Disclaimer: I don't own Gate or Nihon-koku Shoukan as it belongs to its rightful owners.

Arc 1 Finale: Special Chapter: A Calm After The Storm

"In every aftermath of a story, there's always the time for everyone to recuperate and regather their own selves before proceeding to the next one."

-New World Journal

It was the sunset itself that became the main reason for everyone to halt their own tracks. Horse-driven wagons, carriages, and carts, formed into a very long line during the duration of the journey, which became a small hurdle for the Reconnaissance team as members would have to travel all the way back to just inform the villagers.

Fortunately, the two leaders of RCT 3 had foreseen it and ordered two of the LAVs to be stationed in critical areas of the line. One is in the middle of the line, and the other is at the end.

Once the signal was given, the other groups in the two LAVs would proceed to make a series of honks that would eventually alert the rest of the villagers, which it did.

"The Metal Forts! They are blowing the horns once again!"

"What could this actually mean?"

The small commotion did cause some concern among the locals. Such sounds would indicate that a new ordeal is approaching, or it could simply be the normal announcement of taking a short break. The group had been traveling for hours, and since they had left the land, minor issues such as several wagons becoming stuck in mud became one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome. They were able to overcome those obstacles with the help of the Men in Green's moving metal forts and a little magic from the mages themselves.

Rory had been a witness to these scenarios. Even she herself had to step out from the horseless carriages in order to help the villagers in need, mostly from a physical standpoint by unloading several chests, boxes, and baskets before they could take action.

The usual procedure was for Lelei or Cato to cast a spell to remove the wooden wheels from the muddy ground, and then the Men in Green's metal forts would do the next task by tapping into their own acceleration power, and with a thick rope tied to the wagons themselves, so that they could all be pulled easily without breaking or destroying anything. The Recon team saw this as an advantage for everyone.

A good way to solve the problem.

She couldn't recall how many times she had unloaded the green carriage to lend her assistance. But with this last announcement signaling another day's rest, a thought came into her mind.

"Pardon me, but mind if I ask a question?" She said garnering the attention of the Men In Green, who was with her inside the metal carriage.

"How far are we reaching Alnus Hill?" She politely asked.

"Almost there Ms. Rory, but we needed to stop the journey for a while, it's almost getting dark." Itami was the one to explain this time around, in the midst of numerous voices coming from the radio.

Indeed, the continuous horns and radio chatters were enough to act as an alarm clock to get the rest of the members out from their own slumber, with the exception of Yuji, who had stayed awake for the past several hours observing the moving scenery outside.

"Damn, I was already having a good dream and nap!" Shino exclaimed, rubbing her eyes and fighting the minor irritations.

"Didn't expect you to be napping on Kurata's shoulder," Tomita remarked jokingly, causing the young woman to widen her eyes as she moved away from the Otaku soldier, albeit with a slight blush.

Mari and Hitoshi could only chuckle in response, while Kurata himself was unable to speak because he was still drowsy. Rory, on the other hand, had made an amused expression as she sensed small spikes of love surrounding the two.

"Alright people! We gotta help the rest set up the camp for the night."

When the announcement was made by Itami himself, everyone began to unload the vehicle, and when the young man stepped back onto the ground, he was greeted by an unexpected sight.

As the darkness descended, everyone's gaze shifted to the front, their eyes widening in surprise and amazement, especially for the villagers themselves. What they saw was breathtaking, as if they had been transported to the glittering cities of the northeast. But, for the Recon Members, what they saw reminded them of something they'd seen before.

"Are we back in Tokyo already?"

"I don't remember seeing the base with plenty of buildings and camps outside."

"I mean do appreciate them installing street lights if they are really building a town."

"I'm pretty sure they finally built that second camp somewhere around."

It didn't take too long for some of them to give their own comments. Surely, they left the fort having remembered it as a quiet base in the middle of vast fields and wastelands, even at night, there were only a few lights that were left open in important parts.

Surely, Yuji couldn't recall how the base in Alnus hill has this many lights. It felt as if he was staring at the first signs of a lively city from afar. Though he had to agree that the scene was really wonderful to look at and in the midst of the growing darkness, it could act as the group's beacon and reminder that they weren't that far away from their destination.

A smile crept upon Rory's lips. Feeling more surprised that the journey was really nearing an end. She took brief glance at the moving metal forts, wondering if they had something to do in reaching the fields that quick. Looking back at the wonderful view of the hill to which she began to admire for the first time.

These people and their world never failed to amaze her.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

It was the cheers and laughter of numerous villagers and soldiers alike that had drastically alleviated the mood inside the camp.

Lieutenant Brian, on the other hand, was already familiar with the appearance, having witnessed massive refugee camps in his own world. The only thing that differed greatly was the atmosphere itself, as for the first time, he was surrounded by a sense of warmth and safety.

The man's gaze moved as he noticed several bonfires that provided light to the wagons and carriages, as well as the villagers who were finally resting on their makeshift camps. In the middle of the fields, a scene that felt more like a new village had been established.

Numerous families in the midst of enjoying their own meals and spending time together, friends and relatives sharing their own stories without the interference of any anxious thoughts and warnings.

For the first time, Brian returned the smile. It was truly heartwarming to see these people who were able to return to their lives and live them on this very night. It reminded him of how he and his family used to spend time together on camping nights.

It was all just about bonding together and singing songs.

The Californian found himself leaning on the hood of the LAV, which was parked near where Third Recon's camp was currently set up. For the time being, he was alone with his orange juice box, which he was currently drinking.

In fact, he wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to be alone and reflect on what had happened during this reconnaissance mission. He was not the only one who wanted to make sense of what was left of his own skepticism.

As soon as he was deep in his thoughts a familiar presence entered the scene and a familiar voice of a certain Japanese Lieutenant spoke.

"Lieutenant Brian"

Itami smiled as he approached his American counterpart.

"Lieutenant Itami"

He greeted back and nodded in return, as Third Recon's captain, joined in.

"How's everything going so far, chief?" he asked quickly, only to be met with a chuckle.

Itami sighed, his face flushed with exhaustion. He leaned on a vacant spot near the closed window, holding a small cup of hot chocolate milk, his eyes focused on the entire camp itself." Been doing a lot of sweeping and check-ups on the entire camp itself," He explained, while wiping a small portion of sweat falling towards his cheeks.

"Just making sure that the rest of the villagers are safe and don't have the reason to worry anymore."

Brian slightly nodded in understanding." I see." He muttered before the Japanese man handed him a small triangular shape snack, which was wrapped in some sort of banana leaf.

"Oh, what's this?" He raised both eyebrows in curiosity, as he examined the unfamiliar snack.

Itami formed a small smile." The villagers called it "Elven Bread" He explained.

"Oh, you mean the Elven Bread from..."

The Japanese man shrugged." It could be or could be not, but if you're gonna ask me, I believed this to be the real thing." He grinned as he took a bite of the same snack on his hand.

Even the food in this world was driving them nuts. Was this really that one snack that could make you full for the days ahead?

It didn't take long enough for the man to take his own bite as well. The snack was seemed to be baked and had that little crispy feeling. It felt like somewhere in between a bread and a wafer, though it was definitely sweet and pleasant.

"Not bad! This is actually tasty." He commented, proceeding to officially devour the snack on his hand.

His growling stomach soon faded and the hunger in him disappeared. Soon a wave of amazement followed.

I told you so, I'll definitely bring a bag when I get the chance to go back to the other side of Gate." Itami continued to smile.

"Risa is going to love this... Definitely!'

Brian formed his own smile.

"Hope Melinda and the kids would like this." He thought to himself, instantly remembering his beloved family back home.

Both men were essentially excited to take any opportunities just to visit and spend time with them once more. Brian wanting to make up for the time that he wasn't there while Itami trying to personally prove that he was alright and in one piece to his wife. Besides that aspect, they still had to fulfill their own responsibilities.

"So what is like being the leader of your own team, Brian-san?" Itami asked.

The Californian Lieutenant sighed but smiled, "It's often a roller coaster ride." He shook his head slightly, "You never know what kind of situation you're going to be placed in." He explained while slowly rubbing his other hand.

"And somehow in every mission, I always keep being placed along with the people I knew." He slightly laughed regarding those small details." As if a part of Home wanted coming along with me."

"How lucky I was."

"I can relate to that," Itami chuckled and said, shifting his eyes towards the rest of his team.

The man can't even remember how long he had been Third Recon's captain. As time passes by, He began to see them as his own second family. There was just something special about the bond that this group had for a long time. Maybe this was the reason why he wanted to fulfill his responsibility, not just as a leader but as a big brother to the group.

"Do you think we still have a lot of things to go through after this?" Lieutenant Brian asked this time as silence slowly began to take over once more.

Itami expressed an uncertain face. He too had no idea what would happen next.

"Not that I'm aware of...but I have a feeling we won't be going home anytime soon," he explained, before adding, "There will be multiple storms ahead from this point on." The man could feel it, even if he hoped it would be the last.

A warning or a random prophecy?

"Let's just be ready for what is to come." He finished his statement.

Lieutenant Brian sighed in return.

"Only one way to find out."

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

The area was overwhelmed by the strong scent of delicious stew and as well as other dishes.

It was like a small celebration for many as the villagers prepared their own food in a more glamorous way.

Furuta, who was just a part of it, had done it again as it seems. He created another long line, compose of villagers that were excited and eager to try out his cooking once again, and just like the last time, the scene was lively and had this fiesta-like atmosphere to it.

Tomita had the opportunity to witness it firsthand. Choosing to volunteer as a server this time, the hulky Japanese man had no idea how much he would enjoy it, but seeing the happy faces of children and the elderly was definitely wholesome for him.

"Thank you, young man!"

"Thank you, mister!"

"Bless you, Men In Green!"

Hearing their genuine comment, Thanks Yous and words was enough to keep him in this kind of mood. Tonight, he was beaming from ear to ear. A thought occurred to him as he shifted his gaze to his fellow JSDF colleague.

"You've pretty much captured their hearts with your cooking Furuta."

He called out to his friend.

The young chef-turned-soldier wiped the sweat from his brow. Furuta smiled at the last villager he served before turning his attention to the big man himself.

He slightly shook his head.

"I still won't believe it," he joked, chuckling at the idea itself.

He had never considered gaining a following by cooking dishes. Let alone capturing the hearts of many people. All he ever wanted was to follow his passion and serve the best he could, and it would be impossible for him to let a woman fall in love with him.

"Well...Why do you think every famous chef in the world had accomplished it?" Tomita then asked, trying to recall every single famous chef he knew, but he only knew one since growing up.

"Chefs in the world? Hmmm, Like who?" Hitoshi raised an eyebrow.

"I only know Gordon Ramsay..." The man replied, sighing in defeat." But, if you look at him now, People all over the world, really loved him." He explained." Even though he is long gone."

"Well... Not just his own cooking." Hitoshi pointed out." He had charisma, the personality, and he's funny." He said, stirring what was left of the stew inside the hot pot.

Seriously, what kind of woman would be attracted to this quiet and unassuming Japanese man?

Tomita let out a small chuckle and formed a small smile.

"You won't believe me at this point, but I think you're on the right track," the big man said, addressing the latter with this cryptic message.

Hitoshi remained perplexed but intrigued. If he was referring to the idea of falling in love with someone in this world, that would be absurd. Be it a Human, a Demi-Human, or one of the world's many other races.

Was He even worth the person he is?

"Excuse me, mister!"

And at that moment, a new customer came to the scene.

Hitoshi shifted his gaze to the source of the voice, and to his surprise, it was not a normal little village girl. The cute white long hair and red eyes piqued his interest, but it was the very long fluffy ears that drew his attention.

"A little bunny girl?" He thought to himself.

Was there a Demi-Human family amongst the villagers to begin with?

The little bunny girl appeared shy, her head slightly bowed, as if she was hesitant and afraid to approach the Men in Green.

"Oh... " Hitoshi's eyes widened in surprise. "Hey, there little girl!" He regained his composure and smiled. "Don't worry, there's still more stew in the pot," he assured her.

"What's your name by the way?"

There was a brief moment of silence that took over.

The little bunny girl eventually managed to gather the courage to speak.

"T-Tyuu-li, M-My name is T-Tyuu-li." She replied, also hoping for them to understand what she was telling them.

The two men, as usual, understood what the little girl meant. Her words and annotations sounded as if they were speaking to a person from their country. Then it quickly reminded them of the lack of a language barrier in this world.

"Nice to meet you Tyuuli," Tomita spoke this time with a smile, yet the little girl had kept silent.

It didn't take Hitoshi long to finish the last of his servings, and he carefully handed the bowl of stew to the little bunny girl using a small tray.

"Here you go Tyuuli-san." He smiled, while the girl accept his offer.

"You have a beautiful name Ms. Tyuuli," Tomita commented, though receiving another silence from the girl.

The little bunny girl, in turn, bowed slightly to the two men before fleeing the scene. There was a pall of sadness around her. It's a minor detail that they've noticed whenever her name is mentioned. As if she was afraid of her name since it was similar to the once-great queen that ruled her home.

"Is she alright Tomita?" Hitoshi expressed his concern.

His friend could only shrug." I hope, according to the chief, Coda Village did have a very small population of Demi-Humans in the community but they soon left before our arrival." He explained.

"So maybe this girl was forced into adoption or maybe she had been adopted for a long time?" Hitoshi speculated. "I mean, that kind of scenario is entirely possible."

This was the first time he'd seen something that wasn't human. Furthermore, when her name was mentioned, the girl appeared hesitant and cringing.

Tomita shrugged once again.

"Beats me..."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"So you're telling me you took on a giant werewolf that had been chasing you and managed to slice them in half with a combat knife?"

Daisuke's curiousity had peaked. The man sat amongst the circle of his fellow Recon members as he continued to bombard them with some of his questions. He thought he was the only one that encountered something out of the ordinary.

Recon members, particularly Shino, Mari, Higashi, and Kurata, had their own stories to tell, which were more endearing, breathtaking, and yet too unbelievable to believe, or perhaps it was just him.

"I have to admit, I got lucky during that time, I was on top of that wolf's head and suddenly the knife was able to slide down like it was cutting butter," Shino continued, still bragging about her encounter with the beast.

I mean, who else was I going to have to deal with besides that? " The young lady inquired, continuing to drink her beverage at the same time.

"Fair enough." Daisuke shrugged and nodded.

But what Kurata did at the time was even more badass, if you were to ask me." This time, Higashi spoke up, proudly patting the Otaku on the back.

Kurata rolled his eyes in return, which surprised the man. Did he use to make that particular expression a lot?

""Come on man, I almost got my head eaten by a Demonic Lycan, so I had no choice," the Otaku replied, appearing evasive about the subject.

Daisuke then raised both eyebrows.

"By the way, is it true that those beasts can talk? What did it tell you?" He asked, changing the subject.

Kurata simply shrugged.

"Well it could really talk, and it told me what was my last words were before it was about to eat me." He explained, recalling that moment." So I told him "Go Eat Shit" and I just throw the grenade towards its mouth."

His mind continued to remember, and by that point, he fully accepted his final fate, at least he was going out in a blaze of glory, and all he wanted from that then on, is to take one final look at his friends, especially towards a certain tough young lady.

The rest were left speechless by the young man's remark. Another detail was that he had this slight seriousness surrounding him as if all those events had somewhat changed him.

For Shino's part, this was the first time she felt curious about the Otaku, normally people amongst the division would just shrug it off. except for the other JSDF soldiers, who were also Otakus in their own right. For this once, she finally had the chance to see through what the young man is really like beneath that facade. She didn't feel the same annoyance anymore during that moment.

"I gotta tell you, Kurata, what you did there was both badass and courageous," Mari spoke this time with the usual smile.

"You almost got us crying there, you know?" She pointed it out, still a bit in disbelief regarding what happened during that time.

A wide grin finally came out from Kurata." Oh is that so?" He slightly snickered." Then I guess I'm that good of an actor."

The young man now had two faces of himself.

The rest of the group did react and laugh at his remarks, but most of them breathed a sigh of relief, worried that the good old Kurata had seemingly vanished forever. All this time, they had finally gotten used to the man's antics, and seeing him in a different character was very surreal for them.

It was at that point when Daisuke cleared his throat, having heard all of their opinions.

"Well...you all convinced me...but seriously, the ghosts and spirits in this world are very different from ours." He pointed it out, before adding." To think we can see them right in front of our eyes without even activating our sixth senses...Sheesh!"

"You got a point though," Higashi said as he raised a hand and then proceeded to take another bite of his snack.

"So does that mean our own sixth senses were activated when we saw those ghosts?" Kurata spoke once more, his words giving the chills towards his comrades.

"Dammit! I-I'm not going to get involved in this Ghost nonsense again," Shino shivered, his face flushed with panic and annoyance. She'd had her fill of ghosts. Her previous close encounter with them was most likely the most terrifying of all.

As for the rest of her JSDF colleagues, They were forgetting the fact that the tough lady is afraid of ghosts.

Mari smiled, "Don't worry Shino, we're all afraid of seeing ghosts..." "Bad Ghosts," she explained, trying to cheer up the latter.

"Mari-san's gotta point." Higashi nodded and agreed." What's to be afraid of if they were all Good Ghost?"

"I object..." Daisuke followed."All Ghost, be it Good and Bad are really dangerous."

"And we won't probably be encountering ghosts in the future." Kurata said, as his eyes began to sparkle with optimism." Bring on the Trolls, Ogres, Magical girls, Demon Lords, Druids, and Necromancers!" He exclaimed." And Nekos...!

While the others laughed, Shino chose to groan and cringe in response to his remarks. It appeared that the old Kurata had finally resurfaced. Nonetheless, she remained optimistic.

"You know, by this point, we should really study more of the creatures in this world to get a better idea of how we're going to survive," Higashi suggested to the group. "I mean, this isn't just about war and rescue missions," He added.

"You may never know what still lies out there."

By then silence had taken charge once more.

The man's words had a cryptic quality to them. It could be a foreshadowing or simply a warning for them. In fact, Kurata informed them before those various aspects of this world could be compared or have similarities to their own version of fictional fantasy genres. There was a slight tension in the air as the others were lost in their own thoughts, wondering what they were going to do next.

Shino being the passive person she is, sighed. Rolling her eyes and expressing another kind of her own sassiness.

"Well... Why Not?"

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

As the night progressed, an certain elderly sage sat on the carriage's platform. The old man finally had the opportunity to enjoy his time alone, holding a cup of hot tea that Rory had personally prepared and made.

It was the perfect time to be just himself as he could finally clear his thoughts and clouded mind.

Well...not completely alone.

Hodor sat near where his friend was currently sitting. The man was holding a similar cup of tea because he had apparently been encouraged to join in the evening tea time. Apart from him wanting to go for the Ales and Booze, if he was going to change as a person, he might start with small things like preferring a more healthy way of drinking.

He didn't quite get the gist of it the first time around, but he was getting better.

"It's very rare to see you having a wonderful tea time," Cato observed, releasing a small chuckle, while the elf man simply nodded back.

"I know," he replied, observing the little smoke-like essence coming from the tea itself. "I wasn't even aware of it," he added as if changing his habits was already automatic for him to do.

Cato responded with an amused smile, "You've finally learned your lesson," he thought, noticing the changes in the man.

"Tell me, what or who caused you to change that way?" asked the old man.

Hodor sighed as memories of a certain beautiful elf woman flashed before his eyes. "It's actually a forgotten promise from a very long time ago." He explained. "I realized it wasn't too late yet to honor that promise and she wanted me to be a better person." He paused for a brief moment, wiping a small tear from his eyes.

"I am glad that I embraced it."

The old man nodded in understanding.

"I am proud of you for that." He said." And I do hope everything would go well between you and your daughter." He expressed his hopes.

Hodor chuckled in return." I could say the same for you Cato." He replied as he shifted towards a certain piece of parchment that the old sage was holding throughout this time.

"You finally opened the letter." The elf man expressed a surprised smile." What did she tell you this time?" He then asked, regarding an old friend.

Cato could shake his head in disbelief and in his own amusement." She's still the same old Mimosa, you and I knew." He explained, letting out a small laugh.

Hodor chuckled." As I suspected." He commented." She still cares about you."

He knew deep down inside, she had burned down the bridge yet since that incident.

Silence befell for a few moments.

"I'm aware of it, my friend." The old man replied, taking another sip of his tea.

How many years has it been since three were in the same room together? Even Cato was lost on recounting the many adventures that he had been a part of. As He and the woman were showing their signs of age, looking at his elf friend, who still had the essence of his youth, it greatly reminded him of a livelier time.

"Do you have any plans to go back to Rondel?" Hodor asked.

The old man then took a glance at the camp where the Men in Green currently resided.

"I do have plans, yet, we still have our own journey to finish." He replied." They helped us a lot, to the point that I can't think about anyways to repay them back."

"I see..." The Elf man nodded in understanding." They too promised too to provide us a new home." He said, a glimmer of hope showing in his eyes." It would be unbelievable if they asked for our skills and expertise soon." He chuckled." Though, I do hope that they don't have any corruption in their hearts."

"You got a point there old man."

"Though, I wonder what thoughts Rory has regarding these people and their intentions." Cato wondered, still confused about what the Apostle's plans would be from now on.

In fact, she did manage to sense the goodness in these people. A reason for them to not worry about the trusting side of things. Whenever the girl says something about a particular place, event, or person, they might as well be prepared to believe her.

And at that moment, Cato raised both eyebrows in curiosity.

"Speaking of Rory, where in the world has she gone off to now?"

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

It was, indeed, one of the most intriguing games she had encountered during her recent travels.

Rory had never felt so focused in her life. She returned to business after sipping a small portion of her tea and looked at several small cards she was currently holding.

The only source of light inside the tent was the single hanging lamp. It felt like a scene from a cartoon or a movie, with a small group of friends gathered around a large circular table and only a giant spotlight hovering above them. Those characters would then spend the majority of their time playing cards, and they would all be placing their own money and bets to raise the stakes and see who would be the worthy winner. However, for this particular game, it was more of a tag team battle between two Americans and An Apostle and her helper.

This is how Carl and Al felt throughout the small event. The two American Rangers quickly joined forces and were now competing in a game of Uno against the Demi-Goddess and her trusty spiritual ally. In fact, both men entered the game with high spirits, confident that they could beat the girl because she had never played a game like this before in her life.

"Your move Al," Carl stated, with only a few cards left in his hand.

Al returned the nod, placing a green card in the center of the table, reducing his cards to just two. The man also turned his gaze to the opponents. This was undoubtedly the first time he had faced opponents who did not come from the realm of mortals.

He can't speak for his friend, since his reaction was somewhat casual upon meeting a cute floating anthropomorphic cat-like talking stuff toy.

Was it really a stuffed toy to begin with?

As he became more vigilant, he tightened his grip on his cards. He knew deep down that the otherworldly team would gain more advantages. There was no doubt that they possessed the ability to cast spells that would alter the course of the game, or that the adorable cat-like spirit Terra, of all people, would use its abilities to see and identify what their remaining cards were.

Sweat began to fall from the back of his head at this crucial moment.

Carl, for his part, remained calm as his big brother would often do. He considered himself in the zone at the moment. He introduced the game to their guests, only teach the basics, but never included the tricks, to begin with.

He was certain he could handle it and turn the game in their favor. On closer inspection, it appeared that Rory and her assistant were trailing, and it was all going well with him until...

"Yosh! My turn!" Terra announced as he placed a card on the table.

"I don't know what this four-color image represents but I think this a powerful one." The Chirithy remarked, sensing a strong aura on the guard he was holding.

The card turned out to be a Wild Card, and both men widened their eyes in surprise.

"Crap!"

"Oh come on, I have to draw out four again!?"

Carl exclaimed inside his mind, still shock while drawing out four more cards bringing him back all the way to the beginning once more.

The tide had begun to turn.

Rory formed a smile." I guess it's my turn boys." She giggled as she placed her own card on the table.

The men widened their eyes once more as they stared at yet another powerful action card.

"Come on! Another Wild Card!?"

The hands of defeat had emerged like a shark, devouring a large portion of their confidence and leadership. Not long after, the advantage and momentum began to shift in favor of the young lady and the Chirithy.

"I must say, this game of Uno is a wonderful thing!"

The Demi-Goddess cheerfully remarked.

Again, more action cards were placed in the middle.

"I know right?" Terra chuckled and said this time, gleefully placing his own action card.

"They are surely going to love this!" Rory added, referring to her old friends back home.

Carl and Al's hands were now both full of cards, as defeat had arrived on their doorsteps. The two were still stunned at how the situation had been turned around, and they were now desperately attempting to reclaim their lead, but to no avail.

"Dammit!" Carl could only mutter to himself, while his fellow recon member kept silent all throughout.

Before long, their choices began to diminish, leaving them with only one option left.

"Alright, Ms. Rory, I guess you guys won the game." The Californian Soldier sighed in defeat as he placed all of his cards on the table, signaling his surrender.

"You can stop now Al." He then told his friend, who was still trying hard to reclaim their former advantage but it was all useless.

After a two-hour competitive and intense match, the Apostle and her Chirithy emerged victorious, giving themselves a high five, as they had learned from the American Rangers themselves.

"I told you, men, that we would win!" Rory smiled and said, rubbing her hands together in delight.

"And we'll be taking these sweets as well," Terra remarked, walking up to the pile of twinkies as the Chirithy began to grab each of them and placed them in a small basket.

Carl and Al could only watch and cringe as their treasures were taken away from them. Of course, regrets were usually a part of the process, and twinkies were considered the Holy Grail for them out of all the snacks they had eaten in their lives.

They soon found themselves watching the two eat the twinkies in front of them, which was a difficult experience.

"I must say, these "Twinkies" are such a delight!" Rory cheerfully remarked once more, as the young lady paired the soft small cakes with her tea, creating a unique dynamic. "Tell me gentlemen, how in the world these beautiful cakes are made?" she added, showing genuine interest.

A brief moment of quietness befell the area.

Al was the first one to reply as the man scratched the back of his head. He still couldn't get over the loss.

"It's kind of complicated Ms. Rory." He said.

The young lady raised both her eyebrows." Oh, I see..."

And at that very moment, a thought came up to Carl's mind, realizing that this was the perfect time to ask a question that had been lingering in his head.

"Ms. Rory, May I ask, How's life been for you being a centuries-year-old person?" The man finally asked, seemed a bit nervous since he wasn't sure if this was a sensitive topic for the Apostle." And if I can add, How does one Apostle become immortal?"

Fortunately enough, the young lady smiled.

"Well, I assume you're asking this out of curiosity, rather than wanting to achieve a life without death?" She raised an eyebrow, politely wanting to clarify the man's exact desires. Her voice was also filled with sadness from that then on.

"Uhm...Yes," Carl replied as if he didn't know what to say about it. He was as surprised as he had always been.

Terra took a quick glance at his superior, puzzled on how the young lady was going to explain her entire story.

Rory took a small breath and spoke.

"Becoming an Apostle is such a complex process, you have to be dedicated to serving the God and Religion that you are in." She explained." That includes staying away from any family affairs and interactions, and the other of life's distractions."

"I had to learn the difficult way of becoming what I am now." Rory explained, expressing a little bit of sorrow in her eyes, recalling those painful moments." And once you finally claim the position, you'll spend a whole life traveling and purifying the remnants of any dark energy or curse in this world."

"Until you've reached the thousand-year mark," Terra spoke as he finished the last sentence of her master.

Carl and Al stared wide-eyed at the young lady. Both men couldn't believe the process one has to go through in order to ascend to another plane. They could tell that it was a heck of a stressful job.

"What happens after the thousand-year mark then?" Carl asked.

Rory smiled." It's simple, you get a wish granted or you finally ascend as a bonafide God or Goddess and be a part of the rulers of this world." She explained." At least, that's how my church had been preaching for many years.

"Man, that's really a lot to take in... "Al remarked.

Sure both of them would rather choose to live a normal life with their families rather than isolate and commit themselves to a thousand-year enlightening. God Only Knows how would the experience affect their overall minds.

"Is it okay if I ask one more question, Ms. Rory, but why did you choose to become an Apostle in the first place?" Al inquired this time. "I mean, is it because you want to live longer?"

Quietness befell the area once again.

The young lady looked down fondly, remembering certain people who were precious and important to her even until now.

She responded with a sigh and a smile.

"Well...just Let's say that I loved my family dearly and I wanted for all of them to receive blessings and live a peaceful and good life," she explained as she clasped her hands tightly in prayer.

At that moment, a small tear fell from her eye. Even until now, she always thought that she chose the right decision ever since that fateful day.

It was the only way to save them.

Carl and Al stood there staring at the young lady, unsure what to say or do. Even though they had considered a solution to lighten up the overall mood, the young lady had already done so.

In a blink of an eye, Rory went back to her jolly facade and expressed her own excitement.

"Shall we have another round of Uno?"

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

His words kept repeating inside her mind, even several days had already passed.

Lelei rested and leaned on a small platform on the opposite side of the carriage. The girl had been reading several books for the past hour until it was time to go to bed. Fortunately, the Men in Green had provided her with a device that can miraculously produce light; however, despite her desire to examine more of their wonderful items, her mind remained focused on a specific subject.

"And at the end of the hour, the evil will emerge once more to continue what it started."

This certain phrase could be often found on any books and chronicler accounts, that the girl had come across. It was difficult to connect the dots since she doesn't have that much evidence and new finding so far as most of them were all just testimonies.

"What were you trying to tell me?" She thought to herself, a bit frustrated that the man kept his words in cryptic form.

How was she supposed to figure it out now?

The girl didn't know where and how to start.

She could only scratch her forehead and sigh.

Placing the last book beside her, she finally took a rest after what seemed to be a process of drowning herself with this much information at hand. It did give her quite a headache and there were regrets that sprouted up.

She was in the middle of isolating herself in silence, but if not for her elf friend who had arrived at the scene.

"Lelei, is everything alright?"

It was the first thing that Tuka had said while showing a little bit of worry as she finally found her blue-haired friend near the carriage. Apparently, the girl had left a peaceful and enjoying dinner early in order to get back to work on solving a mystery.

The young mage formed a small smile in return." I'm fine Tuka, It's just that I need to get over with my thoughts by myself." She explained while staring back at the blank space.

Silence befell for a few moments.

"Is it about Sir Marcus again?"

Lelei nodded in return.

"Yes, strange that my mind kept repeating the warnings that he had told me before." She explained once more, apparently giving more confusion for the elf girl.

"Warnings? Is there something that you haven't told me or anyone of us here?" Tuka slightly frowned, the girl wanting to get to the bottom of what was this all about.

Lelei sighed back." I apologize, I was hesitant since I thought you all won't believe his claims." She said.

"Well... Sir Marcus is not in this world already, so it's alright to share it at least what transpired during your conversation." Tuka replied, expressing this small seriousness on her face.

The young mage was taken aback by the elf girl's sudden emotional shift. She had never seen her in such an annoyed state before.

"Very well... " Lelei said as she took a deep breath.

"During that brief conversation that I had with him, He gave me a warning, and he claimed that the Empire is not what it used to be..." She explained." He wanted to convince me that Sadera is purely doing this out of evil." She concluded.

Tuka blinked a couple of times.

"The Empire has always been this way, even before my mother and father's birth," she said, recalling how her own people often eschewed conquest and traveled into isolated locations to ensure peace and safety to the whole community.

"I'm aware of that." Her blue-haired friend replied.

"It's about their goal, why they're desperate and want to invade kingdom by kingdom," Lelei continued, looking straight into the elf girl's eyes. "And don't tell me they're doing it to expand and enslave everyone."

"That's already a part of this world."

Tuka raised both of her eyebrows, wondering how her friend knew what she was going to say next.

"Then what do you think is the reason why The Empire is doing all of these kinds of acts?" The Elf Girl asked straightforwardly, putting her hands on her hips.

There has to be a reason.

Lelei continued to look at her friend's eyes as she was finally ready to share what she has learned.

"They are searching for something."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The cold wind weather continued to make its presence known in the middle of the night.

Yuji stood on the last ridge, looking out over the shining bright lights of Fort Alnus. He wasn't shy about describing how the base had abruptly and dramatically transformed into some sort of Mini-city. He had suspected, however, that those new lights could be newer camps established as part of the coalition's plan to push out of the region.

Furthermore, it wasn't that difficult for the other Recon teams to bring in refugees who had been displaced from their homes, which is why there were already lights in some areas. It could be either of the two hypotheses, but he had hoped for the better.

A lot has happened in just a few days.

The Japanese-American man couldn't believe what he and the rest of the Recon team had to endure. Arriving in a small village with a small internal conflict, a cursed land, demonic beings, and supernatural ordeals. Would anyone believe it if those events occurred in his world?

For the first time, the man had decided not to finish continue writing the chapters in his drafts at this late hour. For the simple reason that he was exhausted and wanted to enjoy the wonders of his surroundings, and he can't help but think of a certain person.

"This sure is a scary and wild world..." He muttered as if he was talking to that particular person." Never knew these things could really happen." He added, somehow there was still disbelief left inside.

"Do you think this place is very different from what we imagined?"

For the first time, he was able to release some of his emotions. During those ordeals, he felt fear, uncertainty, and the need to make sense of what was happening in front of him. It's too otherworldly to be true, yet he forced himself to deal with the situation and learned what he could learn, as this was part of his job.

It was the only time he felt free to be himself. He quickly became immersed in the silence around him, and just as he was about to clear his mind, he felt this subtle tap from behind, and he immediately turned around only to face nothing. He blinked a couple of times, wondering if that was just only a part of his imagination.

Soon his attention was drawn to the nearby LAV, where the rest of his equipment and bag was stored.

From a few meters away he could spot something attached or placed beside the vehicle's window.

The man immediately wasted no time and approached the LAV to investigate further and by the time he arrived at the said spot, he widened his eyes in surprise and curiosity. Just in the lower corner of the window and on the wind shield's grasps, was a small brown envelope.

Yuji proceeded to take the brown envelope and to further examined it. Its appearance can be compared to that of an 18th-century parchment material, upon further observation, he spotted a certain word which turned out to be his name.

His heartbeat stopped for a few moments before proceeding to open the letter and once he saw the contents, he was overwhelmed with surprise.


Dear Mr. Takamori,

"If you found and received this letter, then that means, you and your friends have finally made it safely across the land. I humbly extend my gratitude to you and your people for saving the village and the land itself from the old curse that plague the place for centuries. Because of your kind help and efforts, you and your people have prevented more lives from being lost. I know that this would temporarily confuse you, but I assure you that all your questions would be answered in time.

After all, this is only the beginning.

Yours Humbly

Duke


The man was lost for words as he finished the last sentence of the letter. He did feel glad to learn that they had something good for the place, yet he was still overwhelmed with confusion and curiosity.

The name struck familiarity to him and not for long, he finally recalled the big humble merchantman that the Recon team had come across several days ago. Of course, the obvious question was, how did the letter get here?

The wind grew stronger again.

For the next hours, He was left to wonder about the mysteries that were given to him. A bit annoying that he received them at this time of the hour as he already had planned on relaxing all throughout the night.

Yuji sighed again, choosing to take another gaze at the beautiful moon and back towards Fort Alnus. With all the new information coming in, He wasn't really sure what would be the next step forward, although, he was aware that in just a matter of days that he would be entering the next arc of the story and a realization that quickly came up to him.

"Looks like we won't be going home soon."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

All she could feel was the tension in the air.

She flew as fast as she could, despite the fact that her wings could not keep up with the beast's speed. She needed to get to that specific location as soon as possible and assist them in getting out of there as quickly as possible.

This was always her least favorite aspect of her job. Not because of how much work was involved, but because of how many lives were at stake every time. Fortunately, one of her companions was able to track down its location and the direction it was taking. She didn't waste any time and headed towards her would destination.

How many times did this scenario ever happen?

She couldn't even recall and even the number of scars and wounds that she sustained all over the years couldn't even help her to begin with. Vested by a power only a few individuals like her could wield, she felt she could accomplish anything, yet it was still not enough to face this kind of monster.

She has always worked alone, regardless of how intense her loneliness was. As long as she could finally make up for the failures of her predecessors and how many redemptions she could claim.

When a small light began to flash, she realized she was getting close to her destination. Soon after, the specific light in the forest began to grow larger, and it appeared to be a massive fire that engulfed that specific in the shape of a circle.

The shock in her eyes was visible upon seeing it.

Was she too late to arrive?

"No... No... No.. " She kept repeating the word inside her head. Her hope was slowly dwindling.

She gripped her giant scythe to prepare for a possible reemergence of the beast from the giant fire itself.

However, as soon as she arrived, a small ball of fire erupted from another part of the forest, which immediately caught her attention. She widened her eyes in surprise, immediately shifting her gaze to the mentioned area.

The young lady took this as a beacon and signal and proceeded straight towards the land.

Despite the fact that it was the peak of the night, she could see a lot of people on that particular land, and when she landed, she was greeted by an even more surprising sight. The Apostle recognized all of the torches that the men were carrying.

Apparently, the villagers were all here, able to flee their homes just in time before the red dragon's arrival and wrath. As a result, the young lady breathed a sigh of relief.


"Ms. Giselle!"

The voice calling her out was enough to catch her attention. She then shifted her gaze towards the villagers, especially a young boy, who turned out to be the one she was also searching for.

"Albrecht! By the Gods, you're okay!" she exclaimed, hugging the young boy briefly.

"Is this all of the villagers?" She asked, looking around her surroundings.

The boy nodded in return, before shifting his gaze towards two familiar dragons, who were still kept on guard and alert from any approaching danger.

"I couldn't have done the task without Mowto and Towato." He explained, forcing a grin, and thankful for their assistance.

And just as the draconian young woman was about to speak, a huge menacing roar erupted throughout the premises, enough to frighten the hardy and determined villagers.

"Quickly! Leave this place as soon as possible!" She instructed the boy." You know where to bring them." She went on to say.

The young boy nodded in understanding as he immediately called out to the rest of the village folk to follow him to the path he was going to take.

The Draconian gave a small smile and cast a sympathetic glance at the young but brave Dragons, who were willing to risk their lives just to keep their half-mother from going insane again.

As for the Apostle herself, she could only sigh in resignation, knowing that whatever actions her predecessors had committed before she fully took the position, to which now had been placed as an annoying burden on her.

This wasn't a fight she had to choose, but rather an obligation she had to bear.

Not long after, the massive red silhouette of the Flame Dragon emerged from the fires, looming over her.

She tightened her grip on her weapon and forced a cringe and a smile before taking off with the two dragons as they faced the beast once more. She, on the other hand, could only mutter a phrase.

"Here We Go Again."

CHAPTER END

AN: Hello there fellas! So this chapter is going to be the final prelude for the first arc and as well as a continuation, giving more screentime and interactions for the main characters. This is mostly like a Calm After the Storm chapter again. To further add, the scenes mostly have that slice-of-life genre and as well as a few foreshadowings.

Don't be alarmed regarding some of the characters such as the little Demi-human bunny in the Furuta scene. They are basically just part of the foreshadowing of what is to come. Though, I have to admit that, I am also exploring the idea as well.

The Last scene with a certain person, who you all probably know. It was actually a last-minute idea to replace the original scene (Main Characters finally arriving at Alnus Hill.) A reader suggests that it would be a good teaser for the next arc that would coincide with the Qua-Toyne Principality scene.

And Yes, I am not going to recreate the Flame Dragon attacking the Recon team in the middle of the fields. It's been often shown in many fics already, and I wanted to reimagine that certain arc in a different place and situation altogether. Not in some random field or even Alnus Hill, but in a different place and scenario altogether.

Regarding Mowto and Towato, their past and how they came to be, are pretty much similar to the original series but this time the situation is very different, hence why they are acting this way. The whole flame dragon thing has potential but it was wasted and became just a small section in the original series where the thing is portrayed as a generic evil dragon saga.

In my head, I was thinking, "What if that particular arc had more story and background to it?" What if The Flame Dragon was once just a nice creature who wanted to be left alone? and that something or someone has ruined her life and stolen something precious from her, for which is a reason that she seeks vengeance.

For the lovely Giselle, her appearance, her background are similar to the original, but I decided to make her life and situation more interesting and relatable as I do hope, and rather than just a bored Apostle being irresponsible and creating idiotic things everywhere that could cause deaths.

With that said, Thank you very much for spending time to read the chapter, I really appreciate it! I apologize for any grammar/spelling mistakes since English is not my main language.

Thank you so much and God Bless!