Author: Ichirou Sakaki (Author of Scrapped Princess, Outbreak Company, Hitsugi no Chaika)
It was a mid-autumn day, the leaves falling.
I picked up a cellphone.
It was a model I had never seen before.
Of course–cellphones themselves are replaced with newer models every season, and there certainly is a large variety of both old and new types of phone. It isn’t a strange thing for me to encounter a cellphone model I’ve never seen before.
“The power source–I can’t open it.”
I open this flip phone, and hold down the button, which seems to be the switch, for a long time…but there’s no response at all. I guess the cellphone is completely out of power now.
“What do I do?”
It is evening, and I look around the park, muttering to myself..
This cellphone was dropped by the side of a bench in the park. I guess it wasn’t dropped there for long however. It doesn’t feel that dirty either way..
“This goes to the police–I guess.”
Logically, I should be doing this.
But the nearest station from here is about 15 minutes.
It’s 3 minutes to my house.
Any further, and I’ll be on the road to school.
“Whatever, I guess it’s fine.”
I’ll just leave home a little earlier tomorrow. Go to the station, then go to school. Guess that’s fine, so I decided as I slipped the phone into my uniform pocket, walking off.
A bell chime woke me up.
It kept ringing by my ear, but it was definitely not annoying. It empahsized my existence in this pitch darkness of silence.
I scanned the room, seeking the source of the sound.
I had no impression of it. It’s not an alarm, and not a phone ring.
“…Ah, just maybe.”
I reached my hand out in the darkness, switching on the lights, and went over to the school uniform hanging by my beside.
Yep. The sound’s coming from the uniform pocket.
“What? Isn’t it out of battery…?”
I muttered to myself, and pulled out the retrieved cellphone.
It was blinking and ringing as the notifications continued.
I flipped the cover, and saw the screen.
But…while the LCD was giving a white glow, there was nothing shown.
“Did someone throw it away because it’s broken? No, if that’s the case, it shouldn’t be ringing.”
There’s no way it should be ringing at this point.
Maybe it’s because part of the functions remained. Maybe it’s not a message notification, just an alarm. But what about the power? Did I use it wrongly?
Either way, I couldn’t leave it be.
I couldn’t sleep if this kept up. I looked at the clock on the wall, and saw it was 3am.
I frowned, and tried pressing a certain button. I was hoping for some good luck, that I could shut the alarm like that.
The next moment, an anxious voice reached my ears.
I couldn’t help but stare at the cellphone in my hand.
There was still no notification on the screen.
It was incredulous to think this cellphone could make a call.
“Please respond. Please! Please! I beg of you…”
I blinked as I stared down at the phone.
Maybe if I kept pressing the buttons, I could cut the call.
But I didn’t do so.
There wasn’t really a reason. To put it, the voice I heard sounded so desperate.
It’s the voice of a girl, pleading for help, as though she got involved in a story.
“Erm, well, what’s the matter?”
Once I spoke into the phone, a certain person on the other end answered with much graciousness.
“Finally! There’s a response…!”
“Ah, sorry, mind waiting?”
There was then a joyous voice from the speakers, and I gained a sense of guilt, wanting to escape from the call.
“Sorry, I found this phone on the road. I’m not the owner. I’m going to return it to the police tomorrow…”
So I tried to defend myself, clumsily.
The girl on the other end of the phone did not seem to understand what I was saying at all.
“My apologies. I do not understand…”
“Ah, in other words.”
“I seek your understanding for being so foolish despite being the Oracle.”
“But God, we can only rely on you at this point. Please forgive my ignorance as I seek your grace, and grant your prophecy in your manifolds and great mercy…”
Seriously, what’s she talking about?
Despite–I shouldn’t be saying this, but I was starting to feel suspicious.
…Did the person on the other end of the phone think she was talking to God?
GIving prophecies through phone?
What joke is this? How’s there anyone this stupid?
“O God, there is not much time left…with my power, I have only one night to hear your prophecy…!”
What in the world is going on?
So I silently thought to myself.
Was the girl on the other end someone with her mind blown? Or–was it some kind of game? If it’s a prank, that’s a really cruel one.
“Oh God, please save us…please grant us knowledge…”
At that moment, I was feeling a little annoyed.
I was called in the middle of the night, without any warning, and received a ridiculous phone call. Anyone would be unhappy about this. Furthermore, I picked up this phone, and it had nothing to do with me.
In that case….
So I answered. I unwittingly used an uppity tone, like one of God himself.
“So I shall proclaim.”
“Ahh God! Thank you very much.”
So the girl on the other end exclaimed, sounding completely exhilarated.
“Ahh, but…the time is…”
“Yeah–I guess there’s that.”
So I muttered.
There’s a limit to how much I could talk in a single night. I think the girl did mention this before.
“Then, tomorrow night, once more…”
She said, and with a beep, the line was cut.
“…What was that all about?”
I took the phone away from my ear, staring at it.
The phone was completely silently.
The screen was dark, and there was no response even after pressing the buttons.
If this was a prank, it certainly was elaborate.
The phone might have been modified, with an installed clock, to be switched on at certain times.
It’s one thing if I were the legendary warrior or chosen one, but I never expected to be called ‘God’ by someone else. Since I was called by the ‘Oracle’, in this sense, I definitely did feel divine.
“…Are we seriously continuing this tomorrow?”
So I muttered as I frowned.
“Will she be calling at 3am every night?”
And on the second night, this premonition came true.
And so, the next morning, I could not hand over the phone to the police.
As for the reason why, I couldn’t really explain. If I had to, I would say I was curious about what would ‘happen next’.
I just wanted to follow with her delusions. There might not be any real danger or problems, so I thought. Besides, we never met. I didn’t think it would be a scam or a new cult or something.
So I put the cellphone into my bag, and lived the same old boring school life.
“…During the Battle of Nagashino, Nobunaga Oda…”
The Japanese History teacher prattled away at the podium.
I ignored everything that was the lesson, and paid full attention to the outside of the window.
Not to brag, but my grades weren’t good. Well, they’re kind of decent in elementary school, but they’ve been dropping once I got into middle school. In High School, it was difficult just to get them to average.
But well…it’s kind of boring.
As for why I continued to attend school despite all these, it’s just because I don’t want to deal with the fuss. If I skip school, my parents and teachers would keep nagging. If I repeat my year, the useless bondage would last longer.
I might as well give up, hang out with the delinquents, give up on everything else pretentious, not care about the consequences, and get involved with some dumb stuff. Great if I could do that.
There’s nothing that could get me completely mesmerized.
In the end, these things are all as meaningless as going to school for class. None of them have anything to do with my future. It’s just a hollow pastime.
Love too was the same.
Dating, kissing, and then sex. Whether they go well or not, the future wouldn’t change much.
Everything in the future was obvious.
So…I was just tired about the predictable future of this 16 year old me, where everything was a matter of fact.
I unwittingly reached into my bag, touching that cellphone.
Maybe it might switch on during class, and that girl might say something ridiculous again…somewhere within my heart, there was such a hope.
And that–would make things interesting.
So I looked into the endless horizon beyond the window, into the hopeless ordinary sights, muttering to myself.
The moment the clock pointed 3am, the cellphone powered on, making an upbeat melody.
I brought the phone to my ear, and took a deep sigh.
I pressed to receive.
The utterly agitated voice squeaked out in an instant.
“Ahh, thank goodness, God! I was so worried thinking if what happened yesterday was just a dream.”
I gave a wry smile.
The dream of the crazy girl. I guess I was the nice guy for playing along with her nonsense just because ‘I couldn’t predict the future’.
“Oh God. Thank you for your graciousness–”
“Enough with the pleasantries. Don’t you have a time limit? Even though you said you need my help, it sounds like you can’t do anything other than the pleasantries.”
“Please guide us, o God, to the path we should advance forth.”
“The dark demons are threatening our Kingdom. They used to appear like magical beasts, attacking us. It seemed there was a certain commander recently, and they started attacking our kingdom in hordes…”
I nearly let out a long sigh.
Really, she’s a goner. There’s no hope saving this goner. Kingdom? Attacks from dark demons? Somebody leading them? No anime, even those targeted at kids, would have such a stupid plot.
Honestly, I was disappointed…but I was a little curious about how this stupid story would end.
“Well, tell me the details. What is your country facing. How many of the dark monsters are there? How strong are they? How much manpower does your country have? Tell me everything.”
I asked these questions with a mischievous streak. If the crazy girl was just being delusional, her bluff would be revealed once we got to these details.”
“Th-the time is…”
I looked back, and found that it was already 3.02am, 40 seconds.
“I will definitely continue to offer my prayers tomorrow. God, so please…!”
At this moment.
Like a phone call being hung up, her voice suddenly vanished.
“She ran away…?”
I sighed, and stared at the cellphone in my hand.
In conclusion, she never ran away.
She spent another three days after that explaining the situation.
Anyway, she was stammering away, probably because she was bad at explaining things, but through the phone, she managed to elaborate the situation of her country.
“The sword wielding men fought hard…”
Starting from the fourth day, I prepared a checklist beforehand, waited for her call, the ‘secret art’ to hear the prophecy as she described it. I then asked her questions, and recorded her replies in the computer.
After all, each call would only last three minutes.
If I were too casual, that time would be used up immediately. I was a little anxious given how slow she explained things, but after about a week or so, I sort of understood the ‘setting’.
The stage was a ‘kingdom’.
And she was the princess.
However, it was rather different from the Middle Ages England and France. Might be more ancient than that; might even be like Yamatai. Religion and politics remained inseparable, and it’s the princess’ mission to be the miko serving God.
In other words, that’s the situation in which she’s calling me.
She’s a miko who was supposed to receive God’s prophecy.
And the ‘enemy’ were the ‘dark monsters’.
They were cruel, and it was difficult determining if they were human or beast. Unlike normal beasts though, they had some intelligence, and could use rod and stone weapons. In a fantasy story, they would be demons, kobolds, man-eaters.
They were a little bigger than humans, strong, but weaker in intelligence, and never would have thoughts of groupthink, so far at least. Even if they did encounter humans, the humans could wipe them out by gathering together.
But suddenly, a powerful leader showed up.
Under this leader, or the ‘demon lord’ as I would call him, the dark monsters began invading the Kingdom.
Speaking of which, this Kingdom…
Well, they’re too peaceful or something…in any case, they had no concept of an army, war or something.
They had swords, spears, bows and arrows, but they only had them for personal use, and never thought of using them for group combat.
Of course there was no way they could win.
Or rather, I might say it’s pretty amazing they lasted this long and wasn’t invaded. However, it’s pointless to nitpick at the world inside that crazy girl’s mind.
“First, organize an army.”
“Army? What is–”
Wait, you don’t know that?
I clicked my tongue, and began to explain.
Before I knew it, two weeks passed.
The first week was used to assess the situation.
The next week was used to explain what an army was.
Well, at least she understood the concept of fighting in groups, and said she would try it out. There should be some resistance at least when it came to dealing with those monsters.
I muttered to myself as I sat before the desk.
“There aren’t many enemies, but they’re stronger. Fighting them head on isn’t going to lead to victory, aren’t going to win fighting them head on, and you lack training, so one week of preparations isn’t going to be of much use–”
At this moment.
“…What am I doing?”
Even I couldn’t get what I was doing.”
Before I knew it, during my nightly conversations with her, I started pondering seriously on how this ‘kingdom’ should deal with the ‘dark monsters’.
“I guess humans fighting the dark monsters head on might be too tough…”
“Don’t fight them up close in front. Shoot them with arrows.”
“But the power of a bow or two…”
“Well, just improve the power of the bow.”
It was simple logic. To improve the power of the bow and arrow, they would need bigger bows. They should abandon focusing on human strength, and use the concept of the wheel, or lever, to create a larger bow that could fire heavier arrows. This should be of utmost priority.
“But the archers…”
According to her, it was really perilous to fight the dark monsters head on, and she clearly hoped to fight with the archers as focus.
But it would take time to pull the bows and fire. During this time, the fast monsters might close in on the archers and attack.
“And if the bows are bigger, the time to pull the bows will be longer…”
Well, that made sense.
She’s a crazy girl, but she was completely right. So I frowned and muttered away, only to have a sudden inspiration.
“Divide the archers into three groups.”
“Into three groups?”
“Into three groups. Once the first is done, get the second group forward to fire a second shot. Once the second is done, the third goes forward to fire. While the second and third groups are firing, the first group prepares for the next shot. Theoretically, you can fire the next shot in one third the usual time, so just keep repeating the process.”
She seemed pretty moved.
Of course–I didn’t think of this tactic. Anyone who read some Japanese history, the warring states era, would notice…this was the tactic employed by Nobunaga Oda’s musketeers when they defeated the Takeda cavalry at the battle of Nagashino.
It just so happened that the content mentioned in class two weeks ago lingered in a corner of my mind.
Even if I considered the difference between muskets and bows, the tactic should be rather effective.
“Thank you very much…I shall hurry!”
“I too shall consider other tactics.”
The ‘three minute prophecy’ that night ended just like that.
“–What’s the matter?”
It was after school, and I was about to leave the classroom, only for someone to call me from behind.
I turned around, and standing there was my school year head.
“You’ve been working harder recently.”
So the head said with a smile.
Initially, I didn’t understand what he meant.
But according to what the head meant, my attitude to class recently had changed quite a bit. It was not just his opinion too, for the other teachers too had the same. Also, my grades had been improving during the sudden quizzes.
“Found your motivation?”
“…Well, I can’t say.”
I left some ambiguous words, and turned to leave.
“Keep it up!”
The head called out loudly.
Thinking hard about it, I couldn’t say I had no idea.
It was because of the ‘Oracle’.
Two months ago, once she got the sweet victory of Nagashino, which I was sure was a complete imitation of Nobunaga Oda’s tactics, there was a drastic change in the situation between the kingdom and the dark monsters.
TIll this point, the kingdom had managed to force back the dark monsters through heavy prices, and only then did they begin to achieve overwhelming victories, without any casualties. That particular victory rallied the citizens, and there was much positivity.
The citizens were cheering.
Honestly, so was I.
I never thought that my useless knowledge would be effective in unexpected moments. Though it was in the world of the crazy girl, I was no longer just keeping the knowledge imparted into me, but using them. This gave me a sense of fulfillment I never had before.
“Thank you very much! Your teachings had granted us great help, God…!”
She was elated.
It was probably the first time since I was born that someone actually expressed this much joy to me. This might be the ‘motivation’ the head spoke of.
And so, I began studying on various knowledge seriously.
Not just about Japanese history either. Mathematics was really helpful to crafting tactics, while social studies and geography encapsulates knowledge on how to manage a ‘kingdom’ during the chaos of war.
Physics and chemistry were thoroughly important in developing new weapons, and by combining them with geography and history, I could discover ways to develop agriculture and construction. Biology could be used to determine the nature of the dark monsters, and to craft out effective tactics.
Even the modern Japanese and English, which I assumed to be useless, were not to be ignored. I had to learn how to effectively express my views, to grasp the conversation through words and meaning, and to simplify them for conversation. I learned lots of useful tips in these two subjects.
It was interesting.
It resembled a game emulating reality, but was different from sitting in front of a computer, or playing with a controller.
During this limited time, I kept talking with the girl who thought of me as God, guiding her on how to manage and defend a kingdom, and before I knew it, I was immersed in this refreshing experience.
I never felt that I was learning.
The only reason was to simply to hear the elated voice in the phone call, reporting on the results. I greedily absorbed knowledge by staying in the library after school, slowly digesting it in my mind.
Some short three minutes.
After much hardship, the foundations were laid, and adding them together, a long time passed. We never got to meet, and it wasn’t dating time, but before I knew it, I began to anxiously await the phone call at 3am in the morning.
“Yes! It is all thanks to you, God…!”
The story of the ‘kingdom’ was finally being stabilized.
After many victories, the attacks of the dark monster army became infrequent, and there were hardly battles recently.
At the same time, the various methods I taught her with regards to agriculture and construction, contributing greatly to the development of the ‘kingdom’. In other words, the stronger the country got, the more beneficial the efforts against the army of dark monsters got. If the ‘demon lord’ kept losing, he would lose trust, and the army of dark monsters would lose its unity.
Everything was proceeding smoothly.
It was probably for that reason that our conversation was no longer as urgent as it used to be. Slowly, there was some idle talk mixed into the conversation.
“Anyway…how old are you?”
“Me? 16 this year.”
“Hmm. About time to find a lover. Or maybe given the different values you have, it is a suitable time for marriage, right?”
She sounded really cute whenever she got tense. I could only imagine her blushing furiously, her pitch raised.
Of course, I knew nothing of her appearance.
“Th-this has…nothing to do with me!”
“I-I have been listening attentively to your voice, God, leading the people to a better future. So, falling in love with a male, getting married…these are things I have no time to indulge in! I-I-I”
“Understood. Sorry sorry.”
I laughed as I apologized.
“Ah, no, you do not have to apologize, God.”
So my conversation with her continued.
She was really serious, always working hard, being all dignified, and cute.
Sometimes however, she would show a cute side.
So surely it was this moment that I fell for her.
It was almost a year since I picked up the phone.
And the ending suddenly came.
That day, she sounded really gloomy.
No, thinking back about it, her voice was getting weaker by the day. I just never realized it.
“I can, no longer, talk to you, God…”
“No, just wait a moment.”
I suppressed the faltering feelings in my heart, asking.
We only had three minutes, and I couldn’t waste time on messy, meaningless words.
“What’s going on?”
The story of the ‘kingdom’ she and I came up with was going well. There was no way she was feeling unhappy. There was no need to end the story. There couldn’t be such a need.
“I am at my limit.”
So she said.
“I had reported to you that this ability to hear God’s prophecies had spread for generations, and that our tribe was exalted as kings.”
How was it possible that a society with no agriculture technology, let alone an army, could have some form of royalty, the most privileged of all hierarchy.
This ability probably was unique to the tribe itself. Like Queen Himiko of the former Yamatai leading her people as a miko, a seer–
“But this power to listen to God’s prophecies will reduce our lifespan.”
“I probably will be unable to live to see the sun the next morning.”
“…What, are you saying…?”
No, don’t panic. It’s a conversation I planned hard for.
We only have 3 minutes.
So I reminded myself.
“I do not know if you are willing to listen to my confession for the final time.”
“I was born as a miko princess, so anything ordinary girls can have, like falling in love with boys, I cannot.”
I still remembered her mentioning this before.
“So it has been a great joy for me to talk to you, God. You treated me like an ordinary girl when talking to me…and I always forget I am a miko, a princess during our conversations. I end up becoming an ordinary girl.”
She risked her life to talk to God, gained helpful prophecies, and was a pillar of support.
Royalty was actually another word for live sacrifices.
Thus, it should be impossible for her to live as an ordinary girl. Royalty was the last ace of an entire ‘kingdom’, precious sacrifices. Thus, she probably lived a life of confinement, never able to make friends with those of her age, or lovers. Even at this point, she was probably still living the confined life.
Suddenly, I noticed.
Over the past year I communicated with her, she never mentioned anything specifics about friends. Also, from what I understood of the ‘kingdom’, she was the only resident in the ‘kingdom’. There probably was nobody of equal stature to her.
“So…I selfishly…used this power to communicate with you, God, even though it was to be used for the country’s future. But, before I knew it, for my own delight…I used the limited time…but, I was happy…to be able…to talk with you…like an…ordinary…innocent girl…”
She was not the only happy one.
So was I.
“It is arrogant of me…to fall in love with God.”
“Please forgive my folly…”
“Wait, wait, don’t hang up. I!”
But her voice was like a fly, unable to be distinguished. If what she said was true, then it might explain why her life was near its end.
“God, I like you. I love you…”
Only then did I realize we knew of neither side’s name.
Nobody else knew of our conversation.
During this conversation, names were unnecessary.
It was a cliche, yet natural word.
After that, the voice vanished from the phone, and so did the light from the screen.
But I couldn’t help but yell.
“Don’t go! Hey! I too–”
I didn’t know to continue, and could only stare blankly at the phone.
Just three minutes.
These three minutes were too short for me to convey the feelings accumulated in my heart, or how I should respond to this issue.
After a while.
I tossed the phone onto the desk, sobbing.
“Haa…hahaha. What a lie. It’s all a lie. Right from the beginning…that crazy girl…that made up story…I just found it interesting. I was just fooling around with someone with a crazy delusion…”
There was no such miko princess to begin with.
Life is like a drama, all the three minutes accumulated over the year was an act.
Thus, I had no need to falter.
My tears couldn’t stop falling.
It was in the midst of the night, 3.03am.
I wept silently, overwhelmed by feelings I couldn’t understand.
So…after a year, the ‘kingdom’ story she and I made up ended.
Right, it’s a story.
It’s not real.
There’s too many unnatural parts, thinking back about it. Maybe it’s because I was too passionate about this self-insert game that I ignored these obviously unnatural parts.
I was happy. Really happy.
Happy about her happiness.
I never knew her name, never saw her appearance, and thought this strange relationship would continue.
And then, all stories would come to an end after all.
Lying before me were the empty days, exactly as they were a year ago.
I lost all mood to go to school. I listlessly wandered the streets, without any destination in mind.
Before I knew it, I was in the middle of some foreign environment.
It was a neighboring school area, right about evening, after school. There were middle school and high school students passing me by in droves.
“Hey, we’re going to Saiguuji High for a mixer!”
I suddenly heard this voice.
“You’re coming along right, Hime?”
“No no no. She’s still keeping her virginity for the prince charming in her dreams.”
“Eh? What? What do you mean?”
“Wait! Stop! That’s not it!”
Someone was loudly shrieking, defending herself.
I seemed to have heard this voice somewhere before.
I stopped and turned to look towards the girls in uniform, approaching me.
“Ah, sorry. Not a prince, but a God on a white horse?”
“Like, there’s a God in her dreams, that she’s a real princess in the dreams, found God to talk because she had to save the country!”
“Really? So Hime here is the daydreamer type?”
“So I say, it’s just a dream…just…a…dream…”
“She said she couldn’t forget the God that appeared in that dream!”
“You can’t do that though, Hime, even if you’re an airhead. You’re going to end up like those otaku declaring anime characters as ‘this is my waifu’.”
“I said that’s not it! Listen to me!”
The girls then passed me by while I stood still.
Before I realized, I turned back immediately.
And I ended up crashing into an uncle on the pathway.
“Hey, watch where you’re going, kid!”
Uh oh. It’s a guy in shades, a white leather trench coat, with silver accessories all over him, no tie. He’s basically having a ‘I’m a yakuza’ label pasted on his chest.
The uncle lifted me by the collar, and said with daggers.
“You don’t look when you walk!?”
I earnestly apologized.
More than the fear I had of the uncle, I was more afraid of losing sight of the girls.
“I got careless! Sorry!”
The uncle let me go, shrugged, and left.
I coughed, lifted my head–
There was a girl in uniform standing before me.
It was the girl they called ‘Hime’.
But why was she so close to me?
I looked forward, and saw her two friends looking over in shock.
It seemed the girl ran over here by herself.
Only then did I notice.
When I apologized loudly to the uncle.
She must have heard my voice.
The girl lowered her head perturbedly, blushing as she spoke.
“You may think that I may be weird in the head, or something…”
My voice was unbelievably calm.
Like, a God leading lost sheep.
The girl blinked, staring at me.
Her face might be cuter than the image I had imagined.
“Because I might be as weird in the head as you.”
I finally managed to find you, after being only able to hear you.