“A tour around the Royal Palace huh… should I take it as an honour to my family?”
The hallway Isaac walked through was a sight to behold. It was wide enough to let a bus through, with many sculptures placed in between the windows. The ceiling was also decorated from beginning to the end, and Isaac wasn’t sure if they were paintings or if the ceiling itself was sculpted.
How long did Isaac leisurely walk through this art gallery of a hallway? At the end was a giant, rectangular steel door barring the way, its crude and brutish figure mismatching the elegance and flamboyance of the path they just passed through. The two Arc Royales leading the way walked to the door and began their struggle of pushing the massive door open.
“What. It was a sliding door?”
Isaac was surprised at the strength of the knights, who managed to push the giant steel door at first, but what surprised him even more was the door’s breadth, which was as thick as a grown man’s arm. While Isaac blankly looked in awe at this mighty and barbarous steel door, Mazelan stepped in and called Isaac.
“Aren’t you coming in?”
There was faint light illuminating beyond the steel door, but it was like a dim lamp when compared to the brightness of the hallway. Isaac stepped in to follow Mazelan, and the knights began closing the steel door behind them. Isaac questioned Mazelan when it was just the two of them with all of the knights left behind.
“Why aren’t they coming in?”
“This is an area restricted to only those who have received approval from the Empire, no matter how high their title is.”
“Wow! What an honour. But aren’t you worried that it’s just the two of us here?”
Mazelan quickly caught up to what Isaac was implying with those words. He smirked like a master who was challenged by a foolish child.
“What, you want to attack and subdue me? When it was me who monitored you the longest time in Campus? The weapons of your world have devastating effects, but the users of those weapons were… Hm, how shall I describe it? Boxing? Martial arts? Fighting? Whatever. They were surprisingly incompetent when it came to hand-to-hand combat. But you can give it a go if you’re confident.”
Isaac glared at Mazelan, finding his belittling smirk so irritating. But Mazelan was right. Joon-young’s specialty was guerrilla tactics in the form of ambushes and terrorism. His close-quarter combat capability was at most mediocre. He would be quickly subdued if he were to ask to fight against someone from the College.
As the two began walking down the corridor, Mazelan began his explanation.
“Where should I start… Do you know about the 7 Days of Calamity?”
“7 Days of Calamity? I’ve read about it a few times in history books.”
Mazelan looked at Isaac with great surprise when he heard that answer.
“Since when did you read history books?”
While Isaac was faced with the depressing reality that he could never hit Mazelan for saying that, Mazelan touched the left wall of the corridor, and a giant map appeared on the dark wall.
“The map of the Empire. As you can see, humans occupy just north of the continent’s centre. Further north are the non-human reservations that surround the residential area of humans.”
Mazelan pointed to the upper half of the map, where cities and castles were marked to indicate that they were human territory. Above it were the territories of non-humans indicated by blue dotted lines, showing the lands of elves, dwarves, beastmen, North Bears and even the dragon’s sanctuary. It formed a semi-circle above the human territory, blocking the path to the north completely.
“How come there’s nothing north of it? I assume you guys have knowledge of the terrain beyond it, seeing the seas and beaches are marked on the map?”
Isaac pointed even further above the non–human territory, where it was just a blank white area.
“The maps released to the public show it as a giant desert where nothing exists. But in truth, it’s the Forbidden Lands.”
“It is a nightmarish place where the first signs of the 7 Days of Calamity appeared and is still ongoing even to this day. It’s too dangerous of a place to walk around carefree. It’s also a humbling reminder that the 7 Days of Calamity isn’t just a legend and keeps us alert to the fact that it may happen again. That is why other than the few expeditionary groups or scouting parties as part of training for Central’s agents, we do not approach the place. However, everything changed when one of our scouting parties found an object we’d never seen before 50 years after the founding of the Empire.”
Mazelan didn’t reply to Isaac’s question, only waving his hand as he walked forward and touching another wall.
“It’s something we’ve never seen before, but you know full well what it is.”
Lights spaced out evenly from each other began to shine, which lit up the area. Isaac could now see all of the objects that had been arranged as if this place were a museum.
“… It certainly is familiar to me.”
What laid in front of Isaac was equipment very similar to what he’d seen in the TV series “Stargate,” that he watched frequently. Unmanned surveillance equipment, camera lens, antenna. Isaac didn’t know what their official names were, but seeing the stars and stripes drawn in the middle of them made it obvious which nation they came from.
“I did have some suspicion, but the Americans really did come here before.”
Unable to hide the troubling emotions that welled in his heart, Isaac took out a cigarette to calm his beating heart. Just as he did, he felt Mazelan’s gaze, so Isaac asked Mazelan for permission before lighting the cigarette.
“Ah. I can smoke right?”
Mazelan shook his head with a big frown.
“One of the many things we cannot understand the more we learn about your world is why you guys love to smoke that poisonous plant eating away at your life. Once, there were scholars who studied on those ‘cigarettes’ and why you smoke them.”
“So? What was the conclusion?”
Isaac dashed his lips with disappointment and asked while he placed the pack of cigarettes back into his pocket.
“Some hypothesised that it increases combat capabilities or strengthens one’s mind, but after translating the words written on those packs, we found out that cigarettes were in fact poison. The conclusion we came up with was that all other-worlders were insane; who’d smoke something that is warned to be harmful?”
“I can’t argue against that.”
Everything Mazelan said was true. The cigarette was indeed harmful, and Isaac, who smoked this, was also very insane.
Mazelan didn’t seem pleased when Isaac placed the cigarettes back into his pocket. He glared at the pocket for some time before giving up with a shake of his head and continuing onwards.
“Anyhow, after finding these materials, metals, languages, and machines that don’t exist in our continent, Central came to the conclusion that another world existed.”
“You guys believed that another world existed so easily, despite seeing those objects for the first time.”
“We could have easily dismissed it as a myth or legend due to the amount of time that’s passed if our world only consisted of humans just like yours. But there are many beings who live much longer than a human would in this world. The testimonies and documents provided by them that show they traded with those from heaven and hell before the 7 Days of Calamity was undeniable evidence.”
“Wait. Wait. Heaven? Hell? They really did exist?”
“Yes. I will tell you more about it later, since you’ll need to know about it eventually. Anyhow, seeing these objects never seen before, the Empire sent an expedition of a massive scale into the Forbidden Lands. But the first expedition betrayed our expectations and withdrew after taking massive casualties without any achievements. The Empire regularly sent expeditions into the lands again and again, but they never found a gate connecting to another world. In the end, the expedition’s goal changed from finding the gate to research and developing a safe and stable passage through the Forbidden Lands. We sent a total of 17 expeditions. But compared to the incredible human and material resources spent on this project, all we managed to achieve was finding a safe path and a few advancements regarding the abnormalities that occurred during the 7 Days of Calamity. With that, Central became very skeptical and decided an expedition into the centre of the Forbidden Lands where the 7 Days of Calamity first began was going to be the last expedition and forgo any further attempts. But it was this 17th expedition that found a gate which travelled to your world, although it was a highly unstable one.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Each time the gate to your world opened, the era of your world changed. The world we saw through the very first gate was that of the Stone Ages. But each time the gate opened, your world developed little by little, through the repetition of rise and fall of many civilizations. During this time, one of the Empire’s scholars came up with an ingenious idea.”
“What was that?”
“The thought that perhaps we could monitor and apply some of the more useful ideas which are invented in that world where only humans existed.”
Basically, these people watched the previous worlds’ history as one long documentary and stole everything they believed was useful to them.
“So we created surveillance equipment to travel across your world and gather information.”
“You guys had the technology to develop such a thing?”
Mazelan seemed excited by Isaac’s question, as if looking forward to Isaac’s reaction. Reaching the end of the corridor which was blocked by a steel gate, Mazelan looked back at Isaac as he opened it.
“It seems your world calls our surveillance equipment UFOs.”
Isaac couldn’t hide his surprise, looking as if he’d been hit on the back of his head. Mazelan seemed satisfied at Isaac’s reaction and pointed at the exhibits that were arranged on both sides.
“Wow! They really are UFOs!”
Countless different types of UFOs were exhibited on the sides behind glass like a museum. Mazelan’s voice held a grain of pride as he spoke to Isaac, who was busy looking inside with sparkles in his eyes.
“These surveillance tools are the pinnacle of the Empire’s study of magic. They have given us much information, and their contribution was paramount to allow our Empire to grow to where it is now. Most of the Empire’s systems referenced what we saw from your world.”
“Then how come your weapons are so pathetic?”
It was true this world was very convenient to live in, but their armies were still stuck in the medieval era. If they knew about guns, they should also know about the power of gunpowder, and developing materials similar to it should have made it possible to develop their own guns. Yet they still swung swords and shot arrows at each other.
Mazelan looked down on Isaac as if the question was pathetic.
“And where are we supposed to use those highly developed weapons? The greatest flaw of your world is that your weapons are too advanced. Those who use a sword will reconsider in killing their opponent if they don’t have any intention to kill. But the gun finishes everything without giving any time for such reconsideration. It is too simple to use and much too powerful. That is why those who act before they think thrive without fear in your world with weapons like that in their hands.”
“Well, maybe it’s because our worlds are different.”
Isaac shrugged at Mazelan’s criticism as if it didn’t bother him. Mazelan sighed.
“I guess we are no different. There are still many fools who dream of rebellion to become kings and emperors themselves in this world. I don’t even want to imagine what’d happen if they got their hands on guns.”
Mazelan continued after shivering.
“As our surveillance equipment improved, the Empire began to wonder if it was possible to load other-worlders into the equipment and bring them to our world. After much animal testing, we managed to… how to say, I guess summon is the right word. We successfully summoned those from another world through our surveillance equipment.”
Isaac was beyond disbelief at this point. So it wasn’t aliens who were behind all those conspiracy theories about UFOs abducting people but them. No, perhaps they were aliens, since they were from another world…
“Sounds to me like it was more of an abduction than a summoning. So did you interrogate them after bringing them here?”
“It was simple enough to erase their memories with their lack of resistance against magic. We sent them back into their world after erasing all memories and experiences they had of our world.”
“Why? I’m sure many of them would have been more than happy to stay here.”
There were many discontent people who dreamed of travelling to another world to become heroes or live different lives, meet beautiful chicks, and live happily ever after.
“Because of money.”
Isaac replied with eyes wide at the unexpected answer. Mazelan smirked, happy with the look Isaac was making.
“If we allow them to reside in our world, we’d have to monitor them continuously for the rest of their lives to make sure they don’t say anything unnecessary, guarantee their safety, and cover their immigration. Considering the total cost of money and manpower, it was much cheaper to just send them back with a gap in their memories.”
It was perhaps a cruel yet realistic problem.
“Not only that, we hadn’t performed many summons when the gates stopped opening.”
“I thought you guys opened and closed the gates whenever you wanted?”
“Nobody knows when the gates will open. We can’t possibly scour the entire Forbidden Lands when there is a constant mana storm raging over the entire region. What we can detect is a special frequency in mana waves that only occurs when a gate opens or closes. Even that takes much luck to detect. There have been many gates we missed during our expeditions.”
“Roughly put, we found the first gate on the 50th year of the Empire, and no gates opened after the 100th year of the Empire.”
Isaac tilted his head at this description.
“That’s strange. Isn’t it year 383 now? Right?”
“Was preservation magic that amazing? None of the objects I saw seemed very old.”
“Although the closing of the gates was disappointing, the Empire began to accelerate the advancement process using the information we had gathered. And those we would call geniuses in their respective fields began making great achievements.”
“Are you talking about the College graduates?”
Mazelan replied looking straight at Isaac.
“No. They were people like you.”
Isaac looked back in silence. Mazelan began walking down the exhibition and waved at Isaac to follow him.
“We didn’t know at first, but we began to notice as the time went by. Tools and machines that were used in your world suddenly appeared in civilian markets throughout the Empire.”
“I’m sure all humans think alike, so it wouldn’t be that surprising.”
Mazelan snorted at Isaac’s reply.
“We thoroughly investigated if our information had been leaked at first, but we never found any leads. Then, we found the first Type 1 Invasion otherworlder.”
“Type 1 invasion. Those transported to our world with both stable minds and physical forms. Type 2, who are born into our world with memories of the other world. Type 3, those who take over a body after an accident or a shock. Type 4, similar to Type 3 but can only remember fragments of memories due to an inability to bear the disparities between both minds.”
Isaac’s face stiffened at Mazelan’s explanation. The fact they had such organised classifications meant there had been so many transmigrators in the past.
“… I guess I’m a type 3.”
“Yes. We had been advancing the level of our civilization following the long term schedule we’ve created, but it could be completely derailed if someone else began distributing aspects of a superior civilization as they pleased. So we would monitor the suspects, and if it is confirmed they are invaders, we choose whether to recruit them or terminate them.”
“Wouldn’t it be simple enough if you just captured everyone who’s suspicious? Why make it so hard on yourselves?”
When Isaac made that question, Mazelan replied with discontently.
“Do you think our intelligence organisation is as oppressive as your world!?”
“Was it not?”
Isaac smirked and pointed at himself. Mazelan was at a loss for words, replying with a heavy frown.
“…There are extremists in the organisation, but they are a minority. Not only that, but these invaders who appear into our world don’t discriminate against races.”
“So you’re saying it doesn’t just happen to humans.”
“Yes. And this world is not ruled by humans. We merely co-exist with the other races. This world has learnt well regarding the potential fallout from humanity’s natural despicable greed and aggression through observing your world. There are still a few within the Grand Council that demand the extinction of humankind. If it weren’t for the Queen, humanity would have disappeared long ago or only exist in numbers so small we’d be living in tribes.”
Another question popped into Isaac’s mind when Mazelan mentioned the Queen, but he decided to stay silent since Mazelan would eventually get to that topic. And what Mazelan said had logic behind it. The other races had the right to be wary of humans after watching humans perform countless acts of stupidity one after the other.
“So that’s why you guys just watched me at first. Then when did you guys realise I was a Type 3 Invader?”
Mazelan looked at Isaac as if he was an idiot.
“How could we possibly not be aware after the chaos you created in New Port City? You used Macau and Las Vegas as reference right?”
“How was I supposed to know it’d turn out like this?”
Isaac wasn’t surprised they knew about Las Vegas or Macau, since it was a widely known fact they could have easily picked up from others like Isaac.
“But how did you guys know about Macau or Las Vegas? I thought it’d been ages since the gates closed?”
Mazelan tapped at his head with an unsatisfied look in response to Isaac’s question.
“There are a few radicals who extract all information from the victim’s heads.”
“Those Dark Royale who kidnapped me?”
“… Although I do not condone their methods, the information the Dark Royale extracts are the crystallisation of all memories which their victims had seen, heard, and remembered. We know well about Macao, Las Vegas and other famous cities.”
“Hm. I guess that must be very useful.”
Mazelan shook his head and sighed, seeing Isaac approve of the method that he was a victim of.
“Getting back to the point, the gates no longer opened. As we began to monitor, hunt… I mean convert the invaders who are increasingly appearing into our world, we suddenly detected the signs of a gate closing.”
Isaac was disturbed by the word hunt but decided to gloss over it. In that time, Mazelan reached another steel door at the end of the corridor. While Isaac was busy thinking ‘how many doors are there?’ Mazelan spoke.
“The expedition force we hurriedly sent met them in the Forbidden Lands.”
Mazelan opened the door wide, entered the room and turned all of the lights on. He pointed at the exhibition as he spoke.
“Those who crossed over to our world of their own will.”