Conqueror of Dying Kingdom – Prologue

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I woke up in the morning still feeling a little sleepy in my bed.

There was nothing going on today, no games I wanted to play to the point where I needed to get rid of the burnout and beat the sleepiness, and no books I wanted to read, so there was no reason to get up. It was hopeless already. I decided to go back to sleep, giving my body over to the dullness that remained in my head when I woke up, and went right back to sleep.

Then I woke up a few minutes later in the afternoon. I had lost my sleep and was very thirsty. I sat up from the bed and looked at the clock. It seemed I had slept for nine hours. Today was just as much of a waste.

I was in a bad mood, so I went to the sink to wash my face. When I stepped out of the room with the heating on, the cold air hit my skin.

The house I live in now is a single-storey house, a run-down, 50-year-old 3DK shack. It was originally chosen by my grandfather, a former university professor, as a stage for a relaxing retreat, and was redecorated while he was living in seclusion. The house, where an old couple lived frugally, had little damage to its exterior, but recently the creaking had become serious. It doesn’t matter now, but I don’t think I’ll be able to live in it until I die.

I wasn’t hungry, but I had to get rid of the leftovers from yesterday’s cooking, so I ate the rest of the rice in the rice cooker as a tea-poached meal and took a break afterwards to check the online game forums in my room.

I’m almost tired of playing this game, but for the time being I can still use it to kill the extra time I have left.

After all, since I quit my job and became a Neet, I’ve been idle almost every day and needed a way to pass the time anyway.

Even if I got into the game from broad daylight there was no one there, so I continued to play the game I bought last month.

I actually passed the main level of this game a long time ago, it was an assignment to progress from ‘breaking the level’ to ‘playing through’, but the game was already fun, so it was still fun.

When I was working, the release cycle for new games was so short compared to the amount of free time I had, that the games I wanted to play kept accumulating, but after I stopped working, I had most of my life to spare and the accumulated games were immediately digested. After that the cycle is mind-numbingly slow.

After the sun went down, I logged into my online game, had dinner, showered, and played until I started to get sleepy at around 3am, so I laid down on my bed.

As I hadn’t been living in luxury, the money in my account had barely dwindled. Because of this, I was living a crisis-free, day-to-day life, which was like a routine.

It was a happy life, but there was a certain part of my head that was hazy and monopolised by the sweet smell of rotting fruit. I kind of hated this feeling, but I didn’t want to break the haze and try to live again.

I just gave myself up to too much time and slowly fell asleep.

◇◇◇◇

When I woke up the next day, I was surprisingly conscious, unable to feel like I could sleep for another minute.

I looked at the clock hanging on the wall, and it wasn’t particularly late. The level of exhaustion and the precise bite of the cogs of the physical clock should have made for a very good night’s sleep.

After washing my face, I tried to make my way to the computer desk as usual, but my body moved with surprising alacrity, and it was a shame to spend a decrepit life as usual.

I wanted to make the most of my inexplicably energetic day and decided to go out.

I wanted to stock up on a few consumables first. I could have shopped online, but I was free anyway, so it wasn’t a bad idea to go for a walk.

I put on my jacket over my jumper, opened the sliding door in the entrance and stepped outside.

Outside the house was a sunny day that could not be described as a winter sky, and the air was warm. I hesitated for a moment before walking back into the foyer, taking off the jumper I was wearing underneath and stepping outside.

The busy shopping street smelled very nice, but it gave off an atmosphere of rejection.

That’s probably a mood problem such as “it’s hard to step into a busy shop”, especially for me, who doesn’t particularly want to get along with the shopkeepers and has a communication problem, and I don’t like individual shops that greet customers according to the conscience of the shopkeeper.

Also, it is said that humans are creatures who want to check the attributes of others first when they come into contact with them, and there is a high chance that they will ask people about their occupation. I don’t have a job, so I am perhaps a bit inferior to this part.

Because of this, I didn’t contribute to the revitalisation of the local shopping streets and went to a small shopping mall located within walking distance.

As I approached the street from the residential area near the mountain, the number of people grew. It was a hard-working population that worked soundly during the day on weekdays.

I used to be like that, so it’s not that I haven’t always had what everyone calls a normal life. I just don’t want to go back to that time either.

But looking at people working in suits, I started to feel uncomfortable, as if I was the only one slacking off. Even though I’ve only just left the house, I already want to go back. Maybe people in the world work because they don’t want to feel that way, or is there no such thing?

I shopped at the food and grocery shops and decided to go straight home.

The shopping mall had a small number of small clothing shops, furniture shops with stylish tables and chairs, etc. rented in.

None of the shops appealed to me. The clothes and furniture I had were enough and I didn’t want to buy anything of better quality.

I left the shopping mall feeling uncharacteristically tired. I suppose it was because I saw so many people working enthusiastically.

I used to work a bit harder, at least on Fridays, and I used to work for days in a shop that included accommodation when I was at university, and I didn’t have the illness of having to work, so if I hated that feeling, maybe I just had to take up a job somewhere or consider starting a business with the money I had.

Even though I was wasting my time, nothing good was happening, so I thought I would just do something, but even if I thought that, I couldn’t do anything about it.

I knew the reason – because there was no motivation. I had no desire to help any stranger, nor did I have a materialistic desire to buy a fancy car with the money I earned. Nor did I want to be welcomed by the opposite sex when it came down to it. I have savings, so I also satisfy the motive of working in order to earn money for food, that is, to not starve to death.

Soon, I may also start acting out of the negative motivation of hating to live with this feeling.

Or find an easy way to end it all myself. But it’s a waste to die while you still have savings, and it’s awful to die after spending them all. I think it’s very different to die of your own volition in a relaxed state, and to die when you’ve been pushed to the edge by something.

As I was thinking about such negative things and walking across the river bridge near my home, something puzzling happened before my eyes.

There was a young girl, about junior high school age, who felt a bit strange walking. What I couldn’t understand was where she was walking. The girl was walking on a bridge railing that was neither a pavement nor a lane.

She didn’t have any debts that would get her killed, so why did she do something like walking on a rail?

There is no interest here in lowly rich people enjoying watching high debtors panic in an attempt to grab a large sum of money. I couldn’t understand at all why a young girl would do such a thing when she clearly wasn’t feeling pessimistic about life.

At that moment, her foot wobbled at a coincidental moment.

Perhaps an overloaded truck had passed by, but I couldn’t turn around to find out why. For the young girl in front of me lost her balance and fell towards that side of the river.

The bridge swayed up and down, and after feeling her body float lightly, the young girl panicked and took three tiny steps on the railing. When it was over, the girl’s body tilted about thirty degrees towards the river, starting at her ankles, a position that, from a casual observer, would have been completely impossible to save.

As if begging for mercy from the laws of physics, the girl tried to pull her weight slightly to the other side of the railing, sharply lifting her foot near the bridge in a tilting zigzag position, and disappeared from view.

I rushed over to the railing and looked down, seeing the girl flowing downstream in a river whose volume increases with the seasons. She didn’t look like she was swimming.

Should I save her? But it might kill me. I thought about it for a second, but I had neither possessions to regret, nor anything I would regret not doing before I died, and no one would feel sorry for me. I simply thought it didn’t matter.

I took off my jacket and climbed over the railing in just my shirt and jumped into the river about three metres below me, feeling a shocking chill run through my body and constrict my veins. I braced myself for the shock that twisted and squeezed my body like a rag and started swimming.

The act of jumping into the water was four years after I had been familiar with pools and the sea. I swam with the current and came to the side of the young girl.

I caught up with the exhausted girl, grabbed her clothes, almost sank in the water and swam towards the shore. I knew that my body was getting cold. I hadn’t eaten anything since the morning and my body was losing strength.

I swam desperately to the shore and barely managed to get the young girl to shore before I had no strength left to climb up.

I was just swallowed up by the water and drifted away.

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