Editor: Lickymee, Nigel, Nate
“The sky is so blue, as expected of a different world.”
Itami muttered to himself. Huge lumps of clouds floated in the sky, with no utility and telephone poles obscuring the view. The sky was clear no matter where he looked.
“You can see the same scenery in Hokkaido too.”
Sergeant Kurata replied from his driver’s seat. He came from the garrison in Hokkaido.
“As for me, I was hoping a place where giant trees roam, huge dragons fly, and fairies buzz around. But the Humans we saw in the village so far are all Humans and the livestock are just cattle and sheep, such a disappointment.”
Kurata had just finished his Sergeant training course and was only twenty one years old. After getting to know Itami and his casual approach to hierarchy relationships, Kurata spoke without reservations.
With the blue sky as the background, a green coloured military convoy drove through the plains in single file.
Leading the way was a Type 73 light truck, with a High Mobility Vehicle (HMV) behind it, and a Light Armour Vehicle (LAV) at the very back.
In simple words, the two in front were jeeps and the one behind was an armoured vehicle.
Itami was seated in the HMV in the middle of the convoy.
Behind him were the members of the Third Recon Platoon, under his command. Three vehicles and twelve members, that was the full strength of this platoon.
Sergeant Major Kuwahara Soichiro who was in the back seat with his map laid out leaned his face towards the driver seat.
“Hey Kurata, you should be able to see a small stream soon. Turn right and go along it, and we will hit a forest soon. That would be the forest the chief of Coda Village mentioned.”
Orientating himself by using a compass and a map made via aerial photography, Sergeant Major Kuwahara who was giving directions worked all the way up through the rank from private, and was fifty years old. He had vast experience as a trainer in the training department, and was respected and feared by recruits who addressed him as ‘Oyatsu-san’. Kurata completed his basic military training as a recruit in Sobuyama under the tutelage of Sergeant Major Kuwahara.
There were no satellites in this world, so GPS could not be used. Hence, they could only rely on maps and compasses. Only those who were experienced could handle this task, so Itami pushed the operation of the platoon onto Kuwahara.
“Lieutenant Itami, I have a suggestion. Let’s stop before the forest and set up camp there.”
Itami looked behind him to express his agreement when he heard what Kuwahara said. Kuwahara nodded in reply and picked up the handset of the radio.
Kurata checked his distance from the LAV behind him through the rear view mirror.
“Hmm, Lieutenant Itami, we are not going to drive all the way there in one shot?”
“If we go into the forest now, we will need to spend the night there right? Spending a night in a forest with who knows what creatures in it? I’ll pass on that. Even if there is a village as indicated by the intel, we would alarm them if we reached at night correct? We are the JSDF who loves peace and the citizens, how could we make such threatening moves?”
“That’s why only a small group will enter the forest.” Itami said.
The objective of the reconnaissance was to communicate with the locals and find out more about the people. It would be more convenient to travel in a helicopter, but they purposely chose to travel by land in order to interact with the natives there.
Oppressing them with violence was not their goal. They had to do what they could to avoid earning the ire of the locals. That was the directive for this operation.
They had visited three settlements so far and attempted to converse with the natives of this land. All of them said the war was the business of the lords and had nothing to do with them, and didn’t seem to express dislike or hate for Itami and the others. In that case, Itami’s group didn’t need to do unnecessary things to complicate their work.
Itami took out a black cover note book from his chest pocket and flipped to the page that detailed common phrases in the local languages and started practicing. These were written by language specialists after they questioned the prisoners from the Ginza incident.
“Sabaru, haru, ugutu—? (Hello, how do you do?)”
“Utterly monotonous, shouldn’t you attend a language school first?”
<TL: line from a commercial>
Itami knocked Kurata’s helmet.
And so, the Third Recon Platoon reached the plain before the forest. The first thing that caught their eyes were raising columns of black smoke.
“Shit’s on fire yo.”
Itami kept his eyes on the smoke in the sky and replied to Kurata “Yup, it’s all burning.” Flickers of fire could be seen in the forest.
“So this is the power of nature.”
“You mean a monster movie?”
Kuwahara handed his binoculars to Itami as he said that, and pointed slightly to the right.
Itami looked at the place Kuwahara was pointing at.
A giant creature that looked like a T-rex with wings was scorching the ground with flames.
“Single headed King Ghidorah?”
Kurata retorted: “You’re outdated old pops, that’s a dragon.”
Kuwahara was from a generation who would think of Ri Sho Ryu (Bruce Lee) when he hears the term Ryu (Dragon).That was why their dialogue was out of sync.
A petite Woman Army Corps (WAC) personnel alighted from the Type 73 truck in front and jogged over.
Two WACs were assigned to this recon platoon. When interacting with the natives, it would be better for females to be present, hence their deployment. For example, in Islamic nations that were full of taboos, it would be better for women to converse with the women.
“Lieutenant Itami, what’s the matter? We can’t just stay here.”
This was Staff Sergeant Kuribayashi.
Most male JSDF would ask her if her equipment was too heavy after having seen her. She was covered in so much gear that it looked like it was moving her. However, anyone who tried to bully her because of her small stature would meet with a terrible fate. She was a warrior who held a close quarters combat badge after all.
“Do dragons have a habit of breathing fire into deserted forests?”
Even though she was queried, there was no way Kuribayashi would know the answer. But she didn’t answer “I don’t know” directly and adopted a sassy attitude.
“Lieutenant, if you are curious about the behaviour of dragons, why not have a closer look at what it is attacking?”
She asked instead.
“Kuribayashi-chan, I am scared of going alone, can you go with me?”
“I absolutely don’t want to.”
“Ah, is that so?”
Itami scratched his head hard, and then said:
“Find a suitable position to take cover and see how it goes. After the dragon leaves, we will enter the forest and render aid to any survivors.”
They had intel indicating that there was a village in the forest. That was probably what the dragon was attacking, Itami thought.
In the end, Itami’s group only entered the forest the following morning.
The fire burned through the night, spewing forth smog that would hinder any reconnaissance. Thanks to the rain that fell at midnight, the forest fire finally died down and they could enter the forest.
The view inside the forest was completely clear.
The leaves were burned and the trunks of the trees were reduced to charcoal.
Wisps of smoke rose from the blackened ground.
Residual heat still remained in the ground, and they could feel the heat from the soles of their feet.
“It would be a miracle if there were any survivors.”
Itami agreed with Kurata, but he still headed for the village anyway.
After a two hour hike, they finally made it to a clearing without any trees.
If the forest wasn’t burned down, it would have taken at least half a day to make it here.
Surveying the area, Itami could see signs of several buildings. If he looked closely… No, he didn’t need to, he could see several blackened Human-shaped objects. Instead of Human-shaped objects, it would be more appropriate to call them burned mummies.
“Lieutenant, these are…”
“Don’t say it, Kurata…”
“Bleh, I’m going to throw up.”
Kurata rubbed his abdomen as he looked around him.
Watching out for attacks, they slowly walked around the remains of the village.
All the buildings were burned. Everything above the stone floor was destroyed, reducing all of it into piles of rubbles. Blackened corpses lay under these structures.
“Master Sergeant Nishina, take Katsumoto and Tozu and search the east. Kurata, Kuribayashi; we will take the west.”
“Search? For what?”
In response to Kuribayashi’s question, Itami shrugged and answered: “Erm~ Survivors?”
After searching about an hour, they confirmed that there were probably no survivors in this village.
Itami wiped away his sweat as he sat beside a well. The other members were still searching through the things used by the villagers here and were wandering about.
Immediately, Kuribayashi jogged over to him with a clipboard.
“Lieutenant, there are three large buildings and twenty-nine mid-sized to small buildings in this village. We confirmed twenty seven bodies, that’s too few. Some might have been crushed by the debris when the buildings were burning.”
“Let’s say there are three people per building, there should be ninety people in this village. Including larger families, there should be about a hundred here. Were they wiped out, or hiding somewhere?”
“Yeah. I will need to report the existence of huge dragons that attack villages back to base.”
“During the Gate defensive battles there were enemy riding wyverns too. Those were much smaller than what we saw yesterday, but their scales could withstand the impact of 7.62mm rounds. We barely pierced their soft bellies with 12.7mm rounds.”
The breadth of Kuribayashi’s knowledge made Itami widen his eyes.
He had heard rumours about the collection of wyvern carcasses and the hardness tests performed on their scales, but he didn’t know about the results. Under normal conditions, 7.62mm rounds could pierce 10mm steel plates. Which meant the scales of wyverns were harder than that.
“Just like an APC.”
Itami realized he was running low on water after placing his mouth onto his bottle. After swirling it around for a moment, he looked around and realized there was a well behind him. Grabbing the bucket beside him, he prepared to lower it into the well and pull it up with the rope.
“Looks like we need to investigate where the dragon’s nest is, and its area of activity.”
Saying that, he dropped the bucket into the well.
When he did that, he heard a sharp ‘donk’.
Normally, they should be the sound of something dropping into the water.
He was expecting a splashing sound instead, so Itami looked into the well in surprise. Kuribayashi lean forward and looked down curiously too as she mumbled “What is that?”
There was a young girl with long golden hair and a bump on her head floating in the water like a puppet with its strings cut.
“Tuka, get up quick.”
The young girl was awakened by her father from her dreams.
“Father, what is it? I was sleeping well.”
She got up and said while rubbing her eyes.
Looking around, she saw the brilliant sunlight shining into her room.
Being stirred from her afternoon nap made her dizzy. But she still noticed that the expression of her father who woke her was strange.
She could hear noise of people scampering and shouting, the village was in chaos. She understood from such an atmosphere that something big was happening.
“What is happening?”
Tuka found the answer by herself. Outside the window, the figure of a giant dragon could be seen in the sky. There weren’t any dragons nesting around here, so this was the first time she had ever seen one. Of course, Tuka learned about them from her father’s general lessons when she was young.
“Is that a Flame Dragon?”
Her father was holding a bow, the common weapon of the Elves. And he was taking out the valuable arrows from the drawer, ones with mithril arrow head and feathers.
Is father going to fight?
Tuka reached for her trusted bow on reflex.
However, her father stopped her verbally.
“You need to escape.”
“I want to fight too.”
“No, if anything happens to you, your mother will tell me off.”
Her father will only mention her departed mother when he absolutely needed her to listen. But the daughter who was already matured mentally rejected him with a smile.
“If the opponent is a Flame Dragon, it doesn’t matter where I run to. And it is better to have one more soldier right?”
It was said that the favourite food of the carnivorous Flame Dragons were the meat of Elves and Humans. If they don’t defeat the Flame Dragon here, it would pursue them by smell no matter where they ran. No matter how hard the earthbound Elves or Humans run, they won’t be able to escape the dragon flying in the sky.
Outside the window, the warriors were shooting their arrows into the air or summoning wind and water spirits to attack the Flame Dragon. However, they were basically ineffective.
Instead, the fire spewed by the Flame Dragon burned the people, making them scream. Women and children trying to escape were caught in the flame and reduced to a crisp.
Their death throes shot into Tuka’s ears, making her furrow her brows.
“It’s dangerous in here, let’s move outside!”
The father grabbed Tuka’s hand, while Tuka held on to her bow and arrows tightly.
Harrowing screams filled the air.
When Tuka came out from her house, she saw the girl she grew up with torn apart by the fangs of the Flame Dragon.
Her dear friend was eaten. Coming into terms with that fact, Tuka readied her bow swiftly. She might be young, but she was an Elf who was great with bow since birth, and wasn’t weak.
She pulled the string with all her strength and released, but her arrow was deflected.
Aside from Tuka, the other Elven warriors fired countless arrows at the Flame Dragons, but they were all blocked by the heavy dragon scales without doing any damage.
After chewing and swallowing the Elven girl, the Flame Dragon turned its giant eyes, picking its next prey.
“Yu, Yuno she, Yuno…”
The moment the Flame Dragon looked at her, Tuka was overwhelmed with terror.
She couldn’t move even though she wanted to escape, couldn’t speak even though she wanted to scream. Just locking eyes with the dragon made her freeze in fear. Tuka looked as if she had lost her soul, even her will to escape was gone without a trace.
Her father shot his arrow as he summoned the spirits.
“Ainu, uur nya pilin o poldore varyar ilya”
With the aid of the wind spirit, the glowing arrow flew towards the eye of the Flame Dragon.
That instant, the howl of the Flame Dragon shook the air. It made all of them wonder whether the shockwave would tear all the living creatures in the surrounding apart.
“The eye! Aim for the eye!”
The warriors concentrated their arrows towards the head of the Flame Dragon. Shooting the grounded dragon was fine, but aiming for the eye of a flying dragon was difficult even for Elves who were master archers.
The Flame Dragon switched its target to the elf that hurt it.
Using giant pillars of flame, it burned the village and tore the warriors to shreds with its claws and fangs. It swiped, it stomped and it swallowed.
“Tuka, you must run!”
The father roared at his daughter. But his daughter just stood there motionlessly.
Her gentle father had never spoken so loudly before, he was just a good and meek father normally. However, during such moments of crisis… When he needed to be courageous and violent, he could do so as well.
Before his daughter was caught between the jaws of the dragon, the father tackled her away. He then picked her up and sprinted.
Voices of the warrior mixed together just like a choir.
Some of the many arrows hit the gaps of the dragon scale, mouth and the base of the claws.
However, the dragon was fearless as its huge body descended.
The father said to his daughter.
“You must hide in here, alright?”
He then threw his daughter into the well.
The last thing she saw before she was thrown in was a giant maw and sharp claws closing onto her father’s back.
She spent a long time in the well.
The burning village and forest could be heard clearly. The ash drifted into the well along with the roars and screams of warriors.
Being submerged waist deep in the cold water made her shiver. She was afraid, tense, uneasy and her tears kept flowing out.
Before she realized it, the noise stopped.
What she could hear was her breathing and heart beating, as well as the rippling of the water. The blue sky had turned black before she knew it. But somehow, the area around the well was still brightly lit. The fire burning the village shone into the well.
She didn’t know how much time had passed when it started to rain.
Her entire body was soaked, the water drenched her face and got into her eyes. But she couldn’t move her gaze away from the sky.
“Ah Tuka, are you okay?”
Her father showed his face while saying this. She had already seen this hallucinations several times.
However, she didn’t hear anyone no matter how long she waited.
The disgusting idea that everyone was already dead appeared in her mind, crushing her heart.
“Father… Save me.”
The well water was cold. The chill, fatigue and hunger siphoned Tuka’s strength to stand away. Despair robbed her will away.
“At this rate, I guess I am going to die?”
Tuka thought. It was unfathomable, but she wasn’t afraid of death. Or maybe, it was better if she just died like this. She would be liberated from fear and unease if she died. Solitude and sadness would dissipate too. Death was the only way she would be free from all this suffering, that’s how she felt.
Suddenly, she seemed to hear the voice of someone above the well.
She looked up despite her murky consciousness. Her vision was then covered completely by something that was like a wooden bucket.
A ‘donk’ sound.
Sharp pain similar to breathing in spice deeply through her nose filled her sight with stars.
Her consciousness drifted far away.
She felt her cheeks being slapped, and heard quizzing voices.
From her blurred vision, she saw someone watching at her, he looked very much like her father.
“It’s an elf, Lieutenant.”
Sergeant Kurata said and Itami replied “Looks like it.”
“And a blonde elf too. Ku~~~ there is hope!”
“Kurata, you find Elves moe?”
“No. If I have to pick one, I will prefer the sexy type. If there are Elves, there must be lusty witches, pure succubus, passionate vampire girls and elegant monster girls right? By the way, a naughty cute werewolf girl is fine too.”
Images of R18 doujinshi describing these girls came to Itami’s mind… But he felt a bit terrified that they really do exist.
The Beast Girls would probably look more realistic than the actress who wore make up in the musical based on a Tezuka manga. If the witches and vampires Kurata spoke of really existed, they would definitely be moe.
“Well, the chance of them existing is definitely higher now.”
“They, they definitely exist!”
Moving away from Kurata who seemed to be burning up while clenching his fist and saying “How moe!”, Itami cheered him on with “Well, good luck.” from a distance.
Kuribayashi and another WAC, Staff Sergeant Kurokawa Mari, were busy taking off the drenched clothes of the girl who appeared to be sixteen years old, and wrapping a blanket around her.
Although the men wanted to watch this scene, it was impossible with the threat of punishment from Kuribayashi’s iron fist. They couldn’t even go near.
Itami could only watch from afar as he coiled ropes up after going into the well. The water that soaked his clothes at the bottom of the well was cold, and his boots made squishing sounds because of the water in them.
The other members used their issued shovels to dig holes for the corpses, or clear the debris to collect artifacts. They gathered furniture and earthenware used in the villagers’ daily lives, and items that survived the fire such as bows and arrows. After all, taking video and photographs were important work, they needed to bring this information back.
Itami bent over to take off his boots and turned them upside down. Water spilled out with a splash. He didn’t want to wear it right away, but he couldn’t walk without it. And so, he stuffed newspapers from his bag into them in order to absorb as much water as possible, then wrung the water out of his socks before putting it back on.
Moments later, Staff Sergeant Kurokawa (who was a licensed nurse) came over.
She saluted Itami, so he had to return the salute. However, Itami who was barely 170cm had to look up at Staff Sergeant Kurokawa who was 190cm tall.
Kuribayashi who used all sorts of ways to fudge past the minimum height requirement and Kurokawa was called the beanpole and shortstack WAC of 3rd recon.
“Her body temperature is back to normal. The bump on her head that looked like something out of a manga had subsided, I think she will be fine… But what do we do next? We can’t stay here too long, and it would be too inhumane to leave this girl here alone.”
Kurokawa said in a calm and soothing tone.
Unlike the short tempered and brash Kuribayashi, the tall Kurokawa was even mannered and quiet in contrast.
“Seems like the entire village is destroyed, and we can’t just abandon someone we saved. In order to keep her safe, we should take her with us.”
Kurokawa smiled. Itami felt that time passed slowly when he was with this lady, how unfathomable.
“I was pretty sure you would say something like that, Lieutenant.”
“You mean I am a real humanitarian, right?”
“Well, I wonder about that? I was thinking you have special taste or because that girl is an elf, Lieutenant. It would be rude for me to say more.”
Itami started sweating profusely, down his neck, into his collar and onto his clothes.
According to their schedule, they need to visit two or three more villages, but the Elven girl needed emergency medical care, so Itami planned to backtrack and return to base. After setting up the antenna to seek advice from base, he received a reply that was like ‘yeah, fine, just get on with it.’
“Sergeant Major Kuwahara… That’s how it is, I will be counting on you. Let’s head back to Kouda village.”
After Itami said that, he got onto the passenger seat of the HMV. Kurata will drive and Kuwahara will direct the entire platoon from the back seat. In order to care for the elf, Kurokawa stayed with her.
The third recon platoon set off once again.
Their trip back was peaceful too. It was hard to believe that just this morning a dragon was flying around and annihilated an entire village.
A clear sky without clouds and vast plains as far as the eyes could see.
Nearly half the day’s journey was spent in the dust kicked up by the convoy. Compared to the time they came, the recon platoon was more energetic and it felt like fleeing to them.
“It would be terrible if the dragon chased after us.”
“Don’t say it, it might just happen.”
When he heard those words from the driver’s seat, Itami couldn’t help retorting.
This was an unpaved road and the suspension of the vehicle couldn’t absorb the shock completely, so it shook intensely.
Kurokawa took the girl’s blood pressure and pulse, then asked with her head tilted.
“What’s the normal blood pressure and heart rate for elves?” She asked, which left Itami dumbfounded. “Her vitals have stabilized, but they are a bit low compared to the norm for Humans.” She reported.
“Is she fine?”
“Her breathing has calmed down, her blood pressure, heart rate and temperature are stable. She is not sweating unnaturally… She is fine by Human standards.”
Kurokawa, who didn’t know about the biology of Elves, could only answer this way. Itami felt that contacting the locals and conversing with the elf would be the best course of action.
The villagers of Kouda welcomed Itami’s group with an ‘Oh, you are here again’ kind of feeling. They were not hostile and just greeted them casually.
Itami looked at his dictionary as he talked to the village chief and explained the situation, how they found the village in the forest as directed, how it had been reduced to ashes by the dragon attack, e.t.c.
“What? Annihilated? That’s terrible!”
Itami flipped through his tiny dictionary and chose the phrase to say.
“Also~. We went into forest. Big bird. Forest burned down. Village burned down.”
There were no appropriate words, so Itami said ‘big bird’ as he sketched the picture of a dragon on his notebook. Itami was good at making such illustrations.
The chief’s face turned pale when he saw the sketch.
“This, this is a dragon, and a Flame Dragon on top of that!”
Itami’s vocabulary increased with these new words. He wrote down the words for dragon in romaji.
“Dragon, breath fire. Humans, many burned.”
“Not Humans, you mean Elves. Those living there are Elves.”
Using the language of this world, the chief repeated ‘re-namu’ several times. Itami wrote down on his dictionary under the ‘E’ pages and wrote ‘Elf/ Re-namu’.
“Yes. Elves there. Many died.”
“We are very grateful you told us this. We have to alert the villages nearby. Dragons who know the taste of Elves and Humans will attack villages and towns when they get hungry.”
To express his gratitude, the chief Shook Itami’s hand, and shouted to his family and the people around him.
When they learned that a dragon attacked an Elven village, the face of the villagers turned pale and they ran off.
“One person, girl saved.”
Itami’s words made the chief raised his head with an ‘Oh’. The chief was then led to the back compartment of the HMV to show him the unconscious blonde girl.
“How tragic. This child is left all alone, Everyone she knew is gone.”
The chief stroked the blonde locks of the Elven girl. Their culture might be different, but Kouda village had some interaction with the Elven village.
The Elves watch over the forest, stopping the hunters from wandering into its depths. They would also help the hunters when they were lost or injured, even going as far as to escort them home.
Not meddling with each other’s affairs and staying away from each other. But in a way, they respected each other.
“Erm~... This one, village take care…?”
The chief understood what Itami was saying, but he shook his head.
“Our race and culture are different. You should entrust her with an Elven village. And besides, we must flee from here.”
“We are escaping. If you didn’t inform us, the entire village would be destroyed. We are very grateful.”
Previous Chapter | Main Page | Next Chapter