A short story from the official website of a mobile game called Soccer Spirits. This was actually done quite some time ago and it was already posted on some of the game's communities, but I'll be leaving this here too for archiving purposes.
Caution: Everything in this story might sound very strange if you don't know anything about the game. Especially the whole soccer thing.
“Soccer unites the world.”
It’s a phrase that I hear with every new World Cup season. As the saying explains, in the game of soccer, even if everyone’s nationality, skin colour, culture, and religion are all different from yours, you’re going to be like an old friend to them when it’s over.
I had a similar experience when I was young. I remember playing soccer with foreign kids during my overseas trip. I played a game of soccer with players of other colours, white and black, and I was uneasy because of our language barrier. But after actually playing a game with them, chasing after them for ninety minutes as they kicked the ball around, and finally exchanging our jerseys at the end, I knew that we had mutually felt as if we had always known each other for a long time.
When that happened, soccer felt like a magical sport. I had met people whom I never could speak to or knew before, and yet it was as if I could understand them while we were playing soccer. That was more appealing to me than the act of kicking the ball-- the way I could be friends with complete strangers was the true magic of soccer.
And, in the last few years, events that no one could ever predict had unfolded.
The phrase “soccer unites the galaxy” was becoming reality.
Since I was young, I watched a lot of alien movies. They usually presented two scenarios for the first contact between aliens and humans.
The first version has the aliens bring a large space fleet and then immediately begin an assault on Earth. In this story, the people of Earth either succumbs powerlessly, or a military group heroically defeats the aliens and saves Earth.
Second scenario: an alien or two accidentally ends up in the backwards countryside of the galaxy known as Earth. The aliens secretly meet up with some Earth residents and become friends, and after a long series of adventures, they return to their home world or continue to live on the planet.
If I ever hear of aliens coming to Earth, I would assume that either of those two things would happen, but the actual aliens had appeared for completely unexpected reasons. That is, their reasons had gone completely off-course from the generic excuses, like “We are the people of Altauri from the Alpha system, and we have come to form an alliance with Earth.”
The first contact was strange, but perhaps strangely familiar in some perspective. However it went, a few years ago, an alien-- or an alien life form-- had appeared on Earth.
Before all else, the most damning part of that situation should have been the fact that an alien has made a confirmed appearance on Earth. Yet the first place that the alien had chosen to visit was even curiouser: instead of making contact with the governments of each nation... it had visited the international football association. You know, the global soccer group.
The alien life form had the appearance of a rabbit. Okay, it was essentially a talking rabbit. The alien rabbit had introduced itself as “Littre.” Littre explained that there is a space-wide soccer competition known as the Galaxy League, and it’s managed by the Parliament of the Galaxy League. Littre had expressed interest in taking a representative of Earth for the Parliament, so it had visited the football association.
Of course, the news had turned Earth upside-down. Unsurprising, considering that a random space rabbit had shown out of nowhere to talk about a space soccer competition. The world filled with heated discussions-- that NASA was responsible for all of it, or that Earth was secretly ruled by space rabbits all along, or that soccer was an ancient sport given by aliens in the past.
As the years went on, with increasingly greater contact with foreign planets and aliens, Earth had regained a peace of mind as the stories of aliens had become old news. Aliens, space rabbits, and space soccer were all the norm at this point. I had heard later that Earth actually had its own team participating in the Galaxy League. Humans have the fantastic ability to get used to just about everything.
So, why am I talking about this? Thanks to all of the mentioned events so far, I was sitting in a spaceship.
My dad was with the football association. Not as the CEO, of course, but I had heard that he had a fairly important position that had him do important things. The original plans of the space rabbit from a few years before was finally making progress, and the association’s representatives were going to have a meeting with the representatives of other planets. My dad naturally got put aboard the ship as a rep, and... he concluded that he might as well make it a family trip, thinking that he’ll never have another opportunity to go into space.
And so, I was on the spaceship. I expected to take a trip to the Moon by the time that I become a shriveled old man, but now, I was a seventeen year old kid, seeing the stars from a spaceship. I couldn’t explain my feeling at the moment with words.
The spaceship was a secret project that was quietly developed on Earth... would be a cool thing to say, but it was actually just shuttled here by the aliens. The aliens mentioned here were apparently from the planet “Umbra.” The people there looked quite a lot like the humans of Earth, but they had ears that resembled various animals.
The word “alien” tends to remind me of those gray-skinned humanoids with pitch-black eyes. But when the actual aliens look like rabbit or fox ears added on humans, they really might as well be just another human being in my country.
“Oppa, oppa. What are you thinking so hard about?”’
My little sister asked me from the seat beside mine. Black hair, twin tails to the side. Her pajama-like, rabbit-shaped coat and her rabbit ears were immediately noticeable. She is “Yu Nabi,” my little sister, who definitely isn’t a space rabbit. After being told that she was visiting a planet of animal-people, she proclaimed that she must “do as the Romans do” and found herself a rabbit costume and a headband with rabbit ears.
Seeing that, I imagined some famous foreign musician repeating to the crowd in a Korean concert with a broken accent, “I like Kimchi! Bulgogi too! I love Gangnam Style!”. What was my little sister thinking? It was clear what the aliens were going to think when they see her.
“Don’t ignore me! What were you thinking about?”
“I like Kimchi. Bulgogi too.”
Nabi pressed her fingers against her cheeks and gave a puzzled look.
“This spaceship’s interior-- it just looks like my airplane flights from years ago. I thought an alien spaceship would look a lot more sci-fi, and cool, and all that.”
“Hehe, Danbi Oppa is a dummy! You don’t know? This is made in Planet Umbra, specially designed for Earth people! They copied after airplane interiors from Earth, so of course it’s going to look very familiar!”
“I know that, but I’m saying that’s just completely unnecessary.”
I just got considered an idiot by my own sister...
“On top of that, I thought aliens would have four arms, and three eyes, and maybe twelve legs, but they just look like humans.”
“Oppa, please! What do you mean, ‘look like humans’? They have cute bunny ears!”
Nabi pointed at a passing stewardess as she spoke. The stewardess was wearing a hanbok-like, Asiatic traditional dress, and had rabbit ears. I heard that’s the trait of the “Myo” clan of Planet Umbra...
“You have bunny ears too, you know.”
“Oppa, please! These are fake bunny ears! Those are real bunny ears!”
“No, see, that’s why I said that I thought aliens would have silver skin and eight legs with tentacle appendages...”
“Whoa! Look at that! Her ears are twitching! That’s so cute!”
She wasn’t listening to me. Ugh...
Nabi had been overly excited about meeting the animal people since the beginning. Right as we were getting on the flight earlier, she was like a broken record, repeating “So cute so cute so cute so cute that’s so cute that I’ll die!” and when dad showed her photos of the people on Umbra, she went “So cute so cute kyaa-- my heart! Hnnnnnngh my heart’s exploding!” and once again annoyed me to no end.
What about this is so cute..? They just look like humans.
“Danbi Oppa is cute, too, so you could be like the Myo people if you wear bunny ears.”
“D-don’t say that...!”
I shook as I clenched my fists in annoyance.
“But Oppa is cuter than I am.”
“Why? If you dress up like a girl, you’re definitely going to be cuter than me. And if you take photos and put them up online... ‘Hngh! My heart!’”
“I seriously need to consider sewing your lips together. Stop blabbering, please.”
“Blabber blabber blabber~! Blah blah blah~! Yammer yammer yammer~!”
She was deliberately saying “blabber.” I thought about attaching a zipper on her mouth so I could zip it up. Others might think that my little sister is cute, but she was really my worst nemesis.
My face is, as my little sister put it, “cute.” It’s less of a face of man and more like a lady’s. My voice sounds androgynous, too, so I had often been mistaken for a girl when I was young.
After a history of being made fun of my girly face, it had become a kind of a trauma for me. I did my best to look more like a boy since my early age. Getting into soccer was a part of it. I had a time when I worked out until I was a muscular hulk and took my top off whenever I played soccer. I thought I could finally rest easy as people recognized me as a boy...
And after a passing comment that went “Oh my god, that kid has the face of a lady but the body of a muscleman! That’s totally unbalanced LOL” I had once again returned to being very frustrated. I had given up on maintaining that body, too-- it looked weird to me, too, looking at myself in the mirror at the time.
The bigger trauma was at school some time ago, when I had been asked to go out with another boy.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a guy! You’re pretty!” were his words, and I got mad enough to physically kick him out of my face. I want to be asked out by a girl! A girl!
Nabi screamed in surprise. I was just as surprised. While I was deep in thought, the ship shook with a massive ‘clunk’. Did we crash into an asteroid?
“O-oppa, what’s happening? Are we going to go down?”
“Don’t be so stupid. We’re flying in space, so we can’t just go ‘down’.”
I reassured my little sister, mixing in the comedic “straight man” act. I had gone on a lot of airplane flights in my youth, so turbulence wasn’t unfamiliar. Even if the plane shakes around violently, I just need to stay calm and still.
In the next moment, however, darkness enveloped my sight, and then I lost my consciousness.
I pinched my cheeks.
Pinching my cheeks proved I wasn’t in a dream, so I pinched my nose, my lips, and tore my hair out, and I still wasn’t in a dream to awake from, so I thought better and stopped the pinching.
I was in a tiny spaceship. I was in a tiny room that was only enough to fit the size of my body. The ship seemed to be egg-shaped, so I imagined that an outside observer would think that I was in a massive egg. I was in a white egg.
The door in front of me was opened outward, so I had a good view of the outside world. Looking at that, I was pinching my cheeks.
I had landed on a great field of purple crystals. The area looked like a desolate plain devoid of flora at a glance, and instead of grass, there were purple crystals. They looked like gems, or maybe simple minerals; at the very least, I’ve never seen them before. I wondered if I had fallen into a crystal cave, but that was an impossibility as the clear, blue sky was right above the field.
“What happened back there...?”
I could recall as far as the ship shaking violently after talking to Nabi. Then a big thud happened... and then everything went dark as I lost my consciousness.
No. Actually... My vision blacking out, and going unconscious were two separate events. I carefully recalled about the events that had occurred on the flight. My vision was blocked because an object fell from above and onto my face, like someone had put a blindfold over my eyes.
It might be entirely different, but traditional airplanes had a similar feature. When airplanes have emergencies, oxygen masks fall from compartments in the ceiling. I remembered practicing donning those masks several times over my numerous flights.
If that was the case...
“Did something happen to the spaceship?”
What happened to Nabi? What about Mom and Dad? I couldn’t tell.
There were many confusing buttons and controls within this egg-shaped, miniature spaceship, but none of them produced any reactions when I mashed on each button. I looked for a manual, but searching around the body-sized spaceship produced nothing worthwhile. Even if it did, I probably couldn’t read any of it.
I was previously in a spaceship that belonged to the United Kingdom of Kartina, so I was possibly in one of the escape shuttles within it. With that thought, I stepped out of the ship, making crunching sounds as I landed my foot on solid ground.
“I sure wish this was Earth...”
I looked around the crystal-filled lands. Everywhere I looked, there were nothing but purple crystals, with no fauna, people, or buildings. There weren’t even any other ships flying in the skies above.
A crystal-filled desert. I had traveled to many different countries as a child, but I had never seen such a sight. I’d seen a crystal cave before, but a crystal desert?
Was it an alien planet after all? As I rationally thought about the events thus far, that was the natural conclusion.
I had no idea what my next move should be. If I had anyone else with me, I could have had the reassurance. I really didn’t know what was the proper action while stranded alone on an unfamiliar, alien planet. Should I return to the egg and sit still? Or should I draw an SOS signal on the ground and then hope for the best? Wait... How were aliens going to tell what SOS means? Things seemed worse with each moment.
I looked around. Alien monsters... were nowhere in sight, thankfully. Around me were only purple crystals. They were the only things that I could really see in the distance. I squatted on the ground, and inspected one of the purple crystals beneath me.
Purple crystal. The shapes didn’t seem to have a pattern. It wasn’t fully transparent, and it had clearly defined angles and surfaces like gem crystals. If I were to be rescued and made it back home, wouldn’t it be great to have one of these with me? A purple crystal from an alien planet. Not too shabby for a souvenir.
It was such a frivolous thought for a stranded man, but the crystal had caught my eyes the more I looked at it. After making up my mind to take back one with me, I touched the crystal.
I couldn’t move my hands. Both of my hands refused to move, with the crystal in their grips. Huh? What’s it doing? Why can’t I move? I tried to step away in panic, but my legs refused to move next. I thought I had been paralyzed. I realized something had gone terribly wrong and I tried to scream for help, but my mouth did not move, either.
My lips were without feeling. My tongue was solid. No voice was being made. My neck wouldn’t turn to my wishes. My eyelids were frozen. I couldn’t blink.
My entire body, as if it had become a crystal, refused to move a single inch. Feeling was leaving my skin. I was still staring at the crystal. My body was paralyzed as I looked at the crystal, so I couldn’t look away.
I continued to attempt at a call for help, but my paralyzed mouth did not allow any words to come out. No screams were heard. I was filled with regret a little too late. I was done for in the moment that I decided to touch the crystal. I knew that nobody would hear me even if I called for help, but I really wanted to say anything at all.
Ah, so this is how it ends.
The thought filled my mind. I was going to die a lonely death in an alien world, without friends, without family.
Images of Nabi, Mom, and Dad flashed by. I saw my childhood soccer friends, too. I could never hold a conversation with them and they looked very different than I, but I really had a lot of fun playing soccer with them. That was the most fun I had in those days. Getting to meet the different people of the world through a children’s soccer team was great. I recalled the jersey exchanges in the aftermath.
Am I never going to play soccer again...? That was my final question. My body was tingling. I couldn’t move. I was going to die a slow death as I stood still as a stone statue. It was all too sad.
“What are you doing there?”
I clearly heard that voice. I thought I was hearing things for a moment. It was very apparently the voice of a woman asking ‘what are you doing there?’ I was very relieved. I could actually understand her. I tried to reply, but no words were coming out-- of course, I was still paralyzed. I had to say something back...
“Can’t you hear me? I asked what you’re doing there.”
I wanted to answer, but I could neither speak nor turn my head. I detected a hint of annoyance in the woman’s voice. No, wait, stop being annoyed and help me out! I’m completely paralyzed and I can’t do a thing!
“Wait... You’re a guy?”
Footsteps approached. I heard her walking in my way. I really wanted to see her for myself, and that didn’t work. Not even my eyes could roll over to look, which were fixated on the purple crystal instead.
“But that face has to be a girl’s...?”
She saw my face. Then please, help me! Don’t just look! The mysterious stranger began poking my face with her fingers. Then, she suddenly slapped my face.
“Seeing how you’re paralyzed, you have to be a man, but... Maybe you just look like a girl?”
Footsteps crunched by again. She was walking away somewhere. Wait, stop! Come back and save me!
“That’s an escape pod from a Kartina ship... What business does Kartina have on Planet Kiri? Oh, wait, you can’t speak, can you?”
I thought I’d nod if I can’t speak, but that was also futile. Presumably, she was looking around the spaceship. The mystery lady’s footsteps approached again, returning to my direction.
“Only an idiot of a man would touch this crystal, though.”
I had no idea what she was talking about. Are men not allowed to touch this crystal? How was I supposed to know?
“Your body’s probably poisoned and paralyzed at this point... So you won’t be able to speak, or look at me. You don’t know who I am, because you can’t see who I am.”
Yep. I’m poisoned. Please save me.
“So, what should I do? Should I save you? Maybe not?”
I was getting angrier with each word. Why even ask, if you know that I’m unable to reply?
“If I rescue you here, then you’ll be indebted to me as your saviour. ...The price should be pretty steep, huh? Do you have the money for repayment? Or maybe alternate things of value?”
She continued to ask questions to a voiceless man. Whoever she was, she was evil. She was truly the worst.
“If you have nothing, then you’re going to have to pay with your own body, so you should brace for that. I’ve run a lot of businesses in my life, but charity isn’t one of them, you see? If you have own nothing, then I’ll own you.”
Okay, alright! Just take it all! My body, my parents’ money, whatever it is! Just save me!
“Then, when you’re able to talk again, let’s talk about your methods of repayment.”
Soon, darkness came over my sight again. I didn’t lose my consciousness, but I was put into some sort of a coffin. As I was put into the coffin, the lid was shut, and pitch black covered my eyes.
What could possibly happen to me now?
Light returned to my vision. The lid had come off.
“Hm? You’re awake? Let’s see, let’s see. Body functions are normal. Respiration is fine. Oho, good! You’re perfectly healthy!”
I saw a face with blue goggles. She had green hair, but the goggles covered the most of her face so her eyes remained unseen. Beneath that was her disheveled work clothing, and sprouting from her sides were...
“Whaaah! It’s a monster with nine arms!!!”
Numerous metal arms were holding tools like hammers and spanners. The goggles threw me off for a moment, but that was definitely a nine-armed alien!
“What! No! These are mech arms for my work!”
One of the arms took the goggles off of her face, and her green, sparkling eyes were revealed from underneath. W-wait, she looks like she could be my sister’s age, but the robot arms behind on her backs are...
“Whaaaaaaaah! It’s a girl-like monster with nine arms!!”
“Hey... You’re doing that on purpose, aren’t you?”
The girl grumbled and shook her mechanical arms around. What did she think she was-- an Indonesian goddess...? I shrunk away in fear, and the girl sighed. She collapsed her human arms onto her chest and, like taking off a school backpack, she removed the mechanical arms aside.
“Oh, so they’re robot arms.”
The thing on her back was a mechanical contraption that controlled the nine arms. After taking the device off, the girl looked like any other girls at my little sister’s age. Looking around, the area looked like it was the interior of a futuristic spaceship. I was in a state-of-the-art laboratory, and there were more coffin-like containers around me.
My outfit was... the same. It was as I had in my space flight.
“Will you believe that I’m not a monster now? Seeeriously~ Those are support arms for helping me do my work.”
“U-uh, fine, I’ll believe you. But, who are you? And... where am I?”
“Me? I’m Mirial. Mirial Shuutena. Just call me Mirial~ I’m the engineer of this ship!”
“Oh... I’m Yu Danbi.”
I could have guessed that she was an engineer.
“You’re in Minerva Kingdom on Planet Kiri.”
“Planet Kiri? Minerva Kingdom? Where is that?”
“Whoa! You don’t know Minerva Kingdom?!”
The little girl clasped her hands around her mouth as if she were truly surprised. She was like a city girl making fun of a countryside bumpkin for not knowing trivial things...
“Do you seriously not know about the galaxy’s most powerful nation, Minerva Kingdom? Is there even anyone left who doesn’t know about the military powerhouse that ended the star wars? Are you suffering from memory loss?!”
“I don’t have memory loss!”
“Then how under the rock do you have to be to... H-hey, do you know how many this is? You see, this is called a ‘number’...”
The girl made a V-sign with her hand.
“That’s two! I know that much!! I’m from Earth!”
“Earth? Was there a tribe like that on Kartina?”
I realized where the mistake originated.
“I’m not from the United Kingdom of Kartina, but from a planet called Earth. I’m a guy from Earth. Earth. Earth, the planet in the Sol system!”
“What’s an Earth? Is there really a planet called that?”
Earth must have been completely insignificant to the people around here.
“Hmm. You came out of a Kartina escape pod, but you’re not from Kartina?”
“That’s how it is. I was on a spaceship to travel to Planet Umbra to enter Kartina. But there was an accident during the trip, and... I don’t know the specifics, but I found myself on this planet after waking up.
I pieced my memories together to make that summary.
“Earth...? Earth... Hm, I thought I heard that somewhere before. What else that... Wait, that’s right!”
Engineer Mirial clapped in light of her realization.
“I have absolutely no clue!”
Oh, my poor head...
“Hm. Anyway, I know enough to know that you’re from a tribe that’s primitive enough to not know Planet Kiri’s Micrinum ores. So, a primitive planet called Earth, right? ...Mmh, do you know what a ‘fire’ is? Do you eat raw meat, and stuff?”
“We cook meat just fine!”
“Ah, so your culture just began utilizing fire. It’s fine if people from such a backwards culture make that kind of a mistake! I understand!”
I really wanted to argue with her further, but I realized that I would only tire myself out. Instead, I moved onto a different question.
“So, Micrinum ore? What is that, exactly?”
“That’s the purple crystal that you touched. We call that Micrinum around here. It’s a special mineral that exists only on Kiri.”
As she spoke, she opened up a toolbox-like container from her side and took out a purple crystal.
I immediately recoiled at the sight of the crystal. I almost died because of that thing!
“Oh, yeah, you almost died from this. Micrinum ores are densely packed with energy, but it has a special poisonous property that only affects men.”
“H-how can you touch that crystal so calmly?!”
“Hm? I’m a girl.”
I fell into silence for a moment. What? So, that crystal is... perfectly fine when females touch it, but when males touch it, poison spreads and paralyzes them?
“That’s a lie! That’s impossible! How can that kind of crap exist?!”
“As expected from a primitive folk. He’s in denial of a crystal that’s common knowledge in this galaxy...”
“If such a thing existed, then all the males on this planet must have died off! That doesn’t make sense!”
“Yeah. They all died.”
I stiffened and gawked at the girl’s eyes. That, uh... That was a joke that only engineers could understand, right? There must have been a gag that I missed, like a pop culture reference, or a word play.
“Only women live on Planet Kiri. That’s why it’s very odd for a boy like you to enter this planet.”
“Uwaaaaaah! That’s impossible! A planet with only women?! That’s like some fairy tale world!”
“Hmm? A primitive civilization has Kiri mentioned in its folklore? That’s an... interesting data.”
“S-so, this planet has... only women?”
“Yep. Already, we have laws that prohibit males from entering the nation, so no males could legally be here.”
I must have fallen into a bizarro world.
Learning from the data given by the girl so far... This place was a militarily powerful nation, so it must have been what United States appears to Earth. If it were a really big nation, then... Might they have a way for me to return to Earth, or find out the whereabouts of my little sister and my parents?
I told Mirial my thoughts. I believed that somebody could help me out of pure kindness, since in my baseless opinion, the people here seemed genuinely nice...
“Yep! It’s totally impossible.”
... And I immediately reconsidered my previous opinion. I got denied in the moment that I asked.
“I was a little confused at first, but I confirmed it for myself after I scanned your body. You look like a girl, but... You’re unmistakably a man! A healthy, young boy, I’ll agree on that!”
And then she suddenly blushed.
“So, uh, why are you blushing?”
“Th-that’s because... of absolutely nothing!”
“You said you scanned my body, so did you...”
She covered her face in embarrassment.
Did I... seriously show off my bare body to a girl... for the first time?
“B-but you looked like a girl no matter where I looked, so I needed to make sure!”
“Okay, putting that aside, why is it impossible?”
“Yeah, it’s impossible because of the ‘no entry to males’ law, which is still in effect to this day.”
She dramatically raised a finger like she was teaching a little kid.
“What of it?”
“You’re a boy. A healthy boy. A boy however you look.”
“What’s the problem?”
“But you’re on this planet.”
Mirial lowered her finger and stared in silence. I looked back at her. What was happening? Was she attempting a telepathic communication?
“Do you really not understand the issue yet?”
“No, so what’s the problem that I’m a guy?”
“You’re on a planet that doesn’t allow any males to enter, and you’re on this planet. You’re an illegal alien.”
“Right, go on.”
“You’re a criminal.”
I froze. I was trying to remember the meaning of the word “criminal”, and looking back at Mirial,
Why?!?! What have I done?! When have I wronged this world?!
“Phew... It’s not easy, making a primitive tribesman understand such a civilized concept. You don’t have anything like laws on your planet, no? The tribal chief manages its people, and...”
“That’s not it! I perfectly understand the situation! Why do I have to be labeled a criminal?! I’m innocent! It’s unfair! I’m just stranded after a spaceship accident!”
“But there’s nothing to worry about! We’re not exactly low on money! I’m not about to take you straight to the police or anything! Oh... But if the boss changes her mind, I don’t know if...”
The slurred speech at the end was a bad omen.
Wait... One thing was especially troubling. If this really was a foreign planet, how was I communicating with this person with no problems?
“So, how come we can hold a proper conversation? Isn’t it normal to suffer from a language barrier if I’m on a foreign planet?”
“Ahh, that? It might be difficult to understand from the perspective of an uncivilized tribesman, but it’s been centuries that we had a galaxy-wide, automatic translator! People on Planet Kiri have them installed in their body, so we can have free communication with strangers from any other planet! Hmm. Was it too tough to understand, after all? Do you know what it means to ‘translate’?”
“I know, so please, stop thinking that I’m a primitive ape.”
There existed such a convenient system. If there was a device like that back on Earth, I never would have needed to waste time learning foreign languages...
“I got the rough idea of what’s going on now. But... I don’t see the person who rescued me. She had a different voice...”
“Ah. It was my boss who rescued you!”
“Mmh. The boss left it to me to find out who you are, where you’re from, and investigate your background! I’m just an engineer, but I’ve been getting all sorts of miscellaneous tasks... N-no, I’m not complaining. The boss is busy with other work, but you’ll get to meet her soon.”
“When you say ‘the boss’... This is a company building?”
“Yep. This place is called Khan Electronics. We make things related to soccer around here.”
The mention of soccer piqued my interest. This world seemed mostly alien to me thus far, but a friendly, familiar word had been spoken.
“Then... you make things like soccer balls and uniforms around here?”
“Oho! Even primitive tribes play soccer! I suppose I won’t have to explain what soccer is.”
I really wished that she would stop calling me primitive.
“But... making soccer balls doesn’t sound like it’s going to involve a spaceship.”
“Fufufu! That’s the difference between primitive soccer and modern-age soccer! Soccer is the most famous sport in this galaxy! Naturally, it’s the prime testing ground for any modern technology!”
As Miss Mirial explained, the rules of the game were the same as I had always known, but all kinds of space technology were included. It begins with the material of the soccer ball, which it is durable enough to withstand the might of any alien out there, and follows with special outfits that enhance the bodily strengths of its wearers for playing soccer.
She said that this company was especially concerned with making special suits that enhance the abilities of its wearers by two hundred percent, while strengthening their body.
“The most important components of these suits are Micrinum ores, so I was out prospecting for ores, until our ship had found you.”
“Making suits out of such dangerous materials? That means guys can’t wear it, right?”
“Fufufu! It doesn’t have to be that way! If we use our new tech--... O-oops, that’s a trade secret! A trade secret! Pretend I didn’t say anything!”
She put a hand over her mouth.
“A-ahem. Anyway, it’s as you say. Micrinum suits, shortened to Micsuits, can only be worn by the women of Planet Kiri! It’s a brilliant technology that allowed the military nation of Planet Kiri to rise to the top!”
“That almost sounds like a cheat... That’s just not fair play.”
“Hmph. I don’t know about your primitive soccer, but the Galaxy League is on a different level than whatever you’re thinking about! Angels play soccer, dragons play soccer, and demons play soccer! All kinds of nonsensical, common-sense-defying beings play soccer! If you’re going to play on the same level as those things, you need the Micsuits! Now that’s fairness; I’ll agree on that!”
I was reminded that there were more things unknown than known in this world. I wanted to press further about the angels and the demons, but a sudden rhythmic beeping from the spaceship interrupted me.
“Wah! It’s my boss calling me!”
Without a single explanation, I was dragged outside by Mirial by my arms. Going through the door that connected to the laboratory space, I found myself in a room that looked like someone’s office.
The room was a lot less impressive than the previous. It looked as if the place was cleaned out before moving away to a new home. The walls were plain purple, and the desk and the floor were just as purple. What was this place? The purple room had a purple desk, and behind it was a purple chair that faced away. I couldn’t see the person on the chair because of its orientation.
And suddenly, the floor had turned into a display of the outer space, catching me off guard. I saw Earth in the distance. It then looked as if the room was flying in space.
“There’s nothing to be surprised about. This is a hologram. Ah... Primitive tribes wouldn’t know about holograms--”
“I know what it is.”
I came back to my senses after hearing Miss Mirial. I had a small hope that they returned me to Earth, but the hope was promptly lost.
The room turned into space, and beneath me was Earth. Only the desk and the chair remained purple. The chair still faced away, and whoever sat in it stayed still.
She began speaking. I couldn’t see her, but I recognized the voice right away. It was the voice from back when my entire body was paralyzed. She spun around in her chair and began,
“Now. Shall we talk about the payment for saving your life?”
The chair spun, and revealed the owner of the voice. My first impression was... that she was a pirate captain. She didn’t have a skull-marked tricorne, but she wore a red jacket with a black cape, and her definitive pirate quality was the black eyepatch over her left eye.
...Was I captured by pirates?
“Hello, Yu Danbi. I’m Lei Khan, but people usually call me Khan.”
She had pale white skin and her silvery hair extended down her shoulders. If her clothes weren’t pirate-like, she would have probably looked like a mystical, noble elf, but the added pirate captain look made her look rather ghostly and terrifying.
Mirial had left the room soon after bringing me in, so there were only Khan and I remaining. Pressure mounted extra quickly.
“I got the gist of your identity with Mirial’s information. Hm. My search into the space flights records for your spaceship shows that... a Kartina spaceship that was heading for Umbra had gone missing. I see that you haven’t been lying.”
“Th-that’s right. I’m not lying about anything.”
Khan looked visibly surprised at my reply. Did I say anything that might surprise her? Or... It was my girly voice again?
“Hey... Has anyone ever told you that you sound a lot like someone else?”
“You don’t have to tell me that I sound like a girl. Tsk.”
“I meant... No, forget it.”
I didn’t have any idea what she was trying to say. Khan looked like she didn’t care about my situation at all, but she looked more interested after hearing me out. Was she getting interested in my problem?
“I know what situation I’m put into. I heard that this planet doesn’t allow men to enter. I want to leave here, too. Miss Khan, is there a way for me to find and return to my parents?”
“Before we get to that, we have a different issue. You haven’t paid me for saving your life yet.”
Ugh. That was the issue, after all. I had nothing that I could do for her. But...
“Can’t you see? I have absolutely nothing with me. You want a reward? Then you’ll need to find my parents. I own nothing myself, but my parents should be able to pitch in a reward.”
I answered with the best possible solution that came to my mind. That’s great! It was what I needed. I just needed to take the attention away from the reward, and to finding my parents!
“Are you sure that your parents have the ability to pay?”
“My parents earn a lot of money!”
“You don’t understand, kid. That’s only in the perspective of a citizen of Earth.”
“I’m one of the richest people in this galaxy. When I talk about payment, I’m thinking of a large spaceship in the very least. Hm... Like the big spaceship that you were riding on, yes? But, according to my investigation just now, it says that the people of Earth don’t even have the technology to build a proper spaceship.”
“Th-that’s... We can’t build them now, but we’ll manage it in ten years!”
Even though they were my own words, they sounded like silly, desperate excuses to me. An entire spaceship?! How can I guarantee that can be made in ten years?
“Therefore, neither you nor your parents have the ability to pay.”
“Nngh... Then, what do you want?! What are you going to do?!”
“I could be a law-abiding citizen and hand you over to the Minervan government for the crime of trespassing, and receive a small bounty as a result.”
“Then what will happen to me?”
“You’ll be exiled from this planet. You’ll become lost in space, floating in space until you expire...”
“Aaaaaargh! It’s not my fault that this happened to me! That’s not fair!”
“Or, you can pursue the second option. Since you can’t pay, you forfeit your body. You become my slave. But, what can you do for me?”
Avoiding the fate of being stranded in space had left me with the life of a slave.
“I... I can play soccer.”
“Yes! I was in a youth’s international soccer team when I was young. I competed against many other nations... A-and I heard you make soccer accessories here! I might be able to help!”
I quickly pitched myself in desperation. I’m fine with anything else, just don’t shoot me out into space!!
I must have convinced Khan. She looked to be deep in thought for a moment, and she spun in her chair back around.
She brought up a bunch of holograms in front of her and fiddled with its controls. Several screens flew by. What was she looking at?
“Wait... Maybe... My plan could be solved a lot easier this way....?”
Khan mumbled to herself as more holograms floated above her. They were all images that I did not recognize. There was a palace surrounded with purple crystals, and beside it was a blonde lady in a white dress, wielding a shining sword with a black hilt. It was my first time seeing anything like that
Holograms above displayed many complex-looking numbers and letters, and then, they all disappeared. The sight of the space and Earth disappeared, too, and the room returned to its original purple.
...A purple room? Could it also be made of Micrinum ores? The colours were similar, so maybe that’s how it was.
“Yu Danbi. How well can you play soccer?”
I had found my way out. I had to press onward to take the opportunity, even if I had to lie in the process.
“I’m the best player on Earth! Number one on Earth! So I should be pretty good, even space-wide!”
If any of the soccer players on Earth heard that, they would stop kicking the ball to kick me to pulp instead. But they’ll understand too, if they also knew of my situation.
“You’re the best player on Earth?”
“Yes! You could say that I’m the future of Earth Soccer! You can’t talk about Earth Soccer without leaving me, Yu Danbi out! I’m the very icon and the hope of all things soccer! Historians say that Earth Soccer divides into pre-Danbi and post-Danbi days!”
I gave up thinking. There was no going back. I had to see where this would take me!
“Hm. Okay. The people on Earth may have an inferior civilization, but I have data that shows that their soccer abilities cannot be ignored. And if you’re truly the best player on Earth... As long as you’re not lying, there should be some use for you as a player. If you aren’t lying, that is.”
The way she talked about me lying-- I felt my heart sink. Did she see through my ruse...?
“Alright. If you can prove yourself with soccer, I will guarantee your freedom and help you find your parents. Of course, you can always reject this proposal and choose to become stranded in space instead.”
“I’ll do it! I’ll play soccer! I’ll win against any team that’s thrown at me!”
“Good. Then prove your skill on the field. But if I find that you were exaggerating your abilities...”
Khan smiled, tracing her neck with the side of her hand, as if to cut her throat. Whoa, that’s a common gesture in space, too!
“I’ll grind you into space dust.”
“You can rely on me! I’ll show you that I’m the best player in the galaxy!”
And that’s what happened.
This is how Yu Danbi came to say the biggest lie of his lifetime.
This is how Yu Danbi ended up playing soccer out in the galaxy.
“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat!?!? I’m going to be a manager for a soccer team?!”
Back in the purple room, I personally watched on as Mirial screamed.
After the biggest lie of my life, Khan had called Mirial back into the room. When Mirial returned, Lei Khan immediately began, “You. You’re going to be the manager to take care of our soccer team from now on.”
“I’m just a humble engineer gal! Even if you give me all the time and finance, it’s impossible! Impossible! Terribly impossible!!”
“The Micsuits of the soccer players of Minerva Kingdom-- Who made them?”
“Th-those are made by me. They’re products of Khan Electronics, after all.”
“Those suits are designed by analyzing the specialties of each player and optimizing their individual, unique abilities, aren’t they?”
“Of course! It’s a high-performance suit that can bring up the potentials of the players by two hundred percent! It maximizes their strengths and minimizes their weaknesses! It’s the magnum opus of the state-of-the-art Minervan technology!”
Mirial suddenly flushed up, excited. She was too eager to talk about her own profession...
“Ergo, you know of the unique characteristics of every Minervan player?”
Mirial paused, her mouth ajar.
“Isn’t the job of a manager to perfectly understand the abilities of every player?”
“Wait, I’m just an engineer girl, not a...”
“Don’t you perfectly understand them?”
“I do perfectly understand them, but this and that are different types of things, so realistically I can’t make use of...”
“Then we’re done here. You’re the most suited for this position. Begin working on it immediately. Don’t waste your time here.”
Khan grinned. Hm. It seemed to mean ‘I have nothing more to say, so get out’...
Mirial put on a long face and grumbled on her way out. The situation seemed to call for me to leave with her, so I followed right after.
“Waaaaaaaaaaaahh!! It’s all your fault!!!”
As soon as we exited the room, Mirial charged at me. If she had ran at me with only her own body, it might have looked cute, but she was coming at me while swinging her nine terrifying robot arms on her back. I ran, struck with fear.
“N-no, wait! Why is this my fault?! It was decided by her!!”
“It’s your fault that the boss got her weird idea!! I-I’m a soccer team manager... What kind of nonsense is thiiiiiiiiis?!”
It appeared that I wasn’t the only victim of the unreasonable series of decisions.
“Well, that just happened. She said she’d help me find my parents if I prove myself as a soccer player... Hm. I guess you got mixed up in this because of me. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry doesn’t solve anything! Waaah!! How did I end up as a soccer team manager?!!”
“But, uh... Like Miss Khan said, you know precisely well about the players... So... Maybe you’ll get through this somehow?”
“I’m not a soccer team manager, I’m an engineer!! An engineer!!”
“I know a little bit about soccer, so maybe I could help.”
Miss Mirial stopped her waterfall tears and looked up at me with moist eyes. It was pretty cute in that angle... if not for the robot arms.
“Really? You were a team manager before?”
If I were on Earth and I were asked by a random person, then I would have quickly replied “no,” but I was in a situation where I have lied numerous times and an extra one wouldn’t matter anymore.
“Yep. I led the Earth’s greatest band of boys.”
“Whoa! Really? You were a manager! B-but aren’t you a little too young to be a manager?”
“Back on Earth, even a kid like me can be a manager with enough skill! And I’m Earth’s best soccer manager!”
I’m so sorry, real managers. Please forgive me. I just want to live. I’m sure you’ll understand.
“Alright. Everything happened thanks to you, so... Take responsibility and help me out! I might be a professional with suits, but being a manager is my first!”
“Believe in me! I’ll make the best soccer team in the world!”
A serious thought struck me that I’d grow up not as a professional soccer team manager, but as a pro swindler...
Miss Mirial used holographic projections to explain the Minerva Kingdom Soccer League.
There was the Galaxy League which took in a national soccer team from each planet, but there was also a large variety of soccer leagues happening on each planet. Minerva Kingdom had its own soccer league, and it was apparently called the ‘Minerva Cup’.
“There are many soccer teams in Minerva Kingdom, but there are only five that are noteworthy.”
Miss Mirial opened up more holograms by flicking her robotic hands around. Several square photos that looked like pictures on ID cards were listed and aligned themselves in the air.
“Wow, that’s a lot of players.”
“Mm-hmm. There are a lot, so I’ll start with the first team! I’ll pass the rest of them! Close, sesame!”
With more flicks of the robotic hands, Miss Mirial erased the holograms to my right and opened and closed various screens to rearrange them. They looked more like touchscreen interface than simple holograms...
After cleaning up the screens, a picture appeared, containing a blonde lady, holding a shining blade with a black hilt and wearing a white armour. Huh? I thought I’d seen her from Khan’s room projections... I saw the screen from afar then, but now that I got a closer view, I found the lady’s blue eyes and her face to be pretty. She may looked like what I’d call... pure.
“The first team to introduce has to be Siena Celtron. They’re practically the strongest of Minerva Kingdom. Obviously, because the leader of Minerva Kingdom, Princess Bell Rougemann herself, is one of the players.”
“The princess is a player herself? That’s pretty amazing...”
“Princess Bell is very active in promoting playing soccer in Minerva, you know. Playing soccer herself is the best way to advertise it, you see?”
“Is that so...”
I had found myself in a nation that loved soccer more than Brazil. Soccer was that important on this planet...
“Siena Celtron is the crowd favourite within the Galaxy League, too, so its renown in the Minervan Kingdom goes without saying. The explosive offense from Princess Bell is its well-known specialty. One mistake, and then she’s already penetrated past your line. I don’t have to say any more other that they’re pretty much expected to win. Next~”
After the blonde princess disappeared, twin girls appeared on the screen. Silvery twintails, and... black outfits that showed a heck of a lot of skin. No, that has to be a swimsuit! Sure, it had traces of futuristic spacesuit tech, but that cleavage, and those butts, there were too many things showing!
“Hey... Are they seriously playing soccer in that?”
“Hmm? But that’s typical for soccer-use Micsuits of Minerva Kingdom.”
“No, but that degree of nudity is... I think that’s pretty lewd!”
“Hmm. I heard something similar to that from people from other planets, but Minerva Kingdom is the land of women, you know? I don’t know about other planets, but there’s nobody around here who thinks the same as you about the Micsuits.”
“B-but they’re almost naked!”
“They just removed everything that gets in their way of moving around. Clothes can only slow you down the more layers you wear!”
I couldn’t find a good retort against her reasoning. I suppose it wasn’t too wrong to be nearly naked on a planet of women as a woman.
“Micsuit designs are nearly perfect! Needless parts are carefully omitted to reduce air resistance! Parts that require strengthening are empowered by the suit! What a fantastic display of modern technology!”
“But the suit seems to be focusing a lot on the breasts and the legs.”
“Well, yeah, you need to receive the ball with your chest and you kick the ball with your legs. Sigh. To talk to a tribal like this...”
I gave up arguing. If that’s how it was, it was going to be. And I wished again to stop being called a tribal.
“Back to my speech: the second team to introduce to you is the Jeneva Crew. The twin sisters, Maggie and Meg are quite famous. The Jeneva Crew is, um... A little awkward, but stronger near the end of the match? Some style like that. Even if they look like they’re falling behind early on, their skills are impossible to ignore in the end. So, you have to be careful for a comeback.”
A team that aims for a comeback... I looked back at the silver-haired twins on the hologram screen. I was again struck by the degree of their nudity. Lewd!
Mirial erased the twins’ hologram, producing the next. There was another player with a suit of the similar design.
Green hair, and green suit. Her expression looked cold.
“The next is DC Neska. The face of their team is Blade. She’s the definition of calm, calculated plays. Their team won’t have any explosive offense like the Siena Celtrons, but their defensive game is pre-tty hard to break through. The height of defensive plays, I feel.”
The leading player looked like she’d never get angry. And very cold, too, that she’d never smile, either.
“The next is, uh... Atlanta.”
Miss Mirial stammered in the middle of her speech. She had already erased the last hologram, but she hesitated to bring up the following screen. What was she doing?
“I-it’s nothing! Now, Planetary Defense Initiative Atlanta!”
The huge hologram showed another great big surprise. So, um, uh...
“Hey, Danbi? You’re staring at her breasts too much...”
“Not at all! I wasn’t looking at her breasts! I was assessing her as a player! A player!”
It was another silver-haired player, but with a completely different atmosphere from the twin sisters. She looked kind and gentle, with very huge breasts and hips, and with her wearing the similar near-nude indigo suit, my male eyes were naturally drawn to certain parts of her...
“Atlanta was originally a military command center for Minerva Kingdom. But thanks to Princess Bell’s efforts... they formed a soccer team here, too. Soccer over war~ Soccer and peace!”
It’s not love and peace, but soccer and peace...?
“Atlanta has a relatively short history, but each player stands out uniquely in personality and abilities... No one can underestimate them. Their team cohesion isn’t that great compared to other teams, either, but it feels like their individual abilities cover for that. Especially the previous star war’s, uh...”
Mirial stammered again.
“What about the star war?”
“N-nothing. The war hero of the last star war, Hildegard, is the ace of the aces. There’s no single player on Minerva Kingdom who could stand against her might alone.”
I stared at the silver-haired lady of incredible history (and incredible bodily features...) on the screen. She was a war hero, huh? This was a world where war heroes play soccer... Everything seemed to end up going back to being about soccer.
Miss Mirial awkwardly hurried to remove Atlanta’s information off of the view. Hm. Maybe she had a history with Atlanta?
“Next up is the last of the rising stars... Karladure. Mm. I don’t have enough information about them, so I can’t explain much. They’re formed very recently. They’ve proven strong, so they’ve been getting attention, but there are too many unknowns to understand their specialties.”
The screen now showed a girl in a red suit. She had silver hair like the rest, but her eyes were red like her suit, giving a different impression from the rest. If the previous players looked very serious, this one was more playful.
“Their leading player is Guinevere... but like her team, her playstyle and her abilities have been very inconsistent. I could say that they use very nonstandard strategies... Her and the team really popped out of nowhere, so they have no history to learn from. They have an empty track record, so I can’t predict anything! And that’s the end of it!”
Miss Mirial erased all holograms. She opened up a final, lone hologram...
On the screen was a girl that hadn’t shown up before. Black hair, and... the ever-revealing Micsuit. Wait... somehow, she’s... a little too familiar?
“And the one who shall defeat the five teams! Yu Danbi’s newly formed soccer team!”
“Ah. So she’s the player who will be the star of our soccer team.”
“Yep. That’s you, Yu Danbi.”
I looped between looking at Miss Mirial and then looking at the girl in the screen.
Oh... I knew she was familiar, but... What? What did she just say?
“That’s me? That’s totally someone else!”
“I used your body scan data to simulate how you’d look with a new Micsuit. Even if it’s a simulation, it’s incredibly accurate, so I bet you’re going to look just like that.”
“Waaaaaaait a minute, that’s a girl, no matter how you look!”
“But you’re not allowed to look like a male player! Minerva Cup is the tournament of women! If a male player enters, it’s obvious that we’re going to have an issue before we even start playing!”
I had a headache. No... I’m... I have to... I’m going to wear that suit? I have to crossdress? Is that it?
“Thankfully, your face is cute like a little girl’s! It’ll be perfect with the suit’s finishing touch! It won’t take that long to build the suit! You can count on it! I’ll turn you into the prettiest little girl in the galaxy! You can trust my skills!”
“I don’t even want to count on it!!!!!”
And that’s what happened.
And that’s how Yu Danbi began playing soccer while crossdressed.
Oh... my life.
Next day, I was actually forced into that swimsuit-like, state-of-the-art suit. I was uncomfortable being forced on a girl’s clothing, but there was going to be a bigger issue if I were found to be a man, so I couldn’t refuse.
...Was I really going to play soccer in this?
After finding me in the suit, Miss Mirial exclaimed, “Wow! It’s really cute on you~! As expected of my personally designed suit! Not only is it amazingly strong, it’s breathtakingly beautiful! Cool suit; I’ll agree on that!” And fired off a stream of self-compliments.
“So, I can take it off now, right?”
“Nope. You have to keep wearing it.”
“That’s a high-tech suit that also neutralizes the poisonous effects of Micrinum. As long as you wear that suit, nothing will happen to you from coming in contact with Micrinum. And Planet Kiri is absolutely full of Micrinum, here and there! Micrinum spaceships, Micrinum rooms, and Micrinum forks! Do you really think that you can lead a normal life on Planet Kiri without the suit?!”
...Why were so many things made of Micrinum?
Still, being reminded of the time that I touched the crystal and almost died of paralysis... I knew that I had to wear the suit, despite the embarrassment. I had to save my life before all else.
“And not only that, there’s also another special feature on the suit for...”
“What? What feature is that?”
“Oh-oh, it’s nothing. Hmph.”
Now the uncomfortable expression was on Miss Mirial.
“What happened to the other players? I don’t imagine we’re making a full team in a single day.”
“Yeah, I was thinking the same. So I asked the boss about it... She said that we ‘just need to take from other teams if there’s no one available’.”
“She looks like a pirate, so she’s thinking like a pirate...”
“But it’s not just one or two players that we have to cover... I mentioned that it might be next to impossible to try and form an entire team of scouted players. I explained that I was stuck forming a soccer team before I was stuck managing it. Hm. She was busy contacting a bunch of people after that, but I don’t know the details.”
This crossdressing soccer team-- I mean-- the female soccer team plan seemed to be doomed before it began.
As for me, I was happy that I didn’t have to play soccer while crossdressed, and... No, wait, wouldn’t that mean that the only fate awaiting me is being fired off into space?
That’s a big problem...
One week later,
“Everything is a lie...”
Mirial blankly eyed at the players that approached the spaceship one by one. A week before, Miss Mirial was blissfully shouting ‘Yay! The soccer team plan is over! I can go back to being a good old engineer girl! Wahaha~!’ And at the end of a week, a mass of soccer players crowded in front of the spaceship.
Khan might have been evil, but her influence was terrifyingly far-reaching...
“Ai has arrived~!”
The first arrivee to the spaceship was a cyan-haired lady in a white suit. ...Was that a tail on her back...?! That has to be the suit’s design! Right?!
“Miss Ai! You’re an Atlanta player! What are you doing here?!”
Miss Mirial approached the girl known as Ai. Her scrambling robot arms seemed to be trying to drive Ai away.
“Huh? I was told that I’m playing here from now on! It was a direct order from the Planetary Defense Initiative~!”
“Where do I leave my luggage? Uhm~ Where is the lodging area?”
The lady in the white suit walked away, humming on her way inside the ship. Before Miss Mirial could block Ai from going inside, she was stunned by the next player who approached.
“Excuse me... Is this my new team?”
The next player was in a yellow suit-- a girl with short, brown twintails. She was like a bear cub, hesitating on her way inside.
“Miss Paulina! You’re a member of DC Neska! Why did you come here?!”
“Ah... My manager said I have to play here now... I won’t make any mistakes anymore! So please don’t kick me out! Waaah~!”
She seemed to believe that she was here because she got kicked out of her team.
The bear cub-like girl cried her way inside, and before Miss Mirial could get in her way, the third player stopped her.
“Thanks for calling me! I’m allowed to take the ball for myself, right?”
“Miss Rosaria? But you’re in Siena Celtron--”
“Whoa! Cute girl detected! I’m going to steal you heart!”
With blue, flowing twintails, an excited girl hopped onboard the spaceship, wearing a suit that looked like a school uniform due to the skirt. She pointed at me as she spoke.
...Did she just say that she’d steal my heart?
“...Miss Rosaria? I’m asking you, what are you doing here this time?”
“Uh... See, I swiped some shiny thing back at the palace, and... I got caught, so I thought I was in a big trouble. But the manager just said, ‘We’re in luck. You should stay in that other team from now on.’ and then I was sent here.”
She was sent here as punishment for thievery?!
“Hey, hey? I don’t recall seeing you before! What’s your name?”
“Ah... I’m Yu Danbi.”
Rosaria gave a curious look. What? Did she realize that I’m a guy?!
“Did anyone ever tell you that you sound a lot like somebody else?”
“N-no, never. Is there someone who sounds like me?”
“Fufufu. No~ It’s nothing~”
Rosaria smiled, hopping and skipping into the spaceship.
“Stop! I didn’t say that you can enter the spaceshiiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaahhhh what are you doing here?!”
Miss Mirial turned around mid-scream. The next player was... A puffy-haired, blonde girl, wearing a black suit. She had the face of a girl who was too tired to do anything in life.
“System check. Destination confirmed. This is Mute’s new team.”
“Miss Mute! You’re supposed to be in the Jeneva Crew! Not to mention that it’s odd for you to be playing soccer in the first place!! There’s a lot of issues with you, but for one, what are you doing here?!”
“‘New orders received from the Planetary Defense Initiative. Mute is henceforth a member of this team.”
This girl had the tone of a robot.
“I haven’t heard of anything like that!”
“Commencing reassessment of Mute’s orders. No errors found. Mute will now enter the spaceship.”
“Wh-wh-who-who said you could enter this ship?! After all those players, an artificial intelligence is on this! This is my spaceship! Mine! Okay, it’s actually the company’s ship, but you need my approval to enter the ship!”
“Mute’s battery levels are critical. Mute must recharge her batteries. Battery charging station’s location is... Location found. Relocating.”
The robot-voiced girl completely ignored Mirial and moved inside. Following her was a continued stream of players, and Mirial panickingly chased after each of them as they entered.
“Hey, Miss Manager? The players are waiting.”
“I’m an engineer, but also a manager. I am a soccer team manager. I am a great manager. I can do this. Mirial can do this. Nothing is impossible for Mirial. There is no impossibility for an engineer gal!”
“Whoa... She’s hypnotizing herself.”
Miss Mirial hid herself in her small room, talking to her holographically projected reflection. She repeated to herself, ‘You can do it! No, you can’t... Nothing about the plan makes sense... Why should I... No! You’ve been doing well with everything that they threw at you! There’s nothing impossible for an engineer! No... This isn’t in the scope of my profession... I can’t solve this with just time and money... Don’t say that! Just do it! Try it first!’ It was like looking at the inner angel and the devil arguing, but in the form of two Mirials talking to each other. Self-hypnotization... was scaring me.
“Hey, Miss Manager? The players are waiting!”
I loudly repeated, since she didn’t hear me.
“O-o-o-o-o-o-k-k-k-k-kay I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I’ll b-b-b-b-b-be th-th-th-th-ere.”
She was shaking uncontrollably. Was she really fine...?
After the last of the new arrivals, the spaceship took off and began its flight. Inside, the new players gathered in a large hall. The hall had purple Micrinum walls and floorings, too, so the entire hall was also a medium for holographic display.
“Hello, everyone! I’m your manager, Mirial Shuutena!”
Miss Mirial began her speech from atop the podium. I stood quietly beside her.
The players from below the podium gave a loud applause. Eh. They were probably clapping out of courtesy, but it was a good start.
“Now that all of you are here, you might have realized that our team, Team Neo Kiri, is a very special team!”
I whispered to Miss Mirial in her speech.
“Wait, our team name is Neo Kiri? When did you decide on that?”
It was a dark omen for the future of the team.
Miss Mirial continued.
“Our team is a newcomer to the Minerva Cup! A wild card team, if you will! We had no plans to enter the tournament, but that’s changed! We’re a strong mystery team that’s going to make the tournament’s outcome impossible to predict!”
I didn’t know about strong, but we were definitely a mystery team, since the team’s future was dark and blurry...
“This is a dream team, formed by the elites of the other teams! Our victory is guaranteed!”
“I have a question~”
We had our first question. The one who raised a hand was the white-suited lady, Miss Ai. It was trouble. She had already realized that our team was made of bluffs. Powerful? Dream team? They’re all lies! What elites?! We have a team of undesirables from other teams!
“Who’s the person next to you? Haven’t seen her before~”
“Ah. Ah! I forgot to talk about our greatest, elite player! She’s the ace of Neo Kiri! The best soccer player on Earth, Miss Yu Danbi!”
The players looked at me with rounded eyes, surprised.
“Earth...? There’s soccer there, too?”
Wait, but the things I said about being the best soccer player on Earth were for your boss’s ears. Why are they being repeated by you, Miss Mirial?
The players began noisily whispering among themselves, as their expectations of the team just spiked up.
“That’s right! The planet of Earth is special for being behind on technology, and yet having big love for soccer! And she’s the best player on a planet like that! The next Minerva Cup is definitely ours! Yu Danbi is skilled enough to penetrate through any of the team’s defenses! She could likely win if she played all by herself!”
Hey, Miss Manager? You’re trying to kill me, right?
But I was already the team’s center of attention.
“That’s amazing! I can’t believe there’s a player like that...!”
“We‘re going to defeat every team out there now, right?”
Ramble, ramble, rabble, rabble. No, that’s not it at all. That’s a lie. Don’t take it too seriously!
“She’s cute! And amazing at soccer! I almost want to go out with her!”
And then there were strange noises mixed into the ramblings! I had to straighten out the facts!
“I’m sorry, but I’m actually a bo--”
“Bo~~~~ld player! You don’t have to tell me that again!”
Miss Mirial put a hand over my mouth before I could finish talking. She whispered.
“What do you think you’re doing? You can’t reveal that you’re a boy!”
“I can’t build proper relations with girls if I’m going to be forever known as a girl.”
“Girls romance and marry other girls on Planet Kiri!”
“Wait, what? Then, where do children come from?”
I asked a very honest question. There were no other men on this planet for that...
“Th-that kind of complicated information will be taught later! For now, go along with it! If they ever realize that there’s nothing in this team for them, they won’t listen to me.”
She had the eyes of a begging puppy, so I couldn’t say anything back. Sigh...
I had no choice. The ship has sailed. I had no choice but to help Miss Mirial out.
“Right! I’m the galaxy’s greatest soccer player! Yu Danbi! I’m not afraid of any team! As long as I’m here, this team is invincible! The best! The greatest! The legend of Neo Kiri will begin here! Trust me! I’m the solution to soccer, Yu Danbi!”
Enthusiastic applause followed my speech, and Miss Mirial and I grinned widely.
On the inside, there was a rainstorm in my heart.
I was doomed. I was seriously done for.
What am I going to do now...?
I studied the holographic display of the tournament brackets. So that’s how the teams were going to meet.
“Too bad that we weren’t one of the groups to get a bye.”
I remarked to Miss Mirial, who watched the display next to me.
“I heard that none of the wild card teams got a bye. But it’s strange that we have a team at all, anyway.”
Right. It was my first time seeing a soccer team get formed so quickly, admittedly..
“The boss clearly did some... shady deals with Planetary Defense Initiative Atlanta, or other groups! She already stole two players from the Defense Initiative... Sigh. What kind of nonsensical deal could she have pulled off to cause this situation?”
Miss Mirial sighed.
It had been two weeks since the inspiring pep talk on the spaceship. The ship landed on a different location on Kiri after the speech, which had a gym prepared for pre-tournament practice. I thought that a futuristic gym would look very unlike the ones I knew, but they were basically the same as the ones on Earth. Of course, they couldn’t be that different if they were just made for playing soccer. The only thing that stood out was the purple surrounding the building, which reminded me of Micrinum.
Practicing was also the same as my soccer practices on Earth, so getting used to it was not difficult. The beds, too-- I was afraid of using the same room as the other girls, but thankfully, I had a room for one. Specifically, the bed consisted of a purple glass container, which was partially made of Micrinum, that speeds up falling asleep by releasing sleeping gas, and automatically adjusts the temperature and various conditions to maintain the player’s best health.
At first, lying down in a strange coffin that belonged in a science fiction movie made me feel like a lab rat, but the thought was replaced with a refreshed feeling after waking up, as if it grew my desire to practice playing soccer. That aspect stood out as high-tech than anything else.
I was afraid that my true skill level would be revealed if I were to practice playing with the others, but somehow, the lies were maintained for a long time. It was unsurprising in retrospect... Since I was reluctant to speak to other players in order to keep my secrets, I had gathered a reputation as a stoic and cool Earth girl.
In the end, even while I clearly looked like I was hardly trying to practice, a rumour spread that “Legendary players don’t need to practice. They hide their true skills. Their true selves will only appear in the heart of a match!” ...And that’s why people say that lies give birth to even more lies.
For the most part, I had no trouble. Yet the dangers came from the most unexpected angles.
“Hey Danbi~ Let’s go shower~”
“Ah... I’m not feeling too well right now... I’ll pass.”
“You passed last time, and you’re passing today... Is something wrong? What are we supposed to do if our ace is feeling bad all the time?”
...I should have seen it coming, but.
After working up a sweat through practice, the natural aftermath was showering.
Ah, yes, that should have been obvious. Playing soccer makes you sweat. Then, obviously, everyone would head off to take a shower as a group like they planned it, but waaaaaaaait a minute there were only girls here.
Back then, I didn’t feel a thing about jumping into the showers with other guys, but the situation was different. I’d be instantly found that I’m a guy if I were to enter!
And so, I made up excuses about my well-being to avoid getting in the showers, but the other players began taking notice when I made excuses every time. They were taking it the wrong way-- that I was avoiding them.
So, I approached the manager with my problem.
“Hey manager~ manager! I got a major issue. Please help me.”
“What, what? What’s happening, Danbi?”
I explained to Miss Mirial about my peril. Sensitive, private issues like these were best explained to the manager. If the manager understood, she would produce an acceptable explanation to other players about why I avoided taking showers with them.
After I unloaded my problem on Miss Mirial,
“So you just have to get in the shower with them, then!”
“Who’s the one who told me not to reveal my identity?!”
“Fufu. Don’t underestimate an engineer girl! Using the state-of-the-art hologram technology, we can trick their eyes!”
“Everything’s solved if you were to appear as a girl to others! Solved! It’s solved! Problem solved!”
So I have to get in the showers, after all?!
Despite my furious complaints, the engineer girl promptly turned her attention to creating the device that would “make a boy appear as a girl,” and disappeared into the distance as she hummed. Wait, stop! That doesn’t actually solve my problem!
And so, on the next day,
“Hey Danbi. Let’s go sh-... No, nevermind. Sorry, I know you don’t like showering...”
As always, the girls persistently invited me to shower. I took a deep breath, and,
“Ah, I’ll go with you today.”
I’ve done it.
Whatever. Let it be. Let’s get it over with.
The shower room fogged up with mist. It was fortunate that everything was covered up with the mist... Fortunate?! What’s so fortunate about this?!
Whether it was because of the mist, or because of Miss Mirial’s advanced hologram technology, nobody thought of me as a boy when I entered the shower room.
Phew. What a relief. Please don’t pay any attention to me. I won’t look, either. I’m not doing anything wrong, so let’s let the moment pass. And so I hoped, although my hope was crushed very soon.
Soon after I took a step into the showers, I became the star of the room.
As soon as I entered, the girls surrounded me with a loud “Kyaaaaaaaaa★” and I backed away in fear.
“Wait, wait, why is everyone coming after me?! Why?!”
It was obvious! An entire week of avoiding them only grew their curiosities about my identity! I know already! I know! I did my best to run away, but my opponent was an entire soccer team, and I was alone. I was caught.
I was gawked at by a ring of girls like I was a monkey in a zoo. And in the showers. The shower room, where everyone was naked. I didn’t know where else to lay my eyes safely, so I fixed my eyes to the ground beneath me.
“Hey~ Danbi’s very shy, aren’t you? Want me to wash your back?”
Miss Ai caressed my back. No, I’m fine with that. I’ll do it on my own!
“Heheh, I’m going to steal Danbi for myself~!”
And Miss “Kleptomaniac” Rosaria pulled my hand from aside.
“D-D-Danbi, can I touch your thighs?”
Don’t touch them! Never touch them! You’re way too close! You’ll break the hologram if you come any closer!
“Danbi. Cheeks are red. Suspected high fever. Immediate cure is required for quick recovery.””
Don’t sneak a hug from behind as you say that! Why does a robot need breasts of those sizes, anyway?! They’re rubbing against me! Aaaaaaaagh!
Instead of getting any showering done, I dashed around the showers like I was playing a game of tag with the girls. While I ran around, I could see Miss Mirial showering alone in the corner of the room.
Ah, she’s a lot bigger than I th-...
The manager noticed me being chased around, and she grinned. Random thoughts quickly disappeared from my mind when I saw her grin.
She definitely brought me here on purpose! Aaaaaaargh!
The match... The match needs to start soon! But there’s still a week left!
I have to repeat today for an entire week.... Waaaaaaargh!
I honestly felt like I’d pass out.
A week later,
I was holding a flag. I felt as if I wasn’t really there in my own body. I was at the front of the crowd, holding the flag. I’d done something like this before, but I never imagined that I’d be the flagbearer on an alien planet...
The light in front of me grew larger. The door was opening. I walked forth through the opening.
Outside, I could see the purple stadium and the people occupying every seat. All women. It was to be expected, but they were all women. It was a striking reminder that I was indeed on a planet of women.
As the flagbearer, I was the first to walk the playing grounds of the stadium. Loud fanfares. Music filled the stadium. The music was very electronic, making me feel like I was at a concert rather than a sporting event. Along with the music, I felt uplifted.
Now that the two weeks of shower-- no wait-- the practices were over, the Minerva Cup finally began. We were early in the gigantic Minervan soccer stadium to participate in the opening ceremony. As the ace of my team, I naturally became the flagbearer who leads the team from the front.
Other teams entered with their own flags, and then the loud music stopped. I turned my attention to the broadcast
“And now, the recitation of the oath from our lead player.”
On the hologram screen above me was a close-up of the golden-haired lady in her white armour. I had seen her enough times by now to recognize her. She was the princess of Minerva Kingdom.
Though I had little idea of her usual conduct, judging by her appearance alone, I could feel that she was a very righteous princess.
“I swear by this oath that all shall take part in the Minerva Cup, respecting and obeying the rules and the referees, playing in the fairest manner possible. Team representative, Bell Rougemann.”
Her voice was as firm and clear as her impressions. I knew that she was going to be a tough opponent if we were to face against each other. Though, we probably weren’t going to meet, since we were likely going to be defeated by another team before that could happen.
The biggest surprise in my two weeks of practice was that, despite the team being a bunch of problem children, they were amazingly passionate about soccer. Even the girl who couldn’t keep her hands off of things, even the clumsy bear cub girl, even the lady who seemed to be tired of everything, even the emotionless AI-guided robot, they had all been serious when they were on the soccer field.
It wasn’t like they were fighting for their careers. They honestly loved soccer, and so they were playing their best. That was my motivation to try harder during practice. Despite my confidence that we’d lose in our first real match, anyway...
And so we began the first match,
And we won.
Maybe you’d think that I was summarizing the match to the point of ridiculousness, but that was exactly how I felt about the match. I really thought that my lies would finally be uncovered. I thought I would hear all sorts of insults from my team members while getting beaten up by them, but... We simply won.
Our opponent was Kaladure. I could clearly recall being informed before the match that they were very unpredictable and strong, but they had lost to our team too easily. When I had the ball, they provided me space as if they were purposefully avoiding the ball.
And when I kicked the ball, it was a goal. ‘What? Wait, you could have easily blocked that shot!’ I was stunned when I saw the ball rolling in when I had fully expected it to be blocked. What, were the people here actually awful at soccer? Maybe I was really the god of soccer? The reactions around me had me think that.
But I wasn’t a complete idiot. I knew I wasn’t godly at soccer by any means. Suspicions grew in my mind, and starting from the second half of the match, I paid more attention to the opponent’s movements rather than winning.
When the match ended, my suspicions were confirmed by the expressions of the opposing leader, Guinevere.
They lost on purpose. I couldn’t see a hint of exhaustion on the enemy ace’s face. I reasoned that she might have had an amazing poker face, but nothing about her expressed tiredness. The other players were acting their best to appear disappointed and having done their best, but Guinevere’s face had left me without a doubt that my victory was a fake.
I was absolutely disgusted.
As the match ended, the rest of the team members were excited about their first victory, but I was as uncomfortable as sitting on a pile of nails. The others truly believed that they won a real, deserved victory. Won with their skill. But I couldn’t feel great about the victory.
Why was that? Maybe I was thinking too hard? Perhaps the opponent really was that horrible. Was I taking it all too seriously? Maybe no one on the planet can play soccer well.
“Hmm? What’s up, Danbi? We won, but your face doesn’t say that we won.”
Miss Mirial approached me in the player lounge.
“I-it’s nothing, really. I might be too tired from giving my best today.”
“Hmm~ Really~? We just finished our first match, so you can’t be exhausted already!”
“You’re right. I thought we were going to lose, but somehow, we won.”
“Fufufu! It’s all thanks to my carefully laid out plans and the technological superiority of my new suits!”
During her two weeks of preparation, Miss Mirial managed to fit new custom suits to every player. Admittedly, my body was a lot more maneuverable in the suit. It was as if I had gained wings.
“Also, I have to give you an apology. I’m sorry, I didn’t trust you. And I realized today that... Danbi, you really are Earth’s greatest player!”
“Huh? That was out of nowhere!”
“See, actually... I never trusted your abilities. But you made three whole goals all by yourself today! We won thanks to you! Three-to-none!”
No, see, when others were kicking the ball, the opponents easily blocked them, but whenever I kicked, they just got out of the way. But I found myself unable to say these words.
“Um... Wasn’t the match... strange to you, Miss Mirial? The last match, I mean.”
“Hmm? What? You did well, so you won.”
She didn’t notice it. I was the only one.
The opponents lost intentionally. Things like this happened on Earth several times in history. Before the match begins, the players or the managers meet in secret to make shady promises, like “Let’s have a draw this match!” When these secrets go out, they make big news, and lives get ruined. Fans die out as consequence, and eventually, the sport dies.
So, no matter what happens, match fixing is a crime that should never be committed. It is an insult against soccer, and it is an act of murder against it.
And such incident... actually happened, right in front of my eyes. I wondered. Miss Mirial, as a manager, have not realized the match fixing. From what I’ve noticed from her actions, she couldn’t have been the mastermind. She wasn’t the type to use whatever dirty tricks she had in her disposal to achieve a victory. Hmm? Wait...
“Damn it... Am I an idiot? It was so close to me, all along.”
I knew someone who would. Someone who would do the evilest of deeds for gains. Just one person.
“Huh? What’s close to you?”
“Excuse me, is Miss Khan still on the ship?”
“Yep. What’s up?”
“Oh... I just have a question to ask. I’ll be in the ship for a short moment.”
Miss Mirial produced question marks above her head as she saw me off. I approached the spaceship to confirm my suspicions.
The suit had a built-in navigational system, so I had no worries about getting lost. I set the course for the spaceship and I followed its routes.
At the entrance of the spaceship, I found someone whom I expected to be there.
Silver hair, black suit, and red eyes. She was Kaladure’s Ace, Guinevere.
She was just leaving the spaceship. She was briefly surprised at my appearance as I approached from the other side. After recognizing my face, she attempted to casually walk past me, as if it wasn’t a big deal.
“Did you lose on purpose?”
I asked, and Guinevere stopped. She turned around to give me an innocent expression.
“Has nobody explained to you yet?”
And then she turned back, resuming to take her leave.
I had absolutely no doubt then. The match was deliberately forfeited by her team.
And the mastermind behind the match fixing was aboard the ship.
I walked through the open entrance of the spaceship.
“Who the hell is it?”
Khan immediately pointed a laser pistol at me as I stepped in. Okay, I had no clue if it would shoot lasers, but it was held like a pistol and it visually screamed laser pistol, so that was my quick conclusion.
“I-It’s me! Yu Danbi! I’m not a thief!”
My desire to argue was quickly surrendered when I saw the end of the gun’s barrel.
“Oh, it’s just you, kid. Don’t surprise me like that.”
Khan returned to her fed-up-with-life expression. Thinking about the match again, I realized that she hadn’t shown up to see it despite being the founder of our soccer team. I was exploding with the urge to make her answer to my suspicions, but I felt suppressed by her demeanor after actually coming here. She was a scary lady.
“Miss Khan, we won today.”
“I know. I heard.”
“Have you seen the match?”
“No. I didn’t need to see it.”
I mustered up a small bit of courage.
“What do you mean, you ‘didn’t need to see it’?”
It took a lot of effort to squeeze out that courage. Khan responded with a “Hoh.” and eyed me from above, and then began walking back inside her office with a gesture to follow her in. I followed her into the purple room. The wall and the floor shifted, displaying the stadium from today.
“Since you’re Earth’s best player, of course you’d win.”
Khan laughed. Guinevere confirmed my thoughts already, and yet she was insistent on continuing the lie.
“I personally thought that it went wrong.”
“In what way?”
“That they purposefully avoided shots that they could block. Like I was being played.”
“I suppose I provided too much service?”
“You also told other players that you’re the galaxy’s greatest player, didn’t you? You need that kind of performance so that your lies don’t become uncovered, no?”
So she already knew everything. She knew that I was bluffing from the start, but she accepted it.
“Good. I’ll answer your question. When I said that I didn’t need to see the match, that’s because I already knew the results of the match. Today, Neo Kiri wins. That was decided beforehand. Therefore, I did not need to see a match for which I knew the conclusion.”
“But that’s match fixing!”
Khan replied nonchalantly.
“‘So’...? You’re not supposed to do that in soccer...!”
In my head was the image of the white-armoured princess, reciting the oath.
“I swear by this oath that all shall take part in the Minerva Cup, respecting and obeying the rules and the referees, playing in the fairest manner possible. Team representative, Bell Rougemann.”
“Soccer must be played fairly and honestly! Match fixing should never be done!”
“You’ve grown up, kid. Now you’re talking back at me.”
“You’ll be in big trouble if this gets found out by other people! Match fixing is a serious issue!”
“But kid, you’re making a mistake.”
“What... mistake am I making?”
The stadium disappeared from the walls and the floor. The room returned to its Micrinum purple. In the mono-coloured room, Khan eyed me, sitting in her chair.
“Did you honestly believe that I’ve made a soccer team to win-- because I love soccer?”
Now that she mentioned it, it was strange.
I knew that this woman didn’t have a single percent of her heart devoted to soccer. The people on my team were the ones who truly loved soccer. They talked about soccer. They discussed how to practice, what to do in the future, and how to create a formation. They only thought about soccer.
But there was never an occasion where I saw this woman talk about soccer. So why... Why did she form a soccer team, even by employing risky, underhanded means to do so?
“Hey kid. You’re not from this planet in the first place, no? Aren’t you trying to find your parents?”
“And I’ll keep my promise. Of course, I won’t stop you from having suspicions. That’s your right. But I’ll definitely find your family. Why? Because it’s not difficult to me. I only need to make a few calls. I have no reason to break my promise to do a favour that takes ten minutes.”
“But... Still... Match fixing...?”
“Kid, are you from Earth? Or are you from Kiri?”
Khan put the image of Earth on the floor. My home planet was beneath my feet. I could touch Earth by reaching down.
“I’m... from Earth.”
“When this is over, you’ll never see this planet ever again. You’ll return to Earth. So, would you care to... not be too mindful of businesses that happen on foreign planets?”
I had no clue how to carry on the argument. Khan wasn’t wrong. She was entirely correct.
“It will be easy for you to go around and spread the words of my match fixing. But if I were you, I wouldn’t do it. You’re an illegal alien and thus a criminal. How many people would hear justice from an unjust criminal? And you’re from a different planet. It’s obvious what’s going to happen then. The players of your team, who would be celebrating by now... They’ll be known as the team that won a dishonourable victory. They’ll bear the label of being accessories to a match fixing scandal, and no matter which team they join, their history will haunt them. Good. That’s an optimistic future. Did you know that I’m officially unrelated to this soccer team? Even if you managed to publicize the match fixing, you won’t hurt me at all. A very positive result for me. Now, do you understand your situation, kid?”
I wish I knew what kind of face I had at that moment. If I had a mirror, I would have seen that I had a defeated, dejected face.
“Great. Now, if you have nothing else to say, get out of here. I’m a busy woman.”
I wanted to run away. I didn’t want to talk to her anymore.
I turned around to leave from the purple room.
“Oh, hold on, kid. I remembered one last thing that I should tell you.”
I didn’t turn around. I knew her face from her voice alone. She was probably laughing. She held me back from leaving just to put one last thorn in my mind. She opened her mouth. The viper’s tongue moved.
“I’m not planning to see the next match, either.”
I stared at the scoreboard in daze. It had the information of our team and the others of the tournament. The next opponent of Neo Kiri was... a team called “Atlanta.”
‘I’m not planning to see the next match, either.’
I knew very well what those words meant. Khan refused to see the match between Atlanta and Neo Kiri. The result of the match was predetermined, and therefore, there was no need to spectate it. Had Khan already arranged a deal with Atlanta?
“Miss Mirial-- that team, Atlanta... What is it?”
“Hmm? Oh, that?”
I asked Miss Mirial, who stood next to me.
“Fufu. Of course you’d be curious about our next opponent! Atlanta is one of the many teams formed by the Planetary Defense Initiative.”
“The Planetary Defense Initiative?”
“Yep. The PDI is... It’s a group with the highest authority over the military of Minerva Kingdom. All soldiers and all weapons belong the PDI. That’s why a great number of their players have a military background. Mmh, I don’t know about their skills for soccer, but you sure can’t ignore their physical prowess~ Their style is to play with brawn over brain.”
I recalled a question that I couldn’t ignore. It had little to do with our match ahead, but I had to ask.
“Do you know if Miss Khan has connections within the PDI?”
“H-huh? Why do you ask?”
“I... was curious.”
She had scouted a player from Atlanta and other members of the PDI, so it was natural to assume that she had some connections with the respective groups.
“Oh, I see. Miss Khan had a history with with the PDI. The company may be primarily producing soccer suits these days, but... When the war was still raging on, Boss was a weapons manufacturer.”
“A-a weapons manufacturer?”
That was, however, more befitting of her than designing suits for playing soccer.
“Yep. She designed and produced numerous state-of-the-art weaponry, and sold them to the PDI. To be honest, I was a member of the PDI at the time.”
“Really? You weren’t working here since the beginning?”
“Yep. I was originally... from the PDI. I was working as an engineer there, and...”
Miss Mirial had brooding eyes. Was it troublesome for her to talk about the past?
“Do you really want to know? It has nothing to do with soccer.”
“I do want to know. I’d like to know why Miss Khan and Miss Mirial had ended up with this line of work.”
“Hm. If you say that much, Danbi... I suppose I can tell you.”
When the war among the stars was still ongoing, Miss Mirial’s profession was designing military-purpose suits and weapons. It was then that she had met Khan, a weapons dealer.
Mineva Kingdom had outfitted its army with powerful weaponry that sourced its energy from Micrinum, but the other stars were almost as powerful, and so the war raged on without a clear victor.
The lands of Minerva Kingdom was slowly turning into ruins from the long war. And yet the Kingdom absolutely could not accept surrendering as an option, so they instead devised plans to end the war through a single plan. The plan was to create the weapon that can end all wars in a singular strike.
The result was the ‘Owl’. The Owl was the codename for the project behind its development, but the name had stuck around. The Owl was powered by Micrinum, and it could fire a focused beam of energy that could penetrate the surface of a planet and demolish it from its core. The collapse of the core of a planet causes a supernova, utterly destroying it. The Owl was a star-killing weapon.
As an engineer, Miss Mirial was one of the people responsible for this weapon. Miss Mirial trusted the weapon to only exist as a leverage for peacekeeping. However, the weapon was, eventually, used.
The Planetary Defense Initiative tested the Owl on a planet for the first time. It was a small planet called Chromecross. Miss Mirial watched the incident from a spaceship. The Owl fired its beam at the planet, and soon after, an overpowering flash blinded her.
When the explosion ended, the planet was no more, and only its shattered remains travelled through space. There were many who still lived on that planet at the time. There were many who had nothing to do with the war, but within a single strike, the weapon had consumed them and the planet. Miss Mirial was utterly traumatized at the sight.
The Owl’s raw power had ended the star wars in time, but Miss Mirial could never forget what she had seen. She was guilt-ridden from the creation of the weapon, and she had given up on her job.
Fortunately, after the war, Miss Khan had suggested that she should work for her to design suits for soccer players, and so Miss Mirial happily joined the company.
“If Boss hadn’t called me in that day, I would have sat around like a useless lump to this day.”
“So... Thanks to Miss Khan, you’re doing this work?”
“Yeah! She might act like a jerk, but she’s basically my saviour! I don’t have to make weapons for any wars anymore! Soccer is a peaceful sport! I’m very happy to make soccer suits over that!”
Miss Mirial had an honest smile.
Was I making a mistake about my situation? To Miss Mirial, Khan wasn’t evil. She provided a life of soccer over weapons, and she was like a... saviour.
Perhaps she was just a skilled merchant who profited off of weaponry during the war, and saw the rise of other markets after the war. Maybe she was ready to jump onto anything that would make her more money. Could she have been involved in match fixing, just so that she could sell even more soccer suits? Just so that she could advertise her suits, by ensuring that the winners were the wearers...?
I hadn’t a clue. It was still a troubling problem. I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was missing a critical information.
“Miss Mirial, have you ever... suspected that Miss Khan might be up to something? Why is she suddenly in this industry?”
“Hmm~ I wouldn’t know what’s going on in her head, of course~ She doesn’t talk a lot, either...”
“If she’s only using Miss Mirial...”
“No. No way. Boss would never do that! I’m sure! She does occasionally have troublesome requests, like asking me to make a pistol for personal defense, but... I stood my ground and argued with her that weapons are ne~ver allowed. She didn’t let me go for three hours to explain point by point why I should make her a gun, and then I eventually caved in, but... A-anyway, Boss may look scary on the outside, but she does listen to her employees! She never once misused my designs! If she does, I’ll never let that continue!”
Miss Mirial defended Khan in a long rant. I couldn’t press my question after such a speech.
“Uuu~... Is that enough? I don’t want to keep talking about such a depressing topic~!”
Hm. I resolved everything I could ask of her, so I was fine with changing the conversation. And for the topic...
“Anyway, where do babies come from?”
“Wh-wh-wh-what are you suddenly talking about?”
“Hey, you said you would explain later. I’ve been forgetting about it, now that I think about it. You said you’d tell me everything.”
“Oh, uh... About that. Minerva Kingdom only has women, so I guess it’s going to be different from other nations.”
“Yes! That’s what I’m curious about! How do babies get made here?! Teach me, Miss Mirial!”
Miss Mirial took many deep breaths, and with a serious face, she began,
“Babies come from eggs.”
Huh. What face did I have at that moment? The face of “Aha! I get it! Eggs!” and the following realization? Or the dejected look of “What the hell did I just hear?” Likely the latter one.
“Eggs? Is that the same egg that I know? The round, white things?”
“Yep. That’s the egg.”
Was I wrong to be surprised?! Was it normal, because they’re aliens?! Ah... Right. I had been forgetting that I was on an alien planet, and that these people were aliens.
“I... I see. Women, uh... Go through processes, and... Become pregnant, and then... Lay eggs. I always knew that the galaxy was full of mysteries, but...”
“We don’t get pregnant! Why would we lay eggs?!”
Miss Mirial looked at me cockeyed. Oh. Have I made another mistake?
“Then where do the eggs come from? Does it drop from the skies, or pop out from the ground?”
“Sorry, Danbi! It might sound too complicated and advanced for a tribal race, but we have a widely available technology called ‘cloning’! Do you know what a clone is? It’s too difficult, right?”
Clone? The thing where they copy paste people?
“I know that. It’s how you copy people.”
“Yep, that’s right. The royal families clone superior genes to create new children. They continue the bloodline that way. For normal families, once they officially register as a family, they can request to create a clone based off of the mother. That’s where the children come from in Mineva Kingdom.
“Then, the eggs are for...”
“For others, the babies grow in the bellies of the pregnant mothers, right? Here, the artificial eggs replace the womb~ It provides a suitable temperature and nutrients for the babies to grow.
I expected a very alien life cycle, but it was perfectly imaginable from the perspective of Earth’s residents.
“Hm... Then... There’s a government branch that saves genes and creates clones. It sounds like a great responsibility to manage such a duty. Does it ever get abused?”
“Normal families usually aren’t affected, but there can be issues around how the royal genes are treated. You’ll never know what kind of terrible things can happen when they get into the wrong hands! So, I hear that the sector that manages the royal bloodlines are only made accessible to the royal families. Its location must be a closely-guarded secret, if not even the members of the PDI are taught.”
“Oh. That sounds complicated.”
“Yep. I hear that Princess Bell is the only one with the access to those areas. That is, only Princess Bell knows the true location~ They don’t just have the royal genes in there, but supposedly, they also have the central systems for the military and other government systems. The details are only known to the royal families, so I don’t know any more than that... I heard that it can intercept every system on Minerva in times of emergency.”
I hadn’t asked further questions about the issue, since I had already succeeded at changing the topic. I was somewhat curious of the origin of children here, but I was disinterested in learning about the royal families of Minerva.
I had confirmed what I wanted to know. Team Atlanta was a soccer team from PDI... And Khan has connections within the PDI. Therefore, she had the power to interfere with its teams and its players. And she knew the outcome of their match.
I made up my mind on my next move. Khan wouldn’t like it, but I did not want to play a game of prearranged outcomes. I knew where I had to go next.
“Miss Mirial, can you direct me to the player lounge for Team Atlanta?”
I’ll confront those people directly.
“Let’s compete, fair and square!”
That was what I planned to say. I headed for Atlanta’s player lounge to not talk to the manager, but to the lead player. The ones who go on the field are the players, not the manager-- even if the match fixing was rooted in the manager, the players could simply choose to not follow, as I believed.
And with my mindset of an honest sportsman, if I were to ask them to play fairly and to their best abilities, we would be able to have a real game of soccer by convincing them of my seriousness!
And the one who I wanted to convince to play fairly, was...
Sleeping in front of my very eyes. The silver-haired woman of strikingly large chests laid on the couch, sleeping with the most worry-free expression.
Hildegard. The leader of Team Atlanta, and the war hero of the past. On a closer inspection, she had an overpowering aura about her, despite sleeping peacefully. The other players were at least awake, but this lady was completely out of it despite the match happening soon.
“H-hey, Miss Hildegard?”
“Please, be careful... You might die if you try to wake her up.”
One of the players of Team Atlanta gave a short tip as she passed by. I gulped. I just wanted to ask for a fair game, and there I was, trying to waken a sleeping beauty and fearing for my life.
“Miss Hildegard? I have something to tell you...”
“Yawn... Who’s bothering me...? The match shouldn’t be starting anytime soon...”
“Ah, I-I’m Neo Kiri’s Yu Danbi! I’m really sorry to wake you up, but I really need to tell you something...”
Miss Hildegard glanced at me, half-asleep. Her aura was hard to withstand while knowing that she was a war hero. I heard that she physically beats people up to pulp if they dare to make her feel unpleasant. Oh...
“I want to compete with you, fairly and honestly!”
I shouted, in the middle of the player lounge. There was a sense of awkwardness all around me, and I looked around to find the other players with their jaws dropped.
“Did you say that you wanted me to kill you, here and now?”
She held up a fist. No-no, that’s not what I meant!
“N-no, I don’t want to fight you here! I’m talking about soccer! Soccer!”
“Aw... What? That’s boring. It would have been more fun if you wanted to fight me.”
She sounded like she really wanted a fight. What a bloodthirsty woman...
“Fair competition...? There’s no such thing in war.”
“No, not war! I’m talking about soccer! Soccer! I want to fight against you fairly in the field!”
“You want to fight in the field, instead of playing soccer? Do I get to avoid the red card, even if I nearly kill you?”
“I’m not talking about that kind of fighting at aaaaaall--!!”
Why was this lady interpreting everything as a challenge for combat?! I’m against violence!
“Then, what’s your point? If you don’t have any, I’m going back to bed.”
“If you lose on purpose against me, I-I’ll never f-forgive you!”
Miss Hildegard closed her eyes for a short moment, and reopened them after taking in my words. I looked around. Several players had guilty looks on their faces. Miss Hildegard, however, did not seem to realize what I had meant.
“Lose on purpose? What do you mean?”
Could it be...? The other players were in the deal, but this lady was apparent at a glance that she was difficult to reason with, so the word had never reached her.
Then, I must have chosen the wrong person to talk to.... No! It wasn’t the time to grow weak.
“I-if you’re thinking about going easy on me just because I look small, I-I’ll really get angry! Not just me, but my entire team will get angry!”
“Hoh. Then... I can go all out in the next match, right?”
Miss Hildegard spoke, now fully awoken. She looked to be in a happier mood.
“Yes! Play for real! Play with your whole might! That’s all I wanted to say, so see you later!”
I fled the area immediately, noticing the murderous intent directed at me. Did I... make a huge mistake?
In the moment soon after the beginning of the match against Team Atlanta, I realized that I had indeed made a big mistake. When the match began and the ball reached my foot... I felt a creeping coldness, and then a powerful, bloodthirsty aura in front of me.
When I regained my focus, I saw Miss Hildegard charging towards me at her full speed. Wait, she’s really running straight at me! P-pass! Pass!!
I immediately kicked the ball to a different player. However, Miss Hildegard ignored the ball, and continued her sprint towards me. Huh? Wait, the ball’s over there! Waaaaaaaahhh!
A violent tackle came at me despite the ball being elsewhere, and I jumped up before I was hit. Normally, jumping would have barely lifted me up, but the suit’s enhancements allowed me to gain at least a meter above ground.
And when I landed back on the ground, the ground... had the shape of the tackling pose. I seriously would have broken at least one leg, if I had been hit by that!
“Wh-what do you think you’re doing?!”
“Huh? Where did the ball go? My bad.”
Miss Hildegard smiled, and casually walked away. Hey, you! You almost killed somebody!!
After that, I felt like I wasn’t playing a game of soccer, but instead I was running away from a crazed beast. Whenever I had the ball, Miss Hildegard began her assault on me. Tackle, tackle. The tackles weren’t directed the ball, but directly at me. It was a blatant attempt at harm.
The most astounding time happened when our team had been pushed to our goalposts, and Hildegard was put in a one-on-one situation with our goalkeeper. Considering Hildegard’s destructive strength, if she had kicked the ball then, our goalkeeper could have blocked the ball and went straight into the net along with the ball. And in that moment, Hildegard kicked the ball, and... it went in the other direction of the goal, and instead towards a target that was faaaaaar away from our net: me.
When I saw the ball of death flying towards my eyes, I dropped down and rolled on the ground. Yu Danbi, seventeen years old-- almost killed by a soccer ball.
“Am I going to... get my name up in Guinness records, for dying in a soccer match at the age of seventeen? Wait, if I die here, I won’t be recorded in anything!”
And thereafter, whenever Hildegard received the ball, she shot it directly towards me. I had to avoid both her tackles and her shots. However the onlookers interpreted the situation, they must have imagined that I got on Hildegard’s bad side.
While I participated in this deadly game for survival, our team had scored a point in the stupidest way possible. We had continued being pressed into the defense, as the ball was constantly in our side of the field. For my own survival, I selfishly ran away to Team Atlanta’s net, ignorant of whatever happens to our team. I foolishly thought to myself, I’m on the other side of the field, so there’s no way she’ll come after me now!
Then, Miss Hildegard, standing right in front of our net with the ball, turned around and kicked it towards me-- she kicked the ball in the direction of her own net. The ball rocketed at me, forcing me to scream and dodge to the side, but Atlanta’s goalkeeper stood around without a clue (how could she have a clue?!) and she soon watched the ball that was kicked by her own ace player going into her own team’s net. She must have been thinking, “Whoa~ I guess we’ll finally score one, after all this time~ Whoa. Huh? Something just zipped past me... Huh? A soccer ball? What? What the hell’s happening?”
And so, thanks to Miss Hildegard’s play of the game, our team had won, one to zero. It was an inevitable result, however, since Miss Hildegard was fixated on me instead of playing soccer. She didn’t care about kicking the ball anywhere but into my own face!
We had won the match, but I was simply happy for living another day.
“Danbi...! You’re amazing! I heard everything! Danbi’s grand strategy! I’m moved!”
When I returned to the player lounge, everyone was in celebration-mode, and Miss Mirial was greeting me teary-eyed.
“You went to meet the other team... And you taunted Miss Hildegard into blind rage! You put your life on the line for the team... Nobody else could have devised such a strategy! I guess that’s why you’re Earth’s best!”
“No, wait, to be fair--”
“Not only you’re amazing as a soccer player, but you saw through the opponent’s psychology and created an appropriate strategy...! Danbi! You’re the true manager of our team! Please guide us to victory!”
No, please, I only went to to talk about the match fixing issue with them.
My words were already drowned out by the loud cheers for Yu Danbi. Somehow, I became known as the strategic mastermind who bravely confronted and taunted the war hero Hildegard, who nobody else dared to approach, and disabled the core of the enemy team before the match had even begun.
No, I, um... I didn’t do it on purpose, and I almost died for it! But nobody was interested in hearing me out. It wasn’t the right mood for such a confession, anyway.
“Didn’t I promise you? I told you that, I, Yu Danbi, would bring you victory! Now it’s the finals! Our team is invincible, so we’ll definitely be the winners! Everyone! All we have left is our victory! Team Neo Kiri! Through the next match, we’ll become soccer legends!”
“Yaaaaaaay~! Yu Danbi~! Yu Danbi~!”
I was sure to become a scamming legend.
“Really? The Princess is going to be here?”
Miss Mirial explained to me in the player lounge,
“Yep. Tomorrow’s the finals, right? So, Princess Bell-- she said that she really wants to meet our team!”
“Um, I guess it’s because we’re a wild card team, and not one of the official ones. We’re a one-time team that exists only to participate in this season’s Minerva Cup, so... Once Minerva Cup is over, we’ll be disbanded.”
“Huh? The team will be disbanded?”
I was surprised. I wasn’t told about that.
“But when the matches are over, the scouted players will return to their original teams, and Danbi’s leaving the planet. This was more fun that I thought, too, but... Honestly, I want to return to my old job!”
Considering that, this was the natural end for us. Most of our players belonged to other teams. They needed to return after the league, I wasn’t going to be on this planet anymore, and Miss Mirial would return to her old job, so disbanding was obvious.
I didn’t change my mind about returning to my parents, but I was sad to see the team go.
“So, even if it’s shocking, we’ll be disbanding by the end of the match, and the Princess wanted to see the team before it does.”
“Ah, I see.”
Whether we win or lose, the team’s life was at its end. I was disappointed , but we were a single-use team that was formed through a ridiculous abuse of social power, so it had to go.
As Miss Mirial said, the Princess actually visited us in our player lounge. She was accompanied only by a small number of knights, so the noise level was kept low. I thought about putting up some signs around the room that says along the lines of “We welcome the Princess!” But it appeared that the Princess herself had prearranged the visit to be kept low profile.
“Ah, I, I’m, I am the temporary manager of Team Neo Kiri... Mirial!”
Miss Mirial sounded extremely nervous in the Princess’s presence. It wasn’t any different for me.
“I, I’m Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Yu Danbi!”
I stammered in the same way. I had seen her once on the holograms, and then briefly on the playing field, but it was my first time seeing her in front of my eyes. On a closer look, she was very much princess-like-- her every action and word felt noble and practised.
“Greetings. I am Bell Rougemann.”
Princess Bell greeted us with a smile, and first began chatting with Miss Mirial. I sighed in relief. I was afraid that she would talk to me more, but talking to the manager of the team first was more natural; the manager is the representation of a team. I crept away to hide in a corner far, far away...
“Danbi! Danbi! Come here! The Princess is calling for you!”
...And failed. Miss Mirial called for me, waving her hands around. I presented myself to the Princess.
“Then, I’ll be going!”
Miss Mirial ran away with a smile, as if to pass the baton to me. Hey, wait! What am I supposed to do if you leave me like that?!
“Miss Yu Danbi?”
“Ah, uh, yes, Princess Bell. I’m Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Yu Danbi.”
Don’t quiver around, Yu Danbi. I know it’s the princess, but stop shaking!
On an even closer look, her blonde hair and blue eyes looked very beautiful. Her white armour ended in a dress bottom. She was even more beautiful in this distance...
“Miss Mirial explained a lot about you. I heard that the team would not have gone far without Miss Danbi.”
“Ha, ha ha ha ha, It was n-n-n-n-n-n-nothing.”
Don’t be shaking Yu Danbi don’t be shaking Yu Danbi Danbi shaking Yu Don’t Be Aaaaaaagh! What am I saying to myself?!
“I have no knowledge of Planet Earth, but... If Miss Danbi is from Earth, then I feel that people of Earth enjoys soccer as much as we do.”
“Ah, that’s right... Soccer is popular on Earth, too. But I was very surprised when I got here. Soccer may be popular on Earth, but not at this world’s level.”
“Fufu. Soccer has... a great meaning for our people.”
“Soccer has a great meaning?”
“Yes. Ah... Miss Danbi may not share our sentiment, but soccer represents peace across the galaxy for us.”
W-was the sport that important?
“Do you know about the... war of our past?”
“Yes, I have. I heard that there was a big war...”
“In the past, long, long ago, the galaxy was not peaceful. There were constant wars, large and small. Eventually, a great war, spanning all stars, began. The war caused the loss of many lives, and... left nothing but tragedies behind.”
Princess Bell continued the story with a look of sorrow.
“Even as the war ended, the tragedies were never forgotten. Every planet, every culture considered each other as enemies, since they were fighting as opponents until the day before. The relationships could not be repaired in a single sunrise. But then, we were able to have soccer uniting the galaxy.”
“Soccer... united the galaxy?”
“Yes. To prevent such a war from happening again, we pondered our options. One of them was soccer. Though we may not understand each other, and misunderstandings brew conflict, playing soccer united the feelings of the competing players and the cheering spectators alike. And that’s why the leaders of the stars put their hearts together and began the great tournament-- the Galaxy League.
The leaders that endlessly argued and fought amongst each other... When they planned the soccer matches together, they cooperated willingly and managed the league. On the soccer field, the teams fought, not as belligerents of war, but as fair sportsmen, who learned to understand each other and become closer. Those who cheered for them had gained the same ideals.
Those who learned to hate each other on the battlefield instead came to an understanding through playing soccer together. And then, everyone fell in love with soccer. They desired the League to remain as the galaxy’s biggest event. That is how soccer became the catalyst for preventing further conflict. If there was to be another war, the soccer leagues must also stop. No matter the social class or power, everyone who enjoys soccer worked together to prevent conflict in order to continue being able to watch and play soccer.”
I understood Princess Bell. If everyone truly falls in love with soccer, and they want to continue being a part of it, no one would dare to start a war. Wars would end soccer, and so wars could not begin for the sake of soccer.
There was such an... unbelievable story behind the popularity of soccer in this world. Letting soccer grow in order to end all wars... It was an ideal that I never expected.
“And I, too, enjoy soccer, of course. Fufu.”
Princess Bell added, giggling softly in embarrassment.
“I never knew how meaningful this tournament was. Thank you for telling me, really. I’ll need to try extra hard in the finals.”
I felt a mysterious sense of elation from within. It was more than excitement for soccer. It was the belief that my actions will keep the peace among stars. And, more than that, I felt that the princess in front of me was accepting me as a rival. Many feelings tangled together in me, and I was happy.
“See you in the finals!”
I smiled. In that moment, I was truly happy. If I could play a game with a lady like her, I would feel happy regardless of its outcome.
“Yes. See you in the finals!”
Princess Bell returned my sentiment, and left with her personal knights. When the Princess left, Miss Mirial came back to me.
“Did you finish the chat? She’s a really nice lady, right?”
“Yes. She... really deserves to be respected.”
The happiness had transferred over to Miss Mirial. She must have been praised by the Princess.
“By the way, I’m surprised. I was watching from far away... Your voice sounds exactly like the Princess.”
“Huh? What? My voice?”
I didn’t know. Did it sound that way to other people?
“Yep. You didn’t know, Danbi? If I didn’t look, it would have sounded like the Princess was talking to herself~.”
“R-really? What a coincidence...”
I was amused by the strange coincidence. It was surprising that I could sound so alike somebody else. Maybe I was... destined to meet the Princess, somehow?!
There was very little time left. Once the night passes, the morning after was the finals.
My final game of soccer on Planet Kiri... I knew that I would be satisfied about it, no matter how the match ends. So, I thought to myself, that I should play my best so as to cherish the moment.
And the next day, the finals had begun. I was in the player lounge, stretching for the last time before taking my leave.
“Huh. Hey, Danbi, Boss wants to see you.”
“What? But the match is happening soon.”
“Hmm. She says it’ll be a short moment.”
I was uncomfortable about meeting that woman before the finals, but I decided to comply. This time, at least, there couldn’t be any match fixing, since a royal princess would not fall for such petty attempts.
In front of the stadium, in a distance, a round, purple ship stood. Standing in front of it was Khan and few other women who wore special suits. I approached her.
“What’s happening? The finals are starting soon... If it’s not urgent, I’m going to go back, so please make it quick...”
“No need to hurry. You’re not going to the finals.”
I paused. My words, and my brain, stopped. What did I just hear?
“Um, are you confusing something? The final match is about to start. I have to hurry back, so if you’re making a stupid joke, you don’t have to. They can’t play the finals without me.”
“I already told Mirial. The finals will go on without you. So, there’s nothing to worry about. Here. Don’t make me repeat again. You’re not going to the finals. I’m not patient enough to explain thrice. Yu Danbi, you have a place to be. Get on the ship-- once you’re done with this, you’re free.”
“I’m... not going to the finals?”
“Why? I have to play in the finals!”
“And there you go, making me explain for the third time.”
Khan pulled out an object that appeared to be a white remote controller from her pockets. She pressed a button.
And at that moment, my body froze. I knew this feeling. It was the same as the time when I landed on this planet for the first time, after I had touched a Micrinum crystal. I couldn’t blink, and I couldn’t turn my head.
“You’re wearing a Micrinum suit. It has a function to neutralize its poisonous property, so you were able to move normally. If I turn off that function remotely, you’ll be exposed to that poison. You’re basically encased in Micrinum. This was my fallback plan in the case that you would attempt to cause harm to others. I doubt that you realized that-- I’m not naive enough to keep a disloyal dog unleashed.”
I couldn’t talk. My entire body was paralyzed. The women next to Khan walked over to me and held each of my arms. I was powerlessly dragged away inside.
As I was dragged away, Khan continued.
“I’m not asking you, or instructing you. I’m informing you.”
Then, Khan reminded me the same words that she had to repeat three times.
“You’re not going to the finals.”
Those words spun in a circle in my head. I... have to get to the finals. I have to get to the finals, and meet the Princess.
I was dragged away into the darkness.
Only after getting on the spaceship and handcuffing me, Khan released me from my paralysis.
“Cough... Cough... Phew...”
I coughed violently as if I had come back from a near-death experience. I did feel my death approach as the paralysis went on, since I could hardly breathe by the end.
In the ship was Khan and several women who appeared to be personal guards for her. They were all wearing special suits and hid their face with helmets. Khan had a similar helmet next to her. When I saw the helmet, I realized that they had a dangerous plot. I watched them in silence.
Khan gathered the guards into a circle and turned on a large hologram in the enter. In the view was a familiar palace. I had seen the building before.
“Our destination is Minerva Palace. Normally, the security is too tight to sneak inside.”
Another hologram popped up beside the palace. It was a close-up into the stadium, and onto Princess Bell.
That’s... the finals! The finals had really begun!
The hologram broadcasted the final match. It was Neo Kiri going against Princess Bell’s Siena Celtron in the soccer field.
“But Princess Bell and her accompanying force is concentrated around the stadium. The palace is left with a minimal force. To keep it short, the palace is practically empty. But if the palace guards are allowed to alert the stadium guards, the whole plan will blow over. Their security may be weak, but we still need to be discreet and quick.”
Khan was explaining an attack plan on the palace to her helmeted underlings. I knew what she was trying to do. She was going to attack the palace and capture it.
But... The palace was, as she said, empty. Princess Bell and the royal members were all at the stadium. What was the worth of capturing an empty palace?
I didn’t know what Khan was thinking. I had no clue what she wanted to gain out of this.
One thing was for sure-- The creation of the phony soccer team and entering the league were all done for this moment. She didn’t have a simple trick of the eye, but she had an entire plan to keep the Princess and the palace’s guards occupied elsewhere.
The ship landed at a considerable distance away from the palace. Still handcuffed, I was dragged away by two of the goons. A few of them went ahead to the palace, while the group with Khan and I took their time.
By the time we arrived at the scene, the palace guards were already taken down. The guards seemed to be unconscious.
“Good. Throw the ones that are knocked out into the jail, and the rest of you guard this spot. Don’t let a single speck of dust get through you. Hm. I suppose they’ve hit the half-time by now. We’ll have forty five minutes for the game to end. We’ll finish our mission in that time.”
With that said, Khan began dragging me away by my arms. I wasn’t paralyzed, but I didn’t resist. She could leave me paralyzed whenever she wanted.
Khan was going somewhere. In this foreign palace, Khan stepped through a corridor, through many strange doors, and down a large set of spiral stairs.
It was a very long set of stairs. I couldn’t see anything below me. I couldn’t see a thing, but I somehow knew that we had a long descent ahead.
“If you were going to do this from the start... you didn’t need to make a soccer team.”
I mustered up what was left of my confidence.
“No, it was quite effective. The Princess loves soccer. I honestly didn’t think that you’d help me out this much. In the beginning, I just considered you as a distraction for the Princess by having you play as the wild card.”
Khan astonishingly gave a clear answer. Did it no longer matter that her plans are revealed?
“What does that matter?”
“When you’re really into one thing, then the uninteresting surroundings no longer matter. The simple signs of danger get ignored in favour of doing something that you really enjoy. You’ve admirably accomplished your duty as that distraction, and held Bell’s attention. I bet the only thing on her mind is competing against your team, now.”
“But if I’m not there... She’ll find that something’s off.”
“That’s why I told them that you’ll return for the second half. Mirial believes that, too.”
“So... Forming a soccer team, and fixing the matches... They were all for this moment? So, what’s your plan now? Are you going to wait in the palace, and assassinate her when she returns?”
“Well, we’ll see about that soon.”
The staircase continued. Where was I? What kind of room needs to be hidden deep down below? A secret room under Minerva Palace? I didn’t know. It was my first time at the palace, and of course, I didn’t know what was underneath it. Yet, something called out to me from my memories. I thought... I had heard something about it. Somebody had explained to me about the palace. What was it?
“I hear that the sector that manages the royal bloodlines are only made accessible to the royal families. Its location must be a closely-guarded secret, if not even the members of the PDI are taught.”
“I hear that Princess Bell is the only one with the access to those areas. That is, only Princess Bell knows the true location~ They don’t just have the royal genes in there, but supposedly they also have the central systems for the military and other government systems. The details are only known to the royal families, so I don’t know any more than that... I heard that it can intercept every system on Minerva in times of emergency.”
Those were the explanations from Miss Mirial. The forbidden area, somewhere in Minerva Palace. I hardly paid attention to it at the time, but... I remembered. A secret area that only Princess Bell knew about.
“Are we... entering the forbidden zone?”
“Where did you hear that?”
It must have been correct. I had no reason to answer her question.
“I heard that only Princess Bell knows its location.”
“Hm. From Mirial, probably. I suppose that kid’s previous job was in the Planetary Defense Initiative. Then there’s a likelihood that she heard a rumour.”
“But you dragged me here because you need my help.”
I changed my attitude. I had no chance to escape, even if I were to fight back. My hands were restricted, and she could paralyze my entire body at a moment’s notice. There was no point in talking back spitefully like a rude child. The smarter idea was to act like I was complying, and continually look for my escape. I had to get her relaxed.
“Like Miss Khan said... I’m from Earth, and not from here. None of stuff matters to me. As long as you keep your promise and don’t hurt me, I can cooperate.”
“And the soccer match? Have you let it go already?”
“It was fixed from the start anyway.”
I continued, as if I had given up. I did my best to sound dejected, hiding my true feelings. She was treating me like a little kid. She didn’t think that I was capable of anything threatening. And she was mostly right.
“Good, kid. You’re finally making this easier.”
“No matter what you do to this planet... it has nothing to do with me. I’m from Earth. I just remembered that.”
“Hm. You were from Earth. Then, maybe you might understand what I’m about to do.”
“The people who were born on Minerva-- none of them would understand me.”
Khan’s attitude felt slightly different. She had been aggressive thus far, but she was calmer now.
“To you, Minerva Kingdom should look like a simple society ruled by women. The people of other stars see us that way, too. But that’s only how it looks. In truth, Minerva Kingdom is ruled by genetics.”
“A kingdom ruled by genetics?”
“Yes. The genes of the royal bloods are saved, and only the superior genes are chosen to become the Princesses that rule the kingdom. The ones who are born that way do not suspect anything of this system. The royal bloods and the bloods of normal families are never mixed together. This is the system of discrimination by genes. Despite having the military technology to rule the galaxy, the reality was that we were antiquated.
Even within the same royal family, only one superior gene is chosen. The other genes are considered collateral descendants. Hildegard, who I’m sure you’ve met, is the same case. She’s a royal blood, but she was separated for not being chosen.”
“Then, you, too...”
“That’s right. I’m partially a royal blood, but it was a blessing in my case. Thanks to being a collateral descendant, I wasn’t forced to be a part of the royal family, and I got to travel the stars.”
Then... She’s seeking revenge, for not being selected as the royal blood?”
Was I mixed up in a battle for the succession of Kiri?
“Then I was just... mixed up in the fight for the Minervan crown?”
“No, it’s not that simple. Answer for me in the perspective of someone from Earth: let’s say that a king rules a nation. Then, the king grows old and perishes. The king’s identical-looking son continues the rule, and dies of old age. And then the identically looking grandson takes over the nation. Of course, the kings themselves claim that they were all unique people. As an outsider, though, what would you think? Would you accept it as a normal occurrence?”
“I’d... think that it is strange.”
“That’s what’s happening to Minerva Kingdom. It’s the tragedy called upon by the Micrinum crystal. As genetic science became the sole source of offspring after all males were killed, it all began. Oh, and everyone born in Minerva considers this to be normal. The kind, smart Princess leads the kingdom to prosper, so even if the clones of the Princess continue the rule, albeit with different names, nobody considers it strange. I, too, thought that this was normal. But, when I traveled around the stars... I began to realize that none of this was normal.”
The stairs had ended. A large door stood forth Khan and I. This was the end.
“And this, here, is where the strange tale meets its conclusion.”
I knew where this place was. The large door. Beyond it had to be the storage for the royal genes.
“Honestly... I have no idea. I can see why you’re trying to do this, but... I don’t think Princess Bell is evil.”
I commented, standing in front of the door.
“Voice recognition confirmed.”
Suddenly, a mechanical voice from beyond the door replied.
“Voice analysis complete. 95.8% match to Bell Rougemann. Waiting for orders.”
The robotic voice continued. Did... the voice say Bell Rougemann? Why did her name get mentioned?
“Good. It’s all over, kid. Tell it to open the door.”
“What? Why would I...”
“Because this system heard your voice, and understood you as ‘Bell Rougemann’. The security system is based on voice, you see.”
How? I’m not Princess Bell. How could it think that I was Princess Bell?
“Did anyone ever tell you that you sound a lot like somebody else?”
“By the way, I’m surprised. I was watching from far away... Your voice sounds exactly like the Princess.”
“You didn’t know, Danbi? If I didn’t look, it would have sounded like the Princess was talking to herself~.”
And then I realized my purpose for being there.
It was my voice.
That was it.
The whole journey began because my voice was identical to Princess Bell.
In the moment that she found me and heard my voice, she had this planned.
Everything... had happened because of my voice.
The forbidden zone had a mysterious atmosphere. I imagined from the descriptions like genes and systems that it would be filled with complex machinery, but nothing that I had imagined was inside.
In the air was a gigantic purple crystal, probably made of Micrinum. The purple crystal had numerous connections that appeared to be power lines. They looked like they powered the crystal, or... they were taking power from the crystal.
“This is... the forbidden zone...”
I was overwhelmed by the mystic feeling of the room. I felt like I had discovered Kiri’s deepest secret.
“All functionalities of the Queen are activated. Waiting for instructions...”
The machine voice was coming from the purple crystal.
“That is the Queen. It’s the main system that connects to all other systems on Minerva. At the same time...It’s the storage for the genes of the royal families.”
Khan stared at the purple crystal. Unlike me, she was calm.
“That’s... a Micrinum crystal?”
It’s made of Micrinum, so it looks like like one. This whole place is covered with Micrinum. The Kingdom had fallen once with Micrinum, and it has risen back up with Micrinum. The history went in a full circle. Everything here is dependent on Micrinum... If we didn’t have it, then Planet Kiri would look a lot different than it is now. Oh, but this isn’t the time to get nostalgic.”
Khan looked at me.
“Now, Yu Danbi. Give an order to the Queen. Tell it to hand over the military command over tome.”
I hesitated. If I handed the control over the military to her, terrible things could happen.
Noticing my hesitation, she pulled out a white gun. It wasn’t the remote this time, but a weapon. Of course, if she had paralyzed me instead, I couldn’t say anything either, so she had no other options.
“If you really want to die here, then I don’t want to waste our time, either.”
“I... I’ll do it. Queen. Transfer the military command to... Lei Khan.”
I gave up to the threat. If I really had the power to give her the command, then I would have had the power to take it away. So, I had to pretend that I was going along with her plan.
“Confirmed. All military command and associated authority are transferred to Lei Khan.”
“Good, Danbi. Your work here is done. I’m a woman of my words-- I’ll bring you back to your family.”
“Then... What are you going to do now?”
“Right... There’s no time to fool around. Now that I gained the authority, I have to do what I must. Queen. I will order as the top commander of the military. Bombard the stadium where the Minerva Cup is held immediately. Demolish it entirely, so that not a single person survives.”
“Confirmed. Commencing attack on the stadium.”
“N-no!! That’s where the final match is being held right now! Stop it immediately!”
“Command retracted by the order of Bell Rougemann. Attack withheld.”
I tried to continue arguing, but no more words came out of my mouth. I noticed that Khan had pressed the buttons on her white remote once again. My body was paralyzed. I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t talk.
“So you reveal your intentions. Kid-- you said with your own mouth that you don’t care about what happens next, didn’t you? Did you already change your mind?”
Khan pressed the same button. My body resumed its functions. I gained my voice.
“But that’s where the soccer match is happening! There’s a lot of innocent people gathered there!”
“And Princess Bell Rougemann is among them. This is my best chance to cut the line of royal blood at its head. Once the Princess dies, and I destroy all the genes in here, everything is over. The new Minerva Kingdom will be born.”
“I know, I’m not from this planet. I don’t have any rights to make decisions about Minerva’s crown. But, before that, I’m a player of Neo Kiri! I’m one of the people who love soccer! And you! You’re trying to destroy soccer, the sport that these people enjoy! I’ll never let you do that!”
Khan had an honest look of curiosity. She seemed to have not fully understood my words. She wasn’t angry, and she wasn’t surprised. She only gave a condescending look.
“So, right now, you... won’t let me get in the way of playing soccer? Is that what you’re trying to say?”
“Yeah! It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t get to the finals, but I won’t let you ruin it right in front of me!”
“The Princess, too, and now you, too... I still can’t believe that. It’s just soccer. Is that more important than your life?”
“I heard from Princess Bell herself-- what soccer means for this planet.”
At least on this planet, soccer wasn’t a meaningless sport. It was a magical sport that banded the people who disagreed with each other back together.
The people who fought each other and hated each other came to an understanding and stopped fighting. That was the Galaxy League. That was the story of soccer on this planet.
As long as people kept their love for soccer, no more wars were going to happen. That was the will of Princess Bell. I believed in her honesty and faith.
Princess Bell, and Miss Mirial, everyone that I had met on this planet did not want a true war. They wished for the tradition of soccer to continue instead. Not the sadness of war, but the excitement of competition.
“What you’re trying to do is starting a war! You’re going to ruin the world of peace that people worked to create, and you’re going to start a war that will ruin soccer!”
“That’s correct. To be honest, I don’t like soccer. Saving the world through soccer is something that I’ll never understand, and the only thing that practically protects Kiri is its military. It’s not a silly game like soccer.”
“That’s the difference between you and the Princess. The Princess seriously believes in soccer’s power to keep peace in this galaxy. And if you’re trying to kill the Princess, then you’re trying to kill that belief!”
“Hmph. Now that I see it, you really fell in love with Bell, haven’t you? Do you want to be her personal prince on the white horse? Why didn’t you reveal that you’re a guy?”
Khan pressed the remote’s buttons once more. My body froze. My limbs were stuck in place, and I lost my voice.
“Thank you, Yu Danbi. Thanks to your efforts, I realized that there was one more thing to add to the list of things to destroy. In the new Mineva Kingdom that I’ll rule soon... Not only will there be no trace of Bell Rougemann and her bloodline, but there also won’t ever be any soccer, ever again. I will remove the concept of soccer from this planet. I’ll make everyone on this planet biologically hate soccer, from the genetic level. That won’t be too hard. If I wanted, I could remove soccer from this entire galaxy. As long as I have Kiri’s military, commanding the entire galaxy won’t just be a dream. But that’ll be for later. I have something that I need to do now.”
Khan returned her attention to the crystal.
“Queen. Bombard the stadium where the Minerva Cup is held. Don’t leave a trace.”
“Order confirmed. Commencing bombardment.”
I needed to stop her, but I couldn’t. My entire body was paralyzed. Just as before, feelings were escaping me. It was getting difficult to breathe.
I had to stop her... I couldn’t stop her. Khan was looking at the crystal with a satisfied smile, and viewed the stadium from a hologram.
I could see the players continuing their game in the stadium, not expecting anything. Spectators cheered for their players. But soon... The stadium was going to turn into hell. The match was to end in a way that would defy everyone’s expectations.
I had to... stop that from happening.
“Stop this immediately.”
A familiar voice called out from somewhere.
I turned around. Princess Bell was there. Wait... I turned around?!
I could feel my legs again. What happened? Did Khan let me go?
“Confirming voice... 100% match to Bell Rougemann. Awaiting orders.”
“Mother, I am sorry. Please stop the bombardment.”
“Order confirmed. Ending the attack.”
Princess Bell had called the giant crystal her mother. Mother...?
Khan did not seem surprised at the Princess’s sudden appearance. Following the Princess inside was another familiar face.
She was the same woman who nearly murdered me in the semi-finals, Miss Hildegard. The two entered the forbidden zone to oppose Khan.
“I see... No wonder my goons couldn’t buy me any time. You dragged Hildegard here. You were pretty desperate, weren’t you?”
“Your plot ends now. Lei Khan-- surrender immediately.”
Princess Bell glared at Khan, wielding her blade. Khan thought in silence, and pointed the gun at the Princess.
“You should very well know that you cannot stop me with that.”
“I know. I just thought that it’s good manners to point the gun at you, when you have your sword pointed at me. The moment you vacated that stadium, there’s no meaning in this anymore.”
Khan lowered the gun back down. I sighed in relief, but Khan quickly approached me and aimed the gun at my temple instead. Hildegard and the Princess moved in reaction, but the gun was already against my head.
“If you come any closer, I’m pulling the trigger.”
“Don’t do anything foolish. My royal guards have returned to the palace. You have nowhere to escape.”
“I know, even if you don’t tell me. But... I could make a trade, if I had a hostage.”
“I got no reason to trade with you.”
Before Hildegard could burst forward, Princess Bell held her back.
“Please, wait. Miss Danbi has done no wrong.”
“Isn’t it her fault that everything here happened?”
“Miss Danbi was used. So please, wait.”
Hildegard grumbled, but stood back. If the Princess hadn’t stopped her, she would have tried to take down Khan, regardless of what happens to me.
“Princess Bell Rougemann. I know that you’re a good woman. Now we can make a deal.”
“Taking Miss Danbi as a hostage... Don’t you think that is cowardly?”
“I’m a merchant. If I acquire things of value, I’ll try to make a deal with it. Now’s the same thing.”
Khan’s plans have clearly failed. Now that Princess Bell and Hildegard were here, she couldn’t try anything more.
She had lost all of her authority that she had gained from me. The real Princess Bell was here. The main system now only listened to her orders. If the Princess’s royal guards had returned, then Khan’s underlings couldn’t act, either.
“Everything’s... over. Khan, you’ve failed.”
I said to Khan, who was pointing her gun at me. Khan didn’t reply. Did she have a hidden hard in her sleeves? A special plan that neither the Princess nor I have found out yet?
“I’ve heard everything that you’ve said in this room. Khan, you... Not only is it enough for you to set Minerva ablaze, you were planning on consuming the entire galaxy with another war. As long as you have such a dangerous plan, the Galaxy League’s Council will come after you, no matter what planet you try to escape to. Even if you manage to escape Planet Kiri, you will be brought to justice.”
“If the star wars continued, then Minerva Kingdom would have become the ruler of the galaxy. I’m sure that there’s quite the number of people who believe the same.”
“And for that, many lives will pay its price in lives and happiness.”
“Yes... You’d think that, since you were born with the genes of the nicest princesses. A thousand years ago, the same princesses but with different names would have said the same. I thought today would be the end of that tale, but thanks to this foolhardy kid from Earth, that story looks to be continuing.”
The end of the gun poked at my head.
“Congratulations, kid. You’ve saved Minerva Kingdom by sacrificing your own life. Everyone will remember your name.”
Terror struck. I realized what she was about to do.
She was going to pull the trigger.
It was the end.
I closed my eyes. I had hoped that this wouldn’t end this way, but it had.
Perhaps Khan was right. Even though I was completely unrelated to this planet’s politics, I was incredibly stubborn, and I had paid the price.
But I still wanted to protect this planet. I wanted the daily lives of the people here to continue. I never expected to put my own life on the line for it, but when the opportunity was given to me, I took it-- and in the end, I was here.
I heard the sound of the trigger.
I could only see darkness.
Was the afterlife going to feel this way, too? Pure darkness? No. I opened my eyes.
When I opened my eyes, I saw Kahn’s face. She was frowning.
“This is the first time seeing my employee make a mistake.”
She pulled the trigger again. With that act, the gun had a small explosion, and I fell back in surprise. Khan dropped the gun.
She looked at the fallen gun on the ground. Princess Bell and Hildegard looked just as startled.
It was my first time seeing this woman get surprised. She never had this kind of expression. Even when Princess Bell appeared, even as she realized that her plan had been ruined, she hadn’t looked surprised. And then, she was surprised.
“If I had made any mistake, that was trusting you, Boss.”
It was a familiar voice. She walked forth from between Princess Bell and Hildegard. Without her robotic arms, her small stature stood out. The girl with long green hair, with goggles covering her face-- Miss Mirial.
She pushed the goggles up to her forehead and glared at Khan with her sharp eyes.
“I had a contingency plan for the gun falling into the wrong hands by putting in an emergency shutdown feature. It’s set to explode if it gets used during the shutdown mode. It was meant to stop the gun from being used for evil deeds, but... I never thought it would end this way.”
Khan was at a loss for words. If she hadn’t expected one thing, it was Miss Mirial showing up.
“I always thought Boss was a nice person. You let me live a life of making soccer suits instead of weapons. I trusted that you hated wars just like me, or... so I thought. I never once imagined that you’d start a war.”
Khan still couldn’t answer. She was quietly staring down at her broken laser pistol.
“Boss, if you really did all this to start a war... I can’t work for you anymore. More than anyone else, I’m going to try my hardest to stop you!”
The little girl appeared strangely larger than her true stature. She was so little without her robotic arms, but Miss Mirial was confronting Khan with an unrelenting stance. Khan now looked at Mirial. She stared, without any words.
Princess Bell and Miss Hildegard both remained in silence. Only glares were exchanged.
Suddenly, Khan began laughing. A cynical laugh that broke the silence. The rest of us were surprised. She had been a very unpredictable person thus far, but that laughter had really broke our expectations. I felt the tenseness loosen its grip of my heart.
“I’ve come so close... and I’ve lost it all. Hilarious. The soccer-loving Princess leaves soccer behind, the workaholic engineer throws away her work, and the family-loving kid throws away the chance to return home, just to bring me to justice. With this many coincidences overlapping together, I’ll have to accept it as destiny, no? I think it’s time for me to retire from the industry. I can’t afford to lose further by getting too attached.”
Then, Khan produced a small sphere from her pockets and threw it onto the ground. A small flash escaped the sphere, and quickly, the room was filled with multiple Khans.
“Oh...! Don’t be fooled! They’re all holograms!”
Miss Mirial yelled, but the many Khans were all escaping in different directions. Miss Hildegard quickly reacted to take down the Khans one by one, but each of them scattered in the air, as they weren’t the real Khan.
Miss Hildegard chased after the dozens of Khans outside. The Princess, Miss Mirial, and I were left in the room.
“I-I apologize... I should have explained to you from the start.”
“No, Miss Danbi. Miss Mirial had explained everything to me.”
Princess Bell pressed her finger on my lips.
M-my heart’s racing?! This kind of skinship is too much, since I’m really a guy...
“I assume you have a lot to say, but... We have to be elsewhere, don’t we?”
“Elsewhere? What could be...”
“We need to have our final match.”
The finals. The forgotten word that caught my attention once more.
Ah, right. The finals. It was our final match.
It should have been very strange to talk about soccer in that situation, but I couldn’t deny feeling very excited at her reminder.
Really, I must have fallen in love with soccer.
Or, maybe, I had come to really enjoy being with this lady.
My head was pounding. Everything that had happened was already confusing, but I was getting even more confused.
Whenever things get overcomplicated... There was only one thing to do.
If I go out and run, I’ll feel better. Heh... I was such a simple human being.
It was the time to go. Our final match was waiting.
To explain from the end, we got stomped.
We hadn’t just lost-- it was more appropriate to say that we were stomped. The opponents were absolutely powerful, though our team had done our best. It turned out that the match was temporarily paused by the Princess’s request, and the second half of the match began after I returned. Our team expected the galaxy’s greatest soccer player, Yu Danbi, to carry the team for them, but-- I’m sorry-- I got stomped. Our team was kicked around for the whole forty five minutes, and we had lost three to zero.
The stronger poke at my conscience was when I expected the teammates to realize my true skill level and curse me, but everyone had instead went ‘Ugh... Danbi must be in a bad condition today!’ and defended me. Their fantasies about my skills had been too deep-rooted... That’s not it! I was never a good player! I’m just very bad at this game! Please understand that!
As I was told, the Princess found it strange that I hadn’t shown up, so she looked for me in our team’s player lounge after the half time. She was told that Danbi had a business elsewhere, and that she’d show up in the second half, and she was almost fooled... until Miss Rosaria had given her a reason to be suspicious.
“But why’s your Highness looking for Danbi? Are you... trying to steal Danbi’s heart?!”
“Wh-whatever do you mean?”
“Stealing away the girl who sounds just like you-- I can understand that, but...”
“Sorry? What do you mean, she sounds just like me?”
And then, the Princess had an ominous feeling. She contacted Minerva Palace and received no replies, and realized that things had gone terribly wrong. She quickly requested to pause the match, and returned to the palace with her personal guards.
If she had dismissed the coincidence as simple probability, Khan might have succeeded her plans. I was scared to think that.
Princess Bell contacted Kartina Federation when she heard my story. After contacting them, I was informed that my family had safely landed on Planet Umbra. I sighed in relief.
It was as Khan said. One call was all that was needed. I was anguished about having been through these series of events for that one call, but I was also happy for my newfound friendships.
Meeting Miss Mirial was fun, and Miss Rosaria, Miss Mute, Miss Paulina, Miss Ai, everyone was great to me. Princess Bell was also very nice, and Miss Hildegard... Uh, I hesitate to see her again.
The team was disbanded and my teammates returned to their original teams. It had to be that way, since our team was a wild card team. From then on, back in their own teams, they’d continue their lives.
After Khan escaped from the palace, there was no further news of her. She must have been planning a dangerous plot elsewhere, but... With all nations informed of her deeds, it was going to be difficult for her to show her face anywhere in the galaxy.
When Khan vanished, Miss Mirial went, ‘Phew... I wrecked my own company with my own hands? It’s a weird feeling.’ A questionable self-reassurance. Fortunately for her, she had received help from Princess Bell in starting her own company.
The company was obviously focused on manufacturing of soccer suits and soccer accessories. She had gained the resources to devote her life deeper into her favourite work. She quickly shed her depressed attitude, and repeated her new catchphrase, ‘Of course! The suits that I design are the best in the galaxy!’ Now that she was the owner of her company, she was more free to go around advertising her designs.
And, as for me...
“Hm. I’m sad to see you go. You could stay here a bit longer~.”
Miss Mirial grumbled. Behind her was a gathering of people. On the other side was a spaceship, specially prepared by the Princess herself. It was for my way back to my family, who were still on Planet Umbra. She had personally prepared the ship for me, after learning of my history on this planet.
“I hope there won’t be another accident...”
“Minerva Kingdom’s technology is the best in the galaxy! It’ll never break!”
That almost sounded like an insult to other worlds’ technology...
“Uuu~. Danbi’s heart was stolen by somebody else already.”
The kleptomaniac Miss Rosaria, and everyone else had gathered to say goodbyes. I felt increasingly guilty from the hugs that were offered to me. I’m-- I’m actually, uh....
“Miss Danbi. I hope that you’ll visit us again at Minerva in the future.”
I couldn’t bring it up, when even the Princess was giving me a serious goodbye.
“I-I will. Princess-- uh... P-please stay strong!”
Stay strong? What was that? It was the cheesiest thing to say, but I couldn’t think of anything else.
Now I had to get on the ship. Then, it was bye-byes with Kiri.
Many things that happened, and I had to leave them behind.
Did I really have nothing else to say?
I looked at the Princess. “Stay strong” was... a nice thing to say, but there had to be much nicer things. Right. I had to be confident! Yu Danbi, you have to be confident! I was nervous. No. I had to do it!
I ran to the Princess and kissed her on her cheek. I honestly considered doing it on her lips, but I thought the others would chase me to the edge of the galaxy to murder me if I had done so, so I stuck with her cheek. Yu Danbi didn’t have the courage, after all.
The Princess was surprised. It was the time for the finale. I had to make my final confession.
In truth, I, ... I...
“I... To be honest... I...!!”
Princess! I.... Waaaah! I had to say it! But what do I get out of saying that I like her, right before leaving? No! I had to say something! I already started it, so I had to end it! Oh, no, Yu Danbi, how will you end this? What will you say? You have to say something.... My head was turning pure white. Alright, that’s it!
“I’m actually a boy!”
....Or so I thought about saying that. I wasn’t courageous enough. Courage aside, I wasn’t sure what would have happened to me if I confessed that. I would have died.
The Princess in front of me looked curious and waited for me, and so were the people behind her.
“I-I’ll be leaving now! Bye!”
Oh, my life. That was the last thing that I was capable of saying to these people. I dejectedly waved my hands at them, and quietly tore myself apart for even imagining saying such embarrassing things. I walked into the spaceship.
Would I ever have the chance to return to this planet?
Could I ever meet these people again?
If such a day comes, I’ll have to confess the truth.
I’m actually a guy!
I quietly pictured that day in my head.