Chapter 01 – The Summoning
It had all started about two years ago.
Ruri Morikawa was a girl with an expat mother who worked as a model and a father who worked as a diplomat. With platinum blonde hair, the same as her mother’s, a pair of lapis lazuli eyes that served as the basis for her name in kanji, and a Japanese face, this girl was born into a family with features that would make anybody pump their arms in triumph along with the other winners of the genetic lottery. However, it seemed as though that had used up most of her luck. Ruri was never able to live in any sort of peace. Instead, misfortune hounded her around every corner.
The start of these misfortunes, by Ruri’s own account, was undoubtedly triggered by living next door to one girl—Asahi Shinomiya. Since childhood, Ruri had sustained all sorts of damage due to Asahi garnering followers by the droves.
One had to wonder how many times Ruri had imagined how her life would have been different if she and Asahi hadn’t grown up together. Although Asahi and Ruri were the same age, not to mention both attractive from a young age, the people around them always coddled Asahi and singled her out for better treatment. Ruri was not by any means a bad-tempered child, but everyone favored Asahi for whatever reason—not just her teachers, but her classmates and their parents as well. The same people who pampered Asahi to a ridiculous degree would lash out at Ruri for similarly ridiculous reasons.
For instance: one time, Ruri got into a dumb squabble over toys with Asahi, and Ruri ended up the only one scolded. One would assume that since it was a spat between two children, both would be punished equally.
To add insult to injury, not only did Asahi secure her own toy, but she wanted Ruri’s as well. Despite her protests, she was not only scolded but she was told to give her own toy to Asahi. Although she was still a child, she could feel how unreasonable this all was.
Still in tears, the young Ruri handed the toy over, which prompted everyone to look at her as if she’d finally done the right thing.
She had no idea why they always put Asahi’s needs above her own. At the time, she was still very young, less angry over the situation and more suspicious over why she’d been singled out for this treatment in the first place.
There was another time, in grade school, when Asahi was envious over Ruri’s beautiful blonde hair and decided to dye her own the same color. Seeing as how the grade school had banned hair dyeing on the basis of it being harmful to children’s bodies, the teachers ended up talking to Asahi’s parents to explain the issue.
Normally, it would be proper to warn their parents about letting their child dye their hair in the future after explaining the school’s rules, but the one who ended up warned was the one person who wasn’t to blame—Ruri. She was told that everyone wanted to dye their hair because of Ruri’s hair —a completely spurious claim.
They demanded that Ruri make her hair black, explaining that dyeing your hair was prohibited in their school, which sent her jaw to the floor. Even though she tried to appeal, telling them that she was a natural blonde, the teachers wouldn’t listen.
Ultimately, she decided on wearing a black wig instead, but as soon as Asahi saw that, she nonchalantly asked, “Ruri-chan, did your hair get darker, or is it just me?”
(And exactly whose fault do you think it is that I’m in this mess to begin with?!) Ruri thought resentfully.
There was yet another time when they were all on a field trip and Ruri managed to shake free of Asahi, who would usually try to attach herself to her hip for whatever reason, and had relished in her liberation. Once it was time for everyone to gather and it was clear that Asahi had gotten lost, teachers and students alike all started to blame Ruri, asking her why she wasn’t keeping an eye on Asahi.
Ruri was Asahi’s childhood friend, not her caretaker. It was supposed to be the teachers’ job to keep watch over the students, so there was no reason why they should be blaming Ruri, who was in a different party on the trip to begin with.
Between the foreign-looking Ruri and the cute and charming Asahi, with her very Japanese features, Asahi probably seemed more approachable. That was what Ruri had convinced herself of from a young age, but since she was the victim of such blatant and unrelenting favoritism, it was inevitable that her personality would get a little twisted as a result. In fact, she should have been praised for not going down the wrong path entirely.
And so, as the years rolled on and Ruri grew into a nineteen-year-old university student, the fateful day that would greatly change the course of her life came upon her.
“Great, the coast is clear,” Ruri said, confirming that Asahi was nowhere in sight before quickly slipping outside, locking the front door and fleeing her home like a bat out of hell.
Ruri and Asahi had gone to all the same schools because they were next-door neighbors. The moment she truly regretted not going to a private school came during her high school entrance ceremony. She remembered being taken aback when she heard that many of her former classmates had gone the private school route instead. They’d even managed to get accepted into fancy girls’ schools with outrageous tuition costs—schools that would be absolutely impossible for Asahi’s family to afford given their financial situation. With that in mind, Ruri had enrolled at a high school with high tuition, but, somehow, there Asahi had been…
When Ruri asked her why, she was met with the unfortunate answer, “’Cause, it’s way better if I’m in the same school as you, Ruri-chan.” Ruri had reprimanded her, telling her to think about her parents’ finances, but she was met with a smile and a, “Oh, don’t worry. It’s fine.”
It had probably been an ordeal trying to raise the money, considering her father was a regular salaryman and her mother was a housewife, so Asahi should have been more considerate toward her parents. However, her parents were no exception to the favoritism rule; they probably worked their tails off because they spoiled Asahi rotten. Because of that, there she was, and Ruri’s high school life ended up being a living hell. Ruri was practically begging, on the inside, for Asahi’s parents to learn to discipline their own child.
For her next tactic, Ruri studied like a woman possessed in order to enroll in a prestigious school for the academic elite. When Asahi bombed the entrance exam, she found herself pumping her fists in triumph.
She even moved to an apartment complex close to her university in order to get as far away from Asahi as humanly possible, but, for some very odd reason, there Asahi was, moving into the same complex.
When asked, she explained, “I managed to get into a two-year university close to your university, and I figured that I might as well live in the same complex while I’m at it. It’s just a shame that I couldn’t get the apartment next door.” It was an explanation, but…
(I finally thought I got away from her! Alright, who the hell was it?! Who told her which complex I’d be living in?!)
After that, the university became her place of respite, as it was the one place Asahi couldn’t get into. She even went there on the days she didn’t have class, but there was a high likelihood that she would be grabbed by Asahi on her way out and good-naturedly (to Asahi, at least) escorted to school.
To avoid that, she tried leaving her place later than usual, but she would somehow get nabbed, nonetheless. Case in point…
“Ruri-chan, wait up~!”
(I’m positive this girl has smelling and hearing on par with most wild animals.) Despite the beckoning of this she-devil, Ruri’s pace didn’t slow.
After catching up to Ruri’s speedwalk, Asahi looked at her with her cheeks puffed out, sulky. “Geez, you promised that we would walk together whenever we had class.”
(I sure as hell didn’t make you any promises. You know damn well I said it wasn’t necessary, but you ignored what I said and took the decision upon yourself anyway!) Ruri thought, cursing in her mind and trying to focus on walking and nothing else.
This was the countermeasure Ruri came up with to combat Asahi and her complete inability to listen to what Ruri said, no matter how many times she repeated herself.
(She’s the air, nothing but the air…)
As she thought that, Asahi continued to blather on without paying the silent Ruri any mind. Her inability to read between the lines, and, for example, merrily chatter away to a person who was completely ignoring her, was so unusual that it should have been on the endangered species list. And Ruri wasn’t ever going to talk to her so long as she had no reason to.
As Asahi’s university drew near, a group consisting of three boys and one girl came their way, greeting Asahi with smiles on their faces. They were a group of classmates that Ruri knew from middle school. The second they saw Ruri standing next to Asahi, their expressions turned sour in an obvious manner.
“Hey, you’re back at it again?”
“Asahi-chan, I know you can’t just leave her alone because you’re too nice, but you shouldn’t associate with girls like her.”
“Guys, stop saying things like that; Ruri-chan is my best friend.”
(Wait, wait. Who is whose best friend? You’re just talking out of your rear end.)
Ruri wanted nothing to do with her and tried to distance herself, but, for whatever strange reason, Asahi wouldn’t tag along with the people fawning after her but instead stuck to Ruri despite the fact that she barely gave her the time of day.
Asahi always had a crowd around her—a crowd that was, of course, composed of people who worshiped Asahi like they were some sort of religious organization. From their perspective, Ruri, who Asahi treated like her best friend, was nothing more than a thorn in their sides and a threat.
This was how it went: anyone who didn’t spend time with Asahi saw how odd everything was and would look at Ruri in a sympathetic light since she was seemingly being harassed by Asahi on a daily basis. But once they started hanging around Asahi, they ended up being hostile toward Ruri. There wasn’t much she could do about it.
Thanks to that, she hadn’t been able to make a single genuine friend. And even if she did, it was impossible that they wouldn’t somehow find themselves with Asahi, since she was by her side every waking moment. The moment they met her, they transformed from “friend” to “follower” at the drop of a hat.
It was torture to have people hate her because of Asahi, but no matter how hard she racked her brain, no matter what she tried, all attempts at getting away from Asahi, all of them, ended in failure.
She tried prayers with large sums of money at the shrine donation box every year and even tried buying some shady good luck vases, but none of it yet showed any sign of working.
(Dammit, maybe I should try some black magic next…)
As she shut out the annoying clamor around her and sank into a meditative state, something glittering floated past the corner of her vision.
She turned to see several particles sparkling in mid-air. She found herself reaching out, but her hand passed right through them. At the same time, the sound of a metallic tiiing, like a bell ringing, filled her ears.
As she looked around in search of the source of the sound, the glimmering particles multiplied even further. And they didn’t just grow in number—they seemed to be getting gradually larger in size as well.
These particles gathered neatly around Ruri and the others. Looking down, it appeared as though they were gushing from the ground below them.
As the ringing continued, Ruri took a look around her, but she found that neither Asahi nor her four former classmates were paying any attention to it. Just when she decided she must be the only one able to see or hear any of this, the ground underneath them suddenly glowed brightly.
“Huh? What? What’s going on?!”
Ruri heard Asahi’s panicked and clueless question as she shut her eyes to shield herself from the intense light. Once she did, she was overcome with a sense of weightlessness and a knot formed in her stomach, almost like she was taking the plunge on a roller coaster. It brought her to her knees.
Once the sense of weightlessness subsided and she opened her eyes, the familiar city buildings and streets with their cars whizzing past were gone, and she found herself sitting in what appeared to be a temple paved with cold stone.
It was spring and things had warmed up considerably, but they were still stuck in the part of the season where you needed long sleeves to fend off the chill. Nevertheless, the place they were in right now, perhaps because of all the stone, was far chillier than where they’d been a few seconds ago.
But it made Ruri wonder if it was truly the cold that was making her shiver… “Ooh! It was a success!”
“The Priestess has come to us!”
It wasn’t clear what had just happened or where this even was, but standing in front of Ruri, frozen in wonderment, was an old man dressed in white, priest-like garb and a group of elderly men. They celebrated amongst themselves, ignoring Ruri and the others entirely.
“…Say what?” Ruri’s mind had finally started functioning again, but it was quickly thrown into confusion.
She took a look around her to see Asahi and the four former middle school classmates, the same group that had been with her up until a few seconds ago, mouths agape. Just like Ruri, none of them seemed to have a grasp on the situation at hand.
From the crowd of strange men, a young man dressed like a stereotypical movie prince spoke up. “Greetings and welcome, our long-awaited Priestess Princess…?”
The young man spoke with a smile on his face until he looked past Asahi, who was closest to him, and over to Ruri and the other classmates’ faces, and his eyes widened in shock.
“Priest, what is the meaning of this?! There are three girls here, are there not?!” yelled the man to the crowd of people dressed in priest robes around him, prompting the old man in the most ornate robes to step forward.
The old man gazed at Ruri and the others, who were still flabbergasted, nodded his head, put his hand on his chin, and said, “It would seem that we’ve accidentally summoned extraneous people, in addition to the Priestess Princess.”
“So which of them is the Priestess Princess?”
“The Priestess Princess is said to possess rare coloring and the ability to attract anyone to her, Your Highness”
The young man in the prince outfit being called “Your Highness” took a good look at the faces of Asahi, Ruri, and their female classmate one by one… and finally smiled at Asahi. “Then it must be you. You are the most attractive one here.”
(Wow, talk about rude! He decided it was Asahi after hardly even thinking about it.) Ruri thought bitterly.
The man took to his knee before Asahi and presented his hand like an Arthurian knight pledging his love. Asahi looked at this with flushed cheeks before timidly placing her hand atop his. She was sending passionate looks toward the good-looking gentleman.
Faced with this sight, an idea dawned on Ruri. If Asahi was given her dream man, then maybe Ruri could finally get away from her?! Perhaps entertaining that idiotic thought helped because her once-confused mind was starting to regain its composure.
(We were in the city up until a second ago, so there’s no feasible way we up and moved someplace else. Maybe they abducted us and took us somewhere after knocking us all out? But still, what’s this “Priestess Princess” business all about? Don’t tell me Asahi’s followers are up to something weird again.)
“Asahi’s followers would do something like this” was a nauseating thought that Ruri had more times than she cared to remember.
“Um, excuse me, but where are we? If Asahi is the only one you want, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me go back home.” Ruri addressed one of the nearby priests, but he simply asked the man presenting his hand to Asahi for instructions in a bewildered manner.
“How should we deal with the others, Your Highness?”
“Right. For the time being, reporting to His Majesty takes precedence. We’ll ask His Majesty how we should handle the others.”
Despite basically saying she wanted to go back home and quickly, she was getting forcibly marched off elsewhere.
They were brought and urged to kneel before a middle-aged man in extravagant clothes, who sat firmly on a lavish throne raised high and exuded an aura that practically shouted that he was the king around here.
Asahi, however, was the only one allowed to keep standing.
“So good of you to come, Priestess Princess. I am the King of the Land of Nadasha. We have been looking forward to your visit in order to grace our land with prosperity.”
The middle-aged man’s statement made no sense, but Asahi replied, flustered, nonetheless.
“Um, thank you… very much… But, um, where might this be? I was in the city a few moments ago…”
“This is the Land of Nadasha. You have been summoned here.” (Is he seriously saying that fantasy stuff with a straight face?!)
“There is a reason why we have summoned forth you all. Currently, our nation is in the midst of a dilemma. However, our nation has a book of prophecies passed down from the days of old, although it has only been read by kings and priests. It is written that when crisis faces our nation, a Priestess Princess summoned from another realm shall usher prosperity to our lands. And so, in accordance with what is written, the one summoned forth is you, my dear.” He then awkwardly tacked on, “Well, you and a few others, apparently.”
This was enough to make the air-headed Asahi cast looks of doubt toward the King. Same went for Ruri.
“Um, is this some sort of joke? Oh, don’t tell me. Is this a prank? Okay, I get it. All this ‘summoning’ and magic stuff couldn’t possibly be real, after all…”
“Oh? Does magic not exist in your world, Priestess Princess? Well then, allow me to show you how very real it is,” the King said, turning his gaze toward the old man serving as the Head Priest. He gave a single nod of affirmation before turning his palm up and moving it forward, as if to show Asahi.
Ruri and her former classmates raised their bowed heads and stared, curious as to what would happen. The Head Priest then began to hum to himself as if focusing his energy and, in the next instant, a flame ignited in his wrinkled palm.
Ruri’s breath was taken away in astonishment, and she looked to her side to see her former classmates with similar expressions on their faces.
“Huh? Stage magic?”
“No, I think he means real magic…” “You honestly buy that?”
Ruri shared their opinion. There had to be some trick to all of this.
The Head Priest, sensing the disbelief from Ruri and the others, followed up by creating water in his palm. Asahi timidly reached out to the ball of liquid changing shape and floating in the old man’s hand.
“It really is water.” “Wait, are you serious?!”
Pleased with Ruri and the others’ shocked reactions, the head priest said, “And I can even do this.” Once he finished his sentence, his body started to float into the air, about a hand’s width off of the ground.
Asahi checked, but there was nothing under the levitating Head Priest’s feet nor were there any wires keeping him suspended. At first they were all suspicious, but with the untampered display being put on before them, they had no other choice but to believe.
With the astonishment over the magic fading, the anger over the fact that they had been pulled into this world because of some fishy prophecy started to well up.
“The Priestess Princess is said to possess rare colors. And with your golden locks and blue eyes, you are undoubtedly the Priestess Princess the prophecy foretold,” said the frail, old man likely to croak at any moment, considered to be the highest ranked among the priests. His words made Ruri’s expression freeze up.
Fortunately, she had her head bowed down once again, so no one noticed the sudden change in Ruri’s demeanor, but she was actually immensely shaken.
Ruri was a natural platinum blonde, meaning she was more truly blonde than her silver-haired mother, but ever since the incident with Asahi dying her hair to mimic Ruri, she had been wearing a wig to hide it.
She was actually instructed to dye it, but since she couldn’t live with herself if she damaged her beautiful hair, for a reason so stupid, she had the wig approved by the school.
Right now, with her brown wig, appearance-hiding glasses, and special make-up techniques she’d learned from her mother, she basically looked like a so-so, middle-of-the-road, dime-a- dozen girl, who would fit the bill for a supporting character in any show’s cast—specifically “Girl A.”
In contrast to Ruri, Asahi had resumed mimicking Ruri’s features ever since she’d started junior college with dyed blonde hair, blue contacts, and flawless make-up.
While there was a good chance Ruri was the one they were really looking for, she’d have to reveal her true appearance to prove it, and she had absolutely no intention of doing that whatsoever.
In fact, it was more convenient if they had things mixed up. Plus, Asahi was speaking with that “prince” they met when they first arrived in a manner far from negative—she looked pleased.
(Alright, let’s press this. After all, she doesn’t seem unhappy with any of this.)
This was Asahi she was dealing with, so there was a possibility she was just forgetting about Ruri even being there, but since Asahi herself didn’t seem to be in any distress, Ruri came to the conclusion that she would be fine. With her mind made up, she spoke to the King.
“Excuse me, um, she is the only one you need, the Priestess Princess, correct? If you have no need for me, I would appreciate it if you would return me to my world…” she said, waiting for a response while hoping in her heart of hearts that he wouldn’t say there was no way to send her home.
The others, who had been high off of all the mystical fantasy elements revealed to them, seemed to finally grasp the reality of the situation, their faces starting to lose color.
“No way… You mean I won’t be able to see Mommy and Daddy ever again…?” Asahi asked, choking back her tears. Upon seeing this, the King and priests started to panic.
“D-Don’t cry. You have my word that you will be treated as an official guest of our nation and will be given the hospitality you deserve. Ah, yes. I will even arrange it so that you can be together with the ones summoned along with you, to keep you company.”
“Ruri-chan can be with me?” Asahi repeated, looking at Ruri with tear-filled eyes. “Yes, of course.”
“Well, in that case…”
And that was how Ruri ended up living in the castle without anyone asking her opinion on the matter even once.
(Well, I guess this is fine. It’s not like it would do me any good to yell at him that kidnapping is a crime… And he’s basically saying that they’ll provide us with the essentials.)
Although she felt a little dissatisfied by the ever-present big difference in how she was being treated, she convinced herself that voicing any objection was ultimately pointless.