Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou - novelonlinefull.com
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I said our minds are infected by the virus that we call stories and someone injected that virus into us.
I also said we must not cast aside those stories.
I have seen the original human race and the origin of “stories”.
As a result, I am here now.
I am the writer of this story.
But before I could realize this duty of mine, I needed to experience the death of my former lover as described in the prologue. I started living in this world of low story density and I essentially lost my memories. I may have needed an experience that overloaded me on the story aspect of life.
Now that my memories have returned, I have taken a fairly long time to write the story of Sai Akuto’s life that will end the story. This here will likely be the final part of that collection of writings.
However, it was not an easy path. Once the story approached its end in 2010, it required great resolve to begin writing the rest. Nothing would come to mind and I would simply sit still with a dull headache. As if an invisible ring were binding my shoulders, I was overcome by a strange uncomfortable feeling and a weight that restricted my movements. Even standing up grew difficult.
That discomfort grew the more I resolved myself to write these records.
I knew what writers had long called that feeling: a slump or writer’s block. Someone more pretentious may have named it a spreading mold or a black attack dog, but I stupidly called it the “crazy ghost”.
The crazy ghost stays in the corner of my room and weighs down on my shoulders if I focus on it. If I sleep or focus on something mindless, it eventually disappears, but it would otherwise press down uncomfortably on my shoulders and force me to do some light exercise. To make matters worse, the exercise had to put a great burden on me to be effective and it felt a bit like a gamble. Sometimes it would help me feel better, but sometimes it would produce enough pain in my shoulders to provide an intense urge to vomit.
The pain was enough to completely eat into my everyday life.
Once I began to realize I could not defeat it or tame it, I finally realized what it was.
It was lightness.
In other words, the lighter the material I was going to write, the more interference I would meet when I started to write it.
I must write about this lightness in more detail. It usually refers to something superficial that does not require deep thought, but in this case, it refers to being highly imaginary.
First, the characters that have left their physical bodies become the protagonists. That means they are not harmed by physical impacts that would kill a normal person and they occasionally use supernatural powers. That gives the characters deviant personalities that would be unthinkable with normal humans.
When writing a story toward a happy ending, there might be unhappiness, but it all has meaning. One method of avoiding an unhappy story is to not allow the characters to age and to keep their minds unchanged.
Whenever I tried to write a “light” story such as that, I would be overcome by a slump.
Then what about a “heavy” story? I tried writing those as a change of pace, but as the imaginative portion grew larger (even if the characters are realistic, the story is still fiction), the crazy ghost would always be waiting for me as I continued writing.
That was clearly interference from the story.
I felt as if I had seen the true nature of the story.
This story had been written to cast aside stories and this was obvious resistance. When I thought back, I could recall various difficulties in coming this far, but those had all come about due to the story itself controlling my memories and actions.
This is even true regarding book sales. People find light stories embarra.s.sing, but it is the extremely light stories that they truly enjoy. A great number of people secretly buy light stories that fulfill their desires. On the other hand, heavy stories are said to capture the essence of humanity and those who write them are praised and said to be intelligent. Also, even the most absurd story will be believed as the truth if it becomes the scriptures of some religion.
Stories are a lot like gravity, aren’t they? Doesn’t their weight bind us and lead us to avoid “lightness”?
And if human nature desires that “lightness”…
I thought I heard a sound from within my brain. I clearly understood how to carry out my duty. The demon king had made this world and I had to guide the demon king and those depressed thoughts toward “lightness”.
I quickly realized how to do that.
It had to be possible for the Law of Ident.i.ty to access this world. The blonde Keena’s attempts to stop the demon king made that clear. The Law of Ident.i.ty desired a proper ending to the story, so I would show her that the story had been eliminated.
Given the structure of the world, she would have been hiding without the demon king’s knowledge. The demon king was a universal being who had constructed this world, but the self-ident.i.ty needed to form a story had to have been created. In other words, the Law of Ident.i.ty had to exist as a character. Nevertheless, the demon king had not noticed her in this world. He likely a.s.sumed she would not be present because Keena was asleep.
My objective could be described as having the Law of Ident.i.ty and the demon king meet and I would do so via the story that rejects stories. That search would become the final story.
“I don’t know what you’re trying to say.”
I had somehow managed to explain all of the above to a harsh Hattori Junko after calling her to a train station café in Kamata.
Or I tried to explain it.
She could be fairly intelligent, but she was stubborn and had difficulty accepting more far-fetched ideas.
I suppose I should explain who Junko is in this world. When returning the story to around the year 2000, the demon king gave us different personalities and lives. The world was created in 1990 and we were given false memories of the past. That past made Junko a former coworker of mine. As much story density had been removed from her as possible, so she was more or less a slim and plain woman.
“I’m saying this world was created quite recently. About a decade has pa.s.sed since then, though. …Anyway, I want you to bring back your memories from before that when you were a character.”
I told her even more. Even if she could not rationally understand it, I figured she would more or less understand if she appealed to the instincts from her memories.
“There were some old manga like that. Were they called reincarnation stories?”
She sounded amused. Before my memories returned, I had consulted her about working as a novelist and writer, so this was not our first bizarre conversation. Normally, she might have thought I was crazy, but she was used to imaginary conversations.
However, she still had a strong distinction between fiction and reality, so it was difficult for her to tell she was enveloped by the idea of a “light” story. After all, accepting that would mean she was crazy too.
“Well, you can think of it as a game about a supposed past life. Anyway, I’m seriously searching for something like that. You can treat it as a game, but is there some common individual in both of our memories of the past?”
“We can’t exactly go over all of our memories.”
She stirred her iced coffee in annoyance.
“It can just be someone that led you to become a writer.”
“In that case…”
She pulled out a notebook and began flipping through the many pages held under the cover. She found a plastic sheet with receipts, cards, and other things stuck in it and she pulled a folded piece of copy paper from it.
It contained a list of names and addresses printed in extremely small text.
“This is the list of people I played tabletop with. This girl here is the one you’re interested in.”
The name she pointed at was very strange.
“These aren’t real names. They’re really chuuni.”
“We were young. They’re pennames, but that’s all we ever called each other. This girl got me really hooked on the games and that’s what led me to become a writer.”
She gave a nostalgic smile and I copied down the address.
“What’s her real name?”
“Hm… What was it? I’ve forgotten. Ahh, but it’s on the tip of my tongue.”
“It doesn’t matter. So you say you knew her from those games?”
She carefully folded the old and worn copy paper.
Tabletop referred to tabletop RPGs. One would act out the role of a character in the game and tell a story like that. Essentially, it was a way of enjoying a story that was spontaneously created from nothing but conversation.
“I’d like to do it again, but I don’t have time. Are you going to search that girl out? If you find her, tell her about me.”
Junko smiled as she spoke.
I could tell she had once enjoyed creating a story and that had led her to become a writer.
I immediately visited the address, but I found nothing like a residence there. I instead found a new building. The apartment building given in the address seemed to have been demolished. Junko had said she had played the game during college, so this girl with the chuuni penname had likely lived in a cheap apartment for college students.
Finding the location of a former resident of the apartment building seemed like it would take a lot of work and it would be faster to check with the other people I know who had been reincarnated(?) before me.
My next appointment was with Yoshie.
“You want to know what led me to get this job? You’re as crazy as ever.”
She was several times harsher than Junko. She often went beyond joking and reached the level of abuse. She was short and weak, but her movements and voice were always exaggerated. Unfortunately, she was not a genius here and the only point in common were the gla.s.ses and how she did everything her own way.
She worked at an editorial production in Shibuya and we had been coworkers long ago. I had managed to meet her at the production office on the pretext of it being about work.
She lacked the ability to listen to what people said, so I did not even try to tell her about her former memories or anything like that. She would tell me to “get real” and the conversation would end there. However, she was always willing to talk about male idol groups. To her, reality was what actually existed. To be honest, I found it hard to figure out why she had taken a job dealing with stories.
“I’m investigating the connections between different writers’ relationships,” I said to give a reason. “During a certain period, they tend to be influenced by the same thing.”
“I did it because a friend told me it was an easy and profitable job,” answered Yoshie.
She had no experience with writing and she had no interest in novels or movies. Even so, it seemed a friend who was already a writer had introduced her to it.
“There was nothing I wanted to do. Once you’re actually doing it, all office work is a pain. Go tell the company I deserve a raise.”
“I don’t work for the company.”
“Then at least tell them how great I am. Also, treat me to lunch.”
Conversations with her always strayed off track like that. She was utilitarian and never gave anything much thought. At any rate, I had to finish what I came to do, so I asked about the person who had introduced her to being a writer.
“She was from Yokohama. She should still be working as a writer for an editorial production there.”
She told me the Yokohama company name and I jotted it down.
“Why is a writer like you asking something so meaningless?” she asked.
She of course had no talent for writing. Due to being introduced, she had been given office work to do and had not been fired. Because (she believed) she was in charge of the writers, she would often find fault in whatever writers did.
“You wouldn’t understand,” I told her.
I could not expect the intelligence Yoshie had once had. She was currently only interested in profiting and it all came down to money. She seemed to snag men from somewhere, but most of her desires were focused on money. Then again, that was one form of happiness.
“Still, you must’ve been saved by a writer’s story at some point in this job. Have you?” I asked.
“I watch the Friday drama,” she immediately replied. “I really want to know what happens next. She may be a side character, but that girl is so cool.”
Once she began talking about that, I was forced to bring the conversation to an end.
Here, Yoshie was extremely indifferent when it came to stories. No, perhaps “unaware” would be the better word. She would react to “light” stories, but she had not noticed the “story” of money’s value that was controlling her and that was exactly why she had not gained monetary success. To acc.u.mulate money, one needed to control that desire or to have greed large enough to be noticeable.
Still, she was not as unhappy as she let on. She would likely get married at some point and then live a relatively happy life. Or she would if this world were eternal.
In the end, she too had been saved by the stories. The “light” stories gave her daily amus.e.m.e.nt and the “heavy” stories only affected her enough to subconsciously follow them.
It came to me then that she had been “tamed” by the stories.
But when I brought it to words, I was also overcome by a sense of self-doubt. What if this world was truly reality and my thoughts were nothing but delusions? The idea that stories were a virus and that realizing that protected the special side of this world would be nothing more than an arrogant madness.
I could only trust that this investigation would make it clear whether I was mistaken or not. I decided to contact the editorial production Yoshie had introduced me to. I only needed to see if Yoshie’s friend was there, so a single phone call would suffice once I had the number.
The answer came quite easily.
“That employee did work here, but she quit last year.”
The president answered me directly and I asked for her name.
The first name he gave seemed to be a penname. To my surprise, it was the same as the name I had heard from Junko. I was even more surprised that the real name was Soga.
I desperately suppressed the voice that threatened to leap from my throat, politely asked him to contact me if he had a job for me, and hung up.
It was sounding more realistic that a single individual had interfered with our lives here and that she was the Law of Ident.i.ty. I had asked the president for her address, so I only had to head there.
The address was an apartment between Yokohama Station and the old Takashimacho Station.
The area contained tiled and unused land that had been left undeveloped and was not residential or business land. Trees had been planted to hide the empty land below the overpa.s.ses. I had only travelled a few minutes from lively Yokohama, but this strange s.p.a.ce seemed completely empty.
The apartment building was relatively new and luxurious, but it smelled oddly like a rundown area. I sensed the unique dimness of an unsafe area of town and the lack of people seemed eerie.
I checked the nameplate on the proper address and it contained a name other than Soga.
I knew it might lead to nothing, but I decided it was worth checking. Even if someone else lived there, they might know the forwarding address for the mail if the move was recent.
I rang the bell and spoke into the intercom that I was looking for a “Soga-san”. The door opened and an old acquaintance walked out.
“You’re finally here!”
It was Fujiko. Of course, she had a different name in this world.
She was a beauty with long black hair, but that was the only fictional aspect of her. She was already married and she was not my type, but I was still nervous about facing her. She stood out enough to gather curious gazes when the two of us were together, but she was otherwise completely ordinary and she had a sociable personality. She wrote horoscopes that did not sell and she was married to a government worker. We occasionally contacted each other due to our work.
“You live here?” I responded in frantic confusion.
“This is about Soga-san, right? Come in.”
She slipped on her sandals and opened the door wide.
Inside, I saw a wooden table, a cupboard, white wallpaper, and nothing that stood out. However, she did not seem to be living with her husband. From the amount of tableware and slippers, she seemed to be living alone.
“There’s a lot I want to ask you about,” I said.
She gave a broad smile and pointed at me.
“Your memories came back, didn’t they? Amazing, isn’t it!?”
“You mean the memories of Constant Magic Academy?” I hesitantly asked.
“Yes! It really surprised me! It’s like a fantasy.”
She was so excited that she forgot to offer me a seat. I could not believe I had hit the jackpot like this. It was enough for me to feel dizzy.
“I think this is a more serious issue than that,” I said reservedly.
Her excitement lessened somewhat, but she seemed to want to talk about a lot of different things because no one else in this world remembered. I wanted to give clarity to my own memories and confirm that I was not mistake, so we discussed those memories for quite a while.
Our memories did indeed match up. Oddly enough, we both retained our personalities from this world and the events of those memories felt like a dream. Our personalities here were not all that different from the ones in the memories. I had not lost the side of me that was an author and Fujiko was still a sociable fortune-teller even if she was no longer domineering or intent on world domination.
“It’s strange to think that was me,” said Fujiko.
“But there’s no other way for our memories to match up like this.”
“I never read your novels, but maybe now I will.”
“You never read them?”
My shoulders drooped.
“If I had, I definitely would have doubted these memories.”
“I suppose you’re right. At first, I was partially doing it subconsciously.”
“Now, about Soga-san,” she said.
“Right. She lived here, didn’t she?”
She lowered her voice and nodded.
“What’s with that look?”
“Oh, she said it was a secret.”
“Well… My memories came back a bit before yours did. I was doing a past life horoscope and it came to me.”
“How does that lead to Soga-san?”
“I started by doubting my memories from before 1990.”
“Yeah, those were implanted into us, weren’t they?”
“I searched out my first memory upon coming here and it was related to Soga-san.”
“I see. So the method I chose wasn’t wrong. Both Junko and Yoshie were led toward their jobs by Soga-san.”
“But she said you alone are special.”
“Yes. She said she had only sent you a letter.”
“Yes. She said she could not directly meet with you no matter what.”
“Hmm. She did explain it to me, but I didn’t really understand it. I think it had to do with Akuto viewing the world through you and so you couldn’t meet the Law of Ident.i.ty.”
Fujiko sounded apologetic as she did her best to explain and I grew uneasy.
“But I can still contact her, right?”
“It seems you can speak with her through the internet.”
Fujiko pulled out a pad of paper placed in front of the cupboard. It had some English characters that seemed to be an internet phone address.
“This seems so cold.”
It seemed too light for what I had been seeking. Then again, “lightness” was exactly what I sought, so it may have been appropriate for the end of the search.
“You don’t have to rush, do you?” asked Fujiko.
She seemed to want to speak further.
“No,” I replied.
She enjoyed speaking of those memories, even if those days had been very “heavy” for me.
I did not return home until late at night, but I booted up my PC and started the internet phone software. If I could speak with her, I wanted to do it as soon as possible.
I made the call and it was immediately answered.
“I have been waiting,” said a calm voice.
There was no video.
“That name is not wrong.”
According to my memories, this manner of speech did not belong to Soga Keena. It belonged to the Law of Ident.i.ty.
“The letter I received was not from a ‘Soga’.”
I recalled the letter that Fujiko had mentioned.
That letter had led to me becoming an author and it had come from a childhood friend. Of course, I now knew that was based on false memories. At the time, I had been oddly moved. Even if it was a false memory, I did not want to believe it was.
“I apologize for deceiving you, but that letter came from me.”
“If you say that, it actually feels like you saved me. Or perhaps not. Are there records of you living in this world?”
“Yes. As you have learned, I got to know the others, married someone you do not know, and have a family.”
It felt like I was being mocked.
I of course had no memory of meeting my childhood friend since then, but I had of course appreciated the girl who had valued my talent during middle school and secretly sent me a letter.
“This is a terrible end to the search. Can’t you even let me see your face?”
“Before you, I too am nothing but a story,” said the Law of Ident.i.ty.
That was certainly true. I was merely speaking over the internet. If I was to doubt that, I could doubt anything about my situation. Fujiko and Junko were acquaintances, so she would likely have known I had said some odd things to Junko. And if she had read my novels, she could pretend to have the same memories as me. Faking the Law of Ident.i.ty would not be hard.
“So even if you’re a fake, your value remains the same?”
“Even if it is all a lie, convincing him is what matters.”
“You mean the demon king? But I thought my goal was to convince you, the Law of Ident.i.ty. Won’t you save everyone?”
“No. Well, I suppose you could say it is both. You have recorded the story of the demon king. That means you have properly acknowledged this world and that convincing you is the same as convincing him. Of course, you must also convince me.”
The Law of Ident.i.ty’s voice was flat as if being mechanically altered.
“You mean we must convince each other that the story has ended?”
“Yes. So show me the records you have made.”
As she insisted, I transmitted the final file – that is, the final volume of my novels – over the internet phone.
She confirmed she had received it and then I waited.
I could say nothing until she did.
As a record, meaning could not be found in it.
It would simply have a forced influence on the story.
At the moment, the “heaviness” was stronger.
“Do you think the virus has infected the mind or the body?”
That was what the Law of Ident.i.ty said first.
I felt obligated to answer even if I did not understand.
“Isn’t it both? I think the body is infected first, but it is the mind that is controlled.”
After a short silence, she asked another question.
“The truth he needs to learn is that the story has ended and that learning that truth will save the people. Correct?”
It was a strange question. I was not sure what she was attempting to confirm.
“I can’t say for sure, but that is what I thought. He attempted to save the world. No, since the afterlife and the Law of Ident.i.ty exist, I think he must have believed it could be saved in some way.”
“As you are aware of that much, I will now give you these final words.”
I waited, but I received only silence as if she were hesitating.
“What is it?”
“Nothing, I will give you those words now,” she said. “You are incarnated and imprisoned here. That is the role of the hero. The world will be saved. Those living there and those who can entrust themselves to the lightness of the story will eventually come to me.”
She said nothing more.
I called out but received no reply.
In fact, the account I was connected to disappeared.
I may have been tricked. I may have truly gone insane.
Only hopeless words echoed through my mind.
It seemed something had ended.
No, something had ended.
That much I could tell.
There was no mistaking it.
But I did not know what it was that had ended.
I had a feeling that I would most certainly face tomorrow. The sun would rise in the morning and I had a ma.n.u.script nearing its deadline.
But his story had ended.
The salvation of the people that Sai Akuto had wanted had ended.
I stayed awake until dawn and then went outside.
The usual city scenery surrounded me.
I entered coffee shop and ordered a hot dog and coffee. The clerk definitely existed.
As noon approached, I contacted Fujiko.
She did not remember what had happened the day before, but she spoke with great delight. She sounded as happy as when we had discussed the other world.
Junko invited me to join a tabletop RPG game. She claimed to have suddenly had an urge to play because she had not done so in a while.
I decided not to contact Yoshie.
The three of them were no longer Fujiko, Junko, and Yoshie. It would be best to call them by their names in this world and to treat them as such.
I started walking to my workplace and thought I heard a metallic noise from underfoot.
There were fetters there. Or rather, I was overcome by the sensation of heavy chains around my feet.
Those chains were the “heavy” stories.
Those stories did nothing but bind us, but we still felt grateful for them and would occasionally use “light” stories to temporarily forget about them.
But those without physical bodies had certainly “lightly” escaped. And in doing so, they had left a hint telling us how to escape the stories.
Those of us with bodies remained here where we simply wandered through this world.