One question I get a lot . . . What is Steampunk?

One question I get at a lot at all the events I attend is “What is Steampunk?” It is a defined genre but to me, it’s much more than that. There are two definitions of steampunk. One states, “a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology” while the others says, “a style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction.”

I always consider Jules Verne and H.G. Wells the godfathers of the steampunk genre. The created a modern view of technology using 19th century views. We steampunk authors use their influence to create our wild and fantastic visions bringing the future into the past.

Steamboy (2004) Japanese animated film

To me, one of the best movies to understand steampunk is the 2004 anime classic Steamboy. “England of the 1860s receives a technological remake in this animated adventure. Ray Steam is a brilliant young inventor who follows in the footsteps of his father, Eddie, and his grandfather, Lloyd Steam. After his grandfather sends him a mysterious mechanical ball that contains revolutionary power, Ray finds his world turning upside down. It seems a lot of people want that power, and not all of them have good intentions.” It has an all star cast (Anna Paquin, Alfred Molina, and Sir Patrick Stewart) and a cast of historical characters including Robert Louis Stevenson, the inventor of the steam engine. This movie is quintessential steampunk in every aspect of the vision it presents. There is also anime like Arcane on Netflix and The Mortal Engines movie are great examples of steampunk.

Airships, trains, mechanical beings powered by steam are the vision of tomorrow to a steampunk enthusiast. Goggles, backpacks, Victorian-era corsets with top hats and long coats are all part of the unique style of steampunk. It can be seen at conventions and festivals around the world and in books, television, and movies. Gears, open mechanics, copper pipes, leather, and Edison bulbs all represent the idea of fashion when it comes to steampunk.

A Clockwork Heart by Dennis Saputra

Although most things considered steampunk revolves around steam power, I also like to include it in magic-powered machines. In my novel The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart, I combined magic with machines in this futuristic dystopia. This includes trains running on Magius engines, automail armor, and a clockwork heart. I also did a little of this in my novella The River of Souls, where I created a land cycle powered by an engine that pulled in ether from the air for fuel. Magic and machines are a fun way to take the steampunk genre in a new direction. Technology has a way of migrating into fantasy stories of one caliber or another. I would also include a bit of alchemy mixed in to make it even more interesting to include it in fantasy story writing.

However, steampunk is primarily a historical fiction genre, and my next novel explores into just that realm. Corsair and the Sky Pirates is coming out in January 2023 from Curious Corvid Publishing. Imagine if Jules Verne and Nikola Tesla met and collaborated. What kind of world would come from it? That’s the premise of my new steampunk historical fiction as the war between Tesla and Thomas Edison takes to the skies. Corsair and his sky pirates believe in Tesla’s vision for the future—a world where the people are free to use technology without bowing to their corporate masters in ERP (Edison Röntgen Parsons). Edison has plans for world domination and its up to Corsair and his merry band to discover the secrets of the master inventor. Take to the skies on the airship Galeru, from the ancient ruins of Egypt to the English Channel, the New York City skyline and the American Southwest.

You can find steampunk at various junctures around the world. If you want to dine in steampunk style, try The Edison restaurant in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Or if your travelling internationally, The Abyss Pub in Italy was inspired by the Kraken, or visit the Les Machines de l’Île Nantes, which is in the city of Nantes, France is an amazing artistic and creative steampunk wonderful. Mechanical animals roam, which is in the city of Nantes, France, is an amazing artistic and creative steampunk wonder as mechanical animals roam the streets. Here in the USA, there are plenty of steampunk festivals to catch your interest. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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Mark Piggott is an award-winning independent author of several fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. A 23-year U.S. Navy veteran, his stories will take you from the shores of eternal Avalon to a dystopian steampunk future and other worlds.

The Forever Avalon fantasy book series—including Forever Avalon, The Dark Tides, and The Outlander War—is available online at Amazon and other booksellers. His fantasy steampunk novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart, is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for The River of Souls fantasy novella from Curious Corvid Publishing. Coming in 2023 from Curious Corvid—the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel. Stay tuned for more new fantastic stories from the imagination of Mark Piggott.

Cross over The River of Souls, coming August 21

My fantasy novella “The River of Souls” with poetry by Ashley Valitutto from Curious Corvid Publishing.

We are a month away from the release of my next novel, The River of Souls. This is my first novella, but it was not the length of the story but how I told it that was important to me. I wanted to include poetry in the story to give it some breadth and a deeper meaning to the themes behind the story itself. Thankfully, I met a great poet in Ashley Valitutto who saw my vision behind the story and wrote some wonderful prose for my novella. It was a collaboration that brought this story to life, and it was this story that brought me to the attention of Ravven White and Curious Corvid Publishing. This is my first step in being a published author, not a self-published author.

Official trailer for “The River of Souls” from Nights with Ebon Pinion YouTube page.

From award winning author Mark Piggott comes a dark fantasy novella of love and triumph . . .

“Reach beyond heavens veil; do not let death prevail. Instead, open the door through God’s grace; let this not be his final resting place!”

Fawleen and Drogon fought what people called “The Endless War,” as it went on for more than 300 years. The humans of Fawleen and the Dragonkin of Drogon clashed over borderlands, water rights, trade disputes, and the biased views of leaders on both sides of the conflict. Four generations fought and died in the war. That all changed when one sect of Drogon—the Oracles of Delphis Kai—joined Fawleen against their people and worked to end the war. The Oracles were healers and pacifists, the opposite of the Acolytes of Hecat Tei and their dark chaos magic that ruled Drogon. In the end, it was the deciding factor that brought peace to the troubled land.

Malcom Seger, a human Magi-Gunner, and his wife Alyssa, a dragonkin of the Oracles of Delphis Kai, moved to the parish of Fairhaven to begin a new life together. But just when they were getting settled in, Malcom succumbs to deadly “dragon dust” and lies near death. Grief stricken, Alyssa uses her magic to save her true love through the spell of restoration, powerful magic combining two souls into one.

Across the river of souls, the boundless cosmic lifestream that connects all worlds, a young man lay dying underneath a crumpled automobile. He hears a voice, crying out for help, begging not to be left alone. Desperate to make something of his life, he offers himself to God to cross the river of souls to be there for her.

Now begins their new life together in a world filled with distrust, bigotry, and hatred between races. Can two people from different worlds find love and peace to show what truly lies beyond THE RIVER OF SOULS.

From Nights with Ebon Pinion YouTube page

Sign up for the Curious Corvid newsletter and follow me, Ashley, and CCP on social media for updates on this epic adventure!

I will be hosting a special preview for The River of Souls on Sunday, August 14, at 2nd Sundays Williamsburg Arts and Music Festival. I hope to have some of the first copies of my new book (fingers crossed) at the festival, so please stop by and pick up a signed copy!

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available as a paperback/ebook at iUniverse Publishing,  Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series, is available as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart, is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for The River of Souls fantasy novella, coming soon from Curious Corvid Publishing along with the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky PiratesThe Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel are future installments of his current fantasy book series, plus so much more coming soon.

July is going to be hot in more ways than one

Sorry to be AWOL for a while, but its been a busy start to my summer, and its not over yet. I traveled from Virginia to Manchester, Connecticut, for the Book Fiends Readers Festival, June 25. It was a long weekend but I met so many wonderful steampunk writers, artists, crafters and performers. It was a great experience (thank you Oddball Newt)!

Now, we’re in July and I have two new events coming up for this award-winning steampunk fantasy author. If you are in the area, please stop by and pick up some great books to take to the beach or read in bed during a stormy night. Either way, I’d be honored to be included on your bookshelf.

Every second Sunday, from July through December, you’ll find me at 2nd Sundays Williamsburg Arts and Music Festival on North Boundary Street in historic Williamsburg, Virginia. My first one is this Sunday, July 10, from 11am to 5pm. Williamsburg, Virginia’s only ALMOST Year ‘Round Arts & Street Festival! This Street Fair of over 115 unique artisans, musicians, street performers and food vendors in six blocks along N Boundary Street from Richmond Rd to Lafayette Street, along Scotland from Armistead to N. Henry and in the 400 block of Prince George Street in Williamsburg, VA, on the 2nd Sunday of each month. This festival is a great time for family and friends alike so I hope you’ll stop by! Visit 2ndSundayswilliamsburg.com for more information.

Next, I’ll be at the Historic Moravian Book Shop in “the Christmas City” of Bethlehem, PA, signing copies of my novels The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart and The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon Series on Sunday, July 17, from 1-3pm. Founded in 1745, the Moravian Book Shop is the oldest bookstore in America, the oldest continuously operating bookstore in the world and home to the Moravian University student bookstore. For nearly three centuries, booklovers near and far have looked to the Moravian Book Shop for its curated selection of books and iconic Moravian- and Bethlehem-themed gifts. This is my second visit to the Moravian Book Store and I appreciate their continued support for independent, self-published authors like me.

The River of Souls by Mark Piggott, poetry by Ashley Valitutto, from Curious Corvid Publishing.

I also want to mention my upcoming release from Curious Corvid Publishing. The River of Souls is my first PUBLISHED novel (not self-published) through my new publisher, coming out on August 21! Across the River of Souls, the boundless cosmic lifestream that connects all worlds, a young man lay dying underneath a crumpled automobile. He hears a voice, crying out for help, begging not to be left alone. Desperate to make something of his life, he offers himself to God to cross the River of Souls to be there for her. Now begins their new life together in a world filled with distrust, bigotry, and hatred between races. Can two people from different worlds find love and peace to show what truly lies beyond THE RIVER OF SOULS. This fantasy novella includes poetry by Ashley Valitutto, a great collaboration between author and poet. I hope you pick up my new fantasy read on AUGUST 21 from Curious Corvid Publishing.

Stay tuned here at authormarkpiggott.com (make note of the NEW website address) for more information on upcoming events and releases. I will be at 2nd Sundays for the rest of the year ( August 14, September 11, October 9, and November 13) and I have two major book signing events in October. More to come!

# # #

Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available as a paperback/ebook at iUniverse Publishing,  Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series, is available as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart, is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for The River of Souls fantasy novella, coming soon from Curious Corvid Publishing along with the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky PiratesThe Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel are future installments of his current fantasy book series, plus so much more coming soon.

PART 7 OF A TALE OF LOG HORIZON-THE GUNSLINGER VS. THE WARLORD

Before heading out to the Watch City Steampunk Festival, I wanted to post the next installment in my Log Horizon fan fiction project. This is the duel with the warlord general Mizufa Trude and its implications for Gideon Hawkmoon’s future on the Crescent Islands of Yamato. I love Mizufa as a character because she is one of the People of the Land, and she can fight on the same level as any adventurer. There’s also a crazy side to her that, as a writer, is fun to play with. That really says something about her as a character. In any case, Gideon has his hands full in Part Seven of A Tale of Log Horizon—The Gunslinger vs. The Warlord.

* * *

Part Six Recap: In the world of Elder Tales, more than 70,000 Japanese players found themselves trapped inside the world of their favorite MMORPG. In the adventurer’s town of Akiba, the Round Table Conference maintains the peace amongst the guilds calling this city home. After a year-long journey across the ocean and four continents, Gideon Hawkmoon, the sorcerer gunslinger from America, reunited with his wife, Henrietta of the Crescent Moon Alliance. Gideon was given his first mission to see if a proposed peace conference between Westlande and Eastal was possible. With Henrietta by his side, the two set off for the Palace of Eternal Ice to get the approval of Duke Sergiot Cowhen before heading to Minami. Once there, Princess Nureha made a proposal to Gideon . . . Defeat one of the Ten Seat Council or join Plant Hwyaden. It was Mizufa Trude who stepped up to challenge the sorcerer gunslinger.

* * *

The word spread like wildfire through Minami—a duel between Gideon Hawkmoon, the sorcerer gunslinger from America, and Mizufa Trude, the warlord general of Westlande. Both adventurers and the People of the Land were excited to see this one-on-one contest. They poured into the amphitheater, built on the remains of an old baseball stadium, to witness the match.

While the stadium slowly filled to capacity, Henrietta repeatedly scolded her husband for even accepting this match. It wasn’t that she doubted Gideon’s ability to beat the warlord general in a PvP match. Instead, she didn’t like the overwhelming advantage Plant Hwyaden had in their favor. Her argument, however, went on deaf ears.

“Gideon, this is ridiculous! You can’t trust this to be anything other than a fair fight,” Henrietta argued as they walked into the amphitheater. “You are walking into a trap!”

“Actually, Henrietta, I see this as a level playing field,” Gideon explained as he carefully loaded his weapons. “I know everything about Mizufa’s fighting style from my conversations with Chief Nyanta. I’m sure she’s been told everything there is to know about me from Indix. So, the way I see, this here’s about as flat as Kansas wheatfield.”

“But how can you be sure Kazuhiko will referee this fairly. He . . .” she questioned before Gideon stopped her rambling. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in close.

“Darlin’, I know you’re looking out for me, and I love you for it, but I picked Kazuhiko because I knew he’d be the only one I could trust to call this fight fair. So, don’t worry about these little variables and put all your faith in me. Now, give me a kiss for luck before I kick her ass.”

Henrietta loved the uncanny way her husband waltzed through her worries and pushed them aside. She kissed him passionately before taking his hand and whistled a tune into it—a bard giving him her strength and power before the battle.

Gideon walked out into the stadium to a chorus of cheers and boos from the assembled crowd. He saw Princess Nureha sitting in her royal box, surrounded by other members of the Ten Seat Council. Gideon glanced up around, tipping his hat politely to the audience. He paused and bowed politely to her, showing his respect to her royal highness. She nodded and smiled back, earning the princess a sly wink from the cowboy. Then Gideon turned his attention to Mizufa.

She grinned from ear to ear, exuding confidence. Gideon knew she was far more powerful and skilled than her level 68 dictated. His attitude may appear overconfident, but the sorcerer gunslinger took this duel seriously. Mizufa may be one of the toughest challenges he’d ever faced.

Kazuhiko stood between the two competitors to explain the rules of the PvP. “This is not a fight to the death, understand Mizufa?” he started, knowing how out reckless the warlord gets in a fight. “The first one to knock the other below fifty percent of their hit points wins. Is that clear?”

“Yeah, I know the rules, adventurer,” Mizufa retorted.

“You know me, Kazuhiko, I’m always a straight shooter,” Gideon added.

“Alright, then step back into position and prepare to fight!” Both competitors moved away to give room before the PvP duel commenced. Gideon, however, had a gnawing question eating away at him that he just had to ask.

“Before we begin, Kazuhiko, I’ve got a question for the general,” he began. “Tell me, Mizufa, why did you volunteer for this little gunfight at the OK corral? I heard you were a fighter, but this seems a little out of character. Did Indix talk you into it?”

“No one talks me into anything, adventurer. I’m bored with the local talent and looking for a challenge, that’s all. When I take you down, all of Yamato will hail the General Warlord of Westlande, Mizufa Trude, as the greatest in the land!”

“Don’t count your chickens until the fox is out of the henhouse, Mizufa. You haven’t won anything yet,” Gideon said as he flipped back his coat, itching to draw his weapons. Mizufa drew her weapons—a cutlass in one hand and a thorn whip in the other. Both of them took a defensive stance, ready for a fight.

Kazuhiko looked over at both of them one last time before raising his hand. “And fight!” he shouted, dropping his hand. Gideon took the first move, reaching into his saddlebag and throwing a few of his foxfire grenades at Mizufa. However, the warlord was ready for this ploy. She swung her cutlass, slicing them all at once to render them harmless. Indix warned her about this little trick, and she was ready for it. Unfortunately for Mizufa, Gideon counted on that.

“Inferno Strike!” he chanted, firing off a volley of fireballs from his six-shooter. With the foxfire billowing in the air around Mizufa, his spell ignited the powder as she became engulfed in flames. She jumped back, avoiding some of the blast damage, as Gideon fired off his next attack. “Sinking Sand!” He squeezed the trigger and fired off his next spell, causing the earth beneath her feet to liquify as the warlord began to sink into the ground.

Mizufa used her whip to wrap about Gideon’s gun hand. As he tried to break free, she used the momentum to escape the quicksand and lunged at her opponent. She slashed at him repeatedly, cutting into his hands and face. He had no choice but to drop his weapon. Mizufa saw this as an opportunity to end this duel, and she thrust her sword at Gideon, only to be blocked by rather a large bowie knife.

Gideon reached inside his coat and drew a foot-long blade to parry her thrust. Once he pushed her back, he drew a second blade in his other hand. Mizufa was both angry and confused at seeing a sorcerer duel-wielding a pair of bladed weapons.

“Indix was right; you are a cheater!” she shouted. “How can a sorcerer be wielding blades like a fighter?”

“You really don’t know anything about our sub-classes, do you? I am a blacksmith, armorer, bladesmith, and weaponsmith. I rose through the ranks, mastering each of those sub-classes before moving on to the next one. Because of that, I get a bonus skill to master any bladed weapon of my choosing. After all, what good is being a weaponsmith if you can’t test your work, and I have a rather fond appreciation for the Bowie knife.”

He twirled the blades around in his hands to show off his skills with them. “You see, Jim Bowie was a hero of mine growing up,” Gideon continued. “He died, sick in bed, fighting off Mexican soldiers with only this knife in his hand. He was one of the reasons we have the great state of Texas today.”

“I never heard of this country of Texas you speak of, but if you think a dead man’s knife will help you against me, you’re sadly mistaken!” Mizufa screamed as she launched another assault, swinging viciously at Gideon. To the surprise of many, he held off her attack with those two knives, only taking minimal damage.

“Icicle Blade! Dread Weapon!” Gideon chanted, putting a spell on the edge of each of his knives, making them inflict more damage with each strike. Mizufa realized that his abilities as both a sorcerer and a fighter made him even more formidable than she thought. A change of tactics was the only way to ensure her victory.

Mizufa changed her attack, wrapping up Gideon in her thorn whip to pin his arms down. “It’s over, cowboy!” she shouted in glee as she lunged for a final blow, but Gideon turned to mist and freed himself from her clutches. She spun around quickly to see the gas reform into the sorcerer gunslinger. He used his oral art to initiate the spell, Gaseous Form, to escape her attack. He thrust his knives into her before beginning his incantation.

“Lightning Nebula!” he chanted as he used his blades as a conduit for the electrical attack. It penetrated deep into Mizufa, shocking to the core. Then, without warning, a second lightning nebula rang out and struck Mizufa again until her hit points dropped below 50 percent. Gideon released her, and the warlord general fell to the ground. The match was over.

“Winner, Gideon Hawkmoon!” Kazuhiko declared, raising his hand toward Gideon. The sorcerer gunslinger sheathed his knives and picked up his revolvers from the arena floor before he acknowledged the adulations of the audience. Even though he was an outsider, they appreciated the incredible performance. Gideon tipped his hat to Kazuhiko, earning him a smile and a nod from the ordinarily quiet assassin.

Henrietta rushed out to be with her husband, but their celebration was interrupted by Indix. “Just one damn minute!” she screamed, storming onto the arena floor with the rest of the Ten Seat Council. “How did you cast two Lightning Nebula spells in a row? That spell has a 90-second cool downtime. You shouldn’t have been able to launch another attack so quickly. I see you’re back to your cheating ways, Gideon.”

The crowd mumbled amongst themselves as they listened to Indix’s argument, reasoning the possibility that the sorcerer gunslinger cheated his way to victory. Gideon just laughed at her assertion. “I swear, Indix, you are about as thick as peanut butter in a snowstorm at the north pole at Christmas.” His insult caused a few chuckles in the crowd, but her glare quickly quieted them down. “I didn’t do anything but use a magic item to fire off that second Lightning Nebula.”

He held out his hand and showed her his gold wedding band, inscribed with magical notes around it. Indix looked at the ring, just as confused as before. “Your wedding band? What does that have to do with this?”

“This is a magic item and a gift from my darling wife, Henrietta, who happens to be a bard. She had my wedding ring enchanted with the bard attack spell ‘Maestro’s Echo,’ allowing me to fire off a second magical attack after I cast my original spell. It’s not as powerful as the original but effective enough. It’s how a husband and wife work together to protect one another.”

Indix grew incensed, looking over to Kazuhiko for a ruling on it. He simply shrugged his shoulders. “The use of magic items is not prohibited in a duel. Gideon did nothing wrong, and my decision stands.”

Before she could say anything, Mizufa slowly got to her feet, laughing at the situation. “Damn, cowboy, you sure know how to show a lady a good time,” she exclaimed as she struggled to walk over to Gideon. “You’re not like the other adventurers. You’re not afraid to take a life, even one of the People of the Land, are you?”

Before Gideon could answer, Mizufa wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately. As much as he struggled against her, Gideon couldn’t make her release him. Henrietta was outraged by her behavior, while Indix was disgusted. Finally, Mizufa let him go.

“I like you, Gideon. We’re going to do this again . . . and again, and again.” She dragged her finger across his lips before she walked away, laughing aloud. She may have lost the duel, but it seemed Mizufa found a kindred spirit in Gideon . . . one that enjoyed fighting as much as she did. It didn’t matter that he was married. Eventually, Gideon would belong to her.

 The sorcerer gunslinger wiped the spittle off his lips. “That woman’s as crazy as popcorn on a hot stove,” he said before Henrietta came over and took out her handkerchief to wipe his face clean of that disgusting woman. Gideon then turned his attention to Princess Nureha. “Well, Your Highness, I hope you’re not going to call a foul ball on our duel, are you?”

“Of course not, Master Gideon. I will abide by Kazuhiko’s ruling in this matter. It was a spectacular demonstration of why you are the number one PvP in the world.”

“And, the matter of this conference between Eastal and Westlande?”

“I will coordinate a date and time with the Senate and Prince Saiguu,” she replied. “I’m sure we can have something established within the next month that will accommodate both sides.”

“Well then, if you don’t mind, we’ll be on our way. We’ve got a long flight back to Akiba,” Gideon said with a tip of his hat. Nureha bowed her head politely as Gideon and Henrietta said their goodbyes to KR and Kazuhiko before Gideon called his giant golden eagle to pick them up. Soon, they were flying off toward Akiba.

Nureha watched them leave before she spoke. “Did you get all the information you needed, Jered Gan?”

“Why yes, Princess Nureha. Luring that fool into a duel was a stroke of genius on your part. It was a simple task for me to hide my scanners under the arena floor and around the stadium itself. My equipment took detailed readings from his Fairy Ring Chronometer. Still, it will take me some time to interpret the information and build our own facsimile.”

“You have until this conference begins, Jered Gan. They wanted to show us their resolve. Now we will show them ours.”

* * *

The flight back to Akiba was quiet as Gideon and Henrietta were content to return home as soon as possible. Henrietta had a wedding to plan, and her mind raced with dresses, flowers, and other potential excitement. For Gideon, he contemplated his encounter with Plant Hwyaden repeatedly in his head—the run-in at the gate, the conflict with Indix, and the duel with Mizufa. As tricky as that fight was, everything went too easy. He felt like he had walked into a trap, but he couldn’t place his finger on how or why.

Maybe Shiroe can shed some light on it after he chews me out for fighting a PvP duel like I did. I’m sure to get an earful about that, Gideon thought as he prepared himself for the scolding he was about to get.

“You did what?” Shiroe shouted. Gideon sat there quietly, taking his tongue lashing like he should once he got back to Akiba and reported into Log Horizon. The rest of Log Horizon was there, along with Marielle, Serara, and Major from the Crescent Moon Alliance and Soujiro and Nazuna from the West Wind Brigade. They listened intently to the rundown of everything that happened in Minami. Some of them laughed, knowing that this was precisely how Gideon acted, while others worried about his reckless behavior.

“Come on, Shiroe, it all worked out in the end! No need to get a burr in your saddle,” Gideon retorted.

“That’s not the point, Gideon! You could have lost that duel. You can’t take chances like that,” Shiroe shot back, frustrated that the sorcerer gunslinger failed to comprehend the severity of the situation.

“But they didn’t want me to lose. The princess wanted me to fight in that arena,” he replied. “If they wanted to beat me, Nureha would have sent in Kazuhiko or even Indix. Hell, KR would’ve given me a better fight than Mizufa. Don’t get me wrong, that firecracker is a helluva fighter, but that whole duel was staged for my benefit. I just can’t figure out why.”

“It seemed strange how quickly they orchestrated the match when Princess Nureha just proposed it,” Henrietta interjected.

“So, this wasn’t a ploy to get Gideon to join Plant Hwyaden? Then why do it?” Naotsugu asked.

Shiroe thought about it for a minute, but he needed more information. “Did you sense anything out of the ordinary while in the arena?”

“You mean besides Mizufa sticking her tongue down my throat,” Gideon replied, much to the chagrin of Henrietta.

“Woah, really? Tell me more about it! Did she . . .” Naotsugu started to say, but both Akatsuki and Henrietta kicked him for his lewd inquiry.

“That being said, I can’t say any shenanigans were going on, Shiroe. It’s just a gut feeling.”

“Well, I’ve never been one to question anyone’s instinct, but until we get more information, we’ll have to leave it as an open-ended question until the conference.”

“Good, then in the meantime, Gideon and I have some wonderful news!” Henrietta announced, stepping up behind her husband. “We’re going to get married!”

There was silence in the room. “Ah, hello, you’re already married!” Akatsuki countered.

“I mean, we are going to get married here in Akiba. Gideon promised me a big wedding that we never got around to having, so we’re finally going to have it here. And, Marielle, I want you . . .”

Yes, yes, I’ll be your maid of honor!” Marielle screamed as she jumped to her feet and ran over to Henrietta. “Oh my God, this is so exciting!” As the two friends started exchanging ideas, Akatsuki realized how this would affect her and the other girls.

“Oh no!” she exclaimed.

“What’s wrong, Akatsuki?” Minori asked.

“A wedding means bridesmaids, and that means . . .”

“Bridesmaid dresses!” Akatsuki, Minori, Serara, and Isuzu all said the same thing.

“Frilly, gaudy dresses . . .” Akatsuki screeched.

“With ruffles and bows . . .” Minori added.

“Hideously ugly!” Isuzu concluded, but Henrietta wrapped her arms around all of them before they could run away.

“Oh yes, my little cuties, I have the perfect dresses in mind for you! Pale pink for a spring wedding! You will look so adorable!” She crushed them in a tight bear hug, squeezing their faces with hers. The four girls succumbed to their fate, much to the amusement of the men, until Gideon burst their bubble.

“Don’t think ya’ll getting off so easily,” he admonished them. “I’m gonna need some groomsmen to escort these lovely ladies.” That announcement quickly shut down all the snickers from the men in the room as they realized their fate. “First things first . . . Chief Nyanta, Henrietta, and I would like you to officiate our ceremony again if you don’t mind.”

“Mew would be honored to preside over your marriage vows one more time,” Nyanta said with a bow.

“Naotsugu, old buddy, I would be honored to have you as my best man,” Gideon said, placing his hand on the guardian’s shoulder. “What do you say?”

“Oh yeah, we will have an awesome bachelor party!” Naotsugu shouted before a wayward glance from both Henrietta and Marielle brought him to his senses. “I mean, yeah, sure, you got it, hoss.”

“Now then, Henrietta darlin’, you only have four bridesmaids, five if you include Marielle. Seven is my lucky number, so how about we add a couple more to the mix.”

“Well, I suppose so,” Henrietta replied before she started looking around the room for additional candidates for bridesmaids.

“Not me, uh-uh, no way. A rising galaxy starlet like me wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those frilly, poofy dresses. I have my reputation to think of!” Tetora announced, waving off any chance of being picked for the lineup.

“Well, since we have three from Log Horizon, maybe one more from Crescent Moon,” Marielle interjected.

“Wonderful idea, Marielle. I’ll ask Liliana since she’s been with us the longest. So, we just need one more . . .” Henrietta and Marielle glared at the only other eligible female in the room, and Nazuna grew nervous from their overt stares.

“No, no way, I love you, Henrietta, but no frickin’ way!” she complained until Gideon said something to change her mind.

“Look at it this way, Nazuna. I’ll have Soujiro be one of my groomsmen, and he’ll be the one to escort you down the aisle. That’s something you can laud over your girls in the West Wind Brigade,” Gideon whispered to her, which made her fox ears perk up. His idea caught Soujiro off guard, but he couldn’t say no when he saw how happy it made Nazuna.

“Okay, Gideon, you win. If Nazuna wants to be in the wedding party, then who am I to say no,” Soujiro reluctantly agreed, bringing a massive smile to Nazuna’s face.

“Well, okay then, I’d like to have Shiroe, Touya, Rudy, and Major for the rest of my groomsmen. If Miss Liliana says yes, we’ll add Shouryuu to even things out to lucky seven. There’s only one thing left . . .”

“Oh, what’s that?” Marielle asked before Henrietta walked over to Doc.

“Doc, in the absence of my father, I would like to ask you if you would stand in his place. You did so much in bringing Gideon back to me. I would be grateful if you would give me away.”

The Inuit medicine man was brought to tears again by the love and affection shown to him by these people he had just met months ago. He was so overwhelmed with emotion that he couldn’t speak. Doc just nodded his head before Henrietta hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. Even a few others in the room were brought to tears by the monumental gesture, even the men who wiped them away quickly to avoid any sign of unmanliness.

“Well, alright then, let’s turn this wedding into a full-blown Akiba celebration!” Gideon proclaimed, drawing cheers from everyone.

* * *

I have a lot going on in the month of May so I will probably get back to my fan fiction in June. In the meantime, you can catch up on the story in my Fan Fiction archive and get ready for Part 8 of A Tale of Log Horizon: The Wedding of the Gunslinger and the Bard!

Part 5 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger’s First Mission

Thanks for your continued support on my pet project. I had one thought to clear up . . . Where does this story take place in the Log Horizon chronology. Well, it’s definitely after Season 3, The Destruction of the Round Table Arc, since we don’t know what happens next. As an author, this is what’s called “creative license” with a storyline. I didn’t want to try and rewrite what has already been done as that muddies the water too much. In any case, I’m about halfway through this story, and its growing on me. Without further adieu, here is Part 5 of my Log Horizon anime fan fiction, A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger’s First Mission.

* * *

Part Four Recap: In the world of Elder Tales, more than 70,000 Japanese players found themselves trapped inside the world of their favorite MMORPG. In the adventurer’s town of Akiba, the Round Table Conference maintains the peace amongst the guilds calling this city home. After a year-long journey across the ocean and four continents, Gideon Hawkmoon, the sorcerer gunslinger from America, reunited with his wife, Henrietta of the Crescent Moon Alliance. Gideon settled in Akiba, including opening his own forge so her could start making weapons again. But all that was interrupted when Dolce of the West Wind Brigade rushed in with a cry for help. They were ambushed by Plant Hwyaden, with three members drugged and kidnapped. With the Round Table in Suskino, it was up to Gideon to formulate a rescue. Akatsuki rushed off to stop them from leaving while Gideon went to get some help from an unlikely source . . . The Eagle Mountain guild from North America.

** * *

The mood inside the Ten Seat Council chamber soured with every word spoken by Jered Gan and Rezor Ginta. Indix sat quietly at her desk, strumming her fingers together as she absorbed the detailed report. Her silence added to the rage emanating from Indix as her eyes bulged and turned blood red while she stared down at the two. Rezor felt the pain of failure coming from Indix and the others in the room.

“This Gideon Hawkmoon was the cause of all these problems,” Jered Gan concluded. “He is as bothersome as you indicated, Indix.”

“Which was why I recommended you cease your experiments, for the time being, Jered Gan,” Kazuhiko interjected. “Once Gideon came into the picture, and the purpose of your deep sleep drug discovered, any aggression toward Akiba and the Round Table would be met with force.”

“Which is why I needed the Wolves of Mibu with me!” Gan countered. “If you wouldn’t have neglected your duties . . .” Before finishing his sentence, Kazuhiko had his blade drawn and under the elderly elf’s rather pronounced chin.

“You do not tell me what to do, old man!” Kazuhiko warned.

“That’s enough; sheath your blade, Kazuhiko!” Indix ordered. He glanced over at her before stepping back and sheathing his katana. “As for you, Jered Gan, I thought I gave you specific instructions to stay away from the guilds in Akiba. You could have gone after those idiot Odyssey Knights or some other traveling adventurers. Yet, you specifically chose to disobey my orders and go to Akiba.”

“I told you, Indix, that I need high-level adventurers to perfect my elixir. Only level 90 or higher will suffice, and the best supply outside of Minami is in Akiba.”

“And while that cheating dime store cowboy is there, you will stay away from Akiba! He will interject himself into our affairs at every opportunity. Now, we have the Ezzo Empire AND his pageant queen sister and her guild to contend with!”

“Lady Indix, you mustn’t blame Master Gan, he . . .” Rezor started to say, defending his master, but he was quickly silenced when Indix threw one of her silver knives into his throat. He grabbed his wound, gasping for air and unable to speak.

“You are not part of the Ten Seat Council, nor did I ask for your opinion, Rezor. Now get out of here before my next blade silences you for good!” Rezor pulled out the blade, dropping it on the floor as he grasped his wound tightly before he rushed out to find a healer to aid him.

“That was uncalled for, Indix! You cannot assault my personal guard with . . .” Gan ranted before she cut him off, pulling another blade out to threaten him.

“Would you like the next one between your beady little eyes?”

Gan shut up immediately, knowing her threat was real. “That’s enough, Indix!” Princess Nureha shouted as she walked down the broken escalator steps into the room. “We cannot focus on what happened; rather, we must deal with things as they are.”

Indix huffed at the puppet princess, interrupting her and taking over the council meeting. She used Nureha and her popularity to maintain control of the masses, but she grew in power. The nobles of Westlande split their support between Indix and Nureha, which infuriated her. Still, she knew when to fight back and keep quiet, which was one of those times for the latter.

“I told you to keep your research to a minimum distraction, Jered Gan. We want to win over the rest of Yamato through subterfuge, not outright attacks. If we win their hearts and minds, we win the war,” Nureha explained.

“Yes, but Princess Nureha, I . . .”

“Your deep sleep drug was never meant to be a permanent solution to the adventurers of Akiba, only a precaution against those who refuse to side with us.” Her logic and rule over Plant Hwyaden were absolute, so Jered Gan bowed politely as he backed away, realizing his argument was over.

“She sure told you, old man,” Quon smartly snapped but not before Jered Gan repeatedly whacked him on the head with his cane. The sixth seat of the council took his beating, too tired to fight back, apparent by his lackluster appearance and bags under his eyes from lack of sleep. All he wanted to hear was a call from a GM that never came.

“I, for one, would like to know how the Eagle Mountain guild arrived in Yamato from the North America server?” Nureha asked. The silence in the room showed their ignorance until KR finally spoke up.

“They used a device known as a Fairy Ring Chronometer to calculate the exact coordinates for a jump through a series of fairy rings from South Angel to Akiba,” he explained. “Apparently, one of their guild members developed it shortly after the Apocalypse.”

This revelation shocked everyone, mainly the adventurers in the council. “That’s impossible. The timing of fairy rings was controlled through detailed cheat sheets and changed with every lunar cycle,” Indix retorted. “How could one person put all that information into a single device?”

“Well, we are talking about Dr. Roberta Copernicus, the one they call Einstein. She’s a genuine rocket scientist from NASA. She was one of the smartest people ever to play Elder Tales, even before the Apocalypse. Imagine what someone like her is capable of doing in this world?”

“And how can we get our hands on one of these chronometers, KR?” Nureha asked.

“As far I can tell, she only made four: one for herself, her guildmaster, the deputy guildmaster, and one for Gideon,” KR answered. “Celeste Hawkmoon likes to keep tabs on her big brother.” His information-gathering skills were impeccable, so they knew it to be accurate.

“That would benefit us if we could get our hands on one,” General Mizufa Trudy noted. “It would make it even easier to invade territories across Yamato and beyond.” As a warlord and commander of Westlande’s army, she was always itching for a fight.

“So then, the best way to get a look at one is through Gideon Hawkmoon,” Nureha surmised.

“And how would you do that, Your Majesty? Hmmm? Invite him to Minami?” Indix rebutted sarcastically. Nureha smiled slyly at Indix. Her second seat in the guild really didn’t know how devious and cunning Nureha could be at times.

“That’s exactly what we’ll do . . .”

* * *

Following the incident with Plant Hwyaden, the Eagle Mountain guild members were treated to a heroes’ welcome in Akiba. The People of the Land and the adventurers were highly interested in the guild from North America. The West Wind Brigade offered to play host to the members of Eagle Mountain to show their appreciation for saving their guild members. The Round Table Conference even gave them their own private space in the guild hall to accommodate them whenever their guild members visited Akiba in the future.

Since they had time to kill before the proper alignment allowed them to return to South Angel, they spread out amongst the people of Akiba to give them a little southwest flair. King took to the stage in various restaurants and taverns around Akiba, letting his style of music speak for itself. On occasion, even Isuzu and the other bards joined in, adding some new music for the People of the Land while bringing down the house every night. Even Rudy tried to get in on the act as he admired and replicated King’s style into his wardrobe, much to Isuzu’s chagrin.

Veronika was right there with King, but not for support. Instead, she tried to outdrink, outmuscle and intimidate every man in Akiba. Veronika always enjoyed showing off her prowess with the sword. Still, she also loved to demonstrate her feminine wiles by seducing every man possible to satisfy her voracious appetites. Her ample assets, held up in a revealing corset, kept many men’s attention. The single men of Akiba appreciate her seductive ways. At the same time, the women did everything possible to keep their boyfriends and husbands away from her. Even Marielle attempted to hide Naotsugu to keep him out of her grasp.

Einstein kept busy at the crafting guilds—Roderick’s Merchant Guild, Marine Agency, and Commerce Street 8—by aiding them in the research and development, from improvements on their ships and engines to reworking the flavor texts and working to improve the defenses around Akiba. She also made sure to teach Gideon how to read his chronometer so he could navigate them without any hiccups. Sir Wayne was always right by her side as her guardian and protector. It was evident by his choice of armor who inspired his avatar. Many of the younger kids, like Touya, tried to get him to say famous catchphrases just for fun.

Brother Tate took his time in Akiba to spread the message of peace, love, and the power of positivity. He preached to anyone who would listen and gained a small following of clerics and even a few Kannagi to continue his message in Akiba after he left. Shiroe feared a “cult-like” atmosphere around Brother Tate. Still, Gideon assured him that the cleric was merely taking his professional life into his gaming one. Tate was a motivational speaker in the real world, helping people from all walks of life change their mindsets to achieve their goals. In this new world, he had even more challenges with people living with depression and the fear of being stuck here forever.

Celeste found herself torn between her official duties as a guildmaster and her hobby as a lover of all things cute and adorable. She found Akiba crowded with an abundance of cute and cuddly individuals—from Akatsuki and Serara to Ashlynn and Mikakage—so much that she felt impaired by the level of cuteness all around her. Even Princess Lenessia found herself a target of Celeste’s overactive affection. Without the help of Tom Redwood, who constantly reminded her about her duties as the guildmaster, she never would have gotten anything done. It took a whisper from Tom to keep her focused on the tasks at hand, from getting things situated in their new guild space to formalizing agreements with the Round Table Conference.

Gideon took the time to get caught up on things from his friends in Eagle Mountain about everything that happened back in the states. It also gave Henrietta a chance to know her sister-in-law and make new family bonds. She really didn’t have any close family to speak of outside of Gideon, Marielle, and the rest of her guild. Getting to know Celeste was a new experience for her, and she wanted to take advantage of every moment possible.

By the end of two weeks, various members of the Round Table Conferences and their guilds escorted Eagle Mountain to a fairy ring near the outskirts of Akiba to begin their journey home. They were parting ways with new friendships, insights, and relationships.

Celeste had quite a difficult time letting Akatsuki go. She even tried to put her into her own magic bag. Sister-in-law or no sister-in-law, Henrietta was not about to Celeste leave with her Akatsuki. For her part, Akatsuki was actually hanging on to Celeste by her leg. “You know, Akatsuki, I’m a little hurt. You put up more of a fuss with my affections than you do with Celeste,” Henrietta remarked.

“That’s because you’re not the number one assassin in Elder Tales,” she remarked. “You’re only married to her idiot brother.”

“You know, Akatsuki, you’re slowly moving down from my number four assassin right out of my top ten with remarks like that,” Gideon replied.

“Oh, don’t listen to him, my adorable little Akatsuki. His rating system is so skewed and one-sided, it isn’t really a good judge of character,” Celeste added as she hugged Akatsuki again.

“Keep talking, sis, and you’ll lose your number one spot to Leonardo.” Gideon’s remark caused his sister to huff at him.

“You would pick that frog over your darling sister? How rude, Jedidiah!” Before Gideon could snap back at her, Einstein interrupted their little quarrel.

“Guildmaster, it’s time to go!” she shouted, closing her chronometer and tucking it away before heading through the fairy ring. Celeste gave one last hug to Akatsuki before turning to Henrietta.

“It was great to finally meet you, Henrietta. Do your best to keep my big brother in check,” she sassed one last time at Gideon. “And I’ll bring some adorable outfits for you next time we come through, sweet little Akatsuki!” she said as she turned to leave. Before entering the fairy ring, a deluge of water dropped out of nowhere, smacking her squarely on the head. She spun about and glared at Gideon, who smiled and tipped his hat as Celeste slipped and fell backward into the fairy ring. As usual, he got the last laugh on his sister.

Everyone looked at Gideon, mouth agape, wondering how he pulled that off. There was no incantation or action on his part. He didn’t even snap his fingers like usual. It was a mystery indeed.

“Gideon!” Henrietta exclaimed.

“Dude, how did you . . .” Naotsugu started to ask, but Gideon simply smiled and walked away. Everyone stood there, scratching their heads, wondering how he pulled that off.

“My lord, how did he do that?” Akatsuki asked Shiroe, who only laughed at the situation.

“Man, he’s good . . . scary good.”

“What do you mean?” Akatsuki queried.

“Gideon was always someone who could manipulate the system to his advantage,” Shiroe explained. “That’s why so many players don’t like him. They called him a cheater.”

“But he doesn’t cheat, does he?” Marielle asked.

“No, he finds ways in the system to turn things to his advantage through countless hours of research and trial and error, like the foxfire bombs he created,” Shiroe continued. “He may act like a backwoods cowboy, but he’s actually quite clever.”

“So then, how did he douse Celeste with his Rainmaker spell?” Tetora inquired.

“If ya’ll need to be up to snuff, I’ll tell you. It’s my oral art,” Gideon interrupted. He’d been listening to their conversation the whole time and decided to let them in on his little secret. “My overskill is called ‘Silent Casting’. . . A little wrinkle-bob lets me cast my spells without an audible chant or activation sequence.”

Oral Arts, or Overskills, were unique to each individual, depending on their class and skills. Something like Silent Casting was an efficient and powerful tool for a sorcerer. Everyone was impressed with his ability.

“That’s amazing, Gideon,” Shiroe exclaimed.

“Yes, but as impressive as it is, husband, to douse your sister like that is completely uncalled for!” Henrietta admonished.

“Hey now, I’m just paying back that little wag-tail for the prank she pulled on me in high school,” Gideon recalled. “That little hussy put skunk oil in my cologne right before my senior prom. She completely ruined my date with Cynthia Parks. I smelled like a skunk for weeks. No girl would come near me for the rest of my senior year.”

While some of them felt sorry for Gideon and understood his predicament, others couldn’t help but chuckle under their breath. On the other hand, Henrietta walked over and touched him lovingly. “Well, I, for one, am happy she did that,” she said. “If it weren’t for Celeste and her little prank, you might be married to Cynthia Parks instead of me.”

Gideon appreciated her sentiment and realized she was right. Then, Henrietta grabbed his ear out of nowhere and gripped it tightly. “But from now on, darling, let’s reserve your oral art to combat and not stupid pranks, shall we?” she said, twisting his ear hard. He screamed in pain and immediately acquiesced to her demands.

“Okay! Okay! Whatever you say, darlin’!” he cried before she finally let go. Gideon may be a total badass with his reputation as a sorcerer gunslinger and the number one PvP in Elder Tales. His wife, however, had complete control over him with a simple twist of his ear.

“Master Shiroe!” The sudden appearance of Misa and Reize interrupted their amusement.

“Misa, Reize, what’s wrong?” Shiroe asked.

“Princess Lenessia needs to see you right away,” Misa explained, huffing.

“She received a message from His Royal Highness, Prince Utena Touri Saiguu of Westlande,” Reize added. “The Holy Empire of Westlande wants to hold negotiations with the Freedom Cities of Eastal to bring an end to the hostilities. Prince Touri offered to host the negotiations in Kyo.”

“For real?” Naotsugo questioned.

“But why would Westlande reach out for peace negotiations?” Tetora added.

“It sounds like their tryin’ to saw a tumbleweed with that yarn,” Gideon interjected. “Do you believe them, Shiroe?”

“I don’t know. It may be a trap, but we have to take a chance if it means peace between Westlande and Eastal. Besides, I trust Prince Touri.”

In the wake of the House of Saiguu’s dwindling political power in Westlande, Prince Touri thought of a way to unify Yamato and bring peace to the warring nations. He offered a title of nobility to Ains, the guildmaster of Honesty and founding member of the Round Table Conference, and his hand in marriage to Princess Lenessia. This would solidify his power in Eastal peacefully, forcing the Senate to stop their advances and power struggles to restore the Holy Empire of Westlande to glory. Fortunately, the Princess decided against marriage and sided with the Round Table, so an election was held to determine control of Akiba. The Round Table prevailed, and both Ains and Prince Touri departed for the Lake of Nio in Westlande, gracious even in defeat.

“Let’s see what Lenessia has to say before deciding,” Shiroe added as the group headed back to Akiba. “Plus, we’ll need assurances from her father, Lord Sergiatte Cowen, and the other nobles of Eastal before we can proceed. It’s a lot more complicated than it looks.”

“That’s why I leave all the politics to you, Shiroe,” Gideon replied. “Give me a straight-on fight any day over these backroom shenanigans.”

“Same here, pal, same here,” Shiroe said as they all laughed about it on their way back to Akiba.

* * *

Gideon pressed on in his work at the forge while at the same time training his apprentice. Touya was working on his first weapon, hammering away at the anvil. It was a simple kunai—a small throwing dagger with a circular pommel—but it was his first attempt at forging a blade. Touya tried not to rush it, precisely as his master instructed, so he carefully took his time.

“Watch your angle, Touya. You don’t want to flatten out the bevel you just made on the other side of the blade,” Gideon instructed as he pumped the bellows for his apprentice. He wanted to make sure the firepit was nice and hot when he needed it.

“I will, Master Gideon. This is not as easy as watching you forge a blade.”

“Time and patience are the keys to being a good bladesmith. You’ll learn that the more you work in the forge.” Gideon liked being able to pass on his knowledge to the next generation. In the past, others were too intimidated by him to even approach him for a question or help. It was much easier in this world than when it was a game.

“Hey, Touya, looking good!” Naotsugu remarked as he walked into the forge.

“Thanks, Master Naotsugu. I’m really trying!”

“What can I do for you, Naotsugu ole buddy?” Gideon asked. “Do you need something repaired?”

“Nah, I just came by to remind Touya of our training this afternoon with the rest of the guild,” he reminded the junior member of Log Horizon.

“I didn’t forget, Master Naotsugu. I just wanted to finish this kunai before we headed out.”

“No worries, little man, I know it’s hard to please two masters in two different disciplines,” Naotsugu smiled with a wink and a thumbs up.

“Remember what I said, Touya; time and patience run the forge,” Gideon added. “If you rush one for the other, you might have a bad blade. Now, go cool your metal and start grinding your edge.”

Touya ran off to do as Gideon instructed him while the two friends caught up. “So, what’s the word on this peace conference? Is it actually legit?”

“Seems so. Shiroe heard directly from Ains that Princess Nureha and the Westlande Senate are pushing for this to happen,” Naotsugu explained. “I think your little stunt bringing Eagle Mountain to Yamato put the fear of losing everything in them.”

“Yeah, but I don’t trust Nureha, Indix, or any rascals in Plant Hwyaden, even if KR and Kazuhiko are with them.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot how close you and Kazuhiko were,” Naotsugu recalled, thinking back to their days in the Debauchery Tea Party.

“Not close, Naotsugu, just drinkin’ buddies like you and me,” Gideon explained. “Kazuhiko has a thing for American bourbon, so we got to know each other over a tasting tour of the old South. Besides, he’s got a bit of a crush on my sister.”

“What? Kazuhiko? In love?”

“Not in love, but an overwhelming appreciation for her talents, both in and out of the game. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but Celeste was a successful businesswoman in her own rights. My sis operated a chain of high class ‘chi-chi’ pet grooming salons across the U.S. of A.”

“Pet grooming salons? Really?”

“Oh yeah, that’s where that little ‘cutie pie’ quirk of hers comes into play,” Gideon continued. “She loves turning ugly pets into adorable walking works of art.”

“Wow, you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. I mean, she’s one of the deadliest assassins to play the game, and she’s a dog groomer?” Naotsugu added.

“Yeah, that’s what makes my little sis such a firecracker, which I gander you got wind of while she was here.”

“All done, Master Gideon!” Touya interrupted, running up to proudly present his blade to Gideon. The weaponsmith took the kunai, carefully examining the weapon’s balance, weight, and edge. He spun it around in his hand, wielding it like an expert.

“Not bad for your first blade, Touya, not bad at all, except . . .” Gideon took the blade and slammed it against the anvil, which caused the tip of the blade to break off. Both Touya and Naotsugu were shocked until Gideon showed the inside of the metal to his apprentice.

“Look at the grain structure of the metal. What does that tell you?” Touya looked carefully at the striations in the metal and remembered what Gideon had taught him.

“It didn’t harden correctly because I overheated it and didn’t let it normalize before I quenched it. That made the metal soft and brittle.” Gideon gave his apprentice a pat on the head for recognizing his mistake.

“Don’t worry, hoss. I broke plenty of blades before I got it right. You’ll get there, partner. Just wait and see. Like I said, time and patience . . .”

Touya stepped back before he bowed to his master. “Thank you, Master Gideon. I will strive to improve my skills,” he said.

“Good on ya . . . I’ll take care of things here. Let’s call it a day in the forge. You go get ready for your training with Naotsugu, okay?” Touya nodded his head with a stern grin on his face, grateful for the lesson in the forge. He took off to the Log Horizon guild building to prepare for his afternoon training session.

“Wow, your damn good with the kid, Gideon. I’m impressed as to how you handled that,” Naotsugu complimented.

“Well, it’s like we’ve said, Naotsugu ole buddy. These kids are the next generation, and we have to teach them as we were shown. We’re no longer the newbies anymore. We’re veterans now, and those kids would be lost, confused, or hurt without us. As the great John Wayne once said, ‘Ya don’t get lard less’n you boil a hog!'”

“Yeah, you got that right,” Naotsugu agreed with a slightly confused look. “You know, sometimes your cowboy logic makes sense.”

“That’s because I only quote the best!” Gideon smirked, but then a ping went off in his ear as a call came through the telepathic link from Henrietta. “Well, hey, darlin’. . . Whatcha need?”

Gideon, I need you to come to the Luquenje Hall right away. Shiroe and the Round Table have a mission for you! They won’t tell me anything more until you get here, so hurry, please . . . Her communication seemed urgent, so he needed to recruit some help with the forge.

“Naotsugu, can you get Touya and the other kids to help shut down the forge? Shiroe wants me over at the Luquenje Hall. Henrietta said something about a mission.”

“Sounds like fun. You go ahead, Gideon, we got this!” Gideon gave his friend a pat on the shoulder before running of change. He’d never been in the Luquenje Hall before, but he knew it was where the Round Table had all their big meetings. If he was going to meet them there, something needed his attention and unique skills.

* * *

On the top floor of the Akiba guild building sat the Luquenje Hall. It was a meeting room with massive statues of the “Six Scrapped Princesses” surrounding the table where the Round Table Conference met. They held hands as they leaned over them as if their very presence intimidated the negotiations held there.

The legend of the Luquenje stated that around 300 years ago, after the war which destroyed the Alv Kingdom, these six descendants of the Alvs masterminded the long, terrible conflict between humans, dwarves, and elves for revenge. When defeat was imminent, the six princesses caused the First “World Fraction” spell—like the one that caused the Apocalypse—and the rise of the demi-human races as their final vengeance. This led to the deaths of over half the world’s population at the time.

Henrietta waited for Gideon outside the entrance. She was not part of the Round Table Conference, so she only entered or stayed inside the Luquenje Hall when asked. Henrietta looked at her watch, impatiently tapping her toes, wondering what took Gideon so long. She messaged him more than twenty minutes ago.

“Hey darlin’, been waiting long? Sorry, but I had to get Naotsugu to shut down the forge for me and clean up before I headed over here.” Gideon said as he rounded the corner.

Henrietta sighed audibly. She understood why he was delayed but wished Gideon would be more considerate sometimes. “It’s alright, my love, but try to be more prompt when I call.”

“You know me, Henrietta, I’m never late for dinner or love, but I don’t mind being late for my own hanging.”

“Hanging? Why do you say that?” Henrietta curiously asked.

“If the Round Table has been talking about this conference with Westlande, and they suddenly have a mission for me, I can only guess what that might be.” Henrietta realized what he meant and hoped that wasn’t the case. The last thing she wanted was to see Gideon put in danger.

“Well, let’s see what they have to say and go from there,” she said, opening the door to the Luquenje Hall. Gideon leaned down and gave her a peck on the cheek before he walked into the room, with Henrietta following close behind.

The seats around the table were occupied by the guild leader of the Round Table Conference: Shiroe of Log Horizon, Issac of the Black Sword Knights, Mishitaka of the Marine Agency, Marielle of the Crescent Moon Alliance, Soujiro of West Wind Brigade, Akaneya of Radio Market, Roderick of the Roderick Merchant Guild, William Massachusetts of Silver Sword, and Karashin of Commerce District 8. They were also joined by the People of the Land, including Princess Lenessia and Kinjo of the Kunie Tribe. Many of the guild deputies were standing behind them around the room.

“My apologies for dickerin’ about, everyone. I promise I wasn’t tangle-footed or taking French leave, but it took a bit of a spell to waltz into a Texas Cakewalk.”

Everyone started at Gideon as his unique vernacular still confused them from time to time. “You have a strange way of making excuses, cowboy,” Issac retorted, causing a few snickers.

“It’s alright, Gideon. I’m sure you’re wondering why we asked you here,” Shiroe began. “We’ve written up the final agreement for the conference with Westlande. Once we get the approval of the Freedom Cities of Eastal, it needs to be delivered to Minami. That’s where you come in.”

“I see, so you want me to be your Pony Express rider, am I right?” Gideon surmised.

“Yes, we’d like you to take it to Maihama to get Duke Sergiot Cowen’s approval before taking it to Minami,” Shiroe concluded. Henrietta was taken aback by their request, but Gideon took it in stride.

“My grandfather also wanted to meet you and learn more about the Eagle Mountain guild,” Princess Lenessia explained. “That might help sway the nobles to agree to this conference.”

“So, you’re sayin’ that they’re not behind this little monkey shines yet, are they?”

“Unfortunately, the nobles have not been convinced yet,” Karashin added. “They don’t trust the Senate . . .”

“And rightly so,” Gideon interjected. “Sorry, but this seems as dull as dishwater. This mugwump makes as much sense as a ten-dollar Stetson on a five-cent head.”

“I understand your misgivings, Gideon, but we’ve gotten assurances from our contacts in Westlande that this is legitimate,” Shiroe interrupted.

“Information out of all the major cities in Westlande—Minami, Ikoma, and Kyo—is that they want to pursue a peace accord,” Karashin concluded. “I think the idea of the biggest guild in North America coming to Yamato put fear in the Senate. They could lose everything if they keep pursuing a war footing.”

“That makes sense. After the failed attempt on Prince Itherus’ life, their little operations have had setback upon setback,” Issac mused.

“But sending in Gideon alone is a big risk, Master Shiroe,” Soujiro said. “He’s already got a big target on his back as the number one PvP.”

“Look, normally, I wouldn’t send anyone into the snake pit alone to use your own terminology,” Shiroe said, “But you can take care of yourself. I know you have your misgivings about this conference, so maybe you can gauge whether or not this is real. We trust you to carry out this mission.”

Gideon looked around the room and saw what he needed to see . . . a look of confidence in all their faces. They only knew Gideon by his reputation for a few short months, some longer. Still, many were new friends and acquaintances, except for Henrietta. It gave him a strong sense of pride and purpose with the Round Table.

“Well, to quote the famous Doc Holiday . . . I’m your huckleberry,” Gideon replied, tipping his hat. “I accept this quest from the Round Table.”

“And I’m going with you . . .” Henrietta spoke up, stepping forward next to her husband. Her announcement shocked everyone, none more than Gideon.

“What? No, you’re not!” he insisted.

“Oh yes, I am. If you think I’m going to let you go off by yourself into that den of vipers, you’ve got another thing coming. Besides, you’ve never dealt with the nobles in Mihama; I have. You need me there to help you navigate the honors and courtesies that your American sensibilities seem to have trouble with.”

“This is not like a simple hunting party, darlin’. We are going into the belly of the beast here!” he argued. “I am not about to put you in danger.”

“Oh, but you’ll gladly put yourself in the line of fire! Face it, husband, you’ve lost this argument. I’m coming with you!”

Gideon knew he couldn’t convince her otherwise, so he asked the others for help. “Shiroe, Marielle, Souji, make her listen to reason,” he asked. Everyone around the table turned away, not making eye contact, ignoring his request completely. “Ain’t you a bunch of lily-livered cowards!” he said. No one wanted to get into an argument between a husband and a wife.

Gideon realized he had no choice but to take Henrietta with him. “Alright, honeybell, you win, but understand this . . . You’ll do exactly what I say out there for once in our lives, especially if we get into a tussle. We’re skedaddling out of Minami at the first sign of trouble, no questions asked. Deal?” He held out his hand, but Henrietta ignored it and gave him a peck on the lips.

“Deal!” she said. Gideon knew she outsmarted and got the best of him. One of these days, he would have to find a better way to counter that.

* * *

At first light, the two adventurers headed out of Akiba, ready for their first quest together since Gideon arrived on Yamato. They walked out of town with Log Horizon and the Crescent Moon Alliance members to see them off. The once-bustling freeway overpass, now covered in grassy overgrowth with abandoned automobiles, was a reminder of the forgotten past of this world.

Once they reached a safe distance from Akiba, the two adventurers turned to say goodbye. Henrietta, not accustomed to leaving on quests, hugged her guild members—especially the cute ones—as they all shed a little tear. They were scared for her, and to be honest, so was Henrietta; but she couldn’t show that. She had faith in her husband that they would get through this together.

“You better make it back,” Marielle stressed as a wave of concern fluctuated in her voice. “I can’t run this guild all by myself.”

“Now, Marielle, darling, don’t worry. Eisel will help you while I’m gone,” she assured her friend with a hug. “I left detailed instructions on everything.”

“Don’t worry, Miss Marielle, we’ll be just fine,” Eisel added. The lanky half-Alv sorcerer towered over her guildmaster, but his calming presence reassured her. Meanwhile, Gideon received last-minute instructions from Shiroe.

“KR should meet you at the north end of Minami when you get there. That should get you into the city without any problem,” Shiroe advised.

“Sounds good, Shiroe. That two-timing hornswoggler better be there, or I’ll pin his ears back,” Gideon remarked.

“Don’t mew worry about KR. He’s always been the reliable sort,” Nyanta commented. “But keep an eye on Kazuhiko; mew don’t know what he’s going to do.”

“Well, I’ve got something that’ll settle that rascal down,” Gideon replied, patting his saddlebag. “Ready to go, Henrietta?” With one last hug to her guild members, she walked over to be with Gideon as he pulled out a whistle from his saddlebag. This was unique from other summoning whistles, carved with an elaborate eagle head.

“Master Gideon, are you going to summon a griffon like Masters Shiroe, Naotsugu, and Nyanta can?” Minori asked.

“Griffons? Minori, sweetheart, we don’t fly griffons in the U.S. of A.,” Gideon said sarcastically before blowing the whistle. It sounded similar to the griffon whistles Shiroe and the others used, but with a deeper resonance, like an eagle’s scream, and for a good reason. Suddenly, a golden eagle appeared in the sky before it soared down, landing near the ensemble. The beauty and majesty of this giant eagle shocked everyone except for Henrietta. She’d met Gideon’s eagle before as she walked over to it unafraid and gently stroked its feathers.

“Hello, Goldie! It’s been too long,” she said as the golden eagle nuzzled her back. 

 “It’s beautiful!” Marielle exclaimed. “Did you get that whistle for beating the Helios raid?”

“Naw, on the North American server, you get the eagle summoning whistle when you beat the Treasure of the Sierra Madre raid,” Gideon explained. “Without Goldie here, we wouldn’t have been able to cross the Aleutians Islands or the Bering Sea to Russia. She’s a real lifesaver.”

Gideon pulled out a saddle and, with Naotsugu’s help, strapped it on the giant eagle. Once he saddled up, Gideon helped Henrietta behind him on the eagle. “I’d step back, ya’ll. Goldie kicks up a helluva downdraft when she takes off.”

Everyone did as he instructed before Goldie spread its wings to take off. “Let us know how things go in Mihama before you head to Minami, Gideon!” Shiroe shouted his last-minute instructions.

“Hell’s Bells, guildmaster, keep your britches on,” Gideon replied sarcastically. “You keep worrying like that, and your face will be puckered like a wet sheepskin before a hot fire.” Shiroe didn’t know what to say until he looked down at Akatsuki, pointing to her forehead. She constantly reminded Shiroe not to worry so much because it gave him what she called “old man wrinkles” on his forehead.

Goldie beat its wings before letting out a loud screech as they took off into the air. “Next stop, the Palace of Eternal Ice!” Gideon shouted as they flew off toward their first stop on this dangerous mission.

* * *

Stay tuned for Part 6 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger, a Duke, and a Princess. Check out my fan fiction page if you want to catch up on the whole story.

Part 4 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger and Eagle Mountain

Thanks for your continued support on my pet project. To be honest, it’s fun to write because I’ve already watched all three seasons multiple times so this keeps me hyped for more. Plus, they walk about all the servers in the Log Horizon Fan Wiki so my story gives me “creative license” about guilds on the North America server. This week, I introduce you to the Eagle Mountain guild. Here is Part 4 of my Log Horizon anime fan fiction, A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger and Eagle Moutain.

* * *

Part Three Recap: Part Three Recap: In the world of Elder Tales, more than 70,000 Japanese players found themselves trapped inside the world of their favorite MMORPG. In the adventurer’s town of Akiba, the Round Table Conference maintains the peace amongst the guilds calling this city home. After a year-long journey across the ocean and four continents, Gideon Hawkmoon, the sorcerer gunslinger from America, reunited with his wife, Henrietta of the Crescent Moon Alliance. After introductions around to members of the Round Table Conference, including a PvP duel with Isaac of the Black Sword Knights, Gideon began to settle into life in Akiba.

* * *

Weeks passed since Gideon’s arrival in Akiba, and he found himself overwhelmed with work. The young adventurers looked to him for guidance and training on everything from different combinations of spells to strategy in a fight. He didn’t mind lending his experience to help them survive in this new world and get their levels up. He even tore Henrietta away from her bookkeeping and other administrative duties to help demonstrate the power of a unified sorcerer and bard in a party. They utilized their many hours of hunting, raids, and quests together to synchronize their actions in a fight. Being together, fighting as a team, was fluid and seamless, like muscle memory as it all came back to them.

At the same time, there were still those who wanted a chance to take on the number one PvP. Gideon kept his record strong against challengers, including Demikas and Silver Sword. He only agreed to fight Demikas if the monk promised to apologize to Serara for mistreating her once Gideon defeated him. When it was over, it humbled the former guildmaster to have to bow down and apologize to the little druid. Of course, her big brother, Major, was right there with her to make sure Demikas followed through on his promise. He tempered his anger, desperate to continue the beatdown Gideon had started. Still, Serara made him swear not to do anything to Demikas. She wanted that episode of her life on Yamato left in the past.

While it seemed that his days rambled together in constant battle, Gideon’s nights were for love. There was more than a year that both he and Henrietta needed to make up for, and they didn’t waste a single moment. From dinner dates to dancing the night away or just a quiet walk, they spent their time living, laughing, and loving each other. It was as if their time apart only strengthened the bond between them.

The other project that kept Gideon’s attention was about to become a reality. As a highly skilled weaponsmith, Gideon needed a place to make and repair weapons for the adventurers and People of the Land. With the help of Michitaka—a fellow blacksmith—and the Marine Agency, his forge was finally up and running. As one of the largest production and crafting guilds in Akiba, Marine Agency was able to covert a building next to the Log Horizon guild into a fully functioning blacksmith shop. The front of the building had fallen into disrepair—the bricks crumbled down, and the second floor was completely missing. Gideon had them turn the first floor into an open-air forge, so people could look in and watch him work. He was a showman at heart, so he didn’t mind all the attention. The second floor was rebuilt into a store to sell his weapons and armor. Gideon knew that people would want to buy what they saw being made right in front of them.

Gideon and Michitaka watched the work along with Tatara, a dwarf samurai-swordsmith, as the workmen were putting on the final touch—a large shield with a hawk flying over a crescent moon. It was a coat of arms for Gideon, symbolizing his name in Elder Tales. He was no knight by any means, but he earned a reputation for quality armaments as a weaponsmith.

“Looks good, Michitaka! I can’t thank you enough, partner,” Gideon said, patting the brawny guildmaster on the back.

“It was no problem. I’ve been meaning to refurbish this building, and your idea for it was perfect. Besides, I’m not about to turn away a fellow blacksmith. You know what it means to work with your hands, and you need just the right place to do your work.”

“You got that right, hoss. I’ve been itchin’ to get started. Once we get the coal bins filled and the forge heated up, I’ll be rarin’ to go.”

“As much as I want to see your work, Gideon, I hope it doesn’t cause me to lose business,” Tatara said.

“Now, Tatara, you know that a little competition is good for everyone,” Gideon explained. “If my prices are too high for someone, they’ll come runnin’ to you instead. It’s good as gold, darlin’!”

“Perhaps, but I’ll reserve judgment for now.”

“By the way, Gideon, that was a great idea about using the salamander,” Michitaka complimented as the workers brought in a rather peculiar-looking monster. It was a flame-red lizard and burned with searing heat, so much so that the men had to use protective gloves and poles to maneuver the creature under the firepit. “Just feed him the coal, and he’ll keep your forge nice and hot.”

“Yeah, I just gotta find me an apprentice to help out, but there ain’t too many in these parts with the blacksmith sub-class.” Gideon looked over at Tatara with a sly grin, hoping she would catch his drift.

“No way, I have my own shop to run!” she exclaimed, backing away from the conversation.

“Well, I can loan you a couple of my blacksmiths from Marine Agency for a few days to help you get started,” Michitaka offered. “I’m sure they would love to learn from a world-class weaponsmith like you.”

“I appreciate that hoss, but I wouldn’t want to take anything away from your work. I know you got your hands full these days, getting ready for a possible fight with Plant Hwyaden.”

“Once you get your shop up to full steam, we’ll be more than ready for anything those bastards throw at us.”

“Excuse me, Master Gideon,” Touya shouted, running over from the Log Horizon guildhall, interrupting their conversation. “Do you have a minute?”

“Sure, Touya, watcha need, little man?” Touya paused for a minute as if he was embarrassed to ask his question.

“Well, I wondered if you might consider taking me on as an apprentice blacksmith,” he asked. “I have the accountant sub-class, but it’s not useful as a samurai. I’ve learned a lot about it from Miss Henrietta, but I’d like to change my sub-class to a blacksmith and work my way to being a bladesmith. I promise to work really hard and do whatever you ask. Please, Master Gideon!” He bowed politely as Gideon’s eye lit up, as his prayer had been answered from heaven above. He looked over at Michitaka and Tatara for their opinion, and they gave him a thumbs up and a simple head nod. They both knew Touya better than Gideon, so he valued their opinion.

“Alright, greenhorn, you’ve got a deal,” Gideon agreed. “Go talk to Shiroe about changing your sub-class. Once that’s done, you need to pick up some basic supplies to start off. He can get those from you, right Michitaka?”

“Sure, come by the Marine Agency, and I’ll get you hooked up, Touya.”

“Then, get back here pronto. We’ve got a lotta work to do to get this forge up to speed,” the gunslinger added. Touya was thrilled that Gideon accepted him as an apprentice. He took off to talk to Shiroe without even saying goodbye.

“Well, I’ll let my men finish the work here. I’ve got some things to do, and I’ll tell one of my guys to get some supplies together for your new apprentice,” Michitaka said. “Plus, I’ll keep an eye out for that other side project.”

“Thanks, Michitaka!”

“And I’ve got a shop to run before you put me out of business,” Tatara added as they left with a wave. Gideon tipped his hat before he turned his attention back to his forge. He shivered with excitement at the ideas for weapons and armor he wanted to make rambled through his thoughts until something caught his attention.

A large snow owl landed on the brick wall. The bird flapped its wings and hooted loudly at Gideon. The owl had a rather large pocket watch hanging from a chain around its neck and a scrolled-up parchment in its claws. Gideon couldn’t believe his eyes as he recognized the bird immediately.

“Archimedes? Is that you? How in tarnation did you get here?” he asked, expecting the owl to answer. The owl’s head spun around, shaking its feathers to attract attention to the watch around its neck.

Gideon went over and pulled it off his head, and popped it open. The blue glow from inside the watch shined as Gideon looked over the interior intently. “Well, I’ll be a tumbleweed in a tornado,” he exclaimed. “Einstein did it . . . I can’t believe that little scallywag did it!”

The owl sounded off loudly at Gideon as if arguing with him. Gideon could see he offended the owl’s master in its eyes. “Dagnabbit, Archimedes, you are fit to be tied. Alright, alright, I apologize!” The owl accepted his apology and held out the scroll to Gideon. He took the scroll and opened it up, reading it through.

“Well, I’ll be a Rocky Mountain Canary. Sis, you are one helluva miracle worker!” He rolled up the scroll and tucked it into his pocket. “Archie, you tell Celeste I’ll see her at the next lunar cycle. Now, go on, git, before your way home closes.”

The snow owl loudly hooted one last time before taking off and flying out of the city until it disappeared from sight. Gideon couldn’t believe his luck as he looked at the watch one more time before tucking it into his pocket and attaching the chain to his vest. “Thunderation, things are about to get interestin’ around Akiba. Guess who’s coming for dinner, ya’ll?”

* * *

The work in a forge is hot, demanding concentration and precision. Gideon spent the first week giving Touya his first lesson being a blacksmith . . . managing the fire. Touya was responsible for maintaining the temperature in the forge basin, from pumping the bellows to fueling the furnace.

“You’re not color blind, are you Touya?” His question confused his new apprentice.

“No, Master Gideon, why?”

“You need to know the color of fire—the red, blue, yellow, and orange. That lets you know when to wait and when to work. You especially need to keep an eye on that salamander,” Gideon continued. “If he starts to turn a dark red, the little fella’s losing his heat. Give him a shovelful of coal to keep the varmint warm and toasty. The forge will do the rest.”

Gideon hammered out a myriad of weapons in a short period. In the year he traveled to Akiba, he only had the chance to make slight repairs to equipment. Finally, Gideon was able to put his heart and soul into new weapons. As a sorcerer-weaponsmith, he could make magic weapons, enchanted and forged by his own hand. It’s what made his work unique.

After giving Gideon a few days to get started, Henrietta and Marielle made their way to see how the forge was doing. Henrietta was so proud of her husband, not only for taking Touya under his wing but for getting it operational in such a short amount of time. He used all the gold he earned on the trip here to pay for the construction and supplies. Because of the illegal feedback loop, Gideon couldn’t deposit any of his gold in the bank on the way to Akiba. He had plenty of coins on hand, which Henrietta made him deposit immediately. Her frugal side always kept him in line.

“I can’t believe how quick Gideon got his business up and running,” Marielle commented. “It seems like all of Akiba is talking about it.”

“Gideon is a talented weaponsmith, one of the best, so it’s no surprise that everyone wants one of his products,” Henrietta added with pride.

“I thought you two would have bought a home first instead of building his forge,” Marielle queried.

“We talked about that, and we agreed that the forge was necessary,” Henrietta explained. “For now, we’ll just continue splitting our time between the two guildhalls, now that the access protocols have been properly updated.”

Marielle swallowed hard and chuckled under her breath as Henrietta reminded her of the minor indiscretion when Gideon first arrived. She knew Henrietta wasn’t one to hold a grudge, but that doesn’t mean she’ll forget it either.

As the two women approached the forge, a flurry of activity caught their attention as a crowd gathered to watch the master weaponsmith at work. What shocked Henrietta was that most of the bustling crowd was female, and when she approached the open forge, she realized why.

Gideon sharpened a forked spear on the spinning stone wheel, grinding it down to a perfect edge. He was shirtless, wearing only a heavy leather apron to protect his chest with his bandana wrapped around his head, holding back his sweat. His body dripped with sweat from the heat of the forge. Henrietta couldn’t take her eyes off him as he worked, watching his muscles flex with every move against the wheel. She understood why all the women were there, but it didn’t matter. Gideon belonged to her.

Gideon stopped and checked out the spear’s edge when satisfied with the work. He turned to Isuzu, who waited patiently off to the side with Rudy. Gideon made one last check on the straightness of the blade to the shaft of the spear before he handed it to Isuzu.

“There you go, Miss Isuzu; it’s ready for you!” Isuzu took the spear and smiled as she felt the weight of it.

“Wow, Master Gideon, this is amazing! But you didn’t have to do this. My howling spear worked just fine for me.”

“The howling spear is a weapon for an up-and-coming bard. You need something to go with your increased abilities,” he explained. “Here . . . tap the tip of the spear against the anvil.”

Isuzu reached out and the forked spear clanged against the top of the anvil. The spear resonated in a perfect pitch as the sound echoed off the walls. “It’s like a tuning fork. It will amplify your bard skills and abilities incrementally with each use. I call it the Song of Amarigin.

“An appropriate weapon for a graceful bard like yourself, Miss Isuzu. With that spear, we’ll be an unstoppable team!” Rudy exclaimed, flipping his hair back and flashing a smile at Isuzu.

Isuzu rolled her eyes at Rudy, seeing his puppy dog demeanor, before realizing that she probably couldn’t afford such a weapon from a craftsman of Gideon’s caliber. “Master Gideon, thank you so much, but I can’t afford a weapon like this.”

Gideon leaned in close to Isuzu as he whispered something to her. “It’s a gift for my guild members, darlin’, but act like I’m giving you a great deal. That’ll make the people out there want to buy something.”

Isuzu understood as she played it up for the crowd. “Oh wow, I can’t believe I got this great weapon for a bargain price! Thank you, Master Gideon!” She bowed politely before rushing out with her new spear, desperate to show it off to Minori.

“Another satisfied customer for the Hawkmoon Forge!” Gideon shouted, ringing a bell hung on the wall. It was all part of the show, and he was center stage at the moment, soaking it in.

“Vanity is not a good look on you, darling,” came a familiar voice. Gideon spun around to see Henrietta and Marielle, watching his antics with a sour disdain on their faces. “Besides, how will you make any money if you keep giving away your weapons for free? That’s the third one since you opened!”

“It’s called marketing through free advertising, honey, something Naotsugu taught me,” Gideon explained. “I’m giving away a few select weapons to people in different guilds to help spread the word and get people interested in my work.”

“Yes, we heard about the sword you gave Kyouko from West Wind Brigade. She was so excited to try it out that she immediately formed a party and headed out to the hunting ground,” Marielle interjected. “But what about the Crescent Moon Alliance, hmmm?”

“Funny you should mention that . . . Touya, bring me the gift for Henrietta!” Touya stopped working on the firepit and raced over with a compound bow and quiver of arrows. The bow mechanics were interlaced with intricate scrollwork like a musical clef. The arrowheads and feathered tips all resembled musical notes of various forms.

Touya happily handed the bow and quiver to Henrietta. “Here you go, Henrietta, ma’am. Master Gideon made these, especially for you.” She took them and gazed at the workmanship with wonder.

“You did it . . .” she stammered. “You actually made them!”

“But what are they?” Marielle asked as she looked over the bow.

“It’s a Symphonic Bow with Acoustic Arrows,” Gideon remarked. “Henrietta said there weren’t a lot of magical items for bards who used a bow and arrow as a primary weapon. It gave me a challenge, so I designed these specifically for her.

“The bow will increase the range of her AOE spells,” he continued, referring to the area of effect. “And the arrows will add to a spell’s overall effectiveness and bolster her abilities. I know you don’t go in the field much anymore, darlin’, but I want you to have the best when you do.”

Henrietta blushed a bright red as her emotions got the best of her. She handed the bow and quiver to Marielle before she wrapped her arms around Gideon and kissed him passionately, earning a few “ooh’s and aah’s” from the crowd, but she didn’t care. Gideon was a little taken aback, knowing that Henrietta didn’t really go for public displays of affection. She had to thank him properly for thinking of her as he forged these weapons.

“Well, Hell’s bells, honey, if you like it that much, I’ll have to make gifts like that more often,” he joked.

“How about you just focus on making weapons to sell in your shop,” she said, putting her finger on his lips to shut him up before he could offer a rebuttal. “And I’ll really show you my appreciation tonight.”

“Oh geez, get a room, you two!” Marielle commented as she looked away. Before Henrietta could say something to her friend and guildmaster, they were interrupted by a cry for help.

“Help, please, someone, help us!” a voice cried out. Everyone turned to see Dolce, a bard from the West Wind Brigade, carrying her friend and fellow guild member, Isami. The samurai was lifeless in her arms as the muscular woman hobbled down the street with her.

Dolce dropped to the ground and gently laid Isami down. They rushed over to help her and find out what had happened. Marielle dropped everything to summon her Morning Aqua staff to start healing their injuries. “Dolce, honey, your ankle is twisted badly. How on Earth did you manage to carry Isami here?”

“I had to get here as quick as I could to protect my girl, Isami!” she cried. “I couldn’t let her be taken as the others.”

“Taken? What do you mean, Dolce?” Gideon interrupted.

“It was assassins from Minami!” she exclaimed. “They hit our party with those darts, just like poor little Minori.”

“You got hit with one too?” Touya asked.

“I did, Touya baby, but it wasn’t enough to bring down a big, strong girl like me!” Dolce said, flexing her muscle. “Kyouko told me to take Isami and get back to Akiba to get some help. She was fighting off some nightshades then going after the ones that took Kurinon, Fragrant Olive, and Kawara!”

“Nightshades? Like we fought in Saphir!” Touya added.

“Where were they headed, Dolce? Did they say how they were getting back to Minami?” Gideon pressed, trying to get more information.

“One of them said something about getting the girls to a train,” she remembered.

“That must be that magic train they used in Operation Red Night,” Henrietta recalled from the briefing on the incident. “Of all the days for Shiroe and the Round Table to be in Suskino, meeting with the Ezzo Empire.”

Gideon considered all the options before he pulled out his pocket watch and looked at it intently. He closed it before tucking it back in his pocket, more determined than ever. “Dolce, are you alright to walk?”

“You bet I can, sweet cheeks. Marielle, honey, fixed me up good!”

“Then I need you to skedaddle through the transport gate to Suskino and get Shiroe, Souji, and the others back here ASAP.”

“Will do! Be back with Souji-poo in a jiff!” Dolce shouted as she took off for the inter-city transport gate. These gates allowed players to travel between the major cities but malfunctioned after the Apocalypse. They only recently started working again.

“Gideon, Isami isn’t waking up,” Marielle worried. “My magic can’t help her.”

“Go get Doc, Marielle. He’s got the antidote for that drug.” Marielle took off toward the Log Horizon guild hall to find the Inuit Medicine Man. “Touya, go get my stuff from the forge!”

As Touya took off, Gideon turned toward the guild and shouted, “Akatsuki!” With that, the little ninja suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Her eyes widened, stunned at seeing a friend of hers lying in the street.

“What happened to Isami?” she asked.

“There’s no time to explain,” Gideon interrupted her. “Plant Hwyaden wrangled some of the girls from West Wind Brigade. They’re headed for a magic train to vamoose back to Minami.” Touya showed up with his hat, coat, gun belt, and saddlebag as soon as he said that. Gideon reached into his bag and pulled out a handful of foxfire grenades, handing them to Akatsuki. “You track down that train and help Kyouko rescue those girls. Use these to stop the train from leaving! You head’m off at the pass, and I’ll be right behind you!”

Akatsuki understood what he asked, putting the grenades in her own magic sack before disappearing to use her tracker sub-class skills to find these marauders. As soon as she took off, Marielle returned with Doc and Chief Nyanta, along with the other junior members of Log Horizon.

“Chief, can you fortify the city’s defenses until Dolce returns with Shiroe and the others? We need to be sure this isn’t an ambush!”

“Mew sure can; consider it done, my friend. And what are you going to do?” Nyanta inquired.

“Henrietta, get your bow, darlin’ you’re coming with me . . . We’re going to get us some back-up!” Gideon exclaimed.

* * *

Miles away from Akiba, the three sleeping captives were carefully loaded into coffin-like chambers to both contain them and keep them drugged during the trip back to Minami. All this was being done under the watchful gaze of Jered Gan, the Eighth Seat of the Ten Seat Council. The white-haired, big head elf looked more like a researcher than an archmage, and as the former Sage of Miral Lake, he preferred that role. The money and independence given to him by Indix helped him in his quest to make the People of the Land equal to adventurers.

Those experiments included the nightshades surrounding the train—People of the Land spiritually tapped into monsters’ bodies, forcing them to level up without hurting themselves. After the previous failures to recover any specimens for examination, Jered Gan took no chances. Along with his personal guard, the Fūma Demons added to the overwhelming force protecting the train.

Rezor Ginta, the leader of the Fūma Demons, kept a close eye on the adventurers. The nearly seven-foot giant, draped in a red and black yukata with his belly pushing it to its limits, looked more like a sumo wrestler than an assassin. Although he was only level 60, his power and presence were quite formidable. He leaned on a kanabō, a giant metal club with spikes, as he kept watch.

Jered Gan appreciated the work of the Fūma Demons, especially Rezor, for his loyalty to him and Indix. Gan knew that Kazuhiko and his Wolves of Mibu only feigned loyalty to their ideas. Still, he knew better than to tangle with an assassin like Kazuhiko. Gan would welcome the chance to put Rezor on the council instead. For now, he accepted the intense caution he brought to this mission.

“You are on edge, Rezor, and for a good reason. The sooner we leave with our prizes, the better it will be,” Gan admitted.

“I wouldn’t be this apprehensive, master if those two hadn’t gotten away. I don’t want to be caught off guard by the sudden appearance of a raiding party from Akiba.”

“Our spies in Suskino told us that the majority of Round Table would be there today,” Gan explained. “I expect you can handle most low-level adventurers waiting behind in Akiba. They are no threat to us.”

“That guardian, the one that fought off the nightshades single-handedly while we escaped to the train with our captives . . . She’ll be here soon. We need to hurry things along, master.”

“I cannot rush this process, Rezor. If they are not properly sedated, they could easily break out of the containers,” he explained, frustrated as he banged his cane off Rezor’s ample belly. “All of these adventurers are over level 90, which would cause a problem for you and the Fūma Demons. I trust you and the nightshades can handle one guardian.”

“Think again, old man!” Kyouko surprised them. She looked menacing, dressed in full plate armor, except for the dainty plaid scarf tied around her neck. She was ready to strike with a massive shield in one hand and a broad sword in the other. “Time Slash!” she shouted, slicing her blade through the air, until suddenly, all the nightshades were cut down, their anima dispersing all at once.

This was the power of the sword Gideon made for her—The Chronos Blade. If you waited one minute, the sword calculated where your enemies moved in the previous moment in time. Kyouko cut down all the nightshades in the past with a single slash, thereby killing them in the present. This was the perfect weapon for a guardian, giving them time to defend while the sword calculated their next move.

“Ack, my nightshades! How did she do that?” Gan queried.

“It doesn’t matter . . . Fūma Demons attack!” Rezor commanded as his assassin leaped down to swarm on top of her. Without warning, Akatsuki activates her overkill or oral art, Shadow Lurk, and dozens of clones of Akatsuki attacked the assassins, cutting them down. Over half their force was cut down by these two adventurers. They were left lying on the ground, injured, or incapacitated.

 “Thanks, Akatsuki! I’m glad Dolce made it back to Akiba. Is Isami okay?” Kyouko asked.

“She’s in good hands with Doc and Marielle, but let’s focus on these jerks until help arrives,” she said. “Can you take on fatso? I need to stop this train from leaving.”

“You got it!” Kyouko shouted as she charged right toward the massive man. If I can hold off his attacks for another thirty seconds, I’ll be able to do another time slash and take him down. I won’t disappoint Master Soujiro or my guild.

Rezor lifted his club with ease. Before Kyouko reached him, he slammed it into the ground, sending a shockwave across the land. It threw Kyouko back, but she noticed that it broke the timer on her sword, resetting it back to the original minute.

“I don’t know your sword’s ability, but it doesn’t matter anymore,” Rezor said, keeping his club at the ready. “My kanabō is called Monolith Breaker. Not only can it shatter attacks, but it also breaks through any magical buffs, debuffs, protections, and spells. With this, I have a level playing field with you God-like adventurers.”

Kyouko got to her feet, back to the ready. “You’re gonna need more than that to equal any adventurer, especially those from the West Wind Brigade!” She charged again, watching his movements as she anticipated his next swing. Rezor brought his kanabō down, but this time Kyouko leaped over the shockwave, using its momentum to lift her into the air. She planted her feet on the side of the train before pushing off and catapulting her into Rezor.

“Shield Smash!” she screamed, swinging her shield into the big man and knocking him down. She backflipped off her attack, quite nimbly for a woman in full plate armor, landing on her feet. “If you’re gonna swing that monstrosity, I suggest you learn more than just one attack.”

Rezor wiped the blood dripping from his lip, angry that this woman got the best of him. He quickly got back to his feet, ready to continue the fight, while Jered Gan had his hands full dealing with Akatsuki. The archmage threw lightning bolts, icicles, and flaming arrows, but the nimble ninja was too fast for the inexperienced combatant. For all his bravado, Jered Gan researched magic more than he wielded it in combat.

“Damn you, cursed brat, hold still!” he shouted, throwing another volley at her. To her credit, Akatsuki could outmaneuver him while using the remaining members of his personal guard as shields. As she moved around the top of the train, she made sure to get in line with one of the assassins so they could bear the brunt of the attack. For all his bravado, all Jered Gan was doing was picking off his own men. All the while, Akatsuki was moving closer and closer toward the engine.

The giant spinning gears between the cars powered the train through the magic circles generated by the engine. It was a marvel of magical and mechanical engineering, brought together by utilizing engineering skills from the other world with the magic of this one.

Akatsuki knew she had to disable the spinning gears to stop the train from leaving with her friends. She had the bombs from Gideon but no way to light them without stopping her defensive moves, but then it hit her. “Come on, grandpa, I’ve seen better magic at a child’s birthday party!” she teased.

“Grandpa? Grandpa? Now, you will face the wrath of Jered Gan! Inferno Strike!” He called down a flurry of fireballs that followed Akatsuki as she danced across the train roof. Before reaching the spinning engine gear, she tossed Gideon’s bombs behind her before leaping up and over the engine. The fireballs ignited the bomblets as they exploded on the gear structure, causing immense damage to the two sections of the train.

Gan was beside himself at the destruction caused, further impeding their escape back to Minami. He had only one thing left to try and facilitate their departure. “Rezor, unleash the demon! Infinity Force!” he channeled a powerful magic spell into his protector. It broke through his limiters and increased his strength and power. Once he charged up, Rezor slammed the tip of his club on the ground, unleashing a cascading wave of force, like a thousand tiny earthquakes in this one small area. It radiated up through the club and into the air, pressing down from above.

Akatsuki was thrown off the train into Kyouko as the two felt crushed beneath the force emanating from his club. They could barely move under its crushing weight. “What is this? I can’t move?” Kyouko stammered.

“I don’t know. I never felt anything like this before,” Akatsuki replied in an equally paralyzed response.

“It’s appropriate that women should be on their knees before their superiors,” Rezor laughed at the helpless nature of the two adventurers. “This is the power of the Shuten Dōji Monolith. When Master Jered unleashes my full potential with Infinity Force, I can summon the power of Shuten Dōji, the most powerful demon in all of Yamato.”

He strolled over to them and raised his club to strike. “Don’t worry; we’ll let you return to Akiba once Master Jered finishes with you!”

“Arpeggio!” a voice cried out as an arrow plunged into Rezor’s shoulder. Musical notes began swirling around him. After being hit with a sudden weakness throughout his body, he dropped his club.

“Singularity!” another voice chanted as a gunshot rang out, striking the ground beneath him. A gravitational singularity formed at his feet, pulling Rezor to the ground. He could barely keep himself on one knee as he looked up and saw Henrietta and Gideon rushing toward him. Henrietta kept an arrow nocked in her bow while Gideon leveled his six-shooters at the helpless man. “How’s it feel to be brought to your knees, you cold-blooded sidewinder?”

“Dispel Magic!” Jered Gan chanted as he quickly dispelled the magic, forcing Rezor to the ground. Gideon knew that he could access a wide range of spells as an archmage. Rezor pulled the arrow out of his shoulder and raised his club. Suddenly, a slew of nightshades appeared along with the remaining members of the Fūma Demons, healed and ready to fight. Rezor grinned at the overwhelming odds in his favor.

“It looks like you didn’t bring enough people with you, adventurer?” Rezor mocked. Now it was Gideon’s turn to grin at the behemoth.

“You sure about that hoss?” Gideon remarked when multiple arrows shot out from behind him, knocking the club out of Rezor’s hand and the staff from Jered Gan. The surprise attack came from a large group emerging through the trees.

“Eagle Mountain, attack!” Celeste Hawkmoon shouted as she fired another volley of arrows, this time aimed at the other members of the Fūma Demons. The deadly accuracy of this assassin was matched only by her beauty. Her long black hair flowed out from under a feathered headdress resembling an eagle. The flowing dress of dragonweave chainmail, slit up to her thighs, seemed out of place in battle, but she nimbly moved in it. “Veronika, you and Tom take care of those nightshades! King, support them with a Resonance Beat!”

“Uh-huh, you got it, boss, uh-huh uh-huh!” he replied. King—dressed as Elvis Presley in a rhinestone jumpsuit, dark glasses, and a pompadour—started to play his guitar like a virtuoso. His bard song echoed across the battlefield with a rock n’ roll beat, affecting the weapons of his guildmates.

“Shiver me timbers, let’s sink these scallywags to Davy Jones Locker!” shouted Veronika Red, swinging two cutlasses wildly. She sliced her way through the nightshades with ease, even with one eye, thanks to King’s enchantment. She embodied the spirit of a true pirate swashbuckler.

“Tiger Echo Fist!” cried Tom Redwood as he slammed his fist at the remaining nightshades, blowing them apart. The Cherokee monk towered over his opponents like his namesake, taking them down with the power added to his massive gauntlets.

“Brother Tate, see if those two women need healing!” Celeste commanded. “Gideon, Henrietta, you’re with me!”

They moved alongside Celeste, charging toward Jered Gan and Rezor. At the same time, a muscular dark-skinned man went to check on Akatsuki and Kyouko. He wore a simple tank top and jeans with some leather bucklers for protection. He glistened in the sunlight with all the gold chains and pendants hanging around his neck. He wore massive brass knuckles on his hands, etched with “peace” and “love” in big, bold letters.

“Hey there, ladies, you look like you could use Brother Tate’s good vibrations and wonderous healing powers!” he said before casting a healing glow over them. Tate could see the two were shocked at seeing his guild in action, especially Akatsuki.

“Is that . . . that . . . Celeste Hawkmoon? The Arclight Assassin?” she stammered.

“The one and only ninja girl, guildmaster for Eagle Mountain!”

“Eagle Mountain? But you’re from the North America server. How did you get to Yamato?” Kyouko asked.

“It’s quite easy, actually,” someone interrupted. Stepping through the trees were the last two members of Eagle Mountain. The woman was a Ritian, apparent by the tattooed runes on her face and hands. She wore an elaborate set of multi-functional goggles over her eyes as she operated a complex pocket watch, similar to Gideon’s. Next to her was a guardian dressed in black armor, from head to toe, emblazoned with a bat emblem on his chest plate, sword, and shield.

“With my lunar chronometer, we were able to navigate the transport portals to bring us directly from our home outside Angels to Yamato in an instant. Although, sadly, this little excursion of ours will mean we will have to wait two weeks, three days, ten hours, and forty-five minutes until the next proper alignment to return home.”

The intelligent banter confused the two women until Tate sorted it out. “She used her gizmo, and we jumped through some fairy rings until we made it here,” Tate explained. “This is Einstein, our resident genius, and her bodyguard, Sir Wayne.”

“Hi-ya,” Wayne said in a deep, gruff voice.

“Thaddeus, I asked you not to call me by that ridiculous nickname. Please introduce me as Dr. Roberta Copernicus,” Einstein countered.

Tate looked at her with slight contempt, knowing she hated Einstein’s nickname as much as he hated her calling him Thaddeus. “Sure, Bobbi!” he retorted, earning him another glare from Einstein before Tate finished his healing. “Okay, ladies, you’re all set.”

“Thank you so much,” Akatsuki said as she got to her feet, giving him a polite bow.

“Yes, thank you very much!” Kyouko added. “We’re so grateful for your help in rescuing our friends.”

“Think nothing of it, little lady. It’s just what we do, right Wayne?” Tate said, looking over to his companion, who just nodded.

“Justice must prevail,” was all he said in response. As soon as he said that, the battle was over. The nightshades were destroyed, the remaining members of the Fūma Demons were either unconscious or severely injured, and both Jered Gan and Rezor were forced to surrender.

“Roberta, see if you can get those containers open and free the adventurers from West Wind,” Celeste added. “Brother Tate, you and Sir Wayne help her.”

“I’ll help too,” Kyouko added, trotting off to help her guildmates while Akatsuki stepped up next to Gideon. They gave each other a fist bump, happy at how things worked out. Jered Gan, on the other hand, shook his head violently. He was vehemently upset at how things transpired.

“No, no, no, you have no right to interfere in my experiments, no right!” Gan protested.

“Experiments? These are people, not lab rats!” Henrietta screamed in his face. “We will not allow you to kidnap and abuse our family and friends!”

“Someone done stole your rudder, partner,” Gideon remarked. “Now, unless Plant Hwyaden wants an all-out war across Yamato, you’d better back off with these shenanigans, or you’ll last as long as a pint of whiskey in a five-handed poker game.”

“You don’t scare me, cowboy,” Rezor spat back at him. “We have ten times your numbers. We will march across Eastel and crush you beneath our boots.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure of that,” someone said behind them. Shiroe and the rest of the Round Table Conference leaders walked through the forest with Dolce following close behind.

“See, Gideon sweetie, I told you I’d get them here in a jiffy!” Dolce shouted with a wave.

“You did real good, Dolce! You’re aces high in my book!” Gideon replied with a tip of his hat, causing the masculine woman to blush. Shiroe and the others ignored Jered Gan and approached Celeste, bowing politely as he spoke.

“It’s an honor to finally meet you, Celeste Hawkmoon of Eagle Mountain. We welcome you to Yamato, although I am curious about how you got here?” Shiroe asked. Celeste bowed her head politely before she answered.

“The honor is mine, Shiroe of Log Horizon. We can explain things in detail later. For now, I thank you for taking my wayward brother into your guild. I hope he’s not too much of a nuisance for you.”

“No, not at all. He’s starting to grow on us, even with his little pranks of drowning people in the water,” Shiroe answered sarcastically.

“Oh yes, his little Rainmaker spell. I see he’s still acting like the petulant child he is . . .” Celeste remarked back.

“Uh, Ya’ll know I’m standing right her?”

“Yes, we know you are, brother dear. We’re just ignoring you,” Celeste joked. “Now, please be quiet and let the adults speak.” Gideon hated when his little sister got smart with him. He was about to snap his fingers, dunking his sister with water, but she swiftly pulled a long dagger and aimed for his throat. He immediately blocked it with his own bowie knife. The two locked in, pressing back against the other’s blade.

She stared at him with what Gideon called her “scary eyes,” and he stopped in his tracks. “Don’t even think about it, Jedidiah!” she warned, using his real name.

“Now I wouldn’t dream of it, Dorothy,” he shot back, using her real name too, which made some of the members of Eagle Mountain chuckle under their breath. “How about we hold off on our little family squabbles until this is over, okay?”

Celeste pulled back her blade, as did Gideon, but not before Celeste pinched him on the cheek. “Oh, you’re so cute when your angry!” she joked before Henrietta pulled him away from her. She didn’t want him to start another fight with his sister.

On the other hand, Akatsuki was star-struck and in love with her idol even more. “She is so awesome!” she whispered quietly.

Soujiro and Nazuna ignored all the misadventures and went to check on their girls. Brother Tate and Kyouko helped them out of the containers, laying them on the ground. They were still under the effects of the powerful narcotic.

“They seem alright but still unconscious,” Brother Tate told Soujiro. “Gideon said that his medicine man friend has an antidote for the drug. I’m sure they’ll wake up once we get them back to Akiba.”

Soujiro fumed, and his fury turned to Jered Gan and Rezor. The fire in his eyes burned with a hatred Soujiro reserved for anyone who messed with his girls. In the blink of an eye, he had both of his swords drawn, bearing down their throats.

“You deserve death for what you put my girls through,” he spoke with unwavering passion. “I am sick and tired of following the rules while Plant Hwyaden gets to do what they want.”

Jered Gan cringed as the samurai blade scratched his throat, but Rezor Ginta smiled and laughed at him. “Go ahead, little man, kill me. Make me a martyr, and I will live forever to the people of Westlande. All you’ll do is embolden our forces to crush Eastel. We will enslave you and your girls to work for the glory of the Holy Empire of Westlande.”

His threats infuriated Soujiro even more, but a comforting hand touched his shoulder. Nazuna leaned into her guildmaster, wrapping her arm around him. “He’s not worthy of your blade, Souji. Don’t taint it with the blood of this Yatsu.”

Soujiro understood what she meant and lowered his blades before stepping back. Jered Gan breathed a sigh of relief while Rezor just continued his taunt. “That’s what makes you weak, samurai, bending to the whims of your woma . . .” Before finishing his sentence, Soujiro brought his blade down across Rezor’s face, leaving a deep diagonal gash. The brute screamed in pain but not before Nazuna raised her hand to his face.

“Holy Curse of the Sword!” she said, casting her prayer spell as the wound seared close, creating a wicked scar. “That scar will never heal, no matter what any healer might try. That will remind you NEVER to mess with the West Wind Brigade again.”

“And if you do, I won’t hesitate to take your life,” Soujiro added. “Don’t even think about setting foot in Akiba unless you want a quick death.”

Rezor became enraged at the insult leveled at him. “You think this changes anything? All of Westlande will destroy you in one fell swoop.”

“I doubt that very seriously,” Shiroe interrupted. “Unless you want to take on the Ezzo Empire along with the Freedom Cities of Eastal.” Both Jered Gan and Rezor were stunned into silence. “You can tell Indix and Princess Nureha that the Round Table Conference signed a mutual defense accord with the Ezzo Empire. If Westlande invades again, the Ezzo Empire will support us militarily, and we will support them in return.”

“As will Eagle Mountain,” Celeste interjected, surprising everyone. “We will not stand by and let our family be overrun. Should you invade and attempt to conquer this land, I will bring the full weight of twenty thousand adventurers to Yamato to stop your plans.”

She paused for a moment before turning to Shiroe. “I realize there is no formal agreement between our guilds, Master Shiroe, but consider this a mutual understanding between guild masters.”

Her sudden announcement shocked Shiroe and the others. Still, he realized that this could be beneficial in stopping an all-out war across Yamato. He looked around at the other members of the Round Table Conference—Soujiro of West Wind, William Massachusetts of Silver Sword, Reize and Misa of the D3 Hub, Michitaka of Marine Agency, and Akaneya of Radio Market. They all nodded their heads, agreeing with the alliance with Eagle Mountain.

Shiroe offered his hand to Celeste, and she hardily took it. “The Round Table Conference welcomes an alliance with Eagle Mountain. From this day forward, we will support you just as you helped us today,” he announced, and then he turned his attention back to their captives. “I suggest you pick up your wounded and get back on your train to Minami. When Plant Hwyaden and Westlande are ready to talk peace, we’ll listen.”

Everyone backed away to allow Jered Gan and Rezor to leave. The rest of the Fūma Demons helped their wounded board the magic train. They disconnected from the damaged cars and headed south, “With their tail between their legs,” Gideon commented.

While they prepared some stretchers for the drugged members of West Wind, everyone got a chance to gather around and meet their new friends from Eagle Mountain. It made for exciting conversation as new friendships were made that spanned an ocean and two servers.

Henrietta finally received a proper introduction to her sister-in-law as the two embraced. Celeste never had a chance to meet her in the real world. She heard all about Henrietta from her brother, thrilled to see that she lived up to all his praise. As those two talked, Akatsuki nudged Gideon repeatedly to urge him to keep his promise and introduce the tiny ninja to his sister. He finally took the hint and interrupted the two women in his life.

“Excuse me, Celeste, but there’s someone I’d like you to meet,” he said before motioning to Akatsuki. “This is Akatsuki, our ninja in Log Horizon. She was the one who stopped the train from leaving with those petticoats from West Wind.”

Akatsuki nervously bowed to her in-game idol. “It’s an honor to meet you, Lady Celeste. I am Akatsuki, Master Shiroe’s shinobi and personal bodyguard. I have long admired your career in Elder Tales.”

While she remained prostrate, Celeste was quiet. She didn’t say a word; she didn’t move a muscle except for the occasional twitch in her eyes and lips. She stared intensely at the little ninja, which unnerved Akatsuki until . . . “Oh my God, you are the cutest little thing I’ve ever seen!” Celeste screamed as she crushed Akatsuki in a death grip hug around her head. “Isn’t she just adorable!”

“I know, right! My little Akatsuki is such a cutie-patootie!” Henrietta added as the two women assaulted her repeatedly with love and affection. Gideon sighed audibly at the sight of these two uncontrollable women. That’s why he didn’t want to introduce Akatsuki to his sister like this, but now it was too late. He could deal with Henrietta, but he needed some help with Celeste.

“Tom, can you . . .” he asked the towering monk.

“Yeah, I got it,” he said as he walked up to Celeste, picked her up with one hand, and pulled her off Akatsuki. He was the only one who could get away with manhandling Celeste as she continued to struggle to reach Akatsuki. Gideon did the same with Henrietta, leaving the little ninja in shambles. Her hair was a mess, her clothes all crumpled as she stood there in silence. Shiroe walked over to his companion, but she held a finger to shut him up before saying a word.

“Don’t say anything!” she warned as he waved it off and walked away. But then, she just smiled and sighed. Deep down, it thrilled her that she was mauled by her idol. “Totally worth it!”

* * *

Stay tuned for Part 5 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger’s First Mission. Check out my fan fiction page if you want to catch up on the whole story.

Part 3 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger in Akiba Fan Fiction

Thanks for your continued support on this little pet project of mine. To be honest, it’s fun to write because I’ve already watched all three seasons multiple times so this keeps me hyped for more. Plus, they walk about all the servers in the Log Horizon Fan Wiki but the only one they’ve done anything with is the China server. My story gives me some “creative license” about life on the North America server, the guilds there, and some of the people there. Without further adieu, Here is Part 3 of my Log Horizon anime fan fiction, A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger in Akiba.

* * *

Part Two Recap: In the world of Elder Tales, more than 70,000 Japanese players found themselves trapped inside the world of their favorite MMORPG. In the adventurer’s town of Akiba, the Round Table Conference maintains the peace amongst the guilds calling this city home. Gideon Hawkmoon, the sorcerer gunslinger from America, and Major, a guardian from the Bearclaw clan, along with Doc, an Inuit medicine man, traveled across four servers and an ocean to arrive in Akiba. Gideon was reunited with his wife, Henrietta, and Major with his little sister, Serara. With the help of Shiroe of Log Horizon, they were able to break the illegal entry feedback loop they were stuck in and stay in Yamato. After a night of celebration, the wayward adventurers finally had a place to call home.

***

The morning light crept through the window until it fell across Henrietta’s face. She slowly opened her eyes, and what she saw made her smile. Gideon lay next to her, still sleeping soundly. She remembered that he once told her he grew up near railroad tracks in Texas, so it took a lot to wake him up. She didn’t mind it at all as she stared at him. For the first time in more than a year, Henrietta felt at ease living in Akiba.

She had an epiphany and quickly opened her heads-up display, going into her voice mail. She found the message Gideon left for her right before the Apocalypse and finally deleted it. Henrietta would no longer need a reminder of him. He was here with her.

Suddenly, the handle to her bedroom door jiggled. Someone tried to come into her room without knocking. Henrietta was cautious when they arrived, setting the locks so only she could open the door. The only one who could override her permissions was . . . the guildmaster.

“Good morning!” Marielle shouted as she burst through the door, all smiles and cheerful, but her rosy demeanor disappeared when she saw Henrietta and Gideon in bed. As Marielle became embarrassed, Henrietta, in turn, became angry.

“Marielle!” she screamed through gritted teeth. “Learn to knock!” Henrietta threw a pillow at her best friend, hitting her in the face. Marielle took the hint and quickly left the room, closing the door behind her.

Still fuming from the interruption, Henrietta never noticed that Gideon was finally awake. He opened his eyes and became curious at the angry woman next to him. “Is everything okay, Henrietta? You look like someone put a rattlesnake in your hamper.”

Henrietta took a deep breath before she laid down against Gideon’s chest. “No, everything’s fine. I just have to make some adjustments to the access controls for the guildhall.” She finally looked up at him and smiled. “Good morning!”

“Morning, darlin’. . . Did you sleep well?”

“The best sleep I’ve had since I arrived in this world. How about you?”

“Oh heck, I preferred the waking parts to the sleeping,” Gideon joked, causing her to blush with embarrassment. “But yeah, best sleep I’ve had in the past year. That Major could snore up a thunderstorm. I’ll take your snoring over his any day!”

Henrietta smacked him with a pillow, not amused with his poor attempt at humor. Gideon brushed it off as he pulled her close and rolled over on her. The two embraced in a passionate kiss, realizing this was the first day of the rest of their lives together in Akiba.

***

Marielle walked downstairs in the guildhall with a glazed look over her eyes. After consuming too much alcohol last night, she treated today like any other day in all her confusion. When she saw that Henrietta wasn’t up yet, Marielle did as she always did and went up to her room to wake her up. She just didn’t expect to see what she saw in there. Marielle was actually more afraid of what Henrietta would do to her for barging in.

Everyone in the Crescent Moon Alliance was busy enjoying their breakfast, talking about gossip around Akiba, and getting their assignments for the day. Liliana looked over and saw the guildmaster enter the room, looking quite vexed. The little elf rushed over to her with some tea to hopefully calm her nerves. “Marielle, is everything alright?” she asked, pouring a cup of tea and setting it in front of her.

“Huh? Oh yes, I’m fine, Liliana. Thank you,” she said, picking up her teacup, slightly shaking in her hand.

“Is Henrietta up yet? I haven’t seen her yet this morning.”

“Yes! Yes, she’s awake. She’s just taking her time getting dressed and all. I’m sure she’ll be down momentarily.”

“Mornin’ everyone!” The guild members looked up the stairs as Gideon strutted down with that announcement. Everyone in the guild liked Gideon, especially since they could see how happy he made Henrietta. The guild members scattered about the hall all waved, shouted hello, or a simple good morning to him. Gideon walked through the throngs of people, chatting it up and saying hello before he walked over and sat directly across from Marielle.

“Good morning, Master Gideon. Would you like some tea?” Liliana asked.

“Yes, please, thank you kindly darlin’. . .” he said with a wink. As Liliana poured his tea, Girov rushed over to see Gideon. As the head chef for the Crescent Moon Alliance, the elf was keen on preparing the best food for his guildmates.

“Master Gideon, would you like some breakfast? I can make you anything you’d like!”

“Well, I’m much obliged, Girov. Have you ever made a western omelet before?” The name confused the chef a little. He knew what an omelet was, but he had never heard of a western omelet before. “It’s straightforward, hoss. Just throw some peppers, onions, ham, and cheese into the eggs. Any cookie worth their toast can make one. You’ll do fine.”

His little pep talk encouraged the head chef, who took off to try making his first western omelet. Gideon picked up his teacup, gave a slight nod to Liliana, and took a sip before turning his attention to Marielle. He could tell she was a little unsettled.

“Are you alright, Marielle? You look a little flush.”

“No . . . No, I’m fine, wonderful, no worries here!”

“Look, I’m sorry if I saddle-bagged you with the bourbon last night,” Gideon apologized. “I promised Henrietta that I wouldn’t do it again.”

“Oh no, that’s fine. I should know better than to drink too much,” she assured him with a polite wave. Gideon could see that Marielle continued to be jittery as they sat there together. He thought of a story that might help her calm down.

“You know, this reminds me of a story my mee-maw told me,” he began. “There was a girl who loved to party. She spent her time, drinking all night, hoopin’ and hollerin’, dancing the night away. Her momma warned her that she would dance with the devil one night, all the way to hell.”

His story caught Marielle’s attention as she listened intently. “So, one night, she went out to the local gin joint and did like always. She was drinking every man under the table, having her choice of partners to dance with, just having a good ole time. That gal was livin’ large and havin’ fun like there was no tomorrow.”

“So, what happened?” Marielle asked.

“Well, suddenly, the music stopped, and a stranger with jet black hair walked up to the little lady. She was mesmerized by his handsome face and fancy clothes. He asked her to dance, and she couldn’t refuse him for some reason. They were like fire out on the dance floor. They spun faster and faster as the floor melted seemingly beneath their feet, whipping up a cloud of dust. When the dust settled, the man and the girl were gone.

“Just like her momma warned her, she danced with the devil that night, and he took her straight to hell,” Gideon concluded. Marielle reflected on the message behind the story as Girov rushed over and presented Gideon with his omelet.

“I hope this is to your liking, Master Gideon,” he chattered, nervously setting it down in front of him. Gideon took one bite, savoring its taste and flavor.

“That’s darn tasty, Girov. You are one heckuva cookie, partner!” Gideon’s compliment thrilled Girov, who bowed profusely in gratitude. “You can cook me a western omelet anytime.”

“Thank you so much, Master Gideon. If you have any other recipes you’d like me to try, please let me know!” Girov exclaimed.

“Well, you need to talk to Major then, Girov. He has the chef sub-class and was our cookie on the way here. He knows everything from Texas chili to sausage gravy and biscuits.”

“Thank you so much, Master Gideon! I will!” Girov said as he bowed again before taking off to track down his new guildmember. Shouryuu, the Wolf-Fang swashbuckler and combat leader for the guild, saw his opening. He was always eager to impress the guildmaster. Gideon continued to eat his breakfast before Shouryuu popped over to ask a question.

“Excuse me, Master Gideon, but some of our sorcerers and enchanters would like to know if you’d be available to give them some one-on-one instruction, our combat teams too. We would really benefit from someone with your experience and knowledge.”

“We can set that up for another time, Shouryuu,” Henrietta interrupted as she walked down the stairs. Hearing her voice chilled Marielle as she knew she would have to account for storming into her room earlier. “I will be taking Gideon around Akiba today, introducing him to the various guilds and leaders of the Round Table conference. We can set up a training session for another time, okay?”

Shouryuu nodded his head before he bowed and left. He knew better than to argue with Henrietta. Gideon did too, as he finished his breakfast and took one last sip of tea before getting up to leave. “Well now, on that, I’ll be skedaddling over to Log Horizon to check in with Shiroe,” Gideon said as he put his hat on before walking over to Henrietta. “I’ll see you in a couple of hours, darlin’!”

Gideon gave her a peck on the lips before waving goodbye to the guild. There were a few oohs and aahs, but that quickly passed after a stern look from Henrietta. The usually subdued lady didn’t mind showing her affection toward her husband. Gideon was here with her now, making her happier than anytime before.

But then, she turned her attention to Marielle, placing her hand firmly on her shoulder. “Now then, Marielle, I think we need to discuss privacy and access restrictions within the guildhall. Don’t you agree?” Marielle shuddered, knowing she was about to get an earful.

***

Gideon stepped outside the guildhall and got his first glimpse of the heart of Akiba in the daylight. He wandered around, trying to get his bearings. Last night, he was focused on Henrietta on their walk from Log Horizon to the guildhall, so he didn’t know exactly which way to go.

Most of the people in Akiba, both adventurers and the People of the Land, stared at him with curiosity. He was a stranger to this city, and his clothes and mannerisms were peculiar. Some of the more experienced players recognized him, but his reputation made them keep their distance.

Soon, Gideon found himself staring at the White Tree, the heart of Akiba. The magnificent tree with silver leaves glittering in the sunlight was a meeting and gathering place for adventurers. It looked beautiful in-game and even more breathtaking in person. In fact, it was where Gideon was supposed to meet Henrietta on the day of the Apocalypse.

Gideon was about to use the telepathic link to call Shiroe, but then he heard a familiar voice behind. “Well, hey there, cowboy! Are you lost?” Gideon spun around and spied two friends from his brief time with the Debauchery Tea Party.

Soujiro Seta and Nazuna of the West Wind Brigade surprised him. Soujiro broadly smiled with his hair pulled back into an Edo-style ponytail. He carried two katanas tucked into his obi under a white kimono decorated with a red dragon, indicating his status as a samurai and master swordsman. Nazuna, a Fox Tail shrine maiden, towered behind Soujiro, giving Gideon a simple wave. These two were the leaders and founders of the West Wind Brigade, a guild of women adventurers entirely devoted to Soujiro.

“Nazuna, Soujiro! Dang, are you two a sight for sore eyes!” Gideon exclaimed, rushing over to them. He surprised Nazuna with a hug before reaching out to Soujiro. “You two look exactly as I remember . . . Standing toe-to-toe, ready to make an ordinary fight look like a prayer meeting! What are you doing makin’ hay before the sun shines?”

“Well, one of our guild members said she saw a cowboy walking through Akiba with Shiroe, and we knew it could only be you,” Soujiro explained. “What are you doing here, Gideon?”

“Yeah, and just how did you get here from America?” Nazuna added.

“Well, that’s a long story. If y’all could show me the way to Log Horizon, I’ll spin you a yarn on the way.” They started off toward the Log Horizon guild. At the same time, Gideon told them his story: his marriage to Henrietta, the fairy ring incident, traveling across the Aleutians and down the coast, his arrival in Akiba, and the encounter with Plant Hwyaden. After all that, both Soujiro and Nazuna were astounded by his tale, but Nazuna couldn’t get one thing off her mind.

“You’re married to Henrietta? I can’t believe it! Oh, the girls will freak when I tell them this!”

“I’m amazed that you made it the entire way without dying once,” Soujiro added. “You are one of a kind, Gideon!”

“That’s just how I like it, Souji,” Gideon joked. “Although from what Naotsugu tells me, you’re the one living life on the farm. I can’t believe you have a harem of girls all to yourself. I thought you and Nazuna would’ve gotten hitched by now.”

Gideon’s sudden proclamation made the two of them turn red with embarrassment. It was never something they talked about openly. Soujiro, however, quickly brushed it off with a chuckle. “I have too many of my girls in the guild to worry about,” Soujiro explained. “I don’t know if I could ever settle down with just one. Besides, Nazuna and I are practically married already if you think about it. She’s always by my side, and I depend on her for everything.”

Nazuna was happy to hear Soujiro admit how he felt and how much he needed her, although she genuinely wished for something more deep down. Gideon knew just how these two felt. It’s the same way he was toward Henrietta. “Well, in any case, it’s nice to know I’ve got friends and allies with me in Akiba, especially for the fight ahead.”

“I don’t think Shiroe would get us into a war between Westlande and Eastel, even if Plant Hwyaden is involved,” Nazuna said.

“We might not have a choice, Naz,” Gideon interrupted. “Indix sent her varmints to test out a drug that stops adventurers cold. That woman’s crazy as a hog in the hip pocket of a bathing suit.”

Neither of them really understood Gideon’s western vernacular, but they understood his meaning. “Look, Gideon, I know you and Indix never got along, but I don’t think she would risk an all-out war across Yamato,” Soujiro commented.

Gideon stopped for a moment and thought before he answered his question with a question. “What if that was one of your girls, drugged up and taken away to Minami instead of Minori? What would you do?”

The two looked at each other and never hesitated. “Yeah, your right; she’s dead meat!” Nazuna stated as she cracked her knuckles. Gideon laughed, knowing that Nazuna meant every word she said.

“Good morning, Master Gideon.” A voice next to him startled the gunslinger as Akatsuki appeared out of nowhere.

“Dagnabbit, Akatsuki! You scared the dickens out of me! What in tarnation are you doing here?” Gideon shouted, jumping off to the side. Akatsuki ignored his question, happy that, like Shiroe and many others, she could one-up them with her ninja skills.

“Henrietta asked me to look out for you,” she explained. “She thought you might get lost finding your way to our guildhall. She also wanted me to remind you to pick up milk and eggs on your way home.”

“What? Milk and eggs?” Akatsuki laughed that her little married joke flew right over his head. Soujiro and Nazuna snickered as Akatsuki turned her attention and nodded politely.

“Good morning, Master Soujiro, Nazuna. I’ll take our wayward cowboy from here.”

“Thanks, Akatsuki. See you later, Gideon!” Soujiro said with a wave as he turned to leave.

“Don’t forget to tell Henrietta to bring you by our guildhall. The girls will be dying to meet you!” Nazuna added as the two-headed on their way.

Gideon tipped his hat before turning his attention back to Akatsuki. She stood there smiling as she enjoyed her moment of glory. “You’re grinnin’ like a baked possum, little lady.”

“I’m just enjoying the moment!” she replied, happy with herself and the little joke she pulled.

“Well, as my paw-paw used to say, if you make the bed, be prepared to sleep under the sheets. That means ‘watch your six’ Akatsuki.” His little saying confused her even more than usual, but then Gideon snapped his fingers and a deluge of water poured down, right on top of the little ninja, soaking her head to toe.

Akatsuki looked like a drowned rat, shocked by the sudden downpour that fell on her. She looked at Gideon, who now had a sly grin. “How . . . How did you do that?” she asked.

“Come on, Akatsuki, a good magician never reveals his secret,” Gideon replied with a tip of his hat as he continued to walk, leaving the soggy ninja behind.

***

Mornings in Log Horizon were the same as it was in other guilds. Everyone gathered for breakfast, performed chores, discussed the day’s assignments and tasks, and talked about the goings-on in Akiba. Today’s topic centered around the arrival of Gideon and friends and the party last night. They all wondered about the whereabouts of the sorcerer gunslinger.

“I wonder where Master Gideon got to. He didn’t even sleep in his room last night,” Touya wondered.

“I’m sure Gideon was continuing his reunion with Lady Henrietta,” Doc interjected. “During our trip here, all he talked about was his longing to be reunited with her.”

“Oh, that’s so romantic!” Minori squealed. “But what about you, Doc?”

“Yes, you haven’t told us much about you, what happened to your village, and why you’re here?” Rudy inquired. Doc smiled before his face grew sad as he sipped his tea.

“That is a story for another time, little ones. For now, let’s focus on the present. Besides, I see that Gideon has finally returned.” Everyone looked over to the door as Gideon walked in with Akatsuki close behind, leaving puddles of water with every step.

“Mornin’ everyone!” Gideon greeted with a tip of his hat. Tetora, mop in hand, noticed the mess Akatsuki left in her wake.

“Akatsuki! I just mopped the floor!” she screamed as she followed behind her, cleaning up the mess. “What happened? Did you fall in the river?”

“Not quite . . .” she said through gritted teeth as she glared up at Gideon. Chief and Naotsugu knew what happened to her and couldn’t help but laugh.

“Looks like Akatsuki fell victim to Gideon’s ‘Rainmaker’ spell,” Chief surmised. “You must have done something to get under his skin to earn that distinction.”

“What’s Rainmaker, Master Gideon? I never heard of that spell before,” Rudy inquired.

“It’s a spell specific for sorcerers on the North America server. Because of the vast deserts of the American southwest, sorcerers were given this spell to create water in an instant to ensure parties don’t suffer from dehydration.”

“But Gideon uses it for something totally different,” Naotsugu added. “He likes to cause a downpour on a single spot, soaking someone through and through. Damn squirt, what’d you do?”

Akatsuki said nothing as she turned away and walked up the stairs toward her room to change. She walked by Shiroe, not even looking up at him, leaving a water trail as Tetora followed with her mop. Shiroe immediately knew what had happened.

“Gideon, please, could you refrain from drowning our guild members?”

“Alright, Shiroe, I promise not to do it again!” Gideon said, raising his hand and crossing his heart. “I just wanted to teach the little lady that sometimes it’s not smart to step on a rattlesnake.”

Shiroe shook his head in disbelief while Naotsugu and Chief Nyanta laughed it off. “Can I interest you in some breakfast, Gideon?” Nyanta asked.

“No, thank you kindly, Chief, but I already had a delicious omelet over at Crescent Moon. However, I could go for a hot cup of joe!”

“Sorry, Gideon, but we don’t have a lot of coffee drinkers in our little guild, meow. So, I don’t have any in stock, you dig?”

“That’s okay, Chief; I always carry some with me,” Gideon said before reaching into his saddlebag, his version of Dazaneg’s Magic Bag. The relatively inconspicuous satchel could carry many items with relative ease. Gideon pulled out a fifty-pound bag of coffee beans and a coffee grinder from inside his bag. He handed both over to Chief Nyanta.

“This should keep you stocked for a while, Chief!” Gideon added. The swashbuckler was impressed with Gideon’s forethought.

“Well, this is a welcome sight indeed. I’ll go brew us a pot, nya,” Nyanta replied as he took his prize back to the kitchen.

“Excuse me, Master Gideon, but why do you have coffee with you?” Isuzu asked.

“There are four things a cowboy is never without, Miss Isuzu,” Gideon said, holding up four fingers. “Bullets, beans, whiskey, and coffee . . . These are essential items for any gunslinger to survive out on the range.”

Everyone laughed at Gideon’s explanation, but soon they realized that he was serious. He reached in and pulled out another large sack from his saddlebag, one marked pinto beans, and dropped it on the floor.

“So, how was your first night back with Henrietta?” Tetora inquired, blowing Gideon as she looked for some juicy gossip.

“Now, Tetora, a gentleman does not kiss and tell, especially about one’s married life,” Gideon replied smartly.

“Yeah, I bet there was a lot of kissing and . . .” Naotsugu started to insinuate before Akatsuki suddenly appeared, kicking Naotsugu in the face, sending him flying across the room. She dropped into his chair and took his seat, dressed in new clothes, and dried off.

“Thank you kindly for correcting Naotsugu, Miss Akatsuki,” Gideon said, tipping his hat to her, “I apologize for the dunking I gave you earlier. Sometimes old habits are hard to break.”

“It’s alright, Master Gideon, all is forgiven,” she said calmly and quietly. It seemed odd and unnerved everyone, including Shiroe.

“This isn’t like you, Akatsuki. What did you do?”

“I don’t know what you mean, my lord. This is exactly like me,” she stated, sitting there quietly. Suddenly, a loud rumbling came from outside, like a stampede of wild animals. That unnerved everyone, especially Gideon.

“What’s that noise?” Touya asked until Gideon finally realized what the little ninja did.

“Oh no, you didn’t?” he asked Akatsuki, who just continued to sit and smile.

“You make the bed, be prepared to sleep under the sheets . . . I believe that’s what you said, right, Master Gideon?” she replied as the door to Log Horizon burst open, and Henrietta rushed into the room, darting over to Akatsuki.

“Oh, my precious little Akatsuki, what did my mean husband do to you?” she cooed, hugging tightly around her head. Usually brisque to her advances, Akatsuki didn’t seem to mind it before Henrietta turned her attention to Gideon. She got right into his face, wagging her finger at him. “Are you crazy? Using that ridiculous ‘Rainmaker’ spell to douse my Akatsuki?” 

“Now, darlin’, it was just a little joke between friends, nothing to get all worked up about!” Gideon replied, holding his hands up in innocence. Henrietta grabbed him by the ear and started dragging him away.

“Outside, mister, now!” As hard as Gideon struggled against her, Henrietta kept a death grip on his ear as she dragged him outside. He continued to try to dissuade her but to no avail. Akatsuki smiled as everyone looked at her in awe.

“Akatsuki, did you . . .” Naotsugu started to ask before he stopped and stared. Tetora hovered behind him, afraid of the little ninja’s newfound confidence.

“Oh no, she’s learned ‘Dark Karami’ mode from Shiroe!” Tetora exclaimed as a dark presence fell across Akatsuki. It was akin to what people saw around Shiroe when his ‘villain in glasses’ persona came out.

The junior members were a little terrified of this side of their guildmate. “Remind me never to get Miss Akatsuki mad at me,” Rudy said. The other three nodded in agreement.

***

After the mischievous events of the morning, Henrietta began escorting Gideon around Akiba, introducing him to the various guild leaders and members of the Round Table Conference. The word of his arrival spread around Akiba, making them curious, even excited to see the sorcerer gunslinger. With Henrietta leading him around, they were pleasantly inviting and welcoming. Of course, it surprised people when they found out Henrietta was married to Gideon.

The reception was completely different as the duo arrived at the West Wind Brigade guildhall. Soujiro was shocked to see how infatuated some members in his guild were with the wayward cowboy from America. For the first time, his girls were fascinated by the charm and persona of someone besides him. It was pretty unnerving for the samurai guildmaster. Plus, Nazuna had to hold back a jealous Henrietta to keep things from getting out of hand.

At the Seifu Mansion, Princess Lenessia Erharte Cowen became enthralled with meeting someone from America but was equally interested to hear about Henrietta’s marriage to Gideon. As a representative of the Eastal League of Freedom Cities and a member of the Round Table Conference, the beautiful, pale blue-haired Lenessia had always worked closely with the adventurers in Akiba, especially the women. She was an integral part of the Akiba Raid Party to eliminate the rouge Royal Guard Enbart Nelles.

While her elf maid, Elissa, served tea and cakes, Lenessia interrogated Henrietta about her relationship while Gideon sat there quietly. He didn’t have much experience around royalty, so he was nervous sitting in front of a real-life princess.

“I can’t believe you’re married, Henrietta! How did you keep this a secret from everyone, including your best friend, Marielle?”

“Well, it was a matter of privacy and peace of mind,” Henrietta explained. “I didn’t know what was happening with Gideon, so I thought it best to focus on the situation here in Akiba. Besides, it all turned out for the best.”

“And you, Master Gideon, I must commend you on your devotion to Henrietta to travel across the ocean to be with her. That’s an amazing feat,” she said before she paused, turning her thoughts to the D.D.D. guildmaster, Krusty, someone she’s been enamored with since they met. “I know certain monsters who don’t care how long it takes to return to their duties and responsibilities.”

“Well, thank you, Princess . . . I mean, Your Highness, Majesty . . .” he stuttered, something out of character for the gunslinger. “Sorry, Highness, but I don’t have much experience being so informal with royalty. I’m used to dealing with Tribal Chiefs or Town Marshals, not a real princess.”

“Oh please, there’s no need to apologize or be so formal,” Lenessia argued. “You can ask Henrietta, I’m the least bit informal around adventurers like yourself. But I would love to hear more about North America and the People of the Land who live there.”

“Well, if that’s the case, I would love to introduce you to Doc. He’s an Inuit medicine man from the People of the Land in Alaska,” Gideon replied. “I’m sure he would be happier than a pup with two tails to tell you about his tribe.”

“Oh, that would be wonderful, thank you!” Lenessia exclaimed before a knock rang on the door, and one of the other maids—a small felinoid—walked in.

“Excuse me, Pr-Pr-Princess, but Miss M-M-Misa and R-R-Rieze are here to see you!” she announced with a cat-like slur to her words as the two co-leaders of D.D.D. battle guild walked in. After the disappearance of their guildmaster, Krusty, the guild split into several smaller guilds and formed a D3 guild union. A Wolf Fang bard, Misa was the only other master swordsman in Akiba next to Soujiro. Rieze, a Half-Alf Sorcerer, was a strategist up there with Shiroe. The beauty of these two women was on par with their strength and intelligence in leading the D3 hubs in Krusty’s absence.

“Sorry for the intrusion, Princess, but we . . .” Misa started to say until she saw Gideon sitting with Her Royal Highness. “You!” Without warning, Misa summoned her death scythe, Disaster, and Rieze her magical staff, Pride of Queen, as the two lunged to attack Gideon. He reacted as fast as they did, jumping to his feet and drawing his six-shooters, pointing them squarely at both ladies, triggers cocked but waiting for them to strike first.

Everyone stood in silence for a moment, stunned at the sudden attack. “Now, ladies, I don’t believe this is the proper place for us to be havin’ a tussle, doncha think?” Gideon asked.

“Misa! Rieze! What’s gotten into you?” Lenessia exclaimed.

“It’s all my fault, Your Highness. The ladies have a grudge with me over a match I had with Krusty,” Gideon explained.

“You know Sir Krusty?” Lenessia asked.

“When did you fight Krusty?” Henrietta queried.

“It was before we met, Henrietta. On my first visit to Japan, Krusty and I had a PvP battle, and he lost.”

“You mean you cheated!” Misa interrupted.

“Cheated is a strong word, Misa darlin’, and I never cheat.”

“You took advantage of a loophole in the system to assure your victory!” Reize exclaimed.

“That’s not cheatin’, Miss Reize. That’s using every tool in the game to win. Besides, Krusty didn’t see it that way. He took his ass-whupping like a gentleman, said it was the best fight he’d ever had.”

“Yeah, that sounds like Krusty,” Lenessia lamented.

“My lord only did that because you were a foreigner,” Rieze added. “Your match dishonored his reputation in Yamato.”

“And how in tarnation did I do that? Seems to me you two are dishonoring him by continuing to hold a grudge. Did he ever bring it up again after our little contest? Did he sulk or cry like a baby? No, he didn’t because he and I saw things as clear as morning dew on a cactus flower.” Both ladies thought about it and realized that Krusty never did complain about his duel, so maybe he did put it aside. They both slowly lowered their weapons, and Gideon holstered his six-shooters.

“We’re going to be seeing a lot more of each other, ladies, so I suggest we let bygones be bygones,” Gideon added. “I’ll be more than happy to give Krusty his rematch when he gets back.”

The two women looked at each other confused. “What do you mean seeing a lot of us? Are you staying in Akiba?” Rieze asked.

Henrietta stood up and took Gideon by the arm. “Gideon is my husband,” she announced, startling the two women into silence.

“Oh, wonderful!” Misa cajoled.

“Well, that complicates things,” Rieze added as the two women dismissed their weapons.

“Alright, because of everything that Henrietta has done for us, we’ll make amends,” Misa said before stepping forward and getting right in Gideon’s face. “But call me ‘darling’ again, and I’ll be more than happy to cut off your hand and any other appendage!”

Gideon just smiled and tipped his hat. “Point taken, Miss Misa!”

***

“Is there anyone you haven’t met that doesn’t want to kill you?” Henrietta asked as she walked with Gideon by the stalls alongside the Production Guild District.

“Sorry, darlin’, but it comes with the territory of being the number one PvP,” Gideon explained. “Besides, those two would do anything for Krusty. They are as loyal to him as those girls in West Wind all love Soujiro.”

“Yes, I know. It seems most of the women here in Akiba have the want for romance but never act on it. I think they’re too busy living our day-to-day lives in this new world that they don’t take advantage of a relationship.”

“Well, not that you have to worry about that anymore,” Gideon said before rubbing his ear, still feeling the pain from this morning. “Dang it all, Henrietta, did you have to go and pull my ear off? It still hurts like the dickens.”

“Oh, quit complaining, you big baby. Serves you right for hurting my dear, precious Akatsuki.”

“I did not hurt her, darlin’, and besides, she . . .”

“Hey! Gideon Hawkmoon!” a voice shouted at him from behind, interrupting the conversation. Gideon and Henrietta turned to see a wall of people from the Black Sword Knights staring them down. Standing out in front was their guildmaster, Isaac, a guardian knight commander, clad in spike plate mail armor with his Black Sword of Pain slung across his shoulder. He grinned like the cat that ate the canary looking across at his next opponent.

“I have been waiting for my chance to battle the number one PvP,” Isaac proclaimed. “Let’s see if you’re as good as your reputation, gunslinger. Get ready to feel the Black Sword of Pain!”

“Really, Isaac, this is not the time for such frivolities,” Henrietta chastised.

“Look, Henrietta, I don’t know why you got stuck showing this loser around Akiba, but I’m not about to let a chance like this slip by. So, step aside!” Henrietta became infuriated by Isaac’s callous attitude toward her, seemingly brushing her aside. She glanced up at Gideon with a determined look in her eyes.

“Kick his ass,” was all she said before slowly moving aside. Gideon winked at her before he took out a cigar and lit it—something he always did before a fight. The people in the street backed away to give the two men plenty of room. Many started taking side bets on who would win.

“Rezarick, you can referee the match,” Isaac ordered one of his reliable subordinates. Rezarick stepped out to take the position, but Gideon had none of it.

“Sorry, Isaac, but I don’t like the idea of stacking the deck in your favor by having someone from your guild call this match . . . No offense, hoss, but I don’t know you.”

“None taken, Master Gideon,” Rezarick said. Gideon looked around and saw a young girl standing in her stall. She was selling her hand-made jewelry and looking rather shy in her dark-rimmed glasses and pink beret.

“Excuse me, little lady, but what’s your name?” Gideon asked politely with a tip of his hat.

“Me? It’s Nemimi, sir.”

“Well, Nemimi, would you mind refereeing our little contest here?”

“Uh, sure, but I’ve never done that before,” Nemimi said, stepping out behind her booth.

“Oh, it’s real easy, darlin’. You simply keep an eye on both our health bars. The first one to knock the other below fifty percent of their hit points wins. That alight with you, Isaac?”

“Yeah, yeah, we don’t want anyone unnecessarily going to the cathedral,” Isaac concurred as his guild spread out to keep the crowd back. Gideon pulled back his coat to expose his guns, like a true gunslinger, ready for the fight to begin.

“Anytime your ready, Nemimi, you can start this little showdown.” Gideon gave her a boost of confidence with a nod. She raised her hand and looked at both men to see that they were ready.  

“Competitors ready! And go!” Nemimi shouted, and with a thrust of her hand, the competition was underway. Isaac charged in, but Gideon just stood there until he snapped his fingers. Thanks to his Rainmaker spell, Isaac found himself in a deluge, soaked to the skin.

“What the . . . Are you trying to drown me?” Isaac laughed, but Gideon kept his cool, finally drew his six-shooters, and aimed for Isaac.

“Lightning Nebula!” he chanted, firing his weapons as an orb of lightning cascaded around him, shocking Isaac repeatedly and, thanks to the water, dealing him extra damage. But Isaac quickly countered.

“Scarlet Thrust!” he shouted as he brought his sword down. The wave of crimson energy hit Gideon, draining his H.P. and replenishing Isaac’s. But Gideon was not fazed by this.

“Frost Spear! Blizzard!” Gideon shouted, firing his next two shots as frozen lances streaked towards Isaac, but they barely hurt him.

“You gotta do better than that, cowboy. My ‘Iron Bounce’ skill is more than enough to deflect that pathetic attempt at . . .” Isaac stopped his rant when he realized the Frost Spear was a distraction. Gideon’s second spell created a blizzard effect around him. Thanks to the water-soaked thoroughly about, the swirling snow and ice started to freeze the Black Knight in place.

“Counter Break!” Isaac countered with a swing of his sword, shattering Gideon’s spell and freeing him from the ice. The knight hated that a lowly sorcerer quickly put him on the defensive, so he decided to end this. “Onslaught!” he screamed, unleashing his most powerful attack. A cascading wave of destruction hurled at Gideon with one stroke of his sword.

Isaac was sure that did it, but Gideon was nowhere to be seen when the smoke cleared. “Huh?” was all Isaac got out when he looked up and saw the gunslinger leaping over him. Gideon reached into his saddlebag and pulled out a handful of tiny bomblets, scattering them on the ground around Isaac. The confused knight looked at the small, round grenades with short fuses on the top. Each one had a little fox face painted on it.

 “Burning Strike!” Gideon shouted as he used his other hand to fire off a spell. It struck the ground under Isaac’s feet and spread out, igniting all the bomblets simultaneously. The explosion pounded Isaac mercilessly from all sides. Gideon landed as the smoke cleared, and everyone could see that the attack reduced Isaac’s hit points below fifty percent.

“That’s it! Winner, Master Gideon!” Nemimi declared as the crowd broke out in applause for the newcomer, enthralled by the thrilling contest they witnessed. Gideon tipped his hat to Nemimi as he holstered his weapon. Henrietta couldn’t contain herself as she ran over and wrapped her arms around Gideon, showing her appreciation for his performance.

They walked over to Isaac, still sitting on the ground while Rezarick, a cleric, healed his injuries. “You okay there, Isaac?” Gideon asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine. What the Hell were those bombs you threw?”

“Yes, and how did you make them?” Rezarick asked. “They are clearly not part of the game.”

“They are if you know how to make them,” Gideon interrupted. “I take you never met a full-fledged weaponsmith before.” Weaponsmith was one of the sub-classes in Elder Tales. It was the top tier of the blacksmith rankings—blacksmith, armorer, bladesmith, and weaponsmith. Gideon earned that distinction by topping out on all four sub-classes and moving up.

“If you’re a top-tier weaponsmith and know a good alchemist who can make foxfire, grenades like these are easy as pie.” Everyone grew even more impressed with the gunslinger and his prowess within the game.

“Damn, you are as feisty as they said you would be,” Isaac retorted.

“They? Who’s they?” Henrietta queried.

“Rieze and Misa,” he explained. “They told me Gideon Hawkmoon was in Akiba and thought it would be a great opportunity for me to challenge his number one PvP status.”

Henrietta fumed at the thought that those two friends of hers set Gideon up like that, but the gunslinger laughed it off. “Those two gals are a pair of firecrackers,” he chuckled, confusing Isaac. “Don’t you worry none, Isaac, you got caught in a little feud between me and D.D.D.”

Gideon reached down and offered his hand to his competitor. Isaac took it as Gideon helped him to his feet, shaking his hand in appreciation for the match before Gideon pulled him in close. “But next time you speak to my wife that way, I won’t pull in your horns and stop at fifty percent. I’ll send you to the bone orchard via the cathedral, of that I’m pure as prairie dust.”

Isaac stared at him with a blank expression, unsure of the cowboy jargon Gideon rambled at him, but one thing he did catch. “Wait, your wife? You mean . . .” Henrietta took Gideon by the arm and led him away from the Black Sword Knight and his guild, smiling wickedly and leaving them speechless.

“Mister Isaac, I think it would be best not to do that again, at least for now,” Rezarick advised. “I would hate to see him fight you when he’s irate.” All Isaac could do was nod his head, still trying to comprehend everything.

“Rezarick, I need a drink and a lot of it!”

# # #

Stay tuned for Part 4 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger and Eagle Mountain. Check out my fan fiction page if you want to catch up on the whole story.

Part 2 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger & The Bard fan fiction

Thanks for your continued support on this little project of mine. Here is part 2 of my Log Horizon anime fan fiction, A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger & The Bard. But, before we start, I to talk about comments.

From my last post on this fan fiction, someone submitted a one word comment . . . Cringe. That’s all they said. Okay, but what about it made you cringe: the story, my writing, the characters, what? If you’re going to criticize me, then explain it. It’s like getting a one star book review and saying “hated it” as your only comment. I can take the honest criticism, I just need to know what it is. Leaving one word tells me you really didn’t take the time to read it all the way through. I don’t mean to bash the critics here, but if your going to leave a comment, then do it right!

Sorry about the soapbox rant. Without further ado, here is the next installment of my fan fiction, A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger & The Bard.

* * *

Part One Recap: In the world of Elder Tales, more than 70,000 Japanese players found themselves trapped inside the world of their favorite MMORPG. In the adventurer’s town of Akiba, the Round Table Conference maintained the peace amongst the guilds calling this city home. In Minami, Plant Hywaden wields power over the entire city with the blessing of the Holy Empire of Westlande. Their quest for control over the Crescent Islands of Yamato sent them to Akiba to field test a drug capable of knocking out adventurers by restricting the flow of magic. Their efforts were thwarted by the arrival of Gideon Hawkmoon, the sorcerer gunslinger from America. It took him more than a year, crossing an ocean, two continents and four servers, to reach Akiba. Gideon travelled all this way to be reunited with his wife from the real world, Henrietta. Their reunion caught everyone in Log Horizon and the Crescent Moon Alliance by surprise as they waited to hear the story behind the romance.

***

The members of Log Horizon and the Crescent Moon Alliance took their gathering off the streets of Akiba and into the Log Horizon guildhall. It’s hard to miss one of the most unique buildings in Akiba due to the giant tree growing through the center of the building and out the top. Log Horizon worked around it and made it their home.

In the main dining/living room, while Chief Nyanta served refreshments, everyone gathered together to listen to the story of how Gideon and Henrietta met. While most of the junior members sat with Serara and Major, the others were more interested in what Gideon had to say.

“Henrietta and I met the same way I met you Naotsugu—through my business dealings,” Gideon explained.

“What kind of business?” Tetora asked.

“The company I worked for developed the leading edge in 3D printing. They decided to expand into Japan and, since my ma’s Japanese and I could speak the language, they picked me for the job.”

“Gideon came to my accounting office looking for a financial partner for their expansion,” Henrietta added. “In his demonstration to my firm, he printed a 3D sculpture of the White Tree. When I saw that, I knew he played Elder Tales.”

“We went out to dinner that night and started talking about our avatars, what raids we’d been on, players we knew, etc. After dinner, we met up in-game and formed a party. After that, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life on God’s green earth with her,” Gideon continued with a wink at Henrietta. She leaned in and laid her head against his shoulder, happy to hear him say that.

“This went on for a few months while I worked on setting things up,” he concluded. “Then, I got the news that my company wanted me to stay on as the vice president of our Japan operations. That meant I would be staying here. That night, I proposed to Henrietta, and she said yes.”

“That still doesn’t explain how you’re married!” Mariella interjected, still upset at Henrietta keeping this secret from her.

“We’re getting to that Marielle,” Henrietta snapped, “We were about to announce about our engagement when Gideon got called back to the United States to help on a project that had fallen behind. It would be a year before we would be together again, so . . .”

“So, we decided to have an impromptu marriage ceremony and get hitched. I wanted Henrietta to know I was committed to her. I knew someone who could officiate for us, and before I left, we got married.”

“Who did you get to perform the ceremony?” Akatsuki asked. Both Henrietta and Gideon hesitated to answer until Chief Nyanta raised his hand.

“That would be me, nya,” he said, surprising everyone. “I took an online course to earn a certification to perform marriages for a cousin’s wedding, you dig.”

“Chief Nyanta told me about it one time during a break in a raid with the tea party,” Gideon added. “I asked him if he would perform the ceremony for us, and he agreed.”

“So, let me get this straight. Are you telling me that you’ve met Chief Nyanta IRL?” Shiroe asked about the Chief’s actual appearance in real life as everyone waited patiently for the answer.

“Yes, and before you ask, I can’t tell y’all what Chief Nyanta looks like in the other world. We were both sworn to secrecy.” Henrietta nodded her head, disappointing everyone wanting to know more about the swashbuckler.

“We wanted to hold a big wedding when Gideon finally moved to Japan. I would have told you all about this, but then the Apocalypse happened. He wasn’t active on my friends’ list anymore, so I thought he didn’t cross over like the rest of us. I’m just glad that wasn’t true,” Henrietta concluded, grabbing onto Gideon’s hand.

“And just why can’t any of us see you as active on our friend’s list, Gideon? It’s as if you’re not there!” Naotsugu queried.

“It’s called an illegal entry feedback loop,” Shiroe chimed in as he walked down the stairs holding two documents in his hand. His sudden announcement caught everyone by surprise.

“A what?” Naotsugu asked.

“It’s a defense mechanism in the system when someone tries to enter a server illegally,” Shiroe explained. “Gideon and Major hopped through a fairy ring then crossed four servers to get here. The system didn’t know how to deal with that, so it locked them in a feedback loop. Normally, players would have died by now and been sent back to the cathedral at their point of origin, resetting the system. Leave it to Gideon to beat the odds.”

“You know me, Shiroe, I always bet against the house in cards and life,” Gideon joked.

“So, do you know how to break them out of this loop, Master Shiroe?” Serara asked as fear quivered her voice. “I don’t want Major to go back to America. I’m sure Miss Henrietta doesn’t want Gideon leaving either.”

“Don’t worry, Serara. I think there’s a simple way to fix this.”

“Really? How?” Touya asked.

“By joining a guild,” Shiroe said. “If both of you join a guild here in Yamato, it should break the feedback loop by changing your place of origin from South Angel to Akiba.”

“Yes, but don’t we need our heads-up display to join a guild?” Major questioned.

“In the game, yes, but here, we have other methods of doing that,” Shiroe said as he held up the two documents. With his sub-class as a scribe, Shiroe was proficient at creating documents. “These are basic guild contracts I drew up. Once you sign these, you will essentially be in a guild. Since we have two guild masters here, I think it’s best if you each join a different guild.”

Everyone chatted amongst themselves, but Major spoke up first. “Gideon, I know you’re married to Miss Henrietta, but I need to be in the Crescent Moon Alliance with Serara. I need to be there to protect my little sister and keep her safe. That is, if that’s alright with you, Miss Marielle?”

Marielle could see the desperate need in the big bear’s eyes to be with his little sister, so she couldn’t say no. Besides, the last thing she wanted was that wayward cowboy in her guild. “Of course, Major, we’d be thrilled to have you join the Crescent Moon Alliance.”

Major was excited at the chance of joining the guild, so was Serara, who hugged him again. But then, a wave of guilt came over him. “Gideon, I . . .”

“Don’t you worry none, Major. I ain’t about to separate you and your little sister. I’m still in Akiba with Henrietta. We don’t need to be in the same guild to be together, right darlin’?” Henrietta smiled and nodded her head. “Shiroe, I guess I’m all yours.”

Shiroe finished filling in the contracts before both he and Marielle signed them. Gideon and Major stepped up to the table and signed the contracts as the ink gave off a soft glow with each stroke of the pen. Once it was completed, they looked up at their heads-up display. The two waited patiently until it finally shifted, showing them in Akiba and part of their respective guilds. Even Henrietta checked her friends’ list, and Gideon’s name reappeared in it. Shiroe’s plan worked.

What caught Gideon by surprise was his level. On the day of the Apocalypse, he had been maxed out at level 90, just like most of the top players. Now, his readout showed he was at level 98. “What in tarnation? Level 98?” Gideon exclaimed before he looked over at Major. He stated their journey at level 65, but he was now 81. “Major! You’re at 81? How in the Sam Hill did this happen?”

“Well, think about it?” Shiroe interjected. “You faced a lot of adversity in your travels to get here, from monsters and other players to the deadly crossing itself. I think the system rewarded you for defying all the odds.”

Gideon and Major were ecstatic, realizing their increased levels, but then turned their attention to Doc, standing off to the side by himself. They both realized that they wouldn’t have made it to Akiba without his help. Gideon felt guilty knowing that there was no way to get Doc all the way back to Akutan island.

“Doc, Major and I owe you so much for making all this possible,” Gideon said as he walked over to the Inuit medicine man. “I think you’ve repaid that debt of honor.”

“With respect, Gideon, only the Great Spirit can release me from my debt to you and Major,” Doc twitched with a hint of a smile. “I will remain here in Akiba with you, if that is acceptable with you, Master Shiroe.”

 “We would be honored to have you with us in Log Horizon,” Shiroe replied with a bow of respect to the medicine man. Even Henrietta and Serara showed their appreciation with a gentle hug.

“Thank you for getting my husband here safely, Doc,” Henrietta said with a peck on the cheek. “I think I owe you that debt now.”

“Me too!” Serara added. “If it weren’t for you, my brother would still be in America. Thank you so much, Mister Doc, sir.” The ordinarily stoic Doc almost broke down in tears himself from the outpouring of appreciation and acceptance.

At the same time, Major walked up to Nyanta and bowed before speaking. “Chief Nyanta, Serara told me it was you who protected her during her time in Susukino. I can’t thank you enough for rescuing her from the clutches of that monster, Demikas.”

“There’s no need to thank me, my man. It was my duty to protect a damsel in distress. I was more than happy to help the little lady out.”

“Still, my sword and shield are yours if you ever need it!” Major said again with another bow. Serara jumped over and grabbed both of them by the arms.

“Now I have my two favorite men with me—big brother and Mister Cat!” she said as her joy overflowed from her tiny body.

“Well, I think this calls for a celebration,” Chief Nyanta declared. “We should invite the rest of Crescent Moon over to properly introduce them to their newest guild member, meow?”

“That’s a great idea, Chief!” Touya exclaimed.

“Isuzu and I will head over to the guildhall and bring everyone here!” Minori offered.

“Should we invite Soujiro and Nazuna? I’m sure they’d like to know that Gideon’s here in Akiba!” Naotsugu added.

“What? Is that little flannel mouth and Miss Sassy-Britches here too?” Gideon asked, still confusing everyone with his cowboy vernacular.

“Why don’t we hold off on letting them know just yet,” Shiroe advised. “We first need to brief the Round Table Conference on this drug Plant Hwyaden developed.” Everyone agreed with Shiroe, but Gideon gave a little giggle for some unknown reason.

“What’s so funny?” Naotsugu asked.

“Oh, I just had a thought,” he started to say, “Right about now, those two bushwhackers should have returned to the cathedral in Minami. That means they’re telling Indix who cold-cocked them.” Now everyone had a laugh.

“I think they’re about to make another trip to the cathedral,” Shiroe commented.

***

Nothing goes on in Minami without the direct approval of the Ten-Seat Council, the leaders of Plant Hwyaden. Comprised both adventurers and People of the Land from the Holy Empire of Westlande, the Senate assigned these nobles to demonstrate the shared power between them.

However, they all act under the power of Princess Nureha, but the Fox Tail enchanter was merely a pawn. Indix had complete control over Plant Hwyaden. She managed all of the city’s affairs while using Nureha as a puppet. Her lust for power—to conquer and hold dominion over this new world—was her only goal, by any means necessary. She considered herself a step above all other adventurers, especially Shiroe.

Kazuhiko and KR approached the Ten-Seat Council room. Kazuhiko looked the part as an assassin, his face stern, solemn, and filled with rage. The yukata he wore was as simple as his demeanor. KR, on the other hand, was his exact opposite. The summoner walked like he lived his life—happy-go-lucky and carefree. His green hair was pulled back by oversized pair of shades. His clothes were baggy and comfortable.

“Do you know why Indix wanted to see us?” Kazuhiko asked.

“No idea, but I know that two of her field testers returned via the cathedral. That can’t be good news.” Suddenly the door to the Ten-Council chamber burst open as a body smashed through, engulfed in a fireball before its anima dissipated into the air.

The two men waited for the fire to subside before entering the chamber. Indix was standing at a desk with her back to them. On the floor, the body of an adventurer was riddled with silver knives—her weapon of choice. The anima flew off into the air toward the cathedral and another resurrection as he died.

Although she dressed like a maid—her sub-class—Indix was, in fact, a powerful elf sorcerer. Her body shook with rage as she pulled at the tabletop with an iron grip. They could hear her breathing heavily through clenched teeth.

“Indix? What is it? What’s wrong?” Kazuhiko inquired. Indix continued to stand there, her breathing becoming more intense and vocal.

“He’s here,” was all she finally said. Kazuhiko and KR looked at each other, even more confused.

“He? He who?” KR wondered.

Indix finally turned around to look at them, her face beet red with anger as she screamed, “Gideon Hawkmoon!”

Kazuhiko and KR recognized the name of the sorcerer gunslinger from America and their on-again/off-again teammate in the Debauchery Tea Party. While Indix raged with utter indignation toward Gideon, Kazuhiko smiled at the thought of him on Yamato, and KR just chuckled.

“Well, well . . . things just got very interesting,” he conferred.

***

The celebration at Log Horizon went well into the night as the rooftop was filled with people from both guilds. Most of the guild members in the Crescent Moon Alliance were middle-to-high school age. Most were rescued from a cutthroat guild called Hamelin that used them for slave labor. Thanks to Shiroe, Marielle, and others, they were rescued from their desperate situation, and most of them joined Crescent Moon.

Everyone was having a ball celebrating the arrival of Gideon, Major, and Doc from America. They divided themselves between learning more about the wayward travelers and their connections to their friends in both guilds.

Some gathered around Major as he told them stories of their travels while Serara sat next to him. He recounted being chased by Russian Cossacks, fending off a horde of gnolls in China, even how Gideon persuaded a Korean princess to get them a boat to cross to Yamato. Hearing it from a Bearclaw, a race not native to the Japan server, added to the fun of his stories.

Doc was also spinning stories, tales, and legends of his native people in Alaska. He told them about Sedna and Kiviuq, how the Inuit were born from the sea, and monsters like the Wendigo. These were brand new stories that enthralled everyone, including the junior members of Log Horizon.

Most of the female members of Crescent Moon were busy listening to Henrietta as they pummeled her with questions, wanting to know more about her mysterious new husband. This was a new side to Henrietta, and the girls were excited to hear about how their romance led to marriage, something they all longed for.

Gideon, however, had his hands full with the Mofur sisters, Lelia and Litka. These two were ancients, originally designed to help younger players in Elder Tales by giving out useless and sometimes annoying side quests. Since they joined up with Shiroe and Log Horizon, the two have been content to have a warm bed to sleep in and plenty of food to eat.

“Yay, giddy up, cowboy!” Litka shouted as she rode on Gideon’s back like a bucking bronco.

“No fair, Litka, it’s my turn!” Lelia shouted at her sister. The two remembered when Gideon visited them in the Underground Empire and reveled at the chance to play “Cowboys and Indians” with him again. Gideon was not thrilled with their antics, as Tetora tried to stop the girl’s harassment. Shiroe and the other senior members of Log Horizon were loving it all the same.

The only one not enjoying the festivities was Marielle. She sat off, by herself, next to the rooftop water tower. Her mind spun wildly in a quandary about everything that had transpired today. She’s known Henrietta for years, and to keep a secret like this from her was out of character. She didn’t trust this Gideon Hawkmoon, even though Naotsugu, Shiroe, and the others vouched for him. It left her puzzled and confused even more.

“Can I buy you a drink?” a voice said, startling Marielle out of her daze. Gideon walked over to her, carrying two glasses in one hand and a bottle in the other. Finally free of the Mofur sisters, the gunslinger thought it was time to make amends with Henrietta’s friend.

“No, thank you,” Marielle replied, soft and meekly, not wanting to argue with him.

“Are you sure? This is the best Kentucky bourbon in Yamato. In fact, I think it’s the only Kentucky bourbon in Yamato,” he said as he poured the amber liquid into the two glasses. “But maybe your right; Henrietta did tell me once that you can’t hold your liquor.”

Hearing him say that incensed Marielle, who grabbed the glass out of Gideon’s hand and gulped it down in one motion. That’s when she realized her mistake, coughing and choking on the tempered alcohol.

“Bourbon is a sipping whiskey, Miss Marielle,” he said, slowly refilling her glass. “It’s meant to be savored.” Gideon put the bottle away and sat across from Marielle. He clinked his glass on hers before taking his first sip. They both just sat there in silence as Marielle stared into her glass.

“This is not the Marielle I’ve heard so much about,” Gideon observed. “I plumb thought you were a buckin’ bronco, full of life and ready for a hog-killin’ time! Am I such a bad egg, spoilin’ your fun?”

“Yes!” she shouted before settling down and softening her tone. “Well, that is, I don’t know a thing about you except what everyone’s told me. I thought Henrietta was my best friend, and she couldn’t even trust me enough to tell me about you.”

“And that was my fault, Miss Marielle, as I tried to explain to you before,” Gideon continued. “There’s a lot of delicate issues surrounding my family and me.”

“What do you mean?”

“Have you ever heard of the Morikotu family?”

“Morikotu? Do you mean the construction magnate? That Morikotu?”

“Yep, Morikotu Hajime . . . He’s my grandpappy. You see, my ma is his youngest daughter. She met my pa when he was a U.S. Marine stationed in Yokosuka. They fell in love and wanted to get married, but my grandpappy didn’t approve. He didn’t want some gaijin stealing his daughter and getting a foothold in his company. So, they eloped to America. She left her life and her family behind for love.”

Marielle was enthralled with his story, patiently listening as he continued. “When I first arrived in Japan, I made it a point to go and see him. I made an appointment that followed all the proper protocols and honors, but he still refused to see me. He wouldn’t recognize me as his grandson. It was as if I never existed in his eyes.”

Hearing that upset Marielle, and she felt sorry for Gideon, but it didn’t answer her quandary. “But, I still don’t understand why Henrietta couldn’t tell me about you or your relationship?”

“Because Gideon was protecting me,” Henrietta interrupted as she walked over to the two of them. “Morikotu Construction was one of the accounts my firm worked on, in fact, the biggest. Gideon knew that Morikotu might pull his account away from my company for spite if our marriage was made public. So, for the time being, we kept it a secret.”

Henrietta placed her hand on Gideon’s shoulder, and he took her hand and kissed it gently. “That’s why we were going to tell you in-game, before the Apocalypse happened,” Gideon added. “We thought that this way, it could remain a secret, at least for the time being, but that didn’t exactly go to plan either.”

“I realize I should have told you about Gideon, Marielle, but we were so focused on our guild,” Henrietta continued. “The young ones from Hamelin, Shiroe and Log Horizon, the Round Table, and everything else that’s happened. I didn’t want to add to the burden of having you and others worrying about me or my state of mind.”

“But Chief Nyanta knew! You trusted him with your secret!” Marielle argued, jumping up and getting in Henrietta’s face.

“Chief Nyanta knew I was married to Gideon, but he didn’t know the whole story,” Henrietta shot back, staring down at her friend. Marielle quietly backed off and sat back down. “He kept it a secret to protect me. You, on the other hand, have a bad habit of not being able to keep a secret.”

“What are you talking about? I’ve always kept your secrets!”

Henrietta straightened her glasses, stepped back, and crossed her arms before answering Marielle. “Manza Beach, Okinawa!” was all she said, and a chill ran down Marielle’s spine. She remembered how much trouble Henrietta had with her parents when she accidentally spilled that secret. Gideon shook his head, confused as this was one story he had never heard before.

“What happened at Manza Beach?” he asked, but now it was Henrietta’s turn to act embarrassed.

“Nothing, darling, nothing at all. Just a college vacation went awry!” she said before quickly changing the subject. “Marielle, I promise we will sit down and have a long talk about Gideon and me, but right now, your guild needs you to be your usual ‘life of the party’ self. Now go out there and have some fun.”

Marielle thought long and hard before she gulped down the bourbon and handed the empty glass to Henrietta before heading out amongst her guild, laughing and galivanting about as she joined in on the celebration. Henrietta stared at the empty bourbon glass before laying into Gideon.

“You gave her bourbon? Are you crazy?” she shouted.

“What? My pappy always said a little whiskey between friends is the best way to uncork a bronco.” Gideon’s logic did not sway Henrietta, who rushed away to make sure Marielle wasn’t acting out improperly. Gideon just laughed as he took another sip of his drink.

“I don’t get you,” came a voice from above as Akatsuki, perched on the water tower platform overhead, looked down at him.

“And what don’t you get about me, Miss Akatsuki?”

“I understand you, but I just can’t see how you and Henrietta fit together,” she stated. “Your both complete opposites.”

“Well, my Auntie Em once said that peas in a pod come in all shapes and sizes, and I never argued with her while she was cutting me a piece of homemade apple pie,” Gideon cajoled. “But in all honesty, Henrietta and I are more alike than you think. We’re both smart individuals, focused on our work and each other. What more can you ask for in a relationship?”

“True, but that still doesn’t explain her little . . . problem.”

Gideon laughed when Akasuki said that. “You mean her fixation on cute little bugaboos like you?”

“That’s not even funny!” the little ninja yelled.

“But in all seriousness, Miss Akatsuki, Henrietta’s obsession is a kind of defense mechanism for her,” Gideon explained. “Whenever she gets stressed or upset, hugging and loving on something cute and adorable helps her relax. From what I’ve been told, you’ve been her primary cuddle bear since the Apocalypse.”

“Do you have to put it that way?” Akatsuki sighed.

“In any case, I just want to say thank you, little lady. If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know if Henrietta would have made it through this past year. I couldn’t be here for her, but at least you were.” Hearing that made Akatsuki feel better, knowing she was there for her friend. Even though it meant wearing cute dresses and being constantly assaulted by hugs. “Besides, I’m used to Henrietta’s little quirk,” Gideon concluded. “My sister has the same passion, so in a way, I’m kinda immune to it.”

“Your sister?”

“Yeah, you may have heard of her . . . Celeste Hawkmoon, guildmaster of Eagle Mountain!” Eagle Mountain was a guild on the North America server, one of the largest and most influential guilds. While the infamous “Family” controlled New York and the east coast, Eagle Mountain dominated the west coast.

Akatsuki went wide-eyed with wonder and utter disbelief when she heard that name. She jumped on Gideon, grabbing him by the collar while shaking him violently.

“Are you telling me your sister is THE Celeste Hawkmoon? The Arclight Assassin! The Eagle-Eyed Archer! She was the only woman ever to beat a raid boss single-handedly after the rest of her party died. She’s your sister?”

“Uh, yeah, that’s my little sister,” Gideon stammered as he tried to calm the little ninja down. “If you’d like, I can introduce you someday.”

“Introduce me to Celeste Hawkmoon . . .” The thought of meeting her idol in Elder Tales caused Akatsuki to swoon and nearly pass out. Her sudden dilemma caused panic in the others, especially Henrietta, who rushed to catch the falling Akatsuki.

“Oh, my sweet little Akatsuki!” she cried as she caught her. “Gideon, what did you say to her?”

“Nothing, darlin’, I swear. I just told her about my sister, Celeste, and said I would introduce her!” Hearing that name again caused Akatsuki to breathe heavily and flop around in Henrietta’s arms.

“He’s going to introduce me to the Arclight Assassin, oh!”

***

As the night finally came to an end, the party dispersed. The members of the Crescent Moon Alliance headed back toward their home at the guildhall while Log Horizon was left to clean up. Major left with his new guild, as Shouryuu and Hien promised to find him a room in the guildhall. Serara was just giddy to have her big brother sleeping under the same roof with her.

Naotsugu helped Marielle get back to the guildhall as the overconsumption of Gideon’s bourbon and other adult beverages made her a little tipsy. He had his hands full, trying to keep her on her feet until they got to the guildhall. Add to that the fact that Marielle was all over him, hugging and kissing Naotsugu to no end. He blamed Gideon for getting her drunk, something he would definitely get back at him for later on.

Gideon and Henrietta walked together at the rear of the group. She tightly hung onto his arm as they conversed on their walk through Akiba. They really didn’t have time to talk and be together at the celebration, so they enjoyed this quiet time together.

“You got a great guild there, Henrietta darlin’. You and Marielle did real good, rescuin’ those young’uns and taking them in,” Gideon professed.

“Well, we couldn’t leave them in the hands of Hamelin. Besides, Shiroe and the rest of Log Horizon played a big part in that too.”

“My man Shrioe seems to have his hand into everything here. Does that boy even sleep? Chief Nyanta said he left the party to work on some paperwork in his office.”

“Not really. Shiroe always thinks of others before himself,” Henrietta lamented. “I’ve asked Akatsuki to take better care of him, but even she can’t get him to slow down.”

“Akatsuki and Shiroe, really? I always thought he had a thing for Kanami. Well, I guess even someone like Shiroe can find love in Elder Tales.”

“We all need someone to love . . . Shiroe and Akatsuki, Naotsugu and Marielle, you and me!”

The two continued their walk as Henrietta leaned her head against Gideon’s shoulder. Feeling the strength and warmth of his body was all she needed, but as usual, her mind was on her work and plans for tomorrow.

“So, I have some work to catch up on tomorrow morning, but I thought we could spend the afternoon together. We could have lunch, and I’ll take you on a tour of Akiba, introducing you to everyone. I could meet you at Log Horizon around noon if that’s okay?”

Gideon was used to her complicated planning, but one thing stuck out to him. “Are you kicking me to the curb already, darlin’?”

“What do you mean?” she wondered. “Where were you planning on sleeping tonight?”

“Well, with you. We are hitched, so I thought we’d be spending tonight, and every night, together.”

“Yes, but I can’t have you staying with me at the guildhall,” Henrietta mumbled. “I mean, I don’t want to give the wrong impression, especially to our junior members.”

“Henrietta, I’m sure they all have maws and paws who sleep in the same room together,” Gideon assured her. “They know we’re married, so it’s not going to damage their little minds.”

Henrietta paused, still not sure of things. Besides, she really didn’t want to let him go. Gideon could see how conflicted she was and offered a compromise. This was all new for everyone, but Gideon did make sense.

“Look, darlin’, I’m not talking about raising the roof like we did on our wedding night,” he said, reminding her of that night as she turned red with embarrassment. “But just to be able to sleep next to you and wake up to see your beautiful face in the morning will be enough for me. We can start planning for our family when the time comes.”

His declaration caught Henrietta off guard. They discussed having a family in the real world, but she wasn’t sure about starting one here.

“A family? Gideon, I don’t know if we should even consider that while we’re here,” Henrietta exclaimed. “Between the dangers of the Geniuses, Plant Hwyaden plots and plans, monsters, and raids, I mean, is this even the right environment to raise a child in?”

 “Whoa, slow down, darlin’. . . I think you’re putting the cart before the horse. Now, any world you bring a little one into will have dangers, whether it’s the real world or this one. All that matters is that they have a home and a family that loves them.

“Now, I’m not saying we should start makin’ babies right now,” he continued as Henrietta turned slightly red again. “But we’re together now, Henrietta, and I want us to be a family, not just within our guilds, but you and me . . . together.”

 With that, Gideon surprised Henrietta when he dropped to one knee, reached into his coat, and pulled out a ring. It was a gold ring with a large pear-shaped diamond surrounded by honey-colored gemstones. Henrietta started to cry again as he put the ring on her finger.

“I said it before, and I’ll say it again,” Gideon said as he got to his feet. “I love you, Henrietta, and I want to spend the rest of my life loving you!”

Henrietta just stared at the ring in awe. It looked just the actual engagement ring he gave her the night he proposed. She felt like she was reliving that moment all over again. “It’s so beautiful,” she said. “But, how? How did you do this?”

“I have a friend in the Eagle Mountain guild, King. You know, the bard who dresses and sings like Elvis Presley,” Gideon explained. “Anyway, King has the jeweler sub-class. I asked him to make an exact duplicate of your engagement ring for in the game. But, just like everything in Vegas, he always makes things bigger.”

Henrietta continued to admire her ring, but then she noticed something out of the corner of her eye. The rest of the Crescent Moon Alliance was standing there, watching the two of them. Most of the young men were winking or giving a thumbs up to Gideon while the women were all smiles, crying tears of joy for Henrietta.

Henrietta threw caution to the wind and gave Gideon a big kiss in front of everybody. When she finally let him go, Henrietta looked him in the eyes. “I love you too, Gideon, and as long as we’re together, we’ll be a family . . . me, you, and whoever else may come along.”

Gideon stayed back while Henrietta walked over to show off her ring as they all swooned around her to get a glimpse of it. Naotsugu, still carrying Marielle, went back to talk to his friend. “Nice one, hoss!” he said as the two exchanged a fist bump.

“Yeah, woo-hoo!” Marielle crowed in her drunken stupor until she fell asleep in Naotsugu’s arms.

# # #

Stay tuned for Part 3 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger in Akiba. In the meantime, check out my new fan fiction page where I’ll be posting links to the whole story.

A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger (Part 1) Fan Fiction

I am a huge fan of the anime Log Horizon. I have binged all three seasons multiple times and I’m even reading the light novels. From the diverse characters to the incredible world building in this story, I just love it. So, I decided to write my own fan fiction of my favorite anime, bringing an American cowboy to Akiba. Here is part 1 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger.

* * *

The simple buzz of an alarm roused Henrietta out of her slumber. She brushed her honey-colored hair out of her face, stretched out her arms, and yawned. She opened her light brown eyes and stared out her window to see the sun peeking over the horizon. Another day in Akiba on the Crescent Islands of Yamato in the world of Elder Tales.

More than a year ago, 70,000 Japanese players of the MMORPG Elder Tales found themselves in another world, a world that resembled the same one in the game they played for years. It was a day known as the Apocalypse. Since then, the players adjusted to their new life and their new world, searching for a way home while living life inside their favorite video game.

Henrietta was no exception. As second-in-command and treasurer for the Crescent Moon Alliance, she adjusted to her new life in Akiba. She spends most of her time acting as administrator, assisting her guildmaster and best friend, Marielle, in the daily operation of the guild. It’s a far reach from her real-life job as an accountant, even a stretch from her in-game class as a bard.

Henrietta put on her glasses as she sat up in bed. She swung her feet over the side, flexing her toes before she put them on the cold wood floor. She walked over to the window and pushed it open, taking a deep breath of fresh air as the sun warmed her face. With a bit of effort, Henrietta opened her heads-up display, which was still like the game in this strange world. She went through the menu by tapping buttons in the air until she found her saved voice messages. There was only one saved message in there. Henrietta tapped the voice message and listened to the replay.

“Hey darlin’ . . . Sorry I missed your call. The time difference between America and Japan puts us both in a bad spot, but we’ll be together soon, I promise. My job here is almost done. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know I’ll be coming through the fairy ring as soon as the server comes online with the Novasphere Pioneer update. I got the timing down for the jump, so me and my friend Major will be coming to Akiba. He wants to meet up with his little sister in-game, so I offered to help him out. I’ll meet you at the White Tree-like we planned. See you there . . . Love you!”

As the message ended, Henrietta paused for a moment, wondering if she should just go ahead and delete it. It crossed her mind every morning, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. It was all she had left of him . . . his voice.

As much as she wanted to put it behind her and move on with her life, she couldn’t bring herself to delete it. Henrietta thought about finding someone else to fill that hole in her heart, someone like Shiroe, but she knew he had others vying for his affection. Even time spent with her adorable little Akatsuki couldn’t take away her pain.

She closed her screen, pushed up her glasses, and pulled her hair back into a bun. “Time to get my day started,” Henrietta said to herself.

***

Like any other city, Akiba was full of shops, restaurants, taverns, and homes. It was known as an adventurer’s town, with more than 30,000 calling it home. The city was under the supervision of the Round Table Conference, a group of guild masters working to bring peace and stability to the town.

The big difference in Akiba was the diversity of its residents. In the game, the People of Land were considered non-player characters or NPCs. Now, they were the people of this strange new world. The Adventurers, as they were known to the People of the Land, were the online players who found themselves transported to this world of Elder Tales. Adventurers’ primary job was hunting monsters surrounding Akiba, protecting both the city and the people, and gathering ingredients and supplies to survive in this world.

The more experienced players, level 90 or higher, usually helped train the younger, more inexperienced players in their guilds. Naotsugu was no exception.

As a guardian, one of the three warrior classes, he was considered a front-line defender in any party. He looked massive in his full plate armor, with a broad sword and large kite shield slung over his back. In the Log Horizon guild, Naotsugu was also the primary trainer for the young adventurers. In a year, these youngsters increased their level to well over 60, quite an impressive feat. Today, he took four of his junior members out to the western hunting grounds.

Touya, a samurai, walked with his twin sister Minori, a shrine maiden. These two were tutored under Shiroe, the Log Horizon guildmaster, and jumped at the chance to join. Although they were only middle-schoolers in the real world, they’ve grown exponentially in this new world.

Accompanying them were Isuzu, a bard, and Rundelhaus Kode or Rudy, a sorcerer. Isuzu, like Touya and Minori, was from the real world. As the daughter of a rock star, becoming a bard was easy for her. On the other hand, Rudy was one of the People of the Land. He aspired to be an adventurer, and a near-death experience gave him that chance thanks to guildmaster Shiroe and his friends.

“So, what’s the plan for today’s training, sensei?” Touya asked. “Giant Triffids or Briar Weasels?”

“An adventurer never plans for what confronts them but prepares for any possibility!” Naotsugu said, spinning his words of wisdom as eloquently as possible.

“Will we be the only ones out here, or will we be working with other hunting parties?” Isuzu queried, trying to assess the situation herself.

“Don’t worry your little head, Miss Isuzu. I’m here to protect you from any danger!” Rudy announced, fluffing his blonde hair while flashing a smile.

“Now Rudy, there’s only room for one star in Log Horizon, and that’s me . . . You’re star-struck galaxy idol, Tetora!” Tetora shouted as she popped out from inside Naotsugu’s armor and laid across his shoulder, hitching a ride. As usual, her antics annoyed the guardian to no end.

“Get off me, you little freak!”

“Oh, come on, Naotsugu! If you like, I’ll show you my panties to take your mind off things,” she said as she bent over and wiggled her behind at him.

“No, thank you, you little skank!” The two continued to argue while the junior members looked on, confused as they shook their heads in disbelief of the senior member’s actions.

“Why do they always act like this?” Minori wondered as she slapped her neck as if a bug bit her.

“Beats me. I think Big Bro . . . I mean, Big Sis Tetora enjoys teasing sensei!” Touya stated.

“Enjoys it? I rather think she excels at it,” Rudy added.

“I find it just slows down our training sessions. What do you think, Minori?” Isuzu asked her friend, but Minori was not there. She collapsed on the ground, unconscious. “Minori!”

“Master Naotsugu!” Touya shouted, getting his leader’s attention to his sister’s dilemma.

“What the? Minori!” Naotsugu rushed over to her as Tetora jumped off him to render aid. As a cleric, her primary job was healing the injured members of a party.

“What happened?” Tetora queried.

“I don’t know! We were just standing here, talking about the two of you arguing, and she just collapsed.”

Touya’s explanation didn’t account for Minori falling unconscious, as Naotsugu looked around to see if anything or anyone was out there. “Look at this!” Isuzu said, getting Naotsugu’s attention. She pulled out a small dart from the side of her neck.

“What is that?” Rudy pondered. “A dart? But from where?”

“Everybody, keep your guard up,” Naotsugu ordered. “We’re not alone.” The group formed a defensive circle around their fallen friend. “Tetora, can you tell what they drugged her with?”

“No, but I can try to cure her of its effects,” she replied, taking out her Zankyou Jewel Rod to cast her spell. “Vitality Aura!” The magic cured anyone suffering from the effects of poison or drugs. Still, for some reason, it wasn’t working on Minori.

“I don’t understand; it should be working!” Tetora worried. “Did someone make a drug-resistant to magic?”

“There’s nothing like that in the game,” Touya exclaimed.

“You keep forgetting, Touya, this is no longer a game for us,” Naotsugu observed.

“But why would someone need a drug that’s resistant to magic?” Isuzu asked. Naotsugu thought for a second before he and Tetora locked their gaze and spoke simultaneously.

“Plant Hwyaden!”

Plant Hwyaden was a guild operating out of Minami, one of the five major cities for adventurers in Yamato. The guild controlled the entire city and had the political backing of the nobility from the Westlande Empire. They have been trying to wage war with the Freedom Cities of Eastal, aligned with Akiba and the Round Table Conference. Their leader, Nureha, also had a strange fixation on Shiroe and the junior members of Log Horizon.

“We need to get out of here, now!” Naotsugu ordered, but before he could pick up Minori, the sound of heavy footsteps echoed through the forest. Without warning, two giant stone golems broke through the brush. The stone monsters were more than sixty feet tall and level 70, well above the capabilities of this small group.

“Stone Golems! What are they doing here?” Isuzu screamed, a trickle of fear echoing in her voice.

“There’s not supposed to be monsters that powerful in this zone,” Rudy added, trying to hold back his own trepidations.

“What do we do, Master Naotsugu?” Touya asked, concerned about his friends and his sister lying there helpless. Naotsugu didn’t know what to do, but he had to protect his charges. It was his duty as a guardian.

***

From their perch in the trees above, the two members of Plant Hwyaden watched as their plan unfolded to sheer perfection. They laughed at the incompetence of the adventurers that they easily trapped.

“The sleep toxin worked perfectly,” the assassin said, still gripping his blowpipe that delivered the dart on target. “This will definitely raise us up in the eyes of Princess Nureha!”

“Or earn us the wrath of Indix for failing to complete the mission,” the summoner crouching next to him countered. His spell summoned the two stone golems, causing the distraction. “Once the golem takes them out, we can pick up the girl and head back to Minami.”

“Thunderation, I’ve seen some underhanded bushwhacking in my day, but you two take the cake,” said a voice from above, surprising the two adventurers. They looked up to see a man dressed like a western cowboy—complete with a cowboy hat, boots, and a long coat with a thin cigar clenched between his teeth—aiming two revolvers at them. His rough beard and steel blue eyes showed his anger and firm determination. “Lightning Chamber!” he shouted as he fired his one six-shooter. The bullet impacted the assassin, encasing him in a lighting cage, shocking him repeatedly until he died, dispersing his anima and returning him to the cathedral in Minami.

The cowboy drop kicked the summoner hard as he reached for his wand, forcing him out of the tree and down to the ground. Their sudden appearance caught everyone’s attention, especially Naotsugu, who recognized the cowboy immediately. “Gideon? Is that you?”

Gideon looked over and smiled at the sight of his friend. “Well, looky here! I travel across an ocean and two continents to find my number four favorite guardian with his hair in the butter. How you doing, Naotsugu?”

“Number four! I thought I was number three!” Naotsugu shouted, insulted by his decline in his friend’s eyes.

“Well, you left the game for a while, partner, so things change,” Gideon responded. “But we can talk about that after we deal with these golems.” He aimed his other revolver at the golems. “Tempus Rewind!” he shouted before firing at the golems. His spell created a clock that moved in reverse, causing the golems to move back in time to where they came from.

“That should give us about a minute . . . Major, keep this yellow belly under wraps until we finish off those golems,” Gideon ordered. From behind the tree, a bear dressed in armor stepped up. He was part of the Bearclaw Clan, one of the unique races on the North America server. Major went over and sat down on the summoner. His massive weight caused the wayward adventurer to gasp for air as he struggled beneath him.

“Doc, why don’t you see what you can do for the little lady,” Gideon asked his other companion. He pulled out his medicine bag and began examining Minori. Doc was a native Inuit and a medicine man, the same class as a shrine priest or Kannagi on the Japan server, but with additional skills as an apothecary and an alchemist.

“Master Naotsugu, do you know this man?” Touya asked.

“I sure do; that’s Gideon Hawkmoon, the sorcerer gunslinger from America,” he replied. The junior members had never heard of him before, but Tetora did.

“THE Gideon Hawkmoon? Are you kidding me? Naotsugu, are you telling me your friends with him?”

“Well, yeah, he was an unofficial member of the Debauchery Tea Party,” he explained. “Gideon traveled a lot for work, so whenever he was in Japan, he’d join up and fill in if we needed someone for a quest.”

The Debauchery Tea Party was a group of notorious players, not a guild, who banded together to take on the most challenging quests in Elder Tales. Their exploits were legendary, even after they disbanded. Naotsugu and Shiroe were two of their members. Though not officially part of the party, Gideon joined in whenever he could.

“But I mean, you, how could you of all people know the number one PvP in all of Elder Tales?” Tetora squealed.

Gideon walked up before Naotsugu could answer, and the two exchanged a fist bump. “Long time no see, hoss! It’s good to see you!” Naotsugu exclaimed.

“Same here, partner! It’s been too long!” Gideon shot back, but before they could continue their conversation, Tetora stepped in front of Naotsugu, looking starry-eyed at Gideon.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m meeting THE Gideon Hawkmoon! I’ve followed your every move on the MMO blogs! You’re a legend! I’m Tetora, your star-studded galaxy idol, and your biggest fan!” she shouted, ecstatic at the sight of someone she idolized. She suddenly shifted her attention to his six-shooters. “Oh wow! Are those it? The Guns of Archimedes—Merlin and Morgana—the only magic items designed by a player for in-game use? Can I see them? Can I? Please! Please!”

Gideon just tipped his hat up and looked down at Tetora. “Little lady, I would love to indulge your requests, but perhaps we can deal with the golems first, okay?” Just as he said that the golems burst through the brush, just like they did before Gideon hit them with the time rewind spell.

“Naotsugu, do you mind if I lead this party?”

“You got it, pal . . . Everyone, follow Gideon’s instructions! He’s calling the shots!”

“Are you sure about this, Master Naotsugu?” Rudy asked, unsure of this garish American cowboy that just appeared out of nowhere.

 “Gideon was one of Shiroe’s protégés. I’d even say he was right up there with Rieze and Misa of D.D.D.” To hear such high praise of Gideon’s skills as a strategist impressed the junior members of Log Horizon.

“Aw shucks, Naotsugu, you’re gonna make me blush,” Gideon joked. “Alright then, let’s get a wiggle on!” He cocked his six-shooters and started giving orders to the group.

“Naotsugu, you and samurai boy get their attention! Don’t attack until I tell you; just defend!” With those orders, Naotsugu and Touya moved up to block the golems from any further advance.”

“Anchor Howl!” Naotsugu shouted, using his skill as a guardian to draw one golem to him.

“Samurai Challenge!” Touya yelled, following suit with his own unique skill to attract the other.

“Blondie, cast a Frigid Wave spell at the golems, but aim at their feet, not their bodies!” Gideon ordered, which confused Rudy.

“But that will affect Master Naotsugu and Touya, plus it will have little effect on the golems!”

“Trust me, tenderfoot, and keep repeating it once the cooldown ends!” Gideon continued. Rudy didn’t understand, but he did as he was told, sending a wave of freezing air across the ground. “Curlicue, do you know the Lament of the Sorrowful Man?”

Isuzu thought for a moment, trying to remember all her bard support spells. “Yes, but I’ve never used it before!”

“There’s a first time for everything, darling. Cast that then follow up with the Anthem of the Affectionate Mother on Naotsugu and the samurai!” Isuzu sang out her support magic, filling the air with her songs. “Pinky, you too! Cast all your healing spells at them!”

“The name’s Tetora!” she argued.

“I’ll learn names later, darling. Just do it before they freeze to death!” Gideon snapped back as he watched the combination of magic spells work on the golems. The cold from Rudy’s Frigid Wave spell, combined with Isuzu’s lament, weakened the golems just the right spot—their knees.

“Naotsugu, samurai boy, strike where I shoot!” Gideon shouted before firing off his spell. “Thunderbolt Crash!” He squeezed the triggers, firing a ball of thunder and lightning at their knees. The explosion caused massive cracks in the stone, perfect targets for the two warriors to hit.

“Cross Slash!”

“Whirlwind Slash!”

Their swords struck true as the golems broke away at the knees before falling backward and crashing to the ground. The sound echoed through the trees as the golems lay helpless. Gideon smiled, pleased with this party’s smooth teamwork, but they weren’t done yet.

“Blondie, hit the one on the right with an Orb of Lava, right at the head!” Gideon commanded. Rudy liked the way he was thinking.

“Now you’re talking my style!” he gleefully responded. Gideon took aim at the left while Rudy aimed his wizard’s cane at the right.

“Orb of Lava!” the two sorcerers chanted, firing off a smoldering ball of lava at each of the golems. The impact finished off the remaining hit points for the monsters as anima, gold, and other rewards exploded all over the ground. When that happened, everyone let out a resounding cheer, high fives, and fist bumps all around.

Gideon holstered his weapons as he suddenly found himself surrounded by the party, looking at him in awe. They all introduced themselves and started bombarding him with questions. “That was amazing, Mister Hawkmoon! I never thought of using that lament before today!” Isuzu crooned.

“Please, call me Gideon, and, well, I have an appreciation for the talents of bards, Miss Isuzu, so I study their skills thoroughly,” he explained. “The lament is a cursed song that weakens an enemy’s defense. Usually, it affects the monster as a whole, but I found that if you focus your attacks on one area, the debuff will increase in that one spot. That’s why I had Rudy focus his Frigid Wave spell on the legs. It made them easy targets.”

“Easy for you to say, I’m the one with frostbite on my toes,” Naotsugu complained.

“Oh, Naotsugu, you want me to warm them up for you?” Tetora cooed, elbowing and winking at him.

“Still, that was so awesome!” Touya added. “I can see why you’re on par with Master Shiroe!”

“I am nowhere near the talents of Shiroe . . . Wait, Master Shiroe? You all know him too?”

“Why yes, he’s our guildmaster!” Rudy professed.

Gideon was shocked when he heard Shiroe not only joined a guild, but he formed one too. “Well, ain’t that peachy,” he said. “I have been looking for ‘the villain behind glasses’ since I got to this side of the ocean. Fortune does favor the bold.”

“What do you need Shiroe for?” asked a bewildered Naotsugu.

 “It’s a long story, Naotsugu old buddy, one I can tell you over a couple of cold ones. For now, let’s see how Doc is doing with your shrine maiden friend and get some answers from that varmint!”

The party walked over to them as the medicine man helped Minori sit up. “Minori!” Touya shouted as he rushed to his sister’s side. The shrine maiden rubbed her head as if coming out of a fog, but when she finally opened her eyes, she saw the worry wash away from everybody’s face.

“Are you okay?” Isuzu asked.

“A bit of a headache, but I’m okay. Sorry to have worried everyone.”

“Don’t fret about it, little lady. I knew you were in good hands with Doc!” Gideon replied.

“Doc?” she said, looking up at the Inuit medicine man.

“His real name is Inuksuk, but I just call him Doc because he’s the best doctor an adventurer could ask for in their party.”

“Your praise is unnecessary, Gideon Hawkmoon. You saved my life on Akutan. I am simply fulfilling a debt of honor I owe you,” Doc said, his words spoken clear and concise, enunciating every syllable. “The young lady will need further rest to recover. They hit her with a powerful drug that inhibited the flow of magic. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

“Like I said, Doc, you are a miracle worker,” Gideon started to say before turning his attention to the summoner still held down under the weight of Major. “Now, let’s see what this varmint has to say!”

Gideon, Naotsugu, and Tetora walked over as the summoner glared up at them, unable to move and barely able to breathe. “Help him up, Major. We want to have a word with this gentleman.” Major stood up and pulled the helpless man to his feet. He took a big breath of air, grateful not to have the massive weight of the bear on his chest. However, that bear was now standing behind him, towering over his small form.

Gideon and the others stared down at him with eyes piercing him with their anger. “The way I see it, you have two choices, partner,” Gideon began. “We can send you to the cathedral all at once or one piece at a time; mind you now, Major here is hungry, and biting off extremities is one of his favorite pastimes.”

The summoner looked up as the giant bear licked his lips, not that he would really eat the helpless man, but as an intimidation tactic, it worked. “Okay, okay, I’ll tell you what I know!” he screamed. “We were sent out to test this new drug and see if it works on capturing adventurers.”

“Why would you want to capture adventurers?” Tetora queried.

“I don’t know; they don’t tell me these things. Lady Indix had Jered Gan develop it, and we were just supposed to field test it and bring back captives for further study.”

“Indix? Don’t tell me that Calamity Jane is somehow involved in this!” Gideon exclaimed. “What’s going on, Naotsugu?”

“That’s another long story, pal, one that definitely requires heavy drinking!”

“Oh, we’re gonna have a party tonight!” Tetora shouted, but Naotsugu was curious why the Plant Hwyaden members picked them to test their drugs on.

“You just happened to pick Minori, someone who had a run-in with Nureha, as your target, huh? That’s a little convenient if you ask me!” Naotsugu accused, getting right in the scared summoner’s face.

“Well, there was a rumor that Princess Nureha had a thing for these kids in the Log Horizon guild, so I thought it might win us some points with her!” he confessed.

“Well, as my grandpappy used to say, you are a ten-cent man with a dog that won’t hunt!” Gideon retorted. He motioned his head for the Major to step aside as the summoner looked relieved for a moment. Gideon drew his revolver and pointed it at him. “When you see Indix, make sure you tell her that Gideon Hawkmoon says howdy! Close Burst!” He squeezed the trigger, igniting his spell that killed the summoner, sending his anima back to the cathedral.

Gideon holstered his weapon and let out an audible sigh. “I am fit to be tied, Naotsugu!” he said. “If that catty-cornered sage hen is involved in this, I want in on the action!”

“Catty-cornered sage hen?” Tetora rebutted, confused at Gideon’s western slang.

“He means Indix,” Naotsugu explained. “Let’s get back to Akiba and talk to Shiroe. He’ll know what to do.”

Hearing the name of Akiba caught the attention of both Gideon and Major. “Akiba? We made it to Akiba! You see, Major, I told you I’d get you here!”

“Tell me, do you know a little girl, a druid named Serara?” Major asked in excitement. His voice was gruff and tense, what you might expect from a Bearclaw, but when he talked about Serara, it went up a few octaves. Hearing the name of their close friend in the Crescent Moon Alliance caught the attention of the junior members of Log Horizon.

“Wait, Serara? You know her?” Minori asked.

“She’s my little sister!” he exclaimed, which left a shocked look on everybody’s face. Major could see their confusion and decided to explain. “Well, what I mean is I consider her my little sister. We grew up next door to each other. We were both only children with no siblings, so she called me her big brother, and I thought of her as my little sister.

“I’ve been in the United States as a foreign exchange student at an American University,” he continued. “We were able to keep in touch playing Elder Tales. When the Apocalypse happened, I was afraid she would be stuck in this world, lost and alone.”

“Major and I did a few quests together, so I offered to help him get to Yamato since I was heading here anyway,” Gideon added.

“Well, you don’t have to worry about Serara. She’s been doing great as part of the Crescent Moon Alliance,” Touya told Major, but now Gideon acted out, surprised to hear that name.

“Crescent Moon Alliance? Is Henrietta there? You know, a pretty honey blonde with light brown eyes and sway when she walks? Infatuated with all things cute and adorable?” Gideon’s description of Henrietta caught everyone off guard but definitely set off alarm bells to Tetora, alerting her of some potential juicy gossip.

“A sway, really? And how well do you know Henrietta, hmmm?” she asked with a wink.

Gideon turned beet red, realizing he said something somewhat awkward, and decided to cut things short. “Well, uh, you see, she and I, we, uh, that is . . .”

“Why don’t we start toward Akiba, and we can fill you in along the way!” Major interrupted, helping save his friend from any further embarrassment.

“Yeah, we can get everyone to meet us at the gate and surprise them!” Touya interjected. Everyone agreed and started using the telepathic link, something all adventurers have, to set up the big surprise for Serara and Henrietta.

On the walk to Akiba, Gideon filled them in on what happened to them. Both he and Major hopped through a fairy ring on the day of the Apocalypse, hoping to jump over to the Japan server as soon as the new expansion pack loaded. Unfortunately, they ended up in the Aleutian Islands instead, finding themselves trapped in their avatars in this new world. Add to their dilemma, their individual heads-up display was frozen and inaccessible. They couldn’t view their friend’s list, the telepathic, link, or maps; and, if they were to die, they’d return to the cathedral in the last major city they were in . . . South Angel (Los Angeles in the real world). The two men decided to move on and island-hop over the Aleutians, cross the Bering Sea into Russia, then down the coast to China, into Korea, and across the sea to the Crescent Islands of Yamato.

Naotsugu couldn’t believe what these two went through to get to Akiba. “That’s incredible, dude, and it took you more than a year to get here?”

“Well, we had to do everything within our power not to get killed, so we avoided major encounters with monsters or conflicts with other players. Thankfully, Doc kept us healthy and ready to fight.”

“Yeah, but that didn’t stop players from trying to take away your number one PvP rank?” Major added.

“PvP? What’s that?” Rudy asked.

“Player versus Player, Rudy,” Major explained. “Gideon is the top-ranked player in head-to-head matches against other adventurers, and that paints a target on his back.” That news impressed the junior members even more as the cowboy’s reputation preceded him.

“And knowing you, Gideon, you were never one to back down from a challenge,” Naotsugu chided.

“Now you know me better than that, Naotsugu,” Gideon bragged. “I mean, I ain’t one to slap on too much mustard, but there were some plumb locos out there, itchin’ for a fight. I had to teach them who’s aces high wherever I go.”

“I swear your speaking to us, but I don’t understand a single word you just said,” Tetora commented.

“He said he didn’t mean to brag, but these crazy players wanted to fight him, and he had to teach them who’s number one,” Major interpreted. “It took me a few months to get his ‘John Wayne’ vernacular down.”

“Hey now, Major, I told you before, don’t take the great name of John Wayne in vain,” Gideon admonished him. “You will speak of him in reverence and awe.”

“John who?” Minori asked, causing everyone to break out in laughter.

***

Shiroe waited at the main gate into Akiba with other members of Log Horizon and the Crescent Moon Alliance. The small group stood just inside the entrance on the bridge leading across the river and into the city. He leaned on his staff and pushed up his glasses, patiently waiting for the party to return. Their message of urgency was short and unclear.

“Does anyone know what’s going on?” he grumbled.

“No, milord and neither Naotsugu nor Tetora were very forthcoming with information, just that we all had to be here,” Akatsuki replied. With her long purple hair pulled up in a ponytail, the assassin stood there defiant with her arms crossed. “Knowing Naotsugu, he probably found a treasure trove of panties, the pervert.”

“I’m sure ‘Naotsguchi’ would not have wasted our time on such frivolities, meow,” Chief Nyanta said in rebuttal. The swashbuckler and resident master chef of Log Horizon, a nearly six-foot-tall felinoid cat, towered over the diminutive ninja, peering down at her with one eye open.

“It’s strange that they asked just for the five of us to be here. I wonder what could be wrong?” Serara added. The little druid, with her fluffy red hair, pulled back held tightly onto her oak staff, worried if someone might be injured.

“I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about, Serara. They probably have a big surprise for us!” Marielle said, always the optimist in strange situations. The green-haired elf cleric and guildmaster of the Crescent Moon Alliance always tried to have a positive outlook on things, even during the Apocalypse. “What do you think, Henrietta?”

“Well, whatever it is, I hope they hurry it along. I’ve got a lot of work to do!” Henrietta articulated as she adjusted her glasses. She was an accountant by trade, both in the real world and in the game as her sub-class. Her strict, hard-working, and knowledgeable reputation earned her the respect of everyone in the guilds.

“I see them coming!” Serara shouted.

“Is that a cowboy with them?” Akatsuki questioned. “And a bear?”

“A cowboy?” Henrietta announced, gazing out across the bridge.

“A bear?” Serara replied, and when she saw him, the little girl realized who it was! “Big brother Major!” she shouted, taking off across the bridge.

“Serara!” the burly guardian screamed, running up to her. The two met on the middle of the bridge, and Major lifted his little sister into the air hugging her tight. The two were crying uncontrollably, filled with joy over their reunion. The junior members of Log Horizon surrounded them, cheering them on at the tearful reunion.

“Is that Serara’s brother? Really? A bear?” Marielle asked.

“I don’t see the family resemblance,” Shiroe answered when he suddenly realized who the cowboy was. “Wait . . . Is that, Gideon? Gideon Hawkmoon?”

“I believe it is none other,” Chief Nyanta exclaimed. Before anyone could say anything else, Henrietta ran out toward Gideon. The gunslinger walked ahead from the party, tossed his cigar away, and took off his hat before strolling up to Henrietta. The two of them stood there, gazing into each other’s eyes as if they wanted to thoroughly capture the moment.

“Gideon, is it you? Is it really you?” Henrietta asked, slowly reaching out to touch his face. He took her by the hand and pulled her in closer to him.

“Yeah, darlin’, it’s me! I told you I would get here. Sorry it took so long, Henrietta!” With that, Gideon wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. The two embraced a loving, passionate kiss that took everyone by surprise. At both ends of the bridge, the two groups stood awestruck at the sight of these two lovers kissing. They were even more surprised when Gideon released her, and Henrietta reached out and slapped him across the face. “Ow, what in tarnation was that for?”

“That was for not calling or messaging me to even let me know that you were alive and in this world, you good-for-nothing cowpoke!”

“Now listen, honey, there were extenuating circumstances as to why I couldn’t use the telepathic link!”

“I don’t want to hear your excuses, honey; you took your good ole time getting here!”

“Ah, come on now, listen to reason, Umeko!”

“Don’t call me that name, Jedidiah!”

“Now, you stop that, Henrietta. Only my mee-maw calls me Jedidiah!”

As the argument rallied on, everyone continued to wonder what was happening before their eyes. Two people, who some had known for years, were somehow intertwined, yet no one knew about it. Even as Naotsugu and the others walked past the arguing couple, they thought the same thing.

“Is everyone else as confused as I am?” Shiroe asked.

“I am completely lost, my lord,” Akatsuki replied.

“Yeah, I can’t make heads or tails of it either,” Naotsugu answered. “Chief?”

“I’m afraid I must refrain from comment until this little soiree is completed.”

“You know something, don’t you?” Akatsuki implied. Chief just gave her a sideward glance with a hint of a smile on his face.

“A gentleman never gossips about the private matters between a couple, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.”

“Yeah, you know something . . .”

“Marielle, did Henrietta ever mention Gideon to you?” Naotsugu queried.

“No, never . . . I mean, Henrietta took me to a cowboy-themed restaurant once. Does that count?”

Naotsugu chuckled at Marielle’s confused demeanor. “No, I don’t think so!” Finally, the argument subsided as the two embraced each other again, with Henrietta crying in Gideon’s arms. He comforted her as Gideon calmly reassured Henrietta that everything would be alright.

“I’m here, darlin’, and I’m here to stay!” he whispered. “I’m never going to leave you again, I promise. I love you, Henrietta.” With that, Henrietta wiped the tears from her eyes and gave him a peck on the lips until she realized that they had an audience. The assembled groups from Log Horizon and the Crescent Moon Alliance stared at the two in curious awe.

Henrietta straightened up her dress while Gideon put his hat back on before she took him by the arm and led him over to her friends. “Everyone, I’d like to introduce you to Gideon Hawkmoon,” she started to say, pausing before she finished her sentence, “my husband.”

Their eyes went wide, and mouths agape as shock ran through everyone, all except for Chief Nyanta. “Ah yeah,” he muttered as if it was something he knew all along.

Marielle, however, was quite taken aback, rushing up to her best friend. “What do you mean, your husband? When were you married? Why didn’t you tell me about him?” she screamed.

Henrietta kept her composure, adjusting her glasses. “It was right before the Apocalypse, but everything happened so fast. I was going to tell you, but I thought Gideon didn’t make it through to this world, so I didn’t feel the need to share it. We had other things to worry about.”

“What other things? This is me, Henrietta, your best friend since high school. How could you keep something like that from me?”

“I’m afraid that was my fault, Miss Marielle,” Gideon stepped in, hoping to save Henrietta from the ramblings of her best friend. “We didn’t mean to bushwhack you like this, but . . .”

“You stay out of this, you . . . you . . . cowboy!” Marielle shouted, wagging her finger in his face.

“Gideon, dear, why don’t you go say hello to the others while I talk with Marielle,” Henrietta suggested. Gideon tipped his hat to the ladies and walked over to the others while the two friends argued.

“Hey there, Shiroe . . . excuse me, guildmaster Shiroe. How you doing, partner?” Gideon greeted his friend with a fist bump.

“You don’t need to be so formal with me, Gideon. It’s good to see you too!” Shiroe replied.

“And how’s my number two swashbuckler, Chief Nyanta? You look as dapper as ever!”

“Meow, same to Gideon. It’s good to see you made it to Akiba!” Upon hearing Chief Nyanta’s rating threw Naotsugu for a loop.

“Wait a minute, how come he’s number two, but I dropped to number four?” he complained.

“I told you, Naotsugu, you left the game. Chief earned his spot with me.” Hearing the rating system confused Akatsuki.

“My lord, what is this rating he’s talking about?”

“Gideon rates his top ten players by class on a sliding scale,” Shiroe explained. “It’s pretty prestigious to get onto his top ten list.”

“And where do you rank?” the curious Akatsuki asked, but before Shiroe could answer, Gideon interrupted.

“Oh, my man Shiroe has a special category all to himself,” Gideon replied. “He is, without a doubt, the number one strategist in all of Elder Tales.” Shiroe blushed at the compliment Gideon gave him. He never thought of himself as anything special, even though everyone in Akiba did. Once he collected himself, Shiroe realized that he never adequately introduced Gideon.

“Oh, you two haven’t met,” Shiroe muttered. “Gideon, this is Akatsuki, our ninja!” Akatsuki gave a nod and a slight bow.

“It’s an honor to meet you, Master Gideon. I am Akatsuki, Master Shiroe’s shinobi and personal bodyguard,” she stated, straight and firmly, before changing her tone. “So, you and Henrietta, hmm? And how did you two meet?”

“Yeah, and why didn’t you ever mention her before?” Naotsugu interjected.

“Come on, you know the rules of MMORPGs . . . You keep your personal life and your gaming life separate,” Gideon explained. “I mean, would you like me to tell them about the time we went to the Atamai Onsen in Shizuoka, you know, when those girls . . .”

Before he could say another word, Naotsugu put his hand across Gideon’s mouth to effectively shut him up. “Okay, okay, I get it! Point taken, we don’t have to talk about that!”

“Oh, I want to hear about it!” Shiroe crowed with a sinister grin.

“Meow, so would I!” Nyanta concurred.

“You still haven’t answered my question,” Akatsuki added.

“Well, why don’t we take this discussion off the streets and somewhere private where Henrietta and I can explain things. Plus, I need to see if Shiroe can help Major and me with our little problem,” Gideon ascertained. “What do you say, Miss Marielle?”

Marielle stopped fighting with Henrietta when she realized that Gideon was right. Perhaps this would be better done in private. “Fine!” she said, storming up to Gideon and sticking her finger in his face. “But this isn’t over, mister, not by a longshot! Let’s go, Naotsugu!” Marielle grabbed the wayward guardian by the hand, dragging him away.

“Now wait a minute, Marielle. Why are you picking on me?”

“Because you’re the only one I can beat on without getting hurt, now move it!” she screamed as Naotsugu tried to calm her down while she took it out on her guardian boyfriend.

“She’ll calm down,” Henrietta assured Gideon. “It’s my fault, really. I should have told her about us, but I wasn’t sure what happened to you during the Apocalypse. I didn’t want Marielle or anyone else to be constantly worrying about me.”

Akatsuki could see that this was something Henrietta had been holding inside since the day she met her more than a year ago. She went over and placed a comforting hand on her arm. “It’s okay, Henrietta. You can’t blame yourself for not wanting to burden others with your problems.”

Out of nowhere, Henrietta grabbed Akatsuki around the head. She hugged her tight, rubbing her like a favorite doll or stuffed animal. “Oh, my little Akatsuki, you always know what to say to make me feel better! I could just hug you and squeeze you all over for that!”

While she continued to assault the little ninja, Gideon leaned into Shiroe. “I see Henrietta still has a thing for cute and adorable chickabiddies.” Shiroe just laughed and nodded his head as the rest of them headed into Akiba toward the Log Horizon guildhall.

* * *

I hope you enjoyed this! Please message me in the comments below about the story. Stay tuned for A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger (Part 2) next week.

Put a little fantasy into your holiday gifts this year with these wonderful books

Lorden Awakening by Krislee Ellsworth, On the Edge by M.J. Glenn, Jax Marlin by T.K. Toppin, Bound in Darkness by Kim ten Tusscher, and The Publishing Room’s From Dark Corners

Most authors would put a shameless plug in for their own fantasy books, but I want to highlight some great books from some of my fellow independent authors that I read in 2021. I would highly recommend any one of their books for the fantasy or sci fi lover and avid book reader in your home. I met all of these wonderful authors through our independent author social media connections and it has been an absolute joy getting to know them and reading their books.

On the Edge by M.J. Glenn is the first book in the Dweller Hunter series. The novel tells the story of Ebony Wick, who for two years has survived alone as an outlaw and highwaywoman in Rundlewood Forest. She doesn’t need people. She only needs to survive. But when Hunter Sparrow breaks into her camp and invites her to join his gang, the Bounty Hunters, she finds herself facing a difficult choice. With a burning desire for revenge against a powerful enemy, Ebony must choose between reason and instinct. But in doing so, she discovers a long-hidden secret that will change her world forever. I loved this story and how independent minded Ebony is, even when confronted by a haunting past and revelations that change her world forever. I am looking forward to reading more of this series and the continuing adventures of Ebony Wick!

Bound in Darkness by Kim ten Tusscher is the first book in the Lilith Trilogy. I have only read the first book and just started reading the second, Broken in Twilight, so I will just cover Book One. This is the story of Lilith, a woman who has only ever lived with anger and destruction. The sole dragon shifter known to humankind, she despises her life as an instrument of terror at the hands of a prophetic sorcerer. Finally fleeing years of abuse, she’s distraught when she’s captured for stealing food and forced to answer to a bitter king for her crimes. Hiding her fiery past from the monarch’s shrewd advisor, Lilith grits her teeth and endures brutal lashings to keep her powers secret. But when her former abductor sends spies to reclaim her and threatens carnage in the name of God, she’ll have to choose for which captor she’s willing to spill more innocent blood… Can the tortured woman escape to freedom before the land beneath her burns? You really feel for Lilith, the pain and suffering she’s endured, as you read each page of this wonderful novel. I am just getting into Book Two, and it is enthralling and captivating as the first.

Jax Marlin: The Complete Short Story Series by T.K. Toppin is my kind of sci fi noir novel. The vigilante, Jax Marlin, and the special inspector who chases her, Michael Pedroni, find themselves on a journey of deeper self-discovery and mutual understanding as they battle the criminals of the world. What was once black and white and by the book, no longer applies. The world is filled with myriad shades and perspectives, and in order to conquer evil, one must do what one must. Learning this prompts Pedroni to make a life-altering decision. As for Jax, her once-resolute focus wavers when her driving force, the fire inside her, takes over with violent results. She battles her inner demon in a life-long war, she realizes she can’t change who she is and what drives her: bad people must be punished. She must make the ultimate decision: destroy the beast within or continue down the destructive path of homicidal abandon. I love watching classic noir crime dramas on TV and reading this book was like stepping into one of those classic films. The no nonsense detective, the female fatal, the spark between them, and its all done with a sci-fi vibe that I love.

Lorden Awakening by Krislee Ellsworth was, I think, the highlight of my reading this year. Magic has not existed for three centuries, and the world is dying because of it. Anaver has never seen the sun through the foggy dome that surrounds the island of Tamrose. She’s heard tales of other lands and magic, but no one can prove that such things ever existed. When fate pulls her from her home and places her in a land of sun and starlight, she discovers that she harbors a power that can awaken the earth’s dormant magic. Rothrin has watched as the world around him fades away. The elements have long lost their state of Lorden, or harmony, which has caused a decades-long famine to sweep over the continent. All seems lost until he meets Anaver, and the elements begin to awaken. They set out on a quest in a land on the brink of collapse and starvation to unleash the earth’s power before time runs out. Like the other fantasy books in my list, Lorden Awakening has an original magic system that is captivating as the story itself. These are great characters that you’ll fall in love with and villains you’ll hate.

The last book I want to mention is a bit of a shameless plug, but not just for me, for the other authors in this anthology. From Dark Corners is a collection of horror short stories published by The Publishing Room. Their mission is “to ensure that anyone with a dream in publishing a book can accomplish their goals.” They also publish short stories from independent authors in various collections. I published with them previously in their fantasy anthology, On Distant Worlds. This time, I wrote a horror short story called The Chalice for this anthology, my first leap into the genre. Along with authors Samayra Rashid, Danni Grace, Ruchi Acharya, and Jesse Fletcher, this book is a great addition for any horror fans on your holiday gift list. They support independent authors like me, you can too!

Click on the links above to order these books and, if you’re interested, click on the links below to check out my other fantasy novels for your holiday gift list! By the way, I am always open to book review exchanges between authors. I love getting new books to read and helping out other independent authors.

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, coming soon from Revolutionary Press; and The River of Souls novella, coming soon from Curious Corvid PublishingThe Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel are future installments of my current fantasy book series, coming soon.