Apologies for the wait, but I'm in the process of switching jobs. Noticed there were a few mistakes I made early on in the story, of course, that's what happens when you have large wait periods in between chapters. One of the most notable things was Pina having seen Duran prior to Italica. That's been edited out, pretend it never happened lol. I've edited things thusly so everything should be flowing fine now. If you see anything else really egregious let me know.

My brain has been in an absolute twist lately. Anyways, without further ado, let's get back at it.


Unlikely Allies

"War brings out the worst and the best in people. Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men."

Major Dick Winters

1500 HOURS SPECIAL REGION TIME ITALICA

Bozes had been on the path of knighthood ever since she was old enough to study the blade. Throughout the years she had faced adversity of all kinds and seen things many would only hear about in songs or old wives' tales. "Never stray from the path", these were words Gray had hammered into the minds of those under his charge and it was these same words that had guided Bozes to becoming second in command.

They would not steel her resolve in the face of her new enemy, however. Up until now, her bravado had been nothing more than a ruse, a desperate attempt to prolong the inevitable as much as possible while she attempted to think of a plan. Hearing the stories had been one thing, but seeing them take form was another matter entirely.

The tan steel behemoths that laid waste to all before them, men with thunder rods that could kill several times their number. Bozes was no fool, she knew she was looking at death itself. The enemy soldiers glared at her with menacing eyes covered behind strange masks and goggles. Each looked more than willing at the prospect of killing her and her knights where they stood. Worse yet they had even gone so far as to learn the language of their enemy, perhaps in some twisted attempt to parlay the illusion of understanding.

Bozes shakingly pointed her sword at one of the tan behemoths, the one with the large unmistakable dragon claws on the front of its "face". "I-I am ordering you! Withdraw from this place at once or we will have no choice but to drive you off!"

One of the soldiers, likely the leader of this garrison, brought the strange conical device up to his mouth once more. "There is always a choice, lay down your weapons, we can talk this out."

"And besmirch our honor? Never, you will pay for what you did to that town and her Highness!"

The enemy leader recoiled in confusion for a moment before exchanging hushed words with one of his comrades.

"The town and your leader are, safe?"

"W-what?" Bozes lowered her weapon. "You lie!"

Before the exchange could continue, Bozes heard a voice she thought she would never hear again. Piña's, even from afar she could just barely make out the Princess's frantic yelling. "Where's that idiot?! Bozes, you fool!"

In seconds a distraught-looking Piña pushed her way through the soldiers and pointed an accusatory finger at her knights. "Are you out of your blasted minds?! Lower your weapons immediately!"

Upon seeing Gray and Hamilton arrive, the now completely lost Bozes exchanged confused looks with the other knights. "Your highness? But, we thought you were in danger?-"

"-Do I look like I am in danger?! What gave you the brilliant idea to ride here with weapons raised?" Piña pointed back at the confused soldiers behind her. "Tell me, do you know why everyone keeps dying?"

Now visibly out of her depth Bozes nervously fidgeted in her armor.

"Because nobody has bothered trying to communicate yet! That is the whole reason the war started in the first place!"

Piña raised her hands in bewilderment. "Just, calm down for goodness's sake. These last days have….they have." The princess put a hand to her forehead and strained her eyebrows. "Taken a toll on my mind and the last thing I need is more needless death."

Bozes exchanged more confused looks with her fellow knights before reluctantly raising her hand to administer the order. On cue, all of the knights returned their weapons to empty scabbards and sheaths. Surprisingly so too did the otherworldly army, their leader letting his strange weapon hang in front of him while he shook his head. Meanwhile, the tan behemoths slowly raised their barrels as the men atop went back to chatting amongst themselves.

The hostilities now thoroughly concluded, Piña returned her attention to her knights. "Now, lets go inside, we have a great deal to talk about and I fear not alot of time to do it."

Of course, for that to happen, all parties had to be present. No sooner did hostilities cease, another group of visitors emerged from the forest road beyond. Though they flew different colors, their arrival was no less as surprising as that of Bozes and her knights.

They hoisted torn banners, their armor battered and worn from months of living on the road. Yet they still rode on with a familiar conviction that Piña recognized from countless battles past.

"Is that?...Could it be?" Piña narrowed her gaze upon the older knight leading a group of his subordinates. Once she recognized who they were, she quickly raised her hands to calm the anxious Coalition soldiers who had readied their weapons once more.

"Be still of heart! Those are the Knights of Elbe, they are our allies!"

A nearby Gray whistled. "Well I'll be damned, that old codger is still alive."

"By the gods, King Duran!" Hamilton put her hands together in shock. "I thought he was dead."

Closer now, Duran outstretched an arm and mustered the last of his waning strength to shout one last warning. "Parlay you fools! Parlay you….damned!" His strength now gone, Duran could only slump forward in his horse as he unconsciously led what remained of his forces to an uncertain end. He would not hear Piña's cries nor that of the coalition soldiers sending medical aid.


Sometime later...

It was nothing short of a miracle the powers that be finally decided to let the overworked Marines and sailors of Horseman platoon get some much-needed RnR. There was only one problem, someone up high with a warped sense of hearts and minds had decided it would be prudent for the tanks and their attachments to stage in Italica's northern courtyard.

The good news was that the courtyard was certainly large enough for the platoon, the vehicles sat neatly arranged with their engine decks towards one of the walls and facing curious townsfolk beyond. Marines and Japanese soldiers manning the walls above ensured that anyone too suspicious looking kept their distance. That still didn't stop brave traders from testing their luck, however.

Kincaid had been snoring peacefully at the base of his tank's turret when suddenly he was shaken awake by his excited loader.

"Ayyo bro!"

"Fuckin ah-what!?"

The gunner sputtered and flailed his limbs in fear of some surprise attack, only to come face to face with some creature dragging a cart around. The creature tipped his wide-brimmed hat revealing two cat ears as he flashed a toothy feline grin.

"Salazar has ware if you have coins good sir!"

Kincaid instinctively reached for his pistol only for the rest of his crew to calm him down. Elton quickly stuck a lit cigarette into Kincaid's mouth and pointed at the trader. "Yo chill man chill, this dude has some wicked cool looking shit."

"Wicked cool looking shit huh?" Slightly less distressed, Kincaid took a drag as he got his wits about him. All around the courtyard, a few other courageous Marines from the platoon including some of Itami's squad tried to haggle with local traders. Kincaid grunted as he sat upright with a yawn. "Didn't sir say we were like, not supposed to talk to them or something?"

"Yeah well sir stepped out and I'm trying to get some cool shit for the cheap." Elton put Kincaid's Boonie hat back on his exposed head. "Besides the fuck are they gonna do? Blow themselves up, just shoot em if they get froggy."

Kincaid raised a tired eyebrow. "...Right, so why is this my concern?"

"Because we can't understand a fuckin' word puss in boots is saying over here." Wilkes answered with a chuckle. "I tried to like show him soda cans, but he's lost in the sauce ya know what I'm sayin'? Do that funny nerd shit you're good at."

"I hate all of you." Kincaid responded flatly.

"C'mon man, consider it uh, a hands on hip pocket class on how to win hearts and minds."

"Yeah yeah whatever." With cracking joints, Kincaid slowly got up and repositioned himself into a kneel at the foot of the tank's front slope. He gave another yawn before switching his language back to Falmartian.

"Alright, what the hell you got?"

Surprised by this turn of events the vendor's cat ears perked up and he quickly set up his rickshaw. " Why, only the best for someone clearly as studied as you. I was not aware there were those in your company who could speak the local tongue-"

"Yeah yeah, I am real studied, what do you have for sale?"

"Why the finest wares from all around the continent! Anybody who is anybody knows of Salazar the travelling merchant." The feline vendor took another bow. "But I do suppose sirs like yourselves from beyond the realms would not exactly be privy to that."

"I am not even privy to what day it is." Kincaid groaned and switched back to English. "Okay, so this dude is like, loaded. The fuck is it you want?"

Elton put a finger under his chin in mock contemplation as he eyed the cart. In truth, there wasn't a whole lot on sale the crew and others didn't already have. Decorated swords, foreign clothing, some trinkets, and baubles.

Then, he found it.

"How much for one of those eggs?"

"Eggs?" Kincaid looked back over the cart and raised his eyebrow upon seeing a clutch of large pearly white eggs near some scrolls.

"Seriously? A fucking egg?"

"Bro I dunno bout' you, but I'm fuckin' tired of MREs." A nearby Wilkes closed one of the sponson boxes with a clatter. In one of his hands, he brandished a hotplate and a spatula in the other. "It's grillin' day baby, and I'm tryna' eat good."

The rest of the crew exchanged nods, no argument to be had with that statement. The decision made, Kincaid returned his attention to the vendor. "One of those eggs, how much?"

"Oh? I see you have an eye for the exotic, but of course!" The vendor went back to his cart and fetched one of the eggs, he held it aloft for the now interested tank crew to see. "Now these are very very rare, eggs from Elbean sand strutters. You won't find something like this here near Sadera."

"Look like ostrich eggs to me."

"Ostrich?"

"Eh, big ass bird that lives back in our world." Kincaid waved a hand dismissively. "Anyways, how much?"

"For something like this….hmmm." The vendor brought the egg back down and scrunched his face. "Ordinarily I would charge 1000 Suwani, but for the Steel Equites, saviors of Italica?"

The vendor nodded in approval. "700 Suwani."

Kincaid almost facepalmed at the idea. "Okay, do you accept other forms of trade? We're not exactly packing coin purses here."

"But of course! The law of equivalent exchange is always a suitable alternative."

"Baller." Kincaid looked back at the rest of the crew, ignoring the vendor's confusion at the strange exclamation. "Yo we got any of those uh, fuckin' wyvern scales or whatever?"

"Shit." Benitez dropped back down into his driver's station and rummaged around for a few moments before popping his head back out. "I fuckin' left em all back at Alnus."

"And we don't have anything else?"

"Nigga we didn't exactly get to fuckin' loot shit after our last bout." Elton continued to straddle the gun mantlet, cigarette in his mouth, as he looked around the top of the turret.

"Aight I got this, D chuck me down an energy drink."

"Yessir."

Kincaid raised a hand and waited for his loader to pass him one of the lukewarm beverages. Upon receiving it he brought it back down and held it in front of the vendor. "Tell me, you ever had an elixir before?"

"Hmmm, now that is a good question." Salazar brought a clawed hand under his chin. "In all my years of trading I can't say I ever have. The mages of Rondel keep their secrets tightly guarded."

"Their secrets are naught but child's play compared what we have." Kincaid spun the drink around so that Salazar could see the label. Not that he could read it or anything. "This right here? This is the nectar of gods good sir and it is from this that our troops receive great strength and clarity."

Now the vendor was intrigued. He put the egg back onto his cart and held a hand out. "Now that is, something. May I see it?"

"Sure, just don't run away with it or I will fucking blast you."

Kincaid passed the excited vendor the aluminum can and watched on in amusement as he studied the strange container. "How intriguing, using metal to contain the fluid within. Only something of great value would be protected in such a way."

Meanwhile, back on the tank the rest of Kincaid's crew watched on stunned as the haggling continued.

"This fucker is about to trade a fucking Rip It for a big ass egg." Elton blew out a puff of smoke in bewilderment. "I'd say I'm surprised but at this point I stink too bad and I give two fucks less if the Queen of Spades shows up."

"Same dude who convinced a Stripper to date him." Wilkes chimed in. "Silver tongue devil shit my man."

"I must ask good sir. What exactly is this concoction called?" Salazar continued to study the can as if expecting some sort of magical event to occur.

"Oh, the name?" Kincaid looked at the labeling for the energy drink can, his mind racing as he tried to craft some sort of epic name. "That….is the elixir of…." The gunner squinted his eyes as he tried to read the nutrition facts label.

"The Elixir of Saint Taurine…ious. Patron Saint of the Steel Equities."

The feline vendor held the drink aloft not unlike some quest goer upon completing a task. "What worth! What value indeed! It is a trade I most humbly accept. One sand strider egg for this most magical elixir of champions!"

Kincaid's jaw would have dropped were it not for the fact he had already been blown away several times earlier by the unexpected nature of this world.

"Yep, enjoy it. You have an item of great wealth there." The gunner outstretched his hands and received the large egg before passing it up to his loader, his expression returning to neutral as he pulled his Boonie cover back down over his eyes. "I like mine scrambled, don't skip on the fucking Cholula either."

The haggling complete and the promise of good food ahead, the rest of the crew cheered as storage bins were opened. The Marines would be eating well today.

"Hey Benitez throw some of that fucking Rico Suave shit on!"


FORMAL ESTATE

Today would go on to be a day of many firsts and it would be at the heart of the Formal Estate, within one of its many meeting rooms, that the first real attempt at negotiations would commence. On either side of a long polished wooden table representatives from both sides of this conflict sat, eyes locked on one another, as they attempted to gauge what exactly it was the other power wanted. On one side sat Piña and a few of her knights, on the other sat high-ranking soldiers from the military power known as the Coalition. Joining them was Count Formal and his daughter, a few of their demi human maids watching silently from corners of the room. Duran would have joined the delegations were it not for his exhaustion. He was currently resting in one of the many guest chambers.

Bozes interlocked her fingers as she attempted to digest all the information that had been dumped in her lap.

"I don't understand. For years conquest and fervour have spurred our Empire forward. Your highness, there can be no mistake."

Next to Bozes, Piña sighed. "We stepped on a Griffon's tail, our fervour and lust for conquest have been our undoing this time."

As if to confirm her statement suddenly the glass windows of the building shook as something screeched past the building in the skies above. All of the Formal clan members, save for the Count, and the knights instinctively hunched low in fear of some winged beast carrying them away. A sight that was nothing short of amusing for those familiar with the sound.

The danger gone, Piña and the others raised their heads cautiously. "What new breed of horror was that?"

"They call them jets your highness and you would do well to accept this truth now." A grim-looking Count Formal pointed up at the ceiling. "The skies belong to them now."

"'Jets' eh?" Bozes eyed the still-pipping cup of tea that had been brewed for her. A local blend made by the Formal Clan. There had once been a time Bozes would ride to Italica to savor it and the relaxing effect it had on her. It did little to calm her nerves now. "What an interesting predicament. I find myself sitting across from my enemy trying to enjoy tea like old friends as we discuss the fate of our very home."

One of the officers, a Marine as they were called, leaned forward. His voice belied his years of experience, stern, coarse with the age that came from years of fighting. "If we wanted to we could have pushed our way to your Capitol weeks ago."

"And now they show restraint." Bozes scoffed. "Am I to be thankful?"

"There are men outside right now who lost loved ones after what your army did. Being able to have this discussion right now is about the only thing stopping things from getting worse." The Marine narrowed his gaze. "We have rules where we come from, laws that separate barbarians from professional armies."

Ordinarily, Bozes would have snapped back with another witty retort, but these were extraordinary times and she had been threatened, almost at blade point, to behave.

"So why tell us this? We are but one part of the Imperial Army, Elite as we may be, we don't have the final say in things." Bozes shrugged. "More importantly, if you were so involved in a peaceful outcome, why haven't you had this conversation with us before?"

"Because you people did not want to listen." One of the other officers, an older Japanese soldier by the name of Kengun, chimed in. "You attacked my home we counter attacked and your army did not want to see reason."

"It is true." Count Formal nodded solemnly. "Bozes if you could see what marvels lie beyond the gate, what rich cultures there are." The Count sighed. "When I was offered a chance to save my clan I took it. Call me a traitor if you must, but I sit before you alive and still in possession of what is mine." He put a hand on his daughter's. "Being at death's door enlightens you."

The Marine officer from before nodded in agreement. "We know Princess Piña is the daughter of Molt Sol Augustus. The course of this war now lies firmly in your lap."

"Well then you are foolish if you think she can change anything. Neither her father, her bullheaded brothers nor any of the generals will listen to her." Bozes glanced at Piña. "I mean no offense by this of course, your highness."

"None taken, as you speak words of truth." Piña leaned forward in her chair. "It is true and even now they are probably firmly rooted in their own machinations."

"So then let me ask you this, what is it you want your highness?"

This time one of the non-soldiers spoke up, a younger man in similar garb to the officers, who only went as Ramirez. Throughout the meeting, he had been relatively quiet, but Piña could tell he was far from removed from the going ons. He wasn't a politician and he certainly wasn't royalty, yet he was allowed to sit next to military leaders and delegate? Something told the Princess he held far more sway in the power structure than appearances let on.

"What do I want? A swift end to all this, that is what I want." Piña answered matter of factly. "I am beginning to see with my own eyes how pointless this all is."

"Then work with us." Ramirez then started counting down his fingers one by one. Supply routes, troop movements, showing the people that we mean them no harm, talk to those who seem sympathetic for a peaceful outcome."

Bozes put a gauntleted finger under her chin. "That would mark us as traitors, hell we already are traitors simply being in the same room as you."

"Traitors don't end pointless wars in an attempt to save their people. There is no noble cause here, your father started an unjust war and now we wish to end it." Ramirez folded his arms. "It is as simple as that."

A nearby Gray furrowed his brow. "So what is to stop us from simply leaving and reporting back to our superiors?"

"Nothing, but we will take that as you declining our offer and mark you as our enemy thusly. After that? Well." Ramirez shrugged. "You either surrender or die fighting, I can't guarantee what happens next. What I can say is this."

He leaned back in his chair and brought his hands together. "You do not seem like an unreasonable group. Your leader agreed to help us defend Italica and the fact we are even having this conversation at all tells me you are at least open to negotiation."

The Rose Order Knights went silent for a few moments as they contemplated Ramirez's words.

"And if we work with you, you can guarantee the safety of both my knights and the people?" Piña inquired with a raised eyebrow.

"Count Formal spent months on Earth with us and you see him before you now." The strange man smirked. "Your father will not be in power anymore when we are done. That means there will be an empty spot on the throne. Just saying, someone cooperative with us could be of great assistance there."

This had piqued Piña's interest and all parties present saw the now visible rise and fall of her chest as her breathing intensified in silent anticipation.

"If that is not convincing enough, how about this. Come back through the gate, see our world and learn who it is we are."

Piña recoiled in surprise. "Me? Go t-through the gate?"

"Yes." Ramirez answered flatly before turning his attention to his Japanese colleague. "I think something like that can be worked out."

The Japanese soldier simply gave a curt nod without an ounce of hesitation in his eyes. Of everyone in the room, he seemed most eager to put an end to all this. Fair, considering there was a giant interdimensional gate on his soil.

"I strongly encourage it your highness." Count Formal chimed in. "When you see it, all will become clear."

Piña folded her arms and looked back at her knights in anticipation of some sort of guidance. None was there to be found, so she did what she always did, went with her instinct.

"I accept."

"Then that is that." Ramirez clapped, ignoring the shocked expressions of the young royal's subordinates. "You have made a wise decision your highness."

"Time will tell." Piña answered before changing the subject. "Now then, about that tour. I wish to know who exactly I'm sharing this market town with."

"Of course, of course."


"Captain!"

Aldritch tried to ignore Itami as he continued on his way through the Formal Manor's cramped hallways. He was tired, he was hungry, and more importantly, had no business being here in the first place.

All afternoon his superiors had been dangling him and his men around like they were some sort of prize pony. Tankers led spearheads and destroyed their enemy. This kumbaya bullshit irked Aldritch even when he had to go put on a show back on Earth. Now he had to no doubt listen to Itami's bellyaching about god knew what. No, he knew exactly what, and he hadn't the patience for it.

The captain had just made it to the mansion's massive oak doors at the end of the mansion's massive main room when Itami called out to him one last time. "Captain Aldritch, taishou!"

Cute, now the lieutenant was trying to placate him. He should never have let slip that he knew Japanese.

Fine, I'll play along.

Aldritch stopped just short of the doors and looked over his shoulder. "Hai, what is it Lieutenant?"

The lieutenant ran a gloved hand down a polished oaken guide rail as he rapidly walked down the stairs and over to Aldritch. "Sir, permission to speak freely."

"You've demonstrated you have a knack for doing that anyways, but fine." Aldritch donned his Boonie cover and sunglasses before opening the doors. "Granted."

"Arigatou." Itami put his kevlar back on and proceeded to join Aldritch in emerging back into the warm Falmartian sun. The once quiet courtyard and gardens of the Formal Estate had now become a hub for coalition forces and unlikely allies alike. Command tents had been hastily erected next to field comms towers. They stood out like a sore thumb next to the estate's lavish fountains and gardens. Soldiers both Japanese and Americans carried heavy crates to and from tents while Formal Maids and Rose Order Knights watched in utter confusion.

"So, what is it."

Itami stopped staring at the spectacle beyond and went to follow Aldritch. "Well truth be told sir, all of this."

"You mean setting up a forward outpost at an important logistics hub?" Aldritch would have stopped to give Itami an incredulous look were it not for the fact he just wanted to get back to his platoon. Instead, he chose to carry on down the massive stone steps leading away from the estate. "You have a better way to go about waging this war lieutenant?"

"Well no, but I mean. Is it necessary?" Itami watched his footing as the officers stepped off and into the bustling Italica streets. Unlike last time, there were far more inhabitants out and about. Coalition soldiers had started patrols now. Mostly Marines, many of which had years of experience under their belts patrolling far worse. "Unless you'd like to get fuel from all the way at Alnus, then yes."

"No, I mean, all of this. The fealty, setting up shop in their home." Itami did his best to keep abreast of Aldritch through the scattered crowds. "Don't you think it's a little wrong?"

"You didn't seem to mind back at Coda."

"Well I didn't hear the village leader pledge fealty to America either. Protection is one thing, but actually setting up a base on their soil like we own the place?"

Aldritch paused, bewildered at what he was hearing. "Um, that's because we do lieutenant? In case you forgot we're invading this world." He stopped to correct himself. "Sorry we being the U.S., the SDF is here to support us. That's the official world back home isn't it?"

"It is, but-"

"-But what?"

"Sir I just can't help but feel like we are here as conquerors, are we any better than the Empire in that regard?"

Aldritch threw his hands up incredulously. "For fuck's sake Lieutenant, point to me on the map where we're indiscriminately killing and torching the place."

"Just because we're not doing that doesn't make us better. Setting up shop at Alnus is one thing, but." Itami sighed. "I feel like…."

By now the pair had stopped in a crowded intersection, curious onlookers both local and Coalition watched the two estranged soldiers as they continued on their way to parts unknown.

"Like what? Out with it Itami."

"Sir I feel like this place is subtly being taken advantage of and I feel uncomfortable being a part of it." Itami shook his head in doubt. "Our duty is to serve and protect-"

"Our duty? Excuse me Lieutenant?" Aldritch took his sunglasses off. "I told you back near Coda, my duty is to my men and the mission."

"But don't you feel something, anything towards these people at all? Arent't they part of your mission? Our mission?"

"Not if it means holding their hands and going out of my way to try and understand why I'm here." Aldritch put his glasses on and went to take his leave. "You're idealistic lieutenant, you go getting soft and keep thinking the way you do and sooner or later it's going to blow up in your face."

Itami never considered himself a fighter, he was no hero, no leader from the frontlines. Even his reason for enlistment would be considered foolish by most, but there was one thing he always stuck by. His morals.

"And if you keep treating this like any other deployment you might find that will also blow up in your face!"

Aldritch halted dead in his tracks. Itami had made it a point to switch back to Japanese with that belligerent outburst of his.

"What was that lieutenant?"

Itami remained defiant even as Aldritch turned around to square up to him. The Marine had a good couple inches over him and his physique belied years of fitness. "You can't keep shutting this place out forever. Sooner or later it will dig it's claws into you and beg for you to try understand it as it tries to understand you."

"The last time I tried to do that I got to tell a few mothers why their sons were coming basck home in fucking caskets." Aldritch's voice was filled with hate as he dimmed it down just low enough for Itami to hear. "You are out of line lieutenant. The next time you go questioning my convictions or how I lead my men you'll be kissing your ass goodbye with a transfer out of here, or worse."

Itami gulped. "Then can you at least explain to me why you have the decency to talk my language? If I can't see eye to eye with you there, then perhaps you can explain that little to me."

For a moment, Aldritch hesitated. Like as if there was a chance to finally let out something bottled up deep inside him. The captain went to open his mouth but instead chose to turn on his heels and leave.

"No."

Itami stood there alone for a while unsure whether or not he was remorseful for pushing too far or emboldened for standing his ground.

"Excuse us good sir."

The lieutenant snapped out of his thoughts as a few children garbed in peasants' clothing approached him, two boys and a young girl.

Itami put on a fake smile and took a knee so that he was face to face with them. "Ah yes, how can I help you?"

One of the boys garbed in a cap and baggy clothes spoke up, his voice barely audible over the hustle and bustle. "Is it true you helped save our village with the Steel Equites?"

"Yes, yes I did." Itami felt a warm sensation spread throughout his body. "I am glad to see we got here in time."

"Our father was helping man the defenses. We thank you for keeping him and our town safe."

"Of course of course." Itami took a bow. "We are here to serve and protect."

Before the children could heckle Itami further a man garbed in a blacksmith's outfit called out from within a nearby shop. No doubt the children's father. The three rascals gave one last thanks and ran back to the shop leaving Itami alone with his thoughts once more.

Aldritch you may not see what you're accomplishing here, but I do.

The lieutenant got up and dusted off his knee pads before looking back towards the direction Aldritch had headed, back where both his and Itami's subordinates were.

There is good in you, we just need to bring it out, Captain. One good deed at a time.