It was a delightful cliche. Mysterious priests I never saw again, but who I'm sure have deep and meaningful lives of their own. An Honour Guard squad with spears and polished armour. A lone, beautiful girl who, based on her outfit and central position, I assumed was the princess of whatever shining beacon of medieval society had decided they need my help.
"Brave Hero, I beseech you help us in our time of need."
It was such a cliche I couldn't come up with a response that wouldn't get me sliced in half on the spot. Still, I wasn't upset about being summoned, like all the usual protagonists of isekai manga.
My life on Earth wasn't very interesting anyway. There were a few people who might miss me, but nobody who would be in dire straits with me gone. As long as everybody back home kept their wits about them, they'd be just fine.
I tried my best to look as physically drained as I was emotionally drained. Luckily they were not unprepared for this scenario, so when I didn't respond right away they didn't think anything of it.
"We've prepared a welcome for your arrival, but if the summoning process has left you weary, you should retire to the quarters we've also had prepared."
"Thank you, that would be, most appropriate I feel." I managed to get out through my facade of exhaustion.
While I followed one of the servants with the group, the princess tried explaining the situation to me in broad terms. The known world had been invaded from the sea by some unexpected force. All attempts at diplomacy had failed without a word said. The enemy soldiers were vaguely humanoid, but surely not human.
I'm paraphrasing of course. To recount in verbatim would be excruciating. The one thing that caught my attention was that she said there were other summons.
"There are others?" I asked, still trying to sound tired.
"Yes, Hero. There have been 24 summonings including yourself. However many we summon there are never enough. The enemy's number increases at every battle, and the invasion spreads up and down the coast of our continent. Six nations are now facing invasion directly.
The one positive product of this war is that every nation on the continent are contributing soldiers. Though they do not always get along, it's better than fighting amongst ourselves."
"If the entire continent is committing military aid to the front line, surely they must be making progress."
"Before we resorted to summoning, an ancient magic not used since the Age of Ascendance, massive armies could hold advantageous terrain. But we've not once won a battle of our own making."
"Always on the back foot eh?"
"It's a phrase from my world, meaning that one is always having to defend. Unable to take initiative."
"Then it is as you say, we have been on our back feet since the invasion began."
"I have to ask, what is the state of military might in this world?"
"I do not understand."
"What are your soldiers using to fight? What is the newest technology they have access to?"
"New equipment must be made after every fight. Much is lost to breakage or Tainting by the enemy. The swordsmiths are busy day and night, and even the iron mines of the Far West are strained."
"So you're still using swords then. And what of magic?"
"You, like your fellows, will be gifted with magic before being sent to the warzone."
"What of your own people? Are they not fighting with magic?"
"Many of the people of this world have some magic propensity, but not nearly what would be required for battle."
By this time we had reached my room and were being shown in.
"If it's not too much trouble, could I have copies of battle statistics, armament specifications, and academic texts on magic sent to this room?"
"It would be no trouble," She said after a pause, "But I don't understand what you would want with such things."
"Are we summons unable to read your language?"
"No, that is easily remedied with a spell, but what would you do with such documents?"
"Knowledge is power. How am I to win your war if I don't know how you're losing it?"
"You expect to win this war yourself? With papers?"
"If I'm not here to win, why am I here?"
She didn't have an answer to that question. I was then left to rest, an opportunity I took full advantage of. It was not a long discussion, but I was truly exhausted by the end of it. As tedious as this account is to read, I assure you translating from her over-expressive language was more so. I always got along better with the commoners of this land because I didn't have to sift through flowery language to understand what they were talking about.
After a few hours' nap I got up to see if they'd delivered the documents I had requested. There was a significant pile of paperwork by the door, so I had some of the attendants help me bring it in. It wasn't nearly everything I had asked for, but it was enough to get a rough idea of their situation.
They had been defending themselves against this mysterious enemy for nearly a decade at this point. The first five years they fought with their own soldiers. After a particularly devastating loss they decided to break the seal on their summoning circle and start pulling heroes through from other worlds.
The first summoning was a group of six, all from the same world. Near I could tell, the summoning system wasn't very specific. They couldn't choose from what world they would be taken, nor what they would be like. The only specification the summoners had any influence on was the summon's general capacity.
'We, the Nations of Sorish, beg the Gods deliver to us six brave heroes to help our fight in this time of emergency.'
Their first summon was a group of six 'heroes' from, what I could only surmise from the report, was a world at about the same technical and social level, but with far greater physical strength. They were kind of like the Vikings of Earth history, but the shortest of them was 8 feet tall.
'We the Nations of Sorish, beg the Gods deliver to us a brave hero to heal the sick and cleanse the battlefield of the Tainting.'
They got a woman from a rather advanced civilization, who developed a high proficiency for this world's healing and 'holy' magics.
They were all like this. They got exactly what they asked for. According to the transcripts and the subsequent battle reports, every single summon had been exactly as they'd requested; a Hero, with a particular talent or ability. It made me wonder what they'd asked for that finally sucked me over.
I'm sure there's a little hero in me, just like anyone else. If I saw an emergency situation, in which I had a reasonable chance of being helpful, I'd help. But I'm not a firefighter, doctor, or soldier. There's nobody in my old world who would have actually called me 'hero' before I left.
The transcript of my summoning hadn't been written up, so I would have to wonder for a while yet.
I was sure I could help with their military situation. I don't know if it would make me a hero, but I could at least get the army out of the iron age. Ironically I'd have to do this by using more iron, but you know...
They had no concept at this point about recycling, so most of their lost, destroyed and 'Tainted' war materials were just left rusting on the battlefield. Not that a strong civilian recycling program could have done much with lost war materials in enemy territory.
Reports indicated that the enemy wasn't using them either, so they were just there waiting for me. Whole fields of raw materials to build with. It wouldn't be long before I actually learned what 'Tainted' meant. It wasn't as much of a problem for my use as it had been for swords.
After a few hours studying I was once more invited to their welcome party. I was uncomfortable but acquiesced. They fitted me for a traditional formal outfit of their society. It was garish to say the least.
I was reminded of 16th century Spanish high society often at this party. The women and their dresses were elegant, and you could hardly see them through the crazy shit their husbands wore. Maybe that was the point? I never found out.
I was even more uncomfortable at this party, being the guest of honour, than I would have been as a regular guest. There were soldiers, generals, war heroes, and nobles all telling war stories. Impressive exploits all around. I had no such stories.
"I must apologize gentlemen, for you have entertained me so, yet I have no tales to tell in return."
"You've not seen battle in your old world?"
"Not personally, no. My life has been spent mostly in the theoretical design and manufacture of things for others' use. With that in mind, I do have designs on some equipment for your armies.
I am somewhat surprised none of the previous summons have made headway on that front. Some of them are from societies more advanced than my own, surely they have some knowledge of projectile weaponry, mechanized combat, aerial warfare even."
"Some of the Heroes have made mention of such things, but I've seen none myself."
"You may soon General, if I can manage it."