AN: Sorry for the long wait. Sheer laziness and school had stalled my motivation for quite a while. However, a newly found amount of free time on my hands and the surprising amount of support for this story has allowed me to write this chapter, so I apologize in advance to keep you all waiting. Again, I thank you all for taking the time out of your day to read my story, and I hope you have a wonderful day.

Disclaimer: I do not own any Halo or Gate - Jietal Kare no Chi nite, Kaku Tatakeri content. They belong to their respective owners.

The Rising Autumn

Chapter 4: The Koan Forest

Location: Unknown

Date: [September 19, 2552] [05:00 UNSC Standard time]

The Master Chief's honed instincts and years of training screamed at him, causing him to tighten the grip on his MA5B Assault rifle. He couldn't help but feel like he was being watched, ignoring the sound his boots leaving noticeable imprints on the ground with each step.

The Spartan and Fire Team Charlie, consisting of nearly twenty five veteran Marines, hiked through the forest in a rather uneventful fashion. Aside from a few stray animals, nothing noteworthy had come to encounter them, and, for the most part, it put the Chief rather on edge.

Nearly three hours had past, and the recon team continued to journey towards their destination. Within the small group, the Marines had begun to show signs of discomfort and fatigue from the non-stop walking. The only thing keeping them from complaining outright was their fierce discipline — and the subconscious fear of being aggressively chewed out by the legendary mouth of their commanding officer.

Eventually, the aforementioned Staff Sergeant noticed his subordinates' slower pace, stopping the group at a large clearing and facing his fellow soldiers. The Marines eagerly stopped, as well as the stoic Spartan accompanying them.

"We'll stop here for now. Bisenti, Riley, and Dubbo, you take watch," He ordered.

The mentioned Marines nodded, bringing their weapons to bear and taking their respective posts by the edges of the clearing. Johnson turned to the remaining members of his team.

"The rest of you, take a breather. We'll head out in twenty minutes."

The soldiers began to settle in the clearing, taking off their gear and stretching numerous stiff muscles. All of them gathered in a loose semi-circle around the clearing, to take up the immense space available and to watch each other's backs in case of a surprise attack.

One Marine, PFC Jenkins, sat down within a short distance away from the tree lines and took off his helmet. Running a hand through his sweaty auburn hair, he stretched an especially sore spot and sighed heavily as a wave of warm relief flowed through his shoulders. He felt an elbow jab into his side, and the annoyed Marine glanced to see his comrade, Private Mendoza, joining him and giving a friendly smirk.

"Hey man, what do you think about our resident Spartan?" He asked, causing Jenkins to blink.

"The Chief?" The two soldiers glance at the Spartan, who was standing near the group in a disturbingly immobile manner. The still posture made them shiver in slight awe and nervousness.

Jenkins shook his head, "I don't really know, but for what it's worth, I'm glad he's with us. With him here, we would be better off in the long run."

He thought his own opinion to be rather biased, in all honesty. Ever since Harvest, he had faced the Covenant on many different occasions — and on many he didn't fathom mentioning, death had nearly confronted him in the face. Had it not been for the Master Chief and his own stroke of luck, he would have certainly died long ago. He didn't have the chance to thank the Chief for saving his life, and he really did want to, but the Spartan was known to be extremely asocial.

In this situation, Jenkins didn't think it was appropriate to say anything nor did he have the courage to speak to someone who likely would rebuke him. However, the Marine still felt obligated, and he vowed to somehow find a way to make it up to the Chief, one way or another.

Beside him, Mendoza frowned but nodded in agreement, "Yeah, but what does that speak of our mission? What are we even supposed to be doing here?"

"We're following orders, Mendoza," Jenkins commented with a stern look. He had an idea of where this was going, "if the Captain felt like it's important to send us and the Chief down here, then by all means, it's probably important."

Mendoza nearly snorted, "Important? Here? We should be out there fighting Covies, instead of hiking on some backwater planet in the middle of nowhere."

Jenkins eyed him with curiosity and said nothing, while Mendoza looked down in thought.

"Back on Reach," The Private's hands balled into tight fists, "I had family, and they were all taken away from me in New Alexandria. Man, they didn't even have the chance to evacuate when the damn Covenant ships appeared over the city." The Marine's expression hardened by the memory, and he slightly gritted his teeth.

"Don't you see?" The sheer sadness in his comrade's eyes nearly took Jenkins aback, "what good are we if we're not even fighting to protect our fellow man? For those who can't even fight back?"

"My family, all of them, are dead, because I wasn't even there to help them in their time of need!" He nearly shouted.

A heavy silence overcame them, and Jenkins couldn't think of anything to say to the Marine at first. The conversation had just turned unexpectedly. Although, he had the good grace to give Mendoza a sympathetic look. Maybe he had been too harsh on him, especially from what his comrade had just revealed to him, "I'm sorry for your loss, man. I didn't know."

Mendoza let out a mirthless chuckle, "Not your fault, brother. I was overacting, anyway. We all have lost family in some way or another."

"That's true," Jenkins sighed sadly. He, and mostly everyone onboard the Pillar of Autumn, was unfortunately no exception to that rule. It was a common occurrence for those who had an encounter with the Covenant, "mine's was killed back on Harvest when the Covenant first invaded."

Jenkins decided to change the subject, "I was in the Colonial Militia at the time, First Platoon. My folks wanted me to become a farmer, but I wanted to do more, so I joined. Sergeant was there, too."

"No freaking way! The Sarge?" His fellow Marine widened his eyes at the unexpected news.

Jenkins hadn't told Mendoza, or anyone in his Fire Team except for the Staff Sergeant, about his past. He felt no reason to, as everyone in the unit trusted each other enough to keep their own secrets, but there would eventually be a time where he had to tell them sooner or later.

"Hell yeah," The PFC gazed in a reminiscent manner.

"He was the leader of my platoon, and he'd always chewed me out during combat training and exercises. Before the battle, there had been many times where I thought I wouldn't have been able to pull my weight."

He smiled, "I've never felt so useless in my life, but it was because of the Sarge that I was able to become who I am right now. It was hard, but I never regretted every single moment of the crap I went through."

A voice cut into their conversation, "He was a real pain in the ass at first, but in the end, he made good Marine Corps material,"

Both soldiers spun around in astonishment to see Staff Sergeant Johnson, standing behind them with an amicable smirk on his face.

"He was quick on his feet during live exercises, and became one of the most skilled sharpshooter out of the whole Harvest militia," Johnson gave the PFC a good-natured grin, "quite sharp and talented for a freshly trained greenhorn."

Jenkins and Mendoza quickly stood up and gave their CO a crisp salute, "Sarge!"

Johnson chucked amusingly, "At ease, men. We're on a break, so quit the act." He dismissed them, and the two lowered their arms in confusion.

The Staff Sergeant looked at Jenkins, "Son, regardless of what you thought of me beforehand, I saw potential within you. When you proved yourself in that time when we first fought the Covies, I saw a real soldier, not an inexperienced recruit."

He put a hand on the PFC'S shoulder and squeezed tightly.

"You did me proud, son. Keep it up, and the alien bastards will know true fear in the face of us, Marines!"

Jenkins was caught off guard by the rare compliment, and he couldn't help but grin widely, "Ooh-rah, Sarge."

"And Mendoza," The Private stood straighter as Johnson's eyes bore into him, "we are fighting. Just not in the way you're expecting. Trust me, the Covenant will pay dearly for their troubles."

After his conversation with Jenkins, Mendoza didn't have much to say, much less an actual retort to back up. However, he did crack a small smile, "Crystal clear, Sir."

The Staff Sergeant nodded at his two subordinates, "Good. Make the most out of your break, then, because we'll be heading out soon."

"Yes, Sarge!" Jenkins and Mendoza responded in kind, giving off another brief salute.

However, the former did have burning question forming at the back of his mind, and he began to snicker lightly.

"Hey, Sarge. Did you ever get to bang that ONI spook back on Harvest?"

Johnson nearly sputtered in surprise, while Mendoza quietly chuckled at his CO's expense, and causing the Staff Sergeant's mustache to scrunch up with his scowl. "Careful with that tongue of yours, Jenkins, or I'll make you run laps in full gear back on the Autumn."

The two Marines bursted out in laughter, with the slightly bashful Johnson glaring at them briefly before joining them as well. With the stress that had come from Reach, it was nice to have some of that burden lifted off, even if it was by a small margin. Humanity will never know true peace, until the Covenant no longer become a threat to them.

It was a far, almost futile, goal, but it was still there, hanging by a tree's branch like a juicy apple waiting to be plucked. Jenkins hoped for that day to become possible, and equally hoped to live see the day happen with his own eyes.

Once the three had eventually stopped their chuckling, Jenkins turned around to grab his helmet from the ground.

Instead, he found himself nearly colliding with a soft bundle of blonde hair, with elegant teal blue eyes that curiously stared into his own. The orbs were so alluring, almost entrancing, that Jenkins had briefly forgotten to breathe, looking down at the stranger before him. Caught off guard, he could faintly hear Johnson and Mendoza both shout in surprise, quickly bringing their respective weapons to bear. The face, delicate and practically inhuman, tilting to the side in a combination of puzzlement and wonder.

Then, in one moment, a dainty hand reached up to lightly brush the chest plating of his Marine BDU — with a warm smile soon following afterward.

The Master Chief stood a good distance away, watching the members of Fire Team Charlie animatedly interact with each other. He observed how they would bring up a number of topics unfamiliar to him, the usual talks of family back home or getting laid by a hot woman, and he noticed several others hungrily chowing down on standard UNSC rations.

The Spartan approvingly noted how the more senior members of the team took the time to dissemble and clean their weapons, or made sure their gear wasn't compromised. On the other hand, some basked in the peacefully serene air of the forest around them, and he had overheard two of them briefly talk about him before switching over to another topic. Nonetheless, the amount of interaction happening in front of him made the usually anti-social Spartan rather uncomfortable. It felt almost alien to him.

However, there was also the issue concerning his everlasting feeling of being watched, and the Spartan became ever slightly rigid as he double-checked the tree lines surrounding them.

"Something wrong, Chief?" Cortana's voice questioned through his helmet's internal speakers. Her tone bled genuine concern and worry, something he didn't thought was typical for an AI of her kind. Then again, Cortana was created from the flash-clond brain of Dr. Halsey, so his surprise became less incredulous when he shook his head in dismissal.

"Nothing," He denied quickly. The Spartan could hear Cortana pout in annoyance.

"I may not be a human, but I'm a good judge of character to know something is bothering you," She crossed her arms, "so please, tell me. We're partners — and partners look out for each other, remember?"

The Chief sighed, remaining silent for a moment. She had a good point, and he didn't have any other reason to back up a retort. To argue with her, an advanced AI, would be a pointless gesture.

"Something is wrong," The Spartan finally conceded, "my motion tracker shows no contacts, but my instincts tell me otherwise. I feel like someone is watching me."

Which was, from his point of view, valid reasoning considering numerous occasions that had happened in the past. The man made the soldier, not his gear, and from what his mentor, Chief Mendez, had taught him during the first years of training, equipment was especially prone to fail during even the heat of combat.

Kurt, a close comrade and friend, had his thruster pack malfunction during an EVA mission on a construction platform. He spun into the blackness of space, the lack of gravity overtaking him and never to be seen by anyone else ever again. Afterward, he was declared an ironic MIA as a result.

The experience had nearly overwhelmed the Master Chief with guilt and sadness, but it had taught him better than to just rely solely on his own gear. He was not willingly to repeat the same mistake.

The Chief continued his watch, eyes akin to that of a leery hawk. His AI companion merely watched him from within his helmet, giving the Spartan a disapproving frown.

"I understand your concern, John," Cortana said softly, "but as far as I'm concerned, we're in no real danger. There haven't been any other life forms we've encountered besides the wildlife, and the Covenant is light years away from where we are, none the wiser."

The Chief didn't respond, and the AI took it as a sign to continue, "Besides, take this chance to relax for a moment. Loosen up a bit. You've been fighting for almost your entire life,"

"I'll relax when I'm dead."

Cortana sighed, "That's my point, John. You're a human, not a machine."

The Spartan thought the statement ironic, coming from an AI, "I have a duty to humanity, Cortana. Regardless of my health, I'll continue to fight even if it kills me in the end."

"I'm not talking about your physical health, you dense barbarian," She closed her eyes and gave a weak smile, "at least think about what I'm asking. I don't want my favorite caveman to stumble and fall because he couldn't stop for a quick break. There's two of us in here, remember?"

A faintly small smile graced the Spartan's mouth for a moment, "I'll consider it."

The two shared a brief period of mutual silence before the Chief decided to pass the time by patrolling the clearing with the guarding marines. He let the Staff Sergeant know of his intentions, and the Marine gave him a thumbs up in response. With his MA5B in hand and secondary M6D safely locked onto his magnetic holster, the Spartan joined the soldiers near the edge of the clearing.

The first fifteen minutes of his patrol went unsurprisingly inconclusive, but a sudden crack of static from his helmet's comm system made him shortly pause on his stroll.

"Cortana, this is Pillar of Autumn actual. Do you read?" Keyes's gruff voice rang through.

The Chief heard Cortana respond immediately, "I read you, Captain Keyes. What's the situation?"

"Busy, so far. Ground forces are getting ready to support your team within a few hours. Has your team reached the energy signatures, yet?" Even through the connection, the two could hear the subtle tiredness in the Captain's voice.

Cortana shook her head, "Negative, but we should be a few clicks away, and our team is ready to head out within a few minutes,"

"Good. Master Chief," The Spartan instinctively straightened his posture, "Sir,"

"Foe Hammer should be returning with more supplies for you and Fire Team Charlie within the hour. In the meantime, continue with your mission."

Keyes's tone became unreadable, "If there is an event where you find yourself and your team's safety in extreme jeopardy, pull out immediately. I don't want anymore good men dying on my watch."

The Chief nodded respectively, "Understood, Captain."

"Then good luck, Spartan. Keep Cortana safe."

The connection then cut out, and the Chief was silently left to his own devices. They only had a few more hours until the main task force arrived, and Foe Hammer should arrive in an hour with more equipment and firepower, if need be. Within five more minutes of their break left, this left them an entire hour to complete their mission, and hold off there until more support can arrive and reinforce them. Good, that meant they can maintain a fairly stable presence on the ground, and hopefully allow Cortana to work her research on the energy signatures in the meantime. Everything should be going as planned.

"Uh, Chief," Cortana interrupted suddenly.

Speak of the devil.

Confused, the Spartan stopped and frowned under his helmet, "Yes, Cortana?"

"The energy signatures," She hesitated for a brief moment, "they're moving."

His blood suddenly became freezing cold, and he felt a feeling of slight dread wash over him. "Where?"

The three Marines accompanying him stared in bewilderment, confused by his rigid, motionless state. A few seconds of silence had past, an unusually long time for an AI to respond, and when she did, her usual sassy demeanor was replaced by a more alarmed state.

"They're closing on Fire Team Charlie's position, and in a really fast rate. ETA: one minute."

The Spartan nearly clenched his teeth, and at the same time, a brief crackle of static came from his helmet's comm system. Sergeant Johnson's voice came through.

"Chief, come in, over," The sergeant's usually gruff voice had a noticeable amount of caution in it, and caused the Chief to narrow his eyes slightly.

"What is it, Staff Sergeant?" He asked.

"There's a situation over at the clearing. We need you over here, ASAP."

The Spartan's mouth settled into a grim line, "Understood."

He turned to the Marines, "You three," causing them to snap into attention, "we're heading back."

One of the Marines, Private Bisenti, nodded to him, "Yes, Sir!"

The four quickly turned tail into the opposite direction, and the Spartan felt a brief moment of premonition as they began to run back to the camp. Their mission had just suddenly become more interesting. Within a quarter of a minute, the Master Chief and the three Marines arrived back to the massive clearing, and he could clearly see there was some sort of obvious commotion happening.

The Marines of Fire Team Charlie, most without their gear even equipped, stood at a safe distance away from something by the tree lines. They all erred on the side of caution, pointing their various weapons at whatever had startled them with close scrutiny. An air of tenseness permitted the air, in contrast with the vibrant atmosphere of the forest around them.

Behind the Spartan, the three soldiers that had accompanied him walked up to join their comrades, while Staff Sergeant Johnson backed up away slowly from the Marines. He sighed in relief as he turned to face the Master Chief.

"Thank goodness you're here, Chief."

The Spartan gave Johnson a confused tilt of his helmet, "What's going on, Staff Sergeant?"

The senior Marine shook his head, "See for yourself." and pointed to the center of the commotion.

Using his superior size and and the Mark V's advanced tracking system, the Chief peered over the Marines, and looked to where the Staff Sergeant had directed him to. His golden visor stopped at the middle of the disturbance. Almost immediately, the sight he saw made him slightly open his mouth behind his helmet in a rare show of surprise, and his eyes began to widened by a minuscule fraction.

However, none of the people present were more shocked than Cortana, who had a look that absolutely screamed excitement. His AI companion had an expression of pure scientific interest, which he quietly noted almost made her look nearly identical to a younger Dr. Halsey.

"Oh my god," She gawked in surprise.

Standing in front of the group was a teenage girl, a human looking one that caused the Spartan to narrow his eyes in suspicion. Light blonde hair swept past her shoulders, and her teal eyes held a tone of airy curiosity that looked rather innocent. She wore a leafy verdant dress, which seemed to flawlessly blend in with the forest like a natural form of camouflage, with loose sleeves that went barely past her elbows. Equally green leg coverings wrapped around her thighs, moving up to her knees, and supplemented by a pair of brown sandals that looked to be made up of a soft wooden material.

Strapped on her back was a primitive bow, carved with rather intricate markings, and a quiver filled with an assortment of sharp arrows. A red scarf hung around her neck unconstrained, and the girl's acute face held a stunning youth that smoothly complemented her age.

However, the shock of the recon group was not caused by her clothes or her human features, but from the pair of her ears, pointed ears, that subtly twitched from the sides of her tilted head.

From behind the Marines, the Master Chief slowly sauntered to the girl, carefully raising his MA5B. To the naked eye, the girl appeared perfectly human, with the exception of the ears, and in a different circumstance, the gathered soldiers wouldn't had acted so hostile. However, this girl, whoever she was, was clearly not human, and somehow managed to sneak into the camp without alerting him or the Marines. That raised multiple red flags in his mind — and he became ever so slightly tense as the barrel of his assault rifle was aimed at the head of the intruder.

The pointy eared girl, on the other hand, didn't seem bothered by his presence. Instead, she had all of her concentration on one Marine, his IFF tag reading as PFC Wallace Jenkins, with the poor soldier looking unsure of what to do. In his gloved hands was a M392 DMR, pointed at her in an obvious show of conflict. The Marine stood very still, as if he was afraid of waking up a pack of sleeping wolves, while his target gazed at the firearm in an unperturbed, inquisitive manner.

The contrast between the two's behavior would have been amusing to the onlookers, had not the situation become so serious. The Marine took a small step backward, causing the girl to take a step forward, right next to Jenkins' dropped helmet. Immediately, the recon group raised their weapons even higher in alarm.

"Is this a Covie trick?!"

"Does she look like a Split Lip to you, dumbass?"

"I don't know, man. She looks pretty human to me, aside from the ears."

The Master Chief, in comparison to the Marines, was more refined with his words, "Cortana, is that what I think it is?"

From within the Spartan's Mjolnir armor, Cortana examined the girl with the precision of a microscope. The AI crossed her arms, shaking her head with no small amount of amazement, "An Elf, an honest-to-god Elf."

The Chief frowned, "I thought Elves were supposed to be a myth."

"Thirty years ago, the idea of aliens would have been considered a myth, too," Cortana retorted with a chuckle, "it's no surprise that everything we proved as false and fairy tale will eventually be thrown right into our faces, in the flesh even. I just hope it won't be worth any more lives, though."

The Spartan couldn't agree with her more. Concerning the Elven girl herself, she was still a foreign entity, with unknown capabilities that could be a potential threat to himself and the recon team. Her bow and arrows reinforced his point, although she didn't make any hostile attempt, and the Chief didn't want to start a conflict because of something he did not understand.

If anything else, they were the trespassers, antagonizing an innocent native that did nothing particular wrong, other than her acting on her own quaint curiosity. For the briefest moment, the Master Chief had no idea what to do.

Fortunately for the Spartan, fate had decided to take action for him.

"Uh, Chief? Do you remember the energy signatures from earlier?" Cortana asked suddenly, and the Chief nodded back in confusion, "I'm detecting the same signature from within the girl, but just on a slightly different level. Nonetheless, it's the same — she's one of them, John."

The Spartan thought about what Cortana had just told him. If the Elven girl was just 'one' of the energy signatures they were set out to look for, then the rest of them heading towards their camp were—

"Shit!" One Marine yelled out, "Multiple contacts, inbound. Crap, they're everywhere!"

Having been sitting idle and clean for the past few hours, the Spartan's built-in motion tracker had unexpectedly blared to life. Advanced sensors that were designed to detect targets from up to twenty-five meters began to become chokingly filled with small dots, and the Spartan could see from his HUD that the number continued to grow steadily higher. Eventually, the individual dots became a massive grey sea of contacts, surrounding the central dot that represented his person.

Shouts of gibberish and faintly familiar words reached his ears, and the Chief turned around to see a mass of contacts encircling him and Fire Team Charlie. A literal army of Elves, male and some female, began to spread out in a loose formation around the small UNSC group, and drew out their bows to prepare a volley of arrows, nocking their projectiles. Likewise, Fire Team Charlie responded by shifting their aim from the now forgotten Elven girl, to her entrapping brethren with an array of MA5Bs, BR55s, and DMRs.

It was clear that the Elven force had the humans entirely outnumbered, but both sides stood their ground, unflinching and resolute. Sharp eyes glaring at the recon team, the Elves kept their bows raised and shifted on their feet, while the Marines similarly kept their fingers on the triggers, letting out short and controlled breaths. A tense stand-off ensued, neither side willing to let out the first shot.

The Master Chief relocated quietly, positioning himself in front of the recon group with his MA5B raised. If the Elves somehow fired first, then his armor's energy shielding can take the brunt of the arrows, while the Marines fire back with a volley of retaliative fire and take them down before they could react. However, the Spartan hoped it wouldn't have to come to that. Unlike the Covenant, the Elves appear to be reasonable people, and hopefully with a few peaceful gestures, they can be pacified before a full blown conflict can erupt.

Something had to be done.

By then, the Elves had noticed his presence, and they began to whisper among themselves. The Spartan could feel dozens of eyes bore into him, some in slight awe and caution at his massive armored stature, but he idly ignored them.

He didn't ignore, however, the Elven girl that stood by Fire Team Charlie. From the corner of his visor, he could see her watching the scene unfold in a mixture of both horror and dismay. Clearly, she felt like she was responsible for the whole ordeal, and the Chief saw the Elf's eyes steel to a degree that actually impressed him.

She began to stride over to the middle of the stand-off, standing right next to the Spartan and positioned herself in-between the two opposing forces. The girl was possibly putting herself in grave danger by doing so, but it allowed the humans much ample breathing room as the Elves lowered their bows, hesitant and unsure of themselves now that one of their own was in the line of fire.

A moment later, a male Elf stepped out from the massive circle, calling out to the Elven girl with words that were once again unrecognizable to the Spartan. She responded in kind, and the two ran to the middle, colliding with each other in an affectionate embrace. The Chief deduced that the Elven male was the girl's father, given that their actions proved that they had some sort of relationship going on.

The two engaged into an animated conversation, with the girl making excited gestures and remarks, clearly defending him and the UNSC forces, while the father looked more unsure and unconvinced. In the meanwhile, Cortana observed the language that the Elves had been utilizing, and she found herself extremely fascinated by it.

"Try to stall them for a minute to two, Chief. I can get a translator program up and running."

The Chief looked at his AI in a small amount of surprise, "You were able to translate their language that quickly?"

"Well, it's not an entirely different language, actually," Cortana elaborated, "it's an unique amalgamation of both Latin and Greek, with tiny pieces of other words and phrases I haven't seen before."

That surprised the Spartan. It could be possibly why the Spartan had barely recognized a couple of Elven words, "And you're saying that these people are speaking human languages?" Ancient by modern standards, but authentic human languages to a certain extent.

"Possibly," The AI responded, "but it's tough to say without more information and further research. Ah, wait a moment, Chief."

He waited for a couple more seconds, watching the Elven father and daughter pair finish up their private discussion. The two looked at him expectantly, and a moment later, Cortana appeared on his HUD, finally finished with her work.

"Alright, Chief. Approach them, and yank me when you get there."

The Spartan nearly hesitated, unsure of Cortana's request. However, he knew by instinct that he should trust his AI companion, and the Chief slightly shook his head as he approached the two Elves. The girl gave him a warm smile, while the father studied him with a cautious glint in his eyes. The Spartan couldn't blame him, for he would have probably felt the same, had their positions been switched.

Once he stopped, he was motionless for a moment, and he started to reach for the back of his helmet to remove Cortana's data chip. The girl, and even the father, watched him curiously, while the Elven party behind them tensed in bated breath. Likewise, Fire Team Charlie readied themselves, gripping their respective weapons in anticipation.

Hearing a subtle click, the Master Chief felt Cortana's cold mercury presence leave his mind, and slowly held out his right hand. No sooner then he did, a projection of a beautiful woman, blue and fair, appeared from the Spartan's armored palm.

The Elves, including the pair, let out startled gasps of shock and surprise. They watched in amazement as the tiny woman rose from her kneeling position, her eyes revealed to be a hue of ocean blue. Most of the elves quietly whispered to themselves, while the rest merely stared at the projection with a mix of awe and curious fascination.

"Greetings, I am Cortana," the woman spoke up, surprising both the Elves and the Marines of Fire Team Charlie with the sudden use of the Elven language. She gazed upon the Elven father and daughter with a warm expression, "may I ask for your names?"

The two gave each other a look, while the father began to clear his throat, "I am Hodor Marceau, and this is my daughter, Tuka Luna Marceau."

He gestured to his daughter, who waved to the AI with a friendly grin, "What are you, exactly?"

Cortana responded immediately, "I am a Guardian spirit, protectors of these valiant men you see before you. We seek potential relations with your noble people, and we wish no blood to be shed for either side."

The Marines, reading the translations through the program Cortana had sent to them with their helmet's visors, began to chuckle lightly. They knew too well that the AI was practically bullshitting the entire first phrase. The Master Chief remained silent as ever, interested to what she had to say.

"We come in peace, Hodor. So please, calm your aggressions. No more fighting, for the benefit of both parties."

Hearing the AI's proposition, Hodor held a hand to his chin, a considerate expression on his face, "May I ask one more question, then?"

Seeing Cortana nod to him, he narrowed his eyes, first scrutinizing the Master Chief, and then to the members of Fire Team Charlie, "Who are you people?"

There was a brief moment of silence.

"We?" Cortana curtsied slightly — and looked up to give the gathered Elves a subtle smile.

"We are the UNSC."

That's Chapter 4! Hoped you enjoyed it! :)