Nothing was quite the same in Japan since the emergence of a Gate leading to another world. In fact, nothing was the same at all. The city of Ginza, Tokyo was put under lockdown, and media reporters were barred from televising the details until approved by government bodies. However, this blockade couldn't last long, and soon enough, word had spread about the Gate throughout the continents. Inquiries and conventions were called through foreign ambassadors regarding the topic, but Japan continued to adopt a delaying tactic, stressing that until the Gate was better understood, they couldn't arbitrarily make decisions regarding it.

— — —

-Alnus Hill: Military Forward and Exploration Base.

— — —

A soldier stifled a yawn by covering his mouth with a hand, but it did little to motivate him awake. He was wearing tactical camouflage gear with forest green prints to blend into the environment in a nature setting. The clicking sound of his heavy combat boots echoed in the tiled hall. The helmet that should have been worn over his head was hanging by its strap around his neck, and he showed no indication of righting the gear in the least. He was too busy keeping himself motivated. His eyes were drooping, expression set into a tired melancholy. He could have been watching anime right now…

His name was Yoji Itami, former second lieutenant and trained in special force garrison procedures. He was promoted to First Lieutenant for his actions in directing police and saving civilians in the Ginza Gate incident when the Empire's legions marauded into the city.

He was also a hopeless Otaku.

Honestly, he was more concerned about whether he could buy more doujinshi after the Ginza incident rather than how many lives could have been lost.

Presently, he'd been drafted with honors for his quick actions in Ginza, in order to participate in the operations through the Gate. What. An. Honor.

He yawned again and absently began making his way towards the Major's office where he'd been called to receive his unit's latest instructions. He'd been regulated to be put in command of the Third Recon Unit tasked with civil reconnaissance behind enemy lines. The primary focus was on the citizens of the Empire in hopes of facilitating a cease-fire between both sides, and to help act as a bridge for peaceful negotiations.

Great.

"Why am I here?" He gloomily muttered to himself while entering the Major's office and closing the door behind him.

"Shut it, Itami."

Itami was immediately reprimanded, his features scrunching up as he uttered a curse under his breath. The Major's hearing was just too stellar for an old guy.

Blinking, Itami scrutinized his military superior wearing a formal suit and tie. The man was a senior, but his hairs refused to gray like so many elderly people one could see while out shopping or walking on the street. Instead, the Major exhibited valiant demeanor, his expression, studious despite all the wrinkles.

"Shutting up, Major," Itami did a salute before shaking his head and focusing. His years in military training hadn't gone to waste. "You called, sir?"

The Major snorted before riffling through a pile of documents to procure a missive detailing the instruction for the Third Recon Unit. He passed it over to Itami who took it into his hands and then secured by his side with his right arm. The mission details could wait to be shared with the other members of the team. For now, Itami merely observed while waiting to be dismissed.

Creased brows, narrowed eyes, and a weary sigh, the Major was exhibiting all three major signs of stress.

Need to escape. Itami concluded, tentatively backstepping towards the door, getting as far as turning the knob before his actions ceased.

"First Lieutenant," The Major harped.

"Sir!"

"How do you feel about another mission?"

How did he feel? His dull face must have reflected his emotions as the Major grumbled to himself and relented.

"You're lucky you're not the one dealing with politics," the Major began rubbing at his eyes, his back leaning into his office seat.

"Politics?" Itami muttered.

"Don't ask." The Major glanced up sharply. Frustration was laced in his tone, but it swept to the side as Itami wasn't the target of the Major's stress. "If even I find it troublesome here in another world, then you couldn't imagine what sort of pressure our leaders are facing. Geopolitics and all that with the Gate only appearing in Japan. And everyone wants a piece of the pie. They're rallying to label the Gate in Ginza as a shared international space like an international waterway, not taking into account that Ginza is a city of Japan. If it's passed as international space, are we just supposed to allow the military of other countries into Japan?"

"Wasn't this the case before-"

"Then there was the leak to the United Kingdom..."

Itami shut his mouth, lips twitching at the sheer hassle he could imagine world leaders were facing.

"Code name Arthur?" He queried.

The major slapped a hand over his face and dragged it down with a tired sigh. "Code Name Arthur. Since I doubt that you'll accept the assignment, forget it, lieutenant, and just focus on your unit's objective of surveying nearby cities and points of interest. Dismissed."

Itami shrugged, but the major was right.

"Understood. Recon Team, rolling out."

/-/

The Third Recon Team consisted of twelve members armed with a variety of equipment both lethal and non-lethal. Three military vehicles that accompanied them included a light armoured vehicle with mounted gun turrets, an armed truck, and a Toyota high mobility vehicle.

There were four team members per vehicle with each possessing their own drivers.

The members seated with Itami were as follows:

Sergeant First Class Mari Kurokawa, Gender: Female, Age: 23, Combat Medic

Sergeant First Class Shino Kuribayashi, Gender: Female, Age: 24, Close Combat Specialist

Sergeant Takeo Kurata, Gender: Male, Age: 21, Driver

The others were seated on the other vehicles each possessing a balance in their professions.

"Any idea where we're heading?" Kurata asked from behind the driver's wheel of the Toyota.

"I thought we were just following the dirt road," Kuribayashi stated, crossing her arms and keeping her gaze trained on the passing terrain.

"Well, Captain?"

"…"

Kurata turned to Itami for final say, but caught the man absent minded. Kurokawa stifled a laugh before pulling out the mission details to remind everyone of where they were headed first.

"Arial units with mounted camera have verified several small towns and villages near Alnus Hill. Third Recon Team is to head to the nearest one, Coda village, as known by the locals," Kurokawa explained.

"I don't see no village," Kurata frowned, squinting his eyes in an attempt to peer further up the road.

It was late afternoon, and given a few more hours, night would dawn. As this new world had nothing close to street lights of any kind, by the time the evening came, everything would be pitch black.

"If we don't reach the village in a couple more minutes, we'll make camp." Itami finalized. "Driving in the dark risks falling into unforeseen pits or road hazards."

Kurata nodded and continued on forward until he noticed the tell tail signs of smoke. Frowning, he opened his side window and peeked his head out to confirm what he was seeing. It really was smoke.

Following that line of smoke, Kurata drove the vehicle over the next hill and lay witness to the smoke's origin. "Captain. I think there's trouble ahead."

It was an understatement.

Coda village was in ruins.

The crackling sound of flames could be heard even at the team's distance away from the blaze. Blackened ash and drifting embers smoldered up into the air, leaving behind the charred foundations of wood and clay houses. Straw dolls, nails, and scattered burning clothes littered the ground from a hastily evacuated group fleeing the scene.

They were a veritable line of refugees, as if on a pilgrim quest, heads bowed low and precious few belongings wrapped in small burlap sacks.

"Kurata," Itami called, nodding at the team's driver while signalling for the members of the Recon Team to hold still while Itami's unit approached. Too many vehicles moving towards the group of felling villagers at once were quite likely to spook them into a panic induced sprint. He didn't want to be a cause of a death by trampling. "Approach slowly, then we'll dismount at a distance."

Waiting for Kurata's affirmative, Itami then shifted his attention to another team member.

"Kurokawa, ready the med-kits. We may need them."

"Understood." Kurokawa nodded and began making her preparation.

Parking a few meters away from the crowd that stiffened upon seeing the vehicle approach, Itami waved both hands in the air to show that he was no threat. At the same time, he gestured to their medical supplies and played charades in attempt to get them to realize they only wanted to help.

In the end, Kurokawa was the one who stepped in and began treating one of the fleeing villager's injuries. The rest were quick to follow when word spread that Kurokawa was a 'healer.'

In the meantime, Itami used the opportunity to ask around for what had happened.

A Dragon had come and supposedly burnt the entire village down.

No matter how Itami thought about it, it only really hit for real now that this was a fantasy world.

Itami grunted, coming to a decision. Wasn't a Dragon just a big reptile anyway?

The Third Recon Team couldn't stick around to help all the surviving villagers, but they did make a bold promise.

They would hunt a Dragon.

Upon returning to their vehicle, they found two people in cloaks poking at the metal with their staffs in wonder.

"Can we help you?" Itami asked cautiously.

"Ah, sorry." The elderly of the two was the first to react, the other stone-faced. "We we're just fascinated about how this beast works is all?"

The two were a man by the name of Cato and his student, Lelei. Supposedly, the two were travelling mages. Mages.

Magic.

Itami's eye glittered. Part of the reason he was even in the world beyond the gate was the existence of real-life anime themes on the other side. There were people with cat ears here, as well as elves, orcs, and everything in regards to fantasy manga elements.

Quickly, Itami composed himself, and coughed.

"This isn't a beast, but a vehicle," he corrected.

"Vehicle?" Lelei mouthed the foreign word, but didn't dwell on it for long, letting her teacher do the talking while she observed on the side.

"So, this isn't a metal beast? How curious?!"

A voice interrupted all conversation, drawing everyone's attention towards a woman in a red-frilled black gothic Lolita dress that appeared on top of the Toyota. In her hands was an axe that her frail looking arms did not seem suited to swinging. However, she carried it around as if it weighed nothing before, she leapt off the vehicle with a grin.

"Rory Mercury," the woman introduced herself while everyone tensed. "Apostle of Emroy, God of Darkness, War, and Death." The screech of a Dragon echoed overhead, leather wings outstretched, flaps gliding from billowing air currents. Rory narrowed her eyes. "And I've come to hunt a most fearsome of prey."

Itami glanced out towards the horizon where the roar had echoed from and instantly noticed an orange blaze growing brightly in the night.

"It was injured," Cato shared an observation he'd made when the Dragon had attacked Coda Village. "It will likely continue burning villages and consuming the populace until it's recovered. This brings calamity to all in the nearby lands."

"All the more reason to put a stop to it." Kuribayashi adjusted the rifle she had slung around her shoulder, took it off, and then moved to the vehicle to search for a stronger weapon.

It would come a long way for the military and relations if they could earn the gratitude of this new world's inhabitants.

"Can you describe the extent of the injury?" Itami asked.

Cato immediately looked troubled. At the time, he'd been more focused on evacuating than the Dragon itself. The answer instead came from Cato's apprentice, Lelei.

"A deep wound carved from its right shoulder down to the base of its hind legs. Blood flew like a river, and if we search the ruins of Coda village, broken scales may be scavenged from the rubble."

"What magic could be sharp enough to cut through a Dragon's hide?" Cato mused while Itami and the others listened intently.

"That injury." Rory interrupted, narrowing her eyes. "It was a sword wound."

"No way." Cato's eyes widened before he shook his head. "No one could do that. Not even the world's best knights."

Itami and the others were oddly silent, recalling the reconnaissance video they'd seen recorded from a drone. Itami and the others glanced at each other unsurely, unable to say for certain if this was the work of who they thought it was.

In contrast, Rory hummed.

In any case,

"Whoever it was, Dragons are known to be vengeful."

She'd find out soon enough.

All she and the others had to do was follow the trail of death.


Thanks for reading! Smaller update today. Had something of a family emergency with my grandmother. She's getting too old and needed to be hospitalized for something with her liver.

Next update: Huntsman V2

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