THE OGRE’S ORIGIN
I’ve always hated crooked things.
When I close my eyes, I can still picture that village as vividly as ever.
It was a small village, so small that even with a child’s stride, running its entire length would take almost no time.
The door of the house across from mine was slightly warped, and a stain on the house behind mine was in the shape of a bird.
Such insignificant things are precious memories to me now.
As I walked around that village, my little sister would run with all her might to keep up with me.
She still couldn’t speak very well, so I don’t know where she got all that energy, but still, she stuck close to me, never leaving my side for a moment.
Even I couldn’t help but dote on such an adorable little sister.
Even if she wasn’t human.
Green skin, a wrinkly face vaguely reminiscent of a monkey’s, and those cute round eyes all added to her charm.
She bore a strong resemblance to the race called “goblins” that often appeared in fantasy stories in my old world.
Which made sense, because that’s what she was.
And since my younger sister was a goblin, that meant I was, too.
I don’t know how it happened, but I just woke up as a goblin one day.
That’s the only way I can explain it.
I still remember my former life, if I can call it that—my life as a human, as Kyouya Sasajima.
But those memories cut off abruptly in the middle of an classical literature class in high school.
I have no idea how those memories connect to me becoming a goblin.
But I knew right away that this wasn’t a dream and that I would have to live as a goblin from now on.
And while most people might find this strange, I actually quite enjoyed life as a goblin.
A small, simple village, with none of the complex branching side streets of Japan.
Instead of complicated human relationships, the villagers all shared a close bond, possibly because of the harsh environment in which we lived together.
And most of all, goblins are a simple, straightforward race.
In the fantasy stories of my old world, goblins were often depicted as the weakest and perhaps stupidest of the “demi-human” races.
That wasn’t entirely inaccurate here.
However, the impression they give in reality is very different.
There were many monsters in the mountain range where the village was located, and goblins were among the weakest of them.
But they’re strong enough to fight against those strong monsters by working together.
They might be weak as a race, but they make up for it with tools, skill, and the strength of their camaraderie.
And while they’re considered dim-witted, that’s only because most of them are illiterate. A short talk with them makes it clear they’re no different than the average human.
They have enough intelligence to live an average life perfectly well.
If anything, I gained a sense of reverence from watching them, like monks who have achieved a level of enlightenment.
They carry a certain nobility that makes it impossible to mock them as stupid.
Especially if you’ve observed them simply going about their daily lives like I have.
Every day begins with a prayer.
They give thanks to the world, the goddess who protects the world, and their daily bread.
After that, they set about their work.
The goblins who haven’t evolved undergo training, and the ones who have evolved into hobgoblins help train them.
Then those who are strong enough form a hunting party and head out from the village.
The village is nestled deep within a steep mountain range, a dangerous natural environment brimming with powerful monsters.
When the goblin-hunting parties set out on their task, only about half of them return.
The reason the goblin village manages to survive despite this is that goblins reproduce quite a lot.
All of this is more or less in line with my image of goblins from my old life.
When the hunting parties return, the other goblins welcome them back and mourn the fallen.
Then they say a prayer of thanks for the food that the hunters risked their lives to bring back.
Goblins must constantly face death so the village can survive.
Those who stay behind offer them pressed flowers for good luck.
Each gift of flowers contains a strong, intense wish for the hunters to return safely.
The hunters hold those feelings close to their hearts as they set out on a life-and-death journey and return.
In order to live.
And to keep the village alive.
In a few words, the lives of goblins seem primitive, mainly revolving around hunting.
But there is a strong sense of purpose that can be gained from this way of life, one that wasn’t present in my old life in Japan.
Fighting in order to live; dying so that others might live.
There is no good or evil in that cycle, just the brilliance of life.
As I watched them live this way, my admiration deepened.
I hoped to fight for the village one day, just like the hunting parties did.
So that my little sister who followed me around could live.
That was all I wanted…
Without so much as a cry, a young man falls to the ground with a sword through his chest.
His body sinks into the white snow, dyeing it a deep red.
In a few moments, severe blood loss will kill him.
Another man readies his sword and swears.
He wears fur armor, the garb of a savage tribe.
The humans known as “adventurers” often wear armor and weapons made of the monsters they have slain.
Equipment fashioned from a monster’s parts sometimes inherits a certain degree of that monster’s power in life. So while fur might not seem very protective, it probably still carries some of the defensive power of the monster it once belonged to.
Clearly, it’s not just there to protect the man from cold.
The man’s stance is proof enough of that. He has the air of a human who’s accustomed to fighting.
But even he can make mistakes.
In a panic, he lets out a yell.
A decision that leaves him wide open.
The man goes flying backward.
He managed to block the sudden attack with his sword.
But getting caught by surprise has thrown him off balance, or perhaps his opponent is simply too strong, so his defenses are down.
Unable to completely cancel out the attack, he’s knocked back and collides with a nearby tree.
The tree lets out a dry sound and cracks under the strain.
Coughing up blood, the man rolls out of the way of the falling tree.
Its leaves scatter, and snow flies into the air from the ground.
The snow glistens in the air, blocking the man’s vision for just a moment.
So I pierce through the curtain of snow as I strike.
I can see the man’s face stiffen.
He’s still half sitting up, in the midst of trying to stand.
One of his hands is on the ground, and while the one holding his sword is still free, he’s in no position to swing it with any amount of strength.
In this moment, he cannot dodge or block.
His life is as good as mine.
I can see that he knows this as well as I do.
But instead, I stop, pulling myself back.
An arrow whizzes past me, cutting through the air with a sharp, shrill sound.
Following it with my eyes, I watch as it bores a large hole straight through a tree.
If it had hit me instead, that hole would be in my body right now.
That was close. If they’d waited a moment longer, they might have actually hit me.
Although the man’s life would have been forfeit if they had waited.
It was the best possible timing as far as saving the man’s life, but considering the overall situation, I don’t know if that was the best option.
Really, I shouldn’t be analyzing this like I’m casually looking on from the sidelines.
I’m the one fighting these men, after all.
“Rukusso! Run for it!”
The man stands up and shouts.
Didn’t he learn from his mistake of letting his guard down while yelling a moment ago?
But seconds later, another arrow comes flying to cover the man.
In order to dodge, I have no choice but to move away.
“Rukusso, forget about me! Just go!” He continues shouting at the boy who’s firing arrows.
Taking my eyes off the man for a second, I glance at the young bowman he called Rukusso.
Standing a short distance away, the boy was clearly uncertain what to do about the order to leave.
Should he run away, or should he stay here and fight me?
“Run! Go and tell Gotou or Regg that this—this is no ordinary ogre!”
At that, the boy named Rukusso reluctantly turns around and starts to run.
As I watch him sprint away, it’s my turn to hesitate.
Should I let him go, or…?
“Not a chance!”
Lost in thought, I realize my reaction was a second too late.
I duck my head, barely dodging the sword as the blade passes in front of my face.
But the man’s doesn’t stop there as he follows up with another sharp swing.
It’s not fast.
And I can’t say it’s terribly precise.
But there’s so much determination in his reckless swing that I can’t help retreating from it.
His shoulders heave.
I can tell that attack must have been taken the last of his strength.
On top of that, blood is trickling from his mouth as he gasps for air.
Looks like he wasn’t able to completely recover from hitting that tree before.
“Ha! I might be some second-rate adventurer, but I can at least use my last moments to buy enough time for my junior to escape with his life! Come at me!”
The man roars defiantly, as if to shake off any fear that might be taking root.
In reality, I can already see a slight waver in his eyes that he can’t quite hide.
As he grips his sword, his hands are shaking, and not just from the cold.
Some part of me feels strangely detached while I continue watching him.
But I’m unmistakably the one fighting him, and now my body moves on its own to kill him.
It’s as if my body and mind are working independently of each other.
How did it come to this?
I just wanted to live out a quiet, peaceful life as a goblin…
The man charges toward me.
He called himself an adventurer, which means he’s made a living of defeating monsters.
In this world, there are creatures called monsters, considered a threat to humans everywhere.
An adventurer’s job is to fight these monsters.
Which means that by fighting me right now, this man is simply doing his job.
Because from a human’s perspective, I’m just another monster.
It’s no surprise, really.
In the fiction of my old world, goblins were almost always the villains of the story.
Although I’m not even a goblin anymore.
I’ve evolved all the way into an ogre, which is far stronger and larger than any goblin.
From a human adventurer’s perspective, I’m sure a monster like me should be killed on sight.
“You damn scum!”
“Who are you calling scum?”
Evidently surprised that I can speak, the man slows his reactions.
Leaving me the perfect chance to sink my blade into his chest.
“Who’s the real scum here? You’re the ones who came after our village. You forced me to do those horrible things!”
Images of the past flash across my mind.
The houses of the village, all aflame.
The goblins fleeing, the humans chasing them down.
My little sister squeezing my hand as we ran.
The human who caught up and seized me.
And then the order.
That horrible command.
“You humans are the worst scum of all!”
The memories send fury coursing through me.
I let that violent passion take control, sending MP into the blade still deep in the man’s chest.
The MP activates the blade’s special effect, surrounding it in flames.
In an instant, the flames swallow the man up and destroy him.
I gave in to my fury and killed him in an instant.
Shouldn’t I have made him suffer more first?
…No, wait. That’s not what I should be regretting here.
This man was just an unrelated adventurer who happened to be passing through.
Of course, they’re the ones who attacked me first, so I was just defending myself.
But it was probably wrong to take it this far.
As that thought passes through my mind, a self-derisive sneer rises to my lips.
Wrong or not, as soon as I took a life, things like good and evil likely lost all meaning.
I never had to think about good and evil, not when I was in the goblin village anyway.
And yet, now…
Why did things end up like this?