24 August, Sumiki Amano

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The King and the Demons


It seems that the kingdom is being invaded by terrifying demons.
  I say that because no one has actually seen these demons, and the King denies their existence. Rumor has it that several remote villages were wiped out and lots of people have fallen victim, but the King keeps saying, We’re doing great! The threat will soon be gone. To be honest, I’m not so sure. My father, who runs a bookstore in the capital, says, Knowing how much the King loves his money, he’d be in trouble if people stopped working and he couldn’t collect taxes, but a lot of stores in the capital have already closed and people hardly go out anymore. That’s because the demons enter the body through your nose and mouth.
  Our once-bustling capital has become quiet, and thanks to school being closed, I have a lot more time to read the books on our shelves at the bookstore.
  However, the grownups have begun jumping at shadows and pointing fingers. He’s been possessed! That store’s still open! They must be in league with the demons. Once you’ve been suspected of possession, it’s already too late. Nobody will come near you, and people will hurl stones at you if you go outside.
  An awful uproar in the capital started a few months after the demons first appeared. The demon-repellent holy water, sold by the merchant prince on retainer to the King, turned out to be completely useless. It was unbelievably expensive and people went to great lengths just to buy it, but there was still no end to the number of people that were possessed.
  This holy water is a sham! The nobles are obviously hiding the real thing! Rumors raced through the capital, and the commoners began to attack the nobles’ estates. There were people who’d lost family to the demons, but, of course, some people just wanted an excuse to riot. There were also people who, even though they were poor, still supported the King and the nobles. That’s how the clash between the masses began.
  Looters attacked stores with no connections to the aristocracy. Fires were set to the nobles’ and merchant prince’s mansions. The army was dispatched, but the impoverished soldiers refused to listen to orders and the generals were the first to run away. Gathering strength, the masses converged upon the King’s palace and broke through the gate.
  But the King was not there. Instead what they found was the Royal Library enveloped in flames. The King had set fire to all of the kingdom’s records and disappeared without a trace.
  That’s when I started thinking. I’m going to write a book. I want to put the things I’ve seen into words and record them for posterity, so that later on we can reflect on the things that happened in this kingdom and the things that we did.
  Because we can’t let this senselessness ever happen again now, can we?


Translated by Shane Campayne/Arranged by TranNet KK

Sumiki Amano
Born in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, in 1979. Graduated from Aichi University’s Faculty of Letters with a major in history. Made his literary debut in 2007 with Momoyama bīto toraibu (Momoyama beat tribe), for which he won the 20th Shōsetsu Subaru Award for New Writer. Also received the 19th Nakayama Gishū Literary Prize in 2013 for

Haten

no

ken

(The sword that breaks through the heavens). His most recent work is

Guren

jōdo:

Ishiyama

kassen-ki

(Crimson jōdo shinshu: Record of the Ishiyama Hongan-ji War).

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