! I’m a person who saw His Majesty work for others, and who benefited from it. I can’t let this end with me as a weakling -- as a sinner.”
Neia saw the people around her raise their heads.
“We won’t run from that bastard!”
They looked like proper warriors again.
Those were the faces of men who were prepared to die. How she wanted to show them off before the Sorcerer King.
“But… you… no, you’re not the same… Which is why we want to entrust our wishes to you. I know it must be strange to thank His Majesty through you, but as one of his subordinates… Please do it for us. Please find His Majesty, CZ. You can command those of us who are still in Kalinsha as you see fit. Please…”
Neia breathed a sigh of relief after seeing CZ agree.
However, that expression immediately became one of resignation.
“...There’s no need for me to go.”
“What, what does that mean?”
CZ pointed at the approaching objects -- the demihuman reinforcements coming from the direction of Kalinsha. They were made up of many different races, even Orcs and Zerns. Neia stared at the flags which the demihuman reinforcements were holding up in neat rows. It was--
Neia was so shocked that she exclaimed despite herself.
She doubted what her eyes had seen and looked again several more times, but what she saw remained the same.
“...See? There’s no need.”
Neia knew that flag very well.
It was the flag of the Sorcerous Kingdom.
The shocked cries from her comrades proved that what Neia had seen was no illusion.
“Isn’t that the flag of the Sorcerous Kingdom? You told us about it before, didn’t you, Baraja-sama?”
“Are those reinforcements from the Sorcerous Kingdom? Baraja-sama did say something about demihumans in the Sorcerous Kingdom.”
There was a war going on now. At this very moment, countless people were killing each other, and Jaldabaoth was killing people too.
However, Neia forgot all that as she tried desperately to grasp what was going on.
What happened next fired everyone up.
The demihuman army split into two, like they had drilled the maneuver countless times. They made way in the center for a single undead being to step forward.
He was a magic caster in a black robe, mounted on a skeletal warhorse.
That was the form of the hero Neia adored, who she saw even in her dreams.
“It, it’s His Majesty… is this really happening…”
Neia could not confidently say if she was watching a dream or witnessing reality.
However, the being she saw was immovable, and he could not be a dream.
Her emotions exploded inside her, to the point she could not even describe how she felt.
Her hot tears blurred her field of vision. She could not even think to wipe them away.
CZ waved to the Sorcerer King. He seemed to have noticed this, and urged his horse over to her.
The Sorcerer King was upon them.
What should she say to him? Should she apologize for not searching for him? Would she be forgiven if she did that? While Neia was looking for the right words to say, the Sorcerer King had already reached her and nimbly dismounted from his steed.
“...Umu. What a coincidence, meeting you here. Miss Baraja. Did you think I was dead?”
“Your, Your Majesty!”
Neia could not stem the flow of her tears.
“I believed all this time, because CZ-sempai told me. I thought you would be fine, but… it was true!”
“Ah… um. Ah… hm. Mm. I see. That pleases me. Uh… sempai?”
It would seem the Sorcerer King was also delighted at this reunion, because he seemed to be at a loss for words.
CZ pressed her handkerchief to Neia’s face and rubbed it forcefully.”
“...There’s snot on it again. Really shocking.”
“Oh… it seems you’re getting along quite well with CZ, Miss Baraja. This pleases me.”
“It’s all thanks to Your Majesty! I don’t know what I’d do without CZ-sempai! Thank you very much!”
Neia’s heart had been in such an upheaval that she did not know what she had been saying just now.
“I see… That is quite a surprise for me… CZ, how was it?”
“...I like Neia. Her face is very tasty.”
“Please don’t say it’s tasty,” Neia said as she rubbed her eyes, having stopped crying already. Soon, she had cleared away the last of her tears. “Your Majesty, I have many things I would like to ask You, but the most important thing is… are You displeased at the speed of our rescue? If you are, then I take full responsibility--”
“--Miss Baraja,” the Sorcerer King raised his hand to keep her from going on. “Why are you saying this? None of you have displeased me in any way.”
Neia’s eyes filled with tears again. Nor was she alone -- everyone around her who had heard the Sorcerer King’s kind words wept as well. There were people who had been holding their tears in who finally broke down sobbing.
The Sorcerer King’s shoulders shifted slightly.
“...Ah, everyone, do not cry. More importantly, you ought to have other things you wish to ask, no? Many more things? Why not ask ?”
After CZ wiped her tears again -- she had apparently put the snot-stained handkerchief away -- Neia asked the Sorcerer King a question.
“Are, are those demihumans soldiers of the Sorcerous Kingdom?”
While she had not seen any undead among them, these demihumans might merely be the vanguard.
“No… no, you could say that, I believe? When I fell to the Abelion Hills, I took the land there for the Sorcerous Kingdom. Therefore, you could call them forces of the Sorcerous Kingdom, no?”
Neia was speechless.
He was amazing.
How could that be anything other than “amazing”?
The hills were filled with demihumans, and they were supposedly ruled by a henchman of Jaldabaoth. Yet he had dealt with him with just his strength alone and subjugated the hills. Who else could do this besides the Sorcerer King?
Neia was so excited that she sasugasmed.
“And so, well, it took me a bit of time to gather the people suffering under Jaldabaoth and lead them here as an army. All this was in order to settle things with Jaldabaoth -- it seems we had good timing.”
There were no facial expressions on the Sorcerer King’s bony visage, but Neia could sense him smiling majestically.
“I! I expected nothing less of Your Majesty!”
Beldran ran over to the Sorcerer King, his face stained by tears.
“Oh! It is He!”
Suddenly, Beldran fell to his knees. No, he was not alone. Everyone around Neia -- everyone who belonged to her flock -- gathered around and prostrated themselves before him.
“Simply magnificent, Your Majesty!”
Even the Sorcerer King was startled by the chorus of praise.
“Oh, ahh… hm… speaking of which, I have a question for you as well, Miss Baraja… who are they?”
“They are people who are grateful for Your Majesty’s kindness and who wish to repay it to You!”
“Yes! We were rescued by Your Majesty!”
“Yes! We are the people who wished to repay the debt we owe Your Majesty in some way. Thus, when Baraja-sama called, we answered!”
“We’re not the only ones! There are many more people who want to repay the kindness Your Majesty showed us!”
“Oh… this makes me very happy… although, is everyone like this?”
“Yes! Precisely! Everyone is grateful to you!”
“I… I see… Thank you, everyone.”
The Sorcerer King’s thanks made everyone feel like they had chosen the right way to express their gratitude, and so they wept with lumps in their throats.
“...Are these tears of gratitude for me?”
“And you gathered them all, Miss Baraja… it seems you’ve grown up while I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Thank you very much, Your Majesty!”
Neia was all smiles after being praised by the Sorcerer King.
“Ah, now then… Miss Baraja, please have them rise. I came here to make up for my previous, unsightly display… what happened to Jaldabaoth?”
“Ah! Yes! Jaldabaoth--”
Flames erupted, as though they had been waiting for that moment. Neia shuddered as she thought of how many of the Holy Kingdom’s soldiers must have perished in that blaze.
“..I see. Then there is no need to ask. It seems the time to fight him again has come. CZ!”
“I will handle what comes after. You will protect the people here. Don’t forget to have them prepare an appropriate welcome for my victorious return, alright?”
Cheers of “ohhhhh!” rose up from the crowd.
“Listen well! I miscalculated in the previous battle. I was outnumbered and low on mana. However, the situation now is different. Jaldabaoth cannot summon that many demons again in a short time. In addition, I am fully recovered now. There is no more reason for me to lose! All you need to do is wait here for me to return in triumph!”
The people cheered as the Sorcerer King announced his absolute victory.
He flourished his cape and advanced into no man’s land. Everyone stepped aside, clearing a straight path for him, as though shaken by his overpowering aura of dominion.
The Sorcerer King turned to look at Neia.
The Sorcerer advanced once more. Though his form seemed to be shrinking, she did not feel alone or afraid. It was the reassurance of a child being held by her parents. Neia was not the only one. There were others who felt the same way.
From beside Neia, CZ announced the Sorcerer King’s victory with certainty in her voice. Neia agreed with her as well.
Soon -- a plume of flame rose. It was followed by the darkness flying after it.
Just as before, fire and shadow clashed with each other.
By this time, the battlefield had gone silent.
Both sides lowered their blades and looked to the battle in the sky.
Everyone knew it in their hearts.
The victor of this battle would have the right to end it all.
They were no longer in a realm where mortal men could intervene. This was a battle of the gods.
All manner of incomprehensible phenomena--
--Collided with incredible force.
That was because Neia’s keen eyes had seen the fire die, and the darkness slowly descend.
This battle had been surprisingly swift compared to the previous one. It was as though to prove that with his mana restored and without the maid demons to get in his way, the Sorcerer King could triumph that easily.
“...It’s like I told you, kouhai.”
CZ looked like this was perfectly natural, and Neia grabbed her hand and shook it vigorously. However, that was not enough to calm her heart. Neia tightly embraced CZ’s little body and the hands behind her back kept patting and patting.
As everyone witnessed his victory, they erupted into thunderous cheers.
The Sorcerer King slowly descended and landed upon the earth.
After that, the Sorcerer King raised both his arms, and brought forth even greater cheers than before.