Koujiro Raidou always had a sickly body. That barred him from pursuing much of the outdoor activities that his fellow classmates would do during elementary school. Given that he spent a lot of time indoors by himself, it was obvious that he needed to find ways to amuse himself.
Fortunately, his family was wealthy. The house he lived in contained plenty of activities to stimulate a young person’s mind. A grand piano sat in the study, where Koujiro had often observed the musical talent that his mother displayed as part of her hobbies. Glad that he had taken an interest, his parents naturally hired a tutor to teach him.
Within weeks, Koujiro had surprised his tutor with how capable he was, grasping the rhythm and memory needed to play melodies that adults would find difficult. His fingers flowed across the keys like he had been playing for years.
However, he soon grew bored with it. After playing hundreds of different melodies, the music seemed to blend all together. In the end, Koujiro just saw a stream of notes that were there to be memorized and transferred to his fingers.
He looked for something else to do.
During his middle school days, he stumbled upon the manga in his father’s library. Koujiro next spent weeks reading through everything he could find. He marveled at how much simple ink and paper could bring a scene to life and wondered if he could do the same.
Reading up on drawing techniques, he was able to quickly imitate the styles of art that he encountered in the manga. His father would stop by and comment on how clean and professional his artwork looked, giving him momentary joy from the praise he received.
Yet, he found that skill did not equate to interest. He had started attending school more often and made some friends, so he decided to share his comics with them. Though they initially praised him for his drawings, this was soon followed by blank stares.
“What is this? I don’t follow it at all.”
“The story’s a mess.”
“What is with these standard tropes?”
Talking to his friends had revealed to him how uncreative and bland his drawings had actually been. Though he could follow along and imitate the motions, when it came to his own ideas, he had cut and pasted what he had read into his own story, leading to a shallow attempt at piecing the plot together.
Koujiro took this realization harshly. He wasn’t sure what to do, so he dwelled on it for days. Eventually, his mother noticed his odd behavior and tried to comfort him.
“Here son, I made you your favorite.”
Koujiro was sitting at the dinner table, with a bowl of food in front of him. Pieces of chicken were covered in a glistening sauce that was clouded by a swirl of cooked egg. This all slowly ran down a steaming mound of rice, seeping between the crevices and coating the grains with a savory flavor.
Koujiro took his spoon and quickly gave it a stir before shoveling some into his mouth. The comforting taste of his mother’s cooking brought tears to his eyes. His frustrations from before were swallowed down with each bite.
“I don’t know what you’re going through but take it at your own pace. There’s no need to push yourself. We’ll be right here for you. We know that whatever you choose to do, you’ll be great at it,” his mother gently told him.
Koujiro nodded in response. If he wasn’t any good at it, then he would try something else. He would keep trying things until he found something that he could be proud of – something that he could be the best at.
And so, Koujiro tried many things. And he grew tired of many things. Over and over, he would cycle through fleeting interests, only to stumble upon a wall and lose motivation. At that point, he’d drop his efforts and move on to his next fascination.
If he couldn’t get praise for it, then it wasn’t worth doing. If he couldn’t be the best, then his efforts would only go to waste. This was what he continued to tell himself as he stumbled through high school and through graduation.
With his abilities, Koujiro thought that he would find a career quickly. Praised as someone who could adapt quickly and become proficient before others, getting a position seemed to be a cinch.
However, reality didn’t treat him so kindly. His interviews went sour. He was rarely contacted after applying for a job. He didn’t understand why they had given him the cold shoulder.
Finally, he had gotten another interview, but once again, the examiner soon brushed him off and ended it.
“Why! Why won’t you please consider me?! I should be qualified for this job!” Koujiro pleaded, having had enough of the rejection.
The examiner sighed. Thinking that it would quickly get him to leave, he told him the reason.
“You have no passion. I can read it in your eyes. You do things just to get by. You never seem to push yourself to achieve more than what’s in front of you. It’s evident in how you’ve promoted yourself and by your mannerisms. Qualified maybe, but not likely to excel. Though your skills are sufficient to start with, we expect our employees to have the will to grow into their role as experts! That is not something that I see from you.”
Koujiro felt betrayed. He felt like his abilities would allow him to aim high, but that had only been his own delusions. He left the office in a daze.
If they couldn’t see him for his abilities, then they weren’t worth working for. He would keep trying to find someone else that would see him for his worth. In the meantime, he would satisfy himself by doing other things.
During his school days, Koujiro found that video games tended to give him the instant gratification of feeling superior. He would play RPGs where the simple act of leveling up would normally give him the advantage needed to topple all of his foes and overcome anything. If he found a problem he couldn’t solve himself, there were plenty of guides online that would direct him to the optimal solution. Following those would allow him to obtain everything possible in a game. A sense of joy washed over him each time he had ‘conquered’ a game fully, acquiring every possible weapon or gear, despite simply following another’s direction. There was no need to pave a path for himself if others had already trudged through. He would get there as fast as possible and then move on to the next game.
Pretty soon, he had found himself attracted to gacha games, where he could spend some money to easily get ahead. He found enjoyment in seeing himself at the top of the rankings, despite having placed himself there solely from purchasing the best characters and equipment. It was fine. His family had plenty of money, so it never crossed his mind whether his purchases were truly worth it.
Gradually, he stopped applying to jobs altogether. He didn’t need anything else but to be satisfied with the imaginary collectibles on his phone. Why work when he had everything he needed in his hand?
Rather than dwell on that, he was solely focused on capturing the rare monster that had appeared across the street in a new AR game.
However, the sound of a horn blaring interrupted him. Looking up from his phone, he only caught a glimpse of a white truck heading towards him before everything became black.
The next time he opened his eyes, a young, aqua-haired girl was staring down at him. The air had a scent of salt that tickled his nose. His memories were fuzzy, but he had faintly recalled oncoming traffic.
Looking around, he saw nothing that he recognized. His town was nowhere near the ocean, so how had he ended up on a beach? Before he could panic, the girl spoke to him with a bow.
“I have summoned you here, O’ Great Hero! Please become my champion and fight for my cause!”
‘Champion? Hero?’ Koujiro thought. He felt as if he were dreaming, but the sand under his body and the crashing waves felt all too real.
Still, if it were a dream in which he had become a hero like his games, then he was going to have a bit of fun with it. After being given some basic equipment, he found that he was several times more powerful than everyone else his level. Swinging a sword and moving around was not tedious like it was before. His body felt healthier than it had ever been, making him think that it couldn’t possibly be real.
Questioning his abilities, he looked at his stats, which gave him a smile. There it was, the embodiment of his hidden desires. The ability to excel in anything as long as he had equipment. Whether it be swordplay or magic, he had the capability to be the best.
Turning back to the girl, he gave his answer. If it was all but a dream, then he would see it through to his optimal outcome.
“Sure, I will fight for you. But in return, when I succeed, you will become mine. If you wish to stand at the top with me, then take my hand!”
The girl, called Relia, hesitated at first, but seeing the passion in his eyes, she slowly grasped his hand. He was her trump card that would hopefully pull her island out of last place. If all it took was a single girl to achieve it, then she would offer herself to this man.
Koujiro quickly made good on his promise as he defeated the island’s challengers to become the next representative. Soon, people started hearing about the might of ‘Lightning Koujiro’, a nickname that he had given himself stemming from the ‘Rai’ kanji that was in his surname.
Neither powerful weapons nor gear could stand up to Koujiro, who had been equipped with only the basic equipment. Astounded by his overwhelming might and the reason behind it, the fellow islanders offered their best equipment to him, further boosting his abilities.
In the tournament that happened a month later, Koujiro single-handedly squashed his competitors, upsetting the balance that the country had previously. Since he had become more powerful than the seven representatives combined, he could easily obtain the throne of Macali if he wished. Nervous as to how they could control someone so unstoppable, the islanders looked to his relationship with Relia as a sign. They offered him the role of their king and a present to promote good faith. Each island requested for him to select a girl that was to his liking, who would stand by him as a representative for them. Resigning themselves to controlling such a powerful man, rather than allowing him to topple their country, the girls were chosen as the sheaths to his invincible blade. They would do everything they could to please him, while keeping the overall goals of the people in mind.
This action worked perfectly, as Koujiro was receptive to the suggestions of his ‘brides’. As such, the country of Macali continued to prosper under its new king. Occasionally, he would offer ideas for fun activities or dishes to eat but hardly performed the menial tasks of running a country. Instead, he was given tasks to quell fearsome monsters or help with disasters, tasks that were appropriate for his abilities. If they kept him occupied with these tasks and invented the creations from his previous world, they could easily keep him in line.
Koujiro had no problems with this. He spent his time collecting fancy equipment and playing with his women. His life was seemingly fulfilled… or so he thought.
After the initial adrenaline rush of getting his wishes fulfilled, he had started to miss the things that he had back home. He had long realized that this current world was now his reality and that his previous life was lost forever. From his memories, he recalled how he likely perished before ending up in this fantasy world. Though he had come to terms about that, he still tried to bring into existence as much as he could remember. But with no other otherworlders to discuss with, there was only so much that he could create from his own experiences.
He was a king, gifted with abilities and supported by those around him. But somehow, he felt as if there was no real reason to stay upon that pedestal. It was simply the place where others wanted him. A cage that he had willingly stepped into out of convenience. When was the last time he did something that he was truly passionate about? Not since he came to this world. Just like in his previous world, he floated along, guided by the prompting of others. The only spark in his eyes had been at the very beginning when he believed that he was playing a game.
Perhaps, that was why the eyes of a certain, seemingly powerless man seemed to attract him. Despite his poor stats, he stepped forward earnestly. Despite coming from a world like his own, he stood tall and proud. How could he give such an expression? He wanted to know.
As he watched in surprise at being beaten – that this man had done the unthinkable – all he could wonder was…
What was he missing?
Koujiro slowly opened his eyes as he felt something nudging him in the side. His brain was slowly telling him to wake up from his state of unconsciousness, aided by a familiar scent drifting in the air. As he sat himself up, still wearing nothing but his underwear, he saw a table set in front of him. Upon the table were bowls that were steaming. His wives had all gathered at the chairs placed there.
Why was there food set out in the middle of the throne room?
Koujiro looked over at the man named Claude kneeling next to him, who had a hand extended.
“Lightning Koujiro, King of Macali, your meal is waiting for you.”