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Hertz's Adventure
Encounter with the Spectacled Genie - Part 2

'Those magical spectacles must be capable of seeing the true nature of anyone who stands before them!'

After a fitful bout of shaking from excitement (but this time making sure to check that its own spectacles were aligned), the genie gazed down resolutely at Young Hertz.

'There's no point in having a boy such as yourself hang on to such an invaluable item. In fact, it would be in your best interest to hand them over. Otherwise...' it trailed off. But instead of elaborating on its threat, the genie simply extended its arms once more.

This time, the genie picked up a boulder much larger then any normal person could lift, and Young Hertz and Midas watched as the massive rock disappeared into the fiery depths of its open mouth. Causing the wind to stir as it clamped down its distended jaws with incredible force, the genie gulped down the large rock as if it had been a light snack. And not a moment later, a hollow sound like something thrown into a deep well echoed in the depths of its belly.

'So...have I made myself clear? If you do not hand over those spectacles, it is you who will end up being my next sweet morsel.'

Midas looked at Young Hertz with a frightful gaze. 'D-D-Did you see that humongous mouth of his? He's the real deal, all right... It's just like the rumors say.'

'Yeah, but that still leaves us with another problem...' sighed Young Hertz. 'Without my glasses, I can't continue my travels.'

As Young Hertz stood pondering his dilemma, another large boulder by his feet disappeared into the genie's voracious mouth followed once again by the ominous hollow echo from beneath its sable garb.

'But if he eats us, then we're both done for...' argued Midas as he stood shivering with fright, imagining the candy he had swallowed not minutes before.

'I guess you're right...' concluded Young Hertz, and he stepped closer to the genie. 'All right, good sir, we'll give in to your demands. Being swallowed whole doesn't sound like much fun,' he declared.

'And a wise choice you've made, boy,' replied the genie.

After taking a long look at Young Hertz's face, the genie narrowed its eyes and a plethora of wrinkles crinkled about their corners. Young Hertz said nothing as he unseated the pair of glasses from his nose and obediently placed them at the feet of the genie.

'So these are magical spectacles...' the creature said in a voice quavering with excitement as it squatted down, its face drawing closer to where they lay in the sand. Impatiently, it tossed aside its own spectacles, and after blindly searching by hand for the object of its fascination through the soft, granulated sand, it picked them up and placed them snugly atop its nose.

'These are no less than magical spectacles indeed!' it cried in a tremor of delight as it danced around, causing its robe to flutter about wildly. 'With these I shall have nothing to fear!' And with one last deafening screech it disappeared just as suddenly as it had arrived. The drifting echo of its voice faded and the two boys once again stood alone on a sea of white sand.

Midas scanned the area around them. 'It looks like he's really gone,' he said, his voice weak with relief. Indeed, there was no sign as far as the eye could see of the black-robed figure.

Feeling a pang of sympathy as he looked at the side of Young Hertz's face, who strangely enough seemed to be amused about something, Midas began to rummage through his pocket looking for a piece of candy to offer to his friend as a token of solace over the loss of his trusty eyewear.

Walking up to the other boy, Midas held out the piece of candy, its silver wrapper half undone.

'Don't be disheartened, old friend. It's not like this is the last adventure we'll have.'

'I think...I'm going to be just fine...' replied Young Hertz. His voice was subdued, but the adventurer's eyes twinkled with laughter. Then, as if harking back to some past event, he continued his thoughts aloud.

'Man, that genie must have been blinder than a bat with no eyes,' he said in astonishment.

Midas stared at Young Hertz uncomprehendingly until the other boy turned fully toward him, a grin splitting his face from ear to ear. Then Midas saw it, and a smile of his own spread across his face. For there, resting on top of his friend's nose was something which had grown familiar to him over the years.

'In the end, it seems like the poor fool managed to mistake his own glasses for mine,' Young Hertz went on in a comical tone.

'So the ones you're wearing now are...' Midas asked, though the silver rims of the glasses had already confirmed it.

'Yep. They're the exact ones I put on this morning.' With a happy air Young Hertz took the sugary treat from his friend and popped it into his mouth.

However, this time, as the honeyed-glaze of the candy balls they carried in their mouths melted away, both he and his friend made certain not to swallow them whole.

'You know,' Midas said as they walked along, 'even if there were such a thing as magical spectacles, I don't think they'd amount to anything in his possession, because as you and I both know, he has a habit of 'losing' them when things matter the most.'

<THE END>

ハーツ少年の冒険 〜 眼鏡魔人との戦い編・下 〜

「それは相手の本性を見抜く恐ろしい魔法の道具!その前では一切のウソが通用しない!」

ひとしきり体を震わせると(今度は先に眼鏡のズレを確認してから)老人はハーツ少年を見据えた。「そんなものを小僧が持っていても仕方がないぞ。大人しくわしに渡すがよい。さもないと――」

言い終わるより早くまた腕が走り出てくる。それはゆうに一抱えはある石を持ち上げ、赤々と開いた老人の口の中へ消える。老人は風を起こして口を閉じ、一気に石を飲み下した。そのとたん、井戸の底に何か落ちるような、どぼーんという音が響いた。「――分かったかね。スペクタクルスを渡さないと、今度はおまえらがわしのキャンディちゃんになるというわけだ」

ミンディはおびえた眼差しでハーツ少年を見た。「み、見たかい? あのでかい口。どうしよう、この人が噂の魔人みたいだ」「でも、困ったな…………」とハーツ少年。「眼鏡がないと旅を続けられないよ」

考えている間にも、足元の岩石がまた1つ老人の顔の中に消えた。黒ローブの中から重い水音が響く。「けど、飲み込まれちゃったら元も子もないよ」ミンディはさっき飲み込んだキャンディのその後を想像し、ひとりで身震いした。「そうだね、ここは仕方ないか――」

ハーツ少年は老人へと歩みよった。「おじいさん、言う通りにするよ。やっぱり飲み込まれたくはないから」

「おお、おお、利口な小僧だ」

老人はハーツの顔を見ると、目尻に山脈のようなしわを作った。ハーツはだまって眼鏡を外し、老人の足元に置いた。「こ、これが魔法のスペクタクルス……」老人は声を震わせ、ハーツの眼鏡へ顔を寄せた。もどかしげに顔の眼鏡を投げ捨てると、手探りで求めるものを探しあて、しっかりとそれを顔に収めた。「おお、さすがは魔法のスペクタクルス!」

ローブを舞わして老人は喜びに打ち震えた。「これさえあれば、わしに怖いものなどない!」

最後にひときわ大きな声でそう叫ぶと、老人は現れたときと同じように突然その姿を消した。

白い砂の上にただよう声のこだまと、2人の少年たちの姿だけが、後に残された。

ミンディはゆっくり辺りを見回した。「おじいさん、行っちゃったね」黒いローブの影はもうどこにもなかった。やけにすっきりしたハーツ少年の横顔を見て、ミンディはさびしい気持ちになり、ポケットにキャンディを探した。老人のいた場所にたたずむハーツに歩み寄ると、半分だけ銀紙をむいてそれを差し出した。「気を落さないで。旅ならまた出直せばいいよ」

「いや、たぶん大丈夫さ」とミンディの声に答えるハーツ少年。砂の中から何かを拾い上げ、それにふっと息を吹きかける。それから何かを思い返すように、しみじみと言葉を続けた。「やっぱりあの人、ものすごく目が悪かったんだ」

振り返ったハーツの顔を見て、ミンディの顔にも微笑が浮かんだ。そこには見慣れたものが乗っていたから。 「あのおじいさん、最後の最後で間違えて、自分の眼鏡をしていっちゃったみたいなんだ」

「じゃあ今かけてる眼鏡は―――」

「正真正銘、ぼくの眼鏡さ」ハーツ少年はキャンディを受け取ると、ぜったいに丸呑みしないよう気をつけて口に運んだ。

「もし本当に魔法の眼鏡があっても、あれじゃどうしょうもないよね」とハーツ少年はいつものように眼鏡を押し上げて、「だってご主人様は、いつも肝心なときに眼鏡を外しちゃうんだからさ」

〈眼鏡魔人との戦い編・おわり〉

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