Kyou Kara Ma no Tsuku Jiyuugyou! Novel 01
Maou
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Disclaimer: These translations done by another person and I do not own the rights to this novel, but I recommend you buy it when it finally available.

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Kyou Kara Ma no Tsuku Jiyuugyou! (novel to series)
Novel 01 Chapter 01
by Tomo Takabayashi




Title: Kyou Kara Maou (今日からマ王) volume 1: Kyou Kara MA no Tsuku Jiyuugyou! (今日からマのつく自由業!)
Author(s): Takabayashi Tomo (喬林知), Matsumoto Temari (松本テマリ)
First Print: 10/01/2001
Publisher: Kadokawa Shoten (角川書店): Kadokawa Beans Bunko (角川ビーンズ文庫)


Kyo Kara Ma no Tsuku Jiyuugyou!
Novel 1 Chapter 1



It’s not the name that bothers me, but why did she have to choose those characters?

Since middle school I’ve been at a disadvantage, fending off every punk who wanted to make a joke out of my name. I’ve gotten so used to the insults, they just wash past me now.

‘Say something Shibuya Yuuri!’ they jeer. ‘Guess you’re name should be Harujuku instead.’

I’ve heard that stupid taunt fifty-thousand times these last fifteen years.

That’s right, my name’s Shibuya Yuuri: adventurous. It’s not Yuuri the abundant village, Yuuri the gentle pear or even Yuuri the distant lapis lazuli. My name’s Shibuya Yuuri: adventurous.

------

It was May, with the luxurious leaves surrounding me. I was gliding down the road, riding my bike home from my new high school. That’s when it happened; I couldn’t help that it happened.

For a long time, there was a member of the middle school baseball club I admired. I’ve always wanted to be like them, so I took the step and joined the baseball club in junior high. Since high school, though, there’s been someone else. Because of this, it seemed like the Kendo Club would be the next group I joined. I’d been talking about this with a friend from school just before I began my ride home.

The action of peddling my bike felt so good in the spring air, but my enjoyment was short lived. I passed near the park and saw something I just couldn’t let pass…


Collecting money, that’s what the practical bully calls it, but it’s pretty much mugging when you look at it in the right light. It’s just the age old business of goons extorting money from anyone smaller than them. I’d object to bullying as much as the next person -- I get hassled enough about my name -- but it’s not like I could make two upper classmen stop doing it!

And there he was, corned with his back against the wall of the restrooms, the boy with glasses I barely knew. He was in the same class as me for my second and third year of middle school. Murata Ken.

‘It doesn’t matter. I’m on my bike, already riding away. Sure, I’d advocate for justice any day of the week, but nobodies looking. If I just act like I don’t notice anything it won’t matter to Murata. Besides, it’s not like we’ve even said more than two words in passing! He probably doesn’t even know who I am!’

Eye contact.

Just what I needed. I slowly stopped the bike, body moving on it’s own. The words were the same, coming out of my mouth before I could think.

“…what are you guys doing over there?” the words were pasty in my mouth. “Couldn’t be that you’re committing a crime over there.” Everything rotated to face me: thanks to that middle-class sense of justice I was born with; thanks to that stupid sense of honor that says two against one is an unfair match.

“Come off it, you’ve got wires crossed up there or something.” said the first punk said with a smirk, “We were just collecting money. What’s ever in this guys wallet belong to us. It’s all legit.”

Get me a map and tell me where in the world that’s legal.

With bleach-blond hair and colored contacts that rang of lost nationality, the two senior students oozed a foreign kind of danger.

With a hard kick to my stomach, I was shoved against the rough mortar of the wall. Good going ethics!

“Remember, this is all because you went and stuck your nose where id didn’t belong.” one growled, “The son of a banker like you should of all people know how important customers are! And now our little ducks run off! ”

He was right. Murata Ken had left the building. The person I was trying to save turned his back and ran full speed away! I looked around desperately for help, back-up, anything, but at 4:30 in the afternoon, parks are just filled with elementary students.

“So why did you even come to save him? You guys friends or something? Or maybe,” one laughed loud and low, “he’s your secret crush!”

“Shut up! I just like the name Ken! His name’s Ken and it just happens to rank top on my favorite name list!” It wasn’t the truth, but it wasn’t a lie either. A teacher I respect and secretly admires has the name, and my absolute favorite actor from a historical dramas name is Matsudeara Ken.

“Huh, I thought for sure it’d be Harajuku Furi!”

The laugh. Here’s my chance! I draw back a fist, clenched white, ready to pay them back in style. No good. One of the Yankees grabs hold of my hair, clenching it in his own knuckles, and drags me into the building, the dim bathroom.

“He wait a minute! This is the woman’s restroom, it says so right there! What are you bastards blind!” I scream, trying to pull away, really just getting my hair pulled harder.

“That’s the point Harajuko Furi.” one of the thugs chimes, ramming me towards a stall. “It’s the privacy that matters and there are more stalls in here.”

“That’s right, secrets should be kept, well, secret.” the other thug chirps, perfectly in tone with his accomplice. I can hear him behind me, digging through my school bag for a wallet. My phones strap snaps and it tumbles out and hit’s the wall. The ring tone sounds, echoing louder than it should.

“What’s this? I know I’ve heard this before. I remember, it has to be from that TV show, some historical drama.”

The thug holding me laughs. “I can’t believe someone would actually use something like that for their ring tone! And look,” he says craning so even I can see now. “that straps from some professional baseball thing. I don’t believe it! Shibuya Yuuri likes something like that!”

“Shut up! What the hell would you guys know about the merits of baseball anyway!” I struggle again, but the bully just holds tighter, making my head scream in pain. I go limp.

The thug behind me finally found my wallet. He preens the bills and finally pulls out a pair of Souseki-sensei’s. “Fuck, there’s no way you’re really a bankers son. What’s your old man so tight-fisted with money he don’t even lend you any?” he looks at his friend. “Thought he’d be carrying more.”

“My dad’s job doesn’t have anything to do with this!”

It didn’t matter if I told them, but most of my money piles up in 500 yen coins. I’m the type of person who gets change that’s completely useless for vending machines so it just builds and builds.

“Damn, and here I thought we’d be able to get the banker to pay for Murata,” The grip on my hair suddenly tightens. “Looks like his credit just got worse.”



There are three stall doors in the hijacked girls restroom. I’m dragged into the centre one and forced to my knees. Inches from me is the toilet, a foreign-style sit-down toilet.

“Come on, you guys aren’t thugs from the 1990’s…” No way they’d revert to such retro bullying tactics as shoving my head in a toilet bowl.

“For someone who passed the perfectual exams, it doesn’t look like your head’s working too well.” he said, ramming his hand harder against my head. “We’ve gotta give you some reference for the future so you can study up, right?”

Guess old schools making a come back.

The hold on my hair tightened, and in once unsteady motion my head was in the bowl. My chin touched the water and I tried to raise my face, but the thug was holding me down hard. The pressure on the back of my head didn’t lighten up at all. I gave up, took a gulp of air and braced myself.

Nobody’s ever been flushed down the toilet before. I mean, if that sort of thing ever happened I’m sure Guinness would have recorded it by now. Something strong was pulling me down and there was no way to stop, no way to fight back. I could feel myself being sucked in -- the soreness of my back as it was pulled inside.

I let out a final scream, thinking: I’m going to be the first. The first guy in history to be flushed down a toilet.



Papa.

What is it Yuuri?

Why does Papa always ride the “Star Tours” ride when we visit Disney Land?

Why, don’t you like to ride it?

No, I love it. It’s just, we’ve ridden it so many times I can recite everything the pilot and droid say!

Yuuri, you’re really amazing. You’ve memorized all those lines. Next time we’re in Disney Land we have to ride Star Tours again to see if you’re right! I’m certain it’ll be useful one day.



It really did.

After so many years, with my dad holding my hand as we rode the hazy ride in Tokyo Disney Land ten times straight the swirling, the warping of being sucked down the toilet turned to that. The grainy light of the stars stretched and distorted into long glowing tails, only to turn back into stars. My body stretches, distorts…

No, I can’t really have been flushed down the toilet! I mean, my body’s normal, the average physique of a first year high school student.

I stretch out my arms and lets as far as they can until I’m lying, spread-eagled, on the dusty ground. It’s been so long since I’ve seen an unpaved road. The air’s unfamiliar, the sky cloudless and blue. It’s so pure, so clean that concepts of pollution can’t even cross.

Tilting my head both sides of the road can be seen at once. On my left’s a forest, desolate and wild, but there’s something strange to the right, houses. They appears to be completely made out of stone blocks, and very vaguely, I see some sort of animal grazing nearby. A goat? A sheep?

I’ve been abandoned, that’s what happened. Those two who thrust my face in the toilet bowl probability panicked when I passed out and just dumped me somewhere they thought I wouldn’t be found. Stupid thugs can’t check for a pulse.

So where is this then? The scenery doesn’t look like traditional Japan, more like something from Heidi.

“The Alps?” I mutter, sitting up. Looks like it, but how did I get here?

My uniform’s wet, clinging to my body. The moisture probably came from the public toilet. Oh god, I don’t want to think about that! It’s just water, and water is water, simple H2O.

Something moves to my right. A young woman carrying a wicker basket is walking down the road. The basket drops, falling from her hands simultaneously. Huge fruit that look sort of like apples drop, thumping on the road. They roll down the road, finally settling in the dust.

“Excuse me.” I try, gulping. The woman just stares at me with those huge wide eyes. She’s a cosplayer, she has to be. Why else would she be wearing that skirt, so long it drags on the ground, that old-fashioned kercher tied beneath her chin. And those blue eyes, that golden hair. She looks like a foreigner.

She yells.

“Wait, I’m sorry I scared you. It’s just that I was abandoned here. I’m really not going to hurt you so don’t worry, nothing like that.”

Her voice is like a siren. One after one, people come out of the fairy-tale houses and rush towards me. There are men, there are women, there are children but they’re all --

“Cosplayers?”

No, that didn’t make sense. The people here were not Japanese at all. All of them are foreigners. These people with golden brown hair and blue eyes can’t be anything but another race. And all of them, in their army formation, carrying farming tools like weapons, surround me and the screaming woman. My legs almost give way.

“Wait a minute. Please hold on! I was just dumped here!” My brain and tongue move ahead of another. And everything suddenly makes sense, clicks right in my head. “This is a theme park, right?”

That’s right. I sigh and begin to finally relax. This can’t be anything but one of the theme parks they use for two-hour suspense dramas. I’m so stupid not to realize it earlier. I’ve been dumped in a theme park. But which one? From the look of it, it’s a the ‘village’ in Niigata, but that’s so far to go just to abandon me.

A rock hits me in the leg. Wait, why would theme park staff do that? All the foreigners working here should at leas know some Japanese, so why are they throwing rocks at me when I’m just trying to explain. It has to be the ticket: I got in without paying. But using rocks and farm tools? That’s going a bit overboard, isn’t it?

“Wait, my wallet was taken earlier, so I came without paying.” I stammered, frantically trying to get the actors to stop throwing rocks, “If you let me, I’ll definitely pay another day. Or, can you let me make a local phone call.”

Local? If I’m in Niigata who could I call locally?

Warding myself against the stones and mud, I turned my back towards a farmer just as he thrust a spade like a gigantic fork right at me. I stared, dumbfounded as a frightened baby, ready to burst into tears.

This doesn’t make sense; this is too much!

A commanding voice cut abruptly through the crowd. The rocks stopped.

“Who…” I asked no one in particular and nearly choked. There was a man on a horse, cloths in the same design of the villagers but of richer quality. He jumped off the horse and moved to me.

Football player -- he couldn’t be anything else but an American football player. Those biceps, the chest, even the blond hair and turquoise eyes. With a prominent aquiline nose crooked to the left and split chin, he looked like the prototype of a classic Caucasian.

“Thanks’ for calming everyone down…” I try

A hand wraps around my face, seizing it firmly. He could probably do a ninety-yard pass with a grip like that. But why? His fingers tighten around my neck.

I moan involuntarily in a small voice. The path from my ears to my brain blazes as if water is running through it. The man lets go and it all pours into me. Wind, trees, animal sounds and finally words.

Everything is suddenly in Japanese. The huge man grins broadly.

“Well, you can understand me now?” His voice is a deep base that only makes mine seem higher.

“It’s so strange to hear a foreigner speaking fluent Japanese.” I laugh and rub the place where he had held. “So, like I was trying to say, I don’t know exactly where I am. I was abandoned, but I don’t know really how far from home am I.”

“What.” the man says, looking down at me, hands poised on his hips. “I thought you looked promising, but we get a simple idiot for Maou this time?”

My bad habit rears its head. “How can you call me an idiot? You only just me!” My brain just ceases to function. A read light starts flashing and I start talking. It must be that I’m trying to give myself time to think while chattering like mad. It never works. “I enrolled in a medium rank prefectual school, and while no one’s really jealous of my grades, I get decent ones. And I’m pretty good at English. I lived in Boston for half a year after I was born, and my parents speak the language. So what’s with calling me an idiot? It doesn’t matter how I look, my dad’s an elite banker an my brother passed his college exams on his first try! My mom even graduated from Ferris!”

“Fer-what? Is that some provincial aristocrat?” He responds and I stop short. Bragging about academic history doesn’t seem to be globally effective.

It doesn’t matter. I calmer to my feet.

The spell is broken and the people in the village start shouting again. “The Mazoku is standing up!”

“He’s clad in black! He’s a real Mazoku! Hurry up and get the children inside!”

“He’ll burn down the town like Kentenow twenty yeas ago!” one old woman yelled, feigning dizziness.

“Wait a minute,” the farmer who had tried to stick me earlier tries to quiet the crowd, “this one’s still young, plus he’s unarmed. And look! He’s got black and black eyes. I hear that if you catch someone with the twin black, you can get the power of immortality! There’s a western dukedom offering a reward for one!”

“I heard the reward could fetch a small island!”

“Be careful,” someone warned, “no matter how young he is he’s still a Mazoku and he can use majutsu.”

“But Lord Adalbert is here! Protect the village and keep us from harm!”

What was this? What were these people saying? No one was making any sense. It was all just complete panic!

“Calm down everyone.” said the huge man, Adalbert, “He’s not understanding. The kid’s no harm like this.”

A rhythmic sound comes from the distance, pounding and growing very rapid. The panic turns to confusion.

That sound is familiar, like hooves.

“Yuuri!”

My name is called and I start to turn.

A knight of a white horse come to save me…

“…Ske…!”

I’m not seeing this! The three riders galloping towards me aren’t knights and they aren’t white horses. They’re not even galloping -- they’re flying! I never would have imagined this in my fifteen years and nine months of existence.

A model skeleton, worn brown from age with wings made from bamboo frames with oiled paper sprout from its back. And yet, the wings are flapping noisily, and the model is flying through the sky as if it were absolutely natural.

“Get away form him, Adalbert!”

There are the horses, galloping towards us the color of liver chestnuts with black on their foreheads. Riding them are men holding drawn swords. And at the head, the man who appears to be the leader bellows. “Don’t use your swords against the inhabitants! They’re not soldiers!”

“But your Excellency!”

“Just disperse the crowd!”

Three horses push through the crowd, neighing unhappily. I cover my mouth to keep the dust out, but still cough -- wretchedly, violently. When I look up again, all I can see is the beige cloud, broken by sparks and the sound of metal on metal.

Someone grabs at my arm and everything recedes into a tan colored darkness.

“Adalbert von Grantz, why are you encroaching upon our boarders!”

“Same as ever I see, Lord Weller, hero among cowards.” The big man laughs and I cringe.

I’m pulled up, my body slowly lifted from the ground. The dust is finally clearing, chased away by the sudden stillness. My arms, bearing my full weight, blaze with pain.

“I’m flying?!”

The elaborate model skeleton whose construction makes no sense is carrying me effortlessly. No matter how much I look at it, the skeleton still looks like a model with wings attached. Even staring directly up at it, I only see the expressionless aw and curved hollows of its eyes.

“I guess, thanks.” I try, but the skeleton only chatters.

Adalbert throws his gaze up, “You come well prepared,” he says calmly, face plain, “using the Kotsuhizoku to carry him away.”

Lord Weller nods, as emotionless as the big man. “They are loyal to us and don’t’ loose themselves over personal grudges.”

I crane my neck to see Adalbert lunge at the soldier, thrusting his sword at the apparent leader. “Don’t’ you think it’s a waste of your skill to be using that lot?” his voices is venomous.

“Unfortunately, Adalbert --”

I can’t see Lord Weller, only the back of his kakai uniform and dark brown hair. Somehow I know that for a moment he smiled.

“-- my love isn’t as single minded as yours.”

The horses turn, and all three gallop back at the same time. Adalbert flies to his horse, yelling to me.

“Be patient! I’ll come save you soon!”

Save me? I don’t even know if you’re the good guy or not!

Below me, the brown-haired leader stops his solders who are about to chance after the enemy.

“Leave them!” warns Weller.

"But--"

“He’s one man. He’s at a disadvantage as it is.” Lord Weller snaps. “Our top priority is to get His Majesty to safety.”

I can't help think how cool he sounds there, how absolutely sure of everything. It makes me want to know more about him.

This His Majesty they’re so concerned about, could they be talking about me? I guess I’m participating in the production of some elaborate theme park attraction now in the role of His Majesty. “For now, could you at least get me down from this sky ride?”
Maou
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Kyo Kara Ma no Tsuku Jiyuugyou!
Novel 1 Chapter 2


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"Your Majesty!" the man says.

He has long, thick gray hair, lilac-colored eyes, and a body that's nine times the size of his head at its full height.

Since I'm unable to climb off the horse by myself, I'm left hanging onto its behind, at a loss for a reply. How should I answer someone who calls me Your Majesty? And an ultra-beautiful 30s-something man in his prime at that!

It's not due to a lack of vocabulary or to the fact that my CPU is cycling particularly slowly that I can't accurately describe his beauty. The surroundings of an average senior high student just don't usually contain such beauty, to say nothing of someone like the man standing in front of me, who isn't even Japanese.

After half a day of a grueling ride clinging to Lord Weller's back--my first time on horseback--we have finally arrived at a village with wooden buildings, smaller than the one from earlier. It has around fifteen houses, and looks more like a neighborhood association than a village. One after another, armed soldiers return from all directions to the forest entrance a small distance away. Terrifyingly, each of the parties comes with its own "flying!model skeleton." Maybe they're this theme park's mascot characters? If so, it's in extremely bad taste--wait, no, it's a novel concept.

We cut across the center of the village and came to a largish (four rooms or so) house some ways away from the soldiers. As we reached the area in front of it, the door burst open, and he came flying out.

I give up trying to speak as soon as I see his face. It's that beautiful: I mean, really beautiful, super-beautiful, ultra fully beaut--um, beautiful. I can't say that it's a noble face that exudes sagacity or anything. He's a beautiful person who looks really intelligent! Though there's a rather vapid expression on his face.

Even his voice is beautiful--a resonant baritone. That Adalbert from earlier was pretty handsome too, but this person is so perfect that he would make girls swoon on sight. And it's not just girls in their late twenties who would faint--mature and old...no, all ladies would.

"Conrart, hurry and give His Majesty a hand..."

"Yes, yes. Your Majesty, if you lean this way, yes, please climb down slowly--that's it, steady now."

Lord Weller's first name appears to be Conrart. Finally liberated from the horse, my feet reach level ground. I still feel like I'm swaying up and down.

"Oh, Your Majesty, I am so glad you're safe! I, von Kleist, have been anxiously awaiting the day that I would at last be able to meet you," he says dramatically, and drops to the ground on one knee. I take a startled step back and hiss in pain as the sudden movement aggravates the ache in my buttocks. The beautiful person's face changes color.

"Your Majesty, are you injured anywhere?! Conrart! You were with him, weren't you?"

"Your butt hurts, doesn't it, Your Majesty. Since this is your first time on horseback. Right?" he asks, and I'm bewildered by his grin. But the beautiful person, who's apparently called von Kleist, doesn't leave it at that.



"The first time?! Is training in horseback riding no longer a part of the elementary curriculum? Why did the Shinou choose such a world for..."

"This is not the place for that, Günter. Von Grantz got there before us."

"Adalbert! Your Majesty, did they do anything to you?!"

"...They threw rocks and came at me with hoes and spades, but..."

"How terrible! Those humans...but, Your Majesty, how is it that you can speak..."

He probably wants to ask how I can understand them. I wave my right hand limply and try not to smile.

"Well, but everyone speaks Japanese so well. It's too modest of you to worry about whether or not I understand you. I'm surprised at how fluent everyone is. It's amazing--bravo, viva the actors' soul. How long have you been in Japan? What country are you from?"

Günter (name) von Kleist (surname) looks dubious.

"I come from...this country."

"You were born in Japan?!"

That's when Lord Weller says something totally shocking.

"Your Majesty, this is not Japan."

"Oh--there, see? I knew you couldn't have been born in Japan. Because this is...uh."

Huh?

This isn't Japan?

Did he just say that this isn't Japan?

"Then why is everyone speaking Japanese?"

"We're not."

That's when I first take a good look at Lord Weller. He appears to be about nineteen or twenty, and his clothes, unlike that of the villagers, are primarily functional. His khaki-colored belt and leather boots--maybe influenced by TV or movies--look like they're part of some country's military uniform.

He has rather short dark brown hair and light brown eyes with scattered flecks of silver. There are traces of an old scar across his eyebrows, as well as evidence of old injuries on his fingers and the backs of his hands. He places those hands on my shoulders and gazes deliberately down at me.

"This is not Japan, Yuuri. This isn't even the world in which you were born and raised."

As he's informing me of that unbelievable fact, I'm thinking in the back of my mind--aaah, I understand this person. If I were to tell someone about him, I would definitely be able to do it pretty well.

Lord Conrart Weller would be the type of person who would strike an unconsciously heroic pose in the center court at Wimbledon and receive a standing ovation from the audience. But not because of his face. Compared to Günter and Adalbert, he's rather plain; if he were a Hollywood actor, he'd probably be just one among many in supporting roles. But his expression belongs to someone for whom life is the culmination of having lived every moment until this one: not as a beloved of God or an artist's construct, but rather one who has lived his life his own way.

That's what he's like, Conrad. I think that's how I would describe him to someone.

"Conrad...I mean, um, Conrart..."

"Hmm? Oh, since you're used to hearing English, Conrad is probably easier for you to pronounce. I have some friends who call me that, too."

"Have I met you somewhere before?"

Conrad thinks for a moment, then shakes his head.

"No."

The beautiful senior with the long gray hair and lilac eyes forces his way in between us.

"In any case, Your Majesty, this is not the place to talk. Please excuse the shabbiness and step inside," Günter says disparagingly of this house which isn't even his, and pushes me inside. I involuntarily turn, and glimpse what are probably the inhabitants of this village peering at us through the cloudy windows of their modest timber homes.



I'm still wearing my moist school uniform, so I'm grateful for the warmth of the room and the fire in the wood-stove. Just a few hours earlier I was in Japan in May, but where am I now? And what month is it?! The light of the setting sun shines through the dirty windows, but I don't even know anymore if they're facing east or west.

If I were at home in Japan with these half-damp clothes on after being immersed in the park toilet, I would've stepped into the bath immediately.

I take off the disgustingly moist jacket and spread it out near the fire. That act arouses deep emotion in Günter.

"Your Majesty, do you wear black every day? It's magnificent, it suits you wonderfully! Only the king and his close relations wear black on a daily basis. That noble black hair, those black eyes--you are without question our Majesty!"

"...But this is just my school uniform...and besides, most Japanese are born with black hair and eyes..."

Though everyone's skin changes color as they grow older. The dark-tanned Matsuzaki Shigeru look was popular until just recently. As for me, my hair's finally grown out a bit after being on the baseball team until mid-third year of junior high. I was thinking about cutting it once summer vacation comes around.

"School uniform? So that jacket is called a school uniform? I see, it must be made by highly-skilled craftsmen especially for Your Majesty."

Actually, they're mass-produced in factories and customarily worn by junior and senior high school boys all over Japan. And besides, since I'll be wearing this jacket for three years, it's still a bit big for my current size.

"Your Majesty, you may find it a bit cold, but it's already spring in this country," Conrad says, and takes up position next to the door. Maybe he's been assigned watch-duty--with his sword at his side, he folds his arms and leans his head back against the wall. His eyes slowly slide shut.

As a last resort I shift my chair as close to the fire as I can. There's a table of the kind of rough rustic workmanship that you would only see in a folk craft shop in the mountain recesses. Instead of the usual electric light that should be hanging from the ceiling, there's a flickering lamp of the mountain-hut variety.

"...You even created the season!--such attention to detail! What an elaborate attraction this is..."

"This is not an attraction," Conrad, still with his eyes closed, corrects me.

"But how am I supposed to believe it if you just tell me out of the blue like that! Here's what I'm guessing--one: that this is a really expensive and elaborate theme park attraction; two: that it's one of those candid camera shows you keep seeing on TV; three: that I'm dreaming--it must be one of those. There, choose one. I'm hoping for number three."

Conrad makes no response, but Günter in front of me looks a little worried. He turns to me, muttering terms unfamiliar to him.

"Tea-bee...candid camera...? Please wait a moment, Your Majesty, I'll explain everything to you. So please calm down and stop quizzing me on the vocabulary of your other world?" Günter takes a seat across from me.

"Okay, I'm calm. Even if you tell me that you're my mother, I'll just clap my hands, laugh, and tell you an American joke."

Günter flings his hands up in defeat. Then he leans forward passionately and begins to speak.

"Then allow me to explain. Your Majesty, your soul should have been born here in this world eighteen years ago. However, because of the chaos following the war of that time, or perhaps because he felt the presence of someone of ill will in our midst targeting you, the Shinou judged that your soul should be sent to another world. Accordingly, we transported your sublime, still-unborn soul to Earth according to the Shinou's instructions. So Your Majesty was born from your current honorable father and mother, and have grown up in that world. But though you should have become an adult in safety in that other world, recent circumstances have dictated that you be called back..."

"Wait a minute, all this polite speech is making my head hurt. Can you talk a bit more directly?"

"Please do not request something so impossible. Your Majesty is Your Majesty, and we are your vassals."

"What's with all this Your Majesty Your Majesty Your Majesty? My name is Yuuri--Shibuya Yuuri Harajuku Furi. Well, that's what I've called myself for a while now. So the story goes like this: I should actually have been born in this world, but for some reason I was born and raised in another world. But because you need me now, you summoned me here from Japan. Have I got it all?"

"Marvelous, that's exactly correct. I am awed by your wisdom."

To my despair, Günter nods deeply with heartfelt delight.

It's Narnia--I mean--right, so it's a familiar story. Actually, it's one of those old plotlines that're so overused in movies as well as anime and manga. Granted, there's a difference in quality between fiction novels and juvenile literature, but it's been recycled umpteen times. There's no originality to it at all. Although people are rarely actually pulled into them. And it's even more exceedingly rare for someone to get to them from a public lavatory.

"So, I traveled through a tunnel connecting to this world from a toilet hole and fell onto that mountain road?"

"That is correct. By our calculations, we should have been able to summon you into our kingdom--into the capital, in fact. However, perhaps we put too much power into it, and you landed on the outskirts of our borders, within the village of the humans. I am very sorry, Your Majesty. I'm very glad that of those we placed along the border to provide against a contingency, Conrart reached you in time. We are now within our own territory, so there is no need for further worry. Please be at ease."

"Be at ease? But you guys aren't exactly comfortable either, are you? Am I really the person you're looking for? If you look at the population density of Japan, there's a possibility that you've got the wrong person, isn't there? My appearance and brains are both average, and I don't have any weird birthmarks--"

I don't have any special birthmarks that can be used as proof in this situation. If forced, I can only say that I have a faint scar on my left elbow from when I was a kid.

"But um, Günter...san, this burn-like scar on my left elbow was from rubbing against man-made turf while I was playing baseball. I wasn't born with anything that looks like the 'mark of the king'."

My intellectual act starts to break down. To say it nicely, I'm like an actor answering questions about reports of a love affair. To put it baldly, I'm like a pet owner talking about his cat.

"No, I felt strongly that I could not be mistaken about you from the moment I first laid eyes on you, Your Majesty. That sublime, pure-black hair, those clear, unclouded dark eyes, that lovely color with which you were endowed from birth--and what's more, I cannot think that anyone but you would be clad in jet-black clothing."

Guh, he said lovely. That word should be used for someone like you, shouldn't it?

"And besides, you are proficient in our language, which makes it all the more obvious that it is no mistake. What Adalbert did to you...I deeply regret, but...he drew out the language stored deep within Your Majesty's soul. Without exception, all souls have a store of memories from the 'lives' they have lived. Of course, ordinarily the door to those memories is shut, and they are able to use only the knowledge they have learned in their new 'life'. But that man wrenched open the door and forcibly extracted a portion of the sealed memories. What savage, foul, unprincipled human magic!"

I nod timidly in response to that angry explanation.

"...Though I have heard that it can be pretty useful."

"That's outrageous! I'm glad that he was skillful enough to call out only the portion for language, but think of what would have happened if he had revived unnecessary memories! No one wants to know the travels of their own soul."

Though there seem to be a lot of people in Japan who would like to know. From his position to one side of the door, Conrad adds calmly, "But if you think about it, it's because of what he did that we're able to speak to His Majesty like this now. There's no use bursting a vein over what's already done, Lord von Kleist."

"...But I have already prepared the textbooks and rulers to teach His Majesty High Mazoku..."

His tone is full of heartfelt regret, but I'm rather uneasy about the intended use of those rulers. I have no problem if they're for underlining text, of course.

"In any case, the fact that you understand the language of this land is proof that Your Majesty's soul comes from this world. My confidence has become conviction."

"Günter-san...I think I've heard that somewhere..."

I guess they somehow quite firmly believe that I'm their 'Majesty'.

But in this type of scenario, a hero or savior or prince or princess who is the protagonist of the story usually resolves the world's problems and gives the story a happy ending. Even one renowned best-selling author has said that people don't like stories without happy endings.

"All right, I think it's a bit much to expect me to believe all of this, but how about we just leave it at that for now? So let's get this over with. What mission did you summon me here for? Should I go save some princess? Or slay a fire-breathing monster?"

"Fire-breathing monster? You mean dragon?! Certainly not! That species has been hunted to the edge of extinction by humans, and we are desperately trying to protect them."

So dragons are at the top of the endangered species list in this world.

From the wooden door comes the sound of several diffident knocks. Conrad carefully opens it a slight crack, sword in hand. Standing there are some children around ten years of age, looking up at him with wide grins.

"Hey you!"

"Conrad! Teach us to throw--we can't get the ball to go straight at all!"

"Teach us to hit it, too! And then we need to know how to end the game."

Their parents are too afraid of the soldiers to venture outside, but that doesn't seem to be the case for these children. And for them, Conrad isn't Lord Weller or Your Excellency, but simply an older playmate.

"All of you, the sun's going down, and it's going to be pitch dark soon. We won't be able to see anything in a little while."

"You can still see."

"It's still fine!"

He looks worriedly over at me, then bows and leaves the room.

"...He must be a great person if the children like him so much."

"Yes, he is perhaps the best commander in the kingdom. Of all my pupils, he was my pride."

"So you're a teacher, um, von Kleist-san?"

"Please do call me Günter. Yes, of course, I am a teacher, and serve as an advisor and assistant to Your Majesty the King.

"If you're a teacher, then can you tell me in simple terms? Günter, what I am supposed to do here in this world? What sort of evil enemy do I need to defeat before I can go home to Saitamamap?"

"Humans."

The firewood in the stove splits apart with a crack.

"...Humans...so...that's...which one...?"

"Not which one, Your Majesty. We must annihilate all the humans who are hostile towards our country and burn their countries to cinders. In order to do so, we need a leader--we need Your Majesty's powers as our ruler."

Annihilate humans and burn them to cinders?

Annihilate humans?!

I kick the chair away in my hurry to get away--and failing, land on the floor on my backside. Günter panics and rushes over.

"Are you all right, Your Majesty?"

"Woah, wait a minute! Are you saying that we need to kill humans, Günter-san?! Then you'll have to kill me too! I mean, however you look at it, I'm just an ordinary human being--no, wait, and you guys, your faces look a bit different, but...you're humans too, aren't you?"

"However you look at it, Your Majesty is one of us, one of the Demon Clan, the Mazoku. Even more so, for you are he who must be honored for bearing the noble black! None but the king of the Mazoku or those chosen to be close to him who are born carrying the black. And what's more, both your eyes and hair are black--you are the living bearer of the twin black..."

I have a feeling that there's a sentence in there that I didn't catch.

"The same what as you?"

"Mazoku, the Demon Tribe."

No way.

"...So, what am I supposed to be ruler of?"

"You are His Majesty the Maou, King of the Demons."

"Maou."

Dad, Dad, look, there's a 'Honyara' over there, I'm scared!"

An Achoo!Great 'Honyara'. [1]

Originally the Great 'Honyara' of Yokohamamap.

Huh, wait, I somehow feel like the Great 'Honyara' of Hama is not the right answer.

What is this 'Honyara' supposed to be, anyway?

Probably the terrible boss of the demons, the one who hunts down and curses and kills human beings?

So then, so what am I supposed to be ruler of again?

"Get ahold of yourself, your Majesty, please calm down! Retain your sanity! You are the one who has become our hope, His Majesty the Twenty-Seventh Maou!"

Oh boy, he really is calling me the Maou. But twenty-seven is a good number, right? 27 is...

My shoulders are seized and shaken back and forth. My consciousness is taking a flight from reality due to the excessive shock. Because this person here is telling me that I have to become a demon and beat humans to a pulp. That's totally impossible, I could never do something like that--why isn't my enemy a slimy evil sorcerer or a devilish dragon or the great demon king or something?--oh wait, I'm supposed to be the demon king, so does that mean I'm on the enemy side in this world?! So then I'm going to be the final boss defeated by the hero or savior in the last dungeon?! Dammit, if that's the way it's going to be, then I'll take the hero on with all I've got so he won't be able to finish the game without pressing reset at least two or three times! He's not going to get past me without being at level 99 if it kills me...oy, it's not going to be if it kills me--if I'm the last boss, I'm really going to die! My brain cells are going off at their in-a-pinch machine-gun firing rate--I'm panicking at the enemy's magical attack here!

Aaah, no way, someone tell me it's all a lie!

"It's not a lie, Your Majesty! You truly are the Maou. Congratulations, you are the Maou starting today!"

Congratulations for what?!



Outside, the sky is already half-purple, the remaining half orange.

Only the unsteady, wavering light of lamp-flames escape from the windows of the village houses. From among them come the sounds of frolicking children and dimly, the movement of their smiling faces.

"Your Majesty?"

"Woah! Can you please stop calling me 'Your Majesty'?"

Conrad is leaning against a wall, arms folded. Three steps away is a square piece of wood, and beside it a child of about ten. He's holding a club poised in his hands--they're apparently playing a game somewhere between cricket and baseball; the bat's handle is wrapped with cloth, but is strangely thick, and there are two outfielders behind the pitcher but no catcher at all.

"I don't know much about the rules of cricket, but who comes up after someone hits?"

"That's difficult in a village with only five children."

So there's one more in the outfield. He or she is only a shadow in the twilight.

The pitcher throws something that looks like a ball, but the batter swings dramatically at empty air. The ball rolls to the wall, and Conrad picks it up and throws it back. These are the advanced conditions they're playing under.

"Three strikes and you're out, Howell; switch with first base."

"So you're playing baseball?"

But why is there baseball in this world of sword and magic...? The child in outfield is running towards us.

"Wait, wait! If this is baseball, then why isn't there a catcher? You can take that position, can't you?"

"It'd be unfair for an adult to join in."

"No, no, that's not the problem. So let's see--you playing outfielder, what's your name?"

"Brandon."

He's right at the age when his voice is changing, and it's scratchy and hoarse.

"Then, Brandon, you be the catcher. See, you squat here and catch the ball when it comes. Oh, but you guys don't have a mitt?--what, and no gloves either?!"

"Your Majesty...I mean, Lord Yuuri, this is a village founded by refugees from across the border. So they're not exactly stocked in sports equipment."

The boy shakes off my hand and looks fearfully up at me.

"'Your Majesty'? Conrad, why are you calling him Your Majesty? Who is he?! The scary person that Mom and the others were talking about?"

"Brandon! This is the one who has become the king of our country. Far from being a scary person, he is the gentle person who will protect your village."

Stop telling him something I haven't even thought about.

"King?!"

But the five gathered here...four boys and a girl, kneel where they're standing and cover their faces. There's even a kid who's pressing his head against the ground. It's not gesture of great respect.

"Oh please, Your Majesty! Please don't cut off our heads! Please don't burn down our houses!"

"Howell, none of you have done anything bad, so His Majesty would never do anything like that. Here, Emma, get up now."

"But my dad, because the King..."

The little girl, who appears to be recalling some painful memory, starts to cry. The doors of several houses open, and the mother of each child shouts his or her name. The children all dash off towards their homes.

I pick up the ball lying at my feet. With this light and that pitcher, there would probably be no need for either a mask or a mitt. The ball is a soft round leather bag stuffed with straw and sewed together. Even the person throwing it wouldn't be able to gauge his speed.

"When I was their age, I played baseball until dark, too. And at night I would watch games on TV--I didn't have any time to do homework at all."

"Children are the same in this world as well."

I step on the piece of wood serving as home plate.

"Hey, Conrad."

"Yes."

"Is it true that I'm the king? The great demon king--the great Maou--that would silence even crying children?"

"It's true. Though I don't know about the great part, Your Majesty is genuinely the twenty-seventh ruler of the Kingdom of Shinma."

"Then I'll chop off people's heads too?"

"Not at all! This should be called a village of refugees. It's true that one winter six years ago, all the men of the village were executed in an oppressive act due to a religious misunderstanding. The women and children came to the border seeking asylum, and we lent them this land mostly without taxation on the condition that the agricultural fields would not spread further. They rejected the foolish king of the human kingdom who killed their men and burned down their houses. Although..." Conrad presses his lips together and looks down, chagrinned. "...I hope that you will remember that not all humans are like that. Here, Your Majesty, let's go in. When it gets dark the temperature drops pretty sharply. I'll get lectured by Günter again."

Stars begin to appear. The moon is still low in the sky. The light coming through the window is dim and forlorn.

Nothing else illuminates the night. No neon lights or vending machines or computers or street lights.

What kind of place have I found myself in?

"...What kind of a trap have I gotten myself into?"

"But this is your world."

Conrad smiles as he shuts the door. In this twilight devoid of any other major light sources, even the light of the lamp within the room looks like a horizontal search beam.

"Welcome home, Your Majesty."

To this place where your soul should have been born.



Oh, what a difference in the food!

The so-called food that I'm given is leather that even a dog would have a hard time sinking his teeth into, bread so dry you could pound a nail with it even at room temperature, and dried fruits that are somewhat easier on the teeth to lick than chew.

"These are so dry because they're military rations," Günter insists stubbornly, and, face to face with him, I silently practice the policy of chewing thirty times per mouthful. I'm starving, but I can't gulp down the dried meat without first chewing it thoroughly.

Conrad, the military Numero Uno who's so beloved by the children, seems to have been invited to dinner by the family of Brandon or Howell or Emma or one of the children whose names I don't know.

"I want to go too--!"

"You must not. The people of this village are humans. If you eat the things made by humans and your body is harmed, what would we do then?"

"I told you, I'm human, so I should be fine!"

"No! How can you say for sure that no one among them is hatching some nefarious scheme? I, Günter, cannot allow Your Majesty to do that which would put you in danger."

And, oh, what a difference in the beds!

Of course, I believed that I would be sleeping in the best bedroom in this house lent to us by the people of the village. I mean, they're saying that I'm the Maou, so they should at least let my exhausted body luxuriate in a soft and fluffy futon. Though from what I've seen of this world so far, a bed would be more likely than a futon. In any case, Günter replies to my question quite matter-of-factly.

"Why? Hey wait, why am I in a sleeping bag while the soldier that just went into the bedroom gets a fluffy bed? Look, am I really the king or not? And anyway, was this sleeping bag even properly dried in the sun?"

"What would happen if a rebel targeting Your Majesty broke into the bedroom? That soldier earlier is substituting himself in your place. Here an attack cannot come from the window, and this room, with Conrart guarding the door, is secure."

"Your Majesty, you'll be riding all day tomorrow, so please take your ease tonight and shore up your strength."

Telling me to sleep well is great and all, but I'm shut into a dusty, narrow closet that doesn't even have a window, with a brownish cotton-padded sorry excuse for an outdoor sleeping bag spread out for me... The floor is hard, and the camping-use sleeping bag is definitely tough-guy style. To make matters worse, this is my first time sleeping surrounded by Foreign-Manufactured Handsome Guys. Ah, this is what you'd called sleeping sandwiched. The kings in kingmaker games are guaranteed more freedom than this, aren't they?

And the next day, oh, what a difference in modes of transportation!

Five chestnuts, all seemingly full of energy, are led out in front of me as I stand there sleep-deprived. Their vigorous breaths are white in the perfectly clear golden morning air.

"Horses again?!"

Wearing my abused soaked-and-redried school uniform, I reach a timid hand out towards one gigantic animal. I quickly withdraw at its threatening whinny.

"But you're Mazoku, aren't you? Can't you use magic or something?"

"Magic...you mean sorcery--Majutsu?"

"Yeah, yeah, magic. So isn't there something that'll get us to the capital or the castle without having to gallop on horses at reckless speeds? We could use magic to zoom! fly there instead!"

Like the Go Anywhere Door or the Bamboo Copter, [2] something convenient like that.

Günter force-clears his throat and says, "Your Majesty, Majutsu is not so omnipotent."

"Eeeeh? But in the TV shows I've seen, the witch or wizard can totally disregard science and just wave a wand to make anything they want happen."

"I do not know what kind of play or drama a TV is, but it is very much exaggerated. Majutsu is useful almost exclusively in combat, or only in such extremely important cases as, say, summoning Your Majesty."

So TV is different from reality? I grumble just a bit.

"So to put it simply, energy conservation," Conrad says as he's nuzzled by a horse's muzzle. "But then again, that's not very convincing coming from me, since I have no magical abilities of my own. Now, Your Majesty, will you ride with Günter or me? The riding experience that we asked about yesterday..."

"I've been on a merry-go-round a few times."

"I see, a merry-go-round. In that case we probably wouldn't be able to make it to the capital even in three days, so please ride behind me. It'll be harder on them, but if we take care to switch--well, we should be fine."

"My behind hasn't even stopped hurting from yesterday...hey, how do you know about merry-go-rounds?"

"Well then, please prepare yourself. Your front will probably hurt today, too."

The soldiers in the lead salute them and set out one by one. Looking up, I can see the modded model skeletons in the skies above them just like yesterday. Of course there is one above us too. I guess it really is a mascot character? What should I call it? 'Lil Flying Bones? Mr. Calcium?

"How about Kohy? Heeeey, Kohy, thanks for the lift yesterday! Though I wonder if it's the same one from yesterday? I can't really tell them apart."

I quite capriciously decide on a name for it, then quietly wave. Its jaw clatters, and it flaps its wings repeatedly with great vigour in a horribly grotesque way. I unthinkingly ask my tutor, "Woah, it's mad! Hey, is it mad at me?"

"No, it's simply overcome that Your Majesty is speaking to it. They have no perception of 'individuals', so speaking to one is like speaking to all. The Kotsuhizoku can transmit simple concepts to each other even when they're apart, so they're invaluable for guarding and scouting."

There're some difficult terms in there that I don't really understand, but I guess the basic idea is 'all for one and one for all'.

"Now then, Your Majesty, we should be heading out as well."

Conrad takes up the reins in his right hand and holds out his left to pull me up. The villagers stay out of sight--still frightened, maybe. But the door of a single house opens a slit, and a blond head peeks out.

"Awwww!" I shout towards him. "What a waste! If they'd just practice with a heavier, harder ball, they could get a lot better! The bat should be smoother too, with a narrower handle so it's easier to grip, and..."

Of course they have to have a catcher, right?

"In baseball, you have to have a catcher!"

I see the blond grabbed by his mother, and the door shut hastily.

"I visit this village from time to time..." He pulls me up in one smooth motion. "They've had some painful experiences, but they're taking it in stride and living their lives."

"Yeah."

Though I can't even imagine having my father killed and my house burned down.

Günter looks displeased, but pretends otherwise and nudges his horse forward.

So begins my first day in Hell.



According to my brave little analog G-Shock, which continues to carve time into little pieces, we run for six hours without stopping from that morning, and switch horses twice at relay points. After the third relay point, we come to a much larger settlement than the previous one, and the entire troupe tie our horses to the fence outside when Günter signals for a break.

"You seem quite tired, Your Majesty. Everything that you've been muttering for the past while has been incomprehensible."

Since Conrad has been continually encouraging the horse to keep to a run, even I remember its name now. I tumble off the Siberian hazel filly called Nocanty, begging dazedly, "Help me."

"Of course. Once we've completed the second half of this trip, I'll be at your command."

"No, I meant right now."

"Then for the time being, why don't we replenish your calorie count? In other words, lunch."

Even though I'm now standing on level ground, I feel as if I'm riding in a boat. To make matters worse, it's supposedly only the second month of spring, but the sunlight is enough to make me yearn for my refrigerator.

"I don't have any appetite at all. The nights are cold, the days are hot, and my throat is clogged with dust--oh!"

Presented with the object of my desire, I instinctively reach out for it, then stop in confusion.

It's a misshapen glass bowl that looks like something an amateur glass-blower might make on his first day in class. It's filled to the brim with water that frosts and condensates on the outside of the glass. It's just what I want right now.

"...Ice water..."

"Your Majesty!"

Günter comes over on the double. He's probably going to tell me not to eat or drink anything given to me by a human again. But the girl holding the bowl reverently, who's around ten years old, has violet hair and eyes. She looks like a human in every other way, but...

"You're Mazoku, aren't you?"

The girl nods. "Yes, Your Majesty. We would be happy to give you our last drop if it would help you in some way."

That's fine, isn't it? Since she's Mazoku and I'm king of the Mazoku. I touch the bowl. It's as cold as it looks, almost painfully so. The tutor says, "Your Majesty, please wa..."

The bowl disappears from my hands; when I look up, Conrad, standing next to me, has already brought it up to his mouth. He takes a single mouthful, then returns it to me, briefly murmuring only, "Leave a little bit."

I return the bowl with only a tiny bit of water remaining, and the girl, looking delighted, bows deeply and runs off. The coldness spreads in an instant from my throat to my chest, and for a moment I stagger at the pain from the type of brain freeze you'd get right after eating shaved ice. My head clears, and the greenery around me suddenly seems more vivid.

"...Guess I was really thirsty. Like being dehydrated during Club in midsummer."

"That little girl will certainly be proud for the rest of her life that she was able to give Your Majesty some water," he says with a good-natured smile. But I know this scene from historical dramas. He just tested that water for poison. For my sake, he tasted it for poison.

My tutor approaches with a shocked look on his face.

"Your Majesty, I tell you this again and again, but please do not consume anything other than what we bring you."

"But this village is completely Mazoku, isn't it? The people who live here--see, Günter?--there're so many people here with your unusual beauty."

"Even so..."

Conrad lifts the saddle from Nocanty and offers her water just like you would to another person. "It didn't have any strange flavors, and I asked him to leave the last mouthful to avoid anything that might be undissolved at the bottom. His Majesty is not a dullard--he just wanted his first cup to be cold. Now he'll be able to tolerate anything, from water from the water bag to transportable food."

"Conrart, you back the commoners too much."

"And so?" Conrad returns calmly. "If we do not back the people of this country, then who will? Ah, of course..."

Nocanty chews his hair. Happily, lovingly...

"I would not only lend His Majesty my shoulders, but I'd give my hands, heart, and life for him."

"...I don't need your heart or life or anything like that."

"Please don't say that."

"Then lend me your Majutsu. I'm already in a state of emergency, right now, so send me zoom flying with your Majutsu. I can't take riding a horse any more--I'm sick of riding."

"Majutsu for me is...well. I did tell you that I have no magical powers, right? But for Majutsu-related matters, Günter who is the highest practitioner in the kingdom, can be of assistance to you."

His brows knit. Kyaaah, Anxious!Günter is super-cool too!

"Your Majesty's magical powers are several times my own. In any case, the generations of Maou have had powers that would instill fear in even the gods."

"Wait, wait. I'm a human, so I don't have Majutsu or spiritual ability or ESP or anything like that."

"Your. Majesty. You. Are. MAZOKU!"

"But I've never been able to see ghosts or win the lottery or see through girls' swimsuits--or even get the planchette to move on a ouija board..."

Confession. When we tried the ouija board after school in fourth grade, I moved the planchette myself. Nozawa, who was doing it with me, was so scared that he started crying, and I couldn't make myself tell him that it'd been me. Günter, who must have jumped to the wrong conclusion, smiles in admiration.

"I imagine that must be an advanced ritual in the other world? Due to my ignorance, I do not know if it has any connection to Majutsu, but...it's quite all right, Your Majesty. Magical power is intrinsic to the soul. Even if you cannot use it now, over time everything in this world will align themselves to your will."

"I don't really think that'll happen, but--"

Conrad, who apparently doesn't have even a sliver of magic, slowly strokes the muzzle of his beloved horse.

"I've never felt the lack of magic to be an inconvenience. Well, let's leave that question for the long term. For now, it would be rather awkward if Your Majesty cannot ride a horse on your own."

"Me, on my own?!"

Nocanty's head swings violently, and both the remaining water and the water dripping from her nose fly in all directions. Me, ride this?!

"No, of course we wouldn't have you galloping on your first try. Just for your entry into the capital would be fine. You wouldn't want to disappoint your people, right? They are looking for a noble, strong-willed king, so of course it would be better for you to ride on your own and enter the castle in majesty."

"Uwahah...on her??"

"Nooo. We have a special lady prepared especially for Your Majesty--a beloved daughter I helped delivered, and put much effort into training. A pure black horse who matches Your Majesty perfectly."

There goes my dream of being the king on his white horse.


Maou
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Kyo Kara Ma no Tsuku Jiyuugyou!
Novel 1 Chapter 3

..............................................................................................................................................................

Chapter 3

People bustle busily among lines of countless shops just beginning to come aglow. A gigantic door is opened for us by guards who stand quietly at attention as we pass.

Günter, riding next to me, proclaims, "Welcome home, Your Majesty. Indeed, to this city, the capital of this our kingdom which is yours, founded by the great Shinou and the powerful, wise, and courageous Mazoku who--ah, it must not be forgotten are said to be the origin of everything in the world--defeated the Soushu and his army to their eternal glory..."

Is that supposed to be the national anthem?

"...you are very much welcome."

--But no, it turns out to be the country's name. "Just abbreviate it Shinma Kingdom," Conrad tells me in a whisper. Right, I'll just remember it that way.

My impressions upon entering the capital are easy to state: "A Huis Ten Boschmap on an entirely different scale." The buildings and people all look like they're from a foreign country. But I can no longer deny that this is not a theme park. No theme park this humongous or elaborate exists in Japan. And even if this were an overseas country, I don't think anyone would have reason to use such fiendish methods to deceive one person.

At least, to deceive somebody who was just your average high school student until yesterday.

Starting today, you are the Maou.

If I'm not being deceived, then there's only one explanation left: "I'm in a dream."

"So until I wake up, I guess I have no choice but to go with them."

Once you get on a boat, you can't get off until it arrives at port; in baseball, most of the time the game isn't over until you've played nine innings. Which means I'll tag along until the END mark or goal is in sight.

"Did you say something? Now, Your Majesty, let us proceed. Conrart and I shall ride on either side of you."

I got it, so let's get going.

There are nine riding in front of us, the rest following behind; the entire company rides in three columns down the capital's main street. The residents lining up on both sides of the street all bow deeply towards me.

"Ah, thanks. Ah, um. Er, cheese. Ah, you don't have to be so polite."

I conscientiously return their greetings, but the senior tutor looks utterly scandalized.

"Your Majesty...please stop bowing your head to the people. You need to be more dignified."

"What are you talking about? Greetings are the foundation of interpersonal relationships. That's a universal rule."

This city looks more prosperous than the villages we've seen along the way.

At least the parts facing the main street.

I look down at the town from the back of the gracefully-pacing horse who's now behaving almost like an honors student. You'd never imagine that it was the terrifying black demon horse which threw its master twice.

The fleet-footed horse prepared for the king is from a rare jet-black line, called blue-haired in Japan, ebony-haired in this country. It looks shorter and stouter than the racehorses I've seen in paddocks, and its legs are thicker. It seems to have all the deposition of a warhorse as well. They say that it'll continue running with its master on its back even after its heart has stopped. The reason: it has two hearts. That's pretty convenient.

I've named it "Ao" because it's easy to remember. It's like the "John" [1] of horse names, and it's been popular in Japan for a long time. It appears a lot in historical dramas.

People's hair and skin color are really unbelievably diverse here. Like I've been told, there's no one with black hair. But gold hair, brown hair, silver, white, red, chestnut, orange (maybe it's dyed?), purple (must be a popular dye), green (as if it contains chlorophyll)...green?!

"Hey hey hey hey hey, Günter!"

"Yes?"

"There's a green person over there--it's a s-s-s-space space space alien!"

"Ah, it's one of the Healers. The color of their blood is somewhat unique, which makes their skin very pale, but they possess the special power to improve the healing of their patients. They immigrated here two thousands years ago because they were being persecuted by humans. And it's thanks to them that we have such long lives."

"Then, then, what about that person with purple hair? The little girl from before looked like that, too."

"They are the People of the Lake Shore. There are many among them who are born with strong magical powers, and they act as teachers and guards here in the capital. As your Majesty has probably already noticed, I am also descended from the Lake Shore People."

So that's where the lilac eyes come from.

I breathe a sigh as I ride along.

"Horses with two hearts, living model skeletons that fly, people born with green and purple hair. All things you'd never see in Japan. We're not going to have to deal with things even glitzier than this, are we? Like a girl with bunny ears, or a sexy black panther girl, or a three-eyed birdman?"

I'm starting to get flustered just imagining it all. Conrad, suppressing laughter, exchanges looks with the tutor. "There are an unbelievable number of races in this kingdom, and some that even Günter and I, who have lived long lives, and the scholars cannot confirm. For example, the human-shaped population is about fifty million, but we can't even begin to count the population of the Kotsuhizoku, the Flying Skeletons Tribe and the Kotsuchizoku, the Land Skeletons Tribe, or the Aquatic and Rock Bird Tribes. And besides that, if you think about the spirits who dwell quietly in the forests and mountains, the Mazoku live everywhere: from the skies to the vast earth to the rivers and trees. Your Majesty, those who live by your will are scattered everywhere throughout this kingdom."

A little girl with gold eyes who is evidently one of this number runs a little way alongside Ao with a bouquet of flowers. The pretty, freshly-opened flowers are a light pink with multi-layered petals. Günter takes it and turns it once in inspection, then reluctantly passes it to me.

"They're ordinary decorative flowers, without either poison or thorns. That little girl probably wanted to give them to you rather than me."

"That's not true. You seem way more popular than me."

This is the first time in my life I've gotten flowers from a girl, so I'm totally not as annoyed as I might sound.

We march forward without incident, and finally reach the ramparts of a real-life castle.

The gates open ponderously.

"...Woah."

I definitely hear theme music flowing through my head right around then, along with narration by Ogata Naoto. World Heritage, aaah World Heritage, World Heritage. A one-line ode to the magnificence of the castle.

The road paved with white stones continues straight into the distance, and overflowing aqueducts follow its course on both sides. The waterway splits into two branches towards the east and west of the city. Looking up at the front of the castle, I'm reminded of the European castles you read about in stories--not the German old fortress type, but the English large-scale symmetrical country manor type that bam! appears right in front of you. It's impressive in both height and width, in full wide-screen glory. A rich green mountain guards its back, and the aqueducts pour out of hillside tunnels.

"...Um, you know, I don't really know what to say right now."

"You need say nothing; after all, this is the royal castle of the Maou, the 'Blood Pledge Castle'."

Blood Pledge? In Japanese history terms, that'd mean something like the horrible vow 'one in life and death!' that some organizations took--not a very gentle name. There's probably a reason best left unheard for a beautiful, magnificent castle like this to have a name like that...but even though I tell him that I don't want to hear it, the tutor launches into an explanation.

"When the Shinou chose this land to become the capital of his kingdom, he evidently promised the earth spirits that they would not be harmed. In gratitude and friendship, the earth spirits vowed that should this castle be occupied by any save the Maou, their blood would be taken in compensation for their crime. A pledge of blood--in other words, the Blood Pledge Castle will obey no one but His Majesty the Maou. It's said to be the royal castle which is impregnable--no, which is flawless."

"Phew, then I guess that means the castle and that king didn't make a blood pact or anything."

Conrad, looking inordinately pleased, nods down the center of the path. On either side, stretching out in front of us as far as the eye can see, is a line of soldiers standing at attention. They'll almost certainly bow their heads to us as we pass, like a reverse stadium wave. The last time I saw people standing like this was the attack of welcoming bows when I passed through the grand opening of a store while taking a shortcut.

I can hear a tune coming from somewhere that sounds like a cross between Ravel and Elgar. It's probably the national anthem.

"From the looks of this reception, Lord von Spitzweg has failed in his wheedling, hmm?"

Who the heck is the guy who owns such a jaw-breaking name? And why is it that everyone in this country has both 'von' and 'Lord' attached to their name? Is 'von' maybe like the Japanese 'yama', which is just in a lot of people's family names--like Yamada-san and Yamamoto-san and Yamakawa-san? Or... Conrad, seeing my questioning expression, explains. As we finally step onto the grounds--yup, there's the welcome to hell salute, just as I expected.

"This kingdom is divided into areas that lie directly under the Maou's control and those that are territories of the Ten Aristocratic Houses who obey the Maou. 'Von' is attached to the surnames of those ten Houses. At one time, they styled themselves with 'von' added to the names of the land they governed, and over time it became the name of each House. Günter, for example, is from the noble House of the Lords von Kleist which governs the Kleist area. The addition of Lord or Lady denotes one who will go to the battlefield in an emergency. So basically both men and women of all the Aristocratic Houses have military ranks. Those who are prepared to fight are given that title when they reach adulthood."

Hmm? I seem to remember that the macho I met in the beginning also had a 'von' in his name.

"Lord Stuffel von Spitzweg is the older brother of the previous Maou, a man who wanted to gain power by becoming the regent. The previous Maou...who has already resigned her position and is now Her Prior Majesty the ex-Maou--when she declared her intention to resign, we moved immediately to summon Your Majesty. But he may possibly have attempted to repeal her decision. Because if he can persuade Her Prior Majesty, he can protect his own position. But in any case, he seems to have failed."

Eh? But Conrad's name doesn't...

"Now he must be contriving to get on Your Majesty's good side by throwing a grand celebration in honor of the new king's entrance into the castle."

There's an expression of something like hatred on the face of this good-natured Lord Weller for the first time, but it disappears in the time I transfer the bouquet to my right hand.

I don't know whether it's because he immediately suppresses it himself, or because Günter quickly adds, "We must no longer allow that man to do as he pleases. If nothing else, in this both Gwendal and Wolfram must certainly agree."

"I hope so."

There's something going on. Anyone, no matter how slow, would have noticed. I lean forward. My right hand, still carrying the flowers, nears the seemingly-docile Ao's ear.

"Um, so this Spitz something Spielberg person..."

How many Oscars has he won? I can't finish what I'm about to say. Because suddenly the black demon bursts forwards as if it has a V8 engine attached to its behind going full throttle.

Even I, her rider, don't know what caused the dire displeasure that prompted this wild run. What I do know is that escaping unscathed is out of the question if I'm thrown. Shouting incoherently as I cling desperately to the horse galloping full speed straight ahead, I reach the castle all alone in bizarre unceremonious abruptness.

The lines of soldiers preparing to salute probably don't even recognize the black hurricane passing in front of them as their new king. I can hear advice trailing me.

"Your Majesty! The reins, the reins--!"

"Conrart! That horse must be insufficiently trained!"

Günter's words are cut short as he kicks his horse into pursuit.

"I wouldn't have thought that something like that could set her off so. I trained her quite thoroughly, but of course not on what to do if a horsefly flies from a flower into her ear. Yooour Maaaajesty! Pull on the reins and tighten your legs--!"

As for me, all that's going through my head right about then are headlines about runaway trucks plunging into stores and customers and clerks covering their heads and running every which way. Ao skims over the uneven ground lightly and is rapidly approaching the front entrance of the castle. The soldiers lined up by the side of the road suddenly move into position to block our path, but Ao smoothly outruns them. At the center of the dumbfounded soldiers is a handsome middle-aged blond man.

She clears more obstacles, and the worst scenarios play out in my mind in the short time we're airborne.

I fall from the horse and ask Conrad and Günter to take care of the rest with my last breath before my head falls with a thud to the ground. What rest?! Why with a thud?!

Ao suddenly rears just before the closed door barring the front entrance. I'm being thrown! --Panicking, I grab not only the reins but her jet-black mane and close my eyes in anticipation of the impact. But five seconds pass, and I feel no pain.

"...She stopped..."

And I fall as soon as I lower my guard. Unfortunately, this time there's hard, cold, expensive marble beneath me. I've learned the hard way that it's important to roll with the fall, I think vaguely, lying face-up where I fell.

Ooh, the ceiling is so high up. It's almost like I'm lying on the floor of the hall of the National Science Museum.

Ao stamps several times and lowers her head down right next to mine. "Hey, what're you doing down there?" she asks with her clear eyes, as if she's clean forgotten what terrible things she was just guilty of. Her muzzle is covered with white foam.

Somebody's feet are standing next to my shoulder. My gaze shifts slightly, and a face comes into focus from its lofty position. It must be a really outrageously tall person. But this man neither speaks nor lends me a hand. This is the first time I've seen such an overtly apathetic person since I came to this world. Maybe I really am dreaming that I'm the Maou and that I'm the master of this castle.

But if that's true, then can't it at least be more fun?

"Your Majesty--!"

I can hear Conrad and Günter's voices. And the sound of hoofs striking against stone. The man seems to gain some sort of understanding from their shouts. From his great height he lets fall a few muttered words.

"...Your Majesty...this?"

This? What's with this? But before I can object, the Love Theme from Godfather drifts into my head. Your theme song has now been decided. I get up without any help. In front of me, just as I predicted, is someone whose height I would never be able to attain no matter how many times I pass through the wheel of reincarnation.

And not just his height--I would never be able to attain his face either.

His longish hair, a thick gray which might almost be called black, is partially tied in the back. The pleasureless eyes scrutinizing me are a deep blue. His brows, set too close to those eyes, give him a generally displeased appearance, but my life experience is too short to tell me if it's because he is displeased. But girls would probably fall right for that dour look.

Even though they keep calling me the Maou, both internally and externally I'm just a high school student who's never been popular. At best my appearance and brains are both average. I'm not muscular, and I don't have a deep, low voice. Worse, even while I was playing baseball, I was pretty much a bench warmer for three years.

His interest piqued, perhaps, he gazes at me with head tilted. His worry is becoming more and more apparent.

"Your Majesty, are you injured?!"

Conrad, who arrives first, nimbly alights from his horse and comes up to me. The handsome middle-aged man and his troupe (the one that tried to block us earlier), which he must have passed on the way, now comes galloping up as well. Günter also leaps down from his dappled gray, shouting something. Even I cannot believe that I'm at the center of such a huge group of people.

"Are you saying that this is the new Maou?!"

He even has a sonorant testy-sounding alto voice.

Even I am quite ready to admit defeat in the battle of physical form when faced with four such ultra-beauties. That long-leggedness is a racial trait and can't be helped, and their height, shoulder-breadth, and weight are-- Hey, when did I start caring this much about body builds? Probably from that day when the second pitcher said to me, "You're too small of a target--I have a horrible time pitching to you."

At least my physique is on par with his, but I'm utterly defeated as soon as I look up. This beauty!--what the heck! It's enough to make him glow, as if he walks around with a halo on his head. Maybe it's just because of his dazzling blond hair. He looks and sounds like an older boy from the Vienna Boys Choir. Transparent white skin, emerald green irises that remind me of the bottom of a lake, and he doesn't even have a split chin. It's an angel--though right then, an angry angel. But since he's here, he must be one of the beautiful Mazoku instead.

"Gwendal...no--Elder Brother, are you going to welcome this human whose lineage we don't even know, brought by the likes of him, as the new king?!"



Him--the girls-manga-style ultra-beautiful young man glares sharply at Conrad. I heard the name Gwendal earlier, but I'm also sure I heard something like Wolfgang or Wolfram. So the Godfather Love Theme guy must be Gwendal, and the Vienna Boys Choir OB is Wolfram?

"I'll never be able to trust such a filthy humanoid. Judging from his appearance, he has neither intelligence nor dignity, and besides, to have tumbled down the highway in that area..."

"Wolfram!" It's not Gwendal, whom he called his brother, but Günter who cuts him off. "What appalling--! If His Majesty were not so munificent, your life would be forfeit!"

Munificent? Is he talking about me? He must be thinking of somebody else.

"Please watch your mouth; even if you are the crown prince, I will not tolerate disrespect towards His Majesty. And stop speaking ill of Conrart as well; he is, after all, your older brother."

Eh?

The relationship map between these people is jumbling me up just listening to them. The Godfather and the Vienna Boys Choir OB are brothers, and Conrad is Wolfram's older brother, which means...

Gwendal, Conrart, Wolfram.

They're three Mazoku brothers.

"...No way?! But, but you look nothing alike--!"

"Sorry about that," Conrad says smiling as he walks across to me. His expression says that he's already used to this. "All of us have different fathers. But, alike or not, we cannot deny the blood connection. Gwendal is my older brother, Wolfram my younger. Even though they would probably never personally admit to that."

And you? I ask in my mind.

Conrad, how do you think of them?

But before I can ask that question, all attention focuses back on me at Günter's next words: "You are in the presence of His Majesty."

"Your New Royal Majesty!"

The handsome middle-aged man rushes over. Now that I'm used to beautiful forms, this man can't even compare. Hmm, leeeet's seee, he's quite handsome for someone in his fifties, with dark blond hair and blue eyes. But in the depths of his eyes, behind a hidden door, lie cowardly schemes.

"I am Stuffel von Spitzweg, the brother of the previous king, now Her Prior Majesty, Lady Cäcilie von Spitzweg. I am serving in the position of Regent for the prosperity of this kingdom, and I am overjoyed at the safe arrival of Your Majesty."

"Hey, you know, Lord von Spitzweg," I say to him in a purposely casual tone, "who would you rather have as the Maou: me or your siblings?"

"Huh?!"

Moooron. Isn't not replying immediately proof that you'd pick yourself?

"Ah, of course it would be Your New Royal Majesty! To have you become our new king during this propitious time is to the benefit of all our people. You are our savior, and you will pave the way to the new future of this kingdom. I have already heard of your great-souledness."

"I think you've got the wrong person. I am not such a great-souled person."

"What humbleness! That jet-black hair, those midnight eyes! You are the one who stands at the summit of the Mazoku."

According to the standards of this country, black hair and eyes let me win over such handsome guys as you? So just by being an ordinary Japanese person, I can become heir to the throne of this country?

Ugh, that just sounds so fake.

I can't really be the king if I can't do anything to prove it.

"Where's your proof?!" The blond angelic Wolfram demands with hostility as if he's speaking my thoughts out loud. "Where's your proof that he's the real thing? I'll never admit to this kid being the Maou until I see proof."

"Kid?! Oh wait, I guess I'm bad at telling foreigners' ages too, but. But! No matter how I look at it, you're the same age as me! And if the average American high-schooler is more mature, then I may even be older than you!"

"How old are you?" The overbearing third son asks, arrogantly crossing his arms. Guess I won't have to command him to stop being too polite.

"...Fifteen...I'll be sixteen in two months..."

"Humph."

"What's with the 'humph'? How old are you, then?! You're not gonna tell me you're an old man wearing a pretty boy's wig, are you?"

"I'm eighty-two."

"...Huh?"

Eighty-two? With youthful clear skin and a head full of hair?

"That's totally impossible!"

You guys have more life experience than my granddad?!



My first bath in two days is in a room reserved for my private use.

The cream-tiled bathroom is the Maou's private bath. The bathtub is as spacious as an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and hot water gurgles in streams from the mouths of five cows along one edge. I submerge myself comfortably into a corner of the first lane and ponder what's happened to me as well as what the future will bring.

What are you going to do and what will become of you, Shibuya Yuuri?!

I've been sucked down a Western-style toilet and expelled into a theme park-style other world, had rocks thrown at me by the residents, told that I'm the Maou, told that I have to kill the humans, forced to ride a horse that almost killed me, fawned over by everyone, brought to a castle with a scary name, called 'this', told that I would not be recognized as the Maou, told that everyone's real age is five times what they appear, and taken into the castle with the scary name.

It has two hundred fifty-two rooms on three floors (five floors in one section) with ceilings so impossibly high that even Godzilla would have a hard time hitting a ceiling serve.

Its stairs are breath-stealingly long, and there are more than one hundred ninety people working inside. The stables are modest, but there is a huge barracks with four thousand five hundred full-time soldiers. There are additional lodgings in other parts, now being used by Gwendal and Wolfram's troops, brought from their own territories.

The room I've been given for now is as big as a basketball court, with a fire blazing in the fireplace and fabrics and furs strewn on the floor. On the white-coated stone wall is a picture like something I once saw when my mom took me to Uenomap in elementary school. The remaining three sides have what look like national flags and tapestries. Surprisingly, there are also decorative plants in the nooks.

"No TVs, games, or MDs."

What's more, there's no electricity, gas, or telephone.

"...The bed...is ultra-huge..."

The bed is humongous.

It's lacking a canopy, but it's so big that five junior high kids could sleep on it together no problem.

A handsome attendant wearing only a loincloth that barely covers his essential parts comes over with a gorgeous gilded bucket and proposes to wash my back. I turn him down flat. He just ticked off my inferiority complex.

I pour a light pink liquid into my hand from a nearby bottle. Oh, what a nice smell. This must be shampoo. I rub it in thoroughly, then pour water over myself from a bucket. There's no conditioner! I'm a sports guy more than a manly man.

I thoroughly wash the rest of my body as well, and since this is the first real bath I've had in two days, I'm wavering between indulging in it more and getting out when--

"Oh my."

From the entrance opposite to the one I used, a woman wearing only a bath towel appears. Not a girl: a woman. Is this supposed to be a mixed bath?! Wait, I'm sure Günter said that this is a private bath. So is she...some kind of free service for me? What kind of perverted service is this?! No, it's probably just that I didn't know because I've been a commoner until now, but kings and ministers and members of congress probably have them. But--wait wait wait--! Why of all things is she stretching out in the second lane in a pool this big?

This woman with golden ringlets reaching down to her hips, who's way too sexy for my peace of mind, is submerged in the water up to her chest just one meter away from me. I can't see very well because my eyes are hazy from the steam--or maybe from the mental strain and agitation--but she's an absolute pheromone system. She's a bombshell under the towel, and she's even more beautiful as the heat flushes her cheeks and lips pink.

And she's a 'woman.' Not a 'girl' my age.

"Ooooh my."

"Ah, er, um, I-I-I-I wasn't told that this is a mixed bath."

"Oh no, it's perfectly fine. This bath is for exclusive the use of the Maou. I only ended up here out of habit. Please don't mind me, Your Majesty."

"Urgh, ah, wait, no, don't-don't come any closer to me!"

"So you are His Majesty the new Maou, aren't you? How unexpected it is to meet you here."

Maybe because the blood is rushing to my head, heart, and lower body right about now, I've stopped being able to make any rational judgments. Oh no, this is bad! And since I'm a regular teenager going through puberty, the badness is ten times, twenty times worse!

"Look-look here, miss--I mean, lady. Isn't it a violation of the rules to enter the bath without rinsing?! And coming in with a bath towel! Soaking in a public bath house with a towel is a serious breach of etiquette!"

My voices comes echoing back. I can't say it like Mino Monta.

"Oh my, I'm so sorry. It's been such a long time since I've bathed with a gentleman," she says, gazing at me as I stand there petrified. "Teehee...you're sooo cute!"

That's when I bolt with a shout that's not quite a cry or a scream.

What do you mean I'm cute, Miss Sexy?--why were you in the king's bath, Miss Pheromone?--and finally, who are you, Miss Sexy Queen?!

I dash off with only a towel wrapped around my waist, and when I fly into the room that I think they told me is mine, I'm greeted with yet another cute young girl, and I shout incoherently.

"What is the matter, Your Majesty?"

"What's wrong, Your Majesty?"

The two self-proclaimed members of the Yuuri Faction murmur in low voices as they arrive at a gallop, their blank gazes taking in the young woman with arms full of glossy black cloth trembling in a corner and their new Majesty the Maou cowering behind the gigantic bed. My butt is hanging out.

"Your Majesty, Your Majesty!"

"...I like girls. I like girls, but if they're asking to see me, I'd rather not--I mean, it's not like I'm not that big or impressive or anything."

Conrad sends the maid away and comes towards the bed. That's when I finally calm down enough to sit up and adjust the sheet around my waist.

"Goodness, it's too bad that your posterior is now all tucked away."

"Is there no privacy in this world?!"

"Your Majesty, it's natural for a king to have attendants and maids. If you're surprised by every little thing..."

"But they don't have to come into my bathroom or my bedroom, do they?! I mean, then where would you hide your porn in this world? If a beautiful nude woman tries to pick me up in the bath, where can I run to to get a breather?"

"A beautiful nude woman in the bathroom? Aaah..."

Conrad looks up at the ceiling as if to say 'Oh my god!'

"...She's gone and done it."

"I thought it was some kind of service and would probably have made a request if I'd stayed any longer...well, I'm not much of a big-shot right now, so I only ran away and came back here."

"That's good, I'm thankful for Your Majesty's good sense."

"Oh, oooh, Your Mabezy, preaze puh zus on," says the Tutor through a stuffed nose, holding a black piece of cloth. His eyes are swimming with tears.

"What happened to you all of a sudden? Allergies?"

"My-my abologeez! As I see you standing here after going through all the hardships of coming to a world with such different customs for the first time and enduring such an extreme change in your circumstances...it's too courageous and sweet at the same time...aaah, I'm so sorry! What outrageous things I'm saying! I-I'm so flustered."

"What's wrong, Günter? This is not like you."

"If you have allergies, you should go rinse your nose. It always makes my brother feel better."

My fingers brush against Günter's arm as I reach out for the clothes. He back-peddles with incredible speed until he hits the wall. His face is so red it looks like he has a fever. I pick up the topmost piece of glossy clothing--it seems to be some kind of underwear.

"Even the underpants are black and glossy and--"

--It's a thong. One of those things you tie on both sides. I turn to Conrad, who looks as if all of this were quite natural.

"I'm a guy! Why am I supposed to wear a thong?!"

"Hm? That's quite the fashionable underwear right now."

"No way! Then is he is he is he wearing a thong too?! You're telling me that he can have that sort of expression on his face while wearing a thong?! Don't tell me that even you--"

"Oh, no, mine are more plebeian..."

"Buuufft."



We turn at the same time to see Günter at the wall holding his nose. Maybe he really is suffering from allergies--I'd be sure of it if he sneezed. He looks glassy-eyed, too, and--how do I say this--he sounds like he's suddenly become an Italian. And he's so fantastically beautiful too that if I were a girl I'd probably totally fall for him.

"Please don't embarrass me by talking like an uptight old woman, Your Majesty. To reject easily-removable underwear is the same as rejecting me when I knock on the door...ah...huh?! What was I just...!"

It feels like he's about to present me with deep red roses at any moment, but after spazzing out for a moment he comes back to himself.

"M-my deebez abologies! For having such in-in-insolent thoughts!"

"That's why I said if you clean your nose with a saline solution and drink some...insolent--eh? what?"

"I'll go cool off my head!"

"Clean, I said, not cool!" I shout after him as he dashes out, but I don't think he hears me. But for now my problem is this underwear I'm holding gingerly with my fingertips. There's only a scrappy piece of cloth in the middle--I can't think of it as anything but embarrassing.

"But I guess even Japanese people have traditional 'sumo loinclothes'."

"That's quite true, Your Majesty. And perhaps you'll even enjoy wearing it, and discover a new self."

I don't want to discover a new self.

"But I wonder what in the world got into Günter? There, after the underwear comes-- Eh?"

Conrad leans close to me as he passes me piece after piece of clothing that look very like my school uniform.

"...Your Majesty, you smell quite nice."

"Oh, it's probably the shampoo. The pink stuff that was in the bathroom."

Though I have no idea who left it there.



The Shinou's banquet is nothing like those programs that show you useful tricks or the ones that teach guest former pro baseball superstars all about wine.

"It's a special, high-class dinner for only His Majesty the new Maou and those in his inner circle."

Somehow, even with cotton stuffed in his nose, Günter is in strangely high spirits as he leads the way with shoulders thrown back. His hair falls smoothly down his back. His clothes look like a priest's garments: off-white full-length robes with beautiful gold-threaded embroidery down the front.

"Excuse my lateness."

Conrad, who changed in great haste before hurrying back, catches up to us in a trot. He'll definitely be hailed as the cosplay king this year looking like that. I'm not kidding.

The snow-white navy uniform he's wearing would be the yearning of any American girl. Setting off on a Journey of Love and Youth--original title: An Officer and a Gentleman--starring Richard Gere. With that familiar theme song as background music, he could easily be called an all-American numero uno. Even without the hat.

"So I guess that's a uniform, huh?"

Mountains spread out beyond the window, and I can see lights at their summits. It's already dark around us, and those lights twinkle brighter than the stars.

"Please look there--those are the lights of the holy ground of the Mazoku, the Shinou Mausoleum. The great Shinou, who is the origin of everything for us, sleeps there."

Even the Mazoku have a holy ground? I put the question aside and look at the flickering flames at the summit. I wonder if it's something like a temple in Japan? From the viewpoint of modern Japanese Shibuya Yuuri, the Shinou is something like a god to these people. Since he has a tomb, he's probably already left this world.

But because of the Shinou's oracle or command or something, I was brought here.

"...Though I don't know about being the king or anything."

"Your Majesty, please take a look here as well--this hall also serves as a gallery, and the gallant forms of the generations of Maous are all painted here. Though the portraits of the previous Maou and the one before that are not yet completed.

Twenty portraits wider than my outstretched hands hang in the endless corridor. All of them were drawn with painful attention to realism and detail.

"It feels like the time I went to see the Barnes Collection in Uenomap."

"They are lined up on this side starting from the most recent. This is the Twenty-Fourth Maou, His Majesty Beltran von Radford. The people revered him as 'the Lion King'.

"Lion king, huh? I guess every world has a nickname like that."

"This is the Twenty-Third Maou, His Majesty Jeannot von Karbelnikoff, called the Stern. And this is the Twenty-Second Maou, His Majesty Ropelewski Arsenio, renowned as the Mighty Warrior King. This is the Twenty-First Maou, His Majesty Dwayne von Gyllenhaal the Belligerent, and before that, His Majesty Henstridge Davidson the Slaughterer, His Majesty Basilio von Rochefort the Cruel..."

"These nicknames are getting more and more dangerous, aren't they? Aren't there any with more easygoing names like The Oil Magnate or The Newspaper King or the Brand King?"

"Well...we don't have oil or newspapers or brands..."

"The Fifteenth Maou, Her Majesty Grisela Trintignant Yaft the Beheader. The Fourteenth Maou, Her Majesty Brittany von Wincott the Blood-Spiller..."

The character traits of the Mazoku are surfacing.

Some are seated in chairs with hands on their dogs, others leaning against swords thrust into the ground. There are also pictures of Maous on horseback holding poles decorated with the freshly-severed heads of their defeated foes. There are perhaps three women in the lot, as well as kings who look no older than boys.

But though they differ in the color of their hair and eyes, over time their beauty is comparable, and as we go further back in time, they seem less and less human. Well, basically you'd say that they're not human. Their garments are much fantastically richer in color than that of the modern Mazoku, and they're drawn wearing cloaks and armor.

"In the old days they all looked like they were in a RPG, huh? Guess this wouldn't be a sword and magic world otherwise. Your military uniforms look too modern. Oh, what about him?"

"That is the Seventh Maou, His Majesty Forgeas von Voltaire."

"He looks just like the Godfather Love Theme guy from earlier!"

"God...you mean Gwendal? That is his ancestor."

"Huh?! Then why isn't he the next Maou? If his ancestor was the king, then wouldn't the descendants succeed him as the king?"

Günter puts on his teacher face and says with head slightly tilted to one side, "Your Majesty, the position of Maou is not hereditary."

"But it's not elected either, right? It's so hard to understand, I can't stand it!"

"That's understandable, since you were raised in another world. Well, but you'll come to understand it--after a year you'll be a very kingly Maou."

"A year?! I'm going to live here for a year?!" I ask Conrad in return, and the Tutor looks at me with astonishment.

"Your Majesty is the king of this country, so it's quite obvious that you'll be spending the rest of your life here. A year would be nothing, would it?"

This is becoming a major disaster. If this continues, I'll definitely end up having to repeat a grade. And doubly bad considering that this is May of my first year of senior high, when school has just started--it's too early no matter how you look at it. I'll just have to complete this mission that's been given to me quickly and aim at reaching the goal in the shortest time possible.

"And here is he who united the Mazoku, defeated the Soushu, and founded the Kingdom of Shinma: our first king, His Majesty the Shinou. Glory to his exalted soul."

"Huuuh, now he looks just like that kid. It must be one of his ancestors. So what's his name?"

"We must not speak his name without necessity."

"You won't even tell me his name? Sheesh, how selfish is that."

"Your Majesty!"

"But it's because of him that I was brought here and sent away before that, right? My soul was sent flying off to another world just because of something said by some dead guy? But still you won't even tell me his name--that's what I'd call selfish."

"I'll tell you later, Your Majesty."

There's suppressed laughter in Conrad's voice.

A golden-haired young man stands with a naked sword in one hand in the conspicuously large portrait, arranged front and center. He looks very like Wolfram. Except that his eyes are the bright blue of a lake surface on a clear day, and something about him seems different from the Mazoku that come after him. From my amateur impressions, he's looks like a "self-important big-shot born to be the Maou."

"...Who's he?"

In this single painting, the Maou is not alone. The person standing a little behind him is clearly different from the kings in the other portraits. He's dressed in very ordinary, functional clothes, and is wearing neither sword nor armor. From the suggestion of a faint smile at the corners of his lips, he doesn't appear to be a retainer or servant.

"He looks rather oriental, doesn't he?"

Günter's proud explanation conveys his heartfelt reverence and affection even to someone completely unfamiliar with this person.

"He is the Great Sage of the Twin Black, the only person in this world who is of equivalent status to the Shinou. If he had not existed, we would have been destroyed in the battle against the Soushu, and would have become wanderers without land or country. Though this world would probably have been destroyed before then."

"So then he's an amazing person?"

"Quite so. And more beautiful than anyone!"

"Huuuh?!"

I guess their aesthetics are completely unfathomable to a Japanese person. However you look at it, this serene Oriental can only be called refined. Actually, he looks more intelligent than beautiful.

"He and Your Majesty bear a great resemblance to each other. When they ascertain it for themselves, the people will also certainly joyfully extol your nobility!"

The cotton shoots out of Lord von Kleist's nose. Hey, hold on, your nose is bleeding--there's blood coming out of your nose!

"I don't look like him at all! I mean, how! How are we alike?!"

"Come, come, Your Majesty, look at the color of your hair, your eyes. You bear a striking resemblance to an amazing person, Your Majesty. Now that's charisma!"

"I keep telling you that most Japanese people have black eyes and hair!"

Other than that, he doesn't look anything like me or my family.

Damn you, Shinou, I curse him in my heart.

Thanks to you, a dead person, I've been sucked deeper and deeper into this. And if I get kept back a year, I'll go lay waste to your mausoleum or whatever it is.

I didn't know then that these curses would all rebound back on me.

Günter, enraptured by his own intoxicated oration, goes off on a romantic rant.

"The Shinou is the Darkness and the Great Sage is the Light. They pursue each other, yearn for each other, and bear each other's colors in their own bodies: Darkness to Light, Light to Darkness!"

"Let's leave him here--this is going to take a while."

Conrad's apparently used to this.
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