Isaac stood motionlessly, stunned by the meeting with an unexpected individual. Yoo-rah, on the other hand, led Isaac to the corner of the room, where a sofa and a table was arranged to accommodate guests. She asked him to wait a while and disappeared elsewhere. She soon returned with two steaming mugs in her hands.
Yoo-rah placed one of the mugs in front of Isaac and found her seat opposite to Isaac. She sipped at the drink in the mug, and Isaac’s nose began to tingle at the familiar scent emanating from the mug.
“It’s coffee. It’s been a while right? The taste is atrocious since they’re from military rations, but I’d consider myself lucky to even have this.”
One sip and the coffee’s distinct bitterness and scent exploded in Isaac’s mouth. It wasn’t like the bean coffees or stick coffees he drank often, but a military coffee with the sole purpose of overdosing its drinker with caffeine.
Isaac didn’t utter a word until he finished his coffee, and Yoo-rah too waited silently for Isaac to finish the drink, having two or three more sips herself.
“It’s been a while.”
Isaac muttered as the last drops of the coffee dripped into his mouth. Yoo-rah answered him with a smile on her face, seeing Isaac’s face cringing a little at the bitterness.
“Would you like some more?”
“No, I’m fine. I’d like to have a smoke instead. Am I not allowed to smoke in here too?”
Yoo-rah made an understanding smile in response.
“All laboratories ban smoking as a rule. But this place only looks like it on the outside, so you can smoke as much as you’d like.”
With Yoo-rah’s permission, Isaac took out his packet of cigarettes from his pocket and placed one in his mouth. Yoo-rah seemed puzzled at the sight and asked as she tilted her head.
“Isn’t the choyu leaf better than cigarettes?”
“This is all I have with me right now.”
“Really? Wait here for a moment.”
Yoo-rah took off and disappeared elsewhere once more. She soon arrived holding a wooden box filled to brim with choyu leaves.
Isaac contemplated between the cigarettes in his hand and the choyu leaves and decided to pick the choyu leaves instead. The cigarettes did feel good because of the nostalgia, but there was no reason for him to be stubborn about these harmful cigarettes when there were choyu leaves available.
Isaac made eye contact with Yoo-rah as he smoked the choyu leaf. Yoo-rah didn’t seem to have any intention of avoiding it, returning the gaze with a gentle smile on her face.
Seeing this, Isaac’s eyes turned even more complicated. Something was off. The image he had of her through that brief meeting in the past was gone, replaced with composure and elegance. That’s what really put his senses on the edge. Something was wrapped within her composure and hidden behind that smile, and that something put him on the edge.
“You have no idea how glad I am to see you again like this.”
“It’d like to say the same, but I don’t know how I should feel.”
“Do you feel perplexed?”
“Well, rather than perplexed, I just feel troubled.”
Yoo-rah seemed to nod at Isaac’s response.
“Truth be told, I didn’t think I’d see you so quickly. I received a report that a concentrated surveillance target was kidnapped, and I was so surprised to see the name ‘Joon-young’ in the following report, which detailed how the situation ended.”
“When it is confirmed the target is from another world, Central places them under concentrated surveillance and initiates close surveillance. It’s Las Vegas right? What you did to New Port City.”
“Well, I did use it as reference.”
“Hoho. I never thought you’d make a city of sin and gambling in this world. This world has a bad image about gambling, just like in our world.”
“It’s not a bad image. It’s just bad.”
Yoo-rah laughed for quite some time when Isaac corrected her. She blushed when she finally came back to her senses, embarrassed by her reaction.
“I’m sorry. I’m just a little excited. This is the first time I’m meeting with someone from the same nation.”
“Have there been others before?”
“Of course. There were prisoners and those who came over to this world because of unknown reasons like us. Strangely, there hasn’t been anyone from South Korea like us however. You are the first one to arrive after me.”
Yoo-rah gazed into the air with sorrow as if she was reminiscing something, but she quickly turned her gaze toward Isaac and asked him with great anticipation.
“So, what do you think?”
“Think about what?”
“What else! The mysteries regarding aliens were revealed to you.”
Yoo-rah extended her arms out in an exaggerated manner. Isaac reminisced if her personality was always like that as he answered.
“… It was interesting.”
Yoo-rah sipped at her coffee, disappointed at Isaac’s reaction. Her face cringed at the bitterness and continued.
“I’m sure you’re aware from walking down the corridor, but you do realise that the Expeditionary Force is aiming for this world right?”
“We didn’t have any other names to call them.”
“Well, I guess they are an expedition, seeing how they want to conquer another world. It seems all of the players who boast their strengths have joined together.”
“They profit quite a lot each time they visit.”
“What I don’t understand is the reasoning behind spending so many lives and this many resources in their struggle to come to this world.”
It only happened once every 10 years here, but it was every 2 to 3 months in the other world. The amount of resources being spent could not be compared between them. They should have given up on it or used a different method such as diplomacy after failing so many times, yet they still pushed through like this?
One phrase from Yoo-rah answered Isaac’s question.
“The Age of Discovery.”
Isaac seemed to understand after hearing that phrase.
The Age of Discovery. Many of the European nations gathered great wealth thanks to establishing colonies throughout Earth. Creating a slave market in the current era would be impossible, but all kinds of minerals, natural resources, and even rare materials were left untouched in this world. Not to mention they don’t need to worry about pollution or destruction of the environment. They had free labour that was the natives, and it would also create a new giant of a market. If they managed to conquer this world, they could recoup their investments in mere moments.
Though nations in the Age of Discovery suffered losses from the long sailing trips and such, but it took 10 years for the gate to open in this world. That meant the other world could gather resources that had been stockpiled for 10 years every few months.
“I can understand why they are so possessed by it.”
A planet-sized colony… not only did it provide resources and financial solutions, it could even solve matters regarding social conflicts and overpopulation instantly. It made sense that everyone would flock to it, eyes bloodshot with greed.
Exterminating the natives in order to extract the resources was the basics of colonial policies. The Empire knew this, and that is why they are desperate to stop the gate no matter what.
Diplomatic negotiations? It may have been possible if this was contact with a brand-new world, but the Empire had already seen the history of the other world from the skies. It was obvious what the Empire’s response would be if they began saying ‘let’s talk it out,’ especially when they’ve already crossed the point of no return with the countless battles they’ve had.
“Is that why the Empire had been blocking the gate all this time?”
“Yes. There is no point in negotiation.”
“I guess. There won’t be much in it for the Empire since they already know all about our world.”
“That’s right. Most of the technology in the other world can be replicated here and is already being applied into daily lives. It’s just the advances are scheduled in a way that can be controlled with minimal chaos, filtering out all of the bad things from the good. There’s plenty of resources here, and there aren’t any crucial resources that exist only in the other world. If the culture, perspectives, and ideologies from the other world were to circulate here, it would have a negative impact on the Empire. Since the Empire already gathered all that is useful, the Empire has no reason to initiate diplomacy.”
“I did notice that the level of civilization was rising to a similar level.”
“The inventions of our world are being rebranded as products of research from Campus laboratories or their inventions as they are released. It was the perfect method too, since no one would ever doubt whenever a never-before-seen object suddenly appeared when all of the Empire’s greatest geniuses reside there.”
“I guess so. No matter how mind-boggling the invention is, they’d just consider the inventors geniuses.”
Yoo-rah nodded at Isaac. It finally made sense how the Empire could remain a single nation despite giving away the power and authority matching a king’s to the lords of their fiefdom. There was great disparity between the Emperor and lords when it came to how information was received. Anyone who even schemed of becoming a king themselves would be detected while in the planning phase. Even if they managed to cunningly avoid detection during their planning, the news would travel immediately to those with authority as soon as the plan was initiated, so it became a simple matter to respond against it.
“There isn’t a single object that hasn’t been touched by me ever since the Empire was founded, although I only provided the theories involved for most of them. It was Campus which actually constructed these inventions. You are really lucky, Joon-young. Do you know how horrible it was when I arrived here first? I couldn’t even talk with them, nor could I do anything. It’s gotten much better recently. Although there is still a gap, it won’t be long before they catch up to the current era, since the process of technological advancement is accelerated the more advanced it is.”
Isaac nodded at Yoo-rah’s complaint. Could he possibly survive and achieve his current quality of life and leisure if he were in her place? Unlikely. He could only live on as lazy as he was because the infrastructure could support it, otherwise… hm? Wait a minute.
“You’ve been here since the founding of the Empire?”
“Wow! So your age is…”
“It seems the body of Type 1 invaders like myself follow the laws of the previous world’s timeflow. Me standing here as of now would be its proof. Ah! Type 2, 3 and 4 invaders follow this world’s time flow of course.”
“I guess I would still be a 15 year old brat if that weren’t the case.”
He was a teenager when he first fell into this world, but now that he was a grown man, it didn’t seem likely that he’d live as long as Yoo-rah. Although he didn’t have any plans for that… hm?
“Wait. But it should still have been at least 10 years? Is it the makeup…”
It seemed that was a sensitive topic that Isaac should not have touched. Yoo-rah was still smiling, but anger rumbled beneath that thin veil. She clacked her mug noisily on the saucer, and Isaac immediately shut his mouth. Isaac glimpsed at Yoo-rah from time to time, and she changed the topic, finding this situation difficult.
“I’ve been reading the reports regarding your activities, Joon-young. You seemed to have enjoyed an interesting student life?”
“I’ve nothing to say if you’ll just put it down as interesting.”
“You seem to have little to no attachment to this world. Others tend to have a bit more enthusiasm in their actions, calling it their second chance at life or a new opportunity.”
“… Let’s just say I don’t have the motivation.”
Yoo-rah smiled bitterly at Isaac’s indifferent response.
“But you know that won’t be possible now no matter how much you want it right?”
“Can’t I just shove myself into a corner and live a quiet life?”
Yoo-rah shook her head at Isaac.
“You’ve heard this world has been monitoring people like us until now right?”
“About type 1 and 2 thing?”
“Yes. When the Empire finds people like us, they continue monitoring and categorize us as surveillance targets. But once they confirm we are from the other world, they reclassify us from surveillance targets into invaders.”
“Invaders huh… that’s a perfect description.”
They suddenly appeared into this world when they didn’t even want to. It may be confusing to the person who just arrived, but they were indeed invaders to the people of this world, barging in uninvited. Yoo-rah smiled bitterly at Isaac’s impression.
“Right? But ‘invaders’ is putting it nicely. There’s a different official term.”
“An official term?”
Yoo-rah took another sip of coffee to ease her throat before she continued.
“I can understand invaders, but what do you mean by ‘information source?’”
“Type 2, 3 and 4 invaders don’t really take races into account. The only common thing is they take over the body of a sentient race, but this is completely random.”
“So you’re saying it’s not just humans, but even elves, dwarves and the like could become invaders?”
“Yes. This world is more complicated than it seems. The Empire may seem like it holds absolute authority over the lands as a unified nation, but that’s only the look of it. You can tell just by looking at the laws. You can understand better if you remember USFK. Even if the other races break the laws of the Empire, they are not punished according to it. They are only summoned back to their reservation.”
“Isn’t it because of the peaceful policy they have with other races?”
Yoo-rah quietly shook her head.
“Do you know why humans form the main body of the Empire’s society? That’s because of me. It’s embarrassing to say it as the first invader myself, but I held the greatest range and depth of knowledge amongst all of the invaders that appeared into this world, which allowed the humans to dominate when the Empire was founded. But more invaders began to show themselves amongst other races too. And these races began demanding rights for the possession of these invaders, and the Empire had no choice but to accept it.”
“Possession huh… so instead of seeing us as another sentient being, they simply treat us as resources?”
“That’s right. It’s not like I know everything in our old world. My knowledge may be the most advanced generally, but that isn’t the case in all subjects. Even now, you should have more knowledge regarding the military than I do.”
Isaac had gone through all kinds of experience as a soldier. He most definitely held more military knowledge than a civilian would, especially compared to a woman.
“That’s exactly it. These invaders that appeared into other races possessed their own knowledge or skills they learned throughout their profession. There was a fisherman who ran aquaculture, a printer, doctors, and nurses and even artists and actors of little reputation. There are many whose professions differ greatly from my own.”
“So that’s why they are information sources.”
“When an invader presents themselves, their possession is given priority to the race they appear as. But nobody knows what knowledge these invaders have. If they’re unlucky, the invader may have only learned information another race had already discovered. It was quite rowdy in the early years because of this. Truth be told, the knowledge that people of the current era have is very similar to one another unless they are professionals. Anyone from before that time is worth nothing. So they made a treaty; the race who first registered the information to Central will have all the rights to that knowledge.”
Isaac couldn’t help but laugh out loud. How could they claim sole possession of its rights when they weren’t its creators nor were there any copyright laws? Yoo-rah also seemed entertained and smiled with Isaac as she went on enthusiastically.
“Do you know what’s funny? The invaders who appear in this world all lived in different eras.”
“There was a soldier who fought in the Vietnam war, a philosopher from the Roman Empire, and a farmer from the medieval era.”
“Ha. I guess historians would have loved it.”
“Right? It must be interesting to meet with someone who lived in that era even if they weren’t interested in history. But the funniest incident is when a Viking appeared.”
“Yes. This Viking who appeared into the world as a Type 1 invader seemed to be mistaken that he died and was taken to Valhalla. He rampaged through a lord’s castle and was eventually killed by a combat knight. Everyone thought it was just some lunatic at first, but when Central reported that he mentioned mysterious words such as Odin, Valhalla and Asgard, I assumed that even Vikings come here.”
Isaac smiled bitterly as Yoo-rah snickered away.
What a pitiful soul. Of course he’d consider he was transported to god’s realm if he suddenly teleported to another world. They did say Valhalla was a heaven where they eat, sleep and fight eternally. One would question how that was heaven but hey, the warrior society considered eternal combat a paradise.
“Does that mean I can live peacefully if I share all the information that I have?”
“That may have been possible in the past, but not anymore. Now that they know you are an acquaintance of mine, Central will use you until nothing is left. I’d assume the Empire would rather welcome it than go against it.”
“Has Central become so large that the Empire can’t do anything even if they go against their order?”
Isaac tilted his head and pointed out this discrepancy. Was it not the Empire who held all authority and Central just below it?
“Most people believe the Empire founded Central as an organisation, just as you do. But in truth, it was Central that founded the Empire. Central is the confederation of all sentient races that live on this world. The Empire is merely a member of the Grand Council which directs Central.”
Isaac rubbed his chin. Although his senses had been dulled after having learned one shocking fact after another, hearing that Central stood above the Empire was still a shocking revelation.
“That’s quite a surprising turn of events.”
“Right? In truth, I don’t want to go against it either. I’m in desperate need of someone who’d help me.”
“… I never thought a request for help could sound so menacing.”
“It shouldn’t be harmful to you at all, Joon-young. In fact, you’d welcome it.”
“Well, there isn’t much that I want…”
Seeing Joon-young still wasn’t convinced, Yoo-rah looked at Isaac straight in the eye and confidently made her words.
“I heard all of your family died in the war, Joon-young?”
“… They were caught in the crossfire during the defense of Busan. What of it?”
“What will you do if I can resurrect your entire family?”
Having returned to his room just before his meal, Isaac sat by the window and looked at the view outside. The sight of Gabelin out of the palace was truly beautiful. Far into the sea sailed many different vessels, and the buildings in the city showed off its own beautiful architecture. Taking out a cigarette from his pocket out of habit, Isaac pondered as he looked between the cigarette and choyu leaf. He smirked and placed the cigarette back inside and lit the choyu leaf. The refreshing scent scoured through his lung and disappeared, sharpening his mind.
Family… Isaac tried in vain to remember the faces of his parents, but he smirked and shook his head. It was a tempting offer. To resurrect his dead family.
He reminded himself of Newton’s three laws. An extremely developed scientific technology is no different than magic. But if this scientific technology fused with magic, was it still science or was it now magic? This magic of theirs did go against the laws of physics and achieved the impossible, but resurrecting the dead was going too far.
He couldn’t overlook it as a joke or ignore it. He himself was a dead man who was resurrected into this world.
Isaac couldn’t hold his laughter as he lost himself in the twists and turns in his head. It was a conspiracy on a world scale. He could understand they all had their own goals, but why did they have to involve him in this? Why couldn’t they leave him alone, taking him far away from what was happening to this world in the shadows? Just what riches and fame awaited them by involving him in this!
Isaac knew there was no point in complaining. He couldn’t avoid it, and that’s what pissed him off even more. ‘If you can’t avoid it, enjoy it.’ Isaac hated that phrase the most. Why enjoy something you can’t avoid, when you can simply give up! But now he couldn’t avoid it or give up on it.
The most decisive factor was that he couldn’t trust Yoo-rah. That woman had been present at the founding of the Empire. Her body may still be the same, but can a human mind stay firm for that long of a time? A woman who was but a mere researcher? It was safe to assume that something was broken inside her.
He didn’t know what Yoo-rah wanted, but he also couldn’t trust what Yoo-rah told him either. Maybe Yoo-rah did speak the truth, and the reason he couldn’t trust her was because there was something wrong with him instead. Who cares. It still piqued a small bit of interest within him.
The Empire, the Queen, the expeditionary forces, Invaders and other races. They all moved in accordance to their own problems and profits. The world should be complicated yes, but this was far too convoluted to be reasonable.
Information sources, invaders, and possession of the rights. They tried to beautify it with fancy words, but at the end of the day, this was a fight between those trying to cling to their possessions and those who wanted to take them. It seemed politics was no place to peek one’s head around, whether it was this world or the other.
Annoyed at the increasingly depressive mood, Isaac shrugged and quietly smiled at the dimming city. Now that it’d come to this, it didn’t seem like a bad idea to be used as a chess piece and die after causing an incident that could end up changing this world.
Isn’t it great! The fact that he could rampage throughout the world, earning the infamy that would make everyone shake in terror and grit their teeth in anger just by thinking of his name. And their anger, unappeased even after his corpse was ripped to pieces!
It brought a smile to his face, thinking that maybe he could even bring his family the honour of being written into the history books.
‘Alright. I’ll play along.’