“Ah, Momon…?” Lupusregina asked when they were out of sight and heading down an alley toward a supply shop. While her voice was polite, it had a casual air that fit with her easy self satisfied step following her absurd victory armwrestling at the guild.
“Yes… Lupu?” Ainz replied to her with a hint of relief, ‘Almost any other would be struggling to be casual, good god what if I’d chosen Narberal Gamma? I doubt she could do it.’
They brushed past a boy with a bowl cut-like head of hair that dangled heavily in front of his eyes when Lupusregina asked, “You had Albedo with you last time, right? So why not bring her again? If… if I could ask.” She blushed a little at her own boldness, but it was enough to stop Ainz where he stood.
“Albedo…” He said, glancing out of the corner of his eye, the young man with the apron on had paused to stare at them in the same sort of reflexive awe that others did, but quickly moved on, Ainz trailed off on his train of thought as bitter guilt washed over him.
“There is nothing wrong with asking, but I must caution you to never mention her out in public again, especially not to me when I am acting as ‘Momon’.” Ainz warned her, “who can say what might be overheard by the wrong party?”
Lupusregina had her face turned up at him and she tightened her lips, “Yes, of course, so sorry my, er, Momon.”
“It’s fine.” Ainz replied, ‘Albedo… that poor beautiful girl… what have I done to you, what a selfish, stupid whim of mine… how do I make this right?’ He wondered, and found no answer.
Lupu sniffed in his direction, “Momon, are… are you alright?”
“Yes, of course, why?” Ainz answered with a sudden rush of panic.
“I just… I am…” She glanced up and down the alley, “what I am. You know how we are with, you know, ‘our own’. Did I upset you? Please… please forgive me.” Lupusregina lowered her eyes in deference, and on impulse Ainz put a hand on her head and rubbed gently.
“No, it has nothing to do with you, and don’t think about this again, Albedo just has things to do at home. I can’t have her and I both gone all the time.” Ainz insisted, and without waiting for an answer they moved on.
They walked in amiable silence. They found a small shop that by the virtue of having its own building, when compared to the many small stalls closer to the entrance into the city interior, must have been doing quite well. The walls were lined with shelves, and each shelf had a well organized array of products. One long hook had a series of leather packs, another pouches for belts. Another had a stock of herbs in various containers. Some were of cheap clay, a few were rough stone with a smooth space for labeling, and others were of glass.
Near those were other camping supplies, bedrolls and other materials, but Ainz had a particular need for which the shop was well prepared. Behind the counter a rotund balding man with a salt and pepper beard sat on a bench, tilted his head up to look at the towering dark warrior. “You’re a big’n, I’d remember you. Since I don’t, you must be new.”
“Yes, I need two sets of traveling equipment for adventurers.” Momon pointed to the copper plate dangling from around his neck.
“Sure, sure, copper plate huh, no problem, you got the coin for it, this stool is right comfortable and I don’t want to move without money in hand.” His chubby face split in a little laugh, and Momon politely let out a half of one himself before drawing a pouch of copper coins from off his belt and tipping it over.
Copper coins fell into a clatter on the counter, and it proved enough to buy motion from the shopkeep. “Twenty-five coppers per set.” He answered, and walked to the wall behind him, rows of pre-packed sets of gear were arrayed on shelves, and with strength surprising for a man of his age, he easily slung two onto the counter from where he stood. They landed with heavy thuds on the rough wood.
He waddled back to his stool, sat down, and slapped chubby hands down on the gear. “This is a complete set of rations for seven days, sleeping stuff, flint, and a few herbal treatments for injuries. You run out of anything, come back here with that pack on and I’ll knock a copper off any replacement item.”
“Do you sell potions as well?” Momon asked while looking around the shop.
The old man laughed, “Oh, by the four, no. You want potions, the Bareare have a monopoly on that, and more power to em. They sell at a good price to adventurers, but even then most copper plates can’t afford em… but…” He looked at the high end equipment and clothing of the pair in front of him, “Maybe you folk could. Stop by there before you go out, a lot of adventurers who come in with copper plates…” For a brief moment, sorrow filled his face, a glassy shimmer took over his eyes, “I never see again. Dangerous work you’re goin out to do, and I wish you luck, I truly do.”
“I-I see. Thank you. Is this area so dangerous?” Ainz asked, furrowing his brow behind his helmet.
“I wouldn’ta thought so when I was young, ‘course.” The old man wiped his eyes with vigor and sat up straighter on his stool, “But the thing is, most adventurers are fresh off the farm, got no idea what to do and big dreams. Like a kid who smells a hot pie in a window, they follow the promised flavor right into the dog’s yard, and…” He jerked his hand up and snapped his fingers over the space between him and his customers. “Some of them, they had great potential, others, well I started mourning them before they left the shop. But one wrong monster is all it takes. One too many goblins, and next thing you know they’re gone, and the problem they went to solve is a little bit stronger. Nobody much cares about copper plates except… well folks like me.”
“An folks like Ainzach, at least. But we can’t do much about it except give good gear and good advice and hope folks listen. Most of the time, they don’t, and I never see em again.” The fat throat had a thick lump in it, and then he shook off whatever he felt. “Good luck to you folks, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Next time you visit, I’ll knock off two coppers, just make sure there’s a next time.”
“Of course, have a pleasant day.” Ainz remarked and, putting his hand on Lupusregina’s back, he guided her toward the door.
When they were outside, Ainz’s sense of anxiety began to rise. ‘I may be strong, but with a very different level cap than the game, there’s no certainty that there is nothing stronger than I. Is the level cap removed from the guardians as well? Or is it just me?’ His heart palpitations grew only greater when he glanced sideways down at Lupusregina as he tried to work out which was worse.
‘Could I kill them to save myself? If they turn on me, would they turn on me, are they even capable of doing so, and if they did, how far would I go to stay alive? Maybe there’s no harm in telling them what happened, perhaps they would help me fix it. But… do I even ‘want’ to fix it? Being an Overlord had its advantages… but if I’m being honest, yes, I missed my penis, even if I didn’t get to use it before.’ His line of thought became only more tense before they entered the adventurer’s guild hall.
That made him think of Albedo. ‘Love, she must have declared her love more in one day than anyone else did in my entire life.’ Then he remembered… ‘Never mind, nobody ever declared it for me at all, so even ‘once’ was record breaking.’ The morose thought was accompanied by a sense of guilt that hadn’t faded between the outside and inside of the building when he passed through the cheap wooden door of the inn and headed to the counter.
Respectful looks met them immediately. “That’s the one with the crazy strong woman… says he’s stronger than her… thas the way it goes isn it? They say women like a strong man…” Whispers went about the room, but nobody barred their way.
A red headed woman’s loving, proud look at a little glass bottle full of blue liquid, turned jealous when she saw the stares of the vibrant, radiant Lupusregina, and as if seeking comfort from the vial, she snatched it in her hands and held it close to herself.
Lupusregina ate up the attention, waving her fingers pleasantly at the various patrons. “Room for two… two beds.” Ainz added, a large man that was a peculiar mix of muscle and fat, with a bald head and a brown mustache, was quick to answer.
“Five coppers for the room, add two for meals if you eat here. Common sleep area is three coppers.” His voice was as beefy as his body, but he stiffened when Ainz replied to him…
“Five coppers it is.”
“Ehhh, that is a copper plate, right? They sent you to get supplies and get a room before getting a job, right?” The man behind the counter crossed his arms like he was defying contradiction.
“Yes, why?” Ainz asked.
The innkeeper glowered at Ainz and retorted, “Because this place here, it’s for lowbies, you need a team or you’ll die out there. No matter what fancy armor you got from daddy, or how strong your nursemaid behind you is, it takes more than…”
From the moment the innkeeper spoke, Ainz recognized a problem. ‘Lupusregina established her strength, and to a degree established mine, but if I let myself be insulted now, my reputation will drop.’ His time as a salaryman came in handy when he recalled the importance of establishing a reputation for strength. Even though he was no longer a salaryman, there was no question in his mind that even though the method of expression had changed, the truth hadn’t. Be thought of as spineless, and he would be walked all over.
Ainz’s hand darted out, took the man by the throat, then, before the many watching eyes, he lifted him up several feet off the ground. “If you’re going to talk down to me, you need to be bigger than you are. I can take care of myself, are we clear?”
Eyes bugged out of the big innkeeper’s head and a gurgled nod followed.
Gasps filled the room behind Ainz, warriors knew quite well how strong someone had to be to lift another person one handed.
To cap it off, Ainz spun and tossed the insulting behemoth of an innkeeper across the room. Tables and chairs broke, and the redheaded adventurer cried out in alarm.
“No! No! No! No! No!” She howled, and Ainz cursed in his head, he’d gone too far.
‘Damn it, did I break her potion?!’ He wondered, ‘Or did I hurt her?’ A sickly concern for her wellbeing gnawed at him when he saw that she’d tumbled to the floor.
She glared up at Ainz as soon as she saw him standing over her. In her hand was an intact potion. “You lunkhead! You idiot! You meathead!” She shouted from down on the floor, “Look what you’ve done!”
A nasty gash from a broken table leg was dripping blood down her body. “I can’t afford a healer! I was supposed to go on an adventure today! Now I have to use my potion! Thank goodness it survived! But still! Do you know how expensive these are?! I skipped drinking, I skipped meals, for weeks on end, just to be able to buy this and now look at me!”
As women went, she wasn’t bad to look at in his eyes, but more noteworthy was how little she seemed to care for the pain she must have been in. ‘Impressive. Before I got ‘this’ body, back home, I’d have wailed over a lot less. She takes it in stride, so this is an adventurer…’ The admiring thought was enough for him to be happy to extend a hand down to her.
The innkeeper was on his feet and, looking more than a little bit sheepish.
“I felt safe and secure as long as I had my potion, now I haven’t even left town and I have no choice but to use it!” She shouted at him, despite accepting his hand and letting him pull her up.
“Why do you have to use it? Is healing so costly, my companion is a cleric, she could heal you.” Ainz suggested.
Shocked gasps went over the room, even the redheaded adventurer shut up.
“What?” Ainz asked.
“Don’t you know?” The woman asked him with trepidation when she grabbed another chair and sat down with only a little wince.
“You can heal party members, but not just ‘randomly encountered people’. That goes against temple rules, you can be kicked out of the guild if you do that.” She replied.
‘Now that… that is colder than a corpse in winter.’ Ainz thought unhappily when it turned his mind to the exploitive care systems of his own world.
But his intelligence stat seemed to be working overtime and he had a quick reply. ‘I was wondering how I would pick a job when I can’t read the language here yet. And here is my solution.’ He thanked both his luck and intelligence stats and said, “Then why don’t we work together? I will lend you my sword for this one adventure, and because we are in the same party, my partner can heal you now.”
The woman’s blue eyes brightened, “Alright, that’s fair. Even… brilliant, plus you’re obviously strong at least…”
Ainz thrust out his onyx mailed hand, “I am Momon. This is Lupu.”
“Brita.” The redhead said and with some reluctance, took his hand and shook it.
“A bargain then.” Ainz said and looked over his shoulder, “Alright Lupu, heal her.”
The tavern in the inn was quiet while the healing was conducted on the young iron ranked Brita, and she raised a red brow when it was over.
“What tier spell was that? The last time somebody used a healing spell on me it took several really painful seconds to work… but that was instant.” Brita asked, and Ainz answered with a hint of pride.
“Fourth tier, and yes, I am a warrior on par with her.” Ainz put a hand on Lupu’s head and she flushed with pride at his affection and praise.
Brita’s mouth dropped open, “You… really?” Her disbelief quickly morphed into excitement.
It was easy to understand why. Ainz looked her over more closely, her sword looked to be simple steel, her armor was mostly leather with a few metal studs throughout. To call it basic gear would be a fair to generous assessment. A full plate armored warrior and a fourth tier cleric were practically guarantees of survival.
But before her excitement could verbally explode, the double swaying door of the inn echoed again as several figures breezed into view.
“Brita! Love of my life, will you go out with me after this adventure?!” A sonorous and mockingly romantic voice called out.
Ainz looked over to the entrance to see a blonde, decent looking man of fair complexion and moderate build in high boots with leather armor over a red shirt. He wore a single sword and had a strong looking arm extended out melodramatically.
“You know this one?” Ainz asked, suddenly reappraising Brita, who rolled her eyes.
“Yes, the idiot is Lukrut, and they’re the Swords of Darkness, the people I was going to work with today. Which… I suppose it means you’ll be along for the ride.” She grinned sheepishly up at Lupu.
“He’s going to hit on you. You get used to it.” Brita chuckled.
To Brita’s surprise, Lupu had a quick answer. “I do the hitting, and he’ll get used to it.”
“Joke’s on you, oh ravishing beauty! I’m into that!” Lukrut declared for all to hear, spreading his arms out wide to the sound of a collective groan in the tavern area.
‘Great, a world of perverts… again.’ Ainz mentally groaned as the Swords of Darkness reached for chairs to pull themselves up to where their comrade sat.