Behind the glass windows stood wooden mannequins. One was wearing combat gear, communication devices, a helmet with regular goggles, and another set of night vision goggles. Another wooden mannequin wearing a doctor’s white lab coat stood next to it. At their sides were plastic supply crates, research equipment, and an assortment of combat equipment including heavy firearms. All of the equipment were tagged with the US flag, their battalion tags, and the words ‘U.S. Marine.’
“According to the records, first contact with the otherworlders was peaceful. Around a hundred otherworlders arrived at where the Forbidden Lands started and created a … Hm, base? Station? Camp? Residence? I don’t know what the right word is.”
“Just call it a camp.”
Seeing Mazelan worry about something as petty as a word, Isaac gave him a definitive answer. Mazelan nodded as he continued.
“Alright. These other-worlders seemed relatively serious about their efforts, creating a solid outer wall made of steel and constructing research facilities and residential areas within it. It was a small organisation, consisting of scholars tasked with studying this land and soldiers to guard them.”
Isaac smirked as he looked at the exhibition after hearing Mazelan’s explanation. Seeing how the Empire got ahold of all this equipment, it was clear that camp no longer existed. Unless the Empire attacked first, it was obvious what happened.
“I can guess how things went down.”
“They start peacefully at first. They most likely approached saying that they wished for a peaceful relationship. Well, that may be what the researchers and soldiers who moved over may think but not their commanders. They’d scope out every aspect of this world, and when they consider themselves stronger, they’d show their true intentions. If both sides seemed equally strong, they’d use negotiations as a tool to get what they want while crippling the opponent however they can. If they seemed weaker, they’d grovel at the opponent and use the negotiations to gather as much technology and resources until they became equal and then proceed along the second path.”
“You seem to know well.”
“They’ve done it a few times already.”
“Is it like how your saying goes? That it takes one to know one.”
“Anyhow, that’s exactly what happened. Hm, the first otherworlders seemed to be mistaken that the gate they passed through was the only one. But we grew suspicious of their intentions, having gathered information regarding their world already. That suspicion was confirmed when they did their utmost to hide the gate. They refrained from showing it to Count Cicleon, who was sent as our emissary, when he demanded to see it.”
“Just because they refused to show the gate? Isn’t it because of confidentiality reasons?”
“The problem was that Count Cicleon was an elf.”
“The eyes of truth?”
“As you know, elves have an innate ability to tell if their opponent is lying and if they harbor ill intent. The power of this ability differs between individuals, but Count Cicleon’s ability was exceptional enough to earn him the title as the Commissioner of the Department of Law once.”
“Why would an individual with such pedigree decide to become a mere emissary?”
Mazelan replied to Isaac’s question as if doubting what he’d just heard.
“Are you really asking that question after being witness to the elves in New Port City for such a long time?”
Isaac couldn’t utter a word. These elves loved unique experiences, so they’d more than likely throw away their title as Commissioner of the Department of Law in order to become the leader of the emissaries. There must have been fierce competition within the elven community for the title of being the first to contact otherworlders.
“Anyhow, the otherworlders we came into contact with seemed to have judged that our technological level was that of the medieval era. That mistake was their downfall.”
“I don’t fault them for thinking that when you showed up to those holding guns with swords and arrows. So you basically extracted information from them instead when they let their guard down?”
“We took all the information we wanted all the while acting foolish and innocent, being surprised at every object we already knew about. As your saying goes, it was easier than eating a cold ‘jook.’ Ah! I actually have a question. What’s a ‘jook?’”
“Think of it as a soup.”
“Ah! I see. Is it that tasty?”
“What’s harder? Drinking hot soup or cold soup?”
“Obviously the col… Ah! I see. I understand now. What I love the most about your world is all these funny proverbs that you have.”
TL Note: “Easier than eating a cold jook” is a half-translated Korean idiom that really means “easier than eating cold porridge.” “Porridge” is pronounced “jook” in Korean. That’s why Mazelan is confused about it. This idiom is similar to the English counterpart of “easier than taking candy away from a baby.”
“Enough of that. Keep going with the story. It’s just starting to get interesting.”
Isaac felt that it was somewhat refreshing to hear that the Yankees got handed it to them for once, but what really interested him was how this world managed to defeat the overwhelming firepower of the U.S. troops. Their infrastructure may be on par to the modern era, but their armies were still stuck in the medieval era.
“The otherworlders lived together with our emissaries and tried to learn more about us with great effort. The scholars of both sides studying each other’s language, the level of civilization, perception of the world, and the political organisation were beneficial to the both of us. Our only sources of information were the biased and skewed information from the invaders ever since the gates closed, after all. But the other-worlders’ demands began to grow increasingly difficult.”
“We agreed to provide them with an assortment of food and materials as they wished in return that they do not leave the Forbidden Lands. They agreed to our conditions.”
“Ha. As if they’ll follow that.”
Isaac snorted, and Mazelan nodded with him.
“It’s as you say. A small group left the Forbidden Lands and scouted the human fiefdom.”
“Wait. That Forbidden Lands. I thought you guys had trouble just finding a path through it? How did they pass through so easily?”
“The path we found over the long period of time was marked with stakes hammered into the ground. We had no choice but to leave signs like that, since the terrain within the Forbidden Lands changed erratically.”
“So it’s a place too perilous to travel through if you don’t have the stakes. But how did you guys find out they scouted your lands?”
“We didn’t. We didn’t have the capacity to send men through that path other than the supply transports. Plus, we let our guard down, knowing the power of the Forbidden Lands and who the otherworlders were.”
“So basically the two of you traded blows with each other.”
Mazelan didn’t seem to like how Isaac put it together. He glared for a moment then continued with a harsh tone in his voice.
“One of the reasons we refused to let them leave the Forbidden Lands was because we knew the germs, bacteria, and viruses they could have brought with them may have dire consequences.”
“That was actually one of the questions I had too.”
When the doctor Isaac met just after dropping down into this world diagnosed him with PTSD, Isaac had thought that this world had an advanced understanding of psychology. Even in his own world, PTSD had been regarded as a psychological disease very recently. Before then, the patients were treated like cowards or insane.
Isaac was even more surprised when he constructed hospitals in New Port City. He knew that the basic infrastructure was well-developed here, but the level of medical treatment was even more advanced than the old world.
Now that he knew they had been watching the other world and only took the best of it, the inclusion of the study of medicine was obvious. Thanks to the linking of both worlds, their medical field had advanced beyond that of Isaac’s former world.
“So? What happened?”
“A disease the likes we’d never seen before appeared and spread like wildfire in the reservations and human lands around the Forbidden Lands. Seven fiefdoms fell to ruin because of it. We barely managed to find the cause of the disease and develop treatment for it, but the disease we faced was even worse than the Black Plague you suffered in your world’s medieval era. Even now, the northern lands of the Empire are shunned by the people. It is but a desolate wasteland now. Well, thanks to that, it was very easy to censor the spread of information.”
“But I doubt the US would send someone with such a dangerous disease over as an expeditionary force?”
Isaac asked Mazelan his question, still interested in the topic. Mazelan replied with a blank look.
“I don’t know.”
“Do you really think I’d have expert knowledge about it when I’m not even a doctor? From what I hear, the germ mutated and it got serious. If you’re that curious, I can find you a doctor to explain it to you thoroughly.”
“No. I’ll decline. But what did you do next? I doubt you guys could blame them for it despite knowing it was their fault since you didn’t have the evidence? Even if you did complain, they’d obviously deny any responsibility for it.”
“As you’ve said, the otherworlders denied responsibility, saying they’d never do such a thing. And with the theory that it was the supply transport that could have spread the bacteria being thrown out, we had no choice but to bear it. The benefits we’d receive by interacting with your world were too great to get angry over it. But the otherworlders committed a grave crime that could not be forgiven.”
“A grave crime?”
“Another expedition snuck through the Forbidden Lands once more while the region was embroiled in the chaos of evacuation. They not only gathered samples of the soil and flora but also captured humans, elves, dwarves and beastmen, hiding them deep within the camp. We were in too much of a panic, and with so many dead or missing, we weren’t aware of the victims who were captured. But the otherworlders were too ignorant about our world.”
“What was that?”
“Have you ever heard of the saying? Never kill a member of the Werewolf Tribe unless you’re the strongest person alive or prepared to run for the rest of your life.”
“I may have heard of it…”
“When members of the Werewolf Tribe die of something other than natural causes, they send the memories just before their deaths to their bloodline, their families. The werewolves who receive images of their dead kin’s last moments consider it an honour and move out to exact revenge. They are a stubborn race who’d never stop until their path for vengeance is fulfilled.”
“Ah! You’re talking about those half-man half-wolves right?”
Mazelan nodded at Isaac.
“Most non-humans are beautiful in the eyes of humans. There was a werewolf woman among those captured by the otherworlders. One of them tried to rape or force themselves onto her while she was weakened by the disease, too weak to even transform into her beast state. The woman committed suicide and sent her memories straight to her family. What’s worse was the woman happened to be the daughter of a Werewolf Tribe’s chieftain. Even now, the presence of otherworlders is confidential information known only by the Emperor, high nobles of the Empire, and chieftains of each race. And all of a sudden, he received a vision of his daughter, locked in a strange building by men wearing strange clothes and almost suffering the disgrace of rape. These Werewolves were a proud race who remained stalwart and lived in their ancestral homelands even as the 7 Days of Calamity ravaged through it. But with a new peril that was the plague encroaching upon them, they suffered incredibly and had to leave their ancestral land. Can you imagine how they felt when they faced such images when they were suffering so much already? Basically, they went berserk.”
“Man, I can already see how it ended.”
“By the time the Empire got a hold of this information, all of the warriors from the Werewolf Tribe were already assaulting the otherworlders’ camp. We didn’t have the time to stop them, nor was there a reason to. In fact, the emissaries who resided within the camp joined forces with the werewolves.”
“Without even hearing about the details? Won’t they usually try to act as a mediator?”
“I think your saying goes, arms bend inwards?”
“I don’t think that’s the right saying…”
“No. It’s exactly right. There was only one reason the werewolves would rampage like that. We didn’t even need to ask why. The emissaries were already quite irritated by the otherworlders for denying responsibility for the plague when it was obviously their fault too.”
The two of them walked on for quite some time whilst engaging in conversation. As they passed, Isaac saw countless familiar objects arranged to the side. When they got to the end, a steel door with unknown symbols blocked their way to the last exhibition. Mazelan stopped in front of the last exhibition and looked at Isaac, who looked at what was inside the exhibition with keen interest.
“Do you know what that is?”
“… That’s not what I think it is right?”
“So you know.”
Isaac looked at the cylindrical object with bright eyes. It instantly reminded him of the Stargate TV series. An expeditionary force sent into another world. And the leader of the group took an object, keeping it a secret to everyone. The object given to him to explode it if everything went wrong. But there was a panel on the cylindrical object, and Isaac couldn’t help but tilt his head after looking at it.
PR Note: This is referring to the naquadria bomb, a weapon of mass destruction used as a last resort in the Stargate TV series.
4 black 0s were shining up on the green background of the panel, and the rightmost 0 kept flicking between 0 and 1. He wasn’t sure if this was just a dud or there was some error in the mechanism, but the fact they transported this fearsome object all the way here was insane.
‘As they say, you become bolder the more foolish you are…’
Isaac muttered to himself and knocked at the glass with his hand. He asked Mazelan.
“You know what this is right?”
“Hm. Normally, otherworlders are very surprised when they see this.”
“That’s because they’re afraid of death.”
“Are you saying you aren’t?”
“Well… I wonder?”
Isaac simply smirked and locked eyes with Mazelan when he asked. The two stared at each other as if they were having a staring contest, but Mazelan sighed first and turned back to the object.
“You really are insane. Anyway, the firepower of the otherworlders was indeed great, but it wasn’t enough to pierce the skin of the werewolves when they were berserk. There were a few weapons that managed to critically wound them, but the otherworlder’s army couldn’t hold up against the physical prowess of the werewolves, who were supported by the combat knights attached to the emissary convoys. After 30 minutes of combat, they were all killed. Central wanted to at the very least save the scholars from the other world to gather information, but by the time the messenger arrived, it was over. According to the report from Count Cicleon, the man who seemed to be the leader of the otherworlders was the last survivor. He was beating on that object like a lunatic in a frenzy and then committed suicide.”
“I’d be in shock too if that didn’t explode when I was prepared for death. But aren’t you worried about keeping it here even if it’s just a dud?”
“It’s not a dud.”
“What? It’s not?”
“According to the otherworlder cooperating with us, the laws of physics differ between both worlds. It was this difference that prevented it from exploding. It is still fully operational as of now.”
“… It seems this had been kept here for some time. Don’t you think something might break after so much time has passed?”
“We’ve been regularly enchanting it with preservation magic, so it should be fine even after a thousand years.”
Isaac knocked at the glass, wondering what would happen if it were to explode here. Afterwards, he breathed on the glass and doodled onto the fogged glass before looking at Mazelan.
“Thanks for showing me around. This place is like a museum. It was quite interesting. So what’s left?”
Mazelan began opening the door at the end of the corridor without a word. Unlike the dark corridor Isaac was standing in, the next area was brightly lit with white lights, almost reminiscent of a scene from a sci-fi movie in the futuristic era. Isaac complained in his mind ‘another corridor?’ as he followed Mazelan, but he was the only person complaining at this point.
“After getting control of the camp, Central moved all equipment in the camp to the exhibition you just went through. The camp itself was preserved too to be used as a research facility for the Forbidden Lands when suddenly the gate that had been closed opened.”
“Did the Yankees come again?”
“Yankees? What’s that?”
“Just a name we call them.”
“Really? Anyway, when the gate opened, our scholars residing in the camp selected a convoy of emissaries. They wanted to show evidence for the atrocities they committed and demanded an apology from the otherworlders who were coming here as rear guards. But what first passed through the gate weren’t otherworlders but surveillance equipment.”
“We were also confused, but we knew the equipment was connected to them, so we wanted to begin negotiations through the equipment. But the machine suddenly attacked the emissaries. The sudden attack killed the emissaries, and the knights who were their escorts destroyed the machine in vengeance. That is when combatants from the other world began pouring through the gate.”
“They started shooting without saying anything? They aren’t the type to just brute force their way like this.”
“We only found out why they did that after much later, and by that time, many lives were sacrificed. When the gate closed again, the other world forces could no longer receive supplies, and the knights who escorted the emissaries only managed to defeat them at the cost of every single one of their own. They managed to capture a few prisoners, but every scholar who could speak the language of the other world died in the first ambush. It was a long time before we could gain information from them, since we couldn’t make conversation. We had to teach them our language and then learn their way of speaking. Only then could we begin interrogation.”
Isaac began to detect a small inconsistency and tilted his head while Mazelan continued.
“By the time we could barely understand what they were saying, a lot of time had already passed. We then tried to extract information from them. But Central couldn’t help but feel empty after realising that they were simple grunts. Well, the army seemed to be grateful for learning about many new combat theories.”
It had been bugging Isaac until now, but everything Mazelan had said was in past tense.
“And after 10 years had passed, the gate opened again. It seemed they were prepared this time, and war machines began pushing through the gate, their army following closely behind. But we weren’t just playing around all that time too, and we made our preparations to face them. The gate closed once more, and the otherworlders fought a battle they were destined to lose.”
“With that, there is a battle every 10 years when the armies of the other-world invade and we defend…”
“There’s a question that popped into my head…”
“What is it?”
“The gate opens every 10 years you say?”
“… Then how long has it been since you’ve been fighting these battles every 10 years?”
“We’ve fought over 20 battles.”
Isaac placed his hand on his forehead, a headache seemingly sprouting from Mazelan’s answer.
“I’m not saying this because I’m from that world, but if that much time had passed, there’s no way this world could last no matter what you guys tried. But I can’t understand how you guys managed to survive until now.”
It was a world where scientific research was accelerating every day. If 300 years had passed since then, the armies you’d see in sci-fi movies would have become reality. There was no way this medieval army could last against it even with magic support. It was something Isaac couldn’t understand as someone who lived with the benefits that science had brought to him.
Mazelan nodded at Isaac, seemingly understanding what he meant.
“I think there’s a saying in your world, you need to listen until the end.”
“That’s not a saying. Wait, was it?”
Mazelan ignored Isaac’s comment and continued on.
“After the second battle, we began to question why the gate opened every 10 years. 100 years passed in our world, and after successfully defending against 10 invasions, our scholars answered the questions of why the gate opened every 10 years and why the equipment of the other-world remained the same despite 100 years having passed.”
“… Don’t tell me the time flow of the two worlds are different?”
“What the. Why were you so confused when you already knew the answer?”
Isaac was at a loss for words. He only mentioned it since it was a common trope in fusion fantasy settings, but to think that was correct.
“We don’t have an accurate conversion rate since we don’t know the laws of physics in your world, but according to the somewhat inclined information we extracted from the prisoners, the 10 years that go by here is equal to 30 to 45 days in your world.”
“… I guess you guys can last if that’s the case.”
“If the time flow was the same between the two worlds, this world would have become your colony just as you said before. We’ve suffered massive casualties from the firepower of your world in the beginning. But we earn 10 years each time, and we most definitely didn’t waste it. Each time the battle ensued, we gained more information about the otherworld, and the equipment we stole from them are amazing catalysts for our civilization’s progression, allowing us to evolve rapidly.”
“If you’ve fought more than 20 battles, then that means it’s been over 200 years since the gates have been opening. Yankees aren’t this stupid you know. They aren’t one to simply pour forces down the gate like brutes. How did you survive?”
“… The other-worlders invaded us in a variety of ways. From clouds that incapacitated our knights to a battalion made of war machines and even a giant machine that could destroy boulders with a single blow. There have been many times when we almost lost the camp. Even now, we quiver at the absolute cruelty of your bacteria-based biological weapons. And after the 10th battle, the number of different flags they used to declare their origin increased in number.”
“Of course. Even the Yankees would find it difficult to supply all of the manpower and resources going through the gate for such a prolonged struggle. I guess you guys did well to last until now. It wouldn’t have been easy if our world united against you.”
“Although the sacrifice was great, time was on our side. We just needed to wait until the gate closed. It seemed they also learned the lesson and began withdrawing when the time for the gate’s closure approached.”
“I can understand that you guys used the information gained from this to jump to the modern era, but how come the military, the most crucial institution, is still using swords?”
Mazelan sighed in response to Isaac.
“It isn’t impossible for us to create magical artefacts similar to these ‘guns,’ but the information regarding otherworlders is top secret. We will begin manufacturing it in the worst-case scenario, but the appearance of guns will bring about chaos in our world. It’s a weapon that is simple to use yet greatly increases one’s ability to kill.”
Isaac began to ponder for a moment before he continued.
“So the basic military training all citizens of the Empire go through, the evacuation training that happens in Gabelin on the same day as Campus’ graduation, and the many provincial wars that occur throughout the Empire. Are they all to create a standing military force experienced in warfare?”
“That’s right. They are strategies to prepare for the worst case when we’ve failed to defend the gate or if the gate becomes stable and otherworlders continue to pour through it.”
Isaac looked at Mazelan with pity, soothing him.
“You must have it hard.”
Mazelan seemed to remember the pain he’d gone through when Isaac said those words. Mazelan sighed and dropped his shoulders.
“I could complain about it for days, and still it wouldn’t be enough. These Empire officials who know nothing about what’s happening behind the scenes complain about it every day. The high nobles of the Empire have been suffering from chronic gastric ulcers because of the stress for generations.”
Isaac began patting Mazelan’s shoulder without even thinking. Mazelan quickly realised the unbefitting act he’d shown to Isaac and coughed before changing the topic.
“Ahem. Back to the point. Although we managed to steal this equipment, just handing it over to our brightest scholars to make it was like demanding them to transmute rocks into gold.”
“Heh. I guess without proper knowledge on basic science, it’d be like having blind men describe what an elephant looks like. But didn’t you say you had prisoners? Can’t you just use them to find out how to make it?”
“The prisoners only knew how to use the equipment, not make it. And our world doesn’t have the Geneva Convention like your world does.”
“Does that mean you guys tortured them?”
“That’s the reason why the Dark Royale grew in power. Feeling threatened by the equipment used by the other-worlders, the Grand Council determined it was more efficient to simply extract their memories and throw them away.”
“It seems the costs of feeding and monitoring these prisoners add up to quite a bit with enough time. Not to mention the facility needs to be secret, and with the costs to maintain it all… It was much more efficient to just extract the memories.”
“… Why don’t we make something like a Geneva Convention?”
Mazelan smirked and looked at Isaac.
“With who? Your world?”
Unable to say anything, Isaac simply avoided eye contact. Mazelan snorted triumphantly and moved onward. Isaac, who followed for some time, asked a question.
“So who is this Queen? Even those from Dark Royale mentioned her name when they were talking.”
“She is the sole otherworlder who cooperates with us, and other than military equipment, she played a critical role in upgrading our infrastructure to that of your world’s level. Even those from Central’s Grand Council show utmost respect when addressing her. The Dark Royale doesn’t like this fact and complains about it from time to time. And the Queen said that she’d like to speak with you.”
Mazelan approached the door that blocked their way. After pressing a few controls, the thick steel doors opened automatically. Isaac was curious who this could be and stepped in, but Mazelan didn’t budge.
“Hm? Aren’t you coming with me?”
“This is it for me… I’ll see you later.”
The thick steel door creaked its way back to a close. Mazelan’s troubled face disappeared behind it. Isaac looked around his surroundings. The large room was most definitely a laboratory. All kinds of test equipment were arranged with memos decorating every corner, making it quite the dizzying sight.
Looking around, Isaac saw a woman typing away on her laptop. The woman raised her head, sensing someone was here. She smiled brightly and approached Isaac.
“It’s been a while, Sergeant Kim.”
The beautiful woman with her straight black hair and horned glasses. A woman engraved in Isaac’s mind despite only conversing with her once.
“Researcher Han Yoo-rah?”