My wet nurse’s trembling voice felt somehow distant as she called out to me. Why was her usually firm voice, more familiar to me now than the day I was born in this world, shaking? If I let my imagination wander, she sounded like she could faint any second.
「I’m fine.」 Even though I just wanted to reassure her, the words strangely wouldn’t leave my mouth. It wasn’t just my voice, I couldn’t move a single finger or blink, let alone move about.
Ah, that’s right. I was in shock, I understood now. I understood the excessive shock was now even more than shock – my entire body, mind and soul were refusing ‘that truth’. That’s right, yes, that’s right. I understood. I meant to understand, but in the end, I never really understood. I never got further than pretending to understand. I didn’t understand a single thing after all. While pretending to understand, all I was doing was turning my eyes away from the truth.
I was such a fool.
That thought came to mind as I listened to my wet nurse’s distant scream, my body crumbling and my consciousness fading.
* * *
Well then, ladies and gentlemen. If you would please lend me your attention for a little while.
Once upon a time, there was a peaceful kingdom somewhere. The king laid out a good, just government, the queen was kind and gentle, and their daughter, the princess, was so beautiful. It was a happy, fortunate kingdom, one where everyone smiled and even the smallest delights were shared.
But one day, dark clouds came over the kingdom. What was happening? An ancient demon king who was supposed to have been sealed away many centuries ago made his return. Evil apparitions began appearing in all sorts of places, causing great cruelty and tormenting people.
Of course, the king sent his army to the demon king. But the demon was now even more powerful than he was centuries ago, and he used his power freely on the brave soldiers as they marched towards the demon’s city, easily slaughtering them all.
As despair spread over the land, a ray of light descended from the heavens to the castle. The light remained in the deepest parts of the castle’s treasury, pointing to the holy sword that had once been used to seal away the demon king.
The king then realized it. He realized that the guardian goddesses of the kingdom were showing him the country’s last hope. He realized that, yes, the power of the holy sword was necessary once again to defeat the demon king.
The golden, shining sword could only be taken out of its sheath by the chosen one, the hero. All the young men began to try pulling the sword out of its sheath, going in and out of the royal palace. But the sword just wouldn’t come out. No matter who pulled it, the sword and the sheath stayed close as if stuck by glue, and the sword’s blade never came in sight.
The king finally put out official notices, assembling young men from all over the land. Many young men tried pulling the sword out, all thinking they themselves were definitely going to be the hero, before giving up.
When everyone had lost hope, a young man showed up, standing in front of the sword. He was an imposing, dignified youth, with golden hair as if spun from the sun’s rays and green eyes shining like leaves on a summer day. He was a son from a noble family — even though it was called a ‘noble family’, they weren’t high-class enough to have an audience with the king. He was from a noble family from the countryside, living near the kingdom and ploughing the fields like all the commoners.
At first, the noble aristocrats of the royal palace ridiculed him, wondering what a country bumpkin had come to do after so long. But the youth simply stood in front of the sword, not even hesitating at all the sneering voices around him.
It was then that it happened. The sword shed light for the first time as a young man braver and kinder than all the others appeared. As everyone held their breaths, looking at the youth and the sword, he pulled the shining blade out of its sheath.
Doesn’t that grand sword in his hand sound so beautiful? Wasn’t that young man so brave and elegant, holding that sword?
Everyone who saw that said he must be the hero. Even the grand aristocrats who had sneered at him were now on their knees. Even the king thought he could entrust him with the fate of the kingdom.
And then, the youth — no, the hero set off on a journey, carrying his sword. With the princess blessed with the goddesses’ divine protection – that is, the princess shrine maiden. With the head wizard of the palace, who had the strongest magical power in the kingdom. And with the leader of the knights, who had the best swordsmanship in the kingdom.
They began their journey to the faraway demon city to defeat the demon king.
* * *
……So that’s what I’ve understood about our country’s present situation so far, huh?
If I try telling the story in my usual voice — in other words, my pretend-aristocrat voice — it sounds like a fairy tale, or a bedtime story, or an epic tale. But looking at it in reality, it’s painful to look at.
The country’s political affairs turned unstable, as people grew frightened of the demon king’s forces. Goods began to stop being distributed from the districts, so the aristocrats who couldn’t wait all rushed over there to buy them all up. Thanks to that, prices soared high, and people grew more worried, public order grew worse… It fell into a state where even criticising it was too bothersome.
But even in that cornered state, the country was blessed to have a capable king. He was well known as a just king, and he worked out as many political measures as he could along with his trusted confidantes. Thanks to that, the country just managed to keep up an image of being peaceful. But even I, daughter of a humble aristocrat family that lived in the capital, knew that we were treading on thin ice.
That must be why the hero party was narrowed down to a select few. Our country’s troops had lost to the demon king recently, which proved that big numbers were no match for him.
The chosen one. The princess shrine maiden, divinely protected by the goddesses. The country’s best wizard. The knights’ leader, knowing the country’s best swordsmanship. I could say that our country’s strongest battle formation was at the same time, the one that would result in the least damage for the higher-ups, including the king. If not, there was no way they would send the young nobleman from the countryside, now hero, or the king’s beloved only daughter, the head wizard of the palace, or the leader of the knights.
By sending them, the king was casting a spell on the people. A spell, showing their last hope.
That spell was wonderfully effective, and everyone sighed in relief, thinking everything would be alright now. Without realizing this was just what the higher-ups in the royal palace wanted.
Or maybe I’m just thinking too much about it. I don’t know. I don’t know, but no matter how you look at this, it’s obvious any outsider will think of it as some high fantasy story.
The so-called world of swords and sorcery. In this world, right now, that high fantasy story is just about to unfold.