Fercewend sat across from Henry and Tori in the Questioning Hall, his presence hard to ignore. They had been talking for the past two hours, most of it just small talk. Rohan had even offered water to the both of them, to which Tori accepted while Henry declined. They all knew that there was unresolved tension, however, which Tori attempted to tackle.
“So,” she said, “Has anything changed, Rohan?”
“Like what?” Fercewend asked.
“About Henry’s… accusation,” Tori said.
“Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?” Fercewend asked Henry.
“It wasn’t the first thing I was thinking of,” Henry replied, “But yes, I wanted to state my case.”
“You should have said so in the first place!” Fercewend said. “There isn’t a day where I think about what happened that day. Every young recruit I’ve spoken to has cited you as their influence, and your work has not gone unnoticed.”
“Then you should be able to do something, shouldn’t you?” Tori asked.
“You know it’s extremely complicated, right?” Fercewend asked back. “We are talking about national secrets here. Somebody had to have leaked them to the True Thekohnians.”
“At that time, I was planning to marry Tori,” Henry said. “Especially after what she told me the night before.”
“What did you tell him, Tori?”
“That I was pregnant with his children,” she replied.
“That’s it?” Fercewend asked. “I was worried that it would be something more sinister. Glad to see that isn’t the case.”
“Anyway, you would say that would be an acceptable alibi, wouldn’t you Rohan?” Tori asked. “I just can’t stand to see this going on for any longer.”
“A bit too much information for me, but I suppose it is good enough,” Fercewend replied. “I will file a report to the president about it and hopefully we can put this entire thing behind us.”
“That’s great to hear,” Tori said. “Henry, do you hear that? We did it!”
“I wish I could say I did, but it was your idea,” he said.
“It does not matter now,” Fercewend said. “What does matter is that I can start helping you get back into the military. It’s been a long time, commander Randolph.”
“Don’t you think that you’re being too careless, Rohan?” Isaac asked.
Isaac walked into the room with Gavin right behind him. Fercewend turned and greeted his cousin while Tori and Henry watched.
“I appreciate the hello, Rohan,” Isaac said, “But what I don’t appreciate is the fact that you’re so willing to throw away a serious case under such flimsy pretenses.”
“Listen, Isaac, we both know that there wasn’t much in the original accusation,” Fercewend said.
“And you’re willing to accept Mr. Randolph’s excuse, even when there isn’t any evidence to suggest that he is innocent?” Isaac asked. “I expected better of you, Rohan Fercewend.”
“I wonder why you feel so strongly about Henry, Isaac,” Fercewend said. “Was it not you who declined to join the military? Was it not you who, afterward, wanted to become chief strategist?”
“Hold your tongue, Rohan.”
“I’m not finished,” Fercewend said. “I’ve entertained you for as long as I could, but now is where I put my foot down.”
Isaac laughed. “So I suppose that this is where you tell me that you have the final say,” he said. “Fine by me. You win.”
“That’s it?” Gavin asked.
“He’s the general, after all,” Isaac said. “You would know first hand, wouldn’t you, soldier?”
Gavin didn’t answer.
“You don’t have to look so sullen, my boy!” Isaac said as he patted Gavin on the back. “Well, I’m going to go now. Business calls, you know?”
“I will see you later, Isaac,” Fercewend said.
“Goodbye,” Isaac said.
With that, Isaac Kunigunde left the Questioning Hall. Gavin stood around for a brief moment until he decided to leave too.
“Now that that’s out of the way,” Fercewend said, “Perhaps you two would want to have dinner? It’ll be my treat.”
“We’d love to,” Tori said.
“Yeah, it wouldn’t be too bad at this point,” Henry added. “I could use after that trip.”
“Then we should go,” Fercewend replied. “I know of a good restaurant around here.”
[2740 AD; Number One Bakery in Rezar – Deca District]
What had happened before happened again. Law and Ayanna could only watch as Mina began tearing through her meals: a large pizza and whole roasted chicken. She was about halfway through the chicken when she looked up at Law and Ayanna.
“Is something wrong?” Mina asked.
“How… how do you even manage to do that?” Ayanna asked. “With your figure, how do you…?”
“Oh! That’s easy,” Mina said, “I just have tons of fighting spirit!”
“I’m just writing it off as one of the wonders of this world,” Law concluded, “The bottomless pit that is Mina’s stomach.”
“Of all the things I have seen, this is probably the most staggering,” Ayanna said. “I think I’ll elect to eat my food later.”
Gavin stood outside the restaurant and saw the three through the window. He appeared to scream and hurried inside, stumbling his way to the table. He stopped just short of Law, who eyed the exhausted man before him.
“Guess who decided to show up,” Law said. “I’ll give you two ladies three guesses.”
“Weren’t you going to look for the Ameci general?” Ayanna asked.
“Things happened,” Gavin replied. “I’d rather not talk about it.”
“You’d rather not talk?” Law asked. “That’s a first. What is this, a joke?”
Gavin took a seat next to Law. “You want a joke? I’ll give you a joke.”
“This should be good,” Law said.
“Do you know why I am always in top shape?” Gavin asked. Law chuckled to himself. “Because I always Power walk!”
The silence around the table was all Gavin needed to know. He hung his head in shame, as if he had just realized what he had just said. Mina continued to eat as Law burst out laughing.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Law uttered between laughs, “But you really… really shouldn’t quit your day job!”
“I really should get a box for this,” Ayanna said, eyeing her half-finished food. “Where is the waiter?”
“Maybe it is for the best,” Law said. “After all, if that joke were truly funny, Mina would most likely be choking on her food right about now. You just saved her life, bro!”
“Fuck you,” Gavin said.
Law shrugged. “Man, I was only trying to bring the mood around this table up after that let down of a joke.”
“Excuse me,” Ayanna said to the waiter passing by, “Can I have a box, please?”
The waiter nodded and went off the retrieve a box.
“Okay, so anyway, why are you here?” Law asked. “Seriously, I mean.”
“I want to know why you left,” Gavin answered. “You are the only family I have now. Just tell me… please?”
“Man, you honestly could have just written me that letter,” Law said. “Then again, you did come all the way to see me. I do appreciate that.”
“The general said that you went AWOL,” Gavin said. “Do you have any idea what that even means?”
“I know,” Law replied. “If I go back, I’d be committing suicide.”
“Why would you abandon your post?” Ayanna asked.
“Trust me, it wasn’t something I did on a whim,” Law said, “But if you knew what I knew, you would understand.”
Gavin pounded the table. “What’s understandable about desertion!?”
“Gavin, you and I both know what is was like growing up,” he said. “Dead parents… All the mockery we faced… You even had to work three jobs just to hold the roof up over our heads each night.”
“Do you think that excuses what you did?” Gavin asked.
“Of course it doesn’t,” Law replied. “I had no choice, though. I had to pull that trigger, because if I didn’t my luck would have run out.”
“You honestly expect me to believe that crap?”
“I don’t expect you to,” Law said. “I just expected you to listen to what I had to say.”
“Well, I did,” Gavin said, “And I’m just as confused as before.”
“I expected that from you as well,” Law responded. “Are you almost finished there, Mina?”
“Just a little more to go!”
“Good,” he said. “Gavin, look, I know you don’t understand. I get that. Maybe nothing I say will make you do, but I know that I will always support you.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” Gavin said, “But I still want to know why you decided to leave.”
“Here’s your box, ma’am,” the waiter said to Ayanna.
“Thank you,” Ayanna replied. “Maybe you should tell him, Law. He’s your family; he deserves to know why, at least.”
“Well, I almost never turn down a request from a pretty woman,” Law said. “Where should I start? Ah, I know…”
Law leaned forward, hands clasped together as he eyed the rest of the table. Gavin prepared himself for what Law said, as did Ayanna.
[2740 AD; Executive Hotel – Deca District]
Fercewend’s recommendation of the restaurant at Rezar’s Executive Hotel was a delight to Henry. The bright lights and calming music that was being played by the local pianist was welcoming as Henry and Tori took their seats at the table. Again they sat across from Fercewend, but this time it was for a casual dinner between friends instead of supposed enemies.
“How did you like your food, Henry?” Fercewend asked.
“It was good,” he replied.
“Yes, thank you, Rohan,” Tori said.
“You two don’t need to thank me,” Fercewend responded. “This is what friends do, after all?”
“I mean, hasn’t it been eating at you?” Henry asked. “I’ve wasted ten years of my life because of it…”
“Henry, you’re speaking not with Fercewend the general,” he said, “You are speaking with your friend and colleague, Rohan. Tonight’s a night where we can drop the formalities, wouldn’t you agree?”
Henry closed his eyes and gulped. “I agree.”
“That is what I want to hear,” Fercewend said. “Now I know tomorrow I have a speech, but I would love to have you and Tori there watching.”
“Is that okay?” Henry asked. “Are you sure you wouldn’t get in any trouble?”
“I will speak to Alan, but I am sure he would be okay with it.”
“What will you be talking about?” Tori asked. “It seems that I’m in the dark about what is truly happening here.”
“As much as I would love to, I have to refrain from speaking about it,” Fercewend said. “There was an incident a couple of days ago, and security has been tight ever since.”
He explained about what Alan had told him about the attack on the office a few days prior. Fercewend also mentioned the attacks that have happened in other areas, too.
“I had no idea,” Tori said.
“The True Thekohnians… they really have gotten ruthless, haven’t they?” Henry asked. “Been a real long time since I’ve heard about them, Rohan.”
“It always was quite infuriating to have to deal with them,” Fercewend said. “To think that they’ve been running around causing havoc…”
“Let me guess,” Henry said, “Part of Alan’s speech has to do with them, doesn’t it?”
“Part of it,” Fercewend replied.
“Do you think the True Thekohnians might try to attack during the speech tomorrow?” Tori asked.
“There is a possibility,” Fercewend replied, “But I’ve spoken with Alan and major Ansa.”
“It seems like they’ve got things under control, haven’t they?” Henry asked.
“Indeed,” Fercewend said.
“Anyway, Rohan, I was wondering about something else,” Tori said. “It’s about Henry… Do you know Kirk Wilk?”
“Yes,” she said. “We ran into him a few days ago.”
“It was a while since I saw him last,” Fercewend said. “He seemed to be in good spirits. What about him?”
“Well, Henry wouldn’t tell me, so I was wondering if you knew why Kirk doesn’t like him.”
“I did not know this,” Fercewend said. “I thought that you and Kirk were friends, Henry.”
“Something happened,” Henry replied. “Something happened and now we are not on the same level any more. I can’t exactly blame Kirk for hating me.”
“You know that you can tell me, right?” Fercewend asked.
Henry let out a tired sigh. “I suppose I can,” he said. “You remember what happened when we first met Tori, right?”
“I do,” Fercewend answered.
“I never thought I’d have to hear this again,” Tori said.
“Which was why I wanted to avoid talking about it,” Henry explained. “When we were attacked on the way to Rusa Manor, there was another that knew of our route.”
Fercewend rested his hands on the table. “A third party?”
“Kirk was with us earlier that day,” Henry said. “We were going to meet up with him after the delivery, but we both know what happened next.”
“They say that one becomes desensitized to death after being in war,” Fercewend said, “But I can’t just forget that easily. Even now as a proud general, I still dream about what happened.”
“It haunts me, too,” Henry replied. “Anyway, after the mission, Kirk and I… we were talking when we learned about that man’s betrayal. You know who I’m talking about, right?”
“To think that Walton Lokke had been playing both Ameci and Iiayi forces the whole time,” Fercewend said. “Fortunately, that man is rotting away in prison as we speak.”
“I’m glad, too,” Henry said. “However, Kirk felt as if I had something to do with it and to be honest I think he might be right.”
“No one could have expected Lokke to turn on us,” Fercewend said. “How could Kirk believe you to be responsible?”
“Perhaps I was careless,” Henry replied. “Maybe I had trusted Lokke with too much, even with the Ameci army’s delivery routes.”
“It was a mistake,” Fercewend said. “An awful mistake that many of us have been trying to pay off for years now. I do not understand why it is you that he chooses to harbor a grudge with.”
“Maybe he believe you really did commit treason,” Tori said.
“That wouldn’t be out of the question,” Henry said, “But this is Kirk Wilk we’re talking about.”
“Looks like we’ll have to speak with him later,” Fercewend said. He eyed the clock at the right. “It looks like we’ll have to head to sleep soon. I’ll be sure to get you two a room.”
Tori clapped her hands together. “That’s great to hear!”
“I know,” Fercewend said, “So let’s go now.”