The last story in the book is 137 pages, or almost twice as long as this. It won't be done until July at the earliest.
Hariyama-san, Center of the World 1
Dear Sir Hero of Light (Genre "legendary hero")
“Hey there. I am the 24,856th hero of Caronaplete–”
That steady voice was accompanied by a concrete block that swung down onto the suit-clad, self-styled “hero”’s head.
“Eeee…” The self-styled hero, a salaryman, let out a scream reminiscent of the cry of a small animal. The block smashed right into his forehead and he fell to the ground.
Enveloped in the darkness of the night, the “demon king” took the concrete block in his hand and murmured quietly, “Ah, it’s a really nice night…”
The “demon king” slowly crouched down and dropped concrete block after concrete block atop the “hero”, who had already stopped moving.
The “demon king” muttered in the darkness of the night as he dragged along the completely silent salaryman, “I wonder if there’s an incinerator or a landfill around here…
“…Well, whatever. I’ll ask Hariyama-san about it tomorrow.”
Ten days earlier, Hikarijima, Tokyo District, Hikarijima Metropolitan High School
“The truth is, I’m a hero.”
A classroom after school, wrapped in the pale orange of twilight. I had been called here by her, a good friend of mine since childhood, and we gazed outside through the window, just the two of us.
“Huh?” Even I had to admit I sounded pretty stupid. “…oh, really? So is this a new joke of yours?”
I smiled as I let her know I was listening, but she retorted coldly, “Listen to me!”
…What did I do? I had been completely serious when I thought “It was a joke,” and I’d responded appropriately, so what had I done wrong?
I’d thought for sure she would confess to me. It’s only logical, right? What else could happen in this situation except a confession? What do you expect? Until now, we’d hung out together as friends, but lately we’d started becoming very aware of each other as members of the opposite sex. At least, that was how it was for me. If she wasn’t going to confess, then I would.
But that thought was completely crushed by her next sentence.
“You know, I’m the reincarnation of the holy warrior of light, servant of the god Nambaja, who was summoned to the ancient Holy Millennium Continent!”
Her somewhat long black hair reflected the setting sun and shone bewitchingly. Her words were lively, but even so, they were not at all realistic.
Right. They were lively in a different way. Put another way, they were “delusional”.
Her name was Maya Isojima. She was my childhood friend… and the girl I liked. It wasn’t that I had a preference for girls with wild imaginations, and I had no interest in the type of obsessive girl who would go as far as to try to become a character.
She had been a completely normal person until yesterday.
Our home, Hikarijima, was a solitary island with about two thousand residents. It was a little more than three hundred kilometers east of Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture, existing in isolation on the other side of the Japan Trench. There were no other islands around, and the population was crammed into an area of about fifteen square kilometers.
It was an island without any particular tourist attractions, currently part of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. The outsiders who visited the island on a regular basis only came during the time decided on by the group that researched the Japan Trench. There was no regular service, and the postman and distributors were the only ones who traveled freely between here and the mainland.
On the other hand, it couldn’t be said that the island wasn’t developed. I had only gone to the mainland once on a middle-school field trip, but our town didn’t seem at all different from the ones in magazines.
Recently, they’d finally installed a broadband connection that used satellites, and the Internet finally began making waves on the island. By the way, my house didn’t have Internet yet.
We had our own metropolitan high school and there were about thirty students in each grade. There was only one class for each grade, but it wasn’t lonely. When I watched TV, sometimes there were schools with only one person in a grade. In contrast, my head would spin when I saw schools with several hundred people in a grade.
Did people on the mainland really possess such good memories? It took everything I had to remember the names of the people in my class.
Among them, the first classmate whose name I remembered was – Maya Isojima.
She was the daughter of the Shinto priest of the Kourai Shrine in the middle of the island. She dressed as a priestess on New Year’s and festival days and assisted the islanders.
My house was near the shrine, and so I was acquainted with her before entering kindergarten, and I had often saved her when a dog made her cry.
Of course, I’d also been bitten by dogs and felt like I would die.
Looking back on the past, I could only remember Maya’s crying face from when we were little. I had cried just as much as she did, so it was probably the same for her.
That was what I thought, but–
At that moment, my confidence vanished.
“What… did you say?”
“That I’m a hero, of course!”
I thought it was a stupid response, but at that point in time, I still thought that Maya was joking. The problem was that it was an extremely bad joke, and Maya was not the type of person to make jokes like that.
“No. Of the Ancient Millennium Continent.”
“Stop. Stop right there.”
I held up my hands, and Maya closed her mouth, staring blankly at me.
“To begin with, what’s this millennium continent? And what do you mean by ancient? Is there a Modern Millennium Continent somewhere?”
I asked those questions to find out whether Maya was joking or serious. However, the answer I received was wildly different from what I had expected.
“–So then the god Nambaja stood beside my bed and told me! ‘I shall resurrect thee to walk the path of the moon and dispel the darkness!’ Then I felt Letmuj’s magic and recalled all my memories of the past!”
Was she ignoring me?
This was bad. She looked serious.
Hang on a second.
Seriously, hang on.
I’m begging you, hang on.
I’d heard of this before. The world was large. I’d heard before that countless people thought they were “self-styled reincarnated warriors”.
Some of them thought they were descendants or reincarnations of the people of Lemuria or Atlantis. Others thought they had received a divine revelation from aliens.
I didn’t know if they were the real thing. Well, like it or not, I wouldn’t have any choice but to believe them if they actually shot beams from their hands right in front of me, but I didn’t want to see that.
Hold on a second.
Maya wasn’t… like that, right?
No, she wasn’t. If I had to choose whether she was or not, it would definitely be not.
I at least knew she meant she’d received a message or something from a long time ago. No, even though I didn’t want to.
But I’d never seen Maya act like this. She’d never said anything like this before, and anyway, it made no sense for a priest’s daughter to go on about ghosts and supernatural phenomena.
Just yesterday, she had been delighted that they could finally access the Internet through satellite broadband at the shrine. “Now even shrines and temples will enter the information age!” she had said excitedly as she browsed the Internet.
Once again, I was unable to believe the words of the girl before me, and I raised my voice in protest. “Wait, Maya. Hold on a second. You mean… that’s it? You called me after school just to tell me that, so then the punchline is that I’m the reincarnation of one of those warriors too?”
Oh, fine. Now that it’d come to this, I might as well play along till the end. I would hold out until Maya said, “Sorry, sorry! I was just teasing you!”
I had still not given up. I continued to cling to the hope that she was only joking.
On the other hand, I was seriously concerned, thinking, “Maybe she got hit in the head.” The possibility that “She’s really lost it” did exist in the recesses of my heart, but I didn’t dare think about it and instead chose to ignore it.
“So, what’s my power as a warrior? Can I control fire? Fly through the sky? Predict the end of humanity? …hey, c’mon, say something,” I said to Maya, who had been quiet for a while.
Maya and I were enveloped in an awkward silence.
It really was a joke, huh? In that case, that was the lamest thing I could’ve said, so Maya had just given up.
No, please let that be it.
I couldn’t stand it.
I didn’t want Maya to have lost her mind.
If the problem lay elsewhere, I would put myself on the line to save Maya. But honestly, I had no idea how to deal with a problem of the mind.
A counselor… that was probably the best way. I didn’t know any ways of curing serious delusions. …I could start looking into it now, but I didn’t really have the luxury to be so relaxed about it… as ignorant as I was now, that was the only choice I could make.
But – while I was hesitating over such trivialities, Maya seemed to be worrying about something more serious.
I thought she had been hanging her head in shame, but she seemed to come to a decision, and she opened her mouth. “No. That’s not it. You’re just a human, Shouma. Just a human, without the power to control fire or predict the future.”
“…oh, I see,” I answered dejectedly.
It was not that I increasingly felt that she was serious – I was dejected because my old, cherished friend had said I was “just a human”.
It felt as if Maya had said she didn’t care whether or not I existed.
Yeah, and the fact that I was disappointed was because I was really worried about Maya.
…If I didn’t think about it that way, I wouldn’t be able to stand it.
“So then why are you telling me this?”
I spoke in a tone that said I no longer cared, and Maya murmured, her cheeks reddening slightly, “…Because I like you.”
“I wanted you to know the truth, Shouma. I haven’t even told Dad and Mom I’m a hero of light…”
I was confused.
No, there was nothing to be confused about. Just now, Maya had said that she liked me.
I’d forget this stuff about being a hero. That was definitely just something she said to hide her embarrassment at confessing.
After that brief flash of hope, Maya ignored my feelings and just continued to say whatever she wanted. “I at least wanted the person I like to know.”
Maya smiled to hide her embarrassment, picked up her bag, and slung it over her shoulder.
“The real reason I’m leaving the island.”
By the time I raised my voice, she had already run out of sight.
The next thing I knew, the sun had already set and the inside of the classroom was enveloped in darkness. I was left alone in the semi-dark without the lights turned on, and I opened my mouth, wearing a befuddled expression.
“What was that about… she was talking like she was going to leave the island…”
It wasn’t “like”. No matter how I looked at it, she had come right out and said she was “leaving the island.” But I had not been able to ask what she meant. I hadn’t been able to chase after her and stop her either.
I made the excuse that she had said too many things at once and thrown my heart into disarray.
There was nothing I could do. I would ask her for the details tomorrow. Today, I needed to calm my heart.
I could still be so optimistic because I had not yet accepted the reality of her words.
And so, I soon came to regret that decision.
One week had passed since then.
After I watched her back as she ran from the classroom–
I hadn’t seen Maya since.
A search request was submitted to the police three nights after Maya went missing. Maybe they waited too long, but I had no right to talk.
When her parents and the police asked me about the situation, I didn’t tell them about my last conversation with her. That was because Maya had said, “I only want you to know.” Telling other people would be the same as betraying Maya.
In the end, it was nothing but an excuse. In truth, I hated the thought that Maya had lost her mind. I hated the thought that I was lying.
If she was normally like that, my testimony might have been useful. But up until that afternoon, Maya had really been a normal girl. They wouldn’t believe me if I told them, “She suddenly started claiming she was a hero…”
On the contrary, I would probably fall under suspicion. I would have to pass on that.
But one week after Maya disappeared, I was gripped by an indescribable sense of loss now that she was no longer with me.
Ah, it was true. I really did love Maya.
I wanted to protect her no matter what. I wanted to hear her voice. No, as long as she was okay, that was enough. As long as I saw her again, happy and healthy, that would be enough.
On top of that, it would be great if she would accept my confession.
Though it was a little late, I reconfirmed that. I also took the chance to confirm that I was a hopeless snob.
I thought back on her words, words that only I knew, and began to think about her whereabouts myself. However, no matter how much I thought about it, the answer did not come to me. If her words were to be believed, it might be something like, “I’m a hero, so I went on a journey,” but–
“Why? Where’s the final boss? What’s she protecting the world from?” I muttered anxiously. I remembered the plots of the manga and games I had dabbled in in the past.
Of course, among those were stories where one day, the protagonist’s sweetheart or a beautiful woman who suddenly appeared told him, “I’m a hero,” or “I’m a servant of God.”
“So then, what did the guys in my position do…”
When I thought about it, I felt like it was usually something like “The protagonist is also an amazing hero,” or “He’s a normal human, but he keeps getting involved in incidents, and that gives him a chance to grow closer to the girl.”
So then I should be attacked by the vassals of the demon king?
Enough already. Hurry up and attack. If they did, it would mean Maya hadn’t gone crazy.
No, it no longer mattered whether Maya was sane or crazy, whether she was a hero or Villager A. I just wanted her to come back to me. That was all.
And so… I pray for you to appear, vassals of the demon king. Please attack me.
So that, with perfect timing, Maya would come and save me–
But I was too naïve.
This matter really was something far removed from reality.
However, the unpleasant phenomenon was completely different from what I had imagined.
Then again, by the time I realized it, it was already far too late.
“Are you still feeling down, Shouma?”
Lunch break, seven days after Maya disappeared. My classmate Ikemoto spoke to me as I lay sprawled out across the desk next to the window.
In the end, there was no sign of Maya again today. Scarily enough, I was slowly beginning to grow used to life without her. When I realized that fact, I was filled with self-hatred, and I sprawled out across the desk, but–
“Forget about Isojima already. Okay? It’s better that way.”
Annoying. What do you know?
That was what I wanted to yell, but right now, I wasn’t in the mood. In the first place, if I yelled something like that at someone who was really worried about me, I would only end up being more disgusted with myself.
Ikemoto had been my best friend since middle school, and he’d always been there to comfort me whenever I felt down. That was why I only gave a single-line reply. “…Just leave me alone.”
“Don’t be like that. You were lucky.”
“The fewer victims, the better… you should count yourself lucky Isojima didn’t drag you into it.”
…oh, I get it.
I could only be grateful that she hadn’t said, “You’re also the reincarnation of a hero!” and dragged me into her game of heroic make-believe.
I didn’t think I’d told Ikemoto about the hero stuff.
In that case, why did he know about it?
I turned my gaze to him suspiciously, and Ikemoto grinned and continued speaking. “You were definitely fortunate.”
His smile was completely without ulterior motives, a smile just like that of an angel. It even made me question why I had thought such a thing.
“Yeah, that’s right. You were protected. But Isojima had already fallen so far I couldn’t save her with my power. You should forget her, for your own good.”
What was this about?
I didn’t get what he was saying at all. And in the first place, why did Ikemoto smile so happily? I thought he got along well with Isojima too.
“What’re you talking about, Ikemoto? Do you know where Maya went? Do you know what happened to her!?”
In response to my question, Ikemoto began to explain carefully, without his smile fading in the slightest.
“Yeah, her heart was captured by the Calamitous God Uzuru, and she became the advance guard of the Higher Gods of the Pure Land. But she sensed my presence and fled from the island.”
“…Calamitous God Uzu…? What’s that?”
I was completely unable to understand what Ikemoto was saying. I couldn’t understand his words at all, much less what he was thinking.
“The Calamitous God Uzuru. It was originally a fragment of the planet Deltomatritis in the Shadowland Nebula that came in contact with human malice and gained a will of its own.”
“Wait! Hold on a second!”
I remembered. I remembered this.
I remembered something like this!
“Sorry, I don’t really care about that Uzuru thing. Why did Maya run away!?”
“Oh… just between us, I was born from the union of a human and an alien from the planet Beguashjoeshwijophasia.”
“Your mother and father are both Japanese!”
Now wasn’t the time for such retorts. But I couldn’t help but say it.
We were only getting a little off-topic, but right now, I wanted to escape from the whirlpool of words unfolding right in front of me.
“Don’t worry about the details! Anyway, I have to finish off all of Uzuru’s guard in order to accomplish my mission…”
Oh, him too?
I see. So this really was a joke.
Maya and Ikemoto definitely teamed up to mess with me. No, please let that be it.
But I remembered the faces of the police who interrogated me and was reminded that Maya’s disappearance was definitely not a joke.
“Hey… Ikemoto… I dunno where you learned what Maya and I were talking about… but if you joke around like that, I’ll get seriously mad.”
My voice was so calm it surprised me. But on the other hand, my hands were balled up very, very tightly. My nails bit into my skin so hard it hurt. But I couldn’t help but clench them tightly.
The moment I let myself go, I would probably hit my best friend. No matter what his reasons, there was a difference between good and bad jokes.
Even as I trembled with fury… there was a corner of my heart that was frightened.
We’d known each other for a long time, so I knew.
Ikemoto’s eyes – were serious too.
“It’s not a joke. Accept it and give up, Shouma. Isojima’s not coming back.”
“They might take advantage of you if you keep dwelling in your regret. Isojima might’ve just been trying to seduce you.”
The moment I screamed, I also struck out at Ikemoto. But he nimbly dodged my fist and spoke to me with a sad expression. “…Yeah, I thought you would say that. But relax. I won’t do anything to make you sad.”
“Shut up. I’m telling you to shut up, seriously.”
“I’ll end everything before Isojima comes back to you. Somewhere you won’t see…”
This time, I immediately understood what he meant.
I would knock him out somehow and carry him to the hospital. It didn’t matter if it was a mental or physical illness. There was nothing wrong with throwing people who talked about killing Maya into the hospital. If the hospital was no good, I’d even give him over to the police.
The moment I made that decision and glared at Ikemoto–
Ikemoto had turned on his heel and was already dashing out of the classroom.
“See you, Shouma. If I manage to bring peace back to this world someday – will you be my friend again?”
“Like I’ll let you! Hold on a second! Hey, listen to me! Ikemoto!”
After I got over my confusion, I tried to give chase, but unfortunately, Ikemoto was faster than me. The distance between us widened in the blink of an eye, and the next thing I knew, Ikemoto was already turning the corner in the hall.
My best friend’s back looked terribly far away as he disappeared. It felt like he had grown far away from me in various ways.
And then – I did not see Ikemoto again after that.
Ikemoto’s search request was submitted to the police the next day.
The next day, I wore a confused expression when I reached my classroom.
Something was off. There were only about half as many people as usual in the room.
Were they skipping school just to be on the safe side, since Maya and Ikemoto disappeared one after the other?
It worried me, and so I spoke to me classmate, Makabe, beside me.
He was reading some sort of magazine. It was Dengeki hp, a magazine oriented toward teens in which a lot of light novels were serialized. He must’ve been pretty hardcore to be openly reading it during school. The Hikarijima bookstore didn’t receive that magazine, so he probably ordered it himself. I got some pleasure out of reading light novels, so he often let me borrow it.
“Hey, Makabe. Aren’t there a lot fewer people today?”
Makabe glanced up from his magazine at my face and then looked out over the classroom, as if only now noticing.
“You’re right. Is it because…”
‘Somehow, doesn’t it kind of seem like he’ll say everyone’s gone because of the work of a demon king or evil god?’
I was slightly uneasy, but the answer I received was perfectly reasonable.
“Might be the flu. Seems like it’s the season for it on the mainland… did it finally reach here too?”
It didn’t answer anything, but I was greatly relieved.
It looked like I was nervous over nothing. I had to calm down…
The moment I thought that, our homeroom teacher entered the classroom. It looked like this really was all the people who were going to come.
The teacher slammed the attendance record on his desk and opened his mouth, wearing a placid expression.
“Ah, there’s something I have to tell you all.”
Maybe our teacher would give us some explanation for the mass absences and Ikemoto’s disappearance. That was what I thought, and so I paid unusually close attention to his words.
“To tell the truth, the world is currently in unprecedented danger.”
At his words, the classroom, which had been filled with chatter, became so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
“Jaja Moticius, the dark god I sealed long ago, has been resurrected. I must march into battle once again.”
The classroom began to buzz at his words.
I alone remained silent, wearing an expression of despair.
…Give me a break already.
Enough was enough. Give me a break.
I don’t know who I’m supposed to apologize to, but anyway, I’ll apologize!
I suppressed my urge to scream with all my might, and a girl, the class representative, stood up suddenly.
“Sir, what in the world are you talking about?”
Yeah, exactly. You tell him, class rep!
I no longer had the willpower to object to this kind of thing. Do your best for me too!
And then, only an instant after I placed all my hopes on her–
“Do you understand? Everyone who didn’t come today is an alien bandit from the Deadbout planet! You need to organize the class into defense squads immediately! With my power, we can call forth a giant holy soldier–”
“Stop speaking nonsense! There’s no way alien bandits exist! That’s absurd!”
“Well, what about you, Sir!? Don’t talk about unscientific things like dark gods!”
Cut it out!
“Cut it out!”
The next thing I knew, my inner thoughts leaked out and I shouted.
I slammed both hands on my desk and stood, then grabbed my things and left the classroom.
What in the world was happening?
I didn’t get it at all.
What was going on?
What exactly was happening around me?
Ah, I was still naïve back then.
This weird “something” was just a small part of what was happening around me.
Afterward, I came to realize and hate the naivety of my own thoughts.
And how yelling how much I hated it would do nothing to end it.
In the end, I had no destination in mind when I left school, and so I went home. My father and mother should be out fishing around now. They wouldn’t get mad at me for skipping school.
I noticed an unusually large crowd of people on the way home, making me feel anxious. It seemed like a fight had broken out and I had come across the police breaking it up.
Ah, if everyone around me claiming to be a hero was the real thing, I wanted to tell them to stop the nearby fights first.
I grumbled about those things as I opened the door to my house – and there I saw my father and mother’s shoes lined up.
Had they come home? In that case, I had to make up a reason for having come back so early. Telling them my teacher and the class rep had turned into legendary heroes just wouldn’t cut it as an excuse, even if it was the truth.
“Ah, I wasn’t feeling well…”
I came up with something appropriate as I opened the door to the living room. My father was sitting there with a placid expression.
My father looked every inch the fisherman, and his large eyes widened even further as he called to me.
“Oh, Shouma… good timing. We need to talk.”
I’d said I wasn’t feeling well, but my father wasn’t at all worried about my health. Still, I was overcome by his serious expression, and I reluctantly knelt in front of the living room table.
“What is it, Dad?”
“Well, there’s something I need to tell you about.”
I had a bad feeling about this.
That feeling would probably come true.
I knew that because my father’s eyes were “serious”.
“In truth, our family is descended from a shinobi clan that has secretly served the Togukawa clan for generations.”
“Listen to me. I know it’s so sudden you’re surprised, but this is a race against time. This island has been infiltrated by ninjas secretly in the service of various lords, everyone from the Oda and Toyotomi clans to the Kobayakawa and Shakushain clans… and so I will pass on to you the secret ninja techniques of the Kougai style. We have to start wiping out the other ninja tomorrow.”
‘Are ninja techniques really something that can be mastered in one night?’ I thought to myself, but I no longer had the willpower to retort. Maybe I was just on Candid Camera or something?
Maya and Ikemoto and our teacher and the class rep and my dad were all in cahoots. There was definitely a TV camera recording me somewhere.
That was the only explanation. Either that or I was having a bad dream.
“Oh, you’re back, Shouma.”
With that, my mother came through the door on the other side of the living room.
My mother looked at me and opened her mouth, smiling brightly. “Congratulations, Shouma.”
I had a bad feeling again.
It was exactly the same kind of smile Ikemoto had given me yesterday.
“I got all my memories back. I am an angel dispatched from Heaven who married a human and has been hiding on Earth. But now that the seals on Hell have weakened, I have recovered myself, thanks to Our Heavenly Father’s guidance.”
“Hm? What are you saying, Mother?”
My father tilted his head at my mother’s words, confused.
Aren’t you guys accomplices?
“You have inherited my blood, Shouma. You can join me as the child of an angel!”
“What nonsense are you spouting!?”
“…I’m sorry, dear. It seems I’ve been lying to you until now. But you don’t have the blood of an angel, and you can’t survive in the world we must go to… I’m really sorry.”
This was turning out really weird. Maybe it really was Candid Camera.
“Hmph! You bastard! Are you a ninja of the Oda clan!? Where did you hide my real wife!?”
As soon as he yelled, my father withdrew from his pocket the carving knife he used to gut fish while onboard.
“Answer! Else my famed blade, Kougaimaru, will drink of your blood!”
“Dear!? What’s wrong!? …C-could a demon have taken over your heart?” my mother said, and pulled the same knife from her own pocket.
“Don’t worry! This holy sword will cut only the evil spirit! It won’t hurt you if you hold still and cooperate!”
The holy sword and the famed blade looked like the same kind of knife to me.
But my mother and father stood in completely different stances as they crossed blades.
It took only a moment.
It happened pretty suddenly, but there was no trace of reality in their actions or their words, and I just–
I just continued to stare at the shine of the holy sword and the famed blade.
Well, they were actually just knives.
Right, just knives.
They were knives.
Wait, wasn’t this dangerous?
Wasn’t this situation really dangerous?
Someone could die, right?
Do you get it, Dad, Mom?
You know, that you were… killing each other right in front of your son, you two!
I finally returned to my senses, and just when I was about to yell at them to stop–
My father’s blade pierced through my mother’s windpipe.
The sudden spectacle didn’t seem at all real to me.
But the redness of the gushing blood alone entered my reality–
The next thing I knew, I was running.
I was yelling something as I fled my house, trying to get as far away as possible, focused only on running.
Right, I ran away.
I ran away from my own family.
It wasn’t Candid Camera.
It wasn’t a joke!
It was definitely not some kind of trick.
The “death” I had just witnessed with my own eyes was the real thing!
It wasn’t a joke.
My mother died! Just now, she definitely died!
Then maybe it was only a dream?
My only way out now was if this was a dream, dammit!
It was a dream.
A dream, a dream, a dream, a dream.
It was a dream, right? Right?
Hey, tell me.
I don’t care who. Someone tell me.
…How do you wake up from a dream?
In any case, the nightmare continued to unfold around me as I ran in search of the police.
My home was near the shrine where Maya lived, so it was a bit removed from the town proper. That was why I ran toward town, looking for the police. If I went to the shopping district, I should be able to get phone reception.
Just when I thought that–
I was met with the sight of numerous clouds of smoke rising from between the buildings.
Angry shouts and shrieks pierced my ears.
My nose picked up the scent of blood and the irritating odor of leaking oil.
What was happening?
Hold on. Hold on a second.
This was a dream, right?
Why wasn’t it over yet?
I walked into the shopping district, still confused, and there, a scene from Hell was unfolding.
Just from looking, there was nothing else it could be.
There were car collisions scattered here and there down the street. Some among them were blazing furiously; others were already burnt black.
People were exchanging blows. They were screaming and cursing at each other. But everyone’s eyes were full of hope. It was as if they were all fighting for what they believed in.
Where were the police?
But what should I do if I went to the police? My father killed my mother. What was I supposed to say?
No, hang on, this was a dream. I didn’t need to say anything. Wait, then why was I going to the police anyway?
Uh, Police Guy, uh–
“Are you all right!? Leave this to me and go somewhere safe!”
Police Guy, why are you prepping your gun? Isn’t that really, really dangerous?
“It’s okay! Just between us, I’m a galactic detective dispatched by the Galactic Federation! This gun won’t – gaaah!”
A man appeared behind Police Guy and beat his head with a rock, over and over.
“Galactic!? You’re in league with the aliens! As a member of the Earth Special Investigation Squad, I cannot overlook your secret ma-”
Before the man had finished speaking, Police Guy, his hea d bleed ing, poin ted h is gu n a t th e m an an d p u l l e d t h e t r i g g e r– 
That gunshot completely cleared my mind, which had been fogged with confusion.
But even so – the end of the town’s nightmare was still not in sight.
…Would it be easier if I just went crazy? I turned my back on the policeman as he trampled the fallen man’s head and ran away from that place as fast as I could.
It was as if the island itself was bleeding.
The town was filled with the rusted smell of iron. The smell of death. The smell of death. The smell of death.
“Servant of the devil!” “You’re from the planet Zuja too, aren’t you!?” “Associate!” “Dictatorship dog!” “I won’t lose to an Under-Earthling!” “Taste my High Sunrise Fist!” “I am a true hero.” “I’m a hero, you know!” “‘Cause I’m a hero.” “I” “I am” “I’m” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero” “Hero”…
All I could hear were those voices, so out of touch with reality.
There was no way this was reality.
It’s a dream a dream a dream a dream a dream not reality a dream a dream everything everything everything imaginary a lie a dream a lie a dream imaginary an illusion everything a lie a dream an illusion a lie imaginary a lie a dream an illusion an illusion an illusion a dreamlike illusion is a lie and imaginary.
My mother wasn’t dead.
There was no way she was dead.
She wasn’t stabbed.
I had no mother.
I had no father.
There was no one.
None none none none none none.
There was nothing. See, there was nothing. There was nothing inside me and nothing outside me.
My my my
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaa I AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaa no way AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaa”
AAAAAA a a
Aa a “AAAAA” aaAA
Aaaaa “” a aaaAAAAA
“a a” a
“Shouma. Hey, Shouma.”
AAAAAaaa aaa “aa”
AAaa… aaaaaa…. …?
“Get a grip. What’s up with you? Screaming all of a sudden like that…”
When I stopped panicking and regained my composure, I found my classmate standing in front of me and peering into my face.
“Well, it got pretty bad after you ran out of the classroom, like there was a revolt or something… I got away somehow, but…”
“Which hero are you?”
I’d already grown used to it. You could say I’d given up.
This was a dream anyway. A figment of my imagination. Yeah, I wondered what god Makabe served.
When I asked somewhat defiantly, Makabe gave just the sort of answer I had been expecting.
“Huh… how’d you know? I’m definitely one of the chosen heroes.”
“Oh, I see.”
So I was right after all.
I felt like I wanted to go crazy, but – I felt a slight sense of unease at Makabe’s next words, so I kept my consciousness firmly grounded in reality.
“Umm… right, I’m the chosen hero of Mayonnai Kingdom… no, that’s not it. A black suit from the shrine hospital… wha… descended from kirin… my right hand’s Imagine Breaker… and… huh? Hold on… hold on a second…” 
“I… I… which one? Which one am I?”
Right after that, Makabe reached into his bag, as if being controlled by something, and pulled out a book. It was the magazine he had been reading this morning, a collection of adventure stories.
Makabe flipped through the pages and muttered something to himself under his breath.
“Ahh… I guess I am the hero of Mayonnai Kingdom… maybe… I came to defeat… the black dragon…?”
“Give me that.”
I quickly snatched the book and glanced down at the page Makabe had been reading. When I did, I found that many of the lines Makabe had just been saying were written there.
‘What… in the world?’
I didn’t really understand, but I tried desperately to sort out my thoughts.
And then I suddenly hit upon a realization – and I asked the confused boy in front of me, the one I thought to be most knowledgeable in our class about manga and novels.
“Hey… Makabe. Have you heard of an ‘Ancient Millennium Continent’?”
That was one of the terms that had come up in Maya’s mutterings. I remembered it because it was the only thing I had been able to calmly retort to.
“Huh? …yeah, I know it… it’s from a shoujo manga called Nambaja Prison. It’s the name of the continent the heroine was from in her past life.”
Bingo. Now that he mentioned it, I also remembered hearing the word “Nambaja”.
I continued to shower Makabe with various questions, but it seemed that Maya’s words were not at all a product of her own imagination.
Knowing this wasn’t much different from not knowing anything.
But I had definitely found a connection to Maya. It didn’t matter how trivial the information was; I couldn’t deny that there was a chance it could resolve this situation.
I tossed the book back to Makabe, turned around, and went back the way I had come.
However, my destination was not my house. It was the oldest building on this island – Kourai Shrine.
Or in other words, I was going to where Maya lived–
I’d be fine with a way to wake from this dream.
If this was real, then a way to turn the island back to normal would be fine. A way to bring my mother back to life would be fine. Anything would be fine.
Even just a hint – I just wanted some hint on how to end this ridiculous nightmare–
When I climbed the long stone stairs leading to the shrine, I found a wooden building with something of an air of history. It was Kourai Shrine, situated right in the middle of the island.
Contained within were two modern structures that were completely at odds with the solemn shrine: the small archives detailing the island’s history and its specialties, and the house where the priest and his family lived – in other words, Maya’s house.
I didn’t know what in the world was happening to this island. No, it wasn’t that I didn’t know what was happening to the island. I didn’t know what was happening to me.
Why in the world was I having this nightmare?
Right, now that I thought about it, wouldn’t it all make sense if it was something weird happening to me instead of everyone else acting weird?
But I was sane.
Of course I was sane.
So this had to be a dream.
If I just woke up, I’d go back to my normal life. I would go to school with Maya… ah, that’s right. If I woke up, I’d confess to Maya properly. I’d figured out my feelings for Maya inside this dream.
…Right, this was a dream. It was definitely a dream. To prove it, I still hadn’t felt any pain. But even though pinching my cheeks was a simple matter, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
“…No, I’m not scared. You might be able to imagine pain inside a dream… there’s not really any point to it.”
As I spoke words that even I didn’t find logical, I passed by the shrine and pushed Maya’s house’s doorbell.
A short time passed, and then Maya’s father appeared from inside. He was dressed in a priest’s primarily white costume, and he gazed at me with lifeless eyes.
Well, it was only natural. It had been more than a week since his daughter had disappeared.
…was what I thought in my sleep. That was why he was looking at me like that. Right, because this was a dream.
…I knew. I knew I was being unreasonable.
But if I didn’t think about it this way, I wouldn’t be able to move a single step forward. My mother’s blood-covered face in front of me in front of me stop stop stop… don’t think about it!
I shook off those idle thoughts and bowed my head to Maya’s father with a meek expression.
“Hey… Shouma-kun. What is it?”
I made up a suitable reason, that “I might have an idea where Maya is,” and successfully entered her room.
Maya’s room was perfectly ordered, clearly reflecting her methodical personality.
There were a number of cute stationery sets spread out across her desk, as if she had just finished writing a letter to someone.
“…We’ve left it this way ever since my daughter disappeared… because she’ll get mad if we move things around without asking her…”
I gave a noise of agreement and looked around the room. …Not at all at random, but searching for a certain book.
And then, I soon found it. There was a row of comics with red obi lined up on top of the bookshelf in the room. The words Nambaja Prison were written across the spines.
There was no doubt. These were… the books that had warped Maya’s heart, without a doubt.
“? Is there something wrong with those books?”
The priest looked puzzled, watching as I picked out the manga from the bookshelf.
I didn’t really answer. I opened the first volume silently and began flipping through the pages.
Just as I’d expected, I saw many of the terms Maya had mentioned, like Nambaja and the Ancient Millennium Continent.
As I thought – all those “hero” stories weren’t suddenly coming out of nowhere. The information came from somewhere else.
Just when I realized that, something fell from inside the book. It was an envelope a size smaller than the book, and in Maya’s handwriting, the words “To Shouma” were written.
I couldn’t breathe for a moment, caught off-guard by the letter’s sudden appearance. It was the same for her father, who looked between the letter and my face, surprised.
I didn’t hesitate. I immediately opened the envelope and pulled out several sheets of stationery.
Dear Mr. Shouma,
I wonder if you’re reading this letter? I seldom write letters, so I do not quite know the proper way to do so. And is it acceptable to use “dear” like this? But writing so formally is kind of strange. Maybe the way I usually talk is fine? It is, right?
If you’re reading this letter, does that mean I’m no longer on the island? Maybe I’m not even in this world anymore.
Something inside me is changing, little by little. How should I put it? I have to save the world – that sense of duty feels like it’s taking over my body.
That’s how it’s been until now – but today is different. It’s really concrete, changing my thoughts. It’s telling me to defeat the world’s enemies, trying to make me into a legendary hero. I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish writing this letter, so I’ll try to make this short.
If I disappear, and even if I say weird things, right now, at this moment, I like you, Shouma. But I’m really worried. I don’t know if this feeling will stay after I change. That’s why I’m writing a letter.
I think you’ll definitely find this letter, Shouma. And also.
The first sheet ended there.
Ahh, don’t worry, Maya. On that day, you came right out and told me you liked me.
But I would put that aside for now. First I had to look for the cause of this ridiculous incident. …so that I would be able to see Maya again.
But still… what did she mean, changing her thoughts? Did she mean something like hypnosis or brainwashing?
I made to read the second sheet of stationery, but before I could, Maya’s father spoke up from behind me.
“…Shouma-kun. Do you – not feel anything?”
“You… well, hm. You don’t think you’re some kind of special existence?”
That was when I finally realized.
That the priest was still normal. And that he knew exactly what was happening.
“Shouma-kun… how much do you know about the origin of this island?”
When the priest guided me into the archives, he began saying strange things.
He told me that Hikarijima had originally been unpopulated, and people had begun immigrating here in the middle of the Edo period, and that what was initially a population of a few dozen islanders gradually increased to the number there were today. There were rumors that those original few dozen were deportees, but it seemed the existing records were ambiguous.
When he told me that, the priest shook his head quietly.
“That’s not true, Shouma-kun. Those few dozen people… to be exact, those thirty-six… they were not deportees. Accurate records have been handed down through this shrine.”
“? But the reference materials we used in class…”
“It’s not in normal textbooks or dictionaries. There’s no way they could report it… In the first place, until the middle of the Edo period, this island didn’t even exist.”
The priest’s expression was not so much calm as it was mournful, and, falteringly, he continued to reveal to me the truth surrounding this island.
“Those thirty-six – were offerings.”
According to the priest’s story, the true origin of this island was as follows.
It had happened several hundred years ago, but – the mainland had been suffering from an unimaginable famine (it seemed like there were some records saying that evil river and mountain spirits had appeared). A certain famous shaman had carried out a rite of “God-Summoning”.
Acting as an oracle, the shaman therefore had weights tied to thirty-six sacrifices, who were submerged in the designated area of the ocean. Of course, they were still alive, just as the word “sacrifice” demanded…
Whether by coincidence or fate, that area of the sea was just west of this island – right above the deepest part of the Japan Trench.
They had offered their sacrifices. The next step was for God, or one of God’s messengers, the so-called “Hero of Light”, to finally be summoned to this world, but…
All that appeared above the ocean was a single small rock.
Of course, it was strange for a rock to appear in the ocean where previously there was nothing, but the shaman had not been hoping for a supernatural phenomenon.
The dejected shaman left that rock behind, but–
Several months later, the shaman still couldn’t stop thinking about that rock, and when he reached that place again at the end of a long boat trip–
There he found that a single island had appeared, and the thirty-six sacrifices who should have sunk into the ocean were living there.
“That shaman created a shrine here. So you could say that this shrine actually has nothing to do with Shinto.”
As he spoke, the priest moved to stand before the model of Hikarijima within the archives.
“And so, most of the inhabitants of this island are… descendants of the thirty-six people and the shaman from that time. To think they would have had the nerve to increase to this many people. …Of course, when you think of those thirty-six, it calls into question if we – the inhabitants of this island – are even human.”
“…Don’t say such scary things.”
People of Earth were summoned to a parallel world and became heroes. It was a common theme in stories.
However, this was the opposite. In this case, an existence from another world was summoned to Earth. However, what was summoned was not a human nor a god, but a rocky mountain in the middle of the ocean.
Right… most likely, the summoner had entrusted the task of “cleansing the darkness” to that object.
“The soul of the island – my ‘mission’ always flows within me. Save the world, cleanse the darkness, it says. …But it has no mind of its own. In the end, the island is the island, nothing more than a mass of rock. But that mission is carved deep into my soul. …My father and his father before him single-handedly bore its voice and quietly passed on this truth to me. But why this happened all of a sudden… I haven’t the slightest inkling.”
That was what the priest said, but – to tell the truth, I had an idea.
“…It’s because the island was connected to the rest of the world…”
“What did you say?”
“It was told to cleanse the darkness of the world, but until now, this mindless island with a soul didn’t know the state of the world. But if it slowly became aware of the existence of the world, through books and literature transmitted through the island’s inhabitants…”
“…In that case, wouldn’t something like this have happened earlier?”
It was a logical question, but I shook my head.
“…It wouldn’t be able to learn of the ‘wideness’ of the world just through literature and phone calls and people coming and going by boat. But if there was some other way – if it had the chance to experience the world–”
As I spoke, the priest gazed at the tall steel tower a little ways away from us.
A large parabolic antenna was installed on top of the steel tower. Just for this moment, I glared hatefully at it, the symbol of broadband.
“…I see. And so the island grew to know of the ‘wideness’ of the world and entered the consciousness of the town’s people… That makes sense.”
According to the priest, the “soul” contained in the island had somehow planted various “images of heroes” within the island’s residents… and made it so that they themselves believed they were those heroes.
The heroes and legends did not only come from games and manga. To put it bluntly, even people like Momotarou and Ooka Echizen could be considered heroes. If they led lives like that, most humans could become heroes.
“So then… why aren’t you affected?”
“Naturally… it is because my role as a hero is that of this island’s priest. There is no need for me to change.”
I see. That would explain it.
But – in that case, I wished Maya had thought of her hero as being a priest too. If she did, she might not have left the island…
When my thoughts reached that point, I asked the priest an important question. Right, this was important too.
“Um… so then, how do we turn everyone back to normal…”
“If I knew that, I would’ve used it a long time ago to get my daughter back.”
I rested my arms on the glass case surrounding the model of the island and hung my head, enveloped in heartfelt despair.
‘Damn, after I’ve come this far… In the end I can’t do anything!’
When I ground my teeth in frustration, I heard the priest’s voice from behind me, his tone different from before.
“But… now I know how.”
My despair instantly changed to hope. I turned to face the priest, wearing a half-joyful smile – and froze.
The priest was smiling.
Just like Ikemoto’s and my mother’s, that unhesitating – and yet, unsettling smile.
The priest’s hand gripped a blood-covered knife – and he swung it down forcefully in my direction.
I was naïve.
I, who had tried to separate this current situation into simple words like hope and despair, was terribly naïve.
When I saw the blade shining red, a tension I had never felt before swept through my whole body–
The blood, the blood was overflowing.
It didn’t look like it would stop.
No, I wasn’t talking about my body.
It seemed my leg had been injured, but it was shallower than I thought, and it wasn’t bleeding profusely.
Right now, what was overflowing with blood that wouldn’t stop flowing – was the wound in the priest’s chest.
I remembered up to the point where there was a fierce struggle. I couldn’t recall what had happened after that, as if I was lost in a daze.
But what was certain was that I had stabbed the priest… Maya’s father, with my own hands.
“…You did it… Shouma-kun…”
“I didn’t… no, uh… I… I…”
I couldn’t put my thoughts in order, but I was calmed down by the twisted smile the priest showed me at that moment.
“With this, you have become ‘darkness’.”
“Yes, I figured it out. I know, having exposed myself to the soul of the island… Just now – you… were recognized… by this… island… as being… ‘darkness’.”
What was he saying?
More importantly, if I didn’t stop the bleeding fast… that was what I logically thought, but my body would not move. All of my instincts urged me to take in what the priest had just said.
“What are you saying? What are you saying, sir!? I thought you were the only sane one here, so why…! What do you mean by ‘darkness’!?”
“You… are. Because… you killed me… a servant of Hikarijima… a hero of light… ah, the island, the soul of the island… has surely found, and recognized, its ‘enemy’…”
“And so… if you, the enemy… are killed by one of the ‘heroes’… this ridiculous farce will… e…nd… and my daughter… Maya will… go back… to nor…”
I understood what he was trying to say.
I understood it so well it hurt.
But why? Why did it have to be me?
Right… to begin with, why was I the only one not a “hero”?
As if anticipating my question, the priest faced me and let the words fall from his lips.
“You… might… not… know, but… the blood… of this… island… does not… flow in… you. You were… born to… a pair… of university students… researching… the trench… and abandoned… in front… of the shrine……”
The priest stopped there, and no more words left his mouth.
There was no way.
There was just no way.
What was all that “You’re not actually their real son,” like something out of a cliché “hero story”!? Why did I have to… why… I wasn’t anything like a h… yeah, I wasn’t a hero. Right, it was the opposite. I didn’t inherit the blood of heroes… I was the only one who didn’t inherit the blood of heroes.
I was… “darkness”… I – I – was everyone’s enemy? I only… Maya… uh… I… killed… Maya’s father… huh? Wait, hold on. Hold on, hold on, hold on!
“A-anyway… I have to tell Maya’s mom…”
I was worried about what to say – when I suddenly realized. When he lunged at me, the priest’s knife was already covered in blood.
If the disaster that took place in my home and on the streets had also happened here…
Looking at the motionless priest, I suddenly became scared. A terror such as I had never felt before coursed through my whole body.
My body was gripped by uncontrollable nausea and my eyes overflowed with tears.
I could not give voice to my scream. The tears and snot stuck in my throat and I could not speak.
It might be easier to just go insane.
But the sharp pain that assaulted my leg forcefully anchored me to reality.
I would not be allowed to go insane.
The searing pain throbbed through my nerves.
Ah, this was no dream.
It wasn’t a dream.
It was reality. This pain – was undoubtedly real.
Why was I feeling nauseated?
Why was I crying so much?
Was it because I had no choice but to accept my mother’s death as reality? Or was it because I had killed Maya’s father with my own hands? Or perhaps, was it because I believed Maya’s mother was most likely already dead?
I didn’t know.
Right now, I – didn’t know anything.
There was just one thing I did know.
I was an ordinary person without a speck of precognition.
Maya, a self-styled hero, had definitely told me so.
But you know, Maya?
I could still make a prophecy.
Yeah, there was just one prophecy I could make for certain.
‘It’s the end… for this island.’
Make some retort.
“That’s not a prophecy, that’s a prediction, Shouma.”
…and point out my mistake, please.
When our town got all crazy… when your family and friends were suffering and dying… what the hell kind of peace did you go off to protect?
Answer me. Help me.
Sir Hero of Light.
O servant of the god Nambaja, holy warrior of light!
I dropped to my knees on the floor, leaning against the archive room’s counter – and began to cry sorrowfully for a different reason than before.
I felt ashamed of myself for crying, and that made me cry all the more.
The fires in the direction of the city had multiplied, and the smell of blood and things burning was carried on the wind and reached even to the shrine.
Would I not go back anymore?
Could I not go back?
Who was I?
Who the hell was I?
No matter how much I thought, no answer was forthcoming. I just continued to cry in the center of the island.
All alone, as I imagined the face of my childhood friend who was no longer on this island–
Two days later
Saitama Prefecture, Tokorozawa, afternoon
“Wow. All the islanders have gone missing. Scary… I wonder what happened?”
A man, who had woken up past noon, muttered in a mystified voice as he looked at the newspaper’s front page.
That glasses-wearing man had a face no one could hate or even resent. Logically, that made it an “endearing face”. His features contained not a trace of disagreeableness.
There was nothing particularly notable about his face other than his glasses. It was a face that could accept anxiety, fear, and other people’s problems while still wearing an extremely bland expression.
The news article spoke of the rescue team that had been dispatched to Hikarijima a day after all contact had been lost. There was no sign of the islanders, and the town contained evidence of fighting between a great many people.
When the man turned on the TV, all but one of the stations were reporting on the incident, just as they would in the event of a huge calamity.
However, it was much more abnormal than any calamity. The afternoon variety shows were calling it a “Modern Day Mary Celeste” and stirring up anxiety.
It seemed little additional information was being broadcast on television, and they were simply repeating the same contents and images. Just when the man considered searching the Internet for more information – suddenly, the doorbell rang.
“Good afternoon. Um… it’s nice to meet you.”
When he opened the door, a boy of about high school age was standing there. He was holding some sort of package in his hand, and he bowed his head.
“Excuse me, I… no, my name is Shouma Zakojima. I moved into the apartment next door this morning…”
A lightbulb went off in the man’s head.
‘Now that you mention it, last night the landlord the next building over suddenly said there would be a new tenant.’
“This is hikkoshi soba.”
“Oh, how polite. Thank you.”
As he accepted the proffered package, the man gave a brief introduction to his new “neighbor”.
“I’m Shinkichi Hariyama. Er, I’m part of the neighborhood association… I’m a work-from-home designer and I’m here even on weekdays, so if you need anything, feel free to ask.”
He was not simply pretending to be polite. He truly wished for the boy to“feel free to ask,” even to the point of recklessness.
Hearing that, the boy replied, relieved, “All right! Thank you very much!”
Upon receiving that unusually energetic reply, Hariyama-san casually asked the boy, “You look about the same age as my daughter… are you a student?”
The boy shook his head a bit sadly. In the next moment, he smiled and spoke in a voice full of confidence.
“I double as – a hero and a demon king.”
He wore a puzzled expression, but it looked like he didn’t think of me as being “off in the head”. He seemed to be a bit too carefree, but I was grateful for that.
Even though the man who introduced himself as Hariyama-san was the head of the household, he was younger than I had thought. I wouldn’t have imagined he had a child around my age.
But right now, I should be thinking about what I would do from now on, rather than the people around me.
Back then, I escaped from the island – and right away I reached this land, “Tokorozawa”. It was a city in Saitama Prefecture, famous for being the home of the Seibu Lions.
It wasn’t like I came here for no reason.
I felt it.
Some sort of unusual aura.
I noticed it when I left the island, but I could feel that the island had a unique sort of aura. I felt the same sort of aura from the island’s people.
And I felt it in this town, just like the island where I grew up – the aura of something not of this world, something that had come from another world.
But it wasn’t exactly the same as the aura I felt in Hikarijima. Maybe it was something else from another world different from the one the island had been summoned from. The “aura” felt very similar.
I had no other clues, and so there was little else I could do. For now, I would stay here.
Yeah, I was gradually beginning to feel the “island’s” aura.
It was a nostalgic aura. It belonged to everyone from the island.
It was the aura of a “hero of light”.
It was still very, very far away, but I felt it growing closer to me, little by little. Somehow, it seemed my ability to sense auras far surpassed theirs.
Yeah, if I wanted to avoid fighting, it would be best to move from place to place around the world, constantly on the run.
But I would stay in this town. I would tell them where I was. So that the heroes, everyone from the island, would come to kill me.
Someday, in due time, Maya would come to kill me–
If that happened, I could meet her. I would be able to meet Maya again.
And then I would confess. The person who came to kill me, who came to stab me through the chest with the sacred sword of Nambaja… I would hug her.
I would hug her so, so tightly.
And then I would yell that I loved her.
Over. And over.
Even when Maya’s sword pierced through my heart.
I wouldn’t allow anyone to get in my way. I would continue to wait for Maya, no matter how many other heroes I had to kill.
I did not feel that dispatching of “heroes” was a crime. After all, my hands were already stained with blood.
I’d already killed about ten more people before leaving the island. There were those I recognized among them.
But I was desperate. If that situation was caught on film, the judge would definitely rule it to be self-defense. That was how dangerous it was.
However… each time I killed a hero, I felt like the “aura” emanating from my body grew thicker. It was as if I was sucking up the souls of the murdered heroes… Even so, I definitely wasn’t overflowing with power.
“So I’m – the hero of darkness, huh? No, or maybe I’m the demon king.”
Gazing at the sky, I pulled out the letter Maya had left behind from my pocket. I’d read it countless times, over and over, and it was already worn and ragged.
On the second piece of stationery, the following was written.
“I think I’ll probably leave this island soon. I don’t know if it’s real, but I have to cleanse the darkness. To put it simply, I have to defeat something kind of like a demon king.
I don’t know if that kind of being really exists, and I might never come back.
No. Sorry. I’ll come back.
I’ll definitely come back.
So I have a favor to ask.
I’m going to protect the world’s peace, so Shouma, I want you to protect the people of the island. In particular, I want you to comfort and protect my father and mother after I’m gone.
Sorry. It’s shameless of me to ask this of you, but… I’ll pay you back if I come back safely, definitely!
So when that happens – I want you to tell me.
What you think of me, Shouma–”
The letter ended there.
I read that part after I left the island.
…After I had killed Maya’s father with my own hands.
In the end, I didn’t write a reply to the letter I received from Maya. I didn’t know her address anyway, so there was nothing I could do.
Right now, she was traveling around Japan or the world. She was looking for the “avatar of darkness” that she had to destroy.
In other words – she was looking for me.
I was engulfed in unbearable loneliness, and to hide that feeling, I composed a letter.
Within my heart, I continued to furiously write to the “heroes of light” who would appear before me.
Without pen or paper, simply carving the words into my heart.
I continued to carve my current feelings as wounds upon my heart.
Dear Sir Hero of Light,
I will now kill you.
I will kill all of you.
I will kill many of you.
That is what I wish for.
But, you know.
It’s fine, right?
Whenever heroes of light die, churches and temples and kings and gods bring them back to life.
So I can kill you without worry.
I am the hero of darkness. And I am the demon king.
So if I die just once, I definitely won’t come back to life.
So I have to raise my level more and more.
Give me quests.
Please, give me more quests–
I am normal.
On that island, I was the only one who was normal.
So I will definitely stay…
I’m not crazy!
I’m just in love with Maya.
I just love someone.
So I’m sane.
Hey, isn’t that right, Maya?
Isn’t that right, Sir Hero of Light?
I’m definitely normal.
Give me quests.
Please, give me more quests–
“Dear Sir Hero of Light” – end
Beguashjoeshwijophasia: ベグアシジョウェシウィジョファジイア Pretty sure this is meant to be one word, as there aren’t any spacers.
Jaja Moticius: ジャジャ・モティシウス
 A bit of oddness in the writing here that’s hard to get across. For a little while now, Shouma has been inconsistently writing words in hiragana that he’s previously used kanji for – so basically, instead of the more complicated Chinese characters, he switches to a simpler syllabary. This is especially evident in this sentence, where there are almost no kanji at all. I attribute it to shock and the deterioration of his mental state, but it’s difficult to display the same effect in English.
 This is all over references to other Dengeki Bunko series. “Mayonnai Kingdom” is from Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan. The “shrine hospital” is 内陣会病院, which as far as I can tell is something to do with Gakuto Coda’s Missing series, which I don’t know anything at all about, much less what it’s actually referring to. Descended from kirin isn’t one I’m familiar with either, but it’s easy enough to understand. “Imagine Breaker” is from A Certain Magical Index.