Ichiban Ushiro No Daimaou - Volume 10 - Chapter Prologue
Sasahara Nozomi was the 21st generation.
Of what you ask? Of a family owning an old hot spring inn.
The human lifespan was quite long in this age, so the Sasahara inn had been founded approximately 2000 years ago.
That might sound impressive, but the inn had had poor business for the majority of its history. It was a bit unclear whether one should praise them or insult them.
It had done well just after being founded, but complaints had started to come in when guests came down with food poisoning. From that point on, some kind of incident occurred every ten years. In one great commotion known as the Sasahara Inn Incident, terrorists took the mother of the family hostage. One time, a boiler explosion destroyed half of the inn. The water of the hot spring dried up one day, so they had started putting ’’essence of hot spring’’ in normal hot water, but they had been exposed on a national broadcast. People started choosing the inn as a place to hang themselves, so suicides became an almost everyday occurrence. After everything that happened, the family began to suspect the place was cursed, so they had called in a shaman. Legend had it the shaman ran away the instant he stepped through the gate.
After all that, one might wonder why they stayed in business.
’’This is the pride of our family,’’ was Nozomi's mother's answer.
Nozomi had asked her countless times as a young child and her mother's answer had always been the same.
’’Our family has imperial blood, so we cannot quit.’’
Nozomi did not really understand what connection there was between having imperial blood and not being able to quit running an inn. In fact, her mother probably did not know either. But if that was what her mother said, she figured it had to be true.
After all, magic and artificial humans known as L'Isle-Adams were ubiquitous in the current age and every imperial citizen was ensured a minimum income and lifestyle. In a society like that, there were only two reasons to work: to give meaning to your life or to earn enough to live more luxuriously. The Sasahara inn did not give them a luxurious life. In fact, it was a drain on their finances, so they were essentially keeping it open on stubbornness alone.
But that was a problem for Nozomi who was to inherit it. If quitting would result in more money, there was no reason to continue. And if they had imperial blood, shouldn't the empire provide public assistance? For that reason, none of their acquaintances or anyone else believed that the Sasahara family had imperial blood. In the end, no one showed them any respect.
Nozomi's everyday life was naturally filled with melancholy. Inheriting an inn sounded nice, but waiting for customers who never came was tedious. At this rate, she was going to completely waste her 16-year-old youth.
However, she was not tall, she was not all that smart, and she was not very brave. She was aware she did not have what it took to leave her family and make something of herself. The only thing supporting her was the dubious claim that her family had imperial blood.
And so she packed her small body full of pride in her ’’imperial blood’’. But one day while watching the news, that pride ended up sending her in a misguided direction.
<We have a new empress. This is an empress of the people who also has enough power to bring the demon king under her control.>
As Nozomi ate a modest meal at the tea table, she dropped the dried sardine she held in her chopsticks. She drew in close to the mana screen and stared at the new empress.
It seemed this empress's name was Soga Keena. Everything from her silhouette to her facial features was round. Nozomi could see why she was known as an empress of the people because there was no sense of nobility in this girl at all.
’’They can swap out who the empress is?’’ said Nozomi suddenly.
She did not know the details of how this normal-looking girl who was her own age had become empress, but it seemed it had happened after Empress Kazuko had died. That fact stirred up Nozomi's mind.
Does that mean anyone can become empress if they have imperial blood?
Does that mean I could become empress?
As in, a real empress?
<Empress Keena will be attending Constant Magic Academy. Just like the previous empresses and emperors, she will be mastering all scholarly subjects and she has also lived among the people for a long time.>
The narration introducing Keena continued.
As she listened to it, Nozomi's eyes began spinning around in her head. She had the troublesome tendency of growing confused over even simple things, but the bigger problem was her tendency to take bold actions while confused.
’’I'll do it! Mother, father, I'll do it! I'll go to school and speak directly with the empress! I'll do it!’’ she announced to her parents.
Her parents were dumbfounded. When they finally spoke, it could hardly be called opposition.
’’Wait. I don't think you can manage that.’’
’’That is a prestigious school, so I hear its entrance exam is very difficult. There is no way you can get in.’’
But Nozomi's confusion had spread from her cerebral cortex to her brain stem and she was no longer thinking about anything besides speaking with Soga Keena.
’’That's not a problem! I can use this!’’
She held out a help wanted ad displayed on a mana screen.
’’They're recruiting a janitor?’’
’’The hospitality I have gained at our inn should work just as well at a school or a train station platform! Being a janitor will be easy!’’ she confidently declared.
However, her parents calmly pointed out her true nature.
’’Hospitality? Have you ever actually done any real work at the inn?’’
’’In fact, you never even clean up your own room.’’
’’That's because we don't have any guests!’’ she shouted back.
She knew her parents would have no answer to that.
Her parents did indeed fall silent, so she smiled triumphantly.
’’You two can just wait here. I'll make sure to revive the inn! I'll bring us out of this situation where it's just the three of us plus L'Isle-Adam servants! If I can speak with the empress, I can do it!’’
With that, she left the house.
When Nozomi finally arrived at Constant Magic Academy's janitor examination, she found a long line of people. Being a janitor at a prestigious school was a position that gave one a direct connection to the school administration and the opportunity to create useful connections with future and current priests.
As Nozomi took her spot in the back of the line, she could not help but feel nervous.
I might be in trouble. Even if I'm a professional, my ability might not be enough to outdo all of these people at once.
It was unclear where this strange confidence of hers came from, but she looked down on the others there.
The examination included an interview and occupation aptitude diagnosis by an artificial spirit known as Yatagarasu. By referencing a database with records of every action someone had made, that person's optimal occupation could be computed. It looked like fortune telling at first, but the conclusion was based on the person's actions, thought patterns, and physical ability, so it was never wrong. The one exception was Soga Keena. She had been diagnosed as a nurse but had become empress. However, some said empress was not an occupation, so it was still considered almost perfectly accurate in predicting everything from ’’system engineer’’ to ’’demon king’’. There were of course people who took on a different occupation if they had a good reason such as continuing the family business, but that rarely turned out well.
Using this aptitude diagnosis to find a new employee was considered to be quite fair. If the school chose someone diagnosed as a butler or educator, the person was guaranteed to do a good job. Those taking the examination were aware of this, but a lot of them were taking part despite knowing their optimal occupation. It was not unusual for someone ideal to not show up and so someone from a similar occupation would be chosen.
Nozomi had never undergone an aptitude diagnosis before, so she nervously approached the three-legged crow.
Once her diagnosis was complete, Yatagarasu shouted out in its unique high-pitched voice.
This surprised the administrators running the examination.
’’Ehh!? Someone like that is one in ten thousand!’’
A janitor was simply someone who maintained the school, so it was not exactly a profession. Someone for whom that was ’’optimal’’ was rare. In fact, that was why they had been searching for someone like this.
’’There's really someone like that?’’
The other examinees began muttering amongst themselves when they heard Nozomi's result. Their voices were filled with a mixture of envy and disappointment. They had all been diagnosed as university professors, priests, or other prestigious jobs, but their dreams had been crushed not long after getting up from that seat. They had come here seeking connections, yet a natural born janitor had appeared before them. None of them knew what to say.
But Nozomi simply interpreted it as a compliment.
I can do this! I can! Ancestors, are you watching? I've never shined brighter!
Her eyes glittered with excitement.
And thus a new janitor was born.
Her name was Sasahara Nozomi.
This was the job she had been born to do.