I’m not much of a TikToker, but I’m trying to be one

If you haven’t already noticed in my social media links, I now have a TikTok account. I will be the first one to admit that I’m not very good at it and I doubt the Chinese have any interest in the metadata of a independent author of fantasy and steampunk novels. It was the next logical step in further promotion and marketing as an author. I am nowhere near the expertise and zaniness of some of the people on TikTok. I primarily use it to promote my books, events, special announcements, and even some personal holiday fun. Beyond that, it’s difficult to wrap my head around this social media giant.

It’s so much easier in Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to just post a photo and write-up. With TikTok, I have to create a video, add music, stickers, effects, and text. It’s such a process to post a simple thirty second video. I think why I am struggling with TikTok. It’s too much work for one simple person. I mean, I use Hootsuite to publish to my other social media sites (highly recommend it to burgeoning indie authors). It’s FREE for up to three social media accounts and you can schedule up to ten times. There is a paid version but the free works well enough for me to stay ahead of the game.

TikTok, on the other hand, takes time and patience. There are a lot of great people that are fun to watch and they make it look so easy. Maybe its the old man in me. I am nearly 60 but I’ve stayed up on technology since I first typed on a TRS-80 (look it up if you don’t know what one is). I just can’t get into the videos of repeating voice overs of comics or famous movie and television scenes. Even the weird filters aren’t me. I just want to talk about my books, show videos from the events I attend, and that’s it.

There are a lot of great connections on TikTok. I met Teri Schnaubelt (@terischnaubelt on TikTok) a voice over artist who read a section of my book The River of Souls. It was great having a professional do something like that for FREE to hear my words come to life. Pop over to her TikTok page to hear more great books being read by a true professional and great lady. The other authors on there are supportive as well, promoting your books to readers and even giving ideas. Someone posted a video of using mini-candy bars as giveaways by wrapping them in book covers to look like little books. I did that and they came out great. You can really find a lot of good ideas on TikTok.

So, if you are on TikTok, come find me, follow and I will follow back, and hopefully I can get the hang of this new social media and make some fun and interesting content. I’m always open to suggestions.

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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.

My thoughts on the death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, an inspiration to us all

Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms (6 February 1952 – 8 September 2022)

With the death of Queen Elizabeth II, thus ended the reign of the longest reigning monarch of the modern era. For 70 years, we have only known one queen and her name was Elizabeth. She was not only the queen, but she was also a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. I am not a subject of Her Majesty, but I respect and want to honor her service to her country and the world. When she was only 21 years old, she pledged, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” She lived up to that pledge until the day she died.

As a fantasy author, monarchs are a part of my genre. I have loved the idea of a monarch since I first read the stories of King Arthur and Camelot, something I based my first novel, Forever Avalon, around. Britain and the monarchy are the stuff of legends, and Elizabeth II was no exception. She led Great Britain and the commonwealth by example in pursuit of nothing but the best for her people. She served in World War II at the tender age of 18 in the Auxiliary Territorial Service as a driver and a mechanic. Can you imagine, the future Queen of England driving an ambulance and performing tune ups on vehicles?

The world was a different place when she became queen. Women did not lead in many roles in our society in the 1950s and yet, she did it with steadfast determination. That’s the kind of inspiration a writer like me looks for in creating monarchs for my fantasy stories. Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by strong women, whether in my family or my military service, and Queen Elizabeth was a part of that. You can’t fake that kind of character when writing, you have to see it and experience it to believe it.

So now, we have a king, King Charles III. He has enormous shoes to fill to live up to the legacy his mother laid out for him, but at the same time, he had her as the best teacher possible. I hope and pray he will continue the great service of her life. These are trying times and leadership is desperately needed. Even as a writer, that continued inspiration is needed. In all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the eventual coronation of King Charles III, it fuels the fantasy stories within me. We live in an age where kings and queens, princes and princesses, and other royal titles are mostly found in storybooks.

Queen Elizabeth II was the true representation of what it meant to be a monarch. May she rest in peace. Thank you, ma’am, for your service to us all. God bless the Queen. God save the King.

# # #

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.

First reviews for The River of Souls are in, plus my review of sci-fi novel Raq by T.K. Toppin

The River of Souls fantasy novella from award-winning author Mark Piggott featuring poetry by Ashley Valitutto from Curious Corvid Publishing

The first book reviews for my new fantasy novella The River of Souls are in and it’s a great start for me under the wing of Curious Corvid Publishing. The first comes from author T.K. Toppin, and its always good to get feedback from your peers. We often support each other with ARC reads to give insight into each other’s work. T.K. has a new book out, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

“This was a delightful and heart-warming novella about the power of love, and how it can stretch and endure through different worlds – even death. A cleverly woven tale mixing fantasy and steampunk, and reflecting on topics that are all too current, from hatred to bigotry and life after war. I thoroughly enjoyed this moving, fast-paced book. Magic, swords, crossing different realms and mystical beings – what more do you need for an engaging read.”

Author T.K. Toppin review of The River of Souls

The next review came from Instagram bibliophile scifiladygj, Geo VanJar. She has previously read my books and reads a multitude of genres. I love when readers who come out to my events continue to support me as an independent author.

@foreveravalon.author is quite the love storyteller. This novella is packed with memories of war and war. But what makes it encouraging is the author’s way of bringing to fore a future out of strife, pain and love. The story tells of the love of human and Dragonkin, which is taboo for most of those filled with prejudice after a 300 year war. But in the end, as it should, love conquers all. The author brought our own world into the fantasy world of Drogon vs human through the River of Souls, which brings home our own reactions to some. This novella is insightful, a bit of steampunk along with a healthy dose of true love. Well worth the read.”

Geo VanJar (scifiladygj) review of The River of Souls

Lastly, I want to give a shout out in my review of T.K. Toppin‘s latest sci-fi novel, Raq, available now in paperback and releasing September 16, 2022, on Amazon Kindle. I was captured after the first chapter. This book reads like an episode of original “Star Trek” written by Gene Roddenberry himself. It had the feel of classic science fiction but still modern to today. I loved the way it switched between the alien to the human perspective throughout. You understood both sides of the story, even though you may disagree with one or the other. It presented all the challenges of a first encounter with a world ending reality. T.K. is one of the great new voices in science fiction writing today. She has an array of novels from sci-fi crime noir to aliens and outer space. T.K. has got you covered. Stop by her Amazon Authors Page and check out all the great books she has to offer!

That’s the thing you have to understand about authors and readers. We look out for each other, we support each other, because we love our stories and what they represent. I know what it means to struggle with writing, editing, publishing, and marketing as an independent author. It’s not an easy path for any of us. Luckily, there’s a great support system out there to encourage our efforts every step of the way. Bonus, readers and bibliophiles LOVE to read and want to dive into your stories. To me, as a writer, that’s a “win/win” situation.

The River of Souls from Curious Corvid Publishing is available at Amazon and other online booksellers. Pick up your copy or download the ebook today! Or, come by my booth at the next 2nd Sundays Williamsburg – Art and Music Festival on Sunday, September 11, in Williamsburg, VA, and pick up a signed copy!

# # #

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.

Working on multiple WIPs at the same time can be quite maddening for any writer

Frustrated? Overworked? Help is one the way . . .

So, I’m in the middle of a crisis at the moment. I have multiple ideas for stories, both ones I’m working on, new ones, and ones I haven’t even put down notes on yet. They’re all rattling through my head, begging for life. I try to work on what I can, but then my mind drifts elsewhere. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up at 3am with one of these stories nagging at me. Like I said, maddening. I wish I could get committed to an asylum just so I could sit quietly and write. I would take a vacation to work on them, but then I probably wouldn’t have a wife to come home to anymore. I mean, she puts up with me dragging her to conventions, art festivals, and book signings.

This is a dilemma, one every writer runs into from time to time. I know I’m not alone in this madness. The difference for me is that I am not looking through multiple storylines in one genre or story. I have a multitude of ideas streaming through my head like a Netflix playlist. From steampunk sky pirates to mercenary demon hunters, a wayward Magus, and knights of Avalon, I don’t know where to begin. Add to that the short stories I’m constantly plugging away at to ply my trade within the many opportunities available to the writing community.

Curious Corvid Publishing . . . Publishing a variety of gothic works that bring a voice to the darker side of life.

The one good thing I can say about these shenanigans is that I feel a sense of relief within this madness because I have a publisher now. Being one of the myriad of talented authors under Curious Corvid Publishing has given me pause in my madness . . . Well, partly. Having a publisher that supports me as a writer takes away the worry of frantically searching for someone to publish my stories. I have that support system under me so I can focus on writing and no worry about who’s going to publish my next fantasy trope. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be a part of this up-and-coming publishing house. Thank you Ravven!

I’ve been self-published for more than ten-plus years. As a side job, I know I’m still operating in the red. I spend more money on publishing, marketing, etc., than I earn from selling books. That’s the rub for any independent, self-published author. We do this because we love it, no matter what the cost. Not saying that I want to go bankrupt being a writer, I just want to tell my stories the easiest way I can. Just reading a good review or hearing someone say they liked my story is reward enough for me. The problem is getting the damn things out of my head.

For now, I need a calm mind and a cool head. That will get me through my writing dilemma. One thing at a time, maintaining my focus, and this will all work itself out. But maybe, just maybe, I do need to take a small vacation to push through all this frustration. Maybe I can talk my wife into a nice spot on the beach where she can catch some rays while I sit under the umbrella, tapping away on my laptop. There’s a compromise in there somewhere.

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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.

Something happened on the way to publishing…

So, got some bad news last week, something entirely unexpected. I was excited at the prospect of my first full-on steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, being published this year by Revolutionary Press. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen anymore. In an email I received, Revolutionary Press decided, “Our previous focus has been more oriented towards for-profit purposes, and this is a goal that we no longer find sustainable. Effectively, we are shuttering all for-profit operations. Unfortunately, we cannot continue work on your book concerning the previous contract.”

The original cover of Forever Avalon from 2009, published by James A. Rock Publishing.

So, what’s an independent author to do now? This is not the first time this has happened to me. In 2009, I signed with James A. Rock Publishing to publish my first book, Forever Avalon. It was a small publishing house, originally from Rockville, Md., until they moved to Florence, S.C. It was a “vanity publisher,” but I didn’t know any better as a new author. Things were fine until, unfortunately, the publisher passed away. His wife tried to continue with the business but to no avail. They closed down, and my book was no longer available for sale. So, I took my manuscript, reformatted it, got a new cover and interior art, and republished it via Amazon. It was easy to do and get it back on the market. It even allowed me to keep the ISBN and reviews from the first publication. I still have James A. Rock listed as the publisher on the inside page of the book to honor his memory and remind me of who gave me my first chance at being a published author. That’s something I learned from my time in the U.S. Navy . . . Remember where you came from!

So the question is, now what? What do I do? Do I try to get another publisher to pick up Corsair, or do I go it alone and self-publish? Fortunately, to quote the great John “Hannibal” King of the A-Team . . . “I love it when a plan comes together!” And by a plan, I mean a murder of crows circling overhead, picking at the carcass of my former publisher to feast on the bones and bring the dead back to life.

Sorry for that graphic description, but you’ll soon understand the reason for my over-the-top metaphor. My current publisher, Curious Corvid Publishing, is a gothic press based in Ohio. They took me under their wing (literally) after picking up a novella I wrote, The River of Souls, that will be published in August 2022. And, as our CEO and publisher Ravven White said at our first meeting, “I am your publisher now.” There was no doubt what I would do, and when I talked to them about it, Ravven never hesitated. She said they would gladly add it to their calendar for publication.

That’s what I love about finally being with a publisher. I still consider myself an independent author, and I always will be. The difference is that, even though Curious Corvid is a small publisher, they are still a publisher. My books will be available in everything from online bookstores to “brick-and-mortar” stores. They are just getting their footing and having tons of success to build on with many talented authors and poets. I am grateful to be a part of that future. I will build on it with novels like Corsair and the Sky Pirates, the next installment of The Last Magus series, Dragonfire and Steel, and the fourth book in the Forever Avalon series, The Prometheus Engine. These, along with any other crazy stories that pop into my head, will be coming your way through Curious Corvid Publishing.

# # #

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 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 my current fantasy book series, 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 6 OF A TALE OF LOG HORIZON-THE GUNSLINGER, A DUKE, AND A PRINCESS

I had a little extra time to finish up the next installment in my Log Horizon fan fiction project. This is starting to take me a little more time. There are things in the light novels and manga that were not in the anime, so I am trying to represent things as accurately as possible. There is not a lot written or represented on Plant Hwyaden or its members in Minami. This means a lot more research and a little speculation on my part. In any case, the adventures of Gideon Hawkmoon continues on his first mission in Yamato. Here’s Part Six of A Tale of Log Horizon—The Gunslinger, a Duke and a Princess.

* * *

Part Five 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. Plant Hwyaden took advantage of the Round Table’s absence to once again attempt to kidnap high-level adventurers for Jered Gan’s experiment. Luckily, Gideon stepped in to stop them with the help of his sister, Celeste, and the Eagle Mountain Guild from North America. Using a new invention called a Fairy Ring Chronometer, they navigated the teleportation circles to arrive in Yamato. Now, as a new alliance was forged between the Round Table and Eagle Mountain, Plant Hwyaden decided to negotiate for peace while continuing their dark schemes behind the scenes. Gideon was given his first mission to see if this conference between Westlande and Eastal was possible.

* * *

Gideon and Henrietta flew through the air on the wings of the giant golden eagle. It took them an hour to reach the Palace of Eternal Ice at Maihama. They continued to discuss the mission ahead of their arrival during the flight.

“So, what kind of resistance can we expect from the nobles, darlin’?”

“Well, Lord Cowen has always been straightforward and honest in our negotiations,” Henrietta explained, raising her voice over the howling wind. “Some of the other nobles have a higher degree of self-interest, so they will only act if it’s to their benefit.”

“I see, yellow-bellied cowards worried about their own pocketbooks, am I right?” Henrietta sighed at his lack of manners when it came to nobility.

“Gideon, dear, please refrain from calling the nobility names like that while we’re negotiating with them. To quote your sister, ‘you attract more bees with honey than vinegar’ or something like that.”

“Yeah, that sounds like Celeste. Alright, Henrietta, I get what you’re laying down. I’ll behave like a tamed pony while we’re here. Besides, I wouldn’t want to start a tussle on our honeymoon.”

“Honeymoon? What makes you think this is our honeymoon?” Henrietta asked, shocked by his absurd assumption. “If you’re going to take me on a honeymoon, it’ll be something more romantic, not a near-death experience.”

“Well, darlin’, I think this is romantic,” Gideon explained. “I can’t think of anything more like a paperback romance novel than being with the one you love, fighting side by side for the benefit of our family and friends. I’ll be spending tonight in the Palace of Eternal Ice with my wife. You can’t get any better than that!”

Henrietta couldn’t fault his logic, as misguided as it was. She held on tight and leaned her head against him, comforted that they were together and that was all that mattered. “I guess you’re right.” She cooed. “But still, I would prefer a honeymoon somewhere private and out of the way.”

“Oh, you mean like that weekend we spent at the spa resort on Yakushima Island. That was a helluva weekend, honeybell. I never realized how flexible you can be.”

Henrietta blushed bright red before smacking Gideon for his comment. “Just when I think you’ve grown up, you slip back into your old self. No wonder you and Naotsugu are friends.”

“Now, Henrietta, I am nowhere near the level of repressed panty perversion that is Naotsugu. I merely affirmed my appreciation for your many mental and physical talents,” he teased, earning him another smack from Henrietta. They both suddenly broke out in laughter. It was silly little moments like this that brought them closer together.

Soon, the duo arrived at the Maihama and the Palace of Eternal Ice. It was an enormous castle built by the ancient Alvs on a lakebed of magical ice that never melted. It glittered like a jewel in the sunlight as the massive structure was surrounded by mystical ice pillars.

Gideon couldn’t believe it when he saw the palace. It was different seeing this in person than it was in the game. He circled around the castle, causing a bit of a stir at the sight of a giant eagle circling overhead. Soon, he spotted Isaac waiting on a small platform near the main entrance.

The guildmaster of the Black Sword Knights was a regular in Maihama, assigned to protect Prince Itherus, the next heir of the Cowen family. After a failed assassination attempt, the Black Sword Knights relocated to Maihama to safeguard Itherus and train the Knights of Maihama.

Gideon landed his giant eagle on the open area with a furious downdraft. While other knights braced from the gust of wind, Isaac stood there unfazed. He walked over as Gideon helped Henrietta down from the saddle.

“So, this is the famous giant eagle you get from the Treasure of the Sierra Madre raid. Damn, that’s one helluva prize you got there, Gideon. I would love to take on that raid with the Black Sword Knights.”

“Well, you can always take a raiding party over to the North American server, Isaac, whenever the fairy rings are aligned. I’m sure my sister would be honored to host you for that event.”

“Yeah, maybe when the kid is older. I can’t take any chances with Prince Itherus right now,” the guildmaster explained. “Anyway, let’s get you two settled in before I take you to see the old man.”

Gideon removed the saddle and sent his golden eagle off before the group headed into the palace. The sheer size and opulence of the castle intimidated the American cowboy. There was nothing like it on the North American server that could compare. Yet, despite all the pomp and circumstances surrounding their arrival, Gideon hated the clothes most.

He wore the traditional uniform of the Round Table Conference, a long blue coat with an ascot emblazoned with the symbol of the Round Table—a crossed sword and a wrench over a circle. It was pretty fancy and tight around the collar for someone like Gideon, but he put up with it for Henrietta’s sake.

As they walked through the palace to their meeting with Lord Cowen, Gideon fussed with his collar to no end, tugging at it to give him some breathing room. “Dang nabbit, this thing is tighter than a girdle before church on Sunday,” he remarked before Henrietta smacked his hand.

“Quit fidgeting, Gideon. There’s no need to be nervous. Lord Cowen isn’t going to roast you alive. He’s just going to ask you some questions. So, be polite and be yourself . . . Well, not completely yourself, but a more dignified version.”

“Thanks, darlin’, that makes me feel much better,” Gideon sassed. “How do you do this, Isaac? Meeting with the Duke of Maihama all the time?”

 “I drink a lot. That’s what gets me through these little sessions,” Isaac remarked. “I don’t let it bother me.” Henrietta stepped in before Gideon could reply, wagging her finger in his face.

“No, you will not be drinking anything except tea during these negotiations,” she warned. “All I need is a little alcohol loosening your tongue and watching as you open upon an unsuspecting audience.”

Gideon laughed when he realized how right she was. That’s one of the reasons he loved her so much . . . They knew each other inside and out, so much so that they kept one another in check. He hated these backroom politics, but he always did what he set out to do, so there was no backing down.

Isaac knocked on the door and opened it, stepping aside to let Henrietta and Gideon go in first. He stood there like a towering monument to freedom. His white hair and beard showed age but did not diminish his strength. He wore regal robes with adornments and a crown signifying his station as the Duke of Maihama and Lord of the Freedom Cities of Eastal—High Lord Sergiad Cowen. Surprisingly, waiting with him was his eldest daughter, Lady Saraliya Tsuleu-Arte Cowen, Lenessia’s mother and a regular advisor to her father. She appeared just like her daughter to Gideon but older and more refined like a vintage wine. Her beauty and intelligence were unmatched amongst the nobles of Maihama, who knew better than to cross swords or wit with her.

However, her presence in this meeting did concern Henrietta. Well, this just got complicated, she thought. If Lady Saraliya is here, we’re in for some serious negotiations. I hope Gideon is up for this.

After introductions and a flurry of opening questions, Gideon regaled the two about life on the North American server. He spoke at length about the essential guilds, the People of the Land, how the regions are governed, and what royalty existed. The sorcerer gunslinger followed Henrietta’s instructions to the letter. He was clear, concise, and used very little of his western vocabulary. Gideon even gave them a slight overview of life in Russia, China, and Korean servers from his travels.

Lord Cowen listened intently while Lady Saraliya seemed only mildly interested as she drank her tea. Henrietta didn’t know what to make of her ignorance. It was totally out of character for the woman she heard so much about from Lenessia. Gideon, however, saw right through her act. He knew a “snake in the grass” when he saw one. She was just waiting for her chance to strike.

“So, if I understand you correctly, this Fairy Ring Chronometer of yours has its limits. Your sister’s guild can’t be here at a moment’s notice if Westlande decided to invade,” Lady Saraliya queried.

“Yes, ma’am, your right, but the chronometer was only a temporary solution. Einstein is already working on a more permanent method of transportation,” Gideon said. His response caught everyone off-guard, but none more than Isaac and Henrietta.

“And what is that?” Saraliya asked, fixing her gaze at Gideon.

“While they were in Akiba, Einstein conferred with the bigwigs in Roderick’s Merchant and the other crafting guilds. They discussed the possibility that a fairy ring could be used as the basis for a permanent gate between servers, like our intercity transport gates across Yamato. It’s just a theory right now, but they are working toward a practical application.”

“So, it seems the issue still remains. The Freedom Cities of Eastal cannot rely on this alliance between the Round Table Conference and Eagle Mountain for security concerns, can we? Without those assurances, why would we even consider entering a peace accord that can’t be supported by our allies from Akiba?”

“With all due respect, Lady Saraliya, that’s about as crazy as a rattlesnake at a square dance,” Gideon replied, causing Isaac to spit out his drink. Henrietta started to apologize for Gideon’s remark. However, the cowboy held up his hand to stop her as he continued to speak. “You’ll never gonna have that perfect scenario where Westlande doesn’t get an opportunity to backstab the Freedom Cities. Those tin hustlers are as crooked as a dog’s hind legs.”

“I understand what you’re trying to convey, even with your own unique way of saying it, but that doesn’t convince me to support this conference.”

“And no one here is saying you should,” Gideon interrupted. “Hell, I wouldn’t trust them either. They’re about as reliable as a freight train on a dirt road. But . . . I have to wonder why they’re asking for this little hoedown? Neither me nor Eagle Mountain alone didn’t get their panties in a bunch . . .” He paused before realizing his improper way of communicating his point. “Pardon my French, Lady Saraliya . . . I meant to say it caused them to swallow their pride and sue for peace. There’s some ulterior motive behind this, and the only way to find out is to play along.”

“You mean to accept the invitation and use it to get more information and see where it leads us,” Lord Cowen interjected, nodding his head to the idea. “That’s a promising concept, but I doubt the nobles would support letting adventurers negotiate for them.”

“The Round Table Conference would leave the negotiations up to the representatives of the Freedom Cities of Eastal,” Henrietta finally spoke up. “We would only take part in areas where adventurers are concerned.”

“We’ve already established a mutual security and trade partnership,” Isaac said. “All we’re trying to do is prevent future attempts on Itherus’ life or attacks on cities like Saphir from happening again.”

“Besides, what will you do if they perfect this deep sleep drug?” Gideon concluded. “If they can take out adventurers that easily, then you’ll have to rely on your own forces to battle both Westlande’s army and the adventurers of Plant Hwyaden. Are you willing to take that chance?”

Lady Saraliya nodded her head in approval, agreeing with the uncharacteristic logic coming from the western cowboy. “I must say, Master Gideon, even with your peculiar backward way of speaking, you are quite capable of giving a compelling argument.”

“Well, thank you, ma’am. My mama says I can be slow as molasses in winter at times, but I always tell the truth, straight from the heart. We need to make this little conference happen if only to find out what shenanigans those rascals are planning.”

Lady Saraliya finished her tea before she stood up to leave. All the men rose to their feet politely to see her out. “Hang onto your husband tightly, Henrietta; marry him again if you have to. He’s definitely one of the good ones,” she said. Henrietta smiled and nodded in agreement. “I’ll let you explain things to the nobles, father, but you can tell them that I approve of this plan. We need to find out exactly what Westlande is planning, and this conference may be the best way to do that.”

After Lady Saraliya left, Lord Cowen personally thanked everyone before the party broke up. “It may take a day or two to get the consensus of the nobles,” he began. “In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy your time in Maihama.”

“Thank you kindly, Lord Cowen, sir. I genuinely appreciate the hospitality,” Gideon said. “It’s my first time at the Palace of Eternal Ice, so I intend to make the most of it.”

Lord Cowen gave a silent nod before leaving the room. He was not one for many words. While some may see it as rude, it was simply his way. On the other hand, Isaac just took the opportunity to pour himself another drink.

“Well, that went as well as expected,” Isaac said before gulping down the liquid. “I thought your little sass of Lady Saraliya put a kibosh on the whole thing.”

“Yes, so did I,” Henrietta interjected. “You pulled out of that quite masterfully, Gideon.”

“Well, shucks, darlin’, it was easier than tracking an elephant in the snow,” he laughed it off. “Sometimes, you need to show people what will happen if they don’t act rather than if they do act. Attending these negotiations is no skin off their backs, but ignoring them could cost a lot of intel. They just needed to see that.”

“Yes, but now it’s up to Lord Cowen to get the nobles on board. All we can do is sit and wait,” Henrietta fumed. “I’ll contact Master Shiroe and tell him how things went.”

“If you got time, Gideon, I’d like you to come down to the training field and teach the Knights of Maihama about combat against sorcerers,” Isaac asked. “My Black Sword Knights have been focusing on their fighting skills, so a little training with a magic caster like you would help.”

“Sure, Isaac, I’d be happy to show them a few tricks to look out for,” Gideon happily exclaimed. He was itching for a chance to get out of these fancy Round Table clothes and into his leathers.

“Just don’t overdo it too much, Gideon. We still have a lot more ‘honeymoon’ left . . .” Henrietta left with a sly grin on her face. Gideon laughed at her little joke, but it confused Isaac.

* * *

Henrietta woke up from her slumber, reaching across the bed to curl up next to her husband to take away the chill of the night air, but he wasn’t there. His absence startled her awake as she sat up and looked around for him. She spied him across the room, sitting on the windowsill as he stared out across Maihama. The moonlight illuminated his muscular frame, deep in thought, sitting there in simple pajama pants. She got out of bed and pulled on her robe before saying anything.

“Gideon, are you alright?”

“Yeah, darlin’, sorry if I woke you,” he replied as he stared out the window.

“It’s fine, can’t you sleep? What time is it?”

“Oh, about two in the morning. Naw, I’m fine, just a lot on my mind.”

Henrietta sat down across from him, curious about what he was looking at. The palace and all of Maihama glowed in the moonlight. The eternal ice scattered around the castle, and the warm lights from the various buildings added to the sparkle. You could hear sounds of song and drink as the taverns were still active with customers.

“I know you’re worried about heading out to Minami, confronting Plant Hwyaden, but we’ll be alright. Even Westlande has to abide by the honors and courtesies concerning messengers.”

“Aw, that crazy bunch of wahoos doesn’t bother me, Henrietta,” Gideon answered, brushing off her concern. “To be honest, something happened today to make me see this world differently.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I was working with Isaac in training the knights of Maihama, I couldn’t believe how dedicated and driven those greenhorns were. This was just a game to us, and we were having fun, living it out; but for the People of the Land, it’s life or death. They aspire to be what we are, but to be honest, I would love to live the simple life that they do.

“Then I look out at this Palace of Eternal Ice,” he continued. “I’ve seen some amazing things since the Apocalypse . . . The Cathedral of Czar Romanov in Russia, The Gates of the Golden Dragons in Korea, and the Steps of Heaven’s Blessing in China. This world is so beautiful, seeing it here rather than through a computer monitor. I don’t think we realize how lucky we are to be here.”

His eloquent heartfelt words impressed Henrietta. She rarely heard Gideon speak this way. He was indeed coming into his own. The men of both worlds—the two she fell in love with—merged into one.

“Henrietta, let’s get married!” Gideon announced. His question surprised her as both peculiar and unnecessary.

“Gideon, darling, we are married, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“No, I mean to get married in this world. I never gave you the big wedding I promised you, and I think it would show everyone our commitment to each other and our life together in this world. I love you, darlin’, and I want to give you everything you deserve. Besides, it would be a first in Akiba.”

Henrietta considered everything he was saying. It would be nice to have the big wedding she’s always wanted, but it was also a lot of work and money, limiting things. Gideon could see her trepidations on the subject, so he appealed to her other side.

“Let me put it to you this way, darlin’. . . A big outdoor wedding under the White Tree. Now, picture Akatsuki and all the other cuties in Akiba lined up wearing bridesmaid’s dresses of your choosing!” That’s all he had to say, and Henrietta went crazy, thinking about all the adorable girls in ruffled dresses. In all the excitement, she nearly passed out. She hugged and kissed Gideon repeatedly, agreeing to his wedding proposal.

“Absolutely, yes, I will marry you! Anything to see my adorable little Akatsuki, Serara, and Minori in cute bridesmaid’s dresses. Oh, and Marielle as my maid of honor, will absolutely be thrilled. You could make Naotsugu your best man, oh, Marielle would love that too, and . . .”

“Whoa, hold your horses, darlin’. . . Let’s postpone planning things until we get back to Akiba,” Gideon said, bringing her back to her senses. “We can surprise everyone with our announcement once we return. For now, let’s focus on our mission.”

Henrietta saw the truth in his words and calmed down. She caressed his face as if she was falling in love with him again. “And here I thought you were just a prairie dog from Texas,” she joked. “You have such a kind heart, husband of mine. I am so glad you came back to me.”

She kissed him, a tender, loving kiss that flowed with the passion they shared for life, love, and each other. Gideon pulled her close and held onto her tightly, laying her head against his chest. “So am I, darlin’. . . so am I!”

* * *

It didn’t take long for the nobles to agree to the peace conference with Westlande. Knowing that Lady Saraliya was behind this meeting convinced them to support the proposal to hopefully hash out the differences between the two feuding territories within Yamato. Gideon and Henrietta took off on his giant eagle with the signed agreement in hand. They headed south, past the Titan Arsenal and around Mountain Kurama, to the adventurer’s city of Minami. Gideon landed far enough outside the city to not announce their arrival too soon. Plus, he didn’t want to give Indix and others in Plant Hwyaden a chance to prepare.

They walked a couple of miles until they reached the north gate into Minami. Both adventurers from Plant Hwyaden and Westlande knights manned the checkpoint, keeping tight security on both adventurers and People of the Land entering and leaving the city. Gideon looked around and didn’t see KR waiting for them like Shiroe said he would.

“Well, ain’t this is some bad juju,” Gideon remarked. “That rustler KR is nowhere to be seen. This could get a little dicey, Henrietta darlin’.”

“Well, let’s try simple diplomacy first,” she advised. “If that doesn’t work, we can always use the ‘call to home’ spell to take us back to Maihama.”

“Yeah, but that would extend our trip even longer. We could use the inter-city transport gate to enter Minami, but . . .”

“But they could be waiting for us there too,” Henrietta replied. “Like you say, Gideon, ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t.'”

“Hell’s Bells, darlin’, it’s unlike you to swear like a sailor on liberty,” Gideon joked.

“Well, that just shows you how serious this is,” Henrietta said. “Now, let me do the talking, okay?”

“I always do, honeybell. Remember to whistle up those bard incantations once we enter the city, just like I showed you.”

“You don’t need to repeat your instructions with me, Gideon, darling. You should know that I’m always one step ahead of you.”

Gideon tipped his hat, acknowledging her superior intuition, as they moved toward the checkpoint. The adventurers around the gate consisted of a guardian, assassin, a druid, and a summoner, overall level 60 or higher. The guardian, a wolf-fang in heavy plate armor smoking a cigar, held up his hand to stop them as they approached.

“And just who the hell are you people? I’ve never seen you here before,” he growled.

“We’re representatives of the Round Table Conference from Akiba with a message from the Freedom Cities of Eastal for Princess Nureha. If you please, we would like to . . .”

“Look, sweet cheeks, I don’t care who you are, but you don’t just waltz up here and demand to see Princess Nureha,” he interrupted, blowing smoke. “Now, why don’t you and your little cowboy get outa my face before I. . .”

Before he could say another word, the guardian was impaled with icicles on his feet, causing him to fall backward, grasping his bleeding extremities in pain. Gideon used his silent casting oral art to fire off his Icicle Impale spell before bringing his foot on the armored guardian’s chest and drawing one of his six-shooters. He made sure the wolf-fang saw the threat before he spoke.

“First off, hoss, you need to learn some manners. So, I expect you to apologize to my wife for blowing your nasty cigar smoke in her face and insulting her like you did,” Gideon began. “If you don’t, I will send your fat ass to the cathedral seven ways from Sunday and twice on Tuesday, understand?”

Henrietta shook her head in her hand. She appreciated her husband standing up for her, but not at the cost of this mission. The other adventurers at the gate got ready to fight until one of them finally recognized who they were dealing with. “Holy cow, that’s Gideon Hawkmoon, the sorcerer gunslinger from America! He’s here in Minami?”

Upon hearing his name, the other adventurers quaked with fear, but the wolf-fang guardian laughed at it. “I’d put away that peashooter, cowboy, unless you think you can take all of Plant Hwyaden yourself?” Gideon didn’t say a word. He just cocked the hammer on his gun and stuck it right between the eyes of the knight. His sly grin quickly disappeared.

“Do I look like I’m afraid of you? I ain’t afraid of a bunch of lily-livered cowards, especially with a bard as talented and beautiful as my wife by my side. On my way to Yamato, I took on 200 gnolls crossing the Mountain of the Monkey King on the China server with only a guardian and a healer in my party.”

Henrietta perked up when she heard Gideon say that, but she felt more relieved when she saw KR walking toward them. “If I were you, I wouldn’t even think about attacking Gideon,” KR said, interrupting the fiasco. “He has an itchy trigger finger and an oral art that can’t be beaten.”

“Well, looky here . . . If it ain’t my number five favorite summoner,” Gideon remarked, holstering his weapon and stepping off the massive guardian. “How you doin’, KR?”

“Much better than you, it seems. Not very smart attacking our gate guards as soon as you arrive in Minami,” KR replied. “And when did I drop to number five? I thought I was a solid number two?”

“You were, but I haven’t seen you since our Tea Party days, so things change,” Gideon explained. “And I didn’t start this little bunkhouse brawl. Your gate guards insulted Henrietta and weren’t expecting our arrival.”

KR glared at the wolf-fang guardian when he heard that revelation, but it was his dragon companion, Ga-Tan, who reacted. She looked like a little girl with flowing red hair, and dragon-fin ears, wearing a simple white dress. However, she was an ancient Garnet Dragon who liked to lash out at humans.

“Didn’t you idiots get the warning to be on the lookout for messengers from Akiba?” she screamed, kicking the wolf-fang guardian in the shin. It nearly broke his leg as he hopped around on one foot in pain. The other gate guards cowered behind him, afraid of KR’s tiny companion.

“We’re sorry! Please don’t hurt us!” they all shouted in unison, bowing their heads while begging for forgiveness.

“Now apologize!” Ga-Tan shouted, threatening to kick out his good leg.

“Sorry! I’m sorry, please forgive me!” the wolf-fang guardian said, hoping to avoid another assault from the little dragon girl.

“Sorry about that. Things can get jumbled in situations like this,” KR apologized. “It’s good to see you again, Gideon, although I must be losing my touch on information gathering. I had no idea you were married.” KR politely bowed to Henrietta.

“Well, we kept that out of the game until the Apocalypse happened. Henrietta, this is KR, one of my friends from the Debauchery Tea Party days. And you must be Ga-Tan. Nice to meet you, little lady!”

Ga-Tan smiled at Gideon as KR held out his hand to Henrietta, but she completely ignored him. She was instantly enamored with Ga-Tan as her cute and cuddly quirk quickly kicked in.

“Oh my God, you are the most adorable little dragon girl I have ever seen!” she screamed. Unlike some of the girls in Akiba, Ga-Tan smiled brightly. She appreciated and reveled in the adulation being heaped upon her. “What is this rag you’re wearing? It’s absolutely unbecoming for someone like you to be wearing a plain white dress!”

“That’s what I keep telling ‘Mr. Cheapskate’ over here, but he won’t get me anything else to wear!” Ga-Tan said, pointing to KR.

“You’re a dragon. What more do you need?” he countered before Henrietta pulled out an assortment of frilly, ruffled dresses from her magic bag. She always carried a few with her, just for emergencies like this.

“Oh, that will not do! Here, try one of these on for size. They will look absolutely stunning on you!” Ga-Tan loved the dresses as Henrietta helped her try them on. KR looked befuddled at Gideon over what was transpiring with his dragon companion.

“Gideon, what’s going on? What is your wife doing to Ga-Tan?”

“I wouldn’t fret over it if I were you, KR. It’s times like this that I just let Henrietta do her thing. You know the old saying . . . ‘Happy wife, happy life!'”

Ga-Tan finished changing, and Henrietta showed her off, now wearing a pink princess-style dress with white ruffles, complete with a big bow in her hair. The other adventurers gathered about “oohed and ahhed” at the new and improved Ga-Tan. KR just hung his head in shame, embarrassed by his frilly dragon companion. Gideon chuckled under his breath before patting his friend on the shoulder.

“Why don’t we head in now, KR, before this gets worse,” Gideon said sarcastically. KR simply nodded his head before leading them inside the city walls. As the group made their way through the city, they definitely turned some heads—both Gideon in all his western regalia and Ga-Tan in her poofy pink dress. KR could only groan in embarrassment at the comments about his dragon companion looking like a miniature pageant queen. Gideon could see his friend suffering, and he enjoyed it a little bit, but the sights around Minami disturbed him even more.

It seemed like a military state rather than an adventurer’s city to Gideon. The fun and laughter that filled Akiba were not present here as if the joy of life had been removed for order and discipline. It was not what Gideon expected of people like KR and Kazuhiko to be involved with this place.

“I can’t believe you’re wrapped up in these shenanigans, KR. It’s not like you to go over to the dark side,” Gideon remarked.

“It’s not as bad as you think,” KR responded. “We maintain order and ask for a little obedience and cooperation. Is that bad?”

“It is when you sacrifice freedom for security. Look, partner, I’m from the place where freedom is a guaranteed right, endowed by our creator, for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Sorry, but I just don’t buy it.”

“Then why are you here, agreeing to these peace negotiations?” KR asked with a sly grin. He was trying to get under Gideon’s skin and doing an excellent job. Still, the sorcerer gunslinger was having none of it.

“I declare, KR, you wouldn’t have enough power to blow your nose if your brains were dynamite,” Gideon lashed out. “To quote the great John Lennon, I’m here to ‘give peace a chance, but if I find out your little Ten Seat Council is up to no good . . .”

He drew one of his guns and cocked it. “Well then, to quote the legendary John Wayne, ‘a gun that’s unloaded and cocked ain’t good for nothing.'” He lowered the hammer before twirling the gun and slung it back into his holster. KR swallowed hard once he realized why Shiroe sent Gideon on this mission. In many respects, he was a lot like Shiroe—bright, looked at the big picture, and not easily manipulated—but Gideon had the firepower to back that up.

“Unless you want the Royal Guard sending your sorry ass to the cathedral, I suggest you keep your weapons holstered, cowboy,” Kazuhiko said. He slowly approached Gideon with two other members of the Wolves of Mibu.

“Well, look who’s got a bee in his bonnet, airin’ his lungs like a flannel mouth hazin’ a tenderfoot,” Gideon insulted. He walked over and got right in Kazuhiko’s face. The assassin stared at him in the eye, not intimidated by the sorcerer gunslinger. Everyone held their breath at this confrontation on the streets of Minami.

“I hope you didn’t come here empty-handed,” Kazuhiko warned. “That would be seriously detrimental to your well-being.”

“Come on, Kazuhiko, you know I am never empty-handed,” Gideon replied before he pulled out a bottle of whiskey from his saddlebag. Kazuhiko looked at the bottle carefully.

“Kentucky Bourbon?”

“Is there any better?” Gideon handed the bottle to Kazuhiko before the assassin took his hand in friendship and smiled. “It’s good to see you, Kazuhiko!”

“You too, Gideon, you too . . .” Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as the two friends started laughing and exchanging pleasantries, especially Henrietta, who feared the worst. Kazuhiko looked over at her and gave a polite bow. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Henrietta. Gideon’s told me a lot about you, and you are definitely everything I expected and more.”

Henrietta smiled at the courteous respect coming from the elite assassin of Plant Hwyaden. “Thank you, Master Kazuhiko,” she replied, bowing politely. “Unfortunately, Gideon has told me very little about you or your friendship.”

“There’s not much to tell, darlin’. . . It involves an appreciation for fine whiskey and baseball,” Gideon replied with a pat on the back. “Last time Kazuhiko and I ran into each other was when the Texas Rangers were playing the Hanshin Tigers in an exhibition game.”

“And if I remember correctly, the Tigers beat them handily 6-to-3,” Kazuhiko reminded Gideon.

“You know as well as I do that exhibition games are stage follies for the fans,” Gideon snapped back. Gideon seemed closer to Kazuhiko than he was toward Naotsugu. As the two argued semantics, Henrietta could see why these two men were such good friends.

“I hate to break up the reunion, but we’re expected upstairs,” KR reminded them. The two finished their squabble to move back toward their destination, but not before Kazuhiko noticed Ga-Tan in a frilly new dress. He wanted to laugh but was reserved.

“Nice dress, Ga-Tan. KR must be going all out to keep you happy.” Kazuhiko’s comments made the little dragon girl smile as she twirled about in her new dress. On the other hand, KR hung his head in shame at the continued humiliation.

* * *

The members of the Ten Seat Council waited patiently for the arrival of their guests from Akiba, but their patience grew thin. They gathered in the council chamber as soon as KR informed them the messengers had arrived thirty minutes ago. They even sent Kazuhiko to find out what was delaying them, but he had yet to return.

Indix impatiently looked at the tiny watch that hung from a chain around her neck. She wanted to get this over as quickly as possible, but their lack of punctuality earned them her ire. Indix would make sure they understood that before they left Minami.

It also irked her that KR didn’t tell them who these messengers were. Was it Shiroe or someone else from the Round Table Conference? The lack of information was troublesome for the second seat on the Ten Seat Council.

“What is taking them so long?” Mizufa Trude complained. The red-haired warlord strummed her fingers impatiently across the arm of her chair. She was itching for a fight, and these messengers would soon face her wrath if they kept her waiting any longer. “I don’t give a damn about these negotiations. It’s a waste of time.”

“Calm down, Mizufa. The princess and the senate agreed to broach these negotiations with Eastal. We will follow her orders,” Roreil Dawn said in his soft-spoken voice. The cleric was the Captain of the Royal Guard in Minami and one of the few nobles from the People of the Land in Plant Hwyadenn. He was loyal as the day was long, but solely to Princess Nureha.

“I agree with Mizufa on this. It does seem like a waste of our time,” Nakarunado exclaimed. The large wolf-fang guardian and former guildmaster of Howling commanded Plant Hwyaden’s army. In contrast, Mizufa Trude commanded the Army of Westlande. Both of them preferred fighting over talking. “Let’s fight it out and let the battle decide the ruler of Yamato.”

“It’s not that simple, Nakarunado,” Indix interjected. “There are too many variables for a simple fight. We must apply caution for the time being. These ‘talks’ will allow us to gain further insight into the relationship between the Round Table Alliance and Eastal. I doubt it runs as deep as the bond between Westlande and Plant Hwyaden.”

“You can be sure of that,” Zeldys proclaimed. The Ritian cleric was fond of strategy and saw the upcoming conference as a bold move by Princess Nureha. “Still, one has to wonder what, if these representatives of the Round Table will be up to our standards in Plant Hwyaden.”

“I assure you, Zeldys, that these low-life adventurers from Akiba are no match for anyone on the Ten Seat Council or Plant Hwyaden,” Indix replied.

“Oh, I beg to differ, Indix. From where I’m standin’, you’re just a mudsill dragging a yellowbelly into the daylight,” Gideon interrupted as he stepped into the room. The council chamber went quiet except for the click of spurs on the floor as the sorcerer gunslinger walked in with Henrietta. His presence quickly enraged Indix, his southern twang like nails on a chalkboard to the usually reserved second seat of the Ten Seat Council.

Indix rushed Gideon, drawing one of her silver knives as she aimed for his throat. Her advance halted when Henrietta stepped in front of her husband with an arrow nocked in her compound bow. Indix stopped in her tracks as she stared down the length of the shaft as a perturbed Henrietta glared back at her.

“Now, Indix, is that any way to greet an old friend?” Gideon joked, which angered her even more. Henrietta, on the other hand, was more diplomatic about the situation.

“Is this how the Ten Seat Council treats royal messengers, or would you rather we go over your heads directly to the Westlande Senate?” Henrietta questioned, keeping the draw tight on her bowstring. Indix snarled, realizing she had no choice but to back off. As she stepped away, Henrietta lowered her bow. Gideon stood there and smiled through the entire exchange.

“Hiding behind women will not enhance your already deplorable reputation, Gideon,” Indix remarked. Gideon scoffed at the insinuation.

“First off, Indix, my reputation is as clean as a Baptist preacher at revival,” he began. “Second, I am not hiding behind anyone. Henrietta is just a little overprotective of me. Wives are funny that way.”

“Wife? Really?” Indix replied, shocked like some of the others in the chamber. “I’m surprised that you found someone to put up with your outrageous behavior. Still, I guess even cheaters need love.”

“Gideon is not a cheater!” Henrietta insisted. “He understood the system and used it to his advantage as a player, nothing more.”

“Exactly, a cheater . . .”

“See, there you go again with your rambling balderdash about me cheating,” Gideon retorted. “Why don’t you ask Quon there about it. He officiated many of those disputes you refer to as ‘cheatin’ in my favor when he was a gamemaster. Ain’t that right, Quon?”

Quon slowly stirred from his peaceful rest to the stares of the entire room bearing down on him. “Look, don’t drag me into this. That was long ago, and my bosses approved all my decisions.”

“Look, I’m not here to be a hellion in the stew. Indix has had a burr up her girdle about me since our Tea Party days . . .” Gideon began until Indix abruptly interrupted him.

“You were never part of the Debauchery Tea Party!” she shouted.

“No, I was not an ‘official’ member,” Gideon replied using air quotes. “But I remember someone needing my help on the Island of Sleeping Times.”

“Kanami asked you to join in that raid when Yuko couldn’t make it, not me,” Indix interjected.

“Do you really want to keep rehashing the past, Indix?” Kazuhiko inquired. “Gideon is here for a reason, so let’s get on with it.”

“I actually have a couple of questions for Gideon Hawkmoon,” Princess Nureha said as she finally entered the chamber. She sauntered up to Gideon, swaying seductively as she stepped into him. Henrietta didn’t appreciate how close and intimate Nureha was to her husband. Still, she tolerated it for the sake of this mission. Indix gruffed at the situation but relented, just to Gideon out of Minami as quickly as possible.

“First, why did Shiroe choose you to deliver this message? Intimidation, perhaps?”

“Not really. I doubt anyone here would find themselves intimidated by little ole me,” Gideon confessed. “It was more of a mutual understanding to clear any doubts about the true intent of this conference.”

“So, you have your doubts, or does Shiroe?” Nureha queried as she continued to circle Gideon.

“Well, you see, princess, my pappy always told me to keep skunks, lawyers, and bankers at a distance,” Gideon said, confusing and insulting some of those in the room. “But honestly, I wanted to see things for myself . . . what’s going on in Minami. I mean, ya’ll be actin’ like someone stole your rudder. I’m curious as to whether that’s intentional or plain reckless.”

“I see . . . And have you reached a conclusion?”

“Not yet, but from what I’ve seen so far, you can keep your little paradise to yourselves. This place is creepier than a buzzard on a hearse,” Gideon extolled. “I’m a firm believer in freedom, which people in Minami seem to have very little of.”

“People are free to do whatever they want, as long as it benefits the rest of Plant Hwyaden,” Nureha added. “Perhaps I can change your mind with a little wager.”

“Oh, what do you have in mind, princess?”

“You’re the number one PvP in all of Elder Tales, so let’s see if you live up to your reputation,” Nureha said. “I want to see you fight one of the Ten Seat Council. If you win the match, I’ll accept these negotiations without any reservations or conditions.”

“And if your person beats me?”

Nureha laughed as she leaned into Gideon, dragging her delicate fingers across his lips. “Then you will agree to join Plant Hwyaden,” she said. Her proposal shocked everyone, especially Indix and Henrietta, who both shouted simultaneously.

“Absolutely not!”

It was Gideon’s turn to laugh under his breath at the leader of Plant Hwyaden. “I’ve got to say, Nureha, you’re a pistol-packin’ petticoat, ain’tcha?”

“How dare you speak to the princess that way!” Roreil Dawn angrily shouted as he leaped to his feet to defend his guildmaster.

“Cool your jets, hoss. That was a compliment to the princess,” Gideon explained. “She’s not the pampered priss I thought her to be. You’ve got fire water running through your veins, Your Highness.”

“So, do you accept my challenge?” Gideon thought about it for a moment. He knew it was a ploy to trap him into joining Plant Hwyaden, and Shiroe would have his head if he lost. So, Gideon knew he couldn’t lose.

“Alright, Princess Nureha, I accept. So, who will it be? Indix? Kazuhiko?”

“No,” Mizufa Trude said confidently as she stood up. “That task is mine, adventurer!” Gideon sized her up, remembering what Chief Nyanta told him about his fight with the warlord general during Operation Red Night. For one of the People of the Land, she was a formidable fighter, capable of holding her own against any adventurer. Gideon smiled at the challenge.

“Okay, Red, I accept!”

* * *

Stay tuned for the next chapter in the Log Horizon fan fiction, The Gunslinger vs. The Warlord, to see the Gideon Hawkmoon’s fate in Yamato. And you can catch up on the entire story on my Fan Fiction page.

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 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.