“Where is this place?”
Isaac mumbled, finding himself staring into a grey white ceiling accompanied by the grogginess one feels after having a good nap. Isaac could remember up to where Reisha mentioned that he needed to be transported to a top secret Central facility, so he figured they did something to make him fall unconscious. Isaac had the impression that Reisha resorted to such an action without explaining anything because he ignored and refused to interact with her at all while she whined on and on constantly about shooting at her.
Isaac belittled himself, to lose consciousness and be kidnapped in quick succession. Isaac stepped off the bed, and he could feel the coldness of the stone floor crawl up from the soles of his feet. All of the adhesive magic circles had been disabled. Whether the magic circles were disabled by Central or simply deactivated by themselves, Isaac didn’t know. All of the mana crystals had died too.
Having checked his current state, Isaac approached the window and opened the curtains. Warm sunlight and refreshing air embraced Isaac through the open window. Isaac scanned the view out the window all the while squinting his eyes in the face of bright sunlight. It seemed he was quite high up, being able to see all of his surroundings at a glimpse. Some distance away stood a great forest and a large road that cut across the forest, splitting it into two halves. At the end of the road was a wall that surrounded a thriving city built of stone. It was constructed in an orderly fashion and stretched to the end of the horizon. There was a port and the sea to his left, and seeing a glimpse of an island at the edge of the sea, Isaac figured out where he was.
“You say this is a top secret facility of Central? I guess this would be the best place to hide something.”
The Royal Palace. The heart of the capital Gabelin and the residence of the Emperor. All administrative and political issues were dealt with in this city by the headquarters of corresponding departments.
The Royal Palace was simply the centre of the Empire and only served the purpose of being the symbol of the Emperor’s residence. How many would believe that Central’s secret facility exists under the Royal Palace? They certainly made use of the saying ‘hide a tree in a forest.’
“… Ah! It really makes me want to smoke.”
Isaac shuffled through his pockets, but all he found was a memo saying ‘I’ll forgive you with this!’ It seemed Reisha got Isaac back by taking the cigarettes he had.
Isaac’s shoulders drooped disappointingly, and he got back on the bed. He sat in the middle with his legs crossed, feeling the encroaching boredom. Just when he was thinking of looking through the room to find some snacks, the door to his room opened with an irritating ‘creak!’
Isaac reacted without thinking and looked at the door. His eyes met with a woman, cleaning equipment in her hands and humming to herself.
“Oh! It’s a maid.”
It was a traditional maid wearing a black one-piece dress which extended down to her ankles and a white cap, unlike the maids you’d see in otaku fandom. Maids being present in the Royal Palace was expected, but it was Isaac’s first time seeing their uniform. The maid whose face was so beautiful to the point Isaac wondered why she’d even work as a maid looked at Isaac with a stiff expression.
The maid screamed and threw the cleaning equipment toward Isaac when he opened his mouth and made her escape. It all happened so quickly that Isaac caught the worn rag with his face. There was a hint of sadness in Isaac’s mind.
“What did I….”
He wouldn’t have felt this bad if he did something to her. A deep wound was etched into Isaac’s heart, seeing a woman scream at him without even exchanging a word.
Isaac considered leaving the room as the door laid open, but he quickly gave up on the idea. Everyone in the palace should be aware that he’s now awake since the maid screamed before she ran away, so the next step would be a visit from Central, who’d come to explain what this situation is all about. And lo and behold, a group entered the room with the sound of steel clashing.
“Haha. Is this how I die?”
Isaac chuckled as he watched the knights that entered the room. It was the Arc Royale. Their presence here made sense since this was the Royal Palace, but there was bad blood between him and these lunatics. Each and every Arc Royale had one hand placed at the hilt of their swords, firmly grasping it as they looked at Isaac full of hostility. They seemed to be struggling to choose between killing Isaac or letting him live.
Soon, four Arc Royales wearing heavily decorated armour came into the room carrying a large crate. Isaac looked at them blankly, wondering what they were up to. The Arc Royales, still on guard against Isaac, dropped the crate close to Isaac and opened it. The lid of the crate opened sideways, turning into a long table, and three more crates appeared from inside.
One of the knights stepped back as a gesture for Isaac to check the insides. Curious, Isaac opened the left crate and checked what was inside.
“Wow! I never thought I’d see this here?”
All sorts of military equipment were inside the crate, from old military boots with completely worn-out soles to a Gore-Tex camo jacket used by the U.S. army.
Looking through it, there weren’t any ribbons or tags depicting ranks, battalions, or names. Plus, the U.S. military’s Gore-Tex camo jacket was so widely used by the public that there was no way to tell which nation it was from.
“Huh? It’s a marine?”
Isaac noticed there was a black cap under the jacket with the letters ‘U.S. MARINE’ printed on it. There were all kinds of prints made on caps, but seeing it together with the camo jacket, it seemed very likely this was from the U.S. Isaac glanced at the Arc Royales once more, who still hadn’t let their guard down. He then proceeded to open the middle crate, and familiar objects greeted him inside.
“Ohoh! They’re combat rations! This definitely is from the Yankees. Aha! Cigarettes!”
Isaac cried out when he spotted the cigarettes. The knights flinched, some even drawing their swords halfway. But there was only one thing that occupied Isaac’s mind.
In this desperate time where he only had cigarettes and no lighter, Joon-young even considered asking the Ark Royale for a lighter. That option was quickly shot down, realizing it would only set alight their already-apparent hostility.
Could there be a crueller nightmare, to not be able to smoke whilst it was in his mouth? Isaac grew frustrated in his attempt at finding some fire, when he looked at the combat rations.
“They put matches in combat rations right?”
Remembering the time he was amazed by the variety of goods that were contained in U.S. combat rations, Isaac recalled that matches were one of the goods packed inside. He quickly ripped through the combat rations and inspected each and every one of the goods that came out, and he eventually found what he wanted.
“There it is!”
The Arc Royale began to murmur with one another when Isaac lit one of the matches. But their response was beyond Isaac’s attention, as he quickly lit his cigarette and took one deep breath.
“Haaa. I’m alive again.”
Isaac finally felt at ease as a slight dizziness overtook him after receiving his first nostalgic hit of nicotine in such a long time. An unfamiliar brand was printed on the pack of cigarettes, and seeing a warning sign printed on one side made it very likely this was a product of the U.S.
After catching a breath, Isaac became curious at what was inside the right box. After opening it, Isaac looked deeply at what was inside. He took one last deep breath from the cigarette and rubbed the cigarette onto the packaging of the combat rations, looking at the knights.
“Do you guys even know what you are handing to me?”
Isaac made a serious face and looked at the Arc Royale, who replied to his question with motionless silence. Isaac grew increasingly wary of the knights, but it seemed to have little effect on the Arc Royale, who continued to be on their guard with a stiff face.
“I assumed there were others here, but I never thought they’d be from the U.S. army. Did they find the Stargate? No. There’s no way such a fantasy would… Shit. I can’t even say that considering the situation I’m in. Well, I guess it’s fine, since I have a weapon to use in the worst case scenario…”
Isaac watched the knights as he began to take out what was inside the right box. Isaac felt quite reassured after having two full magazines and an M16A4, a gun he favoured from time to time thanks to the U.S. leaving much of their equipment behind during their withdrawal from the war.
Isaac looked at the Arc Royale, unsure if they knew the power of this weapon or if they were simply confident that they could deal with the weapon. The slight weight he felt when he checked the magazine inside helped ease the tension.
Inserting the magazine into the rifle, Isaac pulled the bolt to load it and placed it on his legs, ready to be fired at a moment’s notice. Isaac wondered what his next course of action should be, and just as he was about to take a new cigarette out, a familiar face entered the room.
“Hey! It’s been a while, sunbaenim.”
Isaac waved at Mazelan, who sighed with a troubled look on his face.
“I see you are doing fine.”
“Seems like it. Are you here because you’re a royalty, sunbaenim? Or are you here because you’re an agent of Central? You seem to be doing awfully well since the last time I’ve seen you.”
Mazelan’s expression shook for a moment when a middle-aged man entered the room.
The gracefully aged man hosted a beard under his chin. He wore a black suit with golden embroidery on his shoulders and sleeves. Just one look at his clothes was enough to make one think ‘ah, he’s someone important’.
Isaac scanned the beardo from top to bottom, and Isaac’s eyes locked onto his waist. There was an object which did not match his medieval appearance. The black pistol was firmly placed in its holster, meaning the man knew about the existence of guns and how to use it.
‘And they’re still giving me this gun?’
Isaac became curious as to where they got the confidence.
“I want to ask a few questions…”
The beardo acknowledged Isaac’s request with a nod.
Isaac’s expression shook. It… had been a long time since he’d heard his own language. To think the same language would come out not from a foreigner, but someone from a fantasy world.
“First of all, who’re you? Are you from the other world just like me?”
One of the Arc Royale shouted out, unable to bear the condescending tone in Isaac’s voice. Isaac ignored the Arc Royale’s outburst as if it was a dog barking, and the beardo made the Arc Royale to step back.
“I am Clodel Bastomyu Gloria Pendleton, the 1st Duke of the Lorasia Empire.”
“Pendleton huh… is it the same name I’m thinking right now?”
“Correct. It seems I finally get to meet the son of a bitch who’d been bullying my lovely and delicate Rivelia.”
“From the way I see that damsel’s personality, I can’t imagine her showing much affection to her parents.”
Isaac questioned Clodel’s description, who shouted back immediately.
“Nonsense! Have you any idea how adorable she was when she was young! She’d often say ‘daddy, daddy, I’ll live with you forever,’ and it was you who ruined her!”
Clodel threw a fit, and Mazelan’s reaction hinted that this wasn’t the first time he was experiencing it. He sighed and tried to calm Clodel.
“Uncle, now isn’t the time for this.”
Realising his disgraceful act thanks to Mazelan’s words, Clodel coughed dryly and looked around his surroundings. The entire Arc Royale around him quickly turned their faces to avoid eye contact.
“Ahem. When otherworlders get into this situation, they are, how to say. Ah yes. According to your description, they fall in panic? No, hysteria?”
“They mean pretty much the same thing. But how can we understand each other like this? Where did you learn to speak Korean? Your dialogue is way too natural to have learnt it as a second language.”
In response to Isaac’s questioning, Clodel took out a necklace with a small crystal on it.
“It’s thanks to this. According to your language, you call it, artefacts or magical artefacts. We’ve read some of your world’s literature, and maybe it’s because of the differing perspectives, but there are many ingenious inventions in your world. Our magical spires? Or laboratories? Something along those lines was greatly stimulated by them, and this is one of their creations.”
Hearing Clodel’s words, Isaac’s hand slowly moved over to the rifle’s trigger. That meant the people of this world weren’t natives oblivious to his world’s advancement, but they knew a lot about how his old world ran.
“I’ll ask my last question.”
“What was the reason you decided to only watch until now despite knowing I’m from another world?”
This world seemed to possess more information about his world than Isaac expected.
“So they did speak. Shit. Those idiots! That’s obviously because we wanted to know for sure if you were from this world or another. The contents of those boxes were the final procedure.”
Isaac nodded at Clodel’s answer. The simplest way to receive information from another region is through that of the natives.
“So what’s the reason you’re revealing it all to me?”
The fact they watched to confirm his past life also meant there was the possibility that they would throw him away after deciding he had no value. Isaac tensed up, ready to spray bullets and bolt out of this place.
“Mazelan will explain the reasons. Personally, I dearly hope you refuse the offer.”
Clodel sent one last glare at Isaac before leaving the room, taking all of the Arc Royale with him. Only Mazelan and Isaac were left in the room.
“Come. It’s going to be a long story.”
Isaac paused for a moment and then got off the bed with the rifle in hand. Mazelan glimpsed at the rifle Isaac was holding and spoke.
“The weapons of your world are truly amazing, only matched by its cruelty and disregard for life. These weapons that could shoot down our knights at a distance caused disastrous casualties on our side in the beginning.”
“We only managed to subdue them through the brute force of numbers. If they had more numbers, we would have been powerless to stop them. We’ve been thoroughly analysing the weapons we stole ever since. The mechanism it uses to function is truly spectacular, but we could reproduce it using the technology we already had. Plus, we came to the conclusion that using these weapons was impossible for us.”
“What’s the reason you’re telling me this, sunbaenim?”
Mazelan sighed before he continued.
“Like I said, we finished analysing that weapon a long time ago. That weapon you call a ‘gun’ quickly turns into a simple club if you remove even the smallest part from it.”
Mazelan took out what seemed like a silver needle from his pocket, and Isaac quickly recognised what it was. A gun without its firing pin was as good as nothing. Just to make sure, Isaac loaded a bullet into the chamber and pointed the gun up. He pulled the trigger, but all that came back was a disappointing ‘click!’ Truth be told, only a fool would hand over a weapon they know well to him so easily.
Isaac grumbled and threw the gun on the bed before following Mazelan. The Arc Royale that left the room seemed to have been waiting outside. So began Isaac’s tour of the Royal Palace strolling through its corridors as the Arc Royales escorted – or rather, surrounded them.