[10th of September, 2740 AD; New Prime Minister’s Office, Rezar, Iiayikohn – Deca District]
Eva rushed through to the inside of the office past the crowd of soldiers at the door and through the hallway. She had to find her answer even if it proved to be one that Eva did not want to hear. As she hurried through, Eva bumped into Ayanna at the base of the stairs.
“Hello, Eva,” Ayanna said. “I’m sorry but I can’t stop to speak with you.”
“Just tell me what’s going on,” Eva replied. “What happened to Alan? Tell me!”
Ayanna turned away. “I’m very sorry,” she said. “I know how much he meant to you, but…”
“No… you can’t be serious,” Eva said.
“We’re planning to break the news in an hour,” Ayanna said. “It’s been hell trying to hold this off because even I don’t want to believe it, but it’s the truth.”
Eva knelt as she focused on the floor. “This is all a dream, isn’t it? A terrible, awful dream that I just need to wake up from.”
“I can only give you my deepest sympathies,” Ayanna replied, “But you can’t just stay there on the floor forever. Would Alan have wanted to see you like this?”
“Just tell me who did it,” Eva said. “Tell me so I can find the asshole who decided to take Alan’s life and kill them myself.”
“We’re still trying to figure that out.”
“Then work harder, lieutenant general!” Eva exclaimed. “Right now, someone is walking around free and you can’t just let them get away with it!”
She stood up and gripped the handle of her sword while her free hand clenched into a fist.
“Because… because if you let them get away, then Alan’s death will never be avenged!”
Ayanna’s words came too late, however, as Eva decided to leave the building and head off. There had to be a way she could bring Alan some peace, Eva thought, as she tried to find out who killed him. To Eva, Alan was more than just a prime minister. He was more than just the leader of the Swords of Eight. For her, Alan was very meaningful friend who believed in her when no one else did and gave her the chance to prove herself.
“I will make this right, Alan, I swear,” Eva said. “Whoever did this, I’m going to make sure that they’ll never breathe another breath!”
“There you are!” Gavin shouted.
He sprinted to Eva, who turned around and stood up. Law was right behind Gavin as the two brothers joined up with Eva.
“Glad we were both right, bro,” Law said. “Eva, I’m sorry you had to learn about what happened this way.”
“Are you done?” Eva asked. “Because I really don’t want any pity.”
“We’re not here to pity you,” Gavin replied. “I know how you feel, but whatever it is you’re planning to do is probably foolish.”
Eva grumbled. “You’re okay with letting a murderer walk?”
“No, not at all,” Gavin said. “Believe me when I say I want whoever’s responsible behind bars.”
“Prison is too good for Alan’s killer,” Eva said. “The only good would be for me to find them and kill them myself.”
“You can’t just do that,” Gavin said.
“Of course I can,” Eva replied as she eyed the sword at her hip. “I’m not afraid to kill, especially when they’ve already killed those I hold dear to me.”
“Well, I don’t blame ya,” Law said. “I’d love to just meet this person myself and give them the one-two but without any lead, we’re stuck.”
“Especially when we have no idea who carried this out,” Gavin added. “It could’ve been anyone out there.”
“No, it couldn’t have been,” Eva said. “What happened here, whoever killed Alan had a reason to want him dead. It had to be somebody important.”
Gavin sighed. “I understand that. I do.”
“Then you’d understand why I want to do this,” she replied.
“Look, we’re getting nowhere,” Law said. “Let’s pay Ayanna a quick visit while we’re still here and try to move things forward.”
Gavin adjusted his sunglasses. “I’m going to tell you one thing, Eva,” he said, “We’ll find out who killed Alan. No one assassinates the prime minister and gets away with it as long as I’m around.”
[10th of September, 2740 AD; Executive Hotel, Entrance Lobby – Deca District]
Noa stood frozen in place as he stared Sorin down. Nobody said a single word, which allowed for the ambient sounds of cars passing by and people walking to be heard.
“Excuse me, but how do you know about Rysol?” Sorin asked
“Are you lying to my face?” Noa asked. “Who else could mistake the long hair and sword by your side? It’s… it’s so painfully obvious!”
Sorin raised an eyebrow. “You have long hair, too, you know.”
“Hey, don’t call me out on that!” Noa exclaimed as he placed his hands on either side of his head. “All I know is that I received a request to target Rysol Wilk and I know you look similar to him, so there!”
“Just because we have similar traits doesn’t mean we’re the same person,” Sorin replied.
“Besides, you’ve got the wrong person,” Gale said. “Sorin is Rysol’s younger brother.”
Rain took a step forward. “May I ask something?”
“I… I know who you are, too!” Noa said. “You’re the princess of Thekohn!”
“Indeed, it is I,” Rain said. “I can see that you hail from the Maeitakohn military. Exactly what brought you here today, besides the obvious reason?”
“You asked me a question,” Noa replied. “Oh god, I’ve never had a girl ask me a question before, much less talk to me… What do I do?”
“I can’t believe what I’m hearing,” Gale said.
“Even I didn’t expect that the princess would be speaking to me as if it were nothing,” Noa continued. “Dear lord, she’s even more pretty than I imagined!”
“He’s still talking to himself,” Sorin said.
Gale shook her head. “Hopeless.”
“I’m sorry,” Noa said. “N-No I’m not! What am I saying!? It was because of you that I came here, Rysol Wilk!”
“You’re sorely mistaken,” Sorin said.
“Sorin’s got nothing to do with you, you weirdo!” Mina said. “If you don’t stop harassing him, I’ll clobber you!”
Noa dropped to his knees and raised his arms above his head. “Please don’t hurt me!”
“I think you should just answer my question,” Rain said. “It’s not at all that difficult.”
“Can’t say,” Noa replied. “Can I just go now?”
Mina walked up to Noa and grabbed him by his shirt. “Explain yourself!”
“It’s not at my liberty to disclose that!” Noa shrieked. “I really don’t want to get hurt right now, so please just let me go…”
“I think it’s best if we let him go,” Rain said. “It’s obvious that he’s clearly wrapped up in his own misapprehensions.”
“Yeah, I’m just a nobody,” Noa responded. “I’m just a dummy whose got no business being here!”
“Fine, then,” Mina said as she let go. “You wanna know what I think? I think that even a villain would say you’re pathetic.”
“You’re not holding back on him, are you?” Sorin asked.
“I was being nice,” Mina replied.
“I’m just going to go… now,” Noa said.
Noa jumped up to his feet and dashed off. No one had any desire to stop him, at least not until Sorin noticed that Noa left his bag behind. Sorin walked up to the bag and tried to pick it up, to which he found that it weighed more than he expected it to weigh.
“What the hell is in this thing?” Sorin asked.
“Let’s find out!” Mina said.
“I don’t think it’d be right to look,” Sorin replied. “Who knows what secrets are in here.”
He set the bag back down and looked at it again. If it was similar to the bag that Noa had in Glora, perhaps there would be a reason to look. Sorin decided against it, however, and turned to Rain and Gale.
“So do you think we should wait for him?” Rain asked. “It would be rather unfortunate should that bag go missing.”
“No, let’s just head over to the prime minister’s office,” Mina said as she lifted the bag up over her shoulder. “I’ll take care of this thing no problem!”
“That’s what I expected you to do,” Rain said. “Though I do have some difficulty believing that that man will react with delight should he see you holding his possessions.”
“We can worry about that when we find him,” Sorin said. “Or if he happens to find us.”
Mina led the way to the prime minister’s office as Rain, Gale, and Sorin followed after her. Despite everyone looking out for Noa, there was no sign of him anywhere as the four closed in on their destination. Outside, Eva was already speaking with Gavin and Law as the others decided to join in.
“What’s going on?” Mina asked.
“Just waiting to get in,” Law replied. “We’ve settled things down so Sorin doesn’t have to worry about Eva.”
“I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you,” Sorin said.
“You had a reason not to,” Eva said. “My only wish is that we didn’t have to meet under these circumstances.”
“I agree with you,” Sorin replied.
“Anyway, we’ve got no idea where we can go from here,” Gavin said. “Right now, Eva’s pretty much set on finding whoever’s responsible and dealing with them herself. I’ve got to admit it’s also something I want to do, too.”
“Because of the bounty?” Gale asked.
Gavin sighed. “You must think that low of me to believe that I’m only in for the pounds,” he said. “It’s hardly about any of that when there are much bigger things are at stake.”
“It’s up to us three, then,” Law said. “Eva, you will not believe how amazing I’ve gotten during the past few months.”
“Is that so?” Eva asked. “Well, I hope you’re ready to show it.”
Law reached to his hair and flicked it. “Don’t worry, I’m always ready to impress when given the chance.”
“Anyway, I was wondering why Mina’s lugging that around,” Eva said.
Mina placed the bag down on the ground. “Oh, this? It’s just something some guy dropped and we’re hoping to get it back to him soon.”
“Speaking of which, isn’t that him over there?” Rain asked.
She pointed over to Noa, who stood across the street surrounded by a couple of Iiayikohnian officers.
“I don’t know anything,” Noa said. “Please just let me be!”
“Hey, you!” Mina exclaimed.
Noa turned his head and yelped as soon as he saw Mina. “Oh no, no, no, no, no! Not you again!”
As she picked the bag up, Mina ran towards Noa and the two officers. Both of the officers moved towards her as Mina set the bag down again.
“Excuse me, miss, but we’re busy here,” the clean shaven officer said.
“Yeah, we’d appreciate it if you’d go along,” the other officer said. “This isn’t exactly a place for civilians to be right now.”
“No, I’m here because he dropped this bag,” Mina said. “You forgot this over at the hotel; my friend Sorin couldn’t even lift it!”
The other officer raised his eyebrow. “Do you have any idea what’s in there, miss?”
“Not a clue!” Mina replied.
“That’s… that’s mine!” Noa said. “You really chose a bad time to give this back to me!”
Noa ran over to the bag and picked it up. However, the clean shaven officer grabbed Noa by the arm and pulled him back.
“What do ya got in that bag?”
Noa pulled his arm away. “It’s just clothes,” he said, “Simply heavy clothes, that’s all!”
“You must have really packed it hard, then,” Mina said, “Because I didn’t expect to be carrying that all over the city.”
“Yes, yes, I thank you,” Noa said, “Now can you just let me go?”
“Not so fast,” the other officer said, “Not until you show us what’s in the bag. If it’s really just clothing, you’ll have no problem, right?”
“Urgh, I’m not comfortable with that,” Noa replied. “You see… it’s, er, women’s clothing! Yes, my… my mother asked me to purchase clothing for all of my sisters! That’s why the bag is so heavy.”
The clean shaven officer let Noa go. “I find that hard to believe, but I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.”
“Seems like you got lucky,” the other officer added. “If it were up to me, you’d be sitting in a cold, dark cell like the rat that you are.”
Noa whimpered. “I’m sorry I caused you guys trouble!”
The two officers laughed as they walked off. Noa breathed a sigh of relief as the others crossed the street and approached him.
“You know, I really feel bad for you,” Mina said.
“Do you?” Noa asked.
“I wouldn’t lie,” Mina replied. “In fact, I’ve never met someone as pathetic as you before.”
“Wow, Mina, you wasted no time and got right to it,” Law said. “This guy, huh? It would be rude not to ask him his name.”
Noa gripped the strap of his bag. “Why’s that any of your business!?”
“Look, it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that you’re not from around here,” Law answered, “And given that you were just in that scuffle, you are no ordinary person.”
“Are you calling me weird?” Noa asked. “I’m not weird!”
“I don’t think anyone was calling you weird,” Rain said. “You mentioned earlier that you had to take a request. I assume you are a mercenary of sorts?”
“Not at all… not at all,” Noa replied. “I still can’t believe I’m talking to you, it feels so surreal…”
Noa tilted his head and looked off into the sky, lost in thought. Gavin grumbled as he walked up to Noa.
“Stand up straight and look her in the eyes, you fucking fool!” Gavin yelled. “I wasn’t going to say anything to you, but seeing this ridiculous behavior really pisses me off!”
“O-Okay!” Noa replied. “My name’s Noa Mzade, and I’m just a normal guy in the Maeitakohnian military!”
“You’re Noa Mzade?” Eva asked.
“Yes, it’s… who I am,” Noa said. “Please don’t glare at me like that…”
“Do you know him, Eva?” Mina asked.
“No, I was just wondering,” she replied. “Please, carry on.”
Mina turned back to Noa. “So is that bag really full of clothing?”
“Er, that’s what I said,” Noa answered. “Just a bunch of clothing, and…”
“Tell me!” Mina said as she tried to look into Noa’s eyes, which made him away from her in response.
“Gah, I can’t!” Noa said. “It’s a lie!”
“I had a feeling,” Sorin said.
“With the way she looks at me, how could I?” Noa asked. “God, I’ve never received this much attention from a woman before!”
Gavin clenched his fist and punched Noa in the face. “Stop acting like a fucking idiot!”
“You didn’t have to punch me!” Noa exclaimed as he rubbed his face. “Fine, if you must know, I’m enlisted as a sniper, but recently I’ve been taking on these tasks the general gives me. He always sends me off to some far locations.”
“Seems like he’s just finding ways to get you out of his hair,” Law said. “Well, if he’s anything like Rohan Fercewend, then there’s no hair to speak of.”
“Now that I think about it, General Khadir did mention that he’d find a way make me useful,” Noa said. “Was it all just a lie?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Law replied. “Maybe it’s a sign that you should experience new things. Perhaps you should head to Ahnlikohn and climb some mountains; I hear it’s a good time of the year to climb.”
“No thanks,” Noa replied.
“Okay, I tried,” Law said. “Gale, you want to try talking to him?”
“I’m not interested,” she said.
Law chuckled. “Never mind, then,” he said. “Bro, do you have any ideas?”
“We should just talk to Ayanna,” Gavin replied. “This dumbass has no use to us whatsoever and all the time spent here is time we could be using to devise.”
“You and me both,” Law said. “Eva, maybe now’s the time we can get things going.”
“Sounds good to me,” Eva answered.
Law gave a thumbs up. “Alright then, shall we?”
“Wait, you’re just going to go?” Mina asked.
“You’re say that as if we’re never see each other again, Mina,” Law said. “That’s not the Mina I know, not at all. No, she’d eagerly pump her fist in the air and wish me, my bro, and the lovely Eva Bellamy good luck!”
“How could I forget?” Mina said. She hoisted her fist upwards and gave Law a determined look. “Of course you guys will be okay! Wherever you go, Law, I know that you’ve got Gavin and Eva on your side to protect you!”
“So let’s get the hell out of here,” Gavin said. “Later.”
That led Gavin, Law, and Eva to leave and head for the prime minister’s office as Sorin and the others were left to themselves. Noa still stood there, however, with a dumbfounded look upon his face.
“You’re still here?” Gale asked.
“I just realized something,” Noa said, “I’ve got nowhere to go. I’ve failed my mission. How can I show my face to the general after this?”
“What do you mean by that?” Rain wondered.
“I may not look like it, but I’m not exactly the most well liked soldier in the military,” Noa said. “Most people just ignore me at best and treat me like dirt at worst.”
“I’m not surprised,” Gale said.
“Now Gale, perhaps you shouldn’t be so quick to remark on Mr. Mzade’s misfortunes,” Rain replied. She turned back over to Noa. “It must be extremely tough having to endure what you went through. Are you sure there’s nowhere else you could head off to?”
Noa shook his head. “That’s a negative, Your Highness,” he said. “The only reason I joined the military was because it offered me shelter when nobody else could.”
“Perhaps, if none of you mind, you could travel with us for the time being?” Rain asked. “That is, if you want to, of course.”
“You mean that seriously?” Noa asked. “I’m… this isn’t one of those pranks you’re just going to play on me and make me look like a fool later, is it?”
“Heaven forbid the thought!” Rain said. “After listening to your story, how could I ignore someone like you?”
“It’s just something that we want to do,” Mina said. “We want to help people, even if they’re pathetic like you.”
“Wow, thanks,” Noa replied.
“Then it looks like that’s settled,” Sorin said. “Rain, if you still want to head over to the prime minister’s office…”
“No, we don’t need to go there anymore,” Rain said. “It looks like they have things under control. What we need to do now is go towards Oelaans and make it past the border to Thekohn.”
“So what’s the fastest way to get there?” Sorin asked.
“There are a few ways, but the quickest would be to head to Helm via train,” Rain answered. “I do feel guilt, though, as tickets for the fastest trains aren’t reserved for commoners.”
“It seems to be that way,” Gale said. “How else could those princes get in so quickly?”
“Can we not talk about them?” Sorin asked.
“There was quite a bit of commotion earlier,” Rain said. “I suppose that explains why, then.”
“Let’s just say that while they may be royalty, the princes of Ahnlikohn are anything but,” Gale replied.
“Yes, I can understand that,” Rain said. “We’ve had meetings with the Ahnle family in the past, so I’m aware of what kind of person Prince Amile is.”
“There’s no use talking, though,” Sorin replied. “You’d be able to get us some tickets on short notice, wouldn’t you?”
Rain nodded. “That I can do with ease,” she answered. “It’s only a small trek away from where we are now.”
“Let’s go!” Mina exclaimed. “It’s the five of us hitting the road with one clear objective in mind!”
Sorin laughed. “Let’s head out,” he said. “Ready or not, here comes the Brave Fighting Sun!”
With that, they set off for the train station as Mina led the group. Though Noa lagged behind as he carried the large bag over his back, he still kept up with the other four. This time, their mission was clear.
To be continued…