Although dust and sand were flying everywhere because of the unusual weather in the surrounding area, Izroth noticed that the weather within the immediate vicinity of the individual approaching the village was calm. It was almost as if there was an invisible sphere of influence around them that kept everything serene and tranquil.
It did not take long for them to step foot into the village and what greeted them was Izroth with a carefree smile on his face. When this person first saw a figure standing in the village without moving, their entire body froze as if they were surprised. It was obvious that they were not expecting anyone to be in the village.
However, unknowingly, a lovely smile blossomed onto their face when they recognized Izroth. But, when they realized this, they instantly calmed themselves and felt slightly embarrassed by their reaction. Though they were able to regain their normal expression before they approached Izroth.
"I was certain that I'd be the first one here after arriving so early. It feels as though it's been ages since the last time we've partied together." The person who approached Izroth said.
"To be honest, I expected Zi Yi to be here before either of us. Though you're right, it does feel that our paths have not crossed for quite some time, Luna." Izroth stated in a carefree tone.
The first person to arrive in the village after Izroth was none other than Luna. However, she seemed somewhat different from the last time that she was in a party with Izroth. For one, the cleric robes she wore seemed to be more refined and elegant. Also, there was a dense gathering of natural energy that surrounded her body.
Although Izroth did not show it physically, he was inwardly shocked. He was positive that this natural energy around Luna was, in fact, a Domain! But, something felt off about it. One should have to activate the power a Domain and according to what he was told by Kayn, using a Domain for an extended period of time was extremely tiring, especially if it was a powerful Domain.
'No, even though it's similar to the energy of a Domain, it's not a Domain. But, the similarities are really too close to one another... Interesting, it looks like she hasn't spent her time remaining idle.'
Izroth was a little curious about the natural energy around Luna, but he knew that even without asking he would eventually receive the answer to his question when the time came.
"Indeed, that seems like something she'd do." Luna commented as she stood by Izroth and looked out towards the distance. It was followed by nothing but silence as the two of them stood quietly together in the village. However, it was not the awkward silence that filled the room when there was nothing of interest to talk about, but instead, it was an understanding and peaceful silence.
Neither Izroth nor Luna were the type to engage in endless small talk. There was a mutual understanding that seemed to come naturally between the two. Some times, it felt as if there were no need for words. While most would find this kind of silence unbearable, Luna found it to be fulfilling. She did not know why, but for some reason, she always felt at peace when she stood by Izroth. It was a feeling that was completely foreign to her, however, she did not dislike this unfamiliar feeling.
There was always this carefree expression on Izroth's face that made her feel at ease. But, sometimes there was this look in Izroth's eyes that rarely revealed itself and made it seem as if he was constantly looking at a faraway place. Luna was unsure if even Izroth himself knew of this. Whenever she saw that look, there was a strange tightness in her chest. She wondered... Why was it that, at times, the look in his eyes was filled with such deep sorrow?
There were many times where Luna came close to asking this question to Izroth, however, she always stopped herself from doing so. She believed that someone like Izroth definitely did not have a normal life. Although she was unaware of the specific details, she did not need to know them. In the end, even if it only helped in the slightest manner, as long as it was just a little bit... Then this understanding silence was enough.
Unknowingly to Luna, this simple moment of silence had already become a treasure.
Around 30 minutes later...
The next person to arrive at the village was Zi Yi. She was there 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled time and was surprised to see that Izroth and Luna were already present. Though when she initially witnessed Izroth and Luna standing in the village alone and in silence, it became somewhat awkward for her to approach the two.
"What's with these two...? Why are they just standing here in this windy weather when there are buildings around here for protection?" Zi Yi grumbled to herself as she shook her head.
After greeting Izroth and Luna, Zi Yi released a small sigh as she scoffed, "Isn't this place a bit too deserted? Blue Oasis sure loves taking extra steps of precaution. Do they truly think we're that untrustworthy?"
"There's much at stake for Blue Oasis during this operation. One misstep and weeks of planning are out the window. But, I'm sure you already understand this." Izroth stated.
"I know, but that doesn't make it any less annoying..." Zi Yi muttered. She knew that these were necessary steps to minimize information from being leaked, however, she still wanted to vent her frustration a little after having to travel all the way out to this small abandoned village. Not to mention, they did not even know how long they would have to wait before receiving the official gathering coordinates.
"Hm? Where's the magic freak? Weren't you two supposed to be traveling together?" Zi Yi questioned when she realized that Valentine was nowhere to be found.
"Well..." Izroth went on to explain Valentine's situation to Zi Yi. But, halfway through his explanation, Zi Yi stopped Izroth from going any further as she massaged her temples.
"Alright, I don't need to hear any more. That magic freak really doesn't know where to draw the line when it comes to magic. He's always been like this ever since we were kids." Zi Yi sighed deeply as she found herself face palming as she shook her head.
"Oh? You don't seem too concerned." Izroth said.
"Concerned?" Zi Yi looked at Izroth with an expression of disbelief. Was this enough to be concerned when it came to that magic freak?
She then continued, "Let me tell you, this much is nothing. One time, that magic freak spent three months holed up in some ancient underground ruins because there was a rumor going around online about there being the tomb of some old scholar once thought to be a genuine magic user. To make matters worse, he never told anyone of his whereabouts and so there was a huge search for him. And this is just when he was 10 years old."
Izroth and Luna inwardly shook their heads at Valentine's behavior. Even at such a young age, he was this reckless? They understood that magic had some interesting aspects, however, was there was a reason to go so far? Why was it that he held such a strong passion for magic?
Nearly 15 minutes after Zi Yi's arrival, Halls and Guan Yu arrived at the village at approximately the same time. After exchanging greetings and a few words, they also got around to asking where Valentine was. However, unlike Zi Yi's reaction which was more rounded, both Halls and Guan Yu could not help but burst out into a fit of laughter.
"Ahahaha! Brother, have you ever heard of anyone fainting while reading books in a game?" Halls asked Guan Yu as he did not even try to hold back his laughter in the slightest.
"I've heard it! This matter shouldn't be taken lightly, brother. We should treat this situation with more respect, more dignity, more... More... Pffft! Ahahaha! I can't say it with a straight face! This guy really is a magic freak!" Guan Yu said. He seemed mature and dignified at first, however, that facade quickly crumbled as he was unable to act with a straight face.
"You two... Do you have no shame?" Zi Yi asked as she witnessed their behavior.
"Shame? Don't you know that I, Guan Yu, and my brother were born under shameless stars? How can we betray them by having shame?" Guan Yu stated with a grin on his face.
"Well said!" Halls commented as he nodded his head in approval. This, of course, led to Zi Yi wanting to cough up blood from their responses. What shameless star? What betrayal? He was just talking complete nonsense!
"You- Don't go agreeing with him!" Zi Yi stated when she saw Halls casually nodding his head in approval. This eventually led to Guan Yu and Halls goading Zi Yi into a rematch of their previous battle of joke telling.
"Hmph, don't think that I'm the same person as last time. Having undergone a special training session, I've been studying and preparing for a moment like this so that I wouldn't be caught off guard again. It's not too late for you two to back out and save some face." Zi Yi said with a confident and reassuring expression.
Studying? Preparing? This... Wasn't she taking this entire matter a bit too seriously? Also, why was her expression filled with so much confidence? Could her efforts really have paid off that much in such a short period of time?
"Brother... She seems really confident. Are you sure this is a good idea?" Guan Yu asked Halls.
"Are we still men if we choose to run away? I want to see the results of this special training." Halls responded. The atmosphere became tense as Guan Yu and Halls faced Zi Yi.
Zi Yi had a serious look on her face and if a stranger saw this scene, they would think that an intense battle was about to break out between those present.
Zi Yi broke the silence as she said, "A book fell on my head, I can only blame my shelf."
"..." There was a lingering silence in the atmosphere after those words left Zi Yi's mouth.
"...Heh..." A small chuckle sounded in the quiet surroundings. Who was it? Who was it that had a stomach of iron to digest that joke? When everyone turned their gaze towards the direction of the small chuckle, they discovered that it was surprisingly Izroth!
"...I thought it was amusing." Izroth said with a carefree smile on his face in response to the stares. Immediately after hearing that, Zi Yi admitted defeat. This... Why was it that he of all people had to like it? Wasn't this confirming that her special training was all for nothing?!
"I give up... It's my loss..." Zi Yi sighed as she felt somewhat dejected. All of that studying and she had not improved a single bit! She was sure that she had studied all the right things, so then why were the results so unsatisfactory?!
Luna could not help but release a small and light giggle at both Izroth and Zi Yi's reactions.
"B-brother... We really have to discuss your sense of humor." Halls said as he looked over at Izroth and gave a helpless smile.
As time passed by 30 minutes... One hour... There was no news or messages from Blue Oasis nor Valentine. However, just as everyone was wondering whether or not Valentine would even show, they saw a figure rapidly closing in. There seemed to be a gust of wind blowing constantly at their back and feet that propelled them forward at great speeds. This figure suddenly stopped a few meters away from everyone.
"The landing is still a bit shaky... But, it's still useful for traveling. I'm just not sure it's practical in actual combat since it lacks any maneuverability." The figure muttered to themselves.
"Ah, I'm not too late, right?" This person was, of course, Valentine! Although he was an hour late, fortunately, the others were still there as Blue Oasis had not made a move yet.
"No, we're still waiting for Blue Oasis. It's good to see you're well." Izroth stated.
Izroth, Luna, Zi Yi, Halls, Guan Yu, and now with the arrival of Valentine, the six of them had finally gathered together again since the moment they left the Chaotic Dogma Realm!
Almost as if it were calculated, at the exact moment Valentine joined Izroth and the others, Izroth received a message from Niflheim with a set of coordinates.
'Looks like it's finally time.'