Editor: HexcoLyte, TaintedDreams, Skythewood, Gunkan Chad
Year 20XX, Summer
A high humidity, coupled with temperatures over 30°C in the city; it was hellish. However, it was a Saturday, and many people still crowded the shopping mall to shop or to just stroll around.
When the sun was high up in the sky and it was hotter than ever, a gate to another world opened in the middle of the Ginza district in Tokyo.
From it emerged a horde of horsemen and footmen donned with armor reminiscent of Medieval Europe. They were accompanied by the sort of monsters one would usually find in fantasy novels; orcs, goblins and even giants.
They assaulted everyone who happened to be there.
Disregarding age and nationality, their objective was to massacre anyone they could find. As Japan had been at peace for a long time, people did not know how to defend themselves and could only scream in terror in the face of the attack.
Whether they were merely shoppers, whether they were parents or even foreign tourists, not one was spared from the horses’ hooves, the sharp spears of the soldiers, or the swords that cut to kill. The streets were painted black and red with blood. If there were one word to describe the gruesome scene, it would be ‘hell’.
The army from another world planted a black banner on a mountain of corpses and loudly declared to no particular audience that this land was now theirs in a foreign tongue.
The ‘Ginza Incident’.
This was what historians called the first encounter with the people from the other world.
The Japanese Prime Minister at that time – Houjou Shinegori, declared in the National Diet that ‘the place beyond the Gate did not exist on any known map.’
‘What could lie beyond the Gate? What natural environments could be found there? What kind of lives could the people beyond lead? How developed could their civilization be? How technologically advanced could they be? What religion could they follow? What type of government could they have?
Following the Gate’s opening, many people were arrested.
However, the term ‘arrest’ is awkward here. Prisoners of war are not covered by the law. In Japan, prisoners of war do not legally exist. According to the judiciary system, the invaders from beyond the Gate are simply criminals that broke the law.
Although Japan was accused of using questionable justifications, Japan still considers the land beyond the Gate to be a part of Japan.
As one would expect, the land beyond the Gate is completely unknown to Japan; it knows nothing about the land and population there, let alone if there is even a government.
Even if a government did exist, without establishing the borders of that country or even setting up diplomatic relations with it, it could not be recognized as a sovereign nation.
At this stage, the invaders are merely armed terrorists who slaughtered innocent people.
Although there had been suggestions to begin a diplomatic dialogue with them, the other party would have to be willing to sit down with us and negotiate. Yet how would we do that? There was no immediate way of communicating with them.
We will engage the other party in a dialogue, even if we have to use brute force to do it. We will do our best, even if we have to grab them by their hair.
In order to come to terms with them, one must know the enemy first.
Once we arrested those criminals, we managed to glean some information from them despite the language barrier. But that alone is not enough. We need to see the other side of the Gate with our own eyes.
Therefore, people must be sent beyond the Gate. However, they will not harm innocent civilians and they will also be constantly vigilant, as they will be in a place completely alien to us.
Also, going in unarmed would not do. Based on our initial experience in Ginza, there is a probability we will need to fight. In these uncharted lands, the judgement of who is friend and who is foe will be left to the onsite personnel.
Some of our colleagues in the Diet suggested that there is no point to venture into such a dangerous place when we could simply close the Gate through demolition. However, would that really be a good decision?
Many citizens are afraid that the Gate could appear somewhere else. It could materialize right in front of your family homes. Also, there is the issue of justice and compensation for the families of the victims.
Should a government exist beyond the Gate, Japan would not hesitate to extradite the leader and request his or her sincere apologies and reparations for the Ginza Incident.
Should the other party refuse to oblige, Japan would flex its muscles, apprehend the ones responsible for the incident, and sentence them by our law. Should the ones responsible own any assets, they would be used to compensate the families of the victims of the Ginza Incident. From their perspective, that would only be natural.
Thus, the government of Japan has decided to deploy the Japanese Self-Defense Forces beyond the Gate. Their mission is to find, apprehend and demand compensations from the ones responsible.’
Although there were some objections from the opposition party, the decision to deploy the JSDF beyond the Gate proceeded without a hitch. The government of the United States of America declared that it ‘will not hesitate to aid the investigation of lands beyond the Gate with its utmost strength’. Prime Minister Houjou replied that it was ‘currently not necessary’ and ‘would request for it should the situation call for it’.
The government of the People’s Republic of China released a statement that ‘the Gate is an unnatural phenomenon’ that ‘should be investigated through a multilateral, international effort’, insisting that although the Gate had appeared within Japan, its potential benefits should not go to Japan alone.
‘Please pardon me for my bluntness, but the situation is way out of control. We have suffered unprecedented casualties in the history of this empire. Does Your Highness have a plan to deal with this issue?
As a Senator as well as a noble, Marquis Casel did not mince his words as he addressed the Emperor Molt Sol Augustus, who was sitting on the throne.
If any of the Senators present in the hall should speak so carelessly with the Emperor, he would be forgiven. They believed that this was their duty as statesmen.
The Senate was a somber hall that forsook flamboyant decorations in favor of a subdued but sturdy architecture. There were around three hundred grim-faced men seated around the center of the hall on benches. These men were all Senators of the Empire.
Should one desire to become a Senator, there were several ways. One way was to be born into an influential family. No matter what country, nobles are a small minority of the population, but that did not seem to be the case in the imperial capital. If one were to toss a stone out of a window, it might well have hit a noble.
Thus, if you wanted to be a Senator, your nobility played no role. Even among nobles, only the cream of the crop could be appointed to such a post.
Did this mean that if you were not of noble blood, there was no possibility of becoming a Senator? This was not the case. If one held the position of a minister or a general in the army, he had a shot at joining the Senate.
In order to fulfill the daunting task of running a country, the existence of a bureaucracy was necessary. If a commoner possessed the qualities of a Senator, with some luck, hard work and a good record, they could be appointed to the Senate.
There were many ministers in the Empire; Prime Minister, Minister of Internal Affairs, Finance, Agriculture, Foreign Affairs and so on. Many of those that had risen in the ranks to become ministers or generals would be bestowed with a seat in the Senate upon retirement.
Furthermore, a general could join the nobility even if he were of common birth, as commissioned officers were granted knighthood.
Marquis Casel was born into a family of barons that were merely of the lesser nobility. It was only through his past achievements and excellent service as a minister that he was granted a seat in the Senate. He was a hard worker who always tried to do his duty. In other words, he was a man of character.
Thus, he was feared for his boldness and a sharp tongue that was said to reduce grown men to tears.
‘It was a grave mistake to dismiss our adversary as weak and spineless after capturing just a few of them.
What should have been done is scouting; determining the enemy’s true strength through reconnaissance. Then, it could have been concluded as to whether it would be wiser to engage them as friend or foe,’ argued Marquis.
Undoubtedly, the circumstances in the imperial capital were dire.
The expedition had cost the Empire over half its army. Although it would be possible to rebuild it, enormous time and resources would be expended.
With its military power more than halved, how was the Empire supposed to maintain its hegemony?
In the thirty years of Emperor Molt’s reign, he had ruled with an iron fist. Conflicts with neighboring countries beyond the Empire’s borders, as well as with rebelling vassals and tribes within, were resolved through the power of the military, bringing peace and stability to the Empire. Nations had no choice but to submit in face of the overwhelming imperial armies. Those who stood in the way of the Empire were utterly annihilated.
No matter how resentful the vassals were of the Empire, in the face of powerful imperial armies, they could but conceal their anger.
However, now that the imperial military had been so thoroughly ravaged, would the oppressed vassals and foreign nations rise up?
As Marquis Casel, the leader of the liberal faction swung his toga around, he challenged the Emperor:
‘Your Highness! How are you going to lead your country?’
When Marquis Casel had finished his speech, he returned to his seat. Gazing at the one who had criticized him, the Emperor calmly shifted in his throne, leaning forward and opening his mouth.
‘Marquis, I have considered the circumstances. Following this loss, the superiority of the imperial army is threatened, yet it is useless to cry over spilt milk. Will the foreign nations and vassal states who have long hidden their hatred for us begin a rebellion and march into the capital? Ah, just thinking about that makes you lose sleep, correct? How heartbreaking.’
At the Emperor’s banter, the tense atmosphere in the hall was softened with quiet laughter.
‘Do you remember the Battle of Akuteku 250 years ago, my dear Senators? How did our great predecessors react to the news of the army’s total defeat? Did they lament their lost valor and pride, and negotiate for peace, which would effectively have meant surrender?
Do you remember how the women of the Empire responded?
They said: So what if we lost 60,000 men? We will birth that number in no time, they said, while rolling up their skirts for all to see!
There were heroines, and I hope there is nothing else to be said.
The Empire has weathered dire times like these countless times since its founding. Always, the Emperor has cooperated with the Senate and the citizenry to face these trials – that is why the Empire grew so powerful.’
The Emperor’s tales resonated with the Senators.
‘There is never a certainty of victory in war. If the general were to take the blame for every setback in a conflict, there would be no generals. Should we be pointing the finger at one another while the enemy encircles the capital?’
If no man were to be the culprit behind the disaster, then naturally the Emperor was exempted from all responsibility. Realizing that the Emperor had effectively dodged his responsibility, Marquis Casel clicked his tongue in irritation.
Then, the Emperor continued his speech.
The expedition was manned with veteran soldiers, wise and powerful mages, and some of the strongest, fiercest orcs and goblins.
Abundantly supplied, intensely trained and led expertly, it was a force to be reckoned with.The general, the centurions and the rank and file all did their duty.
Yet it took merely seven days.
It was only seven days since the opening of the Gate. Counting from the day when the enemy begun a serious counterattack, it took them only two days to devastate the imperial army.
Almost all the soldiers were dead or captured. Only a handful would make it back alive.
Now that the Gate on Arnus Hill was captured by the enemy, it was impossible to close it, as the enemy had fortified the hill.
In order to regain control over the Gate, cavalry was sent to on a massed charge. However, that ended with the foot of the hill littered with thousands of stinking corpses of men and horses.
‘Are you aware of how powerful the enemy’s weaponry is? It went bang, bang, bang! The moment the enemy made that ruckus, our ranks collapsed in a spray of blood. Never in my long life have I ever encountered such incredible magic before!’ exclaimed Godasen, a Senator and mage, excitedly.
The unit he led was blown away like leaves in a storm, unable to reach even the foot of Arnus Hill. Before he knew it, his surroundings were quiet and he was the sole man still on his feet. All he could see around him were bodies of men and horses lying in pools of blood.
Closing his eyes, the Emperor said, ‘The enemy has infiltrated our land. Although they are currently constructing a fort around the Gate, they will one day begin a full-blown invasion. We need to deal with the otherworldly enemy on Arnus Hill, as well as traitorous vassal states.’
‘Let’s just wage a war with ‘em!’
A bald knight, Marquis Podawan stood up and bowed before the Emperor.
‘If cornered, the best way to fight back is to fight back with courage. Let’s rally the forces scattered around the Empire and crush those rebellious vassals who dare stand against us. Then, we will turn around and destroy the enemy on Arnus Hill. To put it simply, we will attack the Gate!’
The Senators only shrugged their shoulders at his crude outburst, implying that if that were possible they would not have to discuss the situation at length. If they called up the remaining forces, the Empire would be left defenseless and descend into anarchy.
The hall became a scene of chaos as Senators begun arguing.
Podawan stressed unflinchingly that by killing all the rebels and enslaving their families, the cities would be deserted and the rebellion would cease. Shockingly, there were precedents of this in the Empire.
Back in the days when the Empire was still a small nation surrounded on all sides by enemies, imperial armies would not only enslave the people of the countries they invaded, but also raze their cities, burn down their forests and salt their fields to render them infertile. Thus, the region would become uninhabitable and harmless to the Empire.
‘Even if we could do that, how are we going to defeat the enemies at Arnus? If we attack head on, wouldn’t it just be a repeat of the Battle of Godasen?’
As the voice in the hall reached his ears, Podawan gritted his teeth and replied, ‘Just muster all the soldiers in the vassal states without telling them why. We could raise 100,000 and, even if they prove weak, we can use them as a meat-shield when we charge!’
‘Would they be so obedient?’
‘Then on what grounds should we tell them to muster their troops? Tell them honestly that we lost over half our own army? If we do that, we would only humiliate ourselves!’
Marquis Casel had a headache as he listened to Marquis Podawan’s irrational and reckless blustering.
The growing tension between the hawks and the doves electrified the Senate’s atmosphere.
‘So what do ya say we do, huh?’
The Senators had lost their composure and were on the verge of communicating with their fists.
Only time was wasted. Those few still in a rational state of mind fervently tried to hatch a plan but could not control the squabbling in the hall.
Amidst the chaos, Emperor Molt stood up from his throne.
Realizing the Emperor was about to speak, the quarreling Senators settled down.
‘Although they were a little crude, Marquis Podawan’s words were inspiring.’
Hearing these words, Podawan bowed reverently towards the Emperor.
Before the regal Emperor, the Senators calmed down and listened to what he had to say.
‘Now, what do we do? Do we watch helplessly as the situation deteriorates further? No. If that is off the table, all we can do is go to war. Let’s follow Marquis Podawan’s proposition and muster the armies of all our vassal states. Send a messenger to each country and request aid from the leaders to repel the otherworldly invaders of the Falmat Continent. An allied army amassed from the vassal states shall be raised to attack Arnus Hill.’
‘An allied army?’
The Emperor’s words wreaked havoc among the Senators.
Around two centuries ago, in order to repel a warlike tribe of horsemen invading the Empire from the North, many nations banded together in battle. These countries were always fighting amongst themselves, but when they faced a foreign power from beyond, they put aside their differences and united.
Kings and knights who were once enemies stood together and repulsed the invading forces. This tale was passed down in the legends for generations to come.
‘If you put it that way, then it seems to be a just cause.’
‘Nevertheless, it’s somewhat…’
He was right. Was it not the Empire that had begun the invasion? The Emperor twisted the truth. While ignoring the fact that the Empire was the aggressor, the Emperor ordered the vassal states to commit troops to defend against the otherworldly invaders. This was shameless, but of course no-one said this aloud.
However, the Emperor could convince the vassal states to muster their troops by arguing that the invaders would not stop at merely destroying the Empire – they would conquer the entire Falmat Continent. Simply put, it was not the truth that mattered, it was the narrative.
‘Your… Your Highness? The feet of Arnus Hill would be littered with corpses!’
Hearing Marquis Casel’s words, the Emperor replied loudly, ‘I strive for victory, but there is never certainty of victory in war. The fate of the allied army is unknown. If they fall, that will be unfortunate. If that were to happen, the Empire will send the imperial army to battle the invaders.’
If the vassal states’ armies too were decimated, the Empire’s military advantage over them would remain.
‘This is thy mission in dealing with this crisis. Any objections, Marquis Casel?’
The Emperor had made his decision.
Marquis Casel stared at the Emperor, dumbfounded, and lamented the fate of the allied army.
The doves could only bow their heads before the Emperor and dispatch envoys to deliver his orders.
The dark night sky was brightly lit with flares.
The Kodou Rino Guwaban, the allied army, begun its attack.
The sizzling flares illuminated the advancing army at the foot of the hill.
In the front rode heavy cavalry, accompanied by giants, ogres, goblins and other fantastical monsters, casting terrible shadows on the land in their masses. Human soldiers forming a shield wall rolled forward behind them.
Flying in the sky were people mounted on strange, giant birds.
Their force numbered in the hundreds of thousands, impossible to count.
The forward observer screamed into his radio.
‘Three tenths in reserve, seven tenths attacking! Three tenths in reserve, seven tenths attacking!’
At the report from the outpost, the 5th Combat Squad of the 502nd Division of the JSDF rushed through the trenches to their positions and readied their guns to cover the designated field.
The staff officer from the JSDF put much effort into organizing the expedition. After all, they were facing enemies from another age. None of the JSDF had ever fought warriors in armor or fantastical monsters, and above all they had never encountered magic before.
Thus, they searched for ideas from fantasy novels and movies.
The PX, the post exchange, was heaped with fantasy novels, manga and movies on JSDF members who travelled back into the era of the Warring States.
There were even cases of JSDF members lining up in Akihabara book stores just to purchase fantasy-related movies and anime.
The works of the director and author whose initials were M and T were amassed to find inspiration.
The decision was made to deploy three divisions from units across the country.
They were led by commissioned officers ranging from captains to second lieutenants, as well as non-commissioned officers over the rank of corporal.
The reasons were explained by the Prime Minister: ‘In the uncharted land beyond the Gate, the judgement of who is friend and who is foe will be left to the present commander.’ Everyone knew it wasn’t that simple.
The equipment of the troops deployed beyond the Gate was old. Firstly, the troops were equipped with the classic Type 64 Howa rifles. Moreover, the army vehicles they were assigned with were Terrain Type 74 tanks.
This equipment was retired from active use after it was replaced by newer models.
‘Let’s use up the old stuff while we can,’ were the sarcastic words of a former master sergeant. There was more to it than that.
Type 64 rifles were chosen because the Type 89 assault rifles’ 5.56mmm rounds could not stop a heavyweight ogre. Also, if one were to charge the enemy with a bayonet, the jagged blade would jam itself into the enemy’s armor.
Therefore, after considering the possibility of abandoning the equipment in the event of a retreat, it was deemed better to use the old weapons that had gathered dust in storage rather than the new generation of weapons that cost a fortune to manufacture.
Type 64s had standing bipods, and were aimed with iron sights. They used normal ammunition and were classified as small arms.
Some bipods propped up 5.56mm machine guns with ammunition belts.
The sergeant majors and commanders objected fiercely to bringing the Type 62 machinegun along. Pale-faced they asked the high command whether it was trying to murder them. It was not brought into the Special Region as it was prone to malfunction.
To counter the flying cavalry, the Type 87 self-propelled anti-aircraft guns with Oerlikon 35mm twin cannons, the M42 Duster and other aged AA guns were deployed. There was a mechanical buzzing as they turned their sights to the sky.
Another flair lit the dark the sky as the enemy army marched purposefully towards the hill.
Safety switches on rifles were flipped from ‘safe’ to ‘semi’.
From the soldier’s headsets, they could hear the voice of their commander.
‘Don’t panic… Hold your fire…’
Although they weren’t yet accustomed to it, they weren’t completely new to it either. It was the third time enemies assaulted the place known locally as Arnus Hill.
The JSDF soldiers held their breaths and waited for the order as the enemy closed in on them.
Twice already the attacking forces had been, to put it frankly, annihilated.
The common military equipment of that world consisted of swords, spears, bows and armor. The strategy was to form ranks and charge in unison. Sometimes they would use fire and bombs in their attack, but the weaponry was pitifully deficient in range and lacked strength.
In the movie [Kagemusha] by Director Kurosawa, there was a gruesome scene where Lord Takeda’s cavalry had charged Lord Tokugawa’s musketeers in the battlefield.
The scene at Arnus Hill was much like in the movie, as numerous men and horses littered the foot of the hill.
Nevertheless, the enemy kept advancing, determined to capture the hill.
The JSDF held their ground and fought.
The Gate was their only access to the other world. They would not allow the Gate to be captured and risk a second Ginza Incident.
One side was resolved to hold the hill, the other resolved to take it, and this clash of wills led to the third battle.
The attackers may have learned somewhat from their previous attempts as they tried a night raid this time. With only the shine of the moon, vision was obscured at night. Also, people were often careless at night. That was the thinking behind the attack, and it was not too shabby at all.
However, as the flairs exposed them completely to the enemy, the carefully laid plan went off the rails.
In Tokyo and the rest of Japan, 24-hour stores were a given. With night as bright as day, the muzzles of guns and cannons served as an introduction to that other world.