All this time waiting and all you get is a Jackter… Sorry about that. Although, to be fair, the fact that it is a Jackter is half the reason it took so long ^^; Many, many apologies for the long wait. Also, you can blame my brother for getting me addicted to Fire Emblem and the Persona 4 anime.
So… Yeah. Real life plus fandom equals a huuuge waste of time ^^;
Ahem. My thanks go out to guardian of the aura Aurasoul, Q-A the Authoress, ptd163, FiringShootingStar, SunsetRika, Flame-Metal-Heart, Rapis-Razuri, and PyronicTao for their awesome and supportive reviews!
Anons this time (I really can't say 'week') are ChibiX, anon, and ice cream mochi! ChibiX: Here's the first one! I'm sorry it took me so long and I hope I'll see you again in other fictions! anon: Don't worry… We'll some happy news in the epilogues :) Thanks for sticking with me! ice cream mochi: Sorry if the reviews spoiled you… But, yep! You got the challenge right! Unfortunately, the contest is already closed, but thanks for playing!
Oh, and RobotFish has been AWOL for a while now, so this chapter hasn't been beta'd :)
All right, I'll stop talking so you can read. Here you go and please enjoy!
Epilogue I – Jack Atlas
Three weeks had passed since Yusei and the others left for the Capital. Jack knew he should have gone with his friend when he needed him, but, at the same time, knew he needed to stay in New Domino with Carly. She was still recovering and needed him to help her eat and change her bandages.
Her parents were in the caves and could have helped her, but Jack wanted to be there for her when she needed him. On an entirely different subject, he knew her parents didn't approve of him being with their daughter—his reputation had gone far—so he stayed and did his best to show them that he truly did cherish her.
As she slept, he went above ground with Crow and a few villagers to see if there was anything in the shambles to be saved. So far, on top of the material trinkets discovered, they'd found a few survivors that hadn't gotten to the caves before the battle. They had since been moved underground for safety and for any medical care required.
Jack sat back on the roof of a surviving building, staring out into the sunset. He couldn't help but wonder how Yusei was doing. His best friend had returned to the home he'd hated in order to hold the funeral for his grandfather. He wanted to go with him, but he knew there wasn't much he could do besides support him. The fact that he was prince of another country was just adding insult to injury. Knowing that the alliance between Granel and Yliaster had collapsed only six years ago wasn't any help, either.
He was a lordling of an enemy territory. One that tried to invade during a time of distress, no less.
Sighing, he slipped his hand inside the front of his jacket and withdrew a neatly folded piece of paper. He knew he had to make a decision soon, but he couldn't until Carly recovered completely.
Being in love wasn't as bad as he once feared. It was actually kind of nice.
Jack walked through the tunnels, five weeks after Yusei left. They should probably be on their way back by now. It only took two and a half week to get there, and he didn't imagine it would take them more than two weeks to take care of what they needed to.
Sighing, he stopped in the entryway to the room where Carly recovered and stood there, watching her sleep. It was time to change her bandages, but he never liked waking her. Even though she was such a sweetheart, he was still deep-down scared of catching her off-guard and receiving her supernatural strength. He knew he'd have to get over that soon. He couldn't be afraid of waking her up like that forever.
Especially since he wanted to spend the rest of his days waking up with her.
Slowly, he moved through the room and stopped next to her, bending down next to her bed. He reached out and gently prodded her shoulder, stirring her from her sleep. "Carly… Carly, time to wake up."
She hummed slightly and moved to stretch, then stopped as she pulled her injury. Akiza had healed the long-term damage, but her body still needed to recover from the wound on its own. She laid on her stomach with her arms hugging her pillow, her face nestled in the cushion. "Mm… Jack…?"
He nodded once and shifted to comb his fingers through her hair. It wasn't until after he woke her that he remembered how docile she was in the mornings. Offering a slight upturn of one side of his lips, he murmured, "Time to change your bandages."
She nodded and shifted stiffly. "Okay. Do what you have to."
He frowned as he moved to get the basket of clean wraps and cloths to wash her injury. He sat down on the bed next her and asked, "Would you like something to read while I work?"
She shook her head. "Nah, that's okay. I'm used to this by now. But thanks, Jack."
He pulled the letter from his jacket pocket and stared at it for a moment, then held it next to her head so it would catch her peripheral vision. "I insist."
She slowly shifted to take it and studied the folded page for a moment. "Jack? What is this?"
"Just read it," he muttered, turning his attention back to her bandages. He watched for a moment to make sure she unfolded the paper and started skimming it before cutting the knot to her old wraps with a small knife.
"Um… She started, her eyes still on the paper. "Who's this Mina Simington?"
"She's the woman from Granel that paraded through here last month. The one you held at knifepoint."
She gave a brief nod. "Okay."
He continued to remove her old bandages in silence, letting her read the letter. The process of changing and cleaning her injury had become pretty routine over the weeks. The good news was that it was healing nicely. She should be back on her feet soon. Or at least able to sit up again.
His eyes shifted as she slowly folded the letter and set it on the pillow next to her in silence. He frowned, wondering what she would say. He hadn't realized how desperately he wanted her opinion until right then.
However, she seemed unwilling to give it, staying settled in her pillow and not saying a word.
"Carly?" he asked, prompting her for an answer.
She gave a slight shrug and muttered, "What?"
"Well…" he started. Shouldn't it have been obvious?
Sighing, she murmured, "Do you want my permission?"
He flinched slightly, thankful she was still facing her pillow and didn't see. "No… I wanted your opinion."
She settled down into her pillow to get comfortable, cringing as he dabbed a wet cloth against the injury. "What for?"
"Because I haven't made my mind up yet and my decision weighs on whether you'd share this with me or not."
She turned slightly, staring at him with wide eyes. "Wait, you want me to…?"
"Naturally," he scoffed, shifting to tie her bandages again. "I told you I'm in love with you. Did you doubt my sincerity?"
She shook her head quickly. "No! I just thought… There'd be no place for a girl like me…" Prodding the letter with one finger, she finished, "In a place like that."
He snorted in a semblance to laughter and muttered, "And what exactly do you mean by 'a girl like you'?"
"Well, you know… A little milkmaid from nowhere special."
Shaking his head, he grumbled, "Moving past that, what are your thoughts?"
Jack was glad his friends had gotten home safely. Just over seven weeks after they'd left, Yusei, Kalin, Akiza, Luna, and Misty had arrived back in town. Bruno and Yusei's father had stayed in the Capital, along with Sherry and the other members of Infinity that had followed behind.
Whatever had happened there, Jack couldn't help but notice a huge change in his friend. The man had seemed to grow up, somehow. For one, he was actually wearing a shirt. He couldn't remember the last time his friend had willingly worn one outside of their old night missions into Goodwin's home.
Beyond that, he seemed more mature. His actions and words were less about having fun and more about being sensible. Jack wasn't sure if he was glad for the change or not. He supposed it was probably a good thing, seeing as to how he had a whelp on the way.
Sighing, he sat back in his chair in the meeting room in the caves, glancing around at his brothers and their girls. Carly was asleep back in her room, resting to recover as quickly as possible. It was a wonder what would happen next. The town needed to be rebuilt first, and Jack and Crow had spent the last seven weeks trying to clear debris and salvage usable scraps from the wreckage. Every able-bodied member of the town had helped, even children. Though they couldn't lift much, they helped by bringing water and food to workers or running as messengers.
Clearing his throat slightly, Kalin spoke up and murmured, "Out of curiosity… What's everyone planning to do now?"
Crow cocked an eyebrow and asked, "What do you mean?"
The white-haired man shrugged slightly and muttered, "Well, there's no purpose for the Enforcers to keep up their line of work, so I figure we should probably figure out something to do that's actually part of normal society, you know?"
Yusei nodded and flashed a quick smile towards his wife and said, "We're rebuilding the Claw, co-owned this time. So, yes, I'll actually do work with this one."
Akiza chuckled and said, "He's decided to put his hidden talents at money managing to use and help with bookkeeping."
He nodded. "I'll help with the bar, too. I mean, Bruno's not here to help anymore and there's no saying if Carly wants to stay until we ask her. I'll still smith, too, but just for fun."
Jack shifted in his seat at the mention of Carly, but chose not to say anything. Crow spoke next with a smile on his face, saying, "I'm staying with Luna. She's got something to share, too."
Luna smiled as all eyes turned to her and said, "While we were in the Capital, I got notified that, with the reconstruction of New Domino, a church is going to be funded out here. They asked if I would like to be the resident priest and I accepted."
Akiza smiled brightly and said, "That's great news! So you'll be able to stay here in town and still practice, right?"
She nodded. "Mm-hm! Part of me thinks the church might know Yusei's the Signer and wanted me to stay here as his guardian, but they didn't say anything about keeping an eye on you, so I guess that's not part of my job description."
Yusei gave a light smile as he leaned forward. "That's great, Luna. You'll be able to stay here with Leo, Crow, Akiza, and everyone. That's just what you wanted, right?"
Jack raised an eyebrow towards his friend. He smelled a rat. The way Yusei reacted almost seemed as though he already knew about this new church being built. Something told him he had inside information or, perhaps, was the one behind its construction. It seemed like something Yusei would do. Given that he was practically rolling in gold, it would be easy for him to do.
Crow settled his arm across Luna's shoulders and added, "She's gotten the church to add an orphanage on the side, so Martha and all the kids hiding below will be able to come out. I'm going to stay and help run that."
Luna nodded her agreement. "Martha's already been told and she's totally for it. Though I did have one question for you, Akiza."
The redhead cocked her head in curiosity. "What is it?"
"Well…" she started, pausing as if she wasn't sure how to word her request. "I was wondering if… Would it be possible to have the space over the tunnels for the orphanage? Just in case something happened, then the kids would have a place to go, you know?"
Akiza nodded slowly. Surely she liked having the hidden tunnels at her disposal, but now that the entire town knew about them, it wasn't much of a secret. Yusei leaned forward and answered, saying, "It's Akiza's decision, but, personally, I say go for it. On one condition."
Luna hummed a response, saying, "Hm? What is it?"
"Don't tell the church it's there. It's all we have to keep this town safe and god only knows what they'll do." After a brief pause, he added, "No offense to you. I trust you, but I don't trust them."
She nodded slowly, not condoning his dislike of the church, but understanding it. "I… I'm not supposed to lie."
He shrugged slightly. "That's my condition. Take it or leave it."
She frowned and shifted in her seat. "Would it be okay if I thought about it for a little bit?"
Akiza nodded. "Go ahead. We still need to wait for construction materials to arrive from the next town over."
Yusei leaned back in his seat on top of a crate. "Anyway, what about you guys?" he asked, directing his question towards Kalin and Jack.
Kalin gave a light smile and said, "I… kind of wanted to ask your thoughts, Yusei."
He frowned. "On what?"
Glancing towards Misty quickly, he turned back to his childhood friend and said, "With the design of the election system, I was thinking of running for New Domino's governor."
Jack watched as his raven-haired friend's eyebrows rose in surprise as he absorbed the information. Shrugging, he replied, "You'd have my vote."
"Really?" Kalin asked. "I mean, I know you aren't exactly fond of politicians…"
"I can't stand self-serving politicians. I'm fine with the ones that do their jobs and work for the people. I honestly think being governor of a small town would suit you."
He smiled lightly. "Thanks… That means a lot to hear." Leaning back slightly, he murmured, "Well, that's my plan for the future. Misty's decided to stay in town, too, right?"
She gave a soft smile and nodded. "My visions tell me to stay, so I will."
All eyes turned to Jack, looking for his piece of the conversation. They probably noticed he'd been quiet when he normally would have spoken up. He had a lot to think about these last few weeks, but now his decision was made. Leaning back in his chair, he turned to look out the doorway of the room and muttered, "I'm returning to Granel."
Crow was the first to react, jumping up from his seat in the alcove within the wall while screaming, "Wha-?!"
Yusei sat in silence with wide eyes as Kalin reached a hand out helplessly, "You… can't be serious…"
"Listen to yourselves," Jack scoffed. "You sound like a flock of pathetic seagulls that can't catch a fish. I am the sole heir to the throne of Granel and, if I don't return soon, a more frightening bloodbath than what just happened here would undoubtedly occur. Yusei, you of all people should understand how power-hungry noblemen get when a throne is within reach."
He nodded slowly, seriousness hardening his gaze as he asked, "What made you change your mind? Last I heard, you were ready to run from Granel and never look back."
The blond nodded once and reached inside the front of his jacket, withdrawing a small handful of letters. "I've been receiving word from that woman, Mina. She's daughter of the chancellor and a girl I grew up alongside. She tells me my father is ill and, if he should die with no heir to take his place, Granel would fall to utter turmoil."
His brothers nodded slowly before Kalin finally asked, "Will we be able to come visit? I mean, I'm sure you'll be busy as a king, but you are still our brother."
Akiza looked up from her seat beside Yusei and asked, "So you're just going to up and leave Carly behind?"
He muttered a quick 'tch' and replied, "Yusei, is your girl daft or something?" Crossing his arms, he turned to look at the wall and added, "Carly's already agreed to accompany me once she recovers."
Everyone stared at him in silence. Was it that strange that Carly would leave her hometown to be with him? In retrospect, he supposed it was. He wasn't exactly the most dedicated of men, and she could do far better. But, when it came down to it, he knew he loved her and would happily make her his queen.
"I'll be leaving as soon as Carly's better."
Jack climbed out of the tunnel exit near Yusei's forge, looking up into the trees for a moment. Carly was well recovered now and talked excitedly of going to Granel, though Jack was sure she was putting up a strong front. She probably was excited, but surely she was nervous about leaving her home, too.
Sighing, he tried to engrain the image of the forest into his memory. It would no doubt be one of the last times he saw it. This place was his home for the last eight years. It would be strange to return to his palace in Granel.
But he'd gotten what he'd wanted. He'd lived among commoners and observed what they went through on a day-to-day basis. No doubt that knowing their struggles would make him a better king than he would have been staying in Granel his whole life. Plus, he had Carly now. Besides the fact that he loved her, she had lived that commoner life. She would be able to tell him if he was being too hard on the people.
He turned to glance over his shoulder, meeting the blue eyes of the best friend he'd ever had. Saying goodbye to his brothers wasn't something he was looking forward to, but all of them had lives to live now. "Yusei."
He stood by the exit of the tunnels with one hand on his hip, saying, "You're leaving soon, aren't you?"
He gave a brief nod. "Yeah."
"Mm…" Giving a quick smile, he said, "There's someone I want you to meet before you go."
Who was there in this town that he didn't know yet? Did someone come from the Capital that he didn't know about? Did Yusei's girl give birth prematurely in the hour since he saw her last? Fat chance of that. Even he knew that births took longer than that. Raising an eyebrow, he asked, "Who?"
Reaching out, he asked, "Can I see Archfiend for a sec?"
His hand tightened around the grip of his pistol as he defensively muttered, "You've got Stardust, don't you? What do you need Archfiend for?"
Giving a laugh, he kept his hand extended and said, "Relax, Jack. I'll give it right back. I know how much he means to you."
He sighed heavily and slowly drew his pistol from its holster before holding out by the barrel. "You should know this means I trust you more than anything."
Chuckling lightly, he took the gun and nodded. "I know, Jack. I made it for you, remember?"
Crossing his arms, he grumbled irritably, "Hurry it up already."
He smiled boyishly and nodded firmly. "This won't take too long."
The raven-haired man closed his eyes and gripped his hand around Archfiend, resting the other on the top of the barrel. After a moment, the tattoo on his arm lit up in a red glow through his sleeve, brightening the shaded forest with an eerie crimson light.
Jack recoiled and raised a hand in front of his eyes to block out the light, doing his best to stare at the glowing marker. He'd seen his friend's tattoo before on several occasions, but he'd never seen it do that before.
Just what was up with his friend?
Yusei pointed Archfiend up at the sky and fired, causing a vivid red light to spear through the sky. It disappeared above the treetops, causing Jack to look back to his friend as he casually flipped the gun in his hand and held it back towards its owner. Everything seemed to return to normal, except that the tattoo still shone red.
A mighty roar sounded, causing the earth to tremble beneath Jack's feet. He shifted to brace himself, looking up towards the sound to see a large, black as night creature crash down into the small clearing.
Yusei smiled across from him, still holding out the gun, and said, "Jack, meet Red Dragon Archfiend. Archfiend, meet Jack. He's a real big fan of yours."
He stared in shock at the beast before him. No doubt about it. This was the dragon king he practically worshipped. But how did...? What did Yusei do? He turned to glance back at his friend, reaching out and snatching his gun back before jamming it into his holster. "Just what the hell is this?"
Yusei smiled that boyish smile again. It really was hard to believe he was going to be a father in no more than two months. "It's… uh… Kind of hard to explain." When Archfiend made a grumbling sound, Yusei looked to him and muttered, "Yeah, you're right. I owe him that much, at least." Facing Jack again, he said, "I inherited my mother's power as the Signer, so I have the power to call on the spirits of the Crimson Dragon's generals. Red Dragon Archfiend's soul was locked inside your gun, so that's why I needed it."
He blinked. What the hell was he talking about? That didn't even make any sense.
Yusei reached out, stroking his hand along Archfiend's chin and said, "I meant to tell you guys a long time ago, but, yeah. I can summon dragons from another world."
He decided he wouldn't bother asking questions. It probably wasn't worth getting more confused when he would probably never understand.
Taking a few slow steps forward, he reached out towards Red Dragon Archfiend, unable to fight the smile on his face. The absolute power the magnificent beast gave off was truly something to behold. His friend had given him a splendidly priceless gift before he left.
"You know this means you'll have to come visit so I can meet him again, right?"
Hehe… See what I did there? The 'absolute power' of Archfiend? Get it? Get it? XD
Ahh…! Finally finished the Jackter! So glad that we won't have another one of these! Only four more epilogues remaining. Any guesses as to who's up next?
Again, I want to apologize for taking so long. I do not recommend taking eight credits of math over summer. At all. Blegh. So much work to do… And yet I still blank on formulas when I get the exams in front of me. Algebra is not my friend.
Moving on, you guys really don't care about that, do you? With luck, I'll finish SH up soon and get started on my next-gen. Due to the amazing arts of Nettaigyo on DA (yes, I'm advertising it here, too XD), I'm totally stoked to write this thing. To see said arts, I have both of them linked on my facebook, so drop on by! Facebook.c!om/OCValkyrie (Remove exclamation point)
As always, please review!