Life has its fortunes and its hardships.
I believe these words of the old man of Mito is a wise saying. Life has its mountains and valleys. It is exactly because one climbed over adversity that one could sail down, and if one keeps taking the easy way down one would soon find oneself surrounded by rising slopes. The conclusion is therefore, a person should persevere through life’s climbs, but I think different.
This is what I think.
I can walk the level path without any ascents or descents, of moderate pain and moderate comfort.
What I could do, and what I could not do.
What I want to do, and what I don’t want to do.
What I want others to do, and what I don’t want others to do.
By making sure of all that, I walk, looking for a path that is suitable for who I am at the moment. I live a steady life, without taking unnecessary risks, without collecting the hate of others. There are probably those out there who think “what’s so fun about a life without its pains and enjoyments,” but please think about it. Regardless of what one wants or doesn’t want, life will always have its storms.
Inscrutable are the ways of heaven. Therefore, one should pin the instability down to a level one could control.
That was practically how I live my life.
Calmly analyzing my own personal abilities, limits, surrounding environment, financial state, and relationships, evaluating them not too much, nor too little, without aiming too high or too low…… that is my life.
That way I enjoyed a moderate life, going to a middle school near home, graduating from a so-so private high school, and passing college life at a not very famous college but still one with a reputation similar to those. If this continued, I would probably lead a not-so-bad college life, gain a not-so-bad employment, and build a not-so-bad household with a not-so-bad partner. People would probably think it’s bad, but this is all smooth sailing for me.
However, that life plan of mine was overturned.
It was overturned by this man before my eyes.
“O, Hero! Thou truly hath come to answer our call!”
A middle-aged man with medium build. His age was probably in the 40s or 50s.
He was wearing a red cape as thick as a coat and a golden crown on top of his head.
He stood majestically, yes, no matter how you look, he’s a [King].
The young, gentle-looking woman by his side was probably the [Queen].
She was wearing a luxurious dress, and seemed to be around thirty years of age.
I tried examining my surroundings. An overly tall ceiling, marble pillars arranged in lines, and red carpet underneath.
On both sides there were soldiers standing uniformly at attention, and there was a prime-minister-looking man mixed in among them.
It was indubitably a royal palace audience hall… or something like that. Something you see in RPG opening scenes.
The king, the royal palace, then the “O Hero” line I heard a while ago.
Hrm… looks like this is one of “those worlds”.
Be calm as you rush, and widen your view to see the invisible.
I committed every day to walking the flat path. Rushing won’t change things for the better, closing my eyes or stopping my ears won’t make the reality before me disappear. Therefore I should first come to terms with reality to some extent and gather intelligence. First, we observe.
“W, why that look? Are you angry we called you?”
As I stared in observation, the king said so, hesitantly. Where did your dignity go?
“No, I couldn’t understand the situation. Firstly, would you be kind enough to explain the current situation?”
“Y, you’re a calm one. I’m envious…”
“I, it’s nothing!”
The prime minister cleared his throat and the King shrugged with a start. Seeing that exchange, the Queen chuckled and even the guards smiled bitterly. From this chain of exchanges, I can see that the ‘Gentle-looking King’ is really a ‘Gentle King’. He seems to lack ambition for someone at the top of a country, but as a statesman he was probably a kind King loved by his subjects.
At least he doesn’t seem to be one to send the hero to a place of certain death or throw the hero away once he deems him useless, which was a relief. No no, I’ve been reading web novels with stories like that recently, see. Well, Kings like that eventually got the revenge of the heroes who came back at them, though. Reading stories with plots like that was refreshing but if you ask me if I want to experience something like that the answer is a definite no.
Now that I’ve said this much it should be understandable, but I recognize that I was the target of this king’s so-called [Hero Summoning]. Averting my eyes won’t change the situation. Therefore, any clichéd thoughts like “I wonder if this is a dream” is a waste of time.
“So? Is the Demon King coming to attack or something?”
“You’re quick to understand. It is as you say.”
“O, oi, what happened, Hero. To suddenly bury your head in your arms.”
“No… don’t mind it. I just felt a little dizzy.”
That’s weird. This is a clichéd development but it’s hurting my head.
Seeing how the Demon King is coming to attack he sure had the time to call a Hero, wait….
“Apologies. Can you please explain the situation.”
“I, is that so? Then I shall explain.”
Thus began the King’s “Tedious Explanation of the World straight out of an old RPG opening”.
Firstly, about this world itself, this world consists of the extra-large continent Randia and countless islands of all sizes. In the Randia continent there are many countries small and large, and besides humans, there are various races of therianthrope, elves, dwarves, ogres, and dragonewts living there. Among the countries there are ones where the races coexisted but there are ones that treat their own race favorably and ban other races, or ones where every race was all “equal under the one emperor”, these countries raised their hegemonies and warred, but due to a terrible tragedy of a world war sixty years ago, the countries thenceforth followed the course of peaceful cooperation.
Next was about the Demon King and the Demon Race. Ten years ago, at the northernmost end of the Randia continent, a space popularly known as the [Demon Realm] appeared, from there various kind of monsters large and small welled out, wreaking havoc upon many countries. The nations banded together and organized a punitive force to the Demon Realm, but it was annihilated. In the Demon Realm, there are [Demonic Creatures] with low (or possibly no) intelligence, and [Demon Race] with high intelligence and powerful combat ability, but the destruction of the punitive force was caused by the Demon Race. Also there are unconfirmed rumors of a King ruling over the Demon Race, the [Demon King].
After this war, the Demon Race did a counter-invasion, the Demon World that was at first only about the size of a small kingdom came to cover a fifth of the continent. Nowadays, this territory is called the [Demon King Territory]. The invasion has now stopped, but the reason was because the number of the soldiers dispatched to each front expand the territory was dispersed, and the nations were somehow able to maintain the fronts. However, the nations did not have the manpower to invade into the Demon King Territory, and if the Demon Race side were to concentrate on one area the other areas would be invaded, so the stalemate between them continued.
Next is about this country. This country is the [Elfrieden Kingdom], a medium-small monarchy situated at the easternmost tip of the continent. It was from the start a country raised by various races working hand-in-hand, and even with a human king it accepts other races without discrimination. Any race can enjoy citizenship rights, suffrage, and practically all occupations other than [King] are open to any race. It even seems the prime minister advising the King is a half-elf human.
Because it doesn’t border the Demon King Territory, it received little damage from Demonic Creature attacks, but it lacked national power from the beginning and its finance was not in good condition, either. In addition to the low food sufficiency, refugees who lost their homes to the expansion of the Demon King Territory flowing into this country only exacerbated the problem.
Also, dark clouds seem to be forming outside the borders. Relations with the [Grand Chaos] empire seems to be deteriorating. The Empire which boasts the largest domain outside the Demon King Territory was a country which shares the longest border with the Territory. It was also the nation to lead the first Demon King Territory invasion. In order to vindicate their honor, it seems they were planning a second invasion, and therefore imposed an unreasonable demand called the [War Support Appeal] on the nations. It was something of a neighborhood bully, saying “We’re going to war so give us money and supplies. If you don’t do as we say we’re going to beat the hell out of your country.”
Lastly, about the Hero Summoning that brought me into this world. The Empire as a matter of course sent the [War Support Appeal] to Elfrieden Kingdom as well. It seems the appeal contained the wording “If you can’t pay the support money, you can use the Hero Summoning ritual handed down in your country, summon the Hero, and send that Hero to the Empire.” It was obvious that this country does not have the spare funds to pay the support with, so it was clear that the Hero was their goal.
What was not clear was what their expectation was, did they want to use the Hero as a war asset, or maybe to dissect him for study and develop new weapons, or possibly they never expected anything to begin with and only wanted to use the failure to respond to the appeal as an excuse to annex the kingdom in one go. Faced with this situation the kingdom decided to at least perform the Hero Summoning Ritual. Whether they will deliver the Hero or not was still undecided, but if they successfully called the Hero he will become their negotiation card. Therefore, they had no choice but to show that they at least responded to the Appeal and performed the Ritual.
Also, nobody in the country ‘expected the Hero Summoning to be successful’.
“Hiii! We are very sorry!”
I stomped my foot and the King jumped up in fear.
So what? Was I really called by chance, without anyone even expecting me to do anything.
This isn’t a problem you can settle with a ‘we didn’t think it would work, tehepero ☆’!
Goddammit, are you saying my Tranquil Life Plan is ruined over something dumb like that!?
“tch…. What are you going to do then?”
“W, what do you mean what?”
“Whether you’re sending me to the Empire or not, of course.”
It probably wasn’t the language I’m supposed to use towards an elder and a person in a higher social stratum, but please have some sympathy. It’s a situation that could decide my life and death so I obviously would lose my temper. Not to mention because the Empire can decide the life and death of the Kingdom there’s no meaning for me to abase myself.
“That is… We wonder what to do. We’re stumped.”
The King looked seriously troubled. This is a bit unexpected.
I totally expected him to cling to me in tears or prostrate himself saying “We’re scared of the Empire! Please go to the Empire for the sake of our country!”. This King looked timid, you see. Despite being the summoner, he doesn’t look like he would shelter me against the Empire’s wishes.
“Why are you so troubled? You’re scared of the Empire right?”
“We’re scared! We’re scared so we’re troubled!”
“With all due respect, I’ll take care of the explanations from here.”
The one who said that was the half-elf Prime Minister.
“Currently, the difference between our and the Empire’s power is clear. We’re completely incapable of defying the Empire. But (un)luckily, the Hero is our country’s one and only card remaining. If we give this card away our country has nothing left to negotiate to the Empire with. In the end, they would snatch the Hero away and take down our country without hesitation.”
“Well… that does happen.”
Oushuu Fujiwarashi letting go of the card known as Minamoto Yoshitsune is a good precedent. People who yielded and gave away their wildcard over a temporary threat have no future. Ah, but I’m still not confident that I’m a wildcard. They say I’m a Hero or something, but I wonder if I woke up to some special power or another… I’ll ask just in case.
“Actually, what is a ‘Hero’? I don’t recall being something like that.”
“They say the Hero is ‘one who shows the way to the changing of the era’.”
So, not one who ‘defeats the Demon King’….
“Isn’t that too obscure?”
“We are at a lack of data at any rate.”
“So you did the ceremony with that lack of data.”
“We are very ashamed.”
That paperwork-like excuse isn’t going to make me happy, you know.
Anyway, this is worrying. No matter what I’m going to do there’s too little information.
….. Therefore, what we need the most right now is time.
“…… King, I have a proposal.”
“What is it? Say anything you like.”
“I’d like to discuss what we’re going to do after this. Not standing out in the open like this, but carefully, sitting in chairs. Let’s see… the three of us, me, you, and that Prime Minister over there.”
“Hm. What do you think, Markus?”
“Very well, I guess.”
Asked by the king, the Prime Minister called Markus bowed his head.
“Therefore please gather materials regarding this country. Focus especially on materials relating to taxation, agriculture and fisheries, economics and industry, and intra-kingdom transportation. I would like materials regarding Heroes, too, but… well, let’s leave that off for now.”
“Understood. We shall gather them immediately.”
Then this occasion was broken up for now, and I was formally called to the King’s office. I sat on a soft sofa, facing the King and Prime Minister Markus in conference after conference. For the time being, we talked about every possible thing we could. It was mostly a meeting where I read the gathered materials and asked about every minute detail, and these two unexpectedly eagerly getting on board with the plan I presented.
Finally the meeting ended, the King’s exceedingly bright face as he left the room was even now becoming a hot topic among the guards. It was the face of a man who had come to a resolution, they say.
◇ ◇ ◇
Then the next day, the King who had gathered the castle’s important personnel in the audience chamber, turned to them and loudly proclaimed.
“We, the 13th king of the Elfrieden Kingdom, Alberto Elfrieden, hereby declare that we abdicate the throne to the summoned hero Soma Kazuya! Also, we hereby announce the betrothal between our daughter Liecia Elfrieden and Soma-dono!”
The grounds fell silent. Every single person was at a loss for words.
The only ones who remained calm was probably only the Queen and Markus.
Meaning, it was a bombshell of a surprise announcement ‘even to me.’
◇ ◇ ◇
[Character Sketch: Alberto Elfrieden]
13th king of the Elfrieden Kingdom, reigning during the time of the appearance of the Demon Realm.
He was possessed of an exceedingly gentle personality and was loved by his subjects, but on the other hand, he lacked decisiveness, and had no notable achievements during his reign. However, because he did not make any notable mistakes either, he was an existence that would trouble later historians over whether he was a clever king or a foolish one. Nevertheless, the fact that he recognized his own limits, and despite being only in his fifties abdicated the throne to the Hero who would later be the Elfrieden Empire‘s founding Emperor Soma E. Elfrieden, pushed the needle slightly towards the clever side of the gauge.