A few hours after I was led to my quarters, Talcott, along with a servant dressed similary to a Victorian Maid, entered after a few knocks. Upon entering, Talcott expressed a sudden greeting with a hug. To which I immediately responded by pushing him away. It made be back a few steps, thinking I would be assaulted. Fortunately, it was resolved after Talcott apologized and explained that it was Libet’s custom. Even then, I thought it was not comfortable for me to suddenly receive a hug from a stranger.
Talcott was a man in his early twenties. He said he was knight serving under Libet’s fourth order of Knights—the Cataphracts. He had a handsome face coupled with a slightly spiky brown hair and brown eyes. His skin was on the light-brown side.
From that point on, Talcott, along with the maid, started answering the questions I had in my mind. Though some were redundant, I wanted to confirm everything I heard from the King and Madeleine for a second time.
The kingdom I was in was Libet. And the crown city, or sometimes called simply as The Capital, was named Issenheim. According to the map brought by Talcott, there are four other kingdoms aside from Libet. Academia, Brent, Laurel, and Niveria. But sadly, Talcott told me that Niveria had already fallen into the hands of the demons. At that time, he gnashed his teeth and scrunched his face into a visible anger.
“They take the lives of us humans so easily.”
There was another place on the left side of Academia, but it didn’t have a name. The maid told me it was composed of small city-states which lacked unity to form a kingdom of their own. Aside from that, they were scattered between Academia, Niveria, and the extensive desert at its west.
Nevertheless, the moment the map was laid out to me on a low table, I realized that it was far too different from the one I knew. It was not a place that reminded me of a place on Earth. To be exact, there was never a continent named Randia on the world map that I knew.
So… I’m really in a different world?
I didn’t know whether I should be happy or not. Because for one, I did not understand the reason why I was picked or chosen. And as a person who never knew how to wield a weapon aside from kitchen knives, and as a girl who liked to relax with tea in hand, fighting was beyond me. But I would be lying if I said that excitement for the unknown did not well up inside my chest.
That aside, there was another thing I realized upon seeing the map. The letters, or perhaps characters, were completely unknown to me. However, for some reason, I could understand their meaning. I could make up the words inside my mind like some sort of automatic translation. It was rather convenient, but at the same time, scary.
I had never expected such a thing. Because, since the time I met Madeleine in that room, the words they uttered were the ones I knew from the country I was born in. They spoke in my mother language. But now, I had confirmed that it was different.
Since I was already on the topic of language, I tried asking for a pen and a paper, but they gave me a quill, a bottle of ink, and a slightly thick piece of paper. Again, based on the architecture they used, I was reminded that they were far from the modern day I was used to. Anyway, I started writing the letters I knew, but in the end, the letters I drew were the ones I was familiar with. On the other hand, Talcott and the maid could not read what I have written. They told me that they have seen the characters before but the exact meaning was still unknown until this day.
So that weird translation doesn’t work on writing?
The fact that I could read, listen, and speak, but not write was uncomfortable.
“Hero Meiko, I believe that it was through God’s blessing that you could read and understand what we are saying. The same is true for speaking.” Talcott said.
He was sitting across the low table in a similar wooden chair. To my left was the maid that visited with Talcott. She stood there with a gentle smile on her face.
“Yes, a blessing. A blessing is granted to each and every Hero summoned. Those blessings come in different forms, but we have confirmed some similarities. Included among those similarities is the ability to communicate except for writing.”
“Why? Isn’t written communication crucial?”
“Please forgive me, I myself don’t know.” Talcott chuckled. “It might have a relation to Heroes sharing advanced knowledge to hasten our era’s development. But there was one philosopher that gave a possible reason as to why Heroes are forbidden to communicate and share advanced knowledge with us. The reason he gave was, ‘The people might end up not relying on Heroes if our technology is too advanced, hence the barred communication’. Although he said that, I’m not sure if that is the case.”
“… I think that philosopher has a good point.” I nodded with a finger over my chin.
The philosopher’s words were not far from the truth. Or so I thought. But if in case these people were given guns, planes, artillery, ships equipped with cannons, trains for transportation, bombs that have large destructive consequences, the people might focus their resources in those things instead of Heroes. But because it was not possible, the people believed in Heroes who received God’s blessing.
I asked them about demons. Although I was not interested in fighting them, I wanted to avoid them as much as possible. So it was better for me to know what they looked like. However, Talcott and the maid’s answer was vague. They pointed out that the demons varied in appearance, but most of the time, they bore animal-like features. In some cases, according to them, some are almost identical to humans, but they still had features like horns, a tail, or sometimes, clawed fingers.
While I was deep in thought regarding their vague answer, Talcott interrupted me.
“Hero Meiko, perhaps you have an idea about magic?”
“Magic?” I returned a puzzled expression.
“Yes, magic.” Talcott smiled.
“You mean magic tricks, right?”
“Magic tricks?” Talcott was bewildered. “No, I don’t think so. Anyway, it’d be better to show you instead.”
Shortly after Talcott sang a weird chant, a ball of light appeared a few inches above the palm of his hands. It was at the size of a balled fist.
“...” I was dumbfounded. There was not any sleight of hand from Talcott but a ball of light appeared in thin air. “T-this is magic?”
I wonder if I can—
Suddenly, I reared myself in surprise.
“W-wha!” I threw my arms in a panic as I lost my balance. Then, along with the wooden chair was sitting on, I fell to the floor with a clatter.
“Ow!” A slight pang struck my back and my head.
“Goodness!” The maid hurried to my side.
The same was true for Talcott. “Hero Meiko, are you okay?”
I blinked a few times while I stared at the ceiling where a small chandelier hung. The worried faces of Talcott and the maid peered from the side of my vision. They were offering me a hand while supporting my back to sit-up.
“I’m fine.” But rather than reach out to their hands, or lift myself up from my somewhat awkward position, I contemplated on the words that appeared inside my mind.
Light Ball—summons a ball of light on a specified location. It illuminates its surroundings. It is possible to move the ball at will. Possible modifications: scatter, size, and intensity.
“What the hell is this?” I muttered. Again, Talcott and the maid expressed worry.
“What do mean, Miss Meiko?”
“Are you sure you’re okay, Hero Meiko?”
Light Ball—a basic level light magic.
It seemed to respond to the thoughts I had. That aside, various other explanations were listed underneath. Or at least how I imagined it since it felt like it was a book that was deeply ingrained my mind.
Anyway, it consisted of things such as the required chant and its mana consumption. But rather than numbers, the mana consumption showed a bar which I was able to compare to another bar that indicated ‘Mana’. It was a familiar bar from the Role-Playing Games I played on a console that I was able to borrow few times from my friends.
“I’ll try something, please wait a moment.” As soon as I resolved myself, I started singing the chant. While I was chanting, the guide disappeared and was replaced by the words I needed to say. I tried imagining how the ball would appear with the modifications provided.
Manifest, Light Ball.
Then just like Talcott, but different, the Light Ball appeared. It appeared like scattered candle lights surrounding the small chandelier. It was little off, but I succeeded in making the magic appear.
A smile erupted on my face. “I did it!” I raised my arms and grabbed Talcott’s and the maid’s hands. They promptly lifted me up. “I did it! Look!” Like a child, I pointed at the chandelier.
“My, what a talented Hero you are Miss Meiko.” The maid gave a light giggle.
“Ahaha. This is quite a sight. To succeed in your first try, that’s true talent.” Talcott scratched his cheek.
“Eh? I just uttered the words that appeared in my mind. I don’t think it has anything to do with talent. Besides, maybe it was my blessing? In any case, it gave me the requirements needed for the magic. In the end, I just followed the instructions that seemed to be stored in my mind. But mostly, I just coupled it with—what’s wrong?”
Partway, I stopped with my explanation due to Talcott and the maid wearing knit eyebrows.
“Miss Meiko, I’m sorry but, if you were explaining about your blessing, I believe we won’t be able to hear it properly.”
“Yeah, the words you spoke seemed broken. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Well, I guess that just proves that a Hero’s blessing is something private or confidential.”
This time, it was me who wore a knit eyebrow. “Do you mean that, like explaining or communicating an advanced form of technology, I can’t tell anyone about my blessing?”
““Yes,”” Talcott and the maid answered in unison.
“Well, how to say this in another way. Err… It felt familiar. Or more like—it felt like a game guide.”
That was when a thought struck me.
Wait. Is this why they mentioned graphics? A game?
I recounted the mutters of the other Heroes I was summoned along with. But still, the graphics they mentioned was removed from the ones I knew. It’s completely different from the jagged pixels that I enjoyed.
So this means this isn’t a game… In that case, the blessing is replicating a game I knew? But why? To make it easy to comprehend and be comfortable with it?
Maybe I was lucky. Lucky that I was the first to realize that it wasn’t a game. That the blessing was making things convenient.
I have to tell them. They might get in trouble if they keep thinking this is a game.
Although I had no idea why they thought of it as a game, I felt the urge to tell them.
After a few praises and a few more exchange of questions and answers, Talcott left along with the maid. But after a short while, the maid returned with a service cart similar to those found in hotels. Then promptly, she served me my dinner.
“Please enjoy your meal.”
While I went through the answers I received that day, I started eating.
“Hmm… Won’t we Heroes be allowed to meet? I would like to talk to them.” The cutlery I picked up with the guidance of the maid clattered on the porcelain plates.
“Please don’t mind it for now. Tomorrow morning, everyone would be given free rein to roam the castle. You could use that time to meet with the other Heroes.”
While I was eating, I tried looking for an appropriate magic that I could use to locate the others using the blessing I called Magic Rule Book. There were various recommendations that came to my mind, but the most appropriate seemed to be Clairvoyance—a magic that allowed me to scout a location. However, the mana consumption was tremendous. It would leave me with less than an eight of my mana. But for me to freely look around the castle without moving an inch, it felt like it was a proper compensation.
But I did not finish there. Since I had this nagging feeling of my grandmother being worried sick due to my absence, I started skimming through the Rule Book with the word ‘transfer’ in mind. The magic recommended were:
From the ones I found, only Short Transfer was available for me to use. The rest indicated that I lacked the mana to use them. Aside from those, the ????? was far too suspicious. And because of that, I checked the details regarding the magic.
?????—a magic that enables the user to create a tunnel through the realm of the Gods. Possible uses: Hero Summoning, World Transfer, Soul Reconstruction, Vessel Destruction, and Invoke Deity.
Requirements unmet. Soul requirements unmet. Insufficient mana.
“... What?” I could not remember how long I stared at the wall on the other side of the table with a blank state of mind. But one thing I was sure of, the ????? was the one I needed to return.
“Is something the matter?” The maid asked.
“No, it’s nothing.” I shook my head.
Unhesitatingly, I checked the requirements.
A Sacrifice of 200 lives.
Soul and Blessing’s complete merge.
“This is...” I muttered. Impossible.
I shuddered at the thought of sacrificing 200 lives for me to return home. The amount of guilt would be impossible for me to bear. Just the thought of taking one life was already taxing for me. What more if it was 200? I have to be insane if I could shrug those 200 lives like nothing happened.
Wait… Didn’t it mention Hero Summoning?
A heavy and laborious thought dawned on me. Cold sweat peeked from my pores.
If that’s the case, then, lives were sacrificed when we were summoned?
I slumped forward and hid my face from the maid. She tried calling my name, but I stared at the unfinished food on my plate, ignoring her call.
I swallowed a mouthful of saliva. Four. Four of us were summoned… If I were to base it from that, then… 800 lives… eight-hundred lives!
The urge to puke welled in my stomach, but I resisted.
No, it’s different, right? The one listed needed a chant. And besides, that Soul Requirement is not possible for that inscription, right? That sacrifice requirement is probably an isolated case for that magic, right? That inscription was different from that unknown magic, right? It should be. It must be. There’s no way they’d sacrifice that many lives to summon Heroes. Right. Calm down. Nothing is proven yet. There’s no evidence. Calm down.
“Sorry, I lost my appetite; I feel exhausted too. So I’d like to sleep early if possible,” I replied while my sight remained on my unfinished dinner.
“If you’re feeling unwell, I could call for a healer.”
“No, it’s fine.” I waved my hand in dismissal. “I just need some rest.”
“… If that is your wish, then it shall be done.”
I should forget about that magic and look for another way.