Chapter 1

Fedoras are the coolest hats in existence.

Wearing one can instantly turn you into someone classy, someone to be respected. Whether it’s paired with a tie-dyed shirt and jeans or a full tuxedo, the effects are devastating.

It also happens to be the best hat a gentleman could ever possibly wear. Ah, you say the gentleman’s hat is actually the top hat? Don’t be ridiculous. Top hats serve no purpose but for causing uncontrollable laughter. I’d rather stack a multitude of fedoras on my head than wear such a travesty.

Bowler hats, being a close cousin to the fedora, are still a good choice. While not as dazzling as a proper fedora, its rounded shape gives it a more refined, calm air as opposed to a fedora’s rakish, standout characteristics.

And for those who feel a particular attachment to the western States, there is the Stetson, something like the fedora’s long-lost twice-removed cousin. I’ve never worn one myself, so I can’t say much about its usefulness, but I’m sure people have their reasons to wear them.

Am I a hat maniac? Most certainly! Hats are wonderful things. They hide greasy locks of hair, protect tender bald scalps from the harsh rays of the sun, and provide shade thanks to their brims. My entire life was devoted to hats, and my house contained no less than fifteen hat racks, all laden with my collection of various hats from around the world, from the Russian ushanka to the ubiquitous straw hat. I ran a hat shop, where I sold a variety of different hats. Shipments would come in from various hat factories, and I would convince customers to hand over some of their hard-earned money to buy a piece of clothing that functioned both as a fashion statement and as a useful tool.

Why am I using past tense to describe my life?

That’s because I died.

It was a tube- sorry, subway- derailment. I, dressed in a smart business suit and a black fedora, with a briefcase in my right hand, was waiting for the train that would take me home after a long and exhausting day of work. Who’d have guessed that the train I was waiting for would be the one to kill me?

In my last moments, bleeding out under a pile of concrete and rebar and twisted steel, I protected the fedora to the best of my abilities, not letting it slip from my hands even as my eyes closed for the last time.

But wait, there’s more!

Damn, that line never gets old. May you swindle crowds of unassuming angels in heaven browsing the Christian Shopping Channel, Billy Mays.

After my death, I was greeted by an old man sitting in a comfortable armchair while puffing on a lacquered wooden pipe. The first thing I noticed was his hat.

A fedora.

At that moment, a strange feeling bloomed inside my heart. It was the first time I’d come across one of my kin, one of those who wore fedoras in daily life.

The second thing I noticed was that I was no longer bleeding from various wounds on my body, and that I was also standing up, as though nothing had happened. My surrou dings, too, had changed- no longer could I see nothing but grey dust and concrete. Instead, my eyes were graced with what seemed to be a lavishly furnished parlor, with a fire crackling merrily in the hearth.

“Jonathan Brooks.”

It wasn’t a question that issued from the old man’s mouth. It was a statement.

Jonathan Brooks- that’s me. A 35-year-old London resident known for having a hat fetish.

“Er, yes?”

I nervously adjusted my tie. Why was I here?

“You are dead.”

“Yeah, I think I am. But what is this place? Limbo? Purgatory? A last hallucination before my brain ceases to function?”

Though I might look unassuming and plain, I have a doctorate. Medical school, baby! Yeah! Why’s a medical school graduate selling hats? Long story. Really, really long. Partly because I would have to include a detailed explanation on employment rates and economy and whatnot, and partly because I’m of the longwinded sort.

“Your first two guesses were correct.”

Said the mysterious old man, tapping his pipe with wizened fingers that looked like some sort of yellowed paper had been stretched over his bones.

“Do you know who I am, Mr. Brooks?”

“No.”

I didn’t really know anyone outside of my immediate family, and this man was no exception.

“It’s a pity how far humanity has fallen, even with occasional bastions of safety like you…”

He muttered.

“Mr. Brooks, I am the god of Hats.”

“Huh.”

“You’re awfully nonchalant about being introduced to a god.”

“I’m quite surprised, really. It’s just that I kind of figured it out already.”

“Oh, really? How?”

“This room contains more hats than I’ve ever seen.”

It seemed that for a god, hat racks were unnecessary. Instead, hats floated in midair, gently bobbing to some nonexistent wind.

“Plus, the floating hats are kind of a dead giveaway, no pun intended. Nice collection, by the way.”

One rule of thumb regarding hat collections is: never touch a hat from another man’s collection without receiving explicit permission. Which is why I merely observed with my eyes, even though I had the urge to throw caution to the winds and cram as many different hats as I could on my head.

“Ah. It’s my first time inviting a mortal into my domain, so pardon me if you see something out of your common sense.”

“I don’t particularly mind floating hats. In fact, I think that’s pretty neat.”

“Thank you. Anyway!”

The god cleared his throat sharply.

“As a reward for so devoutly following the path of the headpiece for your entire life, you will be sent into another world as my apostle. Do you have any objections?”

My mouth dropped open.

“I’m fine with the other world bit, but me? Your apostle? Are you sure I’m qualified for this?”

The god smiled.

“The fact that you love hats so much is quite enough. Plus, I will be granting you a little gift to help you on your way. Please, hand me your fedora, would you?”

I looked at his outstretched hand dubiously. The fedora was the finest hat in my collection- the outside was glossy black silk, with an inside made of felt. It had been made by Antonio Giuseppe, one of the greatest hatmakers of the twentieth century, and had cost a year’s salary for me to obtain.

“You’re not going to harm it?”

“Oh, please. I’m the god of hats. I love hats even more than you do! I could never bring myself to hurt them.”

I reluctantly took the fedora from my head and placed it on his palm. The god of hats closed his eyes, and the fedora glowed with a faint golden light which disappeared as the god reopened his eyes.

“Done.”

I took the fedora back, turning it around in my hands.

“It doesn’t seem any different.”

“The changes might not be immediately visible, but they’re there all right. I wish I could just enhance you directly, but as my domain rules over hats I can’t exactly go around modifying human souls.

“This fedora- fine work, even for my standards- is now indestructible and self-cleaning. I wanted to take that much off your mind. But those are just the minor changes! Now, I can’t give you too much or the other gods will be in a tizzy, but I did sneak in a couple of cool features. Put it on your head.”

I did as he instructed, and he pointed to the brim of the fedora.

“Now, think the word ‘hide’. Then take a look at yourself in the mirror over there.”

I walked in front of a floor-to-ceiling mirror obviously used to model for hats, and gasped. I wasn’t visible on the mirror, although I could see myself just fine. The god chuckled at my astonishment.

“Do you like it?”

“Y-yes! A lot!”

Despite being 35, I felt like I was a schoolboy again.

“To undo the invisibility, just grab the brim and think ‘show’. Simple enough.”

“Um, I have a question.”

“Ask away.”

“This fedora is indestructible, right? What if I want to modify it?”

“Modify it how?”

“Like if I wanted to make it bulletproof by putting a thin layer of metal inside. Judging from the way you’re acting, the world I’m being sent to is quite dangerous, right?”

“A fair point. Tell me what you want modified, and I’ll do it for you before you leave.”

“Really? Thanks. I want a layer of metal inside the brim, light enough not to hinder movement but strong enough to block projectiles.”

“But the hat is already indestructible?”

“Think of it like wearing armor. If, say, you throw a rock at an unbreakable, pliant membrane that has a vase behind it, if you throw hard enough the vase will receive an impact from the rock. If it’s a rigid membrane- like metal- that wouldn’t happen.”

“I didn’t think of that. I understand that I am woefully lacking in seeing things from a mortal’s viewpoint.”

The god waved his hand.

“Done.”

“It doesn’t feel any heavier, though?”

“That’s because I used a very unique metal. Where you’re going, it’s called godmetal. A fitting name for a metal bestowed upon mortals by gods. Indestructible, practically weightless. Aerospace engineers from Earth would drool over it like kids over Christmas turkey.”

I nodded, before I did a double take, realizing what he had just said.

“You know what Christmas and aerospace engineers are?”

“I know everything about Earth. After all, I was able to pull you from that world after your death, no?”

“Now it seems rather obvious. I’ll just sit over here and put a foot in my mouth.”

I said with a chagrined expression on my face.

“The next modification is a change to its aerodynamics. Though I can’t completely ignore physics, I can still bend the laws a little. The fedora will be treated like a perfectly weighted frisbee.”

Though it seemed like a rather frivolous use of godly power, I refrained from speaking my mind. Then I realized a god would probably be able to read my thoughts anyway.

“And for what purpose?”

“To look cool. Think about it! You could throw your hat and have it come back to you and land on your head! Romance!”

“I admit that does sound pretty damn awesome. Can I ask one last question before I go?”

“Go ahead.”

“Why do you need an apostle in that world?”

“That world is one that is a travesty in terms of hat-related culture. The only things they wear on their heads are hoods, headbands and crowns! Can you imagine that? That’s why you must show them the greatness of proper hats!”

“I will!”

I said, sounding rather unnaturally vigorous due to overenthusiasm. Being an apostle of the hat god? Hell yeah! Couldn’t be any worse than being a hat salesman.

“Then go! Teach your wisdom to the unknowing masses!”

With that shout, I felt myself slowly fading away, becoming more indistinct, before I couldn’t feel my own limbs and my vision turned black.

That was the start of an adventure that would have more consequences than I expected.

I sigh as I pull myself out of my memories. Now that I’ve grown to a ripe old age in this world- Rithen- I have nothing left to do. I had revolutionized everything from hats to industry during my time here, and I am hailed as a great hero. It also helps that I’m absolutely loaded thanks to my myriad business ventures, most of which were profitable.

Now that I’ve reached the old age of 85, everything is a chore. Getting up in the morning, making breakfast, skimming through reports with morning tea- none of it holds any enjoyment for me.

Would anyone miss me after my death? Yes, millions would. But would anyone miss me the way they would miss a beloved family member? No. I led a mostly solitary life, and though I have some good friends, I never formed any intimate relationships. Thinking back on it, I realize that maybe it was a mistake.

My hands start shaking, jostling the fragrant herb tea in my cup. What am I so afraid of? It’s quite obvious.

I’m afraid of being forgotten.

I’m afraid that the fifty years I’ve spent in this world will go to waste, that it’ll regress to the pitifully medieval state I found it in.

But even more than that, I’m afraid of people no longer thinking of my name and attributing it to a man who singlehandedly changed the world. Even if it was rather undeserved, I thoroughly enjoyed feeling like a real hero.

That’s not to say I can’t fight. No sir. In a world previously as harsh and unforgiving as Rithen, if you couldn’t fight you died. Thanks to my incredible fedora, I managed to survive unscathed. Afterwards, I created a whole school of fighting involving the use of metal-plated hats.

The problem lies not with physical strength, but with magic. As you may have guessed, this world is very much like the ones from classic fantasy novels from Earth. It has a variety of incredible, imagination-defying creatures, and every vista is a feast for the eyes. It is thanks to magic that I was able to recreate Earth’s technology so quickly on this planet.

I rely on magic for everything. I trust that it will never suddenly disappear, that magical items will never lose their enchantment.

For someone so dependant on magic, I suppose it’s a supreme form of irony that I am incapable of using any myself.

It’s understandable- Earth never had any magic, and thus my body simply cannot handle channeling mana- the basic unit of magical energy- and thus made any sort of spellcasting impossible for me. An expected result, but nonetheless very disappointing.

I lean back in my chair and gaze up at the ceiling. The hat god hasn’t contacted me since he sent me to this world. Maybe he’ll be there once I die here. No idea.

Well, it’ll be soon. I can feel my body slowly shutting down. With the passage of every month my limbs feel just a bit heavier, my mind feels just a little slower.

I sip the tea, enjoying its rich fragrance. This tea, much like myself, is a commodity. Limited, expensive, and useful. Sometimes I wonder if that’s all the people of this world think of me. A convenient Swiss army knife with more attachments than can be counted.

Another sip. The tea is soothing, and my creaking joints are grateful.

Sip. I feel as though I could go to sleep at any moment.

I put down the cup and close my eyes.

On this day, the well-respected businessman Jonathan Brooks, age 85, disappeared without a trace on the 50th anniversary of his arrival in Rithen.

“Oh. It’s you again.”

The god of hats raises his bushy white eyebrows at that.

“Your tone is awfully insolent for someone who’s adressing a god.”

“Sorry. Being 85 means I consider 90% of everyone I meet to be beneath me. Turns into a habit.”

“No worries.”

“So, am I dead again?”

“No. This time, the circumstances are rather peculiar.”

The god checks the bowl of his pipe, and refills it with tobacco.

“Peculiar? In what way?”

“Well, you were forcibly dragged from Rithen into another world that has discovered how to summon human beings from across dimensions.”

“Really? Why would they need to summon someone, though?”

“They were in dire need of a hero to save them. And so they summoned a group of individuals, mostly from Earth, to help them.”

“A group from Earth, huh. How nostalgic.”

“Quite.”

“Still doesn’t explain why you wanted to talk to me, though.”

“I just wanted to prepare you for landing in that world. Being 85 in a world that desperately needs fighters is… Not a good idea.”

“True. So?”

“I’ve gotten permission to reverse your aging. You will arrive as a 35-year old man- just like the first time we met.”

“35 again…”

I mutter. To tell the truth, I’m kind of miffed by these summoners who kidnapped people to do their dirty work for them, but now that I’m caught up in this situation, what can I do but go with the flow?

“What’s that world like?”

“Think of it as Rithen, before you arrived.”

“Oof. Wouldn’t want to end up in a world like that without prior experience, that’s for sure. Do you have a task for me this time?”

“No. I don’t. Spread hats if you want, but this time you’re free to do whatever you want. Think of it as a reward for doing a good job on Rithen.”

A lifelong vacation on a hostile planet as a reward for being the employee of the century. Great place to work at.

“And tone down the sarcasm, will you? It’s unbecoming for an English gentleman.”

I quirk my eyebrows as I adjust my hat.

“All gentlemen are rotten at the core, you know? We just put up a godsteel-hard shell that seems ‘gentle’.”

“If you say so. Any last questions?”

“Do I get to take whatever I was carrying with me?”

“Yes.”

“That’s good. Bye, then. See you next death.”

“Goodbye, Mr. Brooks.”

Being summoned is distinctly unlike being reincarnated. When I was reincarnated, I simply… Faded into existence. This time, I feel like I’m a fish caught on a hook, the tightly-wound line dragging me to the fisherman.

With a jolt, my feet land on solid ground, and I open my eyes to see a very evil cult-like room, covered with arcane scribbles and formations, in the largest of which I’m standing right now.

I look around, searching for the other summoned people. Around me are six people- five who are obviously from Earth, judging from their synthetic clothing, and a sixth who is… Not.

The five are fairly average teenagers. From their faces and black hair, I assume they’re all Asian. They’re all looking around, confused, while wiping their eyes.

The sixth is a woman. Not very tall, only about 5 feet- and that’s a generous estimate- and her most striking feature is her ears. Instead of two round, fleshy ears attached to the sides of her head, she has two furry, pointed ones at the top instead. Cat? No, fox? Her tail is hidden by her clothing, so I can’t tell, but she’a obviously got one.

Beastkin. Humans with some beast-like features, thought to be mutations caused by mana. In Rithen, there were plenty of beastkin, who, due to their higher physical strength compared to humans, were treated as a superior race- that is, until I came along, and vigorously convinced everyone that all races are equal.

What interests me more than her ears, though, are her clothes. They’re not the typical badly made clothing a medieval peasant would wear- they’re very modern. Not synthetic fabric, but obviously made through some sort of mass production.

She turns her head to look at me, and our eyes meet. Hers widen, and she gasps.

“Lord Brooks! Where is this place? What are you doing here?”

I motion for her to be quiet, but the damage has been done. The other summoned are turning to stare at us, and the OTHER people- the bastards who summoned us- are taking notice as well.

The fact that two of the summoned are from Rithen, and five are from Earth makes me… Worried. Could it be they only summon from world with a certain amount of scientific innovation? It’s arrogant to think Earth and Rithen are the only two worlds to have advanced in technology, though.

One of the summoned, a boy wearing what looks to be a school uniform, opens his mouth, but is interrupted by the appearance of someone who is obviously a king. Ah, so the summoning was the effort of a nation, not something done independently. Information to file away for later.

“Welcome, heroes! You have been summoned from your respective worlds into ours in a time of great need.”

As the king speaks, I notice a glowing character floating in front of him. I immediately recognize it as a rune- one of translation. I feel relieved that the magic of this world seems identical to that of Rithen.

“The Demon King, a truly despicable being who rules over monsters, has been attempting to wipe out the human race. We need your help to defeat him, and restore peace to this world.”

A cliche development. Even in Rithen, after the fact that I was from another world leaked out, novels about being sent to other worlds became massively popular.

“So! Heroes, could you please introduce yourselves?”

The first to step up is the boy from earlier.

“I’m Sakaki Ryouta, and I’m a high schooler.”

“And your age?”

The king prompts.

“I’m 17.”

“What manner of occupation is a ‘hai skurer’?”

“Um… I’m a student.”

“I see. Next!”

The second is a girl, wearing a school uniform of the same design as the first.

“Tetsuya Hinako. 17. High schooler. How do we know that this is really another world? For all we know, you’ve staged some elaborate kidnapping plan and used that speech from earlier to make us lower our guard.”

“Alexander, demonstration.”

A balding man in a robe steps forward- the typical intellectual character. He opens his palm, and begins to recite a chant.

“Red flames coalesce, burn my enemy! Fireball!”

A floating ball of red appears over Alexander’s hand. The five from Earth are astonished, wearing slack-jawed expressions, while I keep a mask of studious disinterest. The fox is fidgeting in place nervously, occasionally sneaking glances towards me.

After that, the summoned are far more willing to introduce themselves.

“Sakaki Yuuki, 16, high schooler.”

“Son Woo-bin, 21, gamer.”

“Zhongye Li, 24, office worker.”

And finally, my turn.

“Jonathan Brooks, 35, entrepreneur.”

I shake my head imperceptibly as the fox-woman tries to say something. I’ll explain it to her later.

“Right! Now that you’ve introduced yourselves-”

“You forgot her.”

Says Ryouta, pointing at the fox-woman.

“What use do we have for a- fine. Go on.”

The king sneers. Ah, a human supremacist nation. Good luck, and fuck you.

“F-felmina Strade, 23, m-mage.”

The king’s sneer frows even more pronounced as I struggle to wrap my head around the fact that this diminutive woman is 23.

“You lie, wretch. Beastkin cannot use magic.”

So this world’s beastkin are significantly different from those on Rithen. Hm.

Felmina begins to panic, and I whisper to her out of the corner of my mouth.

‘Demonstrate.’

And so Felmina snaps her fingers and collects the flames from every torch in the room- very rustic means of lighting- into a single massive ball in front of her, before returning it to its sources. The king’s mouth, and practically everyone else’s all hang open. I give myself a mental high-five as I savor the feeling of having one-upped an annoying customer.

Judging from her talent in fire magic, I realize Felmina is of desert fox descent. The desert fox tribes used to be a nomadic tribal society that lived in a desert, barely getting by every day. After I came, I had artificial oases constructed to aid them, which was kind of useless since most of them migrated to the cities after seeing my positive influence.

Since the king seems to be dazed, I clear my throat loudly.

“Ah-ah, yes. Now that you’ve all introduced yourselves, please take some time to get to know each other while we escort you to your lodgings.”

The king and his people have a slight bit of fear in their eyes. Could it be voiceless casting isn’t very common in this world? Oh, I’m going to have so much fun- ahem, I mean that I’m going to help Felmina have a lot of fun tormenting these poor bastards.

“So, where are you all from? Me, Hinako and Yuuki are all from the Totori prefecture in Japan.”

Asks the boy. Ryouta. Right. It’s already pretty obvious where everyone is from, in terms of country, at least. By everyone, I’m excluding myself and Felmina.

“Seoul, Korea.”

Says Woo-bin.

“Nanjing, China.”

Says Li.

I remain quiet.

“Er, what about you, mister?”

Should I tell them I’m not from Earth, or should I tell them I’m from London? They’re going to notice that I’m somewhat acquainted with Felmina, who is obviously not an Earthling. Oh, whatever.

“London.”

“Cool! So you’re the only European in our little group.”

And now the attention’s focused on Felmina. Poor her.

“Are you even from Earth?”

“Erm… No? Earth… That’s the world that the stories-”

I cut off her sentence by clapping my hand over her mouth. Sue me for being rude, but I don’t want them to know that Rithen has been influenced by someone from Earth.

“Hey, let go of her!”

Woo-bin angrily shouts, followed by glares from everyone else.

“Look, this is personal business, alright? So please, don’t butt in.”

“It’s best not to reveal I’ve been in Rithen, at least for now. Understand?”

The last part is whispered to Felmina, who nods in response. The glares persist. I’m sure they’re all thinking of me as some suspicious old man by now.

“As for why I’m 35, it seems that I became younger by 50 years as a side effect of being summoned.”

It’s not a lie. I just left out the fact that I conversed with the god of hats.

“I see, my lord-”

“And don’t address me as lord here. Just call me Jonathan.”

“I can’t do that! You are a hero-”

“Only on Rithen. Not here. Here, I’m just a middle-aged man.”

“Alright, J-Jonathan.”

It must be hard calling someone who’s been your idol since birth by his first name. Unfortunately for her, it’s not my problem.

“Hey, what are you two trying to hide from us?”

Return of the suspicious glares.

“Nothing you need to know. Right, Felmina?”

“Y-yes!”

And yet the glares don’t stop.

“Ms. Felmina, is he blackmailing you or something like that?”

“N-no! Jonathan would never do something like that!”

And our cover is blown. And then then sucked. Repeatedly. How nervous can you even get? Felmina realizes what she’s done in the next moment, and claps her hands over her mouth. It’s too goddamn late for that!

“Mr. Jonathan, are you telling the truth when you say you’re from London?”

I match Hinako’s gaze with my own.

“Yes.”

“Then how do you know Felmina?”

“That’s not for you to know.”

Denial is the best shield. Well, second-best, since my hat exists.

The hostile gazes can practically be felt, but I don’t care. In the first place, I’ve lived longer on Rithen than I have on Earth. I don’t even really think of Earth as ‘my planet’ anymore. Secondly, nobody said us summoned heroes had to work together. So what if there’s a little bit of discord?

Our ‘lodgings’ are located quite close to each other. Each of us get an entire room, with basic furnishings. I’m perfectly fine with these accomodations, even if I regret the lack of tea. Perhaps I can ask for some.

I lie down on the bed, still fully clothed. It’s pleasantly springy, and I smile. Why am I lying down without getting undressed? That’s because my clothes are all ludicrously expensive. The long trench coat-like suit I’m wearing is almost as strong as my fedora, though it is still not indestructible. The shirt I wear underneath is made of the finest strands of arachne- humanoid spider-monsters- silk, and designed for comfort. Same with my underwear and pants. My shoes are made from dragon leather, which means they could survive even a walk through molten lava. To top it all off the entire ensemble is self-cleaning and is also enchanted to be light. I never even have to change out of it, since it’s perfectly acceptable formal wear.

I take off the fedora and place it on my chest, looking at it affectionately. I mentioned the invisibility effect the god placed on it. Afterwards, I had enchanters place even more useful functions on it. For instance, it has its own dimensional pocket attached. It’s not very big, but it’s big enough for all of my usual needs. Plus, it makes a handy aid for magic tricks. Even in a world with real magic, people can’t get enough of those cheap tricks. In a sense, my fedora is equivalent to my bag of tricks.

I hear knocking on the door, and I sit up.

“Come in.”

It’s Felmina, as expected. She stands in front of me, shuffling from side to side.

“Sit down, won’t you?”

I pat the bed next to me, and she mumbles about how it would be rude for her to sit in my presence.

“Oh, just sit down, will you? It’s uncomfortable for me if I’m the only one sitting. And stop being so nervous around me! That’s an order! I’m just an ordinary man who happened to know a lot! Not some hero.”

And then I scratch my head as I think.

“Well, now I might be a hero, but never mind that. What did you want to talk about?”

“Uh… Do you know anything about this world, my l- Jonathan?”

“I know it’s almost the same as Rithen before I came. I don’t know anything else, though.”

“I see, that’s a shame. What is this ‘London’ you said you were from?”

“It’s a city back on Earth. Would you believe it if I said I made a living selling hats?”

She chuckles at that.

“Yes, I would. You’re known as the ‘Mad Hatter’ in some circles, after all.”

That is partly my fault. After I introduced Earth stories to Rithen, someone noticed the similarities between the Mad Hatter from Alice Through The Looking Glass. I don’t deny that it’s a nickname I don’t mind. No, not at all.

I hear a muffled voice from outside.

“Come out, heroes! The king has requested your presence in the training grounds for an evaluation.”

I rise from the bed, and walk to the door, Felmina following closely behind.

The summoned gather around the man who had been sent to fetch us. And, judging from the looks on their faces, they’re none too happy about it. I suppose a normal person on Earth wouldn’t be expected to fight, and therefore they don’t have any actual combat experience. Here, at least, is a field where I can excel.

“Oi! What were you doing in that room with her?”

God of fucking hats. Here we have exhibit A of the white knight protagonist.

“What I do is none of your business, brat.”

“Don’t call me a brat, creepy old man?”

“What, you want me to call you a girl?”

“No!”

“Then shut up.”

I don’t like causing hostilities. I’m being completely honest. I wouldn’t dare lie about something so serious. Totally.

If anyone asks, it’s that kid’s fault for messing around. This is reality, not some shitty book where the protagonist always wins. Besides, I doubt any of the other summoned would be able to kill me, even if they grouped up.

The training grounds were cleared out, presumably for our exclusive use. We got pit against a swordsman, presumably of reasonable strength. Yep, he’s definitely strong. Fancy armor, check. Fancy sword, check. Handlebar mustache, check. Crossed arms, check.

“Get a sword from the rack over there, and step in front of me, one at a time. I will judge what kind of training you need.”

Oh, I’ll have fun watching the other ones getting their asses kicked.

Round 1.

Stern-looking commander guy vs. Ryouta. (He refuses to tell us his name. I assume if we manage to beat him, he’ll tell us.)

Ryouta runs at him and clumsily swings the sword at him. Terrible form. Looks like he’s trying to throw a bucket of water at the commander instead of swinging a sword at him. Commander doesn’t even bother drawing his sword. Dodges, grabs Ryouta, throws him. Ryouta lies there, stunned. Commander snorts disdainfully and motions for the next person to step up.

Round 2.

Stern-looking commander guy vs. Woo-bin.

Woo-bin can’t even hold the sword up at waist level. Same treatment as Ryouta. Two bodies laying side-by-side on the ground behind the commander.

Round 3.

Stern-looking commander guy vs. Yuuki.

Aha. A brocon. So they were real. Enraged at the treatment of her brother. Wild swings. Commander finally unsheathes his sword. Calmly deflects every swing and bonks her on the head with the hilt. Another one bites the dust.

Round 4.

Stern-looking commander guy vs. Hinako.

Oh? Proper posture, at the very least. Kendo expertise? Probably. Commander seems impressed that even one of us has some sort of knowledge of combat. Hinako quickly runs forward. Trades a couple of blows with the commander. In the end Hinako’s sword is flung aside and commander’s sword is held at her neck. Defeat.

Round 5.

Stern-looking commander guy vs. Yi.

Martial arts, as expected of a Chinese guy. Thank you, god of stereotypes! Commander decides he wants to try fighting Yi in hand-to-hand combat. Commander is the one that rushes first, this time. Yi utilizes something that looks like aikido. Rather impressive. But obviously not a professional martial artist. Commander spins, elbows him in the gut. And then a quick punch to the chin and Yi falls to the ground.

Round 6.

Stern-looking commander guy vs. Me.

Like Yi, I forgo taking a weapon. After all, my best weapon is on my head. I calmly walk towards the commander. He notices that I have a sort of self-assured walk that can only be acquired through years of experience. He stays wary. He doesn’t underestimate me for being middle-aged. We stand in front of each other, barely a meter from each other. Don’t need to show off entire power. Just enough to make the commander acknowledge I don’t need training. Commander opens with a punch to gauge my defenses. I slip into zone. Fist looks like it’s not moving at all. Step forward. Precise strike to neck. Allow previous punch to reach my shoulder. Can’t hurt me anyway. Zone ends, commander collapses. I crouch down and slap his face a couple of times. He wakes up, looks astonished someone beat him. I walk away, smirking internally.

Now that my adrenaline’s worn off, my thoughts become much more ordered. Hopefully I’ll be able to analyze Felmina’s fight properly.

Round 7.

Stern-looking commander guy vs. Felmina.

Felmina stands there, sword in hand, trembling. She has at least a minimum of training. She’s holding the sword properly. But she can’t take initiative. Commander rushes forward and swings. Felmina barely deflects. Swings keep coming until Felmina falls backward, sword at her throat.

The commander turns to look at me. His expression is unreadable. Is he mad I beat him? To be honest, though, I think he’s pretty weak. Perhaps at the level of an experienced recruit of any of the nations on Rithen. He beckons me forward, and I comply. He keeps staring at me. Perhaps I should insert a quip?

“If you keep staring at me, I’ll start thinking you’re in love with me.”

Now he looks pissed. Well, it’s not like he can actually do anything to me, but…

Ah. He’s turned back to the downed bodies. He picked them all up and slung them over his shoulder. Pretty good strength, I see. He walks back to the castle, and I follow him. He’ll probably report to the king on how we did. I hope he puts in a good word for me. Even if I did insult him. Oops.

White Snow [R18, Smut]

[Fanfic based off of Grimoire of Zero/Zero Kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho]

‚Äč”… Looks like it’s going to snow.”

Mercenary lowered his hands from where he had been cupping them around his eyes, as though using a pair of binoculars.
“Hey, Little Witch, is it really alright to go out in this weather?”
“Don’t worry. In the worst-case scenario, I can just use magic to keep us warm.”
“That’s unnecessary. You should save it for later. After all, we’re going to be facing plenty of hardships from now on.”
Mercenary frowned. He disapproved of Zero using magic so carelessly, and for good reason- she could only turn him back into a human after she gathered enough magical power. Contrary to his expectations, though, Zero looked delighted.
“That’s alright. Then, we’ll just have to warm up the old-fashioned way.”
“The old-fashioned way?”
Mercenary did not like the sudden glint in Zero’s eyes.
“Yes. The best way to warm up is to share body heat, after all.”
“Oh. If it’s just that… You already do that, under the pretense of enjoying my fur.”
“But I really do enjoy your fur. I envy how fluffy it is.”
“Whatever.”
He sighed and turned away from the petite, white-haired witch. Though she was the genius that had written the Book of Zero, a priceless treasure which was essentially a guidebook to using magic, she acted awfully childish at times.
“Let’s go find a place to have dinner.”
“Hey, innkeeper! How bad do you think the snow’s going to be?”
The innkeeper, a burly, tanned man with a red bandanna around his head, shrugged.
“Don’t know. This time of the year, the amount of snow varies year by year. Just last year the pass was completely blocked off, but the year before that it was completely fine.”
“I see.”
Mercenary sighed. Going through the pass now rather than later was a risky gamble. With Zero’s magic they might not freeze to death, but it was still dangerous to navigate a snowed-in mountain pass. However, the delay could allow their target to escape before they could confirm and confiscate the illegal copy of the Book of Zero the target held.
‘Seriously, why does everything turn out so ridiculously complicated? It’s all that stupid witch’s fault. If she just hadn’t written that stupid book, then-‘
He didn’t go any further with that train of thought. Though he seemed extremely grumpy on the outside, he was still sincerely grateful to have met Zero on the fateful day when he had fallen off a cliff onto a pot of soup.
“Hey, hey, Mercenary. Let’s get going.”
“Are you insane? It’s evening. I wouldn’t want to get caught out in the snow at night. We’ll stay here for the night and continue onwards tomorrow.”
Zero pouted, and Mercenary fought the urge to sigh in exasperation.
‘It’s all for her sake, anyway! I don’t want her to freeze to death or get lost wandering around in a blizzard!’
“Are you done yet?”
“Aumosht.” (Almost.)
Zero’s mouth was stuffed full with food, and she swallowed it all with a single, huge gulp.
“Ah, I’m full. Is there any sensation better than having a full stomach?”
“I can’t argue with that myself. Sleeping next to a warm fire also feels pretty good, though.”
“True. But in my opinion, food still reigns supreme.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say. We should retire for the night.”
Mercenary and Zero made their way to their respective rooms. Mercenary mumbled a short “Good night” and fell on his bed. It was rare to find an inn that treated beastfallen like him so well.
Within minutes, he had surrendered himself to the soft embrace of the mattress, and the sound of soft snoring filled the room. And then, the door creaked open.
Mercenary opened his eyes to feel a familiar weight on his chest, and sighed.
“I don’t even know why I try anymore. With you, paying for two rooms is a waste.”
“Blame your own fur for being so soft and fluffy. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t sleep without it.”
Zero said, woken by Mercenary’s grumbling. With an annoyed expression on her face, she clutched him tightly while rubbing her face against his chest.
“You’re really impossible, aren’t you.”
He stood up, Zero still hanging on to him, and got dressed after gently disengaging Zero.
“You should go get dressed, too. We have a long day in front of us.”
After having breakfast in the inn- black bread and goat cheese- the duo left the town, headed for the mountain. The journey was grueling, as the already steep mountain was slick and slippery from the snow. In some parts Mercenary had to discard his boots and hold Zero while moving forward, confident in the abilities of his paws and claws to find purchase on the ground.
As they forged onwards, the snow gradually became thicker and thicker, and then suddenly they were assailed by a blizzard. The strong winds caused Zero to trip and almost fall, but she was caught by Mercenary before she reached the ground. Both of their clothes were soaked from sleet, and they were both in danger of hypothermia. Mercenary’s fur wasn’t much good in this situation, as it had become waterlogged and thus susceptible to cold.
‘Dammit. We’ve got to find a place to rest.’
Mercenary desperately looked around, and saw a cave leading into the mountain. Though such caves had a high probability of housing dangerous animals like bears, he would rather take on a bear than freeze to death. Carrying the shivering Zero in his arms, he went inside the cave as quickly as he could, and collapsed, panting. It was a truly dismal situation- he had no firewood to start a fire with, and even if he did it would be too wet to use without filling the cave with smoke. Zero was in bad condition, which meant her magic, the only thing he thought could save them in this situation, was unavailable.
First, he stripped himself of his wet clothing. Keeping it on would only hasten his death. He hesitated before taking off Zero’s clothes, but resolved himself with the thought that he would rather have to see her naked than see her die. While looking away, Mercenary peeled the clothes off her, face bright red despite the white fur covering it.
His fur was a problem. He couldn’t simply take it off like he had done with the clothes, but it would kill him sooner or later. Sobbing loudly inside his mind, Mercenary reached for the knife inside his travel bags.
And then he felt a soft touch on his arm, and realized Zero had extended a trembling hand to him. With a weak snap of her fingers, she applied on him the same drying magic he had first seen so long ago, back when she had helped him bathe. And then, exhausted, she collapsed, and Mercenary touched her forehead before drawing back in shock due to how cold she was. He immediately gathered her into his embrace, covering her with his thick fur. Though they didn’t have a fire, they weren’t wet, and they were out of the snow. They had a chance of getting through this alive.
Though, the excessive skinship was making Mercenary extremely uncomfortable. He tried his best to rationalize it by telling himself sharing body heat was the only way to survive, but it still didn’t stop the red flush from appearing on his face. Mercenary, a man who was paid to kill, and who had killed numerous times, was embarrased about being so near a naked woman.
He grasped around in the travel bags and fished out some hard deer jerky, gnawing on it while he leaned against one side of the cave, listening to the sound of the howling winds outside. When would the blizzard abate? Could they even make it through to the other side? Such thoughts flew around Mercenary’s mind as he closed his eyes and fell into a deep slumber from sheer exhaustion despite how early in the day it was.
Mercenary woke up and stretched, yawning. He was still very cold, but he wasn’t dead, and that was a definite plus.
“Good morning- or should I say good night?”
“What?”
On top of him was Zero, who was straddling his belly. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, if not for the fact that she was naked. And so was he. Panicking, he tried to move out from under her, but found that he couldn’t move a single inch.
“What are you doing, Zero?!”
Mercenary roared. He didn’t believe Zero would betray him, but still…
“Isn’t it obvious? I got tired of waiting for you to make a move on me, so I decided to take the initiative.”
“Huh?”
The unexpected answer shocked him, and his face grew scarlet. Zero poked his chest with a slender finger, and drew it downwards, tracing shapes into his fur. Mercenary’s face, which was already cherry-red, seemed to emit steam from how embarassed he was.
Zero got off him, and moved over to his legs.
“I see that my memory does not fail me. So this, then, is a penis.”
“Where the hell did you learn that word?”
Mercenary yelled.
“The anatomy of a human being was part of the education we received in the caves. Although this is only my second time seeing one in person…”
The first time had been when Mercenary, after bathing, had forgotten he was naked and had stood up, exposing his body to Zero (and Albus, who just happened to be standing there).
“Though it does look different from the diagrams. Perhaps it is because you are a beastfallen, and not a human? The base structure seems to be the same, at least.”
Zero poked it with her finger, her expression inscrutable.
Mercenary once again tried to struggle, but Zero’s magic kept him tightly bound.
“Stop! What would Albus say if she saw this? What would Thirteenth say?”
“Albus would probably say that it’s impure, and that you’re the embodiment of depravity. As for Thirteenth, you know just as well as I do that I don’t care a single whit for the garbage he spews from his mouth.”
Mercenary took out the last card he could play.
“We’re in the middle of a blizzard! Shouldn’t you be, I don’t know, more cautious?”
“What, am I doing something wrong?”
“Yes! In many ways!”
“How so? I’m sharing body heat with you, aren’t I?”
“S, still-”
“I see no problem with the current situation.”
Zero said, her eyes still fixated on Mercenary’s penis, which had begun to grow erect from her touches.
‘Shit! Calm down, calm down. I said calm down!’
“I see. So this part becomes engorged with blood. Very interesting. Now-”
A slight flush had come onto Zero’s own cheeks as well.
“- Let’s taste it.”
“Hah?”
Zero lay down between his legs, and grasped Mercenary’s penis with both hands, bringing it to hrr mouth. She stuck her tongue out and licked it once, before frowning.
“Hmm. Doesn’t really taste good, but I suppose that’s not the point.”
“Don’t treat my- my groin as though it’s food! Also, where did you learn this? Don’t tell me it’s another thing you learned in the caves?”
“No, it’s something I read in a book at one of the bookstores we stopped by. It was very… Informative.”
“That’s not any better!”
Any further complaints he had were cut off when Zero suddenly took the tip of his penis into her mouth, entirely engulfing his glans. She stayed that way for a few moments, becoming accustomed to the foreign object inside her mouth, and slowly began working her head back and forth.
Mercenary was torn. On one hand, it felt good, and he certainly had feelings for Zero. On the other, it was Zero doing it, and that fact somehow made the situation feel… Wrong.
Zero was now attempting to reach the base of his penis with her mouth without triggering her gag reflex, but ultimately failed and rose for breath while coughing.
“Are you okay?”
She waved away his concerns, and went back to working on his penis. She was certaiy very skillful for the beginner she was- just how detailed had the dirty book she read been?
Part of Mercenary’s mind was in bliss. Every time her teeth lightly scraped along his shaft, every time her tongue brushed against the tip, every time she blew on it slightly, he felt as though he was ascending to heaven. The other part of his mind rejected what was happening. Zero is a witch, that part said. You hate witches. You’re only working with her because she said she will turn you back into a human.
But she’s Zero. Said the euphoric part of his mind. Zero is someone special to me. She is the only person I would follow out of my own volition.
And then he felt an inevitable tugging in his balls, and he cried out in pleasure as he ejaculated, spraying the inside of Zero’s mouth with whitish fluid.
“I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to-”
Mercenary attempted to apologize, but was completely ignored by Zero, who ran a finger over her lips, staring at the liquid. Then, she swallowed.
“So, this is semen… What a unique taste. I… Could get used to this.”
Mercenary’s and Zero’s eyes met, as she slowly crawled closer to his face, making sure her body was in contact with his at all times. Soon, she was lying on top of him in much the same way as how she typically slept, but without clothes.
Zero reached out and caressed the side of Mercenary’s face with her hand, and brought her face up to kiss him. It was a surprisingly chaste kiss- a peck on the lips, but one that lasted for several seconds.
As Zero positioned herself over Mercenary’s penis, he began panicking once more. After all, he was a virgin. Furthermore, Zero was just as beautiful as she often claimed to be. Zero picked up on his agitation and chuckled.
“What’s the matter, Mercenary? Could it be that you’re a virgin?”
She clapped her hands over her mouth in mock horror while grinning widely, prompting Mercenary to look away in embarassment.
And then her expression quickly turned serious, with no trace of her former smile.
“If you don’t want me to do it, I will not force you to.”
She said.
A long pause.
Then-
“If it’s you… I don’t really mind.”
Muttered Mercenary, trying his best to look everywhere but at Zero’s face, which displayed a soft smile.
She lowered her slim hips, touching the head of his penis to the outer lips of her labia. There, she moved in small increments, rubbing it against the slit between them.
And then she began to put more force into her hips, slowly driving them downwards. Mercenary’s penis began spreading her labia, and then it was at the opening to Zero’s vagina, and then, with a bit of extra effort from her, the tip popped inside.
“Ah, aah!”
She raised her voice involuntarily from the sudden insertion. The experience was nothing like sex with a human- humans did not have the barbed shafts that felines did, and as a tiger beastfallen it was a trait Mercenary shared with them. And then, she continued pressing herself down on Mercenary, the penis delving ever deeper, until it met a barrier. A thin, fleshy barrier. One that Zero broke through with no hesitation at all. After all, she had received permission from Mercenary, and she herself had no qualms with giving her virginity to him.
When her hymen tore, a sharp sting was felt, and a small amount of blood oozed its way out of her vagina.
“Does it hurt?”
Mercenary asked, concerned. Zero, after a moment’s deliberation, shook her head, her long hair swaying along with the motion.
It only took a little more for the penis to reach the entrance to her womb; after all, Mercenary was a big man, and his member matched his size, while Zero was small, around as small as Albus, who was but a child. There was still some length left to Mercenary’s penis, but attempting to force it in would be pointless- Zero simply had no more room to give.
And then came the part where the dick was pulled out of her. Her mouth opened in wordless pleasure as she lifted her hips, and the penis retraced its route in. And, with a wet noise, the head popped free, and Zero put it to her lower lips again to repeat the cycle.
This time, her speed was faster, her breathing rougher and more frequent. Faster and faster she moved, until she was bouncing on top of his penis, moaning in pleasure. Her moans and his grunts harmonized as they both drew closer and closer to the climax.
And then, with a bestial roar from Mercenary and a high-pitched moan from Zero, they climaxed at the same time, Zero’s vagine clamping down on Mercenary’s penis as it swelled slightly, delivering his hot seed into her vagina, where it overflowed and came splashing back out.
The two lay there, panting while basking in the post-coital pleasure. Two gazes met- one, shy but caring, the other filled with fierce love.
Suddenly, Zero smiled mischievously.
“Up for another round?”
In the end, they ended up going at it until they both collapsed from exhaustion. The next morning, the two used melted snow to wash themselves clean. Zero insisted on scrubbing Mercenary’s back, “like old times”.
As she scrubbed away, she brought her lips to his ear, and whispered softly.
“Take responsibility.”
Mercenary jumped in surprise, while Zero fell backwards, cackling. He turned and glared at her, but she paid no heed and continued laughing. His glare turned into a sigh and a wry smile.
‘In the end, she’s still Zero, through and through.’
“Hey, Mercenary.”
“Hm?”
“I think I’ve found a sensation that I like more than having a full stomach.”
The blizzard had stopped, and only a very light snow was falling from the sky. The two continued their journey, and made it to the other side in the same day.
Though they made it a point not to discuss it in front of others, people who knew the two commented that they seemed to have grown closer. Somehow, Thirteenth found out about what happened, and personally journeyed out to beat Mercenary up using magic, after which Zero beat Thirteenth up in return. But that’s another story, for a later date. For now, the curtains close on the love the two shared while stranded inside a mountainside cave.
Notes:
Thank you for reading this short story! As my first attempt at smut, I was worried it would be too difficult to write, but it went over surprisingly smoothly.
I have only read the first volume of Zero (the first season of the anime), and so my knowledge regarding the lore and backstory is rather lacking. I purposefully did not include any magic that would require incantations and such, as I was tok lazy to go back and look them up.
As this is a fanfiction, please treat it as the daydreams of someone obsessed with shipping Zero and Mercenary.

Chapter 3

Money.

As with all things, money was the biggest hurdle stopping me from making dolls.

The Jin doll I made on Earth used synthetic fabrics, which did not exist in this world. The average quality of cloth was considerably worse, which meant I paid more for less. But it couldn't be helped.
Incidentally, I used the best-quality cloth I could find for the dolls, so they wouldn't deteriorate over a short period of time.

I ran out of fabric halfway through finishing the blank template doll. Though I could always just wait a week for the silver allowance, I wanted to get it done quickly.
Selling my clothes from Earth was out of the question- it was much higher-quality than anything I could get here, and plus, it was the only set of clothing I had.

I needed a job.

But what kind of job could I take? Prostitution was an automatic no-no, as I refused to be violated by anyone other than Jin-kun. Blacksmithing, carpentry and the like were completely unknown to me, and in the first place nobody would accept a girl as an apprentice. My biggest hope had been becoming a tailor's apprentice, but none of them were looking for any. In desperation, I turned to the royal palace. Specifically, the household duties.

That's right. I was hired as a maid.

It was a relatively easy job for me, as I had plenty of experience taking care of such mundane tasks. The biggest problem was fitting the training sessions into my already overcrowded schedule, but I was able to convince the head maid to allow me to take a bit of time off every day for training in exchange for a slightly lessened paycheck.

Incidentally, it seemed that I am the only summoned person who has gained a job. Everyone else was treating this like some sort of field trip. They couldn't see that they needed to acclimatize themselves to this world the way I did. Fighting demons for money? Don't make me laugh. I bet at least half of you have jobs unsuited for fighting, like mine, and even if you do your stats are too shitty for the job to do any good. Best case scenario, you'll end up as a common laborer after your delusions of grandeur are shattered during your first battle. Worst case scenario, you're made a debt slave and are forced to work until your death. This is why you need job experience. The fact that I'm working as a maid means even outside the capital I can work as a maid for some extra money. What can you lot do?

As much as I hate to say it, Jin-kun is exhibiting the same sort of behavior. Of course, I could take over supporting both me and him if needed, but I'd prefer he grew into a self-sufficient person. I think he has an interest in smithing, though, so it's not completely hopeless. Smithing will be good for increasing both his Strength and practical knowledge- two birds struck down with one stone.

Back to my life as a maid. It's actually pretty good. All I have to do is do the laundry, clean, serve tea, occasionally work as an assistant to the royal chef, and always act polite. Since I can change my outward demeanor at the drop of a hat, the last one is as easy as pie. Thankfully, I haven't had to serve any lecherous nobles yet, but it's only a matter of time. Which is why I invested in a small thigh sheath for a kitchen knife I... Borrowed.

Technically, and only technically, as a summoned otherworlder my status exceeded that of most nobles. But that was a mere technicality. Everyone knew full well that we were to be treated as commoners. However it was a technicality I could exploit. If a noble laid a hand on me and I, say, cut off his arm while defending myself, I would be perfectly fine, even if the noble would receive no punishment, either. It's quite the convenient technicality.

Of course, that doesn't make me immune. The royal family could issue a decree for my death and I would basically be powerless against it. Which is another good reason for me to have control over the royal family.

Anyway, I was serving the princess at the current moment. After placing a silver tray laden with a teacup full of steaming black tea and a plate with a few jam cookies down on a table in front of the princess, I bowed and retreated to a corner of the room. The princess was alone, but she wouldn't be for long. She had been scheduled to meet with a Baron Conrad, who happened to be the country's Minister of Commerce. Though I'm still very ignorant when it comes to noble peerage, I'm fairly sure baron is a low rank. How a baron managed to get such an important position is beyond me- after all, there's no way the hierarchy isn't corrupt. So why isn't the position taken by some duke or viscount?

"Your royal highness. I have arrived."

Baron Conrad was a middle-aged man who had most likely once been very handsome, but had clear signs of aging. One of those signs was a visible paunch in his belly, and he sat down heavily in front of the princess.

"What is the matter you wished to discuss with me?"

"It seems that Felgima has expressed wishes to stop trading salt with us."

I stood there quietly as I listened, ears straining to catch every syllable. From what I could gather, Felgima was a seaside nation that exported a good quantity of salt to Oliander. However, due to circumstances regarding a war to their north, they no longer wished to export to Oliander.

"I see. That is bad news indeed. Without Felgima, is there any country we could get salt for a similar price?"

"No, your highness. The price increases exponentially if we were to trade with another country that produces salt."

"Hm. Have you discussed this with my father?"

"No, your highness."

Ah.

I was wondering why she allowed me to witness this discussion, but I get it now.

It's a show of power. She's bragging about how she manages some of this kingdom's affairs. But even if you do that I won't be intimidated, you know?
In fact, this just makes me realize just how much of a useful pawn you'll be.

The talk concluded with the princess telling Baron Conrad to send envoys to re-negotiate trade with Felgima for higher prices than before. Essentially, a bribe. Afterwards, I was dismissed, and I walked back to the maids' 'standby room'. On my way there, I happened to meet one of my classmates, who was unfortunately not Jin-kun.

"Oi, Yamaguchi-san! What are you doing here?"

"What does it look like I'm doing? I'm working. As a maid."

"But why?"

"Money. What other reason would there be?"

"Well... I suppose that's true."

He mumbled something about disappointments and miniskirts and left. Who's a disappointment, you slacker?

The rest of the day progressed fairly normally. I served tea a couple more times, cleaned a lot of rooms, polished the silverware (under the strict supervision of the head maid, a severe-looking middle-aged woman), and changed the chamber pots. Thankfully, changing the chamber pots was not disgusting, thanks to the existence of magic. The rudimentary toilets they had would burn the feces into a fine ash through what they called fire magic, while the smell would be removed through wind magic. As only the ash was left after usage, it was quite convenient for hardworking maids like me to clean them.

At midnight, I stretched, yawned, and changed out of my maid outfit into the school uniform. Though I didn't particularly dislike the maid clothes, I didn't want to sleep in them, either.

The next day passed, then a week, and soon I was completely used to life at the royal castle as a maid. I almost grew complacent from how good life was- I never even had to use the kitchen knife I... Requisitioned.

And at last came the day of the audience. It seemed the King was a busy man, even with his daughter taking care of some of the affairs behind the scenes. By then I'd made 42 silvers- 4 weeks' worth of pay- and I was in high hopes, as I could finally get started on the dolls modelled after the king and queen.

The audience was carried out in the throne room, and the king cut an imposing figure on his gilded throne, clad in resplendent robes of red and gold. The queen was by his side in a second, smaller throne, wearing similar finery. As all 42 of us filed into the room, I couldn't help but think we were horribly underdressed for the situation. But all I had other than the school uniform was the maid uniform, and that would be even worse in this situation.

During the audience, I honestly didn't pay that much attention to what was actually being said, instead choosing to observe the king and queen out of the corner of my eye, memorizing their features for later. While coins did have the faces of royalty on them, the angle was from the side, which meant it was unreliable.

This is a simple summary of the talk:

Q: Is it possible for us to get back to our own world?

A: All monsters have a magic stone as their core. After defeating the demon king, you can use its stone to get back.

Q: Will we only receive basic combat training?

A: If you have a magic-oriented job, you will also receive basic mage training after the combat course ends. If you do not, then yes, basic combat training is all you get. Figure out how to use your skills on your own.

Q: Well, then, where exactly is the demon king? What does this world even look like? Does it even have a name?

A: The demon king lives in the heart of the demon continent, in his castle, which is heavily guarded at all times by his elite legion. This world consists of three continents- Raksha continent, which you are on now, Peles continent, which is to the north of Raksha, and the demon continent, which is to the east. This world does not have a name.

Q: Is there an adventurer's guild or something similar?

A: There is indeed an adventurer's guild. You can register yourself as a bottom-rank adventurer at any outpost.

With our curiosity sated, most of the class had smiles on their faces, but I didn't. For one, the conditions of going back to our world sounded rather suspicious to me. According to the king, magic stones were merely reservoirs of 'mana', the force which fuels all magic, so how would one use the demon king's magic stone to get back? If the king had taught us the spell beforehand but had told us it required more mana than we had, then I would understand, but that problem could still be solved by using many demons' stones rather than the demon king's. I called BS right there, but inside my head, of course. It didn't seem like anyone else noticed. If we couldn't go back to Earth... It's fine, actually. Being stuck here with Jin-kun doesn't sound so bad.

Also, if magic is fueled by mana, then are my skills not magic? After all, the description of Curse Magician claims it uses my emotions, not mana. Well, I suppose it's better not to dwell on it too much. It's a fantasy world. Common sense? Throw that out the window.

After the audience, I was surprisingly exhausted, and barely managed to get through another day of work. After work I went out to buy cloth before the tailor closed shop, deftly dodging shady alleys and groping hands. It took me most of the night to make all the dolls I needed, but at the end I was satisfied. Plus, I still had the stick of coffee from Earth. Ah, caffeine! I sneakily enjoyed the nostalgic taste where nobody could find me, as I didn't want to have to explain where I got the coffee. Perhaps this world has coffee beans, or something similar? Now that would be a great item for trade.

And so the first month of my stay in another world came to an end. Though I didn't really accomplish much, I'm still pretty proud of myself. After all, I'm not dead. Yet.
-
I faced Jin-kun, my expression calm. In my hands was a spear, held loosely while pointed downwards. In Jin-kun's right hand was a sword, while his left bore a small shield- a buckler, I think it was called.

Without any warning, Jin-kun leapt forward, slashing with the sword in an overhead strike. I deflected it off the rod portion of my spear and barely managed to dodge the impromptu tackle his leap transitioned into. As Jin-kun stumbled, I dropped to the ground to avoid his wild swipe at my neck, and hit his ankles with my spear, causing him to trip and fall. While he was falling, I caught him with a free hand and put my spear to his neck, only to realize he was doing the same with his sword.

"Draw!"

I exhaled and stepped backwards. Today was the last day of combat training, and we were given an assignment to spar with each other nonstop. Thankfully our weapons were mere wood weighted with metal bars inside them, which meant the most severe intentional injury one would receive was a bone fracture.

I sat down for a quick rest as I looked over at the rest of the class. The select few who had gotten combat classes- Knight, Warrior, Ranger, Fencer and the like- and also had the stats to match were absolutely dominating their opponents, giving them no reprieve as they swung their weapons menacingly. The ones that had no talent but tried hard- like me- were slightly better off than the ones who hadn't tried at all, evidenced by the red welts and bruises they were sporting.

Honestly, I'm impressed with myself. Jin-kun is a Hero, and his Strength is fundamentally higher than mine. The fact that I, through sheer effort, managed to improve myself to the point where I could fight him to a standstill, is incredible. Of course, that's assuming he didn't go easy on me. That match just now was far too easy- and Jin-kun's just the type to go 'all girls must be protected and never harmed'.

"That was amazing, Shizune-san. How'd you do that?"

"It's mostly because of my high Dexterity. It really helps when using a weapon like a spear, where speed matters."

"Huh. It's pretty crazy how that one stat can balance out the difference between our Strength."

"Really. Sometimes I feel like I understand this game-like system, and then the next moment it does something completely incomprehensible."

"What do you mean, Shizune-san?"

"Even if I say my Dexterity is high, it's still not nearly enough to remove the immense difference between our Strength. This proves combat isn't just based on stats, but also on experience as well."

"Experience? Shizune-san already knee how to use a spear?"

Crap, I said too much. What I meant by experience was experience in underhanded tricks to help a weaker person fight a stronger one.

"Y-yes! Back when I learned kendo, I sometimes gripped the bokken by the blade and pretended it was a spear."

"That doesn't really sound like experience, though...?"

The excuse was flimsy at best and paper-thin at worst, but thankfully Jin-kun didn't pry any further.

"Well, let's start the next round."
-
In the end, I won twice, drew seven times, and lost four times. Not a bad result. One of the key points I learned is that fighting fair is for people who have advantages over their opponents. I do not have any advantages. I am short and weak. Most enemies will likely have a longer reach than me. Which is why I chose the spear. As I have no way to beat an enemy in fair hand-to-hand combat, I learned methods to even the scales- throwing sand to irritate an opponent's eyes, using a concealed backup weapon (the kitchen knife), and the most important lesson- if you don't think you can win, run away. There is no honor, no worth in death. Run away and live another day, so you may someday become stronger and defeat the enemy you once ran from.

... All of that inspirational speech-like material was copied from something I read in a book once, of course. I'm not the kind of person to say something like that. If it was me, I'd- well, I probably wouldn't say anything in the first place.

When combat training ended, I felt rather sad- I would no longer receive instruction on how to become stronger, so I could stay by Jin-kun's side. The mage training sessions were a disappointment. Other than me, four people in our class- including our teacher- had magic-related jobs, but it seemed mine was fundamentally different. None of the explanations made any sense to me, and I decided not to attend again after the first session. Instead, I wholeheartedly devoted myself to working, and the head maid, impressed, returned my salary to standard pay. I made full use of the fact that I was very often near the princess- I eavesdropped on conversations. I was like a spy, but one working for personal gain rather than for an employer.

One day, when I heard the words 'wedding plans', I almost rushed out right then and there to do unspeakably gruesome things to the princess- but I managed to calm myself down and listen to her. Apparently, she wanted to get married to Jin-kun the day before we were to be kicked out of the palace. I would have to find a way to stop this, and fast- by my estimate, there was only about two weeks left until we would be told to survive on our own, like a NEET first experiencing the outside world, which was a surprisingly apt metaphor. After all, the students were fed and cared for in the palace for free.

My experiments on testing the limits of Curse Magician became more frequent, the midnight sessions becoming longer and longer. I learned that unfortunately, it was impossible for me to command someone to kill themselves- whether this was a restriction based on level or a hard limit was unknown. Using Influence to make someone write was tricky- it required a copy of what you wanted written, and a miniature pen for the doll to hold. The first was relatively easy to obtain, as I had a servant steal it. The second was also easy, as it seemed a real, working pen was unnecessary. In fact, even a wood splinter could be used, but it seemed the handwriting would turn out messy.

During my experiments, I gained my fourth skill.

Direct Control LV 1.

This skill allowed me to assume full control over one of my dolls- essentially, possession. At LV 1, I couldn't do anything except use it as my eyes, but that was enough for my plan to work.

The deadline drew near, and I put the plan into motion.

The princess exchanged words of greeting with her secretary as she sat down at a desk laden with paperwork. Even though she was the enemy, I had no choice but to wince in sympathy. By the way, I was using a disposable, blank cloth doll I planted in the office to watch the proceedings. When I had planted the doll, I had also made sure to memorize the location of certain forms and files.

The princess, now under my control, stood up from her desk, walked to what looked like a wooden filing cabinet, and pulled out a piece of parchment. Specifically, a piece of parchment that referred to a declaration of the annulment of an engagement.

She put it on her desk and sat down, pen in hand. The secretary didn't even notice something was wrong. The pen traced the words I had written on my copy of the documents.

The most cheaty part of the skill was that the words I prepared were merely a reference- that is, when the princess wrote them, it was with her own handwriting, not mine. Ah, I'm so glad to have been given such a good skill.

I, Alisa Esarefi Oliander, First Princess of the Kingdom of Oliander, hereby declare the engagement between myself and Yoshimura Jin null and void. The engagement may not be renewed for three years from the date of this declaration.

Was the general gist of the tediously boring paragraphs I had written. This way, I had some time to decide what to do with her. Though she would suspect me, unfortunately, I wasn't too worried. In the first place, the king and queen themselves did not approve of the marriage. Summoned hero or not, the fact that Jin was a commoner by their standards did not change, and it was considered unseemly for the princess to get married to him. In addition, once this decree gets publicly released, it would be near-impossible to rescind it- no, completely impossible, as the king and queen would most likely not lend her a hand.

Oh, she would bear a grudge against me, I'm sure. But I can now rest easy, knowing Jin-kun is out of her reach, for now. It helps that I timed the decree so that it would be released just before the wedding, which means we'll be able to escape from her clutches relatively quickly. I'm sure she knows that she was being controlled by an outside influence, and I'm sure she'll suspect me, as the closest person to Jin-kun. But without concrete evidence, her claims will be treated as the tantrum of a child annoyed at having lost her favorite toy.
And after usage, I made sure to dispose of the observer doll in one of the chamber pots. Now that I think of it, this is an unexpectedly dangerous object. What if someone accidentally slips and puts their butt where the fire magic activates? Scary, scary.

Now, whether Jin will follow my plan is a different question entirely, but as long as I can protect him, I'm sure it will be all right. Even if the princess sends the entire royal army against him, I'll protect him until I take my last breaths.

Chapter 2

“Now, then. Everyone, please follow me. You will be granted lodgings in the royal palace until you are ready to move out.”

Hm? Looks like I missed part of her speech. After asking around a bit, I gathered that we would be trained in basic combat at the royal palace and then sent out to fight demons.

To tell the truth, I didn’t look forward to it at all. I was never very athletic, and the only ‘combat’ experience I ever got was a brief brush with kendo during my first year of middle school. This kind of weak person- I mean, just look at my Strength stat- wouldn’t do well at combat… No, not at all. My selfishness even suggested I give up on the combat training and simply focus on improving my abilities as a Curse Magician. No! I will endure, for Jin-kun’s sake. Even if my body is beaten black and blue every day I will endure!

… That doesn’t mean I’m not going to stop working on my Curse Magician skills. The first thing I’m going to ask for when I get settled in at the royal palace is some scrap fabric, thread, and a needle. I’ll make dolls for every prominent player- the princess, the king, the queen, and just in case, myself. For any other targets I won’t be able to make specific dolls, but I have a plan for that, too. I’ll make one of those blank customizable dolls! While I’m not sure how effective it’ll be- hell, I don’t even know if it’ll work without being made for a specific person- it’s my only choice for now, until I get a new skill.

The class grouped up in twos and threes, talking excitedly to each other as they walked. I stayed by Jin-kun’s side, listening to what he was talking about with his friends.

“Hey, man, isn’t this totally crazy? Like, this kinda shit is what movies and books are made of!”

Jin-kun winced at the swear word, and I sent a glare towards the back of the oblivious boy’s head.

“It is really weird. I’m still not convinced this is actually happening.”

“Want me to pinch you?”

“No, thanks- ouch! Stop it!”

As the two boys got into a manly scuffle, I took the chance to look around at the other students. Hama-sensei was surrounded by nervous students, while she frantically attempted to reassure them. Most of the students had an expression of disbelief stuck on their faces, though some were smiling as though Christmas had come early. For a week in a row. Is this the kind of thing boys dream about? I cursed my lack of knowledge regarding the hobbies of men. I should have read more of those weird novels about people getting teleported to other worlds, so I could have prepared for a situation like this! Though the few I skimmed through seemed to have the protagonist form a ‘harem’ comprised of many women… Surely Jin-kun is an exception? I mean, even if I love him I have to admit that he’s dense. He wouldn’t notice a woman unless they came up to him and shook their breasts at his face.

Come to think of it, that might actually happen. It is a different world, after all. Wait, wasn’t the age of consent during medieval times practically nonexistant? That means me and Jin-kun can legally get married…!

“Ufufufu…”

Oops, my emotions leaked out. Good thing Jin-kun didn’t notice. I’ll have to be more careful from now on. And don’t you think I didn’t notice you peeking at Jin-kun every few seconds, princess. I will not let him get married to you. Never. If that’s what it takes, I will continuously torture you with Influence until your mind gives out and you can’t even speak. Who’ll love you then?

Calm down, Shizune. Any more hatred in my gaze and the princess would burn to a crisp. I need something to vent on! Grr! I can’t just keep these thoughts bottled up inside me, or I’ll explode.

To take my mind off unpleasant things like torture, I began experimenting with Influence. After leaning down and plucking a handful of grass, I got to work.

First I fashioned a basic human shape- 2 arms, 2 legs, not realy a torso and not really a head- with pieces of grass and targeted the bearded magician next to the princess. Graff, was it? When I tentatively moved one of the ‘arms’, he didn’t react at all. Suspicion confirmed, Influence does not work if the model is too dissimilar to the target.

Next, I put a little more effort into the grass, and added a proper torso, fingerless hands, toeless toes and a hairless head. This time, when I moved the arm, Graff’s arm seemed to twitch slightly- maybe a single inch or less. Or was it just a trick of the light? Still not precise enough to really do anything.

I carefully separated one of the blades of grass into separate fibers, and added details to the little figure in my hand. Slowly, tiny fingers formed from fibers twisted together, tiny toes and a tiny beard appeared, and this time Graff’s arm definitely moved a little, although he didn’t seem to notice, as he was swinging his arms to walk. That I was glad for, as I was sure getting caught would land me in jail. Maybe I would even be executed.

I crushed the grass and dropped the pieces on the ground. There was still no sign of civilization anywhere. The place we had been summoned to was in the middle of some forest, and I mentally questioned why exactly they had to summon us in such a remote location. Couldn’t we have just been summoned directly into the palace? While I was no stranger to walking long distances, that didn’t mean I liked it.

“Hey, you’re Yamaguchi Shizune, right? Futaki Iena. Nice to meet you.”

I don’t associate with bugs. But I had to pretend to be her friend, since that way I would be able to find out more about her.

“Ah, hello, Iena-san. Is there anything you wanted to talk to me about?”

Prim and proper, yet not haughty.
The humble ojou-sama. A contradiction.

“It’s about that whole fiance business with Jin. Is what you said true?”

Jealous? I’d love to tell her it’s true and watch her writhe in frustration, but if Jin-kun found out I lied to her he might think of me badly.

“No. I only did it so Jin-kun wouldn’t be chained to this country.”

“Jin-kun, huh. You’re awfully familiar with him.”

That’s really not the part you should be focusing on, but okay. Your prize is a plot twist.

“That’s because I’m his childhood friend, you see. We met back in elementary school.”

Score! Iena’s face began turning red.

“R-really? Then you know what he’s like, right? Mind telling me?”

I do mind, actually, but I won’t turn down an opportunity to praise Jin-kun.

“Well, he’s really nice! He always tries to help everyone, even if they hate him!”

And that overly justice-seeking attitude landed him in trouble far too many times to count.

“Once he was bullied by this guy from the soccer club, but the very next day Jin-kun gave his lunch money to him because he forgot to bring his own?”

I’d thought it was a typical extortion case, but no, the idiot had actually forgotten to bring his lunch money. The Jin-kun who had paid for his bully’s lunch on that day was rather naive, but I liked the fact that he never had any ulterior motives.

“That’s just being naive…”

Looks like Iena also feels that way, not that I’d ever admit it publicly. Besides, his naivety is part of his innocent, cute charm. That aside, looks like the ‘adoring bubbly airhead’ act works well on Iena. She’s fallen for it, hook, line, and sinker. Now she won’t have her guard up against me- the most she’ll think of me is as the fussy airhead that likes Jin-kun.

“Are you two… Close?”

Ah, how blunt! Such an important question dropped so casually!

“Hmm, I guess yes? He didn’t get mad about me pretending to be his fiance, after all.”

Nip the bud before it has any chance to sprout. My goal is to completely discourage her from chasing Jin-kun. Who know, maybe she’ll shack up with another classmate instead. Or maybe one of this world’s locals.

“I see.”

What, do you have a special skill that creates awkward silences? Perhaps ‘Socially Inept LV 1’? Oh, come on. This development can’t be that shocking. You tried to butt in between me and Jin-kun, who share a relationship of… What, nine years? Damn, it’s been a long time since I met Jin-kun! Anyway, did you really think you could separate such a devoted (read: one-sided) couple? I won’t forgive you for that even if you didn’t know how close we were, you know? You should be thankful revenge on the princess comes first. After all, not only did she forcibly drag us to this world and ruined my chance of giving the handmade bento to Jin-kun, she even tried to steal him away from me. She’s Bitch No. 1 in my eyes. If you give up now, I’ll avoid giving you a Bitch ranking too.

“Well… Um…”

Oh, just fucking spit it out!

“Looks like my friends need me. See you.”

What an unnatural excuse. Your friends weren’t even looking over here.

With the annoyance gone, I turned my attention to Jin-kun once again only to notice that he wasn’t there. In fact, he was slowly inching towards the steel jaws of a bear trap.

He was talking to the princess.

I gritted my teeth. If I used Influence now, it would be too suspicious. Both incidents of severe pain occurred while conversing with Jin? Investigate everyone around him! And with that, a splendid BAD END where I get beheaded is born.

At least I can check out what they’re talking about. I inched closer, ear angled towards them, pretending not to pay attention. The internet guides on how to stalk someone were incredibly useful.

“… So what are demons like?”

“They have a variety of shapes and forms, but most resemble existing animals.”

“Oh, really? What are the most common kinds?”

“Well, there are goblins, ogres, slimes-“

“What do they look like?”

“Goblins are short, green-skinned humanoids with limited intelligence. Ogres are tall, green-skinned humanoids that are basically the ‘older cousins’ of goblins. Slimes are monsters that look as though a mass of water came together to form a gelatinous blob. Is that enough information?”

“To think that stereotypes were accurate…”

It doesn’t seem like they’re discussing anything dangerous, but I’ll still keep an eye on them just in case that princess tries to get more intimate with Jin-kun.

… That reminds me. What’s that princess’s name? Did she ever mention it? Did I just ignore it? Well, whatever. Formal etiquette will just force me to call her ‘your royal highness’ anyway.

Just how long have we been walking? My feet are sore, and I can see some students starting to catch up. Were we really that far away from civilization? Despite my irritation, I managed to refrain from asking when we’ll arrive at the royal palace. At least the princess has to walk, too.

Huh?

That’s weird. Don’t princesses in these kinds of situations ride carriages or something instead of walking? Strange, strange. If I ask her now, she’s sure to return some self-righteous reply roughly like ‘it wouldn’t be fair riding a carriage while the rest of you have to walk’.

“Um, your royal highness, do you typically walk to places like this, or do you ride in a carriage?”

Thank you, Jin-kun.

“I normally ride a carriage, but how could I ride a carriage alone when the rest of you have to walk?”

I fucking called it! And that bitch even added in a soft smile as well!
That has to be a skill! Appraise!

Alisa Esarefi Oliander LV 13
Job: Princess

Huh? Why can’t I see her skills or stats the way I could with Jin-kun? Is Appraisal broken? Or could it be I share some sort of special bond with Jin-kun?

Anyway, this is bad. Jin-kun is seriously getting lured in. What can I do? Someone, help!

“Your royal highness, even if he is the hero, please do not forget that he is a commoner. Being so casual with him is not recommended.”

Graff-dono to the rescue! Thank you so much!

“Ah, it’s fine. He’s going to marry me, after all.”

Calm down. Calm. Down. Ignore the impulse to make her tear out her own throat.

I walked up to them and smiled at the princess with the most saccharine-sweet smile I could muster.

“I thought we went over this already, your royal highness?”

“I said I would drop it for the time being. I never said I would give up on marrying him.”

Our gazes clashed. If this was a shounen manga I’m sure there would have been a sound effect accompanied by sparks from how intense our glares were.

“Surely there is a man who is more suited to marry someone of your position?”

“What better husband could I have than a slayer of demons?”

She narrowed her eyes, lips pursed.

“But I do admire your determination. As his first wife, I wouldn’t mind him taking a concubine, or a second wife.”

“No. Our world’s customs strictly prohibit having more than one wife.”

You thought I would be satisfied with just that? No, no, no, no. The entirety of Jin-kun is mine, and mine only. As they say, sharing is caring, and I don’t give a single damn for you.

“Um, er, ah…”

Flustered by the fact that two women were fighting over him, Jin-kun attempted to defuse the situation, but was unable to get any words out.

Seriously, this bitch needs to die. Maybe I’ll have her throw herself out a window later. Or I could control a servant to poison her cup or something like that. I just need to make sure none of it is traced back to me, though it sounds rather futile since my job is obviously something that specializes in such things. Still. As a wise man once said, if you don’t get caught it’s not a crime.

Huh?

Did I… Just get a skill from this?

Intimidation LV 1… I suppose it came from just how much hatred I poured into my glare. Let’s try it!

A strange pressure built up in my eyes, as I continued glaring at the princess. After a few seconds, her hands started shaking slightly, and after a minute she averted her gaze. Looks like LV 1 is fairly mild. I wonder how good LV 10 is?

“We’ll be taking our leave.”

I dragged Jin-kun away from the princess while furiously whispering in his ear.

“Don’t you understand? She’s just after your position as a hero! The fact that she’s pretending she actually likes you makes it so much worse! She’s scheming on how she can use you for her benefit!”

I was rather surprised that I could actually drag him like this, as his Strength far surpassed mine. Could it be he was letting me do it?

“I get it, I get it, so please, let go of me.”

Oh, no. It seems I gripped him a bit too tightly and my fingernails dug into his arm.

“I’msosorryareyoualrightI’llgetabandaidwaittherearen’tanywhatdoIdo-“

“It’s fine, it’s fine. Rather, what’s with that extreme reaction?”

Gulp.

Did he figure out that I was jealous? Where did my dense Jin-kun go?

“Women… Just can’t understand them.”

Or not. Phew. Almost had a heart attack there. Yep, yep, still as dense as usual. Somehow, I’m glad. If Jin-kun were to suffer a sudden change in personality, I would probably be heartbroken.

“I see a building!”

Yelled one of the students.

“Land ho!”

“Finally!”

“My feet are killing me!”

Though I didn’t join in the shouting, I let out a sigh of relief. I wonder if this world has filled mattresses?

Turns out they do, but we’re not being given them. Instead, they crammed us into three large rooms with straw mats. I’d much rather prefer a private room, or a two-person room (with Jin-kun), but it’s not like I can make it happen. Still, we’re supposed to be the otherworlders who go out and massacre demons. Isn’t this treatment a little rough? Although, since they summoned an entire class of 41 students and one teacher they bit off more than they could chew.

We were given an allowance- 15 silver coins- to last us a week. Thankfully, meals were provided free of charge. We were forbidden from leaving the capital of Oliander for the first month, although we could freely roam the city on our own.

Naturally, the first thing I did was find a tailor who was willing to sell me a sewing kit and some fabrics for cheap. Though I didn’t buy much, the total cost added up to 14 silvers, which made me wince. At least I don’t have anything else to use my allowance on. After that, I temporarily became a shut-in while I made the dolls. Both my experience in sewing and high Dexterity came in handy for that, and I was able to complete the princess doll without any problems. I was forced to stop there, however, as I had no idea what the king and queen looked like. I heard we were to have an audience with them sometime soon, but the exact date was never mentioned.

As for the other students, it appeared that Jin-kun and a load of other male students pooled their money to buy a sword, which they took turns swinging around. The female students naturally spent the money on clothing, although a surprising amount simply didn’t use the money.

As for the training, it was hellish. That was the only word for it. Even attempting to think about it gives me shivers. To think that there was such a cruel person in this world… The only good side to this was that my Endurance was raised considerably, even if my other stats didn’t change. Some of the students quit and refused to participate. Well, their loss. I’m not going to be the one crying over your coffin when you die to a goblin because you didn’t train.

We haven’t touched any real weapons yet, and for that I’m grateful. Real weapons mean someone could get injured, and ‘someone’ includes Jin-kun. That is unacceptable. Come to think of it, the sword the boys bought is dangerous as well. Should I have it disposed…? Well, that’s for later, after I buy enough fabric to make the swappable doll.

The princess had made numerous advances on Jin-kun during our time in the palace, but it seemed Jin-kun had learned how to fend her off. That was a relief. Just out of spite, I poked the foot part of the princess doll with a needle in the middle of the night, and I could hear a distant scream. Heh, Influence is really great!

Sometime soon, we’ll be evicted from the palace. We’ll be forced to work for a living, whether hunting demons or working at an inn or whoring. Well, wherever Jin-kun goes and whatever he decides to do, I’ll always be with him.

Chapter 1

“Today’s plan~ ufufu~”

I giggled as I flipped through a tiny notebook. Each page was covered with detailed diagrams that an unsuspecting observer would mistake for blueprints or mind maps.

In reality, they were ‘capture plans’. Plans I made to make a certain Yoshimura Jin notice my love.

Today’s plan started with some light flirting (not too much, or even the dense Jin-kun would start thinking of me as a weirdo), a handmade bento for his lunch (painstakingly made with love and care), some more subtle flirting between class periods, and then-

“Kyahhhh, I can’t wait!”

I said while rolling around on my bed, clutching my pillow tightly. The reason I was so excited was because today was the day. That’s right, the day I would confess my love to Jin-kun!

This was still the tip of the iceberg, however. I had detailed plans made for everything from where we would go for our first date to what kind of dress I wanted to wear at my wedding. Why the need for such uselessly incredible foresight? That was because I couldn’t risk losing Jin-kun. I would have to keep close to him at every moment, to make sure his affection is directed at me, and only me.

I suppose you could call me a yandere. I’d been obssessed with Jin-kun ever since we first met in 3rd grade. At the end of 4th grade, however, his family moved away, putting my adoration to a halt. Imagine my surprise when I found him sitting at his desk on the first day of middle school. The rushing feeling in my chest I got when we were finally reunited was really something.

The reason I needed to stay so vigilant is because Jin-kun is an unbearably cute guy. He leaned more towards a boyish cuteness than a manly, handsome figure, with his round face, large eyes, slightly chubby cheeks that made you want to pinch them, a button nose that looked supremely tweak-able, and to top it all off a mop of messy black hair that always seemed to look like he’d just woken up.

With that kind of charm, irritating bugs had started to flock around him starting from middle school. Thankfully, they were small fries I dispatched easily. If I revealed exactly how, I might get in major trouble, so I’ll avoid leaving written evidence, but suffice to say none of them even dared to come close to Jin-kun again. Jin-kun himself was utterly oblivious to the attention he received, but that was okay. It also meant he didn’t notice when the flies around him disappeared one by one. I would have no problem exposing my methods to Jin-kun, but I was afraid he’d hate me for it, and that wouldn’t do.

“No, that wouldn’t do at all.”

I thought out loud as I turned my head to stare lovingly at a small stuffed doll I’d made to resemble Jin-kun. I had some talent in sewing, so I made the doll from scrap fabric lying around. I daresay I did a pretty good job, even if as a mere cloth doll I couldn’t reproduce every minute detail of his face, every contour of his body.

It was getting near the time I needed to wake up for school, so I turned off the lights and pretended to be asleep. I’d stayed up the previous night expanding and revising my capture plan, and was rather exhausted, but that was okay. As long as I had enough vitality to carry out the day’s plans, I could endure any amount of sleepiness. Plus, I had a countermeasure in the form of cheap powdered coffee, which tasted like shi- oops, almost forgot that Jin-kun probably doesn’t like foul-mouthed girls- which tasted terrible but still contained caffeine.

After around half an hour, I heard my mother’s voice calling me.

“Shizune! Wake up! It’s time for you to go to school!”

“Coming!”

I yelled back as I jumped off my bed and rushed out of my room, only pausing to check my appearance in a mirror. The face of Yamaguchi Shizune, high schooler, 17, B-cup, 155cm tall looked back. It might sound conceited, but I had a bit of confidence in my looks. Though my bust was rather lacking compared to some other girls in my class, I wouldn’t lose to them in any other department. Thankfully, I’d been blessed with an attractive face, as that was the one part of me I couldn’t change through effort. My figure was slim and my skin was a healthy peach color, and I’d kept both that way just for Jin-kun. That was how deep my love for him ran. My hair was black and waist-length when let down, although I usually had it in what was commonly known as pigtails, or ‘twintails’, as I’d heard some call them.

Breakfast was a hurried greeting to my parents and a mumbled ‘itadakimasu’ before I shoveled eggs on toast into my mouth. Though I wasn’t particularly late- on the contrary, I was rather early- I made it a habit to get to school quickly so I had ample time to carry out the preparations for my plans. My parents, being upstanding citizens and sticklers for rules, wholeheartedly approved of my going to school early.

In the doorway I checked whether I’d packed all of my essentials- pencil case, notebook, the Jin doll, the bento, my purse- before opening the door and running to the elevator.

My family lived on the fifth floor of an apartment complex. It was a four-room affair- one room for me, one room for my hikikomori-ish older brother, one room for my parents and a guest room that was hardly ever used. The fact that it was on the fifth floor allowed me to get excellent excercise through running up ten flights of stairs. After all, I had to keep my body in shape.

Outside the complex was typical Japan- the streets full of commuters, the skies filled with grey outlines of buildings, the air filled with the bustling of a million people and the rumbling of cars on the motorway. My school, Hanayama High School, was mercifully close to my home, and I arrived there only slightly out of breath.

I took my textbooks out of my locker and sat down at my desk in Class 2-D. Today’s preparations were simple.

Firstly, I had to get rid of a troublesome new insect sniffing around my precious Jin-kun. The girl’s name was Futaki Iena, and she’d blatantly disregarded the fact that girls who made moves on him somehow quickly lost interest and started chumming up to him.

Sorry, kid. You’re a thousand years too early to compete with me… Even if I’m only 17 years old. Well, first things first. How can I make her lose interest in Jin-kun?

Aha! If she does something embarassing in front of him, she won’t be able to face him!

… Or so I’d thought yesterday, as I visited the drugstore yet again to stock up on my supply of nasty poison- no, misused ordinary medicines. It’s impossible to guess the havoc a liberal dose of laxative can cause unless you see- and smell- it firsthand.

Today’s featured chemical is diphenhydramine! It’s an over-the-counter drug commonly used to treat allergies! For this experiment, we’ll be seeing what kind of side effects higher doses will cause. Don’t worry, while excessively higher doses are fatal, I’m not aiming to kill anyone… Yet.

If you went ‘but Shizune-sensei, diphenhydramine/Benadryl is something taken orally!’, you’ve got a bright future in medicine. Unfortunately for Ms. Iena, she has a bad habit of biting her fingernails. Oh the horror! By making sure Benadryl has been liberally applied to things she touches often- her textbooks, for instance- I can ensure she will ingest it.

‘What are the common side effects, sensei?’ Well, Benadryl can act as a sedative, so I’m looking forward to seeing Iena-san sleep in class. Some other effects include constipation and dry mouth- ooh, what a fantastic drug for my purposes!

Finished with my nefarious preparations, I let myself grin slightly as I surveyed the classroom. Nobody would suspect a thing.

Soon, students began trickling into the classroom one by one. I pretended to ignore them, my face buried in a textbook. And then from the corner of my eye, I spotted him.

“Good morning, Jin-kun!”

I said while smiling.

“Good morning, Shizune-san.”

Jin-kun smiled back, and my heart skipped a beat. Ah, Jin-kun, you’re so liberal with your angelic smiles! I also spotted Iena’s figure, but I struck up a conversation with Jin so she couldn’t just butt in. Serves you right.

As homeroom started, the class quieted down. I saw that Iena-san hadn’t taken out her textbooks- that was okay. She’d be forced to do so anyway for the later periods. Just as our teacher, a Ms. Kimoto Hama, opened her mouth to greet the class, a sudden, incredibly loud noise began grating in my ears. Looking around, I could tell I was not the only one under its influence.

“What’s going on? Is it a speaker system malfunction?”

I shouted, but nobody heard me. And then a pure white flame started burning the walls, and I screamed, afraid I’d be burnt to death, but then I noticed there was no smoke. Ignoring my other screaming classmates, I made my way over to the flames and cautiously held my hand close to it. It wasn’t hot- in fact, it was as if it wasn’t a fire at all! Mustering all of my courage, I waved my hand through the flames, and again felt no sensation. Glad we were safe, I made my way over to Jin-kun’s desk, and lightly touched his shoulder to get his attention.

“What?”

He shouted in my ear.

“The flames aren’t hot! We’re not going to burn to death!”

I shouted back.

“Really? That’s great!”

It really was. I could live to see Jin-kun again. As soon as I thought that relieving idea, my vision became blurry, and I staggered before collapsing. As my vision faded, I saw my classmates doing the same. I stretched my hand out towards Jin-kun’s, desperately wanting to hold his hand before I died.

No! I haven’t even gotten to kiss Jin-kun yet! I can’t die now-

When I woke up, I was still lying down. This time, though, I distinctly felt grass rather than the smooth floor of the classroom. With a groan, I pushed myself up into a sitting position and noticed that we were in the middle of a large crowd of people, all wearing what a person from medieval times would wear. Was this some sort of geek festival?

In front of me, Jin-kun was also waking up, as were the other students. I rushed over to Jin-kun’s side, worried for his safety.

“Jin-kun! Are you alright?”

“Y-yes, Shizune-san, but I have a killer headache.”

He groaned while massaging his temples. I put my palm on his head to check for a fever, and felt relieved when I found out his skin wasn’t abnormally warm.

“May I have your attention, please!”

I wanted to shout at the voice for interrupting my time with Jin-kun, but I simply gritted my teeth and turned. A girl, who looked to be around the same age as us, dressed in an overly fancy dress with layers upon layers of frills and excess fabric, had walked out of the crowd, flanked by two muscular men in metal armor.

“Before I start, I would like to apologize for the sudden summoning you just experienced. You must all be quite distraught at having been snatched from where you originally were.

“Welcome, otherworlders, to the country of Oliander.”

Otherworlders my ass. I might not have been into otaku culture- my time was mostly devoted to Jin-kun and studying- but I knew this was a common trope.

Being summoned to another world?

What, you expected us to be tricked by such a flimsy lie? Evidently my classates felt the same, as they began jeering and shouting.

“Silence!”

The order was from a long-bearded man wearing purple robes. Of course, he was ignored. Until he clapped his hands and made a giant, revolving ball of flames appear above us. This elicited quite the reaction from us- most of us screamed and shrieked, and I could swear I saw a few with visible, growing stains on their uniforms.

“Calm down, everybody! Follow his orders for now!”

Shouted Jin. Ah, this kind of decisive Jin-kun is nice, too! His shout was effective, as we all settled down, wordlessly staring at the violation of the laws of nature hovering above us.

“Graff, get rid of it. It’s not needed. Their panic is understandable- after all, they were dragged into another world.”

“But princess, they disrespected you-“

“Dispel the fireball.”

“… Understood.”

The man clapped his hands again and the fireball simply disappeared as though it had never existed in the first place.

However, I didn’t particularly notice it, as I was focusing on another issue.

Princess? An influential person. On top of that, pretty. It’s decided- I cannot let her near Jin-kun. I silently declared war against this fancy dress-wearing girl.

“Now, please, say the word ‘Status’. This will, hopefully, remove all doubts that you have been summoned to another world.”

“Status.”

I muttered under my breath, unlike a few of my classmates, who shouted it loudly in a very chuuni way. Instantly, a small window popped up in front of me, and my eyes widened in surprise.

Yamaguchi Shizune LV 1

Job: Curse Magician

Skills: Influence LV 1, Appraisal LV 1

Strength: 16

Dexterity: 23

Vitality: 35

Endurance: 18

Intelligence: 20

Wisdom: 18

Charisma: 15

Luck: 17

… This.

This was undoubtedly something that would fit perfectly in a game. But what was it doing here, in real life? Could it be that we had really been taken to another world?

Around me were shouts and exclamations of surprise, and I looked around and found that I couldn’t see other peoples’ Statuses. I suppose that’s a form of privacy protection.

More importantly, my own Status. LV 1? Did that stand for ‘level’? What was a ‘Curse Magician’? ‘Influence’? ‘Appraisal’? Were these numerical values below average?

“Hey guys, try saying ‘Appraise’ while looking at your status!”

The shout came from a kid with glasses. I couldn’t remember his name- he’d never been in my way. Following his advice, I looked at Curse Magician and muttered “Appraise”.

Curse Magician
A job that utilizes one’s strong emotions in order to place curses on a target.

Rather vague, but I think I’ve got the gist of it. Did strong emotions include love? Was my burning love for Jin-kun the reason I got this job? I quickly used Appraisal on the other parts of my Status.

Influence

Use a model of the target (a doll, statue, or something similar) to directly influence the actions of the target.

Isn’t this rather outrageous? It’s basically voodoo! How cool is that? This way, I can ensure Jin-kun will forever stay mine! Although the description never mentioned thoughts… At least I can use my Jin doll to control his actions. But only when it’s unavoidable! I want the real Jin-kun, not a mindless puppet! That’s right, I’m not going to use Influence to forcibly make him my husband! I’m going to make him love me so much he can’t even look at other women!

Appraisal

Shows a description of a target. Information displayed will increase as level goes up.

Convenient. How does one raise levels, I wonder?

Stats (Strength, Dexterity, …)

A number indicating how proficient you are in a certain field.

I suppose with Appraisal LV 1 it won’t tell me what’s the average for these ‘stats’.

Oh, well. If they aren’t enough, all I have to do is work hard to increase them so I can protect Jin-kun!

“Hey, Jin, what’s your job?”

One of his many friends asked.

“Um, it’s kind of embarassing… Hero.”

“Ehhhh? Really?”

As expected of the nice Jin-kun. Although Curse Magician doesn’t seem like what you’d normally find near a hero, I’ll manage.

“Is what you said about your job true?”

Shit. Looks like the princess overheard him.

“Er, yeah.”

Jin scratched his head wryly. I wanted to tell him he was in danger, but couldn’t without attracting attention. I could practically see the gleam in the princess’s eyes.

“I see. Then, become my husband.”

My mind went blank.

When I regained consciousness, the princess was lying on the ground, and several of the armored people- knights, I reminded myself- were frantically attempting to resuscitate her. According to my memories, while that scumbag continued her ridiculous spiel about how the summoned hero had to marry her, I had drawn a small, intricately detailed figure of the princess in the dirt with my fingernail, complete with frilly dress, and used Influence. And then I had proceeded to erase her limbs.

The effect was immediate. While the princess’s limbs didn’t actually disappear, it was obvious she had felt excruciating pain. I mentally high fived myself. Good job. It’s simple Pavlovian response. Condition her to feel pain whenever the topic of marriage with the hero comes up.

Speaking of which, Jin-kun was looking very worried for the princess, which I didn’t like, but then again, so were a lot of other people, guys mostly. Some were directing hostile gazes towards Jin, so I made sure to memorize their faces.

The bearded magician guy from earlier was scowling at us. He most likely guessed that one of us was the culprit, but couldn’t figure out who. Attempting to look nonchalant, I undid Influence and rubbed out the drawing on the ground with my foot. What a handy skill. I can see numerous uses for it in the future.
Oh? It leveled up to LV 2. Is it really that easy to level skills up? Or is it because of something else? Whatever the reason, I’ll gladly accept it. Forget gift horses, I’ve never looked even a normal horse in the mouth.

“You lot, what did you do to her royal highness?”

The beard-man lost his temper and began yelling at us. Iya, how annoying. I was tempted to use Influence again when I heard a quiet voice respond.

“None of us here did anything. In fact, we don’t even understand why we’re here yet. How would we be able to somehow attack her without any weapons when we haven’t figured out our abilities yet?”

It was Jin-kun. Ah, hero-sama! Standing up for your classmates against the persecution of the evil beardy! That last line isn’t really true, though, since I’ve already figured out Influence. That reminds me, am I stuck with just Influence or will I get new skills in the future?

The bearded man had no response to that, as he was distracted by the princess, who finally managed to get up on her feet.

“Oh, thank you, Graff. I suddenly felt a searing pain run through my arms and legs.”

She turned to Jin-kun again. Don’t you dare, you bitch.

“Anyway, regarding the topic of marriage-“

“Denied.”

The cold voice came from me, not Jin-kun.

“He is already my fiance.”

Jin-kun was looking at me with a bewildered expression, since he didn’t know of my love for him. Don’t worry, I’ll demonstrate it to you soon!

“Is that so? But that is of no consequence. Polygamy is both legal and widely practiced.”

“Yes, but it is illegal in the world we are from. And as former residents of that world, we are obligated to follow its laws instead of yours. After all, we’re not even citizens of your kingdom.”

My voice was so chilly it would have caused frostbite had I been an Ice Mage or something like that.

The princess narrowed her eyes at me.

“… Very well. I shall drop the matter for now. Far more pressing concerns have risen.”

She faced our entire class and began explaining that we had been summoned to fight the evil demon king and his army of monsters, who were killing humans left and right. While she was doing so, Jin-kun grabbed my arm and whispered into my ear.

“What the hell was that about?”

“I was just protecting you, Jin-kun. If you got married to that princess, you would end up being this kingdom’s puppet. Besides, I wouldn’t mind actually being Jin-kun’s fiance, you know?”

Time to play the ‘bashful girl in love’ card! My face quickly reddened as I looked away.

“A-ah, forget I said that last part!”

I said in an embarassed tone. I peeked at Jin-kun’s face to find that he was blushing as well. Yes! Mind-me pumped her fist in victory. Oh, I forgot to Appraise Jin-kun.

Yoshimura Jin LV 1

Job: Hero

Skills: Hidden Power LV 1, Leadership LV 1, Appraisal LV 1

Strength: 27

Dexterity: 16

Vitality: 38

Endurance: 24

Intelligence: 17

Wisdom: 16

Charisma: 19

Luck: 22

Huh, three skills! Impressive! And his Strength is really high, too! Appraise it all!

Hero

The one fated to fight the demon king.

Why’s it even more vague than my own job description? Hey, world, you’re being unfair towards Jin-kun!

Hidden Power

Draws out an incredible amount of power to enhance the user’s body for a short time. User becomes exhausted after use.

So it’s like a single-use burst? Wow, sounds powerful.

Leadership

Allies around the user fight more efficiently. In addition, it becomes easier for the user to give orders.

This doesn’t feel like one of the skills you use… Could this be something that’s always active? I’m proud of you, Jin-kun, looks like you’re going to be a great leader.

Looks like the princess is finished.

Honestly, it was all very farfetched.

Demon king? Monsters? It’s hard to accept their existence as a fact. Part of my mind is still convinced this is an extremely realistic daydream.


But even if it’s a daydream, I have no choice but to see it through to the very end.

Chapter 1 (Unfinished)

“Funyahhh, Hero-san’s back is so warm~”
I said as I hugged him from behind.
If my believers saw such a sight, they would probably be very surprised. After all, I’m the goddess of Light, Good, Purity and all that. But all of it was moot when it came to the hero.
I still remember the day he was reincarnated.

“Hello, hero-sama. You have- ahhh?!”
The moment I saw him, I gasped- it was like there was some sort of invisible attraction between him and I.
“Er, are you alright?”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine. A little coughing never hurt anyone.”
“That didn’t sound like a cough, though?”
“A-anyway, moving on! You’ve died, and now you’re going to be reincarnated in another world as a hero with my blessing. How’s that?”
“I don’t particularly mind, I guess.”
“Great, now, come over here and take my hand to receive your blessing.”
“Un, like this?”
“Kyahhh!”
“Do you have a fever or something? Your face is turning red.”
“No, I’m fine, I’m fine. Where was I? Yes, blessing, blessing. Done! You’re all set for your journey. Have a good second life~”
As soon as the hero left my domain I’d collapsed, face completely red.
“His hands are so soft~ They’re not like a man’s at all! But they’re still very manly~”
I had said while rolling back and forth on the ground.
When I first saw him, something seemed to click inside me, and I fell in love with him instantly.
After that, I visited him regularly, at first every month, then every week, then every day. I even went through the trouble of making a body to reside in so I could spend more time with the hero. Soon, every single waking moment I had was devoted to the hero.
I had no idea why I fell in love with him. But what my heart was saying was very clear.
‘I want to make him mine.’

And so, years passed. The hero, along with an army of capable warriors, defeated the Demon King.
“Congratulations~”
I said, still hugging him tightly.
“Thanks.”
“Mm? What’s on your mind?”
“Well, I thought it was time to introduce you to my companions.”
“You already told me all about them, remember? I even helped you pick some members!”
“Not that kind of companion.”
The hero pointed in front of him.
“That kind of companion.”
The sight I saw was astounding. No less than ten women of varying degrees of beauty were prostrating themselves in front of the hero. Yes, dear readers, somehow, even though I was watching his every move, the hero had built up a harem.
“Eeeehh? B, but you said you would be mine, and only mine forever!”
I cried, not wanting to believe my eyes.
“While I like the idea of having a yandere goddess as my lover, I’d rather have a harem.”
“A, a, a, a,”
I was unable to even form words from the sheer outrage I was feeling. Who allowed you to be reborn in this world? Who gave you their blessing so you would survive longer? Who watched over you every step of your journey?
“Sorry, but this is the end.”
Said the hero, as he grasped the holy sword- that I had granted him- and thrust it into my chest. It was just a mortal body, and thus it couldn’t harm my essence- or so I thought.
“AAHHHHHHHH!!!”
It felt as though my soul, the divine soul of a goddess, was being torn to pieces. Even I, the creator of the holy sword, did not know it was this powerful.
Before my soul was further wounded, I abandoned the body and went back to my domain to recuperate. The last thing I saw before the body’s eyes closed was the hero kissing another woman, even as he wiped the holy sword clean.
Unacceptable.
For the hero to betray me like this.
A small part of me that still clung to the belief that the hero loved me wanted to believe that it was the women that had led him astray.
But I knew better. How could I have not seen it coming? I would punish the women, yes, but I would also punish the hero. I would break him, and then put him back together, in a way that would make him completely mine.
Without my realization, my domain, normally represented as a cozy little cottage, began changing. The walls turned to stone, the bookshelves turned into torture devices, the potted plants to torches. It now looked more like a dungeon than the home of a goddess.
I had [Fallen], no longer the goddess of Light, Good and Purity. I was now the goddess of Darkness, Evil and Corruption.
And I loved it. I loved the sensation of being able to take revenge. I thrilled in it, my body twitching with pleasure every time I thought of more additions to my sadistic plan to break the hero.
“Kukukukuku.”
My laugh, formerly a pleasant, bell-like sound, had degenerated into that of an evil witch.
I would show him the power of a yandere scorned.

First, I laid a curse of infertility on him and all of his girls. I wasn’t going to let him have children with anyone but me. For a while, it was fun watching the hero desperately trying to find cures for his impotency. He even tried to have one of my priests try to dispel the curse. How audacious. As lifting curses and healing requires my cooperation, I simply didn’t allow the priest to cure him. When the hero realized his wives were barren as well after trying to get them pregnant via a surrogate father, I laughed out loud for three days without stopping. The way he desperately tried to figure out where the curse was from, and how he immediately dismissed me as after all, a goddess of Purity couldn’t do something like give out curses, right? The way he was slow on the uptake was one of his charms, and it was absolutely hilarious.
The next part of my revenge plan took a little more preparation. I met up with the Demon King to work out a deal. When I suddenly appeared in front of his throne without any warning, the Demon King, harboring a rather intense grudge against me, attempted to cut me into pieces for an hour before calming down and hearing what I had to say.
“I will give you my empire, in exchange for a few conditions.”
The Holy Empire of Xumeria. A gigantic hub of civilization that was founded by a pope under my guidance. Inside it were at least a hundred million people.
I was willing to sacrifice them all to get back at the hero.
“Conditions?”
“Yes. The first is that you must attack Rindgard city first, as the hero is staying there. The second is that you must order your troops to kill one of the hero’s wives, but only one, and in front of his eyes.”
“Oh, so you have a grudge against your own hero?”
“Yes. In exchange for those conditions, I will not interfere with your invasion.”
“Really? But doesn’t that mean you will lose your followers?”
“What followers? I am no longer Linaeris the goddess of Light- I am Linaeris the goddess of Darkness, for I have [Fallen].”
I clapped my hands and showed him my new domain through a portal.
“[Fallen]… What was the reason for such an abrupt change?”
“The hero betrayed me and killed my mortal body with my own sword. Is that not reason enough for vengeance?”
“Didn’t the hero love you?”
“He cast me aside like some sort of plaything.”
The Demon King nodded his head sadly. I had known he would understand- after all, he had experienced the sharp sting of being betrayed by a loved one firsthand.
“I see. Well, I shall agree to the deal. I will lend you my aid in taking revenge on the hero.”
“You have my gratitude.”

Chapter 1

A boy looked up from the fields he’d been plowing, and glared at the sun. What was the sun? It was an ever-burning ball of fire reigning over the sky, only retreating when the moon, a frigid orb as different from the sun as could be, came to usurp the throne. The endless war continued on and on, heedless of the mortals down below who were affected by the cycle.
The boy knew the sun was revered as a god, but he didn’t think that gave it any right to stare so haughtily down at humans, even as its heat killed untold thousands and ruined the lives of many more.
“Jor! Lunch is ready!” Came a voice from a nearby cottage. The boy wiped the sweat off his brow and ran home, leaving everything just lying on the ground.
The small house was built in typical Reminer fashion, with thatch roofing above a barely walled in living area. The boy’s mother was waiting for him in the kitchen with a meal of boiled potatoes, still steaming hot.
“Thanks, ma!” Said the boy as he eagerly dug in while his mother watched, a small smile on her face.
“Jor, do you remember what day it is?”
“Uh, it’s the twenty-second day of the 5th cycle, right?”
Years in Remin were divided into twelve 30-day-long ‘cycles’, with five days at the end of each year celebrating five different holy events in succession. This calendar system had been around since the founding of Remin, and nobody questioned it, for it was useful.
“Not just that, silly. It’s the day the Shapers from the imperial capital come!”
The boy almost choked on his potatoes at that, eyes growing wide.
Shapers, also known as miracle-workers, thaumaturges, and mages, were humans that could feel the flow of the world’s energy, mah’ana, or ‘mana’, as it was more commonly referred to as. Not only that, but they could manipulate the energy in common sense-defying feats.
“I can’t believe I forgot about that! Thanks for reminding me, ma!” Exclaimed the boy as he finished his plate and rushed out of the house, towards the village square, which was where the examination would be held.
Every four years, the Emperor of Remin sent Shapers to scour the villages for people with signs of Shaper talent. The examinations were the method they utilized to discern the abilities of each villager, and only those above the age of 15 were allowed to enter. The boy, who had just reached the age limit on the 14th of the 5th cycle, was elated to be eligible for testing. It was his dream to become a Shaper, as was the case for most village boys and girls. Unfortunately, most had no talent whatsoever- but the boy was sure he would pass the exam. He had to, if only for his precious ma.
He had been born from a union between his mother, a serving maid to an unnamed noble, and the noble himself. When it was discovered she was pregnant, the noble’s wife had forced her away, and she had settled down in Tersi village to give birth to him. He had never known his father, and had no affection for him- rather, he detested his father, for simply allowing his wife to kick a pregnant woman out of the house.
As he ran, he hurriedly greeted everyone he ran past. Old Greta the tailor, Savin the shopkeeper, Dorn the blacksmith, and many more. Tersi village held a little over two hundred residents in total, and it seemed to him that all of them were out in the streets, eager to watch the exam take place.
A long line of excited teenagers threaded its way through the streets and into a colorful tent, in which the examination was held. He was the last in line, breathing heavily from the exertion.
“Why were you so late, Jor?” Said the person in front of him, a girl with long black hair and green eyes. She was Leila, Jor’s childhood friend and longtime crush.
“I could ask you the same. You arrived just before I did!” Replied the boy, grinning through his sweaty bangs.
“I was busy helping out grandma with the fabrics.” Leila said. She was the granddaughter of Greta, and her mother had died in childbirth. After she died, Leila’s father left the village, leaving Leila to be raised by her grandmother. The fact that both had been abandoned by their fathers contributed somewhat to their close friendship.
“Well, I was busy plowing the field. It’s already a bit too late to be plowing, but ma hopes we’ll be able to harvest in fall like we always do.”
“That’s good. Say, Jor-”
“Well, look who’s here. If it isn’t the whore’s son and the bitch’s daughter.”
Jor didn’t have to turn around to know who owned the sneering voice, but he turned anyway. Sure enough, behind him was Soran Tersi, son of the village chief. He was the only young man in town to have a proper family name, and he flaunted his high social class every chance he got. Back when they were children, Jor had immediately been singled out by Soran and his cronies, and so had Leila, because she tried to defend Jor from their insults.
“What do you want, Soran?” Jor said, resisting the urge to punch the smug face in front of him. If Soran went running to his father and complained, he and his mother could be evicted from the village, and that was the last thing he wanted. His mother had already endured so much strife- he would not go around making more.
“Oh, nothing from you, whore-son. You, on the other hand…” Soran licked his lips and leered at Leila, making grasping motions with his hands, causing her face to grow red with anger. Ever since he’d entered puberty, Soran had harrassed Leila constantly, knowing there was nothing she or Jor could do to stop him.
“Just ignore him, Leila.” Jor said under his breath. He wasn’t sure how long he could go without snapping if he had to deal with Soran being behind him in line.
Soon, Jor drew near the entrance of the tent. It was Leila’s turn to be examined.
“Next.” A feminine voice came from inside the tent.
“Good luck.” Jor smiled at Leila, who smiled back wryly. And then with a swish of fabric, she was inside the tent.
Jor waited restlessly for his turn to arrive, and he almost jumped when the voice called out once again.
“Next.”
Jor walked into the tent. Inside was a wooden table, on which a crystal ball was placed. Surrounding the crystal ball was a strange circle with a five-pointed star, and at each point was a flask filled with a different substance- one held sand, another held wayer, a third held fire, the fourth held strands of blue lightning merrily waving about, and the fifth seemed to be empty.
Behind the desk was a middle-aged woman, her hair tied up and hidden inside the cap that was part of an imperial Shaper’s uniform. To either side of her were armored guards, presumably there to protect her, although Jor doubted a Shaper would need protection.
“Place your hand on the crystal ball.” Said the woman, and Jor complied.
The instant his fingertips touched the ball, it was as if he had been torn from his body and tossed to and fro- and then, as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. Jor stumbled back, and glanced at the table.
None of the flasks had changed at all. Jor’s heart sank like a stone, and he froze, not daring to believe his eyes.
“Disappointing. Not a single one with talent so far.” The woman said. “Leave. Next!”
“Bu- but-” Jor stammered, but was cut off by the woman.
“I said next!”
Jor walked out the back of the tent, his footsteps feeling wooden, his fingers numb. He had no talent. He would be stuck here in Tersi village forever.
He spotted Leila, just one girl among the crowd of crying teens, and made his way over to her. He put his arm around her, and patted her back.
“There, there. I take it you don’t have any talent, either?” Leila nodded, still sobbing. “Well, at least we can be talentless together. I hope that Soran doesn’t have any talent, either.”
Alas, his hopes were dashed when the person in question burst out of the tent, an arrogant smile on his face.
“Three elements!” He crowed. “Lightning, Fire and Earth!”
The other rejected kids swarmed him, in awe of his talent. Soran looked around, and saw Leila and Jor, who was glaring at him with killing intent.
“Now do you see how superior I am, Leila? He’s no match for someone like me!”
This caused Leila to sob even harder, and it took the better part of 2 hours to calm her down. Jor took her hand in his and led her back to her house.
As he passed in front of an alley between two buildings, Leila was suddenly grabbed and dragged into the alley.
“Leila!” Jor followed her, to see that two adult men faced him, one gripping Leila’s arm while covering her mouth with his hand to prevent her from screaming. The one not holding Leila pointed his palm at Jor and muttered something under his breath, and a hand made of stone suddenly grew from the wall beside him, and lifted him off the ground by his neck. As he began to choke and his vision became blurry, he heard a voice, sounding as though it came from far away.
“Hey, take it easy. If we kill the brat, the village will raise an uproar.”
“It’s not like a piddling little shithole like this can do anything to us, though.”
“They can send an appeal to Master Aurea and have her do a formal investigation.”
“Well, fuck.”
The hand abruptly dropped Jor back to the ground, and he gasped and wheezed, trying to get oxygen back into his lungs.
The man muttered again, and the alley was blocked off by stone walls easily dwarfing Jor’s height. Then more stone hands grew from the floor, grabbing onto his limbs and immobilizing him. A wad of dirt found its way into his mouth, serving as a foul-tasting gag.
He could do nothing but watch in horror as the two stripped Leila, still kicking and struggling, and began to rape her. He screamed, the sound not passing his lips, and continued screaming until his throat felt raw and hot tears ran down his face. No matter how hard he struggled, he couldn’t break free of the hands holding him.
After what seemed like an eternity filled with the wet slaps of flesh meeting flesh, with a couple of final grunts the two rapists pulled out, and put their pants back on. Leila lay on the ground, eyes unfocused, with blood and white liquid running down her legs, and Jor felt as though his heart had been ripped into a million pieces.
The rapist who had restrained Jor waved his hand, and the bindings disappeared, along with the wall. Jor fell to the ground, and had the wind knocked out of him. He crawled and tried to grab one of their ankles as they moved by him, and was rewarded with a kick to the face.
“You won’t get away with this.” Jor rasped, his voice long gone from screaming.
“Brat, we’re Shapers. We can get away with anything.”
And with that, only Leila and Jor were left in the alley. He made his way to her, and grasped her limp hand.
“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry, Leila…”
“… I hate you.”
A sudden vehemence came into Leila’s eyes, and she tugged her hand out of Jor’s.
“Why… didn’t you stop them? Why didn’t you protect me? You’re weak. I can’t believe I thought of you as a good person, but it looks like you’re just a weak scumbag.”
Every word felt like a punch to the face, and tears started pouring out of his eyes again, to his astonishment, as he thought he had run out of tears a while ago.
“I’d rather be with a rich scumbag like Soran than a powerless scumbag like you.”
Jor felt as though he was being choked again; his vision became blurry with tears, as his neck constricted around the words he wanted to say.
“I- I- I- I-”
“Don’t talk to me ever again.”
With as much dignity she could muster with fluids trickling down her legs and clothes ripped in various places, she ran out of the alley.
For a while, Jor couldn’t move. And then he slowly got up, and made a trip to the general store, where he bought a small piece of paper and charcoal. After writing a short note to Leila and leaving it under the door of Greta’s house, he began running.

He didn’t have any particular destination in mind. He just ran, ran to get away from his problems. He ran out of the village, through the plains, into the forest, and finally, onto the mountain behind the village. At this point the sun was sinking below the horizon, and Jor knew the monsters would get him if he stayed. But strangely enough, he didn’t care. As he laid on the ground, panting with exhaustion, he realized he didn’t care whether he died anymore. Something in his head had broken, and he wasn’t sure he liked this new development.
As night fell, the growling of various monsters could be heard. He turned his head, still lying on the ground, and saw two sets of red, glowing eyes suspended in the air. A doomhound, a beast that looked like a giant black dog with two heads. And then it suddenly backed away, growling, and he turned his head to the right to see a giant snake, fangs bared, hissing at the doomhound. Jor was obviously the first piece of fresh human meat to pass by in a while, and neither of them were willing to give him up.
The earth shook as a third newcomer revealed itself-  a troll. Standing at roughly 10 meters in height, with yellowish skin like parchment, a pig-like snout, and boar-like tusks. It lifted its club- the trunk of an entire tree- and swung it down on the ground, creating cracks in the ground. Suddenly afraid, Jor scrambled to his feet, but before he could run, the ground beneath him collapsed, and he, along with the three monsters, fell into the darkness.

Leila clambered through the window to her room. She drew water from the well out back, and heated it before taking her clothes off and pouring the water over her head. When she was done, she wiped herself off before putting on a new outfit.
She walked to the door, and was surprised to see a piece of paper beneath it. She pulled it out, and read it.
Dear Leila
I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m such a weakling that I can’t even protect you from getting raped. You’re right, maybe you really are better of being with Soran than me. You have my blessings.
Goodbye. I’m leaving the village. I’m probably not going to come back, but that’s fine with you, isn’t it?
Jor
The letter slipped from Leila’s hands and fluttered to the floor, but she was too shocked to notice. What she had said in the alley had been impulsive and stupid, but she hadn’t thought it would affect him this badly. She mulled over the last two sentences in her mind. The person she loved was gone, and she would most likely never see him again, all because of a few stupid things she had said.

Jor woke, his entire body aching. It was too dark to see anything, so he crawled, feeling ahead of him with his hands. Suddenly his hands slipped in a puddle, and he drank from it eagerly before the metallic taste told him it was blood. He shrieked in shock, then realized the folly of his actions a moment later when the troll, battered and bruised but not dead, came into view, its outline visible even in the dark. And then, with a loud whooshing noise, something huge lashed out, and the troll was gone.
Jor was terrified, so he crawled backwards as fast as he could, until he came up against a wall- a smooth, tiled wall.
He slowly turned around and almost fainted from fright, seeing the incredible size of the thing in front of him. It was at least 50 meters tall and 300 meters wide, and then two golden, slitted eyes opened at one end and he realized the creature was lying down, not standing.
‘Why are you here, lowly human?’
The voice boomed directly into his head. It was like no other voice he had heard before- it was like the sound of a mountain splitting in two, like an earthquake decimating countries, like the boots of an army marching off to war.
‘Answer me!’
But Jor was too scared to answer.
And then, he felt an invasive presence in his mind. He was powerless to stop it as it dug through his memories like a giant hand sifting through pebbles. The hand retracted, and the voice spoke again, this time with a much gentler tone.
‘I see, so that is how you ended up here. I cannot tell if you are the luckiest man alive or the unluckiest wretch in existence.’
“What? Why?”
‘You remember drinking blood, correct?’
“Y-yes.”
‘That was my own blood. As such, you… Are no longer quite human.’

“What are you talking about? I’m obviously still human. Two arms, two legs, ten fingers, ten toes, pink skin, and all that.”
‘The change is gradual. However, I can speed up the process.’
“Why would I want that?”
‘Because I… Am a dragon.’
A sudden jet of fire lit up the cavern for a split second, and in that moment Jor saw the dragon in all of its glory.
Its snout was long and reptilian, its head attached to a long neck, with spikes growing out the back. Its torso had four, sinewy-looking legs, each with a selection of razor-sharp claws. On its back were wings, now folded against the dragon’s body for convenience. Its tail was long, and started out as thick as a leg only to taper out at the end, creating a sharp point. To top it all off, the dragon was covered in jet black scales that seemed to suck in the light around it.
Dragons were legendary creatures. Each one was said to have the power to destroy at least a city on its own, and thus they were hunted to extinction by Shapers.
Or so Jor had thought.
Overwhelmed, Jor fell to his knees.
“You’re saying I’m going to become a dragon?”
‘No. A mouthful of blood is nowhere near potent enough for that. Only my blood could cause even the slightest change with that little to work with.’
“Then what parts of me will change?”
‘It depends. You will gain the most basic draconic features- the golden eyes and scales partially covering your body- but what changes afterwards varies from person to person.’
“What if I don’t want to change?”
‘You’ve already drunk my blood, so it’s too late. All you can decide is when you will change. Besides, I looked at your thoughts. You want power- power to take revenge, and to protect your loved ones. The changes can grant that.’
Jor fell silent, contemplating what to do.
“… Please, change me right now.”
‘Are you quite sure?’
“Yes.”
‘If you insist.’
A searing pain ran through Jor’s eyes, and he curled up into a fetal position to scratch at them. And then he realized after the pain passed that he could see in the dark, as well as he could see things in bright light. But he had no time to think on this before another jolt of pain assaulted his back and scalp at the same time. He screamed, flailing around as his skin ripped and blood pooled on the ground. After the pain subsided, Jor reached up to touch his hair and felt two hard horns growing out of his head, and curving around the sides to point forwards. He tried to touch his back, but couldn’t reach it. In a fit of frustration, he flapped his wings against the ground, sending him tumbling. He stood up, wide-eyed. Wings? He could fly?
The last transformation was more of an itch than pain, and he looked down at his hands to see that black scales covered them completely. Not only that, but the scales covered his forearm to his elbow, like gloves. The location of the itch told him he had grown scales on the small of his back, his chest and his legs as well, but he didn’t bother checking them.
‘Oh, wings? That’s a rare change. You must be very lucky.’
“What… Am I, now?”
‘I assume you have heard of beastkin? Right now, you are what most would call a dragonkin, although the correct term is draconian.’
“I’m… A beastkin?”
‘Throw away your prejudice. Beastkin are just like humans, they just have a few body parts that belong to animals.’
“Still…”
‘Oh, shut up. You’re one of them now, so show them some more respect.’
“… Alright.”
Jor turned in a circle, taking in the scenery. The cavern was littered with bones, presumably the dragon’s previous meals. At one end was a relatively small opening, just big enough for a troll to slip through. As he made to leave, the dragon called him back.
‘Wait. I have done you a favor by giving you power. I ask that you grant a favor of mine in return.’
“What is it?”
‘I want you take this with you.’
The dragon held a tiny white egg mottled with red in its claws. It was about the size of a human baby.
“Why?”

“You’re the last dragon, huh?”
Jor looked at the egg, then picked it up.
“I’ll do it. It’s nice to see parents who care for their kids.”
‘I am aware of the hardships you have faced, Jor.’
“By the way, I never asked you your name.”
‘I am Lak’yusha Melzargand Ouroboros, the Dragon Empress.’
“Lak’yusha Melzargand Ouroboros… I’ll remember that name. The kid deserves to know who its mother was, anyway.”
‘I am grateful. Thank you, Jor- not many humans would agree to do something like this.’
“Well, they do say I’m crazy.”