Mimizuku to Yoru no Ou: Chapter 2
Chapter 2 - The Threshold of Blessings
An old man extended both of his arms out as far as he could, neither one reaching the end of a large window. As he opened it, beams of sunlight rushed into the room and struck the red carpet.
In a wide, open room decorated with luxurious paintings, two men sat facing each other.
With a light thud, the younger man moved the white bishop with his long finger across the board.
The light from the sun and the reflections from the massive chandelier above made his hair shine a brilliant gold. His body gave an impression of fearlessness, but his eyes were gentle and blue, not changed since his boyhood.
He was seated in a well-fashioned chair facing a gray haired man who was just entering his old age.
The man moved his eyes, whose colors were somewhat faded, across the top of the board. He moved the shaved marble black rook across the board, taking the bishop without so much as a shiver.
"On that subject, tell me, does the rumor that Zai Gearn's principality and Sechiria have formed an alliance hold any ground?" the young man asked, moving his pawn out of range.
"From whom did you hear that?" the older man asked, not lifting his gaze from the chessboard.
"From a traveler from Sechiria I spoke with at the bar the other day. It seems like Gardalsia has opened its ports. They're prospering quite well over there," the young man said with a whistle. The old man heaved a sigh upon hearing his words. He moved his rough, wizened finger toward his knight, advancing it forward.
"That's a check."
The young man skillfully utilized his queen to avoid defeat.
"Sechiria is well sustained, eh?"
"It's because of their army... they're not very numerous, but they're the best of the best. Surrender for them was a difficult thing," the old man said solemnly. The wrinkles at the roots of his eyebrows gave the impression of old age.
"Another one falls to Zai Gearn," the young man said to himself. He lifted his face and smiled. As he did, he gave a youthful impression.
"So, I hear that Lord Zeliade's son was born yesterday. They were making a fuss over whether or not we would be holding a celebration."
"So the Lady Zeliade is safe as well?"
"Yes. Mother and son are both in good health."
"That is what's most important, is it not?" the old man said. The space between his eyebrows was carved with wrinkles.
I wish he would look a little more cheerful sometimes, the young man thought, giving an uncomfortable smile.
The old man placed his fingertip on his king and moved it, but he shivered with hesitation.
"How is Claudius?"
The young man raised his head suddenly at this question, coughing slightly in order to not appear rude.
"Why are you asking me? I'm not his father, you know."
"If I go myself, he'll act like there's nothing wrong." As he spoke, the old man's tone of voice seemed to deteriorate.
"Yeah, alright," the young man said, deciding to put up with it. He let out a laugh. "He's fine. So long as I saw him, at least." He then moved his knight, slightly pivoting it as he slid it across the board. "That's checkmate."
In his moment of downfall, the old man stared wide-eyed at his king.
He scanned the board over and over to find where he could have slipped up, but no matter how he looked at it, it seemed to be a perfect loss. He heaved a sigh and stood up, placing his hand against the back of his chair for support.
"Ann Duke... don't think you're getting away with winning against the king of your own country."
The young man called Ann Duke put the pieces away and stood up. And then, he laughed.
"Your majesty, surely you must allow your country's poster knight at least a bit of credit?" Ann Duke said jokingly.
The king's eyes became serious.
"If I may bring it to your attention, poster knight of Red Ark, have you thought about the plan for the subjugation of the demon king?"
The young man's response was quick.
"Of course not! Something like that would be such a pain."
Ann Duke waved his hand flutteringly and said, "Well then, you should get back to your kingdom's affairs, Your Majesty. If we mess around anymore, you'll get stuck having to listen to the cabinet minister's preaching." He laughed and opened the large, oak door to leave.
The man left in the room heaved a deep breath.
"It was startling to hear that from the Holy Knight. Damn him, that municipal housekeeper."
He gave one, great, spiteful sigh.
This was the district of Red Ark. It was a small land near the Forest of Night ruled by the king. This was the scene that the king saw from his private room in his castle.
When nightfall came, Mimizuku awoke at the foot of a large tree.
After slumbering for a while, she crawled sluggishly to the nearby river and washed her face. The sunset had dyed the whole forest red. The sun had already disappeared, and the bitter oranges in the vicinity shone like embers.
Mimizuku saw her face reflected in the river.
Thanks to the influence of the light, her face looked a bit like it was covered in blood. She was, as usual, horribly emaciated, but her cheekbones didn't seem to stick out much.
About once every two days, Kuro would bring Mimizuku food. He told her to call him anytime she needed help, but the need had never arisen. Looking around, the forest was overflowing with things to eat, and the things that Kuro would bring her were more than enough anyway. In fact, she would often vomit from overeating.
Energetic, she splashed the river's water into her face, washing her mouth while she was at it.
Her bangs became soaked in the process, and they began to drip. On her forehead reflected in the water, she saw the numbers there, just as they had always been.
The drops of water dripping from her bangs made the numbers shimmer.
Seeming to remember something, Mimizuku closed her eyes. She had already slept for a long time though, so she wasn't able to fall back asleep.
Finally, she lifted her head, and, shackles ringing, she stood up and walked forward.
Mimizuku didn't have anything to do in this forest. Before she came to the forest, she would work from morning to night, sometimes even straight through the night, so it was normal for her. Not doing anything was a strange feeling to her.
I'll go find him.
She had slept enough, and she wasn't hungry, so she wandered off the find the King of Night.
Since the forest was so huge, it was possible that she would find him, but it was also possible that she would never find him. She didn't have any kind of aim to go on from the beginning, so she searched as she would any other day, and hopefully she would find out something new.
A quiet place.
A place where it would seem like you're the only one alive in the world. A place where you couldn't hear anything but your own breath.
Above the trees.
Somewhere with water.
And therefore, a beautiful place.
So long as the King of Night was inside the forest, he would surely be in a place like that.
She didn't think to enter the mansion, as Kuro had told her not to. "The King of Night will become upset if you do so, so do not enter the mansion," he had said. So Mimizuku didn't enter. However, Kuro did not tell Mimizuku not to look for the King of Night.
Why wasn't she allowed to enter the mansion? Mimizuku couldn't imagine any reason why.
Mimizuku continued to walk, her shackles jangling all the while. Finally, the surroundings grew dark, and the light of the moon gently, quietly shone across the forest.
Mimizuku stopped. In the middle of the forest, there was a small, open area.
The area was horribly quiet. Nothing but the breathing of monsters lurking in the darkness could be heard. Mimizuku surveyed her surroundings.
She yelped. It was a yelp of delight, however. On the thick, withered branch of a beech tree, there was the King of Night. Even though he heard Mimizuku's voice, he did not turn to look at her. From beneath, Mimizuku looked at his moon eyes, which had changed to a golden color.
They're pretty today as well.
She felt incredibly happy.
"Um... uh... Your Majesty..."
Just like before, she hesitated when she spoke. It was only the smallest faltering. However, she didn't know any other way.
Calling out to him, Mimizuku came up to the roots of the withered tree and plopped down. Since the King of Night was not on a very tall tree this time, she could see him very well. It made her happy.
"Um, er... Uh..."
Mimizuku took a deep breath, and tried to come up with something to talk about. Because interfering with the King of Night was the only way.
First, she talked of work.
"I'll draw water."
It was work she was always made to do in the "village," however it was the first time she heard the words come from herself.
"Start a fire? Draw water? Bury trash? Hey. I'll do whatever you need."
Whatever. She could do whatever. It was all right. Since she would be dead any other way, she could do anything he wanted.
But the King of Night's response was simple.
"You're an eyesore."
With his low voice, his moon eyes. He treated Mimizuku like a pebble at the side of the road.
It's okay, I'm used to it.
She had always been treated that way. It was all right. However, there was something strange. Even though it was the same treatment, the King of Night was different from the people of the "village."
What was different?
"Hey, my name's Mimizuku. I came up with it myself," Mimizuku started to say for some reason. Even though she had been told she was an eyesore, she didn't feel as though she wanted to disappear. Unlike those times so long ago, the times in the "village," she didn't feel like fading away.
She felt like her words would mean something if she said them. The words from her mouth would reach someone's ears. She had a good feeling that the King of Night was this kind of someone. That was all there was to it.
"I wasn't always Mimizuku, you know... In the village, I did slave stuff, and before that, I don't remember anything. My name then was Mimizu. I also got called stuff like 'demon' and 'crap.' With a name like 'Mimizu', they said to me 'do you know earthworms do you? they eat mud, so eat it too' and got mud flung at me and stuff. Of course, I couldn't eat any of it..."
Mimizuku cackled shrilly.
And she continued to laugh.
"That's why I put the 'ku' on the end of Mimizu, and I called myself 'Mimizuku.' But that doesn't means I eat earthworms either... "
Realizing how strange her words sounded, Mimizuku laughed. She laughed to the point that her cheek muscles cramped.
A voice suddenly arose. It made Mimizuku's shoulders jolt up, and she raised her head.
The light of the moon was behind the King of Night, so Mimizuku couldn't see his facial expression. However, she was aware that those golden eyes were looking in her direction.
She felt her spine tingle.
It was pleasurable to the point of paralysis.
The King of Night then continued to speak.
"You only added the 'ku' of your suffering. You were most likely better off wherever you were."
Mimizuku blinked several times. She didn't know what to do. So she simply smiled powerlessly.
She relaxed her facial muscles and became a little more at ease. She waved her head left and right.
"Do you mean troubles like suffering? Who cares? If it's pretty, I'm happy. Even if you're suffering, isn't it better to be happy?" Mimizuku said without thinking much.
She stood up, making her shackles jingle, despite knowing that even if she reached out, she could never reach him.
"Hey, Your Majestyyyy--"
"Girl who names beasts," the King of Night said, feeling strangely drawn in by Mimizuku. "You are not a monster. I, am not your king." His voice shook the very air around them.
Mimizuku, again failing to understand him, was simply confused. That was how it was, true. The King of Night had said something completely logical.
Mimizuku didn't think that she was a human. However, she also didn't think that she was a monster. She had been called a demon before, but that was a different case. Rather, Mimizuku wanted to become a monster. She felt that if she could become a monster, and always be at the king's side, it would be better than being a human. But she knew that this was something she could not do. There were many things she couldn't do, but she wasn't completely aware of what she could do.
That wasn't enough; she had to think some more. That is to say, she couldn't call the king "Your Majesty." After all, she wasn't a monster.
"Call me what you like."
Kuro's words surfaced into Mimizuku's head. She smiled to herself, and then spoke.
"Alright then, Fukurou!" she said, holding out her index finger. "Fukurou! I'll call you Fukurou!"
Mimizuku and Fukurou. They were their own set . Whether or not the King of Night rejected or accepted this, Mimizuku didn't really care.
She became aware that Fukurou was looking up. What did he see? What was he thinking? Whatever it was, she was probably thinking too much about it. After all, when Mimizuku lived in the "village," she would always stare up at the sky for no reason.
When she stopped thinking, time would stop.
It would be as if she had died.
She vacantly recalled the days of the past. Mimizuku's recollections of the "village" seemed to have fallen apart, and her memories were dim, as if her spirit from that time had drifted far, far away.
"Hey. Hey, Fukurou," Mimizuku said in a whisper-like tone.
"Why... why won't you eat me?"
That's what she had come all this way for. Even though she hadn't wanted to take a single step anywhere, she came to the forest anyway in the hope that she would be eaten.
"Eat me... please..."
The branches above shifted about. Mimizuku raised her head. Pitch-black wings moved as if flapping several times.
Did he go?
That beautiful, beautiful King of Night.
"Don't go... Don't go..."
All of a sudden, two moons appeared before Mimizuku. Two moons. She felt as if her heart was going to stop. At the tip of her nose was Fukurou's elegant face.
His thin lips began to move.
"If I eat a human, I will surely throw them back up."
He then loudly flapped his wings.
Mimizuku blinked once, and in the next instant, the King of Night had disappeared into the darkness.
A single black feather fell to the ground.
Mimizuku, out of strength, sat down on the ground. She picked up the feather and held it with both of her hands, touching it to her lips.
"Something's not right..."
For some reason she couldn't understand, her chest felt tight.
"I'm not a human..."
The forest was quiet to the point that her ears began to hurt. Sitting in the darkness, she cast her eyes downward.
There was nothing she could do about the feeling in her chest. She wished she couldn't feel pain.
Rays of sunlight shone through the forest.
"Hey, Kuro. What should I do to get eaten by Fukurou?" Mimizuku asked while Kuro ate one of the pomegranates he had brought.
Kuro rustled his feathers a bit. His stature small as usual, he was sitting down facing Mimizuku.
"Fukurou?" Kuro responded, confused.
"Oh yeah, it's the King of Night's name. Since I'm not a monster, I can't call him as if he were my king... That's why I thought of something to call him and came up with Fukurou."
"And you called the King of Night as such to his face?"
"Yep. That's what I called him."
"... I see."
Kuro crossed his upper and lower arms diagonally, and seemed to think for a moment.
"An owl king. Certainly, certainly. That may well do," he said as if groaning, lifting his face. "Mimizuku."
She then realized that no one had called her Mimizuku before. Kuro wasn't a human; he was in fact something more wonderful.
Kuro slowly continued to speak.
"It seems you are not quite aware yet. That is, to the fact that you have been made several allowances."
Mimizuku tilted her neck to the side.
"Aye." Kuro nodded.
"In that case, I recommend that you go to the mansion."
"Mansion? You mean Fukurou's? Is it really okay?"
"Normally it would not be allowed. However, you seem to be a preferred guest of his."
Kuro then flew straight up, reaching eye level with Mimizuku.
"However, if I am wrong, you may be killed. If these are truly allowances, however, then your case will change. Mimizuku. If you truly do not fear death as you said, then what have you to fear now?"
Kuro's words were difficult to understand, but Mimizuku got the gist of it.
That's right, from the very beginning, Mimizuku's goal was to be killed. It was her wish, more than anything, to be eaten. If that was the case, then she had no reason to hesitate at this point.
"... Alright, I'll go."
Carefree, she began to walk toward Fukurou's mansion, dropping her half-eaten pomegranate.
Mimizuku began to walk ahead, leaving Kuro behind, but she suddenly turned around.
"But Kuro, why're you telling me all this? Isn't Fukurou your king?"
Mimizuku figured that it would make Fukurou angry to have his monsters dislike him.
"Indeed. Indeed, you are right, Mimizuku," Kuro said, flapping his wings.
"I wish only good fortune upon the King of Night. However, who really knows?"
They were dramatic words, but Mimizuku couldn't understand what he meant.
"Who really knows? Where is this gentleman's blessing?"
If only happiness were that simple, Mimizuku thought.
Translator's Notes and References
- mimizu (蚯蚓): earthworm
- she didn't eat mud being Mimizu (an earthworm), so she says she doesn't eat earthworms now being Mimizuku (an owl)
- ku (苦): pain, suffering
- Mimizuku means 'horned owl", and Fukurou (梟) means "owl"
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