«TN: footnotes are the author’s own parenthesized statements that took more than half a line (and thus would break the flow of text) unless I specifically marked them with a «TN: » block.»
In history there are scenes that would easily be turned into plays in later eras. The requirements for those are
One, it has to be the turning point of an age.
Two, there has to be a star appropriate for a play.
These are the two requirements.
In the case of the Sengoku Period, it’s the scene of Oda Nobunaga dancing the [Atsumori] before the battle of Okehazama.
In the case of the Annals of the Three Kingdoms, it’s the scene of Liu Bei’s [Three Visits] to Zhuge Liang.
In the case of Rome, it’s the scene of Caesar’s [Alea Jacta Est] as he crossed the Rubicon.
In that case, if one were to ask which scene in this age where Soma was enthroned would most often be turned into plays, it would certainly be the scene of this personnel gathering. Of the five talented youngsters that stood before Soma at his summons, only one did he unconditionally receive.
From Soma’s point of view, this scene was just another one of his exploits, but from a certain person’s point of view, it was a Cinderella story that turned their life upside down, and from the point of view of ‘one of the remaining four youngsters who saw the scene differently than the other three’, it was [the turning point of an age].
Yes. This scene has ‘three’ leading actors.
◇ ◇ ◇
I was worried how many people would come, but it was unexpectedly a huge success.
I’m glad I didn’t limit the kind of talent and also gave out cash rewards.
The capital right now is so jammed with people they had to instate an entry limitation. Due to the exceptional circumstances, the civil officials starting with Markus had been in a tizzy since morning.
It was surprising that this country has this many talented people, but somehow it doesn’t seem to be the case. Because of my grand recruitment, spectators who wanted to have a look at what kind of people catches the King’s eye came along in large numbers, and where there’s people, there’s money. Merchants, seeing this good opportunity, also gathered and had begun setting up street stalls, and the castle town turned into something like a festival. The curious situation was stimulating to the economy but as it does, the civil officials’ troubles went on the increase.
Now then, the main part, the personnel gathering, seems to be a great success.
From action-ready talents to ones that doesn’t look to be useful at first glance, a lot of talents displayed themselves on the judging grounds. Five officials at the judging grounds judged whether or not the talent being displayed is unique or not, and if their talent was acknowledged they will get a cash reward no matter the talent. Liecia and I monitored the whole thing from a separate room and should a person catch our interest they will be picked out.
A truly great number of people announced their candidacy but on the other hand the amount of ‘duplicates’ are proportionally high. [Valor], [Public Entertainment], and [Beauty] talents were particularly violently contested so they were conducted in separate venues to decide the [Number One] from each of them. The venues were respectively designated the [Kingdom’s Number One Fighting Tournament], [Kingdom of Talents], and [Elfrieden Bishoujo Grand Prix], giving spectators a special treat.
Incidentally, I later received an appeal from the merchants’ association to hold these events in the capital Parnam once every year to attract tourists. Also, rumors floated that the [Elfrieden Bishoujo Grand Prix] was really a contest for the selection of the King’s concubines so nobles who wanted marriage ties with the king sent young girls in their kin to participate, but that’s unrelated right now so I’ll leave it at that. Liecia seems to have heard the rumors from somewhere, though, and sent me piercing stares….
◇ ◇ ◇
The judging which I predicted would take one day was extended for three days, it was on the fourth day that people with talents that made me say ‘this is it’ appeared before my eyes.
There was Liecia standing¹ next to me, who was sitting on the throne, on my right hand side on a lower step was Prime Minister Markus-dono, and on the left there stood the captain of the Royal Knights Ludwin-dono. By the way, this scene was being broadcast throughout the country using the orb brought out from the [Royal Voice Chamber].
¹ Though she is my fiancée our marriage had not yet been settled so she couldn’t sit on the queen’s seat
Then in front of us, there were five youngsters standing in line.
One was a silver-haired elf-eared dark-skinned slightly-muscled soldier-ish young girl.
One was a young man with all his body covered in black clothes, with a somewhat disinterested face.
One was a blue haired girl, beautiful in a different way from Liecia’s gallantness, one with a gentle air.
One was a homely little girl of about ten years old with fox ears springing out from her head.
And the last one was an indistinct plump man sweating greasy sweat.
“Your highness. This country’s many talented people Your Highness have summoned had been recorded in the Royal Office archives. These people are the ones who showed particularly rare talents this occasion”
Markus announced, and then…
The plump man vigorously bowed² like a jumping locust.
The blue-haired beauty bowed, every single move she made full of grace.
The fox-eared little girl imitated them and bowed clumsily.
The young man in black saw them with sleepy eyes and bowed last.
The elf-eared girl stayed standing. Seeing that, the people around became startled.
² «TN: more like a kowtow, actually»
“You’re in the presence of His Highness the King. On your knees”
Ludwin-dono cautioned her quietly, but with anger mixed in his voice, but the elf-eared girl took no concern. On the contrary, she looked me straight in the eye and declared.
“I beg your pardon for our tribe’s custom. The soldiers of our tribe bow to no one but our masters. Also, it is a sign of virtue for our women to bow their heads to no one besides their husbands”
“I don’t mind”
I held Ludwin, who was about to argue, back with my hand.
“It was us who appealed for their cooperation for the country. I will not be obstinate”
“….. As Your Highness wishes”
Ludwin-dono withdrew. …. He understands well.
The actions are in order to not be looked down on by the other party, but still show the King’s magnanimity. He was a splendid actor. Therefore I will perform as expected as well and play the tolerant king.
I stood up from the throne and faced them.
“All of you raise your heads, our position here is as the one who’s seeking your support. You may abandon formalities and be at ease”
The four slowly stood up. I gave Markus a look, urging him to proceed.
Markus nodded, unrolled some kind of scroll and started reading.
“Then I shall henceforth hold the ceremony to announce the talents these people are endowed with and grant their rewards! Dark Elf of the [God-Protected Forest] Aisha Woodgard, step forward!”
This time the Elf-eared girl obediently did as she was told. Well, such pinpointed rules like “you shouldn’t step forward before you’re called out” shouldn’t exist anyway. The age of foreigners is, as a rule, difficult to tell so I don’t know how old she was, but she’s probably hasn’t reached 20 yet. She had dark brown skin and silver hair, was slim but moderately muscled, healthy. She had a somewhat intense expression but she’s well in the category of ‘beautiful girl’.
[Dark Elf]. Belonging to the class of minority peoples in the Kingdom of Elfrieden, they are a race with high combat prowess. They dwell in the God-Protected Forest instead of in towns and are allowed autonomy as protectors of the forest. An exclusive tribe with a high tribal identity….
With a calm pretense, I handily manipulated gloves I left in the library with my split consciousness and looked up the entry for Dark Elf in the [Elfrieden Children’s Encyclopedia]³. It takes time but it was convenient because it was like having a search engine in my head.
Incidentally, the [Dark Elves] in this kingdom weren’t Elves that fell and lost the favor of the gods like in fantasy, but simply that Elves with light skin and blonde hair were called [Light Elves] and ones with dark skin and silver hair were called [Dark Elves].
³ Because it was intended for children the contents are made short, my favorite for letting me get information in a short time
“She showed remarkable talent in combat and as the winner of the [Kingdom’s Number One Fighting Tournament] earlier, her competence can truly be called the Kingdom’s Number One, she will be awarded that title!”
Oooh~, that fighting tournament’s winner. Must be considerably strong.
But there’s something I’m curious about.
“I was recruiting personnel for the country, but could you lend your strength to the country when it’s needed? I read that a Dark Elf belongs only to their tribe”
“This is not the age where we can live just by protecting the forest. Without the country the forest will be in danger. There are Dark Elves who think we should change our ways. I am one of them”
Aisha declared that clearly.
“Still… That’s a rather progressive outlook for a conservative tribe”
“Certainly, we’re treated as heretics, but if we keep going as we are… O King”
“What is it?”
“I won’t be needing the prize. So please allow me to speak freely”
The room rustled, because Aisha made a direct appeal to the King.
If times didn’t change, it would be a capital offense even in Japan. This country seems to be the same.
Liecia and Ludwin-dono grabbed their blades but I stopped them with my hand.
“I’ll allow it. Speak”
“She had the resolve. As King I should lend an ear”
“I thank you. Then I’ll speak”
Aisha then magnificently puffed her chest.
“Recently human incursions into the God-Protected Forest had intensified! They picked the blessings of the forests like mushrooms and wild plants and hunted the beasts of the forest. We understand that there are food troubles but if we lost those then it will be our turn to starve! We reward the trespassers with nothing else than the sword. We already have clashed with them in several locations in the forest. O King, please somehow control the human trespassers”
In other words, she’s asking me to prohibit humans who’ve missed meals from hunting and gathering in their forest. Food troubles get more severe the more you go into areas where distribution is limited. If there’s an abundant forest nearby they’d go in even if it meant risking attacks from Dark Elves.
“I understand. There are already laws to restrict people from entering and leaving the God-Protected Forest so I can’t make any more prohibitions, but I’ll immediately provide food support for villagers around the forest. If there were still anyone who entered the forest even then, they’ll be designated as poachers and will be taken down by our side”
“Thank you very much”
As I said that Aisha put her hand on her chest and closed her eyes in exchange for bowing her head. Though I don’t know whether it’s a sign of thanks or relief at accomplishing her task.
“But Aisha, even though poaching is not allowed, if you consider the future don’t you think that you should trade with those outside the forest? I’m sure there are products from outside that would catch your interest?”
“That may be true, but… our side has nothing to trade them for”
“How about lumber? You do periodically thin the forest, don’t you?”
Since they live in the forest they shouldn’t have too many uses for wood, right. They would be in high demand in the outside world, so wouldn’t they make good trade goods…. I thought.
Aisha asked me back with a serious look, I was dumbfounded for a moment.
Eh? Could it be that this world doesn’t do periodical thinning?
“Cutting down a moderate number of trees in order to maintain the forest, but…”
I said so while looking at Liecia and Markus and Ludwin, but everyone shook their heads. It seems this is the first time they heard about it. Aisha is the same.
“Protecting the forest…. by cutting trees?”
“It’s obvious, right? If you leave trees alone they’ll grow as big as they could and spread their leaves far and wide. Those leaves block the sunlight so young trees can’t grow. Also when they grow close together they’ll obstruct each other’s growth, and in the end it’ll be a fragile forest of only old trees. That fragile forest will easily be destroyed by snow or wind. Also, since sunlight is blocked the undergrowth will wither and the ground will lose water retention and be prone to landslides. That much is common sense…. right?”
Looking around there were only people shaking their heads (horizontally) in reply. Huuuuuh?
Immediately Aisha bowed down on the spot. She bowed so deep her head touched the carpet and was already doing a dogeza.
“W, what is it?”
“Please forgive me for my insolence earlier!”
“No, well, I don’t really mind in the first place, but… wait, are you okay with bowing your head?”
“I don’t mind! This very minute, I offer you as my master, my entire lifetime of loyalty!”
Wait wait what was she saying….
“Please make use of this life in any way. I dedicate my body and heart and chastity to Your Highness. If you tell me to fight, I’ll fight. If you tell me to love, I’ll love. If you tell me to be your mistress I will. If you tell me to be your slave I will. If you tell me to die I’ll die”
“What’s with that dedication!? Just what happened in the space of minutes!!”
“But before you order me to die, please, listen to my last wish!”
“Hey are you listening! Ignoring!? You’re ignoring me!?”
“Please somehow come with me to the God-Protected forest as soon as possible!”
Then she once again banged her head on the floor. Liecia and I are being creeped out by now.
……. I know that self-injuring dogeza is almost certainly a threat.
“OK, I heard what you said. So you want to take me to the God-Protected Forest, do you?”
“That’s right! Also please teach us in the forest that ‘periodical thinning’! Recently, the God-Protected Forest has been facing the problems Your Highness mentioned just now. Trees crowded together withered away, young trees don’t grow, water became muddy, and the earth eroded when there’s wind or heavy rain. I finally understood why after Your Highness said it”
“Doesn’t the God-Protected forest have several thousand years of history? You didn’t notice it until now?”
To my inquiry Liecia and Ludwin ashamedly agreed.
“The trees in the God-Protected Forest have long lifespans to start. So it went without notice until now when they are reaching the end of their lives…. ”
“It’s not someone else’s problem, either. The mountains of Elfrieden don’t get periodically thinned or anything so they might be facing similar situations”
“Well if they don’t depend too much on the forests they’ll probably be fine. When the old trees rot new ones are going to grow, even if forests disappeared from a natural disaster they’ll be revived within ten years. Nature itself goes in cycles like those, after all”
“But that’s fatal for the God-Protected Forest’s Dark Elves, isn’t it?”
Right you are. They live in the forest itself so once the trees disappear they’ll instantly become refugees.
Since they called themselves the forest’s protectors they should’ve managed it better, looks like they were caught off guard.
…. getting more refugees is a pain, I guess I need to quickly take care of this.
“All right. I’ll visit the God-Protected Forest in the near future”
“Oooh. Thank you very much Your Highness!”
“However, when that time comes I want you to allow people to enter to some extent. Forest management is the whole country’s problem. I’ll take this chance and open classes to establish [Forestry]”
“As Your Highness wishes”
Aisha bowed deeply once again and stepped back to where the other four were.
“I’d like you to examine Aisha’s disposition. I’m certain of her personal prowess, but whether she could lead an army is still unknown. If she does have that quality have her take command of a troop, if not I’ll employ her as commanding officer of my personal guard and a party member should I need to take action as Hero”
Later, after examining Aisha’s disposition, Ludwin evaluated that “She does have the qualities of a leader. However, her qualities as a single soldier surpasses that, it would be a waste to make her a leader”. She can be used as a leader but she seems to be a useful single horseman that could match against a thousand like Lü Bu. Anyway, she was to stand in wait next to me as my personal guard during peacetime, and the official post of the [East Wind Warrior (Kochiji)] (a pun on [Hu Chi⁴ (Kochi)]) was freshly created for her, with the special permission to enter the King’s bedchamber as his sole bodyguard.
⁴ «TN: Tiger Fool, alias of Xu Chu, who served as bodyguard for Cao Cao»
Thus Aisha’s turn ended, but I’m already having it hard from the first one. I ended up handing out rewards, even though I only intended to call out people that seem useful….
(Could each of the other four possibly have their own circumstances?)
My expectation was half right.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Next. Hakuya Kwonmin-dono, step forward”
The young man in black who leisurely stepped forward had sleepy eyes. His black clothes looked like clothes for clergymen being forcefully modified to Asian tastes, or a Shinto shrine priest’s garment dyed black, the clothes gave off that feeling. His hair was short but was ruffled, apparently not having been taken care of. If you look at his white skin and feeble stature you’d get the impression of an indoor-type person. His movements were languid but his sleepy eyes looked straight at me. Somehow I feel like I’m being appraised.
“This person had shown his talent in knowledge by recommendation! He had memorized this country’s laws, his knowledge, his memory, is believed to be without equal in the entire kingdom!”
So something like being able to recite the Six Codes⁵ from memory. That’s certainly amazing.
‘Recommendation’ must mean that his application was coercively made on his behalf by his relatives.
…. what’s this. Seems there’s something hidden behind this.
⁵ «TN: The six books of law that make up the main body of law in Japan, S. Korea, and Taiwan»
“…. Your talent is splendid. If you want to I can recommend you to a post in a judicial office?”
“No, just the reward will be fine”
Hakuya summarily rejected my recommendation.
“I was originally forced into applying by my uncle who’s been taking care of me, saying [You’re at a good age so don’t just go reading books all day, go and make yourself useful to society], it doesn’t seem like I can live up to any high expectations”
“By ‘books’ do you mean law?”
“No. I’m not picky with the genre. I read books of law, literature, or engineering. It’s my raison d’être to absorb any knowledge I don’t have”
What is this. There’s something more to this as I thought. I feel like I’m missing something.
“…. In that case, how about being Librarian of the Royal Library? There are probably books that don’t circulate in town there, you may freely inspect those with the power of the Librarian”
“Ooh, that is very good. If you say so, then by all means, please”
Hakuya finally showed an obviously happy face. Looks like he’s satisfied.
Seize every golden opportunity.
Rather than putting such a curious card away, it would be better to add it to my hand.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Next, Gyna Doma-dono, step forward”
Changing places with Hakuya, the blue-haired beautiful girl stepped forward. Her age is about the same as Liecia, around 17 or 18, except the atmosphere Gyna was clad in made her seem more mature. She gracefully bowed her head, fluttering her long, swaying, billowy hair. Her thin one-piece dress didn’t expose much but emphasized her feminine lines. I would’ve been charmed if it weren’t for Liecia glaring daggers at me from my side.
“No, it’s all right. I haven’t forgotten about work so you can stop glaring”
“Is that so…”
Liecia turned her face away in a huff. Markus made a cough and continued.
“Your Highness, this person showed unique talent in both song and beauty. With her talents she won both the [Elfrieden Bishoujo Grand Prix] with her beauty and the [Kingdom of Talents] with her song. Indeed, she is this century’s greatest songstress”
Both!? That’s amazing.
“Haa~…. so the heavens do give two gifts”
“I am undeserving of such words”
My words mixed with admiration was replied by Gyna with a voice clear as a bell.
“I have heard that my ancestors were Lorelei. Song is in my blood”
Lorelei. Sea monsters who captivate and drown sailors using their beauty and song.
Her beautiful looks and lingering blue hair certainly brings the image of the Lorelei to mind.
“Then I must certainly hear your singing voice”
“As you wish”
“I know. Since this scene is being broadcast throughout Elfrieden by the orb. How about you sing a song that’ll lift up the people’s mood”
“A song to lift up the people’s mood… is it?”
Gyna looked a bit troubled.
“The songs of the Lorelei handed down in my family are basically sad songs…”
“Ah—, if you’re not allowed to by law then I don’t mind you singing anything”
“No, I only do not know of any such song. If I hear it once I can sing immediately, though”
“Humm… Ah, how about we do this then?”
I took a portable music player from my breast pocket. It was one of the few things I had on my person when I was summoned into this world. Since it’s going to be unusable once the battery runs out I left it alone until now, but since it doesn’t take up much space I always carried it with me. I stepped up to Gyna and put the earbuds in her ears.
“This is… what is this?”
“It plays music from there. I’ll play it now”
The moment I turned on the switch Gyna’s body flinched.
She was bewildered at first, but she seems to have gotten used to it and her body started to follow the rhythm. Five minutes later, as the song ended she took out the earbuds.
“I have memorised it”
“So you really could remember just by listening once”
“Yes. I shall sing then”
As I returned to my seat, she opened her mouth and clearly sang the opening lines of the song.
Hearing the song, I unintentionally slipped. Why? Because it was Sada Masashi’s [Ganbaranba].
Speaking of which, I didn’t put in any dark songs so I didn’t bother to check the song title. This song that was [everyone’s song] was a odd one with the distinction of including rap-like Nagasaki dialect and [Denderaryuuba]. It seems that they do calisthenics with this song in Sada-san’s hometown of Nagasaki.
But as expected from a Lorelei. She clearly sang the Nagasaki dialect rap portions that I who was born in Saitama couldn’t understand at all. By the way, I heard from Liecia later that she couldn’t even understand the parts in standard Japanese. Being able to understand the language this country’s people spoke and conversely, making my spoken Japanese understood seems to be the Hero’s power. Which is why the Japanese coming out of Gyna’s mouth was, to this country’s people, unfamiliar words.
Still, even though the meaning doesn’t carry through, a catchy tune is catchy.
Everyone happily listened to Gyna’s [Ganbaranba] acapella.
Amidst applause, Gyna who finished her song bowed her head.
It was a fun song. Thank you very much”
“No, thank you for such a magnificent voice”
“If I may, will Your Highness teach me more of your country’s songs?”
“I certainly want you to sing. …. that’s right, I’d like to increase the number of orbs we have, and if we can’t, I’d like to turn the Royal Voice Chamber into a recording studio, I want to be able to deliver your songs to the people of this country at all times”
“Oh my. That is just like a dream Your Highness”
“I’ll entrust it to you when the time comes. It’s a noble cause”
Gyna stepped back, and now it’s the fox-eared little girl’s turn.