By Morino Ion
I have a childhood friend.
That friend became the hero and saved the world.
We were born in a small village. We were the only ones born that year, our houses were next to each other, our mothers and fathers were close friends, and we were both boys, so we became friends as if it were only natural.
And we played together, caught colds together, fell over together, cried together, and laughed together.
But as we aged, I came to find out. Unlike me, who didn't have any particularly special traits, that guy was amazing. His face was pretty, and since he grew up tall, it wasn't just the village girls, he was even popular with the girls in the town over. When it came to books, he just had to read through them once to memorize them, he was quick on his feet, and he was good at hunting as well. No shit he'd be popular.
We did stupid things, made the adults angry, were put to cleaning the toilets together, complained it was a pain and went off to play, only to make them angry again. When we were kicked out to sleep in the shed, we made a ruckus all the way through the night, received the iron fist to the head, and grew older together.
In the far, far capital, I heard the evil spirits were doing bad things all over the place, but our village was out in the sticks, brimming with nature (in fact, that's all we had), so we still had the blessings of the fae and it was completely someone else's business.
Anyways, with this and that, we were fifteen, out shopping in town as per usual, and we were surprised. In that town that had so many people our knees gave way the first time we stopped by, there was such a crowd gathered, it made me liken the town's normal state to our own village.
Me and my childhood friend went to have a bit of a go, if you become the hero, I'll pick you those nuts from the reaaally hard to reach place in the forest, or so we had some stupid pokes at one another as we got in line.
My turn came around, and naturally unable to draw that needlessly heavy sword, I felt just a bit relieved I didn't speak out about my slight hopes before my hand reached the hilt. Not a snowball's chance in 'ell, I gave a grand laugh as I handed off the sword to my friend.
And the sword I had suspected to be welded shut, with the scabbard still in my grasp, I saw the sword alone slide out and settle itself in my childhood friend's hands.
Those cheers and jeers that had been so noisy died out, and while everyone's eyes gazed at my friend with looks of shock, my childhood friend was more surprised than any of them. In his pretty eyes, for some reason, it wasn't the sword that he had just pulled out, but the stupid face I was making that was reflected. Even now I can remember it well.
After that, up and down, left and right, front and back, it was huge news.
They wanted him to defeat the lord of the spirits, they wanted him to go on a journey for that sake. My childhood friend tacked on a condition before he accepted.
Since he was at it, he coulda just asked for enough money to play around the rest of his life, but that's all he asked for.
To add onto that, his parents also asked for it. To add onto that addition, my parents kicked me out and said I definitely had to follow him. To add on even further, everyone in the village, and the king who had made a dubious face at first, and the vassals, and the magicians, and the swordsmen, at this point, everyone in eye's reach asked for it.
There was only one reason.
My childhood friend was the greatest failure in human history when it came to a sense of directions.
When you think he's walking behind you, he disappears, when he's walking in front of you, he's gone when you blink, when he's walking beside you, he's not there the moment you laugh and reach to pat his shoulder. What sort of horror is this?
Even when he's so popular, that's the reason he can never keep a girl long. First off, he can't make it to the meeting place. Even if he does, he disappears. He vanishes even if you're holding hands, so what am I supposed to do? I'd end up dropping him off at date spots, and they'd treat me as a hindrance and spread strange rumors all over. It brings tears to a man's eyes.
His lack of directional sense only grew worse by the year, and as I searched for my childhood friend who wouldn't return for three days if played poorly, I grew some confidence in my needlessly trained walking abilities.
The robust knights, and the greatest magician in the country soon gave up on apprehending my childhood friend, so it ended up that I was to tag along on this spirit king extermination journey. It's a right bother.
With this and that, we went on a journey to exterminate some source of trouble.
Before we left, the village got together to hold a banquet. With teary eyes, the village chief told my childhood friend, "You're the pride of this village," and, Do your best for the sake of the world." He also told me, "Well, yeah, do something," and, "Try not to die." Hey, village chief, sit down there for a second.
From the very beginning, our journey went through stormy seas. When the magician, the twin swordsmen, the prince, and the prince's attendant were the only ones who were supposed to come along, the princess slipped her way onto the boat. With her long hair trimmed short, the princess who appeared from a barrel was quite the crazy woman, but I was chasing my childhood friend and ended up jumping into the sea after him, so I didn't have the time to care.
As we excelled at racing around the mountains and forests, we had learned to use the hunting bow, the knife that would always prove useful, and the wood chopping hatchet, so our traveling companions decided to teach us the sword. We even learned from the princess. The princess was a sword master whose level the average knight could never hope to reach.
I got beaten up a lot.
A few days after we crossed the sea, I saw my first monster.
Everything I learned was blown away, and when I had fallen, shaking on my ass, that guy stepped out front and waved the legendary sword.
I was no good at all; I shoulda just given a stupid laugh like I always did, but at that time, I couldn't laugh no matter what I did. In that instant I looked down, not wanting anyone to see my face, the voices praising my childhood friend grew confused.
The twin swordsmen had their arms around his shoulders on both sides, laughing along with him, and yet he had gotten lost in the blink of an eye.
By the way, after I found the lost boy, when I was leading him back to our comrades, my childhood friend became lost one more time. All despite the fact I was holding his hand so he couldn't escape, and making sure not to take my eyes off of him. I'm going to stop blinking…
And childhood friend of mine, give back my seriousness.
In battle and even the journey itself, let alone useless I was even a hindrance. If you asked why I was here, I would answer lost child duty without hesitation. You could also say I had no time to think over the meaning of my existence or pride or any rubbish like that. I mean, when I used to search for him in familiar lands, now we were in a place where neither I nor he had any sense for the area.
And I would search for him. Walk and search, run and search, get angry and search, laugh and search, eat while I search, and rub my sleepy eyes as I search.
Within those days, as expected, I could only run away in battle and I was always apologizing to our comrades. When I did, our comrades made blank faces and tilted their heads, so I could only look blankly as well.
Our comrades told me they wouldn't even be able to travel without me and laughed. My friend also laughed. I got in a good punch on him.
Along our journey, there was a time when I was abducted by a spirit.
The spirits knew everything from his directional sense to the local specialty products of our homeland, but there are still some things they don't know, I thought as, from behind the spirit beating me black and blue, I saw my childhood friend leap out making a face that turned even the spirit pale.
He would always make a fashionable entrance reaching out a hand and telling me to go.
Before he became the world's hero, my childhood friend was my hero.
Well, when I gave a bashful laugh and tried to grab his hand, he would be lost, though!
At least give me a second!
Burned by the spirit's flame, while the fire left in my body continued eating into me leading me along the boundary between life and death, I saw nothing but dreams of the past.
I was surprised to see the magician sobbing as well. When she kept declaring to me that useless men weren't her type, she cried and cried saying she was glad I survived. Then she hit me. The fact she wouldn't stay sweet to the end was, well, kinda cute.
It's just that all the fingers of my right hand my childhood friend held tight were now broken. You bastard.
After many a twist and a turn, the troubles we faced upon reaching the spirit king's palace were difficult to describe in words.
And thus the world was saved.
By the way, the troubadours changed that part into a wonderfully cool heroic tale. When I was lowering my head, apologizing for all the trouble we had caused them, the hero got lost. I found him and smacked him.
One way or another, we became heroes, and my childhood friend married the princess. I proposed to the magician.
My childhood friend had a child as well, but luckily, while he took after him quite a bit, the kid had no trace of his father's lack of directions, and everyone pat their chest in relief. The one more relieved than anyone was my childhood friend; he was so relieved the power left his body, and he leaned his entire body weight onto me. I complained he was heavy as I tried to pat him on the back only to find he wasn't there.
With this and that, we were having fun another day.
Even though I was already an old man, nothing had changed. I shouted Uoooooh! As I ran like the devil, spending my days searching for the hero.
I have a childhood friend.
My childhood friend became the hero, and saved the world while serving as my hero as well.
And today once more, my hero was in good health and lost.
I have a childhood friend.
From the moment I attained sentience, I could see it. I could see them. And I could hear them. The voices calling for me flooded me from all around. The hands beckoning for me sprouted from all I could see.
'You will become our king.'
'You were never supposed to be a lifeform of that world.'
The voices, the hands, they would sway in front of me, beckoning me on.
I thought I had to return, but as if a bell was ringing out in my head, those reverberating voices buried up my thoughts. I have to return, the more I thought I had to go back, the more the voices would call.
'That's right, return.'
'Return to the place you're supposed to be.'
'It is only at that moment, that you will become you.'
Those voices, those hands, they covered up the sky. They shut off the wind. They made the ground below me disappear.
And I fell. I fell, I fell, I kept falling some more.
The voices, the hands disperse.
My childhood friend slid down into the marsh and hit me on the head.
"You idiot! We're going home!"
He gripped my hand and led me away. My childhood friend born on the same day, at the same time, because he had come to find me in the bog, his shoes had become completely soaked. He never got angry over that, though he was eternally angry that I interrupted his snack time.
On a bad day, I would disappear again and again, but there was never a time where he didn't look for me. Even if we fought, even when I said something terrible, my childhood friend would search and bring me back.
Once, I asked why he would search for me, and my childhood friend said, "Hah?" picking at his ear in low spirits.
"It'd be boring as hell without you."
I see. So my childhood friend will be bored without me.
Then I really must go back. These obscure somethings were always following me around, and they were growing thicker year by year, but no matter what happened, I had to go back. That was the first time I held such a strong desire.
When my childhood friend tried jokingly to pull the hero's sword, I ended up drawing it and became the hero.
But for some reason, those hands never obstructed my childhood friend.
That's why I could return.
There was one time my friend was abducted by a spirit.
The moment I thought that, I could no longer hear a single sound in the world. Return, return, the resounding voices and the white, blank hands covering my world were all I could perceive.
For some reason, I thought there would be no return if I ever let go of that hand. I didn't know whether it was me or my friend who wasn't coming back, but if nothing, I knew that I couldn't let go, so I hung on for dear life itself.
In some part of me, I thought it couldn't be helped if I went away. But my friend disappearing from the world… that alone was something I couldn't bear.
I was told we had arrived at the spirit king's castle, but I could no longer see a thing. Countless dozens of white hands sprouted, surging all around me like a wave.
The spirit king spoke.
I see, so from even before I was born, I wasn't human. It felt strangely natural. The white hands clinging onto me, leading me, were residents of the world I was supposed to belong to, and in truth, I was supposed to destroy the world I was in now.
'Return with me.'
The moment the spirit king's hand and smile overlapped with that of my dear friend's, I had lopped off his head.
By my slaying of the spirit king, the hands and voices grew just a little reserved.
I properly fell in love and married the smiling girl whose face turned red all the way to the nape of her neck fully exposed by her shortened hair. In the same year as my childhood friend, I had a kid.
The hands and voices still called out to me. If I let my guard down for just a moment, I would find myself alone.
No matter how much they led me, no matter how much they covered the world, I would live as a human of this world, and I would die as one.
And so the sun sets on another day.
Lately, the voices and hands have grown fiercely in number.
Half a year ago, my childhood friend's cold worsened, and he left the world so easily. Watched over by his doting children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, on a bed that's sheets were changed every day and gave off a nice smell, he left with a peaceful look on his face.
I think I've done enough.
I can tell the hands are waiting to take me by the hand and take back my soul.
But I wasn't too worried.
Even if I died now, and they beckoned to my soul, I get the feeling the hand reaching out for me won't belong to them.
'You idiot! Look, everyone's waiting for you!'
My childhood friend who never stopped looking for me will shout as he lowers his fist on my head. I'm sure he'll lead a 'directional failure' like me off to the same place everyone else has gone.
I have a childhood friend.
My childhood friend kept me in the world and saved me. He is my hero.