On the other side of the door, Ayanna saw the two princes of Ahnlikohn off as they left her office. Now that that encounter was over with, Ayanna had something else to worry about: the meeting with temporary prime minister Wilson Dezine. Little could be done to calm the numerous nervous thoughts racing through her mind as she paced throughout her office. Ayanna could only hope that at the absolute worst, a mere warning would be issued.
“It’s not like you to wander around without cause,” General Reiss said.
“General Reiss!” Ayanna exclaimed. “You’re not already up there?”
“I wanted to see how you’re handling the news,” Reiss answered. “Believe me when I say that I am just as nervous as you are, Ansa. Not just for my sake, but the rest of Iiayikohn as well.”
“The fact that we’ve got no clue who assassinated the prime minister is troubling,” she said. “It will take a lot of effort on our part to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
“I know that Alan did not go down without a fight,” Reiss said. “He was a warrior through and through, struggling to the end. The preliminary autopsy said as much and that, to me, is a big clue in and of itself.”
“It’s true that we have that information,” Ayanna replied.
She remembered the scene was it was when she first found his body. After the initial investigation, there was also another bullet wound discovered in Alan’s abdomen that had been obscured by the dirt underneath. There had to be an explanation as to what happened between Alan and his attacker, Ayanna thought to herself.
“It’s not going to do us any good to keep standing here, however,” Reiss said. “Eventually we’re going to have to face Dezine and hear him out.”
“I know that, sir,” Ayanna said.
“Whatever may happen, know that this is a united force,” Reiss continued. “Stand tall, hand in hand with your fellow Iiayi. That’s the motto.”
Reiss laughed. “Glad to hear that,” he said. “Let’s get going.”
“Very well,” Ayanna replied.
Ayanna followed Reiss up the stairs and headed straight for the office that had belonged to Alan. Given the circumstances, Dezine occupied the room as he sat behind the large desk. Reiss walked in first and took a seat. Ayanna slowly went in and took the second seat right next to him. They both looked at the older, silver haired man as he laid the paper he was reading down on the surface of the desk.
“You’re two minutes early,” Dezine said. “Is there so little for both of you to do right now?”
“We only wish to speak with you so we can find a solution,” Reiss replied. “I know that you’re particular about meetings…”
“Excuse me, but a man has just been assassinated,” Dezine interrupted. “I don’t think people are ready to talk about solutions right now.”
“The civilians might not be, but that’s what we’re supposed to do, sir,” Ayanna said. “People are looking to us as we speak in order to make sure such a heinous act doesn’t happen again.”
“Lieutenant general, tell me something,” Dezine said, “If your job is to ensure the safety of the prime minister, why then do you try to tell me how to do my job?”
“I’m sorry?” Ayanna asked.
“The Iiayikohnian military is supposed to be the strongest force in all the land,” Dezine replied. “Strong enough to prevent any attack on our soil, but given what has happened over the past few months I’m not so sure that statement rings true anymore.”
“I know we’ve had attacks in the past, but we’ve dealt with the ones responsible,” Ayanna said. “Just like five months ago, we will find the assassin and make sure they get the justice they deserve.”
“She’s correct,” Reiss said. “Those who decide to attack us don’t get the chance to get away with it.”
“But was that not due to the help of both the Ameci and Ahnle militaries?” Dezine asked. “Alan had his hand in making sure that a joint effort would be made to stop the True Thekohnians, but I would think that a stronger, more efficient military would not have the need for such assistance.”
“With all due respect, Prime Minister, I disagree,” Reiss said. “It was in the interest of all three of our nations that the threat must be stopped. Had there been no unity, we wouldn’t even be talking here today.”
“You say unity, but I see it as overreliance,” Dezine said. “There is a lot to be said about this incident and it starts with both of you.”
“I understand,” Ayanna said. “Both of us will strive to better leaders for our troops starting right now.”
“Is that what you think?” Dezine asked. “You were just promoted only a few months ago, weren’t you?”
“That’s true, but…”
“Swift punishments are to be expected from me today,” Dezine said. “It may be unfortunate, but you are clearly not ready to handle the job.”
“Hold on a moment,” Reiss intervened. “Ayanna Ansa was not to blame for the prime minister’s assassination. If you are looking to punish someone, punish me.”
“You wish to stick up for her?” Dezine asked. “After all that’s happened?”
“If it weren’t for my ignorance, then Alan Berry would still be alive,” Reiss answered. “That falls on me, sir, and I am ready to accept any punishment so Ansa will not suffer.”
Ayanna looked at Reiss. “General…”
“Did I not tell you earlier?” Reiss asked. “I am willing to do what it takes. After all, it’s a united force, is it not?”
“It is,” Ayanna replied. “Thank you so much.”
Reiss grinned. “All I can expect from my troops is that they follow your example,” he said. “You should be able to lead them, regardless of what happens.”
“Well, it’s quite a passionate display you’ve put on here, Roderick,” Dezine said. “As befitting a general, I’d say. Very well, then.”
Dezine pulled out a notebook and pen and placed it on his desk. He opened it up and began to write. All Reiss and Ayanna could do was watch as Dezine’s movements crossed from one side of the page to the other. Finally he stopped and put the pen aside.
“Both of you will keep your jobs,” he said, “However, it is not without severity. Starting now, Lieutenant General Ansa, you will be serving a two week suspension. As for you, General Reiss, I will see to it that your power is severely reduced in the near future.”
“My arse it will be!” Reiss said. “If you’re going to suspend someone, suspend me, damn it!”
“And what good would that do?” Dezine asked. “Examples still need to be made. Be happy that it’s only two weeks, or I might just change my mind entirely.”
“You can’t be serious,” Ayanna said.
“People are expecting a lot out of me now that I’m the leader,” Dezine replied. “Right now, I can’t afford to have the general of the military out of work, but I cannot say the same of you.”
“That’s nonsense!” Ayanna said. “You can’t just ignore the general’s wishes like that!”
Reiss shook his head. “I’m sorry, Ayanna.”
“I did all I could,” he replied, “But it looks like we’ve got no choice.”
Ayanna sighed. “Understood.”
“If that’s all, then leave,” Dezine said. “I’ve got an important call coming in later and I don’t want to miss it.”
“Okay,” Reiss said.
“Be glad with the deal you got,” Dezine replied, “And hope that I don’t change my mind later.”
Ayanna and Reiss hurried out of the office. Out in the hall, Ayanna looked to Reiss, his fist clenched as he pounded the railing. He did this two more times until Ayanna stepped in and stopped him.
“General, you don’t need to take it out for my sake,” she said.
“I’m sorry, but when I see my soldiers taking the brunt for me, I can’t help it,” Reiss said. “Be it on the battlefield or behind closed doors, I do what I can to make sure that they don’t lose. I’m sorry for failing you.”
“It hurts to lose work for what happened, but I don’t want you to worry about me,” Ayanna replied. “I will try to make everything right, general, I swear.”
Reiss lifted his head and chuckled. “I knew I made the right choice in choosing you to succeed me.”
“Thank you, again,” she said.
“You’ve got those friends of yours, don’t you?” Reiss asked. “I know I’ve seen that energetic girl pal around with you from time to time.”
“Well, yes, but she’s out of the city right now,” Ayanna replied, “But there is Lawrence and Gavin Power.”
“Ah, I do remember distinctly hearing about Mr. Gavin Power’s heroic deed,” he said. “If he’s eager to find out who assassinated Alan, then perhaps it’s best to seek out his help.”
“I have a feeling that he and Law might have already gotten the head start,” she said. “Since they are with Eva Bellamy, I’m certain that they have their own plan.”
“Had no idea that Miss Bellamy was here.”
“Yes, she caused a small scene earlier but I was able to calm her down.”
“Alan was quite a figure in her life, you know,” Reiss said. “Almost like a father I’d say. Fitting, since he was the leader of the Swords of Eight.”
“It’s up to us now,” Ayanna said. “For Alan’s sake.”
“Look, Ansa, it may be a tough road ahead, but if there’s one thing I know it’s that you’ll be leading that lot to find the killer,” Reiss replied. “Hell, if it weren’t for my restrictions, I’d be working the other soldiers on this too!”
“I’ll catch up with those three,” she said.
“Then I will see you later,” Reiss said. “One last thing: if it’s not too much to ask, I’d like to meet you later tonight at your place.”
Ayanna headed off in search of Gavin and the others. She had to find the three before the day was over, at least if she wanted to help them. Perhaps they had already found a lead to work with. All the more reason to catch up with them, Ayanna thought as she exited the building. There was one place that they could be as Ayanna turned to the direction of the largest hotel in Rezar.
[10th of September, 2740 AD; Quiet Falcon Train Station, Helm, Ahnlikohn]
The train rolled to a stop into the station of Helm as Sorin and the others waited for the doors to open. What felt like several minutes, with Sorin looking around and Rain peering at the door, was only a few seconds as the doors parted open and people began to finally exit the train. Sorin and his group were the last few people to exit the train. As the group exited off onto the platform, they decided to head out of the station and out onto the exterior.
“This is Helm?” Mina asked. “It’s so pretty!”
Within the city were many lush trees growing on either side of the streets, with buildings going down all the way to the end of the street. Though the size of the city did not rival Rezar, it appeared to be lively nonetheless. Some crowds were already surrounding one of the closer destinations, the theater, which was not too far off from the train station.
“It actually looks very peaceful,” Sorin said.
“This is considered to be one of the nicest places to visit in the spring,” Rain said. “It’s not too cold, nor too warm. They even have their own little celebration around the turn of the season.”
Gale adjusted her glasses. “Looks like we should come back here around then,” she said. “You know, when we have the free time.”
“That would be nice,” Rain replied. “Especially if I end up getting to spend that time with you, Mina.”
“Of course… Of course!” Mina said. “Um, Noa, you… you haven’t spoken up at all since we got here. Are you okay?”
Noa had his sights set on a man clad in a green cloak. “He’s looking at us,” he said. “What does he want?”
Sorin looked over at the cloaked man. “Hey you!”
The cloaked man walked up to the group and laughed. There was an unsettling feeling at the bottom of Sorin’s stomach as he hovered his hand over the grip of his sword.
“I don’t wish to fight… at least not right now,” Wihll said. He pulled back the hood of his cloak and revealed his face.
“It’s you!” Mina exclaimed. She rushed up to Wihll and punched him in the face, but Sorin intervened before she could deal more damage.
“Hold on, Mina!” Sorin said.
“Why should I?” Mina asked. “He’s the villain that messed with us and Iiayikohn!”
“I know that,” Sorin replied, “But I don’t think he wants to cause us trouble.”
Wihll coughed as he tended to the side of his face. “I remember now,” he said. “Seems that that girl holds the same contempt for me now that she did in the past.”
“You’re right that I do!” Mina answered. “How could we ever forget the horrible things you did to us, Victor Wihll?”
“And you were the one who organized the attack on the prime minister’s office, weren’t you?” Gale asked.
“I knew this was a mistake,” Wihll said. He looked over at Mina, who was still being held back by Sorin. “Fine, then do to me as you wish. I’ve got little to lose, so are you going to be the one to end my life here?”
“No, I’m going to get you back to prison where you belong!” Mina said.
“If that’s your answer, then you truly are naive,” Wihll replied. “This dedication you and your friends have to ‘heroism’ is sickening if not ridiculous.”
Rain stepped forward. “Victor, is it? Mind if I ask you a question?”
“How did you escape from prison?” Rain asked. “Furthermore, how did you manage to get here of all places?”
“I’d like to say that some very generous people helped me out,” Wihll replied. “To think they’d help someone like me… Hah! It’s only because of them that I realized that I had to be here!”
“So whoever told you to come here knew that we were coming,” Sorin said as he let Mina go. “Who was it?”
“Do you really think I’m going to tell you that?” Wihll asked. “Besides, it’s not like I know his name.”
“We don’t care how you got here,” Mina said, “Just explain yourself!”
Wihll put his hood back up. “That’s not going to happen,” he said. “I’ve got somewhere I need to be, after all.”
Sorin unsheathed his sword and pointed it at Wihll. “Not another move.”
“Or what? You’ll take me in?” Wihll asked.
“There’s five of us,” he replied. “You’re already aware of what Mina can do and I know for a fact that Rain here will not sit idly by.”
Noa raised his hand up. “And… and me, too!”
“Seems I’m shit out of luck now,” Wihll muttered.
“There’s little use in resisting right now,” Rain said. “Come now, let’s get to a more quiet area, then we can alert the proper authorities about Wihll here.”
“You’re so sure of that, princess?” Wihll asked. “Fine, I’ll play your little game, Your Highness.”
“She never told you who she was!” Mina said.
“Regardless of how little you think of me, I do happen to know who this woman is,” Wihll said. “My opinion matters even less, but even so, I don’t think highly of the Thedam family. Not after what happened to my hometown and my country fifteen years ago.”
“Do you mind explaining?” Rain asked. “I have a bad feeling of what you’re speaking of, but please go on.”
“Are you sure, Rain? He might just be lying,” Gale said.
“He… he deserves to be heard out,” she answered.
Sorin put away his sword. “As long as we find a better place to talk.”
“I agree,” Rain said. “You don’t mind at all, do you?”
Wihll laughed. “I’ve got no choice in the matter,” he replied. “Then again, your bespectacled friend might also be right in that I may just choose to lie.”
“Mr. Victor Wihll, right?” Noa asked. “This incident you’re talking about… It wouldn’t happen to be Kals Dale, would it?”
“That’s right,” Wihll said. “How exactly do you know about that?”
“Because that incident is very important to me, too,” Noa replied. “It was when I lost my entire family.”
To be continued…