Editor: Lickymee, Skythewood, Nate, PervySageChuck
There were three ways of evacuating the refugees. Two had already been touched on.
The method Itami and the others picked was the third. They chose this method of evacuation because there were only about 20 to 30 people they had to worry about.
Following an armed group of unknown affiliation was just as risky as jumping into a ravine for the people of this world. They might as well have been stripped naked and sold into slavery. However, they had no choice. They were children who had lost their parents when the Flame Dragon attacked, or elderly people who had lost their children, and some were even wounded. Under normal circumstances, the outcome for them would be a long and slow death anyway.
Of course, some of them were different. For instance, there was the Magician Kato and his pupil, who were very interested in the JSDF, as well as the priestess of Emroy.
However, many of the refugees were asked questions that could not be answered, such as “Where do you want to go after this? We’ll take you to wherever you want to go.”
Itami decided to ask the village chief about what to do with the remaining 20 to 30 people. The reply he got was “Leave it to God.”
Itami tilted his head and asked again. After translation, the replies he got were along the lines of “Where nobody needs to take care of them”, “Anywhere”, “Wherever you want”.
He sighed deeply.
The village chief got onto the wagon his family was riding, and spoke to Itami, “I fully understand that you are noble and compassionate folk, and that we must seem cruel and heartless in your eyes. However, it’s already very hard for us just to take care of ourselves… forgive our selfishness in this matter.”
The village chief left without looking back.
Itami and the others had been struck dumb by the sheer callousness of that statement. They knew that everyone left behind had been abandoned.
The HMV was loaded with the orphaned children, the wounded, the Elven girl… all their eyes were on Itami. They were very uneasy about the decision he was going to make here. Because they could not understand his language, they studied the minute changes on his face. Among them, the black-clad goth Loli looked at him with great interest in her eyes.
However, Itami did not feel the great weight of the responsibility everyone was placing on him.
“Well, who cares… Never mind, we’ll take care of it.”
His innocent smile removed the tension in the air.
Itami’s duty was to investigate the inhabitants of this world. Communicating with them, building good relations with them, and collecting the knowledge of this world was a critical part of that mission. Wouldn’t it be great if he could bring natives back of their own free will and improve their understanding of this world’s language and culture? At least, that was what he thought.
In truth, a civil servant who thought like this would be nearly impossible to find.
Anyone who didn’t realize the problem with that sort of thinking would never have become a public servant. What public servants hated the most were people who increased their workload.
“You, you, you…”
Major Higaki grabbed his head, in front of his subordinate who didn’t know what he had done.
The officers from the other Advance Reconnaissance Teams remained silent, while the refugees who had been left outside the camp looked around in curiosity.
“Who, who said you could bring them here?!”
“Eh? Was that a bad thing?”
Itami idly scratched his head. Higaki paced around a little, before saying “Follow me” and walking out of his office.
“General… the reports from the recon platoons we dispatched have come in.”
The man who responded was Lieutenant-General Hazama.
He had been a student of philosophy in Tokyo University, a graduate of that school which only accepted the best of the best. However, the truly inspiring part of his life story was how he enlisted as a private with the JSDF and climbed the ranks until he became the mighty Lieutenant-General he was now. One could say that, although he could have taken the fast-track, he chose to go the long way instead. His catchphrase was “No pain, no gain”.
Hazama took off his glasses, and looked from the pile of documents on his desk to 1LT Yanagida.
1LT Yanagida had graduated from the National Defense Academy of Japan (NDA) with flying colours, and under normal circumstances he would have been considered an elite thinker. However, in front of Hazama he never seemed to be able to raise his head. The reason for that was apparently because he failed to get into Tokyo University.
People compare themselves to others by many metrics; academic records, resumes, performance records, and, for members of the JSDF, their ability as warriors. They would always look for fields in which they could surpass others. Then what would happen if an individual who was excellent in all areas appeared before them? Most people would unconditionally accept their inferiority and think, “That guy’s amazing”, but Yanagida was far too proud for that. Perhaps he had an unfortunate encounter as a child, or his parents had raised him that way, but in the face of a superior individual, he did not feel respect, but rather resentment from the bottom of his heart.
“What’s the matter, did you realize something?”
Hazama raised his crew-cut head and leaned back against his chair. The cheap office furniture creaked under his weight. He didn’t think too much about Yanagida’s resentment, though he did think, “I need to keep an eye on this fellow.”
“Several reconnaissance reports have arrived, but I didn’t think they were that important because they’re just raw data…”
“That’s true, make sure they do a good job.”
Hazama did not feel that a simple reconnaissance would give him a full picture of the situation. However, he was looking forward to understanding the inclinations of the locals.
Their relationship with the locals, the safety of the JSDF units, and the opinions of the Special Region with respect to Japan and governmental influence were all closely interlinked. Ignoring the locals’ feelings would breed contempt, or worse, active insurgency and that would outweigh any benefits of such callousness. As such, it was critical to understand what the locals meant by righteousness, evil and so on. For instance, Islamic cultures hated dogs and preferred men to have beards.
“The only common point between the teams was that, despite the difficulty, they all made first contact. The locals, who superficially resemble human beings, primarily make their living through agriculture, with forestry being a close second. Their population is distributed into settlements and is generally low. The 6th Recon Platoon has only found mercantile installations in villages with populations of over 500 people. They mainly sell clothes, tools, farming equipment, oil lamps and other miscellaneous living essentials... This is the stock list and the price catalogue. Several photos are also enclosed.”
Yanagida concluded his briefing by placing a sheet of photocopied A4 paper on Hazama’s desk. He excelled in this field of work and rarely made mistakes.
Hazama went through the materials as if he were reading a table of figures. However, this information was critical for understanding the economic situation of the Special Region, so he had to send it back through the Gate for study by government experts.
“At the present moment, we do not know if there is a central authority for the Special Region. Every village encountered has been led by a chief who looks after the villagers.”
“How do they choose the village chiefs?”
By understanding this, they could theorize if this world was run by a democracy, an oligarchy, or a simple autocracy.
Yanagida sighed with exaggerated loudness, hinting at how difficult that investigation would be.
“All we need is to invite a few residents over for…”
“It would be troublesome if we brought them over without properly communicating with them, no? Having it phrased as kidnapping or forced transportation would be a headache…”
After laying the foundations, Yanagida was ready to make his main thrust. Carried by the flow of the conversation, Hazama now seemed ready to listen to his subordinate’s words.
“Fortunately, Itami’s team has brought back some refugees from Coda Village.”
“Oh, that would be the place where the Dragon was sighted.”
Japan’s high-ranking officials, including Hazama, could only equate the beasts of the Special Region to dangerous animals like bears, sharks and the like. It was incomprehensible to them that people would abandon their villages over such minor threats. They simply could not imagine such dangerous creatures in modern Japan, so all they could say was “It can’t be helped if something like that happened there, right?”
One of the reasons why it was so hard for them to believe in the danger posed by the Dragon was because of the Wyverns which had attacked Arnus Hill. They had been easily brought down by normal anti-aircraft weapons.
“Well, why don’t we lodge the refugees from Coda Village here? We’ll explain it as a necessary measure. The people concerned will be grateful, and nobody will think it’s a kidnapping, right?”
Yanagida began his explanation.
The plan was to build a refugee camp near Arnus Hill and take them in. Since the evacuation of Coda Village was caused by a wild beast, it would not be a temporary measure. While the refugees were there, it would be possible for the relevant research and investigation personnel to gain significant information from the refugees. Through extended daily interaction with the refugees, they could solve the language barrier problem, and gain a clear understanding of the Special Region’s economic situation.
In truth, the Ministry of Defense and the Prime Minister’s Office had started making demands for detailed internal reports on the Special Region. Yanagida was under a lot of pressure, so he wanted to show them results quickly.
Hazama tapped the table with his finger.
“What happens if a fire fight breaks out? The enemy’s main armed force has ceased combat operations, but this is still their target.”
This was one of the most obvious questions to ask.
“We need to consider how enemy forces will deal with locals who have had contact with us.”
He recalled an incident in the past, where Japanese citizens had been massacred because they were too close to a hated minority or religion.
“When the enemy approaches, we will take the refugees in and guarantee their safety. Although how the enemy treats the residents, be it torture or massacre, is not technically our concern, we cannot stand by and let such things happen.”
Hazama furrowed his brow. He approved of the plan to take in the refugees. He had been thinking of something similar himself, so he had no opposition to it. What annoyed him was Yanagida’s blunt way of speaking.
There was a limit to how much one person could think about by themselves, because there would be mistakes or omissions made. Even if they housed the refugees within the base itself, it could cause all sorts of problems. The enemy might have infiltrated the refugees and bringing them into the base would invite sabotage, for instance. But they could not locate the refugees far away just because they were afraid of taking risks.
In order to make the ones who had caused the Ginza Incident surrender to them on the negotiation table, they would need to firmly grasp the situation in the Special Region. They would need to investigate and understand this land, this domain, as well as this world’s government.
Just as Hazama was about to ask about the refugee center during combat operations, a voice came from outside.
“I’m coming in.”
There was a sign outside Hazama’s door which said, “No need to knock, just enter”. As a result Maj. Higaki entered after announcing himself.
“I have a report. 3rd Recon Platoon has returned. Although they’re back… actually… that Itami, he…”
And just like that, the matter of taking in the refugees was approved.
Itami halted in place as he heard his name being called.
While his superiors chewed him out for nearly an hour, Itami had put on a mask of carefully feigned ignorance and let the words flow in one ear and out the other. In the end, the meeting (which felt more like an interrogation) had ended with a “Since you brought them back, it can’t be helped.”
He had to report to Ichigaya (the Ministry of Defense) about how he had been protecting those refugees who were unable to care for themselves, such as the sick, injured elderly and the children. While the lecture was unavoidable, when Itami said that he had forced his way through for humanitarian reasons, the other side could only smile bitterly and acknowledge his efforts.
“Although, you’ll have to take care of them.”
That didn’t mean that Itami would have to pay for them out of his own pocket, but that Itami would be in charge of arranging the protection of the refugees. That was the condition placed on him.
Itami thought about feeding the refugees and sleeping arrangements for them, and left the black corridor for the staircase. If he put in a requisition with the ration team, he could probably solve the first problem. Granted, they would be eating combat rations, but they could hardly pick and choose. The real problem was arranging for beds for them. The barracks on the base were not completed yet, and the team members had to make do with the frames of the buildings. Tents were the only way out, it would seem. Preparing the documents, recording the required items, the chops… ahhh, what a pain, Itami thought as he stepped out into the corridor.
So when he heard the voice, he turned his head back very, very slowly.
After looking back, he saw someone sitting on a chair in the shadows, as well as a mote of light from a lit cigarette. The wisp of smoke which curled up to the ceiling came from a mouth that was curled up in a sly smile.
It was 1LT Yanagida.
“Itami, did you do it on purpose?”
“Do what on purpose?”
1LT Yanagida was younger than him, but he had been a lieutenant longer than the freshly-promoted Itami. When ranks were the same, seniority took precedence. On the other hand, Itami didn’t like Yanagida at all. His principle was to involve himself as little as possible with people he didn’t like. That way would reduce friction and smooth over painful incidents in the other party’s memory.
“Don’t act dumb. Everyone knows it. You’ve never missed a single periodic check-in before, so who’s going to believe you when you say comms are bad? Were you afraid of being ordered to abandon the refugees?”
“Ahhh, well, about that… it’s a different world, after all. It’s hard to predict the condition of the ionosphere and the magnetosphere, right? Plus, there’s probably sunspots here too… ah ha ha ha…”
Itami scratched his head while he laughed like an idiot. It felt bad, but he didn’t particularly need to convince Yanagida. Even if no one believed him, the report still said, “Because of poor communications, I could not receive further instructions, so I made a judgement call and brought the refugees back to the base.”
“Hmph, you’re really trying to cover it up, really…”
Yanagida took a long drag on his cigarette and exhaled. Along with the smoke came a sigh.
“Eh, well, we had to deepen relations with the locals sooner or later anyway, this was just ahead of schedule. Even Top thinks of it that way too. But to us… well, it’s a pain in the ass. Our plans are all in a mess now.
Yanagida sounded kind of helpless as he said that.
When he saw the state Yanagida was in, he couldn’t help but feel guilty.
“You’ll be spiritually rewarded for it, sooner or later.”
Yanagida forcefully put out his cigarette in an ashtray and shrugged.
“That’s not enough. It’s nowhere near enough.”
“Well, someone’s being petty today… what do you want me to do to cheer you up?”
Yanagida smiled thinly, then rose.
“We’ll talk about it elsewhere.”
The sun was slowly setting, and to the west, the sky turned red where the day would end.
As they watched the sky, the two men at the clothes drying point of the West No. 2 Barracks (temporary) looked at each other.
Yanagida leaned against the fence and lit a cigarette before speaking.
“Judging from the information we’ve collected earlier, this world is a goldmine. The DNA sequences of the creatures here are very similar to ours. For all we know, we could even breed with them. The exact theory is still in the hands of the scholars, but what I can tell you is that we can live in this world. We’re breathing this world’s air now, and although our food is imported from the other side of the Gate, if the creatures here can eat it, then we should be able to eat theirs with no difficulty.
This world’s environment has not been destroyed or polluted. There’s a lot of land and its plants are lush and vibrant. And those elements which would be considered rare earths back in our world are abundant here. The civilization level of the locals is as far from us as an ant would be from an elephant, which is an overwhelming advantage for us. This world has only opened its gates to Japan. This is either great good fortune or a disaster in the making.
Investments in Japan’s resource entrepreneurships are going through the roof in the New York, Shanghai and London Stock Exchanges. Oil and ore-related stocks are going down. Nagata-cho’s MPs are in consultation with the Economic Federation people day and night. The diplomatic services are going crazy trying to handle the NATO countries. However, the government, the most critical part of this whole business, is having trouble dealing with it. China, Germany and the other resource-providing nations are starting to demand ‘The Special Region should be internationally controlled’. The problem of whaling can be explained away by being our country’s culture, so even if the whole world looks down on us, it’s fine, but when it comes to the economy, our country still isn’t strong enough to make enemies of half the world.
So I’m telling you, Itami, this is what Nagata’s people want to know.
They want to know what this world has that is worth antagonizing half the world for.”
“And if there is such a thing?”
“Obviously someone who possesses something is stronger than someone who doesn’t, you should know that. The People’s Liberation Army massacred many Tibetans and Uighurs, China’s poisoning of frozen gyoza, the Russians unilaterally tearing up the natural gas mining agreement because they’re wealthy, South Ossetia seceding from Georgia, in the end, all of these people managed to do what they did because they had resources which everyone wanted. You could even say that if we could gain something from the Special Region which was worth antagonizing the whole world, we might resort to any means necessary to secure it.”
“Yanagida, I didn’t know you were thinking so much about our country. At least now I know you’re a patriot. However, people have many uses. In truth, I’m not really interested in all this geopolitical stuff. See, what I’m thinking about now is how the children I brought back are going to eat and sleep. So what exactly do politics have to do with my job?”
“Didn’t I tell you? They want to know what value this place has. No, that’s not right, they want to know where the valuable things are. Whether the Special Region belongs to Japan or it’s managed by the international community, anyone with that information will have an overwhelming advantage. You do know that you’re in the best position to gain this information, right? All the other recon teams did was check out what the villages were selling and add a few new words to our vocabulary. What you did was gain the trust of the people here. As long as you’re around, we can find out where they build things, where they hide things, how to communicate with them, and so on.”
“Hang on, Yanagida. Do you expect me to ask the kids where treasure is buried? Where the oil fields are? Do you think they’ll tell me if I just ask them? I’m sorry to say this, but I suck at geography, even though I went through university. Do you think these uneducated children will do any better? I can tell you right now that they won’t know anything that doesn’t concern their immediate daily lives.”
As he said this, Itami thought about the silver-haired girl with a wagon full of books and the old man that was her master. It would probably be more productive to let the linguists go through their books.
“Finding people with information and obtaining that information is absolutely critical.”
After hearing this, Itami could not go on.
“Itami, of late, you’ve been allowed a lot of freedom in your activities. Your next mission is going to depend heavily on how well the officers can write, but regardless of what your orders contain, your final objective remains the same.”
“Dammit, I’m tired of this shit.”
Itami continued cursing bitterly.
“Hmph! Well, you were happily spending taxpayers’ money up till now, so how can you say, ‘Oooh, I don’t like it, I don’t want it’? Better work hard.”
Yanagida tossed his cigarette butt away after he finished.
Although he could not see what the future would bring, practically speaking, he had to handle this carefully. Since the whole situation was a mess, proceeding without a plan would be counterproductive. Even so, the people who lived in these conditions were probably used to it.
In any case, he had to get them something to eat.
In any case, he had to start pitching tents for the refugees to sleep in.
In any case, he had to take the wounded to the doctors.
In any case, he had to distribute clothing.
The elderly people or the older children could take care of the younger children.
After a few days of these “In any cases”, he could probably relax a little. Living in tents was not going to be a long-term arrangement, especially since the people who would do so were children and old people. They would obviously want strong walls and a roof over their heads.
After listening to Kurokawa and Kuribayashi’s suggestions, Itami was currently about two kilometers away from the south of Arnus Hill. They were building a campsite for the Coda Village refugees in the patch of forest located there.
For convenience’s sake, they should have built the camp closer to the hill, but that ran the risk of involving them in any fire fights that occurred, so after studying the local terrain and conditions, they picked this place.
Actually building the place was the job of the engineers, but it was up to Itami to provide resources, expendables, schematics, blueprints, and so on. MSGT Nishina was experienced with this sort of thing and had provided a lot of useful feedback. Though he got frustrated by Yanagida’s nitpicky obsession with details (down to pointing out punctuation errors), in the end, he managed to obtain a computer from his superiors to help with his problems, and he spent the whole of the second day sleeping.
“If it were a government bureaucrat doing this, he’d have finished it with one hand.”
After hearing MSG Nishina’s words, Itami gave thanks that he had never entered civil service.
“Well, I’m a public servant too, but because of special duties, we’re hardly related any more. Ah, I’m lucky to be a public servant on special duties!”
Sometimes he would mumble these words, and sometimes he would shout them.
Preparing for a task was very troublesome. But once a mission started, the JSDF worked fast.
In the blink of an eye, they clear-cut a stretch of trees, and after moving the ground with heavy equipment, they easily built a set of roofed houses.
Lelei could only watch this scene with her mouth open and her tongue tied.
“...Well, looks like we can unload our luggage at last. I need my sleep.”
Having resigned himself with these words, he vanished back into his tent. After watching her Master, Lelei could not help but agree with him.
Their carriages were not drawn by horses, but they ran faster than horses.
Their magic staffs could force back a Flame Dragon.
Their sturdy, vast fortress at Arnus Hill.
Their gigantic iron dragonflies soared through the sky while making terrible noises.
The way they could instantly turn huge trees into planks, where even a team of woodsmen would take half a day just to fell a single tree.
Their carriages with giant shovels that could do the work of a hundred men in a flash.
And then, there was the way they built houses in moments.
In truth, she was growing jaded to these surprises.
The children and elderly who knew nothing had been shocked into silence. They gave thanks in earnest and sincerely accepted these benefits. As for Lelei, who was wiser but still could not make sense of these unreal circumstances, her brain had long since overheated.
“...Papa will be disappointed that he missed seeing something like this. I have to tell him later…”
The Elf girl’s body had recovered quickly, and she was dressed in the clothes that the people here had given her, which were a shirt and pants made of a stretchy, yet soft material (which she later found out were called “T-shirt” and “jeans”). She watched the proceedings silently.
Lelei was envious.
She couldn’t bear to watch any more. All she wanted to do was curl up under her blankets. Well, she had already forgotten that she was supposed to be a guardian of the forest, and watched in mute surprise.
However, since she had chosen the path of the sage, she could not leave these difficult-to-explain circumstances as they were. After all, a sage’s ambition was to conquer the mysteries of the world with wisdom.
After properly motivating herself, she set forth.
As she got close to the moving iron-skinned carriages, the workers there looked at her with a mix of surprise and fear. They seemed to be shouting something along the lines of “it’s dangerous”. If she were run over by such a large vehicle, she would probably be squashed into paste. Because of that, they were probably trying to keep her away.
Just then, a vehicle puffing plumes of smoke rolled up from the corner of the construction site. Lelei proceeded to study its structure carefully.
She understood with a single glance.
That being said, a “mobile kitchen” was a great idea. Its advantages were obvious for the military, but even trading convoys that travelled long distances would appreciate it. After all, it took a lot of effort to set up cooking fires.
She thought about what the man had said to her with a smile as she stood in front of it.
“Please wait a while, we’ll be done soon.”
Sadly, Lelei could not understand his good intentions.
Lelei could tell that they were trying to learn the local language. They repeated their words, and were eagerly trying to talk to her. While the results were not very obvious, at the very least, they could communicate. However, if Lelei waited until they learned how to speak the local language, she would not be able to learn anything. She wanted to know about the tools and technology they used, as well as what they thought about. To do that, she would have to learn their language. Thus, Lelei steeled herself, and began speaking to the man.
Leading Private Furuta smiled to her as he showed off his knife skills, which he was proud of.
His nickname of “Shopkeep” was not for show. He had joined the JSDF to earn enough money to open his own shop. The pension he would get after his contract expired was important to accomplishing that goal.
The girl pointed at the small pile of ingredients.
She was pointing to the radishes and saying something. She repeated the same word, and with some annoyance, Furuta said, “It’s a daikon, daikon.” But after he said that he thought, “Crap, I have to be nice to her.”
“Yes, a daikon.”
Furuta picked up the daikon and waved it around.
One could say that the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine was sashimi, and one could also say that the best accompaniment to sashimi was daikon.
Raw fish cuisine had started becoming popular the world over, but not everyone welcomed it yet. After all, Europeans and Americans found eating raw fish barbaric.
Then, what about this world? As he thought about this, Furuta spoke to the silver-haired girl.
“Core Rekt, Daikon.”
Lelei tilted her head as she puzzled it out. There was a “Core Rekt” in front of that noun, so it should mean something.
Perhaps this vegetable was called a “Daikon”.
The man smiled, and nodded as if to say “that’s right”. While he nodded, he showed her how he could cut the daikon into thin strips that looked like sheets of cloth. As she watched his exciting knife skills, Lelei wondered if all men in their world were master chefs.
With that, the sage Lelei La Lelena, though burdened by some misconceptions, threw herself into the study of the Japanese language.
Yanagida talks about some things with Itami, here’s a brief explanation of the terms he mentions.
The Tibetan problem: this should be referring to the 1959 Tibetan Uprising and the Uighurs, the Urumqi 7.5 Violent Incident, which was a series of violent riots that took place in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
The frozen gyoza poisoning incident refers to police discovering in 2008 that 10 people in Japan got sick from eating gyoza tainted with pesticide, and those gyoza were traced back to Tianyang Foods in Shijiazhuang, Hebei. Chinese Police arrested arrested the culprit in 2010 Mar 26, Lu Yueting, who poisoned the gyoza as revenge.
The Georgia and South Ossetia incident refers how Georgia got close to NATO after declaring independence from the USSR, and Russia wanted Georgia's natural resources too. During the 2008 Olympic games Georgia attacked South Ossetia, but Russian forces beat them back.