©2016 by Eliezer Yudkowsky
This is my attempt at translating a light novel from Japan, only the original source material doesn't exist.
The light novel is a Japanese custom which aims at easy reading. I think of it as an art form in which only the story's bones remain.
If you want to read a translation of a Japanese light novel, I liked “Evil God Average” (Jashin Average) as translated by the Fifth Holy Sheeprabbit. That might help you to appreciate this story, since it conveys the genre to which this story belongs.
For those of you who haven't read any light novels before:
A remarkable portion of light novels are about people being transported from one world to another. Japan has easier ideas about copyright, so their literary system more often contains many works on the same theme.
That theme began with heroes from our world being transported to another world to fight the Demon Lord.
Now there are light novels about the Demon Lord dying, being reincarnated in our world as a high-schooler, and then being transported to another world as one of the adversarial side characters in a romantic video game. Or the hero is a man from our world, reincarnated as an elven girl, who has already become an absurdly powerful adventurer, but now works incognito as a receptionist. I'm not joking.
Light novels also have a unique writing style I'm trying to imitate, including this easy style of author's notes. I don't think I do it well (laughs). Maybe I'll improve?
This story was supposed to be completely silly. Please keep that in mind. I failed at that by the end of the second chapter, but still, that's the origin.
The main character doesn't always agree with the author about decision theory. It'd be silly to think we'd agree about things that are less objective.
At present, the only places authorized to distribute an electronic copy of this book are:
· Gumroad: http://gum.co/GirlCorrupted
If you haven't already purchased a copy of this book, feel free to visit there after you finish reading.
I have nothing else to say about this story for now, so you may as well read it.
— Eliezer Yudkowsky, Nov 2015
My family name is Yugano. My given name is Yuuki. I have no redeeming qualities.
The boys I meet fail to interest me, and I haven't kissed any of them. This is because the Internet has ruined my way of looking at the world.
In the beginning, seeing pics of a muscular man with no shirt was enough to make me breathe faster. If I came across a picture of a man being nude, I would flinch away in horror.
Over time, I moved on to pictures of nude men, then two men doing things to one another. As I became numb to one perversion, I had to find something more extreme to arouse my interest. Now I have no interest in normal forms of youthful misbehavior.
You say I should have refrained? Back then I was too young to know better, and now this untouched maiden has been so thoroughly ruined that I might as well go further.
I blame the government and my parents. In the very beginning, they should have stopped that innocent girl from seeing perverted things online.
Now I spend hours every day browsing the Internet, doing you-know-what to myself.
At this point I'd like to deliver a sharp remark about how stories depict being transported to another world. You know the scene I'm talking about: the Hero arrives surrounded by holy clerics casting the Summoning Spell, with well-dressed royalty and future adventuring companions looking on.
In every one of those cases, the Summoning catches the Hero at a time when the Hero is standing up and fully dressed.
Is this realistic? Would a Hero be Summoned only at such a convenient time? I bet you spend much of your day sitting down. If the Summoning caught you then, wouldn't you materialize unsupported, and fall on your ass?
Imagine being a Hero being transported while they're on the toilet. They materialize in a sitting position with their underwear around their ankles, then fall over with their knees still bent and pants down. Their butt hasn't been wiped, and it leaves a smear on the ground. Maybe the Summoned Hero is right in the middle of pooping out a big one.
What happened to me was even more embarrassing than that.
It involved my usual Internet habits.
That was the first step of my journey into another world.
The cold was my first startling observation. A chill wind bit into my exposed thighs and unmentionables like… like a very cold knife. I'm sorry, I'm distracted right now and can't think up a clever metaphor.
The next thing my eyes saw was the other people staring at my vulnerable body. There were five adults in white robes holding up their staves, silver halos glowing above their heads. Beyond them, a dirty old man in leather and chains - no, I mean leather armor and chainmail, don't misunderstand me, and when I say 'dirty' I mean that he had stains on his armor.
Next to the old warrior, a young lad my age with a sword belted at his side, with a clean and finely made shirt. He was looking away from me and wringing his hands like an eight-year-old girl who just saw a crayon drawing of private parts.
Around me, a circle of huge standing stones.
Beyond that, walls of grass, the slopes of rising hills.
And below me, a circular stone plate inscribed with curves in a fading silver glow.
Immediately after I arrived, there was a lot of shrieking… you know, let's not talk about this. I'm choosing to repress these memories for the rest of my life. Let's skip to the part where somebody has given me a towel-like cloth to hold around myself.
So there I am, standing, wrapped in a towel; aside from that my surroundings are as previously specified.
I have many issues with this. I am setting aside my issues and listening to the words of the white-robed mage with the brightest halo. I think this part might be important.
“Yugano Yuuki,” the white mage intones, “you have been Summoned here to overturn the greatest evil of this world, the Wicked Emperor.”
The old warrior in chain-mail speaks up. “How is this girl supposed to do that, exactly? Is there more to her than is apparent?”
“I have similar questions,” I say. I'd better have arrived here with some incredible cheat-like advantage, or this world is amazingly doomed.
“That's impossible for me to know, but she is certainly the Summoned Hero,” says the mage.
“Could there have been an error in the Summoning Spell?” asks chainmail-wearer. “And if so, is it too late to send her back and get another one?” He looks back at me. “No offense, but it's for the sake of everyone.”
The white mage casts a glance in my direction. “The Spell can only be worked once every three hundred years, in a certain place. But this Great Summoning Spell we have just cast should, without fail, have selected the Hero with the best chance to overturn the Wicked Emperor who has cruelly subjugated half the world.”
That's some convenient exposition, but I'll excuse it since you're stating it for my sake.
“Maybe our best chance of defeating the Wicked Emperor still isn't good?” Again warrior-guy echoes my own thoughts. “Even leaving aside the condition in which she arrived, I would expect the most skilled person to be older, or in the prime of their adulthood.”
The white-clad mages glance at one another, looking concerned. “There's a divination that's itself part of the Summoning Spell,” says another mage, a woman. “To state it clearly, if the Summoned Hero is the person with the greatest probability of defeating the Wicked Emperor, then the Spell itself must determine that probability. Traditionally the probability isn't observed since then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, but in this case…” The white mage grimaces. “She doesn't seem like the Hero we were expecting. I agree we ought to check what the Spell determined as her probability of victory.”
The chainmail-man frowns. “Why wouldn't you always check the probability? Is it dangerous to do so?”
Another white-robed mage speaks up. “Imagine that someone has a ninety percent chance of defeating the Wicked Emperor if they aren't told anything. Then they're told they have a ninety percent probability of winning. They might feel relieved of the need to make a desperate effort, so their true probability of winning would become much lower. Since the probability has to be consistent, that can't happen. On the other hand, suppose we're told our chance of winning is only two percent. Then, feeling already defeated, our chances of victory might drop that far. Given those two possible answers, since the probability must be consistent, the observed probability would be two percent. So it's best to decide in advance not to peek at the probability that the Spell predicts… still, this case does seem like an exception. Just be sure to keep the number to yourselves, and try not to let it affect your decisions.”
The prince-boy and the old man both look puzzled. As for me, since I come from Earth where there are time travel movies, I've followed the reasoning without difficulty.
The five white mages begin chanting. Staves are raised, the golden halos above their heads grow brighter. I suppose I should be more impressed, but it's really not much in the way of special effects.
The mages lower their staves. Most of them look rather surprised.
“Her chance of overthrowing the Wicked Emperor is… one hundred percent?!”
You say that's my probability of winning even after being told my probability of winning?
Then I might as well slack off and do what I want, huh.
It may be an awful thing to say with the fate of the world at stake. But realistically, if I'm the sort of person who'll be lazy given half a chance, there's no point in trying my best as a Summoned Hero if I'm going to win even after taking into account the changes in my behavior caused by knowing that I'm going to win.
I wonder what amazing cheat-like ability I'll discover, and whether it can be abused for other purposes besides overthrowing the Wicked Emperor?
Magic powers, magic powers, I'm going to get my magic po~wers!
I don't mind telling you that there was a spring in my step as I went skipping toward the next ceremony that had already been prepared for me.
While I haven't resolved my numerous issues, I do like how everything is so straightforward here. Compared with other tales I've read of being summoned to another world, I'm glad I didn't wind up with a harder case.
…I hope I didn't just curse myself by thinking that.
By the way, I seem to be in a rebel encampment that's hidden between several hills and therefore not visible from a distance. At least, this is what I infer from watching people polishing their weapons.
Soon I come upon yet another group of mages, gold-robed people that seem to be mostly younger women. The halos over their heads are only faintly visible. Chainmail-guy, noble-boy, and one of those archmage types are following behind me.
Before me is a stone plate with inscribed lines that look much less elaborate than the circle I arrived in.
“It's important that you understand the purpose of this ceremony,” says one of the women in gold robes. She casts a doubtful look at my towel-clothing and the nubile body I'm keeping underneath it. “They say to assume a Summoned Hero doesn't know anything, so should I start with the very basics?”
I dislike rhetorical questions, so whenever I hear one I always give the less expected answer. “No, you should skip straight to the most advanced part without any preliminaries.”
“Well, the very basics are as follows,” says the gold-robe mage. “The magic of the world is divided into Evil magic aligned with Demons and Good magic aligned with Angels. In the same way that those who now rule the world wield power based on wickedness, the holy magic of this Rebellion comes from goodness. A good mage derives her power from contracting with an Angelic being, which agrees to lend you power in exchange for you committing yourself to purity.”
Well, that explains the halos - ah, ah, let's hold on for a minute or possibly several weeks. “Just what do you mean by purity?”
She looks puzzled. “I mean behavior that is holy and good as opposed to unholy and not good.”
“As a Summoned Hero from another world, it's impossible for me to know whether I understood what you meant by that.”
“I don't understand what you mean by saying that you don't understand what I mean. Even if the people in your world are more wicked than the people in this one, they should still know what righteousness is.”
My philosophy textbook had a clear idea of what righteousness is: namely, righteousness is explicitly stating your definitions. “If I follow a course to overthrowing the Wicked Emperor for the benefit of all peoples in this world, harm nobody who doesn't harm anyone else, and otherwise do what I want, is that sufficient?”
“Of course not! You can't just do what you want!”
Another gold-robed woman speaks. “To begin with the elementary fundamentals of the basics, to form a contract you must be a virgin. Then, it goes without saying that sullying yourself with a man would cause your Angel to flee from you.”
I look at the archmage. He's seen how I was when I arrived here.
“You are still untouched by men, aren't you?” The archmage speaks gently, but with a worried countenance. “Even if you've done certain sinful things that you mustn't do again?”
“I haven't so much as kissed a boy. However, I am worried that my thoughts may be so sinful that an Angel won't want to contract with me.” Honestly I'm worried that my Angel will burst into flames… no, it will explode.
Several of the women clear up at this, like they finally understand what's happening. “Oh, that's nothing to worry about, dear sister!” says the one who spoke first. “It means more for a poor farmer to pass up a temptation of ten silver than for a rich official to pass up a bribe of a hundred gold. So long as you do nothing wrong, being more tempted by sin makes it a holier deed to commit yourself to purity… ah, I see you're smiling now that you realize the Angelic Powers are forgiving.”
Of course that's why I'm smiling. There's no other reason at all.
The more corrupt thoughts you start with, the more power you gain from promising to be pure, is what I think I heard you say?
There's one thing I'd better check, though. “It's okay for a white mage to retire, isn't it? There's no penalty if you decide afterward to tell your angel to go away, so you can settle down with a nice husband and make some children?”
The maidens are blushing. “Of - of course not! Even though that's not quite, quite…”
One hundred percent chance of victory, here I co~me.
Though I am a little worried. I've never gone more than a day or two without giving myself release. Even when I tried to deny myself for perverted reasons, my willpower failed. I hope that I can clear up this Wicked Emperor matter in a month, and not go insane with repressed desires before then.
The ceremony for obtaining my ma~gic po~wers is simple. The gold-robed women are holding their hands and singing a short melody, and the stone seal is glowing silver like the colors of their halos. I think someone from this world would find this very holy and uplifting, but I've heard electronic-orchestral chorales with better singing.
My Angel appears in a burst of light and… oh, this isn't fair. The Angel is male, and his robes are clinging to his form, which is thin and fair. The beautiful face above is one of supreme innocence. Even for someone who's seen many Internet pictures, encountering a true Angel is a moving experience.
This Angel… this Angel is just begging for someone to corrupt him and do unspeakable things to him.
Normally women fear what men might do to them, which is the reason I refrained from fulfilling my awful desires back when they were still in the realm of possibility. But if this Angel is really a creature of purity, then it follows that he wouldn't do anything bad to me. In other words, he'd be defenseless before me.
But if I do tha~at, he'll run away.
The archmage is whispering in my ear and I'm repeating the words of the ancient contract. Hey Angel-butt, I'll refrain from my naughty desires if you grant me supreme magical power to stomp the Wicked Emperor, yo? This bargain is needlessly lengthy for accomplishing that much.
The Angel speaks his own lines and his dulcet, young, boyish tones make my insides twitch. Knowing I'm not allowed to do a-ny-thing about that, even to myself, makes my insides twitch more. This is going to be a long month for me.
The white light of the seal fades, and now a cute little version of my Angel is hovering over my shoulder where only I can see him.
“Listen well to the counsel of your Angel,” the archmage says gravely. “The righteous action is not always what we must do to save our people. But while your Angel is with you, you will always know the difference and what you are sacrificing when you choose otherwise.”
My Angel's eyes are wide and he's waving his hands frantically and making a high-pitched EEEEEEEE sound, but he hasn't actually burst into flames so I'll call this contract a success.
“Disaster! Emergency! It's terrible!”
People are running around shrieking things like this. Apparently the Wicked Emperor's military forces have surrounded this camp and they outnumber us by three hundred million billion trillion to one.
Hey, idiot with the white robes and long staff, is it the usual practice that the Hero is Summoned to overthrow the current greatest evil?
Is it true that the Great Summoning can only be performed at this time, in this place, within the circle of standing stones?
DIDN'T YOU IMAGINE THE WICKED EMPEROR MIGHT DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAAAT-T-T!?
This is definitely a punishment from the vengeful gods because I let myself look forward to easy times.
“Summoned Hero!” cries the old warrior with the chainmail that's been following me around. “Yugano Yuuki! What must we do? How can we survive?”
My mind races rapidly and I seize on the first answer that comes to mind. “Quick, grab all the pairs of underpants you can and wear them over your heads! Then, attack the Enemy with watermelons!”
People stare at me.
Maybe answering with the very first thing that came to mind was a bit much, but—
“I have a one hundred percent probability of overturning the Wicked Emperor,” I point out. “It's not that every possible choice we could make, would lead to victory. But whatever I end up deciding to actually do, that particular course of action has a one hundred percent chance of victory. So if we actually attack with watermelons, we'll definitely win!”
The old warrior clutches at his head. “Leaving aside all my other objections, we don't even have any watermelons!”
What? This is disastrous! I can't think of any different plans! Or rather, all my other plans involve having not gotten into this situation in the first place!
“We're doomed!” shrieks a white mage running past. A second later, he's running past again in the opposite direction. “Doomed, I tell you, doomed!”
The old man pulls himself together, a grimness settling over him. “The absolute goal is to allow you to escape, the Summoned Hero who will certainly succeed. Even if I and all this camp must sacrifice ourselves to break out of this encirclement, it's all right so long as you go free.”
H-hey! What are you saying? Should so many people die to save me, a girl with no redeeming qualities? I'd never sleep again!
“I'll make you up a pack with weapons,” the old man is saying. “Trust nobody, for the Wicked Emperor will seed this area with spies. Live off the forest, even if you eat seeds and berries for years, it's wiser than appearing before a human being. Live, and in time, be the certain instrument of our vengeance!”
I already had my doubts about this course of action, but that settles it. Anything that involves living without toilet paper is not a realistic option for me. Besides, although I'm new to my Angel, there's no doubt I will be an overpowered character. “I have a better idea. I'm the girl with a one hundred percent chance of victory, so let's reverse your strategy. Why don't I hold off the Wicked Emperor's armies, while the rest of you make your escape?”
The old man is speechless at my brilliance. His mouth opens and shuts several times.
The Angel on my shoulder is nodding approvingly. Yes, this noble act of mine must be a righteous deed by local standards.
“Listen,” I say, “if I know I have a one hundred percent chance of success regardless, I won't choose a course where people die for me along the way.” Who knows, maybe I can close out this quest in just one day. If there's a novel with me as an overpowered heroine, that's definitely how it should go!
And tha~at's how I found myself on a hill gazing down sternly at the Wicked Emperor's military forces.
Ha, these thousands of cavalry on their shining horses, the countless bowmen glowering at me, and foot soldiers stretching over the hills and out of sight—you don't impress me. I've seen pictures of real armies! With guns, and helicopters, and tanks on aircraft carriers!
Seeing that your enemy has fielded a single girl standing alone on this hill, are the looks on your faces fearful? Of course not! Bewildered contempt is more like it! But soon, those looks will change!
Oh dear, what's this? I seem to have acquired a straggler. Are you under the impression you've joined my party without my say-so? That's very forward of you.
“I won't let you stand alone!” The noble-looking boy says that, holding his sword aloft and, yes, it's flashing in the sun.
Are you under the impression this is cool? Aragorn-sama from the Lord of the Rings movies is cool when he does this. You're just a kid.
“My name is Teragon Omoia, and I'll be with you to the end, Yugano Yuuki.” He's trembling, but still manages to smile.
I can't let myself be outdone by this upstaging interloper. With a breezy gesture, I flip my hair behind me so that the wind can blow around my glossy strands. “Oi, oi, what's this about endings? I am Summoned Hero Yuuki, the overpowered character with a one hundred percent chance of success! I'll definitely win this day! Because the sheer perversion of the desires I'm repressing to be pure, is something that nobody from this world can possibly beat! I'll show you the power of a girl that's been corrupted by the Internet!”
The boy is looking even more nervous than he was before. I point at the army before me with a commanding gesture, and toss my head so my hair will blow nobly in the wind some more. “My Angel! This is my command under our compact of purity! Knock them all unconscious, but don't kill them!” I cup my hands together to emit a mighty energy blast. “ETERNAL… RAINBOW… SHIMMERING… LASER… THUNDER…”
…anyway, that's how I ended up tightly bound on a cart heading back to the Wicked Empire.
It's time to face up to some uncomfortable possibilities.
One possibility is that since the Wicked Empire already had our camp surrounded from the beginning, there was no Hero anywhere who could overcome that disadvantage, and the Summoning Spell was doing the equivalent of dividing by zero.
Or since no Hero had any chance of success, the Summoning Spell kept searching until it happened upon a weird girl that broke its evaluation system and wrongly registered a 100% probability of victory.
But on the other hand, I'm still alive! Even if I turned out not to be a sufficiently overpowered character and was shamefully captured after knocking only eight knights off their horses! I'm on my way to the Empire, and a sudden reversal of fortunes leading up to my predestined success is a definite possibility!
I wish the person who tied me up had been more experienced in shibari and had tied me in more interesting knots, so long as I'm forced to live through this part. The feel of real rope against my skin is different from just seeing pictures of it. I want to struggle and acquaint myself with the sensation, but these boring knots are looped only around my hands and feet.
There's a paper strip stuck firmly to my forehead, applied by a sick-looking woman dressed in black. When she did that to me, the same seal appeared over my Angel's mouth as well.
It's sunset before anyone gets around to feeding me.
I try to look grateful for my plate of food. It contains meat, which is probably a luxury in this primitive world. The bread looks freshly baked and without bugs in it. The cheese is only slightly stale. I believe they must be trying to feed me well for army rations… but, comparing this to the cuisine of Earth is pointless.
I've held out well up until this point, but the thought of never again eating dark chocolates with a vanilla caramel center causes a single tear to run down my cheek. Complex sweets are probably as far beyond this world's technology level as carbon steel.
The Empire soldier who's feeding me sees my tearful cheek, and smiles darkly. Do you have that interest, soldier-san? I remember my 'pictures of crying boys' phase… oh, I was so much more innocent then.
“Thanks for feeding me, soldier-san.” I let a quaver into my voice. “What's going to happen to me after this? Hey, soldier-san, would you tell me what happens after this?” This young maiden might cry mo~re if you tell her! Would you like to see my cheeks wetted with more tears, soldier-san?
The soldier chuckles evilly. You're easy that way, aren't you, soldier-san.
“The Wicked Vizier,” the soldier says, each word spoken with slow relish, “has ordered the Summoned Hero and all her companions brought before him, alive and mostly unhurt.” He pauses. “I expect you'll be violated by him to rid you of your Angel… and then, sacrificed to a Demon.”
Hm. I let a stammer into my voice. “W-what does being sacrificed to a Demon entail p-precisely? Can you be more s-specific?” I blink my eyes repeatedly, as though I'm about to burst into tears.
“You become the Demon's plaything and it humiliates you in unimaginably horrific ways.”
“T-thank you for telling me, soldier-san.” I make myself swallow hard. “Do the Demons have t-t-tentacles?”
The soldier stares blankly at me. “What?”
“It would be really s-scary if the Demons had slimy tentacles and they used them to p-p-penetrate my -”
The soldier's face goes red. He makes a strangled sound and bolts from my cart, leaving my plate of food behind.
This world… really is a very innocent place, isn't it.
Great, now my Angel is emitting that high-pitched shrieking sound again, audible even through its seal.
It's a gloomy day when my cart rolls into the capital city of the Wicked Empire, which is dirty, covered in horse manure, and essentially uninhabited compared to Tokyo. The Wicked Palace is set with crystal and gold that makes it gleam in the sun, but the pictures I've seen of the Taj Mahal have it beat.
As we approach the palace, the unbearable odor goes away, and I can once more smell myself thinking.
Am I truly going to be violated? Is today the day my virginity will be torn away from me?
I want to be excited by the thought, but a part of me is muttering realistic thoughts about it being painful, unexciting, and probably a lifelong trauma. Shut up, part of me. Thinking that way is probably increasing the chance that I'll be traumatized.
Maybe the Wicked Vizier will be enchanted by this beautiful yet impure virgin. Maybe he's the only one here who's twisted enough to suit me. We'll fall in lo~ve and do all sorts of perverse things to each other, and together we'll overthrow the Wicked Emperor with one hundred percent probability!
…I wouldn't mind that, actually? It's not how I thought my week would go, but I am essentially okay with this.
All right, certain victory, here I come! Try number two! Yosh!
Quit shrieking in that tinny voice, you useless Angel. My husband and I will be wise and benevolent co-rulers, I'm sure. This is for everyone's good.
I'm being bathed before I see the Wicked Vizier! This is a good sign which implies he may be attracted to my nubile body. I'm relieved that things are going just as planned.
The bath is the size of a large living room, with lukewarm, vaguely lemon-scented water.
The bath attendants are catgirl maidens. Their ears are cute, and the bodies beneath them are feminine and well-curved. But they're nearly nude for the bath, instead of wearing maid uniforms. They don't even have slave shackles on their wrists and ankles. Also no collar or bell, but then I think that element is somewhat worn by now. I would rate these catgirl maidens at 4 of 10.
Having someone else to wash my hair is nice, though.
After I'm dried off, my plan to entice the Wicked Vizier hits a roadblock. There's no way for me to dress seductively! I can select from many sets of clothing, but all of them are similar. I can wear anything I want, so long as I want a floor-length white dress with long sleeves and a neckline so high it's a chin-line.
Does the Wicked Vizier only want to do perverse things to girls who appear pure? That would be a devastating setback! If he doesn't enjoy even a hint of naughtiness, I'm done for!
I consider demanding to wear only the panties and under-slip for the outfit, but these panties are something my grandmother would wear, and besides, I might lose my nerve.
In the end I just leave out the panties, like in that phase I went through a few years back. It's the physical proof I'll provide for having an impure mind.
This food is acceptable.
I'm brought into a small, windowless office and chained to a massive chair facing a small throne. The chair itself is comfortable, but someone in this world needs to invent fur-lined handcuffs.
After checking my security, the guards depart.
The Wicked Vizier doesn't have a pointed beard to stroke, and his hair is greying. His bushy eyebrows and generally thin look don't make up that critical deficit. I will allow this person to pass as an evil counselor, but only barely.
“I trust your reception here has been to your liking?” The Wicked Vizier says this in a voice that is low and ominous, so my rating of him goes up by one point.
“Meh, it was adequate. I appreciated the bath.”
“Good, good.” The Wicked Vizier smiles. “Your noble companion, calling himself Taragon of Omoia, is in fine health as well.”
There's a pause. I'm waiting for the Wicked Vizier to ominously say 'for now', but he doesn't. “Well, thanks,” I reply.
“Yugano Yuuki - that is your name, correct?”
“Tell me, Yugano Yuuki, why do you think I commanded you to be brought here?”
“You're going to violate me and then sacrifice me to a Demon.”
The Wicked Vizier's eyebrows go up. “This prospect doesn't seem to alarm you.”
Although it's possible the Great Summoning Spell was mistaken, it's also possible that it wasn't. It would be naive to despair entirely after being told that I have a one hundred percent chance of victory. So I'm focusing on that hope; there's no reason to spend much time considering the alternative. “Mm,” I say, “I was hoping that I could seduce you.”
The Wicked Vizier coughs. “That's… quite straightforward of you.”
Either I have a one hundred percent chance of succeeding or I don't. Thus, there's no point beating around the bush. “A young maiden like me has no chance of concealing her intentions from you who must be steeped in deception, cruelty, and fascinating perversions.” I smile winsomely at him. I want to also lean forward and show off my cleavage, but this stupid dress won't allow it.
The Wicked Vizier is keeping a neutral face. “What if it happens that you're not my type?”
“I'll have no choice but to seduce the Demon you sacrifice me to.”
A coughing sound comes from the Wicked Vizier. He clears his throat, then says, “I perceive that you are filled with great hope and dynamism. This is an admirable quality in a youth.”
“Thanks, future husband-sama!”
“Correct me if I'm mistaken, but doesn't that Angel-sealing paper strip on your forehead imply that you formed an Angelic contract?”
“Well, but I'm not a virgin because I have a pure mind. Rather, I'm a virgin because my desires are so twisted and perverse that ordinary misbehavior doesn't appeal to me.” I smile at him and wiggle my eyebrows. “Does that kind of girl appeal to you? By the way, underneath this dress you gave me, I'm not wearing any pa~nties.”
The Wicked Vizier's eyes drop lower before he wrenches them back up to meet my smiling gaze.
“Do you want to che~ck? Undoing my chains first is unnecessary, I'm into that too.”
The Wicked Vizier takes a breath. “Yugano Yuuki, I appreciate that you're an inexperienced woman trying to entice a man in order to save her life. But for future consideration, you should remember that there's a difference between seducing someone, and being as lewd as possible in their direction.”
Hm. “We might be dealing with a conflict of cultural assumptions. Where I come from, every man has one desire so horrible that he can't believe any girl would go along with it, and the key to seduction is hinting that you might be open to having it done to you.”
“Just what kind of world did you inhabit before you came here?!”
I take a deep breath and straighten my back, because the pride of Earth demands that my words do it justice. “Thicker than the air I breathed, I was surrounded by the Internet, the greatest creation of my race! A device of pure thought larger than countries, powered directly by the life-force of its billions of wielders! With a second's effort we could speak to one another even on opposite ends of the world! It embodied all of our kind's knowledge—and also contained the sum of our every impure desire! Unspeakable fantasies encountering each other and building on one another, degenerating ever further into the seething pits of madness! The ultimate wisdom combined with the ultimate depravity, constantly accompanying us and whispering into our ears! I'm exaggerating here, but only slightly… anyway, that's how I grew up.”
The Wicked Vizier is looking down at his knees. “Although it's too late now, I wonder if we've arrived at an unnecessary extreme.”
“What do you mean?”
The Wicked Vizier seems to regain his composure. “Did the former rebellion's mages have time to explain to you the principle of the Great Summoning Spell, before we captured their camp?”
I lean back and frown. This is not going as I expected—but, if my one hundred percent chance of victory lies along some other path, I will quickly swerve and seize it! “Just the fundamentals of the basics. For instance, it was explained to me that the Great Summoning is possible once every three centuries. Thinking about the possibilities on my way to the capital, I imagined that a charge builds up between the worlds, and the spell discharges it.”
“Those details are not important right now. Did the mages explain to you that the Great Summoning Spell selects the Hero with the greatest probability of achieving a specified outcome?”
“Only Angelic mages can perform the Great Summoning, which is why we didn't capture the site and perform the ritual ourselves. Furthermore, it is impossible to suborn an Angelic mage because their Angels won't assist them in deliberate misdeeds. The rule of using the Hero to overturn the world's greatest evil has a long tradition behind it, so a spy can't persuade the rebellion otherwise. Then I pose to you this riddle: how can an outsider exert their own influence over the Hero Summoning and use it to their purpose?”
Oh dear. That anomalous one-hundred-percent probability now seems more ominous. “You changed the Spell's operation?”
“That's also impossible.”
I shift in my seat. I'm relieved, but…
The Wicked Vizier continues. “First, realize that since the Summoning Spell selects the Hero most likely to reach a final outcome, anything leading to that outcome becomes more likely. If a Hero with blue hair is more likely to overthrow the Wicked Emperor, then the Hero is likely to have blue hair—unless a Hero with green hair is still more likely to overthrow the Emperor. The mages who cast the Great Summoning expected that the most likely path to the Hero's victory would be an exceptionally skilled person who could command armies and wield great Angelic power. But if some other path is more likely to overthrow the Emperor, an entirely different kind of Hero might be brought forth instead. Do you follow me so far, Summoned Hero Yugano Yuuki?”
I nod. “That's logical.”
“It follows that if anyone has the power to bring about the fulfillment of the Summoning Spell's condition, they can make the Summoning Spell work to their own demands. My faction has obtained the power to effect that the Hero overturns the Wicked Emperor; we have a surprising means to achieve this, allowing you to succeed with ease verging on certainty. We committed to carry out that act if the Summoned Hero met certain other conditions. Thus, fulfilling those conditions became the most probable path by which a Hero could overturn the Emperor. This plan seems to have worked; from meeting you, it's clear that the Summoning Spell brought forth the Hero we sought.”
My jaw drops.
Well, maybe it's not quite as clever as the plots in Death Note.
It takes me some time to reorder my thoughts as the imagined world realigns around me. “Then, for what purpose did you bring me here, Wicked Vizier-san?”
“There are several conditions, but they should be straightforward for someone with the right origin. If we made the conditions too difficult, it might be easier for the Summoning Spell to fulfill its conditions by bringing forth a traditional Hero instead. Of course, we did surround the Rebellion's camp and crush them after the Summoning completed, to make it as hard as possible for any Hero to win except the one we specified. Indeed, the only reason we permitted that Rebellion to exist in the first place is so that Angelic mages would perform the Summoning Spell.”
“Then, we delayed our attack for an extra hour to allow you to contract with an Angel. The Angels won't deal with people who already intend to abuse them, so everyone involved had to believe it was for holy purposes.”
A nervous feeling is beginning to creep along my spine, and not just because my Angel's muffled shrieking has increased in pitch. “That was very proactive of you. I can honestly say that I'm impressed with your attention to detail.”
“Oh, we've had many years in which to plan for this day.”
“It shows, Wicked Vizier-san. This is easily in the top twenty percent of wicked plots I've ever heard of - no, it might even make the top ten percent.”
“Why, thank you.” The Vizier leans back in his seat. “I've ordered kindly treatment for your heroic companion Taragon. The Rebellion's leaders were imprisoned rather than executed, just in case you had already formed an affection for one of them. We've gone to some lengths to ensure you won't bear us a deadly grudge. And it goes without saying that, unlike Angelic mages, we don't expect the Summoned Hero to work without reward.”
The Vizier taps his fingers together. “One of the necessities our faction considered was making it certain that the terms of the Summoning Spell would be fulfilled. We don't know precisely how the Spell interprets requests like 'the Hero will overturn the Wicked Emperor'. If we just remove the Emperor ourselves, can we properly say that it's the Hero herself who overturned the Emperor? This ambiguity can't be tolerated if it has any chance of upsetting our plan.” The Vizier now wears a satisfied smile, his narrow eyes peer at me closely. “Thus, we have planned to fulfill the Spell's required outcome of 'the Hero overturns the Wicked Emperor' by your directly replacing him. Should you meet the other conditions, you will become the next Wicked Empress and be able to fulfill all your dark desires from atop the Wicked Throne. Do you like the sound of that, Perverted Hero Yugano Yuuki?”
To clarify my previous response, I should emphasize that I have a number of practical and moral qualms about becoming a Wicked Empress. This didn't stop me from immediately voicing my assent as a matter of ingenuity.
Even after I said yes, the Wicked Vizier was coy about what goals I am required to accomplish. Apparently they'll be revealed to me one at a time in a certain order?
Well, it doesn't matter! Whatever mysterious conditions I must fulfill to become Empress, my success is something that's assured! I am still the Summoned Hero with a one hundred percent probability of victory, so I will take the Wicked Vizier's conditions and crush them one after another!
The elaborate shenanigans played with the Great Summoning Spell don't change this essential truth! At least, I don't see yet why they would! So I have every reason to hope that my success is certain!
…I'm a little more nervous than I was before, though.
The first stage of the plan is for me to assume a new identity: I am to pose as the Wicked Vizier's daughter. Before, this daughter has always been secluded on a remote estate due to being a bit touched, but now she has mostly recovered.
This is to excuse any mistakes I might make as being caused by lingering brain damage. Clever, isn't it?
My new alias is Kiri, Heiress of Rolan. (My supposed father's name is Irir of Rolan, but everyone just calls him the Wicked Vizier.)
As for that Summoned Hero Yugano Yuuki—so far as the world knows, she was violated and then sacrificed to a Demon.
Now, you might worry that people would be suspicious of the way in which the Summoned Hero is brought to the palace for execution, and then there's announced an exotic-looking daughter of the Wicked Vizier that nobody has ever heard about before.
But apparently the Wicked Vizier has been telling everyone the story of poor little Kiri for years. He exhibited child actresses wearing veils, so they could stammer and whisper bizarre things. He spoke months earlier about his daughter's ongoing recovery and her impending arrival. Thus, everyone here already has a concept of 'the Wicked Vizier's secluded daughter recovering from mental disorder, expected to appear soon', existing as a distinct person from that Summoned Hero they just now heard about. If I'd been male, they would have finalized a different plan involving a dead duke's long-lost son, and so on.
A catgirl maid helps me dye my hair a fashionable green, and do it up in the exotic hairstyle that everyone associates to 'Heiress Kiri'.
I'm to wear a veil over my face, which also serves to conceal the Demonic prayer-strip that seals my Angel. The Vizier says that after everyone knows this veil-wearing person as Kiri, I can show my face beneath. Then, if one of the soldiers who saw the Summoned Hero perceives a similarity in Kiri, it's just a strange coincidence.
The courtiers already know that shy little Kiri-chan habitually wears a veil. It will be wonderful if Kiri shows her face for the first time!
People who have time to plan are scary.
It's another bright morning in the Wicked Empire, and Daddy—
“Please don't call me that.”
“Yes, Wicked Vizier-san.”
—and some armored guards are taking me across the city, to a school for people who want to become Demonic sorcerers. This is the place where I am to accomplish my first goal and meet one of the key 'conditions'. What am I to do here? The Wicked Vizier says this will soon become obvious.
There's a bit of a fuss as the Wicked Vizier presents Kiri-chan for entry as a beginning student of diabolism. I just nod along and say “Tee-hee!”, since I'm still observing the people around me. I'm trying to learn the local customs quickly, but I'm far from confident in my ability to pass. For now, I'm not ready to drop Kiri-chan's protective reputation of simplicity.
The Headmistress of the school seems disturbed, and she asks the Vizier to step aside into another room. Of course I press my ear up against the door and listen in.
“—can't believe you! That you'd risk your poor sick daughter like this! That you'd endanger her very soul!”
The Vizier's low voice. “Kiri-chan's oddities seem to have given her some strange desires, so she may as well profit herself from all she's had to endure.”
“Does she even know what a Demon is?!”
“That's what you're here to educate her about, isn't it? I believe she'll do well here. Consider that an order.”
“Won't you reconsider? Have you no qualms regarding this?”
“Are you confused about whom you're addressing? Our government is called the Wicked Empire, not the Righteous Empire. I take pride in having personally contributed to that.”
…this is possibly concerning? I might be quite nervous right now if I didn't know I had a one hundred percent chance of victory.
The 'classroom' I'm shown to isn't like anything from an ordinary school; it feels like sitting in a cathedral or a museum, a huge half-circular room in which a few seating cushions narrowly surround a high dais, where a man waits to lecture us. Nearly all of the other students seem to be young boys or older men; there's only one other girl my age and she seems to be shrinking from the others.
Oh, and all the other students here are wearing masks. But my hairstyle is clearly visible anyway, so I've just kept the veil.
One person starts as they see my hairstyle, and then they lean over and whisper to one of their neighbors. Soon murmured exchanges are flying around the room. The unmasked lecturer, who isn't part of this whispered conspiracy, just watches me with some puzzlement.
Finally the lecturer claps his hands, which quiets the room.
“I'll begin with the very basics,” says the lecturer. “The magic of the world is divided into Good magic aligned with Angels and Evil magic aligned with Demons. A good mage derives power from contracting with an Angelic being, who lends power in exchange for a commitment to purity. With diabolical sorcerers like you'll try to become, the case is more complex. In the old days, the method for becoming a sorcerer was simple but inconvenient. You compacted with a mid-rank demon to serve you for twenty-four years, and at the end of those years they'd take your soul. It's surprising in retrospect how many people went along with this, since it's trading temporary power for eternal damnation.”
Personally, I can't say I'm surprised. There's always someone.
The lecturer continues. “Naturally, sorcerers resented the price they had to pay. There were many attempts to dissolve compacts, and the same number of tragic failures. Yet, no matter how many ideas fail, it only takes one successful idea to change the world. As we all know now, the legendary genius Fausticus found a clever method to obtain Demonic power without losing one's soul. I have reviewed this history in order to emphasize that if the current way of obtaining Demonic power seems risky or even horrifying, it is at least better than the alternative.”
Um. I'm going to have to eat a kitten, aren't I? Oh god, I'm going to have to eat a kitten.
The lecturer paces energetically upon the dais. “Consider the puzzle Fausticus faced! There were many rituals to invoke Demons; the ritual to gain twenty-four years of power was just the most commonly used. Other innovators had focused on performing the standard bargain for twenty-four years, and then trying to avert the price afterwards. Fausticus's first great insight was to look at other rituals besides the standard one. Today we all know where Fausticus found his solution, in the details of a little-used ritual to invoke a Succubus visitation. But consider how much searching Fausticus must have done through obscure grimoires, how many strange notions he must have considered and rejected, before happening on his tremendous idea! And remember that Fausticus knew he could try only once.”
My ears perk up at the word 'succubus'. I don't know yet where this is going, but it sounds promising.
“On the surface, Demonic bargains seem to have a certain symmetry. Once the ritual is invoked, the Demon must absolutely obey the conditions, on pain of their own soul being lost. A Succubus, once summoned, must satisfy any lust of the invoker for a period of three days. As with any other bargain, for the Demon to fail at this would mean the Demon losing their own soul to the ritualist. In theory, if you asked for something the Demon strongly preferred not to do, the current compact could be annulled, and a new compact forged, by the consent of both parties. Yet it proved impossible to force a Demon to invoke this clause. Fausticus's critical insight was to realize that any named Demon could be summoned into the succubus ritual, not just Demons under the Sin of Lust. And we all know the clever use that Fausticus made of that.”
I don't know, but I keep quiet. Maybe it'll become clear soon.
“The systematization of Fausticus's method is the basis of modern sorcery. Unfortunately, there are two key limitations on our power, which is the reason why Angelic mages can still face us as equals. The first limitation is that to summon an exceptional Demon through the succubus ritual, the invoker must be an exceptional person. Some of you are virgins, so Demons will be very interested in you; it's purity that they are most driven to ruin.”
I almost raise my hand before remembering to softly clap my hands instead.
“Yes, you in the veil?”
“Then would it be even better to make an Angelic compact first? Tee-hee!”
The lecturer laughs. “Oh, if somebody under an Angelic compact was willing to make a diabolical bargain, there isn't a Demon in Hell who wouldn't respond! Ruining a holy virgin of the Angels would be an overriding goal for them. But that's not a tactic we can use to our own advantage, since the Angels won't compact with someone who intends to abuse them.”
It's a good thing people can't see how widely I'm smiling. The logic of the master plan is becoming clear to me. There, there, you poor little Angel screaming on my shoulder, you won't have to put up with me much longer.
The lecturer's smile vanishes. “But remember, to become a modern sorcerer, you must first summon a Pride Demon instead of a Lust Demon in the succubus ritual, then demand a sex act so shameful that a Demon under Pride would rather forge a new compact than go along with it. And, the succubus ritual can only demand that the Demon serve your sincere lusts. During the three-day period of the succubus ritual, you can't order the Demon to attack an enemy soldier—unless that act specifically arouses your desires in that way. Then, anybody who forces a Pride Demon to agree to a new compact rather than carry out some perversion, must truly lust for that perversion.”
A-ha-HA. Truly, the right Hero has been Summoned to this world. Even if I hadn't been told the probability, I would estimate my chance of failing this stage as zero.
The lecturer speaks quietly, seeming abashed. “So that is the embarrassing truth at the core of the modern system, and the reason why you are all wearing masks in shame of showing your faces. Anyone who enslaves a Demon must be somebody who desired an act so degenerate that even Demons wouldn't perform it. You're here because you believe you have a desire like that, but if you're wrong, the price will be your very souls. Your only gain will be three days of pleasure, and then you'll be sucked into Hell at the end of your life… yes, veiled girl?”
“I'm sorry if I'm naive,” I say, keeping my voice soft. “I don't want to be a bother, but I don't know a lot of things other people know. What's an example of an act so perverted that a Demon won't do it? Tee-hee.”
The lecturer's cheeks flush red. “That's, ah… I mean… well, not in my own personal case of course, but… I mean, obviously sorcerers don't talk about what they did to succeed… but, there's a rumor that one perverted desire is to have somebody put their m-mouth on your you-know and lick until, until it happens.”
There are gasps from around the room.
…hey. You people. Are you messing with me? I mean, really?
It's true that I've read about countries and eras when asking for oral-genital contact was grounds for a divorce, or times when it was called a criminal act. But is this really how some cultures are before they invent online pornography? That's hard for me to accept even after seeing it. History books are one thing, but this is reality!
“But, you don't need to desire anything so extreme,” the lecturer says. “There's many Demons that can be subdued more easily than that, so you don't have to go so far.”
What perversion could go less far than oral sex? I can't even imagine!
The lecturer clears his throat. “That is the second great limitation of modern sorcery. Higher-ranked demons, more steeped in wickedness, are more perverse themselves. Even if you have purity enough to attract greater Demons in the ritual, you mustn't overreach the rank of Demon you request. Be conservative! Consider the risk if your unspeakable desire turns out to be speakable! As much as we might dream of the power we could gain by enslaving a Duke of Hell, the attempt would inevitably end with your own soul being lost. No mortal could desire anything awful enough to shock a Demon so deeply steeped in wickedness… is something wrong, veiled girl?”
AHA HA HA HA HAHAHAH AHA—
“I'm fine,” I say. “Tee-hee.”
I dive into the subject matter of Demonic Sorcery with an enthusiasm that I've never shown to any Earthly scholarship. I'm sorry, my old teachers. Even if I'd tried hard to learn your material, I would not have acquired superpowers.
Every morning guards convey me to the College of Diabolism in the University of the Wicked City. In the afternoon I return to the Vizier's palace.
The food at the palace remains acceptable. Massages from bathing attendants are a new luxury that I enjoy. When they're fully dressed in the local maid outfit, the rating of the catgirls rises to 6 out of 10.
But there isn't much more to life here that I expect to enjoy, even as a Wicked Empress? Cultured people go to hear musicians play, but it will be five hundred years before anyone here can play trance electronica.
I wonder if this world contains little that an Earth girl would want. There's no amount of golden coin that can buy a Playstation. I would seriously consider selling my soul to regain the Internet.
Still, the fact is that I'm here to stay, and being Wicked Empress is better than being a peasant.
Why am I pondering this? Because even if I'm already told that I'll become Empress with one hundred percent probability, staying on as Empress for a long time is a different question. Similarly, there's the question of whether the Wicked Vizier and his friends will try to control the new Empress behind the scenes. 'If they place you in power, they can remove you from power' is an obvious thought.
So, if I decide to be an Empress after all—then, I must gather advantages.
Which returns the subject to the College of Diabolism.
“The highest-ranked Demon that has ever been forced into a modern compact,” says the woman lecturing us, “is a Baron of Hell under Pride. But was that the most difficult Demon ever subdued? No, because there are more difficult targets than Demons under Pride. Being governed by the Sin of Pride makes a Demon more likely to balk at perversions. Thus, binding a Greater Demon under Greed is more difficult than subduing a Baron under Pride. Since compacted Demons under other Sins are rarer, their powers are in higher demand. However,” the woman's cheeks are flaming, but she forces herself to continue, “I warn you that to essay this, you must be so perverted that people wouldn't acknowledge you as a human being.”
Shy little Kiri is trembling at this, which is how it looks when Yugano Yuuki is trying not to laugh.
“There's one sorcerer who subdued a Greater Demon of Envy. After his death, his testament explained where to find his notes. The person who found those notes nearly burned them, but the method has been passed down to the instructors here.” The lecturing woman pauses. “Everyone in this room who thinks they can't endure this horrifying revelation should leave now. Before I, before I say it.”
Two-thirds of the students get up and leave the room.
“Kiri-chan… won't you go too? It's really not a thing you should hear. People sometimes become sick on hearing it.”
Kiri-chan shakes her head behind the veil.
“Then,” the woman swallows, “the truth is… that man had a desire to put his thing in the, the other hole. Not the mouth… the other other hole.”
This produces not so much horror, as puzzlement.
“The hole you… poop from.”
There are various reactions to this, but nobody faints.
Afterwards, the teacher congratulates Kiri-chan on enduring the class.
You. All of you. You all fail. You nobles of the Wicked Empire whose very souls depend on cultivating a twisted desire, I assign you all an E-rank in perversion. No, an F-rank. I'll have to invent new Roman letters after Z to describe you. This must be what it's like to live as a nuclear physicist, surrounded by people who can't do multiplication.
“Has anyone ever forced a Demon into losing their soul to a human? Tee-hee.”
“What do you mean?”
“Suppose that instead of making the modern bargain, you refused to annull the succubus ritual and kept requiring the Demon to do terrible things with you. Could you push the Demon to a breaking point where they just couldn't obey anymore, and collect their soul outright?”
The scholar tutoring me flinches. “Kiri-chan, that's an awful question… no, I'm sorry, Kiri-chan, I didn't mean it that way!”
Poor little Kiri-chan slowly lifts her head back up, having shrunk away from this disapproval.
The scholar speaks on. “Really, that's an excellent question! The answer is that nothing like that has ever happened in history. All Demons are accustomed to obeying horrifying orders from their superiors. We know perversions that Pride Demons would rather serve us than perform. It's not as if they gain nothing from agreeing to serve you. By serving under someone more degenerate than themselves, they'll increase in corruption and rise in the ranks of Hell. But if you offered them no alternative to your demand, they'd just obey you the way they'd submit to a superior Demon's orders. And then you'd lose your own soul, because you wouldn't have nullified the succubus ritual.”
“Then, what does it even mean for a human to collect a Demon's soul?”
“What's the highest rank of Lust Demon that's ever been captured?”
“E-eep! Nobody would ever try that! Even if it was a Least Demon under Lust, you'd lose your soul for certain!”
“What exactly happens to a human who loses their soul to a Demon under Lust? Tee-hee.”
“Nobody knows, Kiri-chan. It's not as if we can ask them.”
“Does the Lust Demon do perverted things with them forever after, or—”
“Nobody knows, Kiri-chan!”
“I know no Demon higher than a Baron has been subdued. But, what higher ranks exist?”
The woman tutoring me shows some relief that I haven't asked a terrible question this time. “The ranks are Least Demon, Lesser Demon, Greater Demon, Higher Demon, Knight of Hell, Baron of Hell. Above the Barons are the Counts of Hell, and then the Seven Dukes.”
“Seven Dukes for Seven Sins?”
“That's right, Kiri-chan. For the Seven we say, 'the Duke above Pride'.”
“Is there anyone above the Dukes?”
“Only the Devil.”
“And is there any rumor of something more powerful and wicked than the Devil? Like, the First Darkness from before the dawn of time, or anything like that? And if so, would it be an entity we could subdue by sufficient perversion, or would it be entirely alien to human desire—”
“Would more lustful people also be more powerful as Angelic mages?”
The lecturer looks puzzled. “Why in the world would that be?”
“Be-because… it's a holier sacrifice to repress a stronger temptation to sin?”
Somebody in the class giggles, and the lecturer smiles. “No, Kiri-chan. The Angels might still compact with someone like that, but it's purity of motive that increases our enemies' power.”
It seems I misunderstood a certain idea from the very beginning, but thankfully that isn't important any more.
By the way, for an institution that's devoted to making compacts with Demons, in the capital city of something called the Wicked Empire, this school isn't very evil.
People kindly treat that slightly touched girl called Kiri-chan. Well, I could pass that off as them currying favor with the Wicked Vizier. But to the extent I can see anything by keeping my eyes open, it seems other students aren't being bullied either. Senior students cheerfully assist junior ones. This must say something deep about human nature, but I have no idea what.
Most of the so-called curriculum is wasted on me, so it's the technical aspects of the craft that I study with the most eagerness. Using a ritual circle inscribed on stone. Memorizing the invocation to be spoken, the way the seven torches are arranged. This part seems straightforward to me. I think I can carry out this ritual.
Then, there's only one last decision to be made.
Should I summon the highest rank of Pride Demon, the Duke above Pride?
Should I summon a Count under some other Sin?
Should I become the first person ever to capture a Lust Demon?
Should I try to break a Demon outright with my perverted demands, and become the first human to own a Demon's soul?
O~r should I try to summon the Overlord of Hell above the Seven Sins, Satan Lucifuge Asmodei Ahriman Moloch Melkor Leviathan?
Let's list out the considerations pertaining to this key life decision.
First, it's possible that the Seven Dukes aren't to be mentioned in the same breath as lower Demons. There's some indication of that in older grimoires, from when diabolists made different compacts. Other demons have risen and fallen in rank, but the Seven Dukes have stayed constant for as long as anyone remembers. From the standpoint of a would-be demon catcher, there could be an unguessably large gap in difficulty between the Count under Pride and the Duke above Pride.
Or another question: A Greater Wrath Demon is at least as resistant as a Baron under Pride. How difficult then is a Count under Wrath? Maybe even I wouldn't be perverted enough?
Where does a Lust Demon stand relative to all this? Nobody knows, because nobody's ever caught a Lust Demon at all. A Knight under Lust could be equivalent to a teenage boy with Internet access! There's no way of knowing.
It's the same for revolting a Demon so much that they just can't obey you, in order for you to obtain their soul outright. It's never been done, thus, nobody knows where it stands on to the difficulty scale.
In all cases, it's the same dilemma at the core. These incompetent perverts have explored the space of diabolism up to a certain boundary. As a competent pervert, it would be a waste for me to only go a small step further. But when it's all unknown space after that, how large a leap should I try when failure means losing my soul?
And finally, consider Satan.
Technically, Satan is the Devil above Pride, and Pride Demons are the easiest to catch.
But Satan is also the Devil above Lust. A Least Lust Demon is higher in perversion than a Baron under Pride. The Duke above Lust must be far more perverted than anything a human of this world can imagine, though that's not saying much. Then, Satan should be more twisted yet—but also prideful.
I think if I hadn't been told my probability of victory was one hundred percent, I would play it safe and settle for a Baron under one of the other Sins.
But Yugano Yuuki is the Summoned Hero with a one hundred percent chance of victory!
Maybe! I'm more worried about relying on that now!
Trying to catch Satan might be pushing it too far!
It could upset the cosmic order or have unknown consequences if I succeed!
So I have to look myself in the mirror and ask—did the Summoning Spell assign me a one hundred percent chance of victory because I'm somebody wise enough to choose a safe course with margin for error? Or because I'm someone whose incredible corruption is more than equal to the most difficult task?
O~h, my answer to this dilemma will really reveal my character, won't it? What should I do~?
This life-changing decision has now become an urgent question for me! Whatever my answer, I'd better decide soon!
Keeping my Angel by not being sinful with myself—I can't bear it much longer.
“Kiri-chan… please remember, it’s not too late to back out.”
The Headmistress said no.
The Wicked Vizier said yes.
Guess who won!
Everyone except the Wicked Vizier is watching me head down to the Ritual Room. They’ve said farewells to me with trembling noses. Some even cast dark looks at the Wicked Vizier, if they’re from noble families confident of not being assassinated by him.
Everyone thinks little Kiri-chan is going to her doom.
About my decision: I’ve decided to be sensible and invoke a Count of Hell under a Sin other than Pride or Lust. I told the Vizier that, and asked him which Sin he recommended.
“Yugano Yuuki… do you really think you can do that? No, are you certain you can do it? To us, it’s all our plans at stake if you fail. To you, it’s your soul.”
“I am confident, Wicked Vizier-san.”
“Should you describe your perverse desires to a senior scholar in diabolism, to see if they agree that you could unsettle a Count of Hell?”
“I’m fearful that if I explain to anyone from this dimension, they will literally die.”
“Really.” I wasn’t exaggerating. People of this world shriek and faint when exposed to the concept of threesomes. They could experience actual heart failure if I explain something on the order of 'guro' that even most Earth people shouldn’t Google.
A grave nod from the Wicked Vizier. “Have the scholars of diabolism answered all the questions that you have?”
“They’ve told me all the answers that they know.”
The most important question I have is this: ‘If everyone in this culture is ludicrously innocent, does even their Hell reflect that innocence under some law of souls?’
But that’s not something anyone here would know. To them, this state of affairs is natural and they’ve never questioned it.
Oh, and I didn’t wimp out completely. I’m not telling this to the Vizier, but I’m planning to test the Demon to see how it responds to simpler perversions. If it seems shocked, I won’t offer it an alternative compact. Instead I’ll try to break its obedience and take its soul outright. I’m guessing a Count is the highest level of Demon where I could do that without cosmic repercussions?
Anyway, the Vizier advised me to choose a Count of Wrath.
That question itself had been a test on my part. I’d already decided that a Demon of military force was most suitable to support an Empress. So I’m relieved the Vizier also said Wrath? It means he’s okay with me wanting to wield real power.
Unless the Vizier is planning to betray me in an elaborate way that’s harder to understand.
That evening we went to the Vizier’s hidden library, where he took out an old Grand Grimoire from before modern sorcery. From that tome I learned the name of AMON AESMA, serving beneath the Duke above Wrath (called PUT SATANACHIA). The nature of AMON AESMA is ill-timed vengeance and righteous violence that defeats its own purpose. A bit scary, but the other Counts of Hell under Wrath sounded even worse? His insignia is supposed to indicate a claw mark over a ruined eye, but it looks like a poorly designed logo for an Internet company.
And now it’s time.
For a modern sorcerer to invoke a Count under Wrath is absolutely unheard-of. This is not a feat to associate with the identity of ‘Kiri’. Furthermore, the ritual requires me to speak my own name.
Therefore, the usual supervisors aren’t allowed to watch this ritual.
And the Vizier isn’t an experienced sorcerer himself, so he can’t come either.
In the end, I’ll be doing this alone.
Mid-night is approaching, the time exactly between sunset and sunrise, that here they call the witching hour.
The Ritual Room is a great stone chamber, domed and windowless, lit only by seven torches that flame with seven colors of smoke. When I summon the Demon under Wrath, the red torch will flare up. It might even burn all its fuel and go out, since the rank of AMON AESMA is so high. That's how I'll know that I've succeeded, even before the Demon manifests fully.
Upon the floor, a pentagram inside a circle inside a pentagram.
On the other side of the chamber is a door that goes into a bedchamber, where I’ll be staying for up to seventy-two hours after this.
Slowly, my heart pounding faster, I strip off my clothes until I am standing naked before the pentagram.
Then I don the clothes I had the Vizier’s seamstresses make for me. Stockings that go up to my mid-thigh, panties that are lacy and impractical. A short skirt that goes almost but not quite to the stockings, creating my absolute territory. A stiff corset, to constrain my belly and uplift my breasts. With this, I'm dressed to enter the pictures I've browsed for so long.
In this way I remind myself that I undertake this endeavor not as a hero from another world, but as a girl of Earth who’s been corrupted by the Internet. Any trace of decency I might have acquired in this dimension is something I should put behind me now.
The last preliminary is a golden-inked prayer strip that I press to my forehead. The blood-scarlet prayer strip that’s stayed there up until now, comes loose with a little ‘plop’.
I look at the Angel hovering over my shoulder, who up until this time has only been able to wail. I've kept him this long so that I could have sanctity to sacrifice to a Demon, and that's a bit…
“I’m sorry,” I tell him. “For everything.”
“Don’t do it,” he whispers. It seems he’s now grown close enough to my soul to speak to me. “It’s not too late, Yugano Yuuki. You could make another choice.”
I believe that what I am doing will be for the good of all the people under the Wicked Empire. I send that thought to him, because I’m not sure it’s safe to say aloud even here.
“Don’t,” whispers the Angel. That tiny, bishounen face stares up at me like he’s watching the death of God. He has a look of hopelessness about him, like he knows he can’t talk me out of it. “You’ll lose your soul, and even if you succeed, you’ll lose your soul. There’s nothing good that can come of this for you.”
Then I stride to the middle of the pentagram and speak. “Ash. Dust. Desert. Emptiness. Death to fire, death to earth, death to water, death to air. In the center of all things there is a white flower. A drop of my blood falls upon the petals as a sign. The book of law contains protections for mortal beings. I forfeit these protections. I forfeit these protections. I forfeit these protections. I open my heart to the gaze of Hell.”
An actinic taste comes into the air, and the lines on the floor flare up into black fire. With those words spoken, there’s no turning back.
“My body will be under your dominion, your soul will be mine if you refuse my lust. A night, a day, a night, a day, a night, a day. Fading into sunset. Ending as it began, on this witching hour. Yugano Yuuki, Yugano Yuuki, Yugano Yuuki. I offer that soul as a payment.”
My heart is pounding wildly, the meaning of what I’m doing is really dawning on me.
I’m about to—
In just a few minutes—
It’ll be time for me to finally lose my vir-gi-ni-ty!
“Appare, appare, appare.” The tingling in the air becomes more intense. “This sanctified virgin speaks your name and invokes you to come forth—”
Oh, why not.
“—SATAN LUCIFUGE ASMODEI AHRIMAN MOLOCH MELKOR LEVIATHAN!”
There’s a sound like a million tons of shattering glass, and all seven of the torches flare hugely and then go out.
Ah, the Devil is above all Seven Sins, so of course it wouldn’t be just one of the torches that flare.
As a consequence, this room really has gone completely dark.
There’s no seeing anything at all, like if the Devil is standing right behind me.
Well, I’m not going to just stand here in the dark like an idiot. Keeping calm, I stride towards the door to the bedroom. I keep a hand out as best I can, but I still have to grope a bit to find the doorknob.
The bedroom has its own light, so as soon as the door opens, I turn around. In dim light I behold the Devil, gazing at me with a cold expression that seems to travel straight down my spine.
I’m not sure how long I spend staring at him.
Compared to even an Angel, the Devil is…
“You’ll do,” I tell him. My mouth is dry, I cannot swallow. “Now, come into my parlour.”
I usually feel good about my last-minute impulse decisions, but in retrospect, that one was a bit… large?
It could be literally the silliest decision that anyone has ever made.
If you consider the legendary errors, then right after 'Don't invade Russia during the wintertime' would be 'Don't stake your soul on defeating the Devil, but if you do, at least don't have it be a pervertedness contest'.
But I can't help it—when I see the Devil in front of me, I regret nothing. His limbs are lithely muscled, and pale in the dim light. There's a white cloth about him, thin as a veil, wrapped like a toga, obscuring everything and hiding nothing. His face is indescribable.
After a timeless eternity, I don't know how long, the Devil smiles, and steps forwards to approach the bedchamber where I stand.
“It's been a long time since any mortal dared to treat with me. To be summoned under this ritual, by a holy virgin offering up her flesh, her sanctity and her soul… in all of eternity that's never happened. I'll give you unimaginable pleasure as a reward for that audacity.”
My mind is a bit fuzzy right now. It could be the smoke from the seven spent torches, or it could be the male form hammering into my eyeballs. Even so, I remember the words that I should say next.
“Satan Lucifuge Asmodei Ahriman Moloch Melkor Leviathan…”
The Devil raises a single eyebrow. “Yes?”
“Under the name of Yugano Yuuki I swear, I swear, I swear, that if at any time you wish to refuse my lusts as unendurable, you may say 'I accept your alternative compact' to annull this succubus ritual and institute instead your oath—”
“You must be joking.”
“—to lend me your power for the rest of my mortal days, until the limitations of the book of law. Nor yet shall you receive my soul. Your compensation will be to learn under me in order to gain in corruption and…” he can't rise any further in the ranks of Hell, “and that's it.”
The Devil has let me speak all this without further interruption. When I'm done, he takes a step closer to me. It feels like I'm choking just from the air being so thick with his presence.
“You have some nerve,” he murmurs.
“Well, I won't deny that.” I try for a laugh, but it comes out sounding shaky.
“Are you just making life more interesting for yourself, or do you really imagine that you can do this?”
My heart is beating far out of control, but I manage to say, “Transform yourself into a girl. As the Devil above Envy, you can do that, right?”
The Devil gazes at me, then slowly smiles. “As you wish,” he murmurs, and—
—sorry, my brain cut out for a while. She's not wearing any clothing.
When I've recovered, I say, “Devil above Greed, make me a cup.”
The Devil's female form hands me a golden goblet fit to be the Grail. The gold seems to shimmer below the surface in a pattern that's not quite as beautiful as a fractal screensaver. Okay, that thought is a good sign, my brain is recovering from this exposure.
I'm Yugano Yuuki, the girl who's been ruined by the Internet. The Devil is unimaginably beautiful as a man or a woman, I can't deny. But it remains to be determined how the depth of this world's Hell stacks up against Earth's online forums.
My voice is a bit unsteady, but I speak, and it steadies as I go. “So, you see how many girls are in this room? Two. You see how many cups are in this room? One. I'm a kindly master who won't resort to that if I don't have to, but with this, I've already won.”
The Devil's eyes become cooler. Veils gather about her once more, and he's transformed into male again. “Beginning with your victory declaration against me, the supreme evil? You've gone beyond audacity into the realm of delusion, mortal. I've spent millennia steeped in wickedness beyond your capacity to imagine.”
Ha! If one person spends a thousand years thinking perverted thoughts, that's no better than a thousand people spending one year thinking perverted thoughts! I'm not facing you alone, for behind me is the decadence of an entire planet! Even if the race of Earth can't win at anything else, we won't lose at degenerate pornography!
The Devil steps close enough to me that I can smell his breath, fragrant like spices. From this close I can see more of the human shape beneath his veils. He lifts a hand up to my face and my knees go weak as he slides a thumb into my mouth. Oh, god, I'm sucking it. Licking it shamefully like the Internet has taught me. All the repressed sexual energy of these last three weeks is lighting a fire inside me.
The Devil withdraws his thumb. “Interesting,” he murmurs. “Now that I've touched you and gained the measure of your sins, girl from another world… you might have as much perversion inside you as the governor I set over Lust. Not enough to conquer me or any of my seven. But enough to make this encounter truly enjoyable for me. You weren't nearly as foolish as I thought—but still, I declare my own victory. I'll have you endure pleasures you've never imagined, and make your soul belong to me even before these hours end.”
The dismay inside me rises up, crashes against two protective thoughts: One hundred percent chance of victory and the Devil can lie.
Certainly, I won't give up before three days have passed. I'll set my perversions against him to the very end. If I fail, it won't be with a single fantasy of mine left unfulfilled. No, I'll do my best to break through to a new level of twistedness if that's what it takes.
I go over to the wide bed and sit down on it. The Devil remains standing, watching me with smoky eyes.
All my limbs are trembling with hope, despair, and the torrent of heat pouring through me.
I look at the Devil and ask myself—what will I have from him first?
This man of ultimate beauty, ultimate confidence, with the strength of Hell and the supreme authority of wickedness—how does the woman in me respond to that?
Thinking this, I already know the answer that rises up from my depths.
I reach out my trembling fingers and slowly unroll my left leg's stocking, removing it to leave my foot bare.
“Then, we might as well begin with the basics,” I say. “Now suckle on my toes, slave.”
Let's pause at this critical juncture to contemplate the nature of probability.
What does it mean when the white mages say, “The Summoning Spell determined that you have a one hundred percent chance of victory?”
Does it represent an absolute determination? One hundred point zero zero percent, total certainty? Or does it just mean the probability is closer to 100% than to 99%? Does the Summoning Spell round to the nearest 10%, in which case I could have a 5% chance of losing?
When I considered that, I remembered that a white mage spoke as if gradations as small as “two percent” could be determined. If they weren't just speaking figuratively, then at least the probability is closer to one hundred percent than to ninety-eight percent. But an absolute certainty is probably impossible.
Or a deeper thought: In the end, every event either happens or it doesn't. Even if you say that a coin has a fifty percent probability of landing on heads, in the end it either shows heads or shows tails. Then if the Spell looks into the future, how can the Spell determine any probability other than zero percent or one hundred percent?
One guess is that maybe this universe has something analogous to quantum decisions that are irreducibly random. These tiny alternatives, by the butterfly effect, would be amplified into affecting larger outcomes like 'Yugano Yuuki overturns the Wicked Emperor' or 'Yugano Yuuki does not overturn the Wicked Emperor'.
Then, the meaning of the Spell's estimate would be that after accounting for tiny divergences and how they affect the world, in nearly all the possibilities Yugano Yuuki overturns the Wicked Emperor. Not just nine possibilities out of ten or even nineteen times out of twenty, but ninety-nine out of one hundred.
In that case my victories shouldn't be obtained by the last inch of my fingernails. If I was on the verge of losing before a desperate effort, mightn't some small event like a falling pebble perturb the outcome? A narrow victory shouldn't be one that happens in ninety-nine worlds out of one hundred.
Realistically, there is nowhere I could have ended up after my Summoning except in the office of the Wicked Vizier making his offer. Maybe the right falling pebble could have altered that, but the vast majority of falling pebbles wouldn't. If I'd wantonly committed suicide, that could have prevented me from reaching the Vizier's office. But that choice would be uncharacteristic of me, and someone watching me from the outside would call it unlikely.
So, looking back, my course up to the Vizier's office seems overdetermined.
If I win in more than ninety-nine out of one hundred worlds, that's how every flag event should appear in retrospect.
This story of Yugano Yuuki doesn't belong to the shounen genre—is what that implies. I won't ever win at the last minute.
Of course, a further implication is that I shouldn't do things based on random whims.
Was 'Yugano Yuuki will go for the big one and summon the Devil himself' an overdetermined event? Was it something that anyone who knew me could have guessed? To me, it feels like I didn't decide it myself until the last minute. Then, was my choice a fragile event that could have been altered by a bird flying past me in the morning? In the latter case, by choosing on a last-minute whim, I might have departed the track of the ninety-nine worlds and wandered into the uncertain open space of the hundredth.
I myself have no way of knowing whether my choice was overdetermined or a whim, except by seeing whether the consequence is victory or failure.
I wish I could say I worked that out in advance, but the truth is I saw it afterwards.
The state I'm in when I emerge from the sorcerer's bedchamber—
There's a perversion called 'ruined orgasm' that's part of the 'teasing and denial' fetish. You slowly stimulate yourself until you're almost ready to come, and then push yourself over the edge. As soon as you can't stop yourself from falling over that edge, you snatch your hands away and feel the empty pulsations inside you, contractions without real pleasure. It's more of a torment assigned to submissives, than something that people naturally enjoy. I tried it once and, nope. Raising all that tension, all that anticipation, and then letting it drain away into frustration and emptiness…
That's how I feel when I stagger out of that bedchamber with my virginity intact.
The Devil trails after me, the ancient being still looking stunned.
So. On the one hand, nobody's ever pushed a Demon into outright refusing an order and losing their soul.
Why? Because Demons are accustomed to taking orders from their superiors in Hell's hierarchy; they already have ancient mental habits in place for obeying.
But there's one entity in Hell who's an exception to that rule, isn't there?
From my womanly desire to see a beautiful, powerful man kneeling before me in subjugation, I treated the Devil as an 'M' and told him to suckle on my toes.
The Devil gave me an amused look, as though to convey 'fat chance'.
He didn't speak the words to accept my alternative compact. He just refused my lust.
I, Yugano Yuuki, am the woman to whom the Devil lost his soul. By the time either of us could have asked if we wanted that to happen, the succubus ritual had already shattered around us.
This is what it's like to be on a one hundred percent probable path to victory, I guess? Regardless of my exact actions once the ritual began, that flag would have tripped before three days had passed.
And, this is what it means to be trapped in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because nobody would ever have tried this if they hadn't been told they were certain to succeed. I think that maybe if I'd been told eighty percent, I would have tried for the Duke above Pride, and lost, which would have made the probability nearly zero. If I'd been told fifty percent, I would have tried for a Count under Pride and won. So in the end, the most self-consistent probability that could be told to me was a one hundred percent chance of victory.
You white mages who peeked at the probability… you made a weird event happen. If any cosmic forces show up asking for an explanation, I'm disclaiming all responsibility and passing them on to you.
The Wicked Vizier seems to relax when he sees me staggering down the halls. Then he chokes and turns away. “What are you wearing?!”
It seems I forgot to change out of those clothes.
“Well,” says the Wicked Vizier, still not looking at me. “I'm not disappointed to see that you changed your mind and backed out. You might feel ashamed of it, but I believe it shows wisdom to wait and consider.”
It also seems he can't see the Devil behind me.
“Actually… I didn't back out.”
The Wicked Vizier whirls on me, then chokes again and averts his eyes. “What? Then what are you doing here? Quick, go back and complete the ritual!”
“That fast—?!” The Wicked Vizier seems to steel himself, then he stares at me. “No, I see faint signs of a halo about you! You still have your Angel, unsealed!”
YES. YES I DO.
After I recovered from the shock, I thought of going right back into that bedchamber and finishing what we'd started, but—
The Devil pleaded with me. He sounded like he was strangling himself, but he pleaded with me. If my Angel leaves me, he must return to Heaven and report this situation to the factions there, and then the Devil himself doesn't know what will happen after. I asked my Angel, but he didn't know either.
I'm NOT HAPPY with this situation, but I'm keeping the Angel temporarily.
The Wicked Vizier looks worried. “Yugano Yuuki, tell me the truth this time! What happened? If you've made an error and damned yourself—” The Vizier shakes his head. “No! No, that can't have happened! We wouldn't make you Empress then, and in that case, you never should've been Summoned here to begin with!”
“Ah,” I say, “it seems a fluke event has occurred. Before I could have my so-called purity ruined, the Demon refused my lust outright, and…” I put a hand against my head. “Do you know what a human's supposed to do if she owns a Demon's soul? How to make him obey me or lend me power? Right now he's just following me around.” A thought occurs to me, and I turn my head to address the Angel hovering over my shoulder. “Do you know, Angel?”
“Don't you dare say a word to her!” hisses the Devil.
The little Angel has his hands over his face. “I'm not advising you about anything at this point, Yugano Yuuki. Your life is too strange.”
Meanwhile, the Wicked Vizier is clutching his head. “That's—just what kind of world did you—but if you say it's so, then—should we consult the sages? No! They can't be allowed to know! But then—gah!” The Vizier spins around in a full circle, hands still fisted in his hair. “No, if it's like this, can you still wield supreme diabolical power?”
A thought occurs to me, and I turn to the Devil. “Hey you, make me some chocolate.”
The Devil snorts. “Why should I?”
“Make me some chocolate, or my hand goes into my panties and starts rubbing.”
Ignoring the gargle from the Wicked Vizier, I smile at the Devil as he absorbs my threat. If I do that, my Angel departs. Returns to Heaven. And talks.
The Devil's eyes flare. “You…”
“You know, even when you're angry, you're not actually as scary as a horror movie… no, wait, never mind, that's competitive.”
Averting my eyes, I hand the chocolate back to the Vizier. “There, I figured out how to make my Demon do things for me.”
“You invoked a Demon under Greed instead?” The Vizier looks puzzled. He raises the chocolate to stare at it, then sniffs. “No… Gluttony? What have you done now, Yugano Yuuki?! How will the dread powers of Gluttony stabilize your reign as Empress?”
“That's a bit of a complicated story…”
“You did it because you missed the food from your previous world?!” Now the Wicked Vizier is glaring at me. “So far I've refrained from criticizing your decision-making on grounds of your youth, but this is unbelievably irresponsible!”
Darn it. I thought I'd keep this secret for longer than that. “Well, that's not it. I suppose you could call it my slothfulness? I wasn't sure what your conspiracy meant me to do once I finished binding a Demon? But if I had to make a sincere effort this one time, I at least wanted everything afterwards to be easy. So I summoned Satan.”
The chocolate drops from the Wicked Vizier's fingers and he slumps to the side, but thanks to my alert reflexes I manage to leap forward and catch the chocolate.
The next morning, after eating a passable breakfast with the Devil standing behind me, the Wicked Vizier summons me into a palace meeting-chamber.
Already sitting in the head chair of the table when we arrive is a middle-aged man I don't recognize, clad all in black.
“Summoned Hero Yuuki,” the Wicked Vizier says, “you can show your face to this man; he's the final member of our conspiracy.”
I flip over my veil and slide into a seat, gazing in puzzlement at the black-clad man at the head of the table. Should I recognize this person? There's something reminiscent about his face, but I'm sure I've never met him.
The Wicked Vizier takes a seat himself. “Both of us thought it might be prudent not to tell you for a while about what's going on. However, after the events of last night, we've reconsidered that policy. I would say that I'm worried you might go to further extremes, if not for the fact that I literally can't imagine how.”
That's a bit harsh, but also a bit fair. “Then, what am I to do next?”
The man at the head of the table speaks. “Fundamentally, you need to master politics, management, and a skill we might term 'discretion'. My thought is to first introduce you at the Wicked Court and let you have some fun there; you must learn to recognize false friends and those who'd take advantage of you. You should continue posing as 'Kiri of Rolan' to accomplish that. Afterwards, I'll place you in charge of a business for a while, followed by a term as a regional judge. Then we might have you govern a province, in order to test your competence.”
I frown, puzzled. “I can see how that much is prudent, given that I must become Wicked Empress as part of your plot to seize control of the Summoning Spell…” I look back and forth between the man and the Wicked Vizier, both of them watching me. “But, what else?”
“The Vizier says that you seem unimpressed with the luxuries of this Empire. Why is that? Were you already a princess in your former world?”
“I don't mean any offense by this. But my home world of Earth is older than this place, more mature. Simply put, Earth stands in the same relation to this world as an adult does to a child. The adult isn't always kinder or happier than the child, but the adult is more sophisticated. By my standards, a tall building should be a hundred stories high.”
“Hm. Then, does your sophisticated world perhaps have more mature ideas about how to rule a country? Or is the art behind those huge buildings something you can teach?”
I slowly nod. I can't call myself an expert on anything, but I know… that farmers should try rotating their crops, the idea of a printing press with movable type, the concept of scientific investigation, the goal of developing machines to improve production, the theory of evolution and the concept of animal breeding, the core idea from economics that weird retribution is visited upon governments that try to regulate prices away from the balancing point of supply and demand… actually, by local standards I know a number of important things, don't I?
The black-clad man speaks again. “Marvelous. Well, I'll have you speak of your world's ways to me before I approve your becoming Empress. I won't set myself up as a skeptic of your world's wisdom, but I need to know it's not just the purposeless taboos of a foreign land.”
The Devil is laughing to himself, though it has a bitter sound. Neither fact reassures me.
“Again, that all sounds very sensible…” I have an ominous feeling about this. “But, you haven't answered the most important questions. For what purpose did you twist the Summoning Spell to bring me here? What other conditions must I carry out for you to make me Empress? And how do you mean to ensure that I overturn the Wicked Emperor?”
The black-clad man smiles. “Oh, you still haven't recognized me, then? I guess you haven't handled much of this country's coinage.”
“You're the Wicked Emperor?!”
“Then, you'll just step aside for me when the time comes, ensuring that part of the plan succeeds with one hundred percent probability?”
“But then, the mysterious deed that you'll require me to accomplish before that—”
“There isn't one!”
I gasp. “Then, the whole purpose of this plot was just to obtain a candidate for the Empire's succession?”
“By Summoning a woman with the wisdom of another world who, as a perverted virgin, could also become an Empress that wields supreme diabolical power! That would stabilize the changes of her reign against personally targeted forms of revolutionary activity, and also relieve the civil government's need to treat with powerful diabolists in order to gain protection from other powerful diabolists—”
“Precisely!” The Wicked Emperor interrupts me. “To that end, I even began calling myself the Wicked Emperor! I spread false rumors of corruption, so that every province thinks itself the only righteous one in my Empire! Have you noticed how even though everything here is called 'wicked this' and 'wicked that', it's hard to spot any evil right in front of you?”
“Not particularly, but I see it now! It was all to lure the senior Angelic mages into targeting you so that you could shape the outcome of the Summoning Spell!”
“Yes! Those tradition-bound greyheads wouldn't go along with it when I first petitioned them all those decades ago! Even though there are some problems that can't be remedied just by assassinating one evil overlord every three centuries! All of this, all my planning over these years, has been for the sake of my great plan to save this world that is descending into chaos under the pressures of modern diabolism!”
“Well, that makes perfect sense, then!”
“A plan to which you are the key, Yugano Yuuki!”
“I understand, and I'll go along with it!”
“The fate of this world depends on you!”
“I know! I said I'll do it, so you can stop persuading me!”
I think the Emperor has been waiting a long time to explain to someone about this plan.
The Emperor insists on continuing to explain for a long time, though after a while it turns into more of a briefing on the Empire's state. Eventually darkness falls, as it always does, and I head back to my bedchamber.
I doubt I'll be able to sleep tonight. Yesterday, I was exhausted enough that I was able to fall asleep despite the Devil standing silently next to my bed. Tonight I can look forward to a long time tossing and turning—
No, that's silly, the Devil is above the Sin of Sloth. There's no insomnia in this world that would withstand his supreme Sloth powers.
I begin stripping off my clothes in preparation for donning pajamas, aware that the Devil is also watching me, as is the Angel.
To say that I feel unworthy of my fate is putting it mildly. I know so little that it horrifies me. Other people from Earth would do far better in my place.
And, I think I know what went wrong.
In retrospect, the Emperor should have committed himself to demand more otherworldly knowledge from the person he Summoned, as his condition of setting that person on the throne. But a person from this world has no sense of where to place that threshold. If the Summoned Hero knows about the scientific method but only barely passed her calculus class, is that a lot of knowledge or a little knowledge? Nobody here knows the difference! Whereas in this world's concept of diabolism, 'she took the Devil's soul' is understandable as the greatest possible win.
Since I have a one hundred percent chance of victory, I expect that my paltry share of Earth's knowledge will amaze the Emperor, and he'll readily confirm me for the throne.
And once the Summoning Spell's conditions are already met with one hundred percent probability, it won't try to summon anyone better, will it?
Or maybe, if a perverted virgin who knew more science had been Summoned here, that more intelligent person wouldn't have impulsively invoked Satan. The Emperor couldn't have been impressed by their superior knowledge to Yugano Yuuki, since I wouldn't have been here to establish the comparison. So the Emperor would have been less impressed in total, and that person's success probability would have been slightly lower.
So that's unfortunate, but by now it's too late to change anything… I think? I mean, it seems futile for me to imagine that I can change who would have been Summoned when I'm already here?
Or rather, if I was the sort of person who'd look over this situation and refuse to ascend as Empress, then someone else would have been Summoned instead of me. But since now I have to decide while already being here, am I at fault in that?
Is it even possible for me to decide, when finding myself in this situation is tantamount to already being told my decision? Wouldn't that be akin to trying to alter the timeline in a time travel story where there's only one timeline, implying some disaster that forces my story back on track?
Concepts like these make my head hurt. I want to say that even the knowledge of Earth didn't say anything about this, but I'm too ignorant to say even that. If there's a genius theory that resolves all these issues, I don't think I can invent it on my own.
So in the end, I'll go with what my beliefs say when prophecies and Summonings aren't involved: I won't refuse to help just because someone who isn't actually here could have helped more.
Once my pajamas are on, I sit on my bed and gaze at the face of the Devil who now follows behind me. He seems content to say little, perhaps because chattering would be beneath his dignity. It's still impossible to look at his beauty without desiring it.
I wonder if becoming an Empress is the least of my worries.
“Hey, Satan,” I say. “You and I need to come to some understanding.”
Amusement flickers in the ancient gaze. “The Devil will always bargain, though the price may not be to your liking.”
“Who owns whose soul, again?”
The smile vanishes from his face. “You are arrogant. It's not only a sin, but a flaw.”
“Fine, so I'm arrogant. You're also a tad arrogant, which is how you ended up here. We're two arrogant people, and you're not in the superior position. Now, can we talk about how to make our time together be not so unpleasant?”
“I'm listening, mortal.”
“Angel, I'd like you to listen too.”
The small winged form turns his face to me. “Heaven always hears you, Yugano Yuuki, even if it doesn't always answer—”
“Great! First, it's clear that the end of a mortal lifespan doesn't change the fact of a Demon owning the mortal's soul. Then, am I right in guessing that after I die I'll still own the Devil's soul?”
The Devil doesn't say anything. Neither does the Angel. I think that's answer enough. If I wasn't going to own him forever, I believe the Devil would correct me about that.
“So the Devil and Yugano Yuuki are together for eternity, then.”
Again the silence.
“Satan, remind me to explain to you about the Prisoner's Dilemma sometime in the next million years. You can probably make things unpleasant for me, but over the course of eternity I can make them more unpleasant for you. Alternatively, we can ask ourselves about how to make each other's lives nicer. But that has to be both of us. I won't keep my hand stretched out to you if you refuse to reach back.”
The Devil is looking at me. I can't read his gaze.
“We could be friends, Satan. We could just not do the whole thing that isn't friendly.”
Still the Devil doesn't speak. I wonder if the mode of thought I'm suggesting is too alien to the Devil, or if he's too old now to take another path, or if it's a rule that only mortals can change their natures. If I talk to this entity for long enough, will I find a person in there besides the idea of the Devil? Or is that idea all that there is?
I sigh, exhaling my breath. “Satan, if you want us to be friendlier, you might need to speak more freely. I don't mean that as a threat, it's just part of how friends are with each other.”
When the Devil finally speaks it's slower than anything I've heard from him. “Then… what would you have me say?”
“For one thing, talk with me more about what's happening. I don't think it will hurt you to let me learn things I'm bound to discover eventually. Like, did you lose your rank in Hell's hierarchy from this?”
“That's impossible. I am the Devil above the Seven Sins.”
“Then, what am I to that hierarchy?”
Again the Devil speaks slowly. “You are… a contradiction to that hierarchy. You're worthy to be called Yugano Yuuki above the Sin of Lust, but no more than that. It's impossible to call you Yugano Yuuki above the Seven Sins.”
“I think I have some grasp on Sloth. 'Yugano Yuuki above the Sin of Lust' has a fine sound to it, so I'm not a stranger to Pride. I can see myself having fun with Gluttony, so long as 'food that doesn't fill your belly' translates into 'chocolate without any calories'…” I trail off, because the Devil doesn't look impressed. Well, my levels there are admittedly lower than my score in Lust.
The Angel speaks. “Yugano Yuuki, the Sins aren't something you should try to cultivate through diligence. They're weaknesses in the structure of a mortal spirit, not skills.”
I sigh. “I've been thinking this for a while without saying it… according to my own world, lust isn't a sin in the first place. You can do ill things in the pursuit of sexual desire, but that's something you could say of any human motivation, including love or charity.”
The Angel gazes at me pityingly. “Has it occurred to you that your world might not be an entirely righteous one?”
I look down at my hands. I can't think of anything to say to that. The gap that separates my way of thinking from this Angel's way of thinking is just too large.
I wonder if there's a view on the six other Sins that makes them also not be evil? The Sin of Greed… the obvious thought to an Earth girl is 'the code of an honest capitalist who only tries to gain wealth through trades that benefit both sides', or maybe something like 'seizing opportunities'.
But if you consider the way that the perversion of the Internet embodies the darkest depths of Lust that this world finds horrifying, even aspects like the desire to experience nonconsent… even so, you blink at it and there's nothing malicious about a woman tormenting her chaste husband with the sight of her cuckolding him, so long as everyone is getting off. You can sink far into the depths of the Sin as it's usually conceived, while avoiding every bit of real harm. If the same is true of the other Sins, they shouldn't need to be whitewashed or made into something abstract. In all the parts that I do understand, this world's concept of 'sin' seems to heavily overlap my culture's concept of 'pretty much okay'.
After a while, I shake my head. “Leaving all that aside, this Yugano Yuuki above the not-actually-a-sin of Lust has a certain problem. Devil, Angel, one of you needs to think of a way for me to relieve the urges running through this nubile young body. It builds up, you know? And thinking about how it's not allowed makes it worse. You've got maybe three days left before I snap, and that's if the Devil wraps himself in a blanket and wears a paper bag over his head.”
The Angel has a sad look. “Angels never bargain, Yugano Yuuki. I think it will be better if I stay by your side and continue to watch over you, but only you can choose that.”
“Please.” The Devil whispers the word, again sounding like he's choking.
I am so not spending my mortal lifetime this way. “I'm asking one of you to think of a loophole. Like, that gold-robed mage said that I mustn't sully myself with the touch of a man, so can the Devil become a woman and do me with a cucumber?”
The Angel makes a horrified sound. “That… but that's still…”
“Then how about if it's a genderless monster with tentacles?”
“Yugano Yuuki, the compact requires you to be a virgin of unsullied flesh—”
“What if the Devil does it to me in my dreams?”
The Angel is huddled inside his wings. “But… but I'm supposed to protect your dreams from temptation…”
“You've been doing what?! Those are my dreams and meddling in them without permission is something that my world considers unrighteous. Do you see my sincerity, Angel?”
“Then will you go on constraining my dreams after I've revoked my consent for you to do so?”
“That's forbidden to me.” The little Angel looks worried. “But, you're making an unwise decision, Yugano Yuuki! The Devil is connected to your soul. Who knows what terrible visions he might visit on you?”
“I suppose if he visits any visions too terrible, we'll revisit that issue of protection. But, I can handle a fair amount of terrible.”
The Angel's eyes widen. “As a virgin of the Angels, you can't agree to—”
“Agreement won't be an issue. In my dreams, the Devil's going to restrain me so all I can do is struggle while he, in his form as a tentacled monstrosity, does things that even I wouldn't willingly ask for but secretly want deep down. I'm not agreeing with the Devil doing that. I'm just predicting what awful fate will befall me now that you're not protecting my dreams. Now, when this still-virgin maiden dreams helplessly of being violated by something that's definitely not the touch of a man, is that going to break our bond?”
The Angel seems frozen. I'll take that as approval.
…wait, what did I just say?
The Devil is chuckling darkly. “Ah, the creativity of a mortal soul. I suppose it's possible that we'll get along somewhat, Yugano Yuuki above the Sin of Lust.”
I nod at the Devil. “And will you be willing to do what I say during the daytime, if you know that you can punish me for my insolence at night?”
“I will agree to no such bargain as a compact… but, I might find it not too disagreeable to conduct myself in that fashion.”
Seriously, what are these words coming from my mouth?!
Well, I'd better not let myself think about that. I can't allow my most precious night to be canceled again.
I lie down in the bed, turning on my side so I don't see the Devil watching, and wrapping the sheets around myself. “There's no way I'm going to fall asleep naturally in this state of waiting, so feel free to invoke the powers of Sloth on me.” I snuggle into the blankets, resisting the temptation to press the cloth between my legs. “And to avoid the possibility of confusion, I'll ask this outright: Did I understand correctly that since I'm above the Devil, I'll eventually become the supreme figure of Hell?”
“If you became more evil than I, there would be no contradiction in the hierarchy.”
To be honest, that strikes me as…
…incredibly awesome! But I refrain from saying that aloud, in case it might hurt the Devil's feelings.
I wonder if owning someone's soul would interact with romantic attraction, in either direction? If my life is already this messed up, I wouldn't mind going further.
Maybe I'll have gathered more information on that possibility after tonight.
“Good night, Angel.”
The Angel's voice is sad again. “I don't think it will be.”
“Good night, Satan Lucifuge Asmodei Ahriman Moloch Melkor Leviathan.”
“Good night, Yugano Yuuki. Sweet dreams.”