Chapter 1 – A Country for Magicians
Sunlight is falling upon the plains through the gaps that opened up between the clouds. The plants in the sunlit patches were caressed by a gentle wind, and they shook off the raindrops that clung to them.
If you move through those sunlit patches, your body will be enveloped by the warmth for just a moment. I felt that it was warm for just a moment, but the next instant, I was once again beneath the cloudy sky. I wish that bright patch of land would keep pace with me, however, it was beyond my reach before I realized it.
Although it’s been a while since the rain stopped, the air is still humid and carries a hint of cold. It feels like the clouds will cover up the sun again at any moment, and the rain will begin to fall again.
I hate the rain. It makes everything damp and soggy, just being there makes me feel depressed, and most importantly, it forces me to temporarily halt my journey. It’s really the worst. However, I like jumping into the puddles that are left behind once the rain stops and splashing the water around with my feet. I hate the rain, but I love the time that immediately follows the rain. It feels weird. This is troubling.
It looks like it’s going to rain, so I have no option but to hurry. I made the broom go fast while feeling slightly impatient.
After flying for a while, a country came into view. A gate guard appeared to greet me soon after I landed the broom outside the gates.
However, it was unusual for the guard to be wearing a tricorne and a robe instead of the equipment of a regular guard.
“Welcome to our country. Are you a witch-sama?”
Isn’t it obvious just by looking?
“Yes. I’m a traveling witch.”
“Haha, I see. You’re quite young for a witch-sama.”
After saying that and nodding as if praising me, the guard continued to speak.
“Would you be so kind as to tell me your name?”
“Would you be so kind as to tell me if you have a lover?”
I unintentionally replied with a question of my own. Is this person really trying to hit on me in a place like this?
However, it appears that there is a different reason. The guard slightly shook his head, and,
“My apologies. I didn’t ask that with any vulgar intentions. However, if you have a lover who is not a magician, staying in this country will cause you to have some unpleasant memories.”
“So, how is it? Is there anyone you’re going out with right now?”
The explanation is somewhat unsatisfactory, but I’ll understand what it means soon enough once I’m inside the country. Probably.
“…No, there isn’t anyone.”
After hearing that, the guard nodded and said,
“I understand. In that case, please feel free to enter.”
The guard moved away from the gate, and the large iron gate opened while making the ground solemnly tremble.
“Welcome, to the Country for Magicians.”
As I stepped foot inside, the guard bowed low and said that to me.
After passing through the gate, I saw the city’s main street. There were many houses and shops of different size and structure lining the sides of the road.
From what I could see, the city was full of magicians. They were walking together with other people, or doing some shopping. Looking into the shops that lined the street, I saw that magicians were living a completely ordinary life.
However, there were people who were not magicians as well. They walked on the side of the street, avoided taking a path that might might cause them to obstruct the magicians, and hung their heads… In short, they were being a lot more humble than they should. Their clothes were also quite seedy.
It feels like this country only has people who are dressed in expensive-looking robes or people wearing cheap, threadbare clothing.
This country seems to be a little strange. I started to walk while thinking that.
After walking for awhile, I came to a sudden stop. There’s something strange here.
“…What is that?”
Those were the first words that came out of my mouth.
A mysterious box of the kind I had never seen before had been placed on long strips of iron, and it was moving. Even more surprisingly, that large box was filled with people.
I realized that it was a means of transportation when that box stopped in front of me. A flood of people stepped out of the box once the doors opened. At the same time, a number of other people also entered the box.
It looks like many people use this means of transportation. How interesting.
It really looks interesting.
Should I try riding it?
Let’s try it out.
I didn’t really understand what was going on, but I decided to go ahead and ride it. I sidestepped the people and approached the box while fighting against the flow of people.
However, it remained at just being an attempt at boarding, as I was not actually able to enter the box… I was stopped just as I was about enter.
I made a strange sound. Someone had strongly pulled on my robe from behind.
What the hell is this person doing all of a sudden? I turned around while feeling a bit angry, and saw a witch standing there.
She was a strange witch, with a suspicious-looking smirk on her face.
“What are you doing all of a sudden?”
“You’re a magician, aren’t you? You can’t enter the first carriage. It’s not allowed.”
I was full of anger, but the witch ignored me and continued to flap her gums.
“You belong in that carriage.”
Saying that, the witch pointed at a carriage, as she called it, that was behind the one I had tried to enter.
“…But there’s no one else in that carriage.”
“Yes, there’s nobody else there. There’s a good reason for that, though. So board that carriage, please.”
“I’m allowed to board that carriage but not this one?”
“Of course. I’ll explain the reason to you later, so come with me for now.”
I don’t understand what she’s talking about at all.
Apparently, that lady was the person who had created this moving box, and it’s called a ‘train’. When I asked her how exactly it was moving, she gladly explained it to me.
However, I didn’t understand a thing she said. I felt like my head was about to explode from the relentless waves of technical terms she spouted. The only thing I managed to understand was that “This train moves using magic as the driving power”, the rest of it went right over my head.
Well, it should be fine even if I don’t understand it.
“Right now, I’m traveling to conduct an interview with the first magician to ride this train.”
“Oh, I see.”
I gave a meaningless reply while sitting with my legs stretched out on the long sofa that was installed in the train.
“Traveler-san, how does the ride feel?”
Looking out of the window, I saw a commonplace sight of a city moving by. In spite of being such a grandly-built box, it wasn’t moving all that fast, and I felt that it was slower compared to when I flew on my broom.
Maybe because of that, the interior of the train was really quiet. As a means of transportation, it was not a bad feeling.
“I know, right? I invented this so that people could go sightseeing around the town while viewing beautiful and interesting sights, it’s something I have a have a lot of confidence in.”
“But the reviews from magicians haven’t been all that great… A lot of magicians used it at the beginning, but by the time I realized it, they stopped using it altogether.”
“That makes sense.”
It’s slow, after all.
“By the way, you’re the first customer today. Welcome to my train.”
I sunk lower into my seat while wondering what this person was talking about. Looking in the direction that the train was moving, I could see a carriage that was full of people.
There are so many people riding this train, and yet I’m the first customer?
Why was that?
The lady looked in same direction and said,
“The ones in that carriage are not customers. You can ignore them.”
“Ignore them… saying that just makes me more curious. If they’re not customers, then what are they?”
After that, the lady said this.
“Hmm? They are lesser beings. They’re not humans, so I can’t call them ‘customers’”.
“You probably don’t know this because you’re from a different country, but people in this country who can’t use magic are not considered human. They’re the same as animals.”
“…Saying it that way is a little extreme.”
So they’re treated like animals just because they can’t use magic.
The lady continued to speak while looking at the carriage in front.
“Look at them. Don’t you think they’re pitiful? Unlike magicians, they have no other means of transportation, so they all travel in this train bunched up like that. Isn’t it funny?”
“…I don’t think it’s particularly funny.”
“Really? This train was really popular in the beginning, though. The lesser beings would travel in that carriage, and we would travel in this carriage so that we could watch them. Watching their pitiful state was a great source of amusement. This train was famous for being a good way to get rid of accumulated stress in that way.”
I remember reading about it in a book a long time ago. If I remember correctly, that was a derogatory term used by magicians to refer to people who couldn’t use magic. It’s shocking to see that there’s actually a country that uses this term.
“Popularity fades with time, though. Now, the only customers I get are people like yourself who visit from other countries.”
“…That makes sense.”
“What do you think I should do the get people to ride this train again? Maybe the people need more excitement?”
“Why not move away from the idea that it has to be exciting?”
“If I did that, this train would lose its reason for existing.”
“So, any ideas?”
“You sound like you don’t care at all.”
“Well yeah, I don’t care about it at all.”
“Don’t say that. I really need an idea. At this rate, the train will be shut down.”
“An idea, huh…”
I don’t particularly have any, though.
“Don’t you have any to share? It can even just be your impressions after riding this train.”
“…Ah, in that case, I have something for you.”
“What is it?”
I had already decided on what to say.
I moved my sight from the boring and unchanging scenery outside to the face of the witch who had a flimsy smile on her face, and said it clearly.
My honest opinion, in a condensed form.
However, the lady didn’t look like she minded it much, and,
“Unpleasant… I see.”
She drifted off into thought in that manner.
From the next day on, it started to rain heavily.
I couldn’t even go outside to see the country, so I lived inside an inn for a while. Although it was a cheap inn, I was able to live there quite well.
However, I had nothing to do, and the time spent sitting around in that humid atmosphere was more boring than I had expected. It was at a level where I began to worry if moss might start to grow on me as well.
In the end, the rain showed no signs of stopping even after waiting for a few days, so I decided to leave the country even though it was still raining.
As I was walking down the street that lead to the gates while holding an umbrella in the incessant downpour of rain that I hated, the train slowly passed by me. The train was moving at a speed only a little faster than I was walking, and it came to a stop a little ahead of me.
After the doors opened and a lot of people were expelled from the inside,
“Oh, it’s the witch from the other day. How are you? Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?”
I ran into that inventor witch again.
“You call this good weather?”
“Sure it is. My train is really proving its worth, after all. What else can I call it, if not good weather?”
“It appears that we have differing values.”
Leaving that aside,
“However, it does look like you’re getting a lot of customers now. A lot of the customers who hadn’t been riding your train earlier have come back, I see.”
I said that while taking a peek at the carriage behind her. It was packed with magicians. The people getting out of the train and the people boarding the train were all magicians.
The lady realized what I was looking at, and gave a big nod.
“Yes! So many magicians have returned to my train, and it’s all thanks to you!”
Did I do something like that?
I gave her my frank opinion, but I don’t remember doing anything that I should be thanked for. Just what was this lady talking about?
While I was standing there under my umbrella with an increasing number of doubts, the lady said,
“Just like you said, I got rid of the unpleasant things from my train, and the customers all came back!”
After saying that, she stepped to one side and continued to speak.
“Look, I removed the carriage meant for lesser beings, and turned the whole thing into a train reserved for only magicians!”
She laughed after saying that.
There were magicians in the carriage behind her. The first carriage, and all the others, were also full of magicians.
“I guess having lesser beings traveling in the same train as us was too absurd a notion. There’s nothing more unpleasant than that. I didn’t realize that. It was a complete blind spot. Thank you, Witch-san.”
“My train is really popular now. We can ride on the train and laugh at the pitiful state of the lesser beings who are walking while getting drenched in the rain. It’s a good way to get rid of the accumulated stress, they say.”
The magicians who got out of the train had spread out on the street while holding umbrellas.
There were people who were running by while vainly attempting to use a piece of cloth to protect themselves from the rain, and people who were running while almost bent over double, trying to protect the items that they were hugging close to their stomach.
The magicians sneered at such people as they walked, spreading out into the city.
“What do you say, Witch-san? Do you want to take a ride while looking at those pitiful wretches from inside the train?”
I shook my head.
“I don’t have such a spiteful hobby.”
“Oh, that’s a pity. We have different interests.”
I shook my head once again.
I gave a sigh, and spoke while looking at the rain that I hated so much.
“No, we have different values.”
Different from this country, and you as well.