I came back but the world is still a fantasy!? – Garesto Academy – Exam Arc: Epilogue – Those Who Take Advantage of the Test – 04-41: In the Shadows of Earth and Garesto II (2/5)

“Friend, huh…”

When a tinge of sadness was mixed in with that quiet mutter, Shinichi muttered with a sigh.

“Sorry.”

An apology with motives unclear.

That came out so suddenly that it was only a given that Frire would look at him questioningly.

But this was actually the reason why he was so troubled this morning.

“I didn’t think that the spy would actually be a friend of yours… My bad.”

Shinichi was the one who told her to go there.

He’d already inferred then that the spy must’ve been a former soldier from Garesto, so the least he should’ve done was to realize that Frire might’ve known the person. That’s why he was apologizing.

But his words just left her shocked and confused.

“You’re overthinking it. If you’d known from the start that it would be her, even if it’s you, I would’ve still doubted you.”

Had he known too much about the internal affairs of the enemy, she would have suspected that he might have had some ties to the volunteer army.

When she pointed that out, he blinked and laughed, saying, “Yeah, I’m sure.”

But immediately after, he shook his head, and said,

“But— It was painful for you, right?”

If so, then even if he hadn’t meant for this result, he still had to apologize.

Overly sincere words spoken with eyes just as sincere.

When their gazes met, Frire finally realized that this was the real reason why he visited her today.

A part of her wanted to admonish him for overthinking the matter, but she knew that she should answer him honestly instead. Surely, that was what he was hoping for too.

“Yeah… It was painful. She may have done unforgivable things, but I didn’t hate her. And yet I had to point my sword at her twice. It was painful alright.”

She was both her first friend and the person she admired. And yet she had to arrest her twice.

Although the crime she committed was unforgivable, surprisingly she felt no hostility toward her.

Rather than feeling betrayed, she was sad that things had to end up like this.

“Yeah… It’s really not something you can leave unaccounted for. But even if you know you have to fight them to stop them, it’s not something you can easily do.”

When he muttered that in agreement, just for a moment, a pained expression appeared on him.

It might’ve been her imagination, but the hands rubbing on her head seemed to exert more strength as well.

“…Experience?”

“Soon… There’s a smartass out there that’s in need of a good beating.”

Vicious words spoken with a bitter smile, but it seemed as though they were merely meant to hide the emotions the boy felt.

“I, see… I don’t know anymore if we’ve been blessed with friends or not.”

“Ha ha, that’s true…”

Frire wondered whether to broach the topic further, but when she saw his wavering eyes, she decided not to and just said that instead, but…

“But a smartass, huh… That’s really fitting.”

Somehow she found those words a good fit for the people who caused the incident.

Apart from her own feelings, as far as she was concerned, Aria and her group reaped what they sowed.

“You could say that this whole mess was Aria’s fault. Even though she’s smarter than me, she became too caught up with her anti-Earth views and lost sight of everything else. Ronan and the others are idiots too. There’s really just no helping people actually dumber than me.”

Had they changed their perspective just a little, this situation could have been avoided.

The fact that they couldn’t just goes to show that they were too foolish to.

Yet despite saying that, the reason her face was so bitter must’ve been because they were comrades who fought together before.

“They’re stupid, really. I’m the one who entered the army with the number one dumbest reason, and yet… How did everything end up into this… farce…”

They all became warriors, swearing to protect Garesto, but the one with the weakest reason among them was surely Frire, who simply wished to rebel against her family.

And yet it was someone like that who took the spotlight and rose to the top before quitting, while they became criminals who sowed anti-Earth and anti-establishment sentiments during their rigorous duties.

What an unreasonable gap, Frire seemed to say as she shook her head.

Even though the ones who wanted to protect others the most were them.

“It might just be that the government has been doing well until then, but the so-called duty of the Gaen Volunteer Army just missed the mark too much at a fundamental level. They wasted 8 years causing trouble without noticing that.”

“No kidding… You’re a returnee who came back just a few months ago, and yet you were able to realize it.”

As though to sympathize with her, he intentionally used such harsh words.

Shinichi was also among those people who were able to see through their misunderstanding.

Though in his case, it was mostly because he was someone from 8 years ago and didn’t know Garesto.

“In my case, it was because I was shown a relatively calm situation at the start. This sort of stuff is easier to look at objectively when you’re not part of the flow. It was confusing at first, but it was actually really simple… Because everything started 45 years ago.”

That was when Garesto started looking for Earth to solve their resource problems.

The leaders of the Gaen Volunteer Army didn’t try to figure out what that meant.

Or they did, but missed the mark completely.

—Cease interactions, return Garesto to its former shape.

They weren’t wrong to fear the threat of the Earthlings and their culture, but the justifications and claims they clung to were wrong from the start.

It was true that the interaction between the two worlds only truly began 8 years ago.

However, Earth and Garesto made contact 30 years prior that.

And Garesto first began investigating Earth 45 years ago. In other words…

“Yes, exactly. What former shape? We never knew it!”

Frire said mockingly with a pained expression.

In the first place, none of those below their mid-forties even knew what Garesto was like before interacting with Earth.

Although the matter about Garesto was kept completely under wraps until 8 years ago by Earth to the Earthlings, Garesto had sequentially publicized information surrounding Earth to the Garestonians, so their people knew of the existence of another world(Earth).

But even just ‘knowing’ was enough to cause a reaction.

In particular, there were many resources and energies from Earth that Garesto did not know anything about, and in order to know how they could relate and be used with the Garesto’s own unique products, it was necessary to seek the advice of the engineers and scientists of the two worlds.

That’s why the interactions between the two world were not limited purely to politicians, and even such experts have had to interact with each other.

Naturally, that was bound to have an influence over the development of Garesto’s skills and weapons.

One example would be the electric-type skills that were born precisely from these interactions.

Garesto also had lightnings, albeit with a different principle, but unfortunately, the idea of turning it into a skill never occurred to the Garestonians.

Part of it was because the people living in the dome-shaped residential district weren’t all that familiar with lightning, but another reason was because they didn’t rely on electric energy, so it was only when Garesto was able to understand the properties of lightning that they were able to turn it into a skill.

On the side of the weapons, the handgun-type weapons were a concept imported from Earth.

Garesto didn’t always have the system of weapons they had now.

Just like Earth, there was a time when they relied on swords and bows, and the most common type of ranged weapon for individuals was the crossbow-type developed from bows or the downsized cannon-type for defending bases.

When the engineers came into contact with the handguns, however, they saw how much better it was in power and in rapid fire.

It was also much easier to handle than a cannon, so they immediately incorporated the gun-type and its functions.

The small arms derived from that are commonly used today.

“…But I can see why the government didn’t make that clear. They probably didn’t want to be taken advantage of in their first inter-world exchange.”

Frire said as she acknowledged their position.

Her eyes were turned up toward the sky as she thought of the past.

“The territory Aria and I were born at, the Doneju Territory, was destitute. The Doneju family put so much emphasis on martial arts that even though they could deal with the raybeasts, they were terrible at managing the territory. But they were still one of the ten great nobles, and it would’ve been problematic if they were to fall, so the government supported them. Hidden among that support were imports from Earth, and it was through those that the Doneju family were able to maintain the status-quo.”

There were plenty of territories like that, Frire said matter-of-factly.

That was something she probably shouldn’t be telling an Earthling like Shinichi, but it was likely that she said that because she believed he already knew, and sure enough, Shinichi wasn’t shocked.

45 years ago, some of the territories were already in dire straits.

Garesto’s lack of resource was much more severe than what the official numbers showed.

Who knew how much they would’ve lost if they hadn’t traded their technology?

“If not for the interaction with Earth, we would likely have had to resort to dropping cities. Given my circumstances… I likely wouldn’t have even been born. That’s why all I feel for Earth is gratitude.”

Too few Garestonians understood that.

To be more precise, the matter was specifically engineered to be difficult to understand.

“After all, that’s nothing more than a weakness to Garesto. A world, that despite its advanced technology, lost because of its lack of numbers and resources. One wrong step, and we may very well end up being squeezed dry by Earth.”

“I’m sure that was something they feared, but…”

They had already messed up by revealing their lack of resources.

Just how far could Earth raise the price with that knowledge?

That’s why they had to make the impression on both sides that they were equal to Earth.

They wanted to show off the ‘power’ that Garesto possessed to establish a friendly relationship during the initial period of the interaction and have the masses recognize Garesto as a neighbor.

Any trivial amounts of hostility from the masses could be negotiated later as equals, or perhaps, the resource problem would have been solved by then.

“Well, there were some messy parts too. This inconsistency… As I thought, there was another force that influenced the cultural exchange.”

There were at least two groups, one that wished for the interaction to go well, and another that wished for it to start immediately.

At the very least, Shinichi speculated that there were at least such two groups.

Perhaps the current situation was the result of a 50-50 split between each side’s claims.

“Hmm, I don’t know about that, but it’s true that the poor response of the government gave reason to some of the anti-interaction faction. Even though nothing ever goes perfectly well… It’s sad, really.”

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