Sundown – Chapter 18 (Part 1)

[11th of September, 2740 AD; Tranquil Cardinal Inn, Helm, Ahnlikohn]

 

Early in the morning, Sorin and Gale woke up to the sound of someone knocking on the door to their hotel room. Sorin hopped out of bed and to the door while Gale tried to get ready. Opening the door, Sorin found himself face to face with one of the Iiayikohnian officers that had been tasked with coming to Helm.

“There you are,” the officer said, “Victor Wihll, you’re under arrest!”

“No, no, no, you’ve got that wrong!” Sorin replied. “Do I even look like Wihll to you?”

The officer took a look at his notes. “I was told that the escaped convict was staying here,” he said. “Am I to believe that we were misinformed?”

“No, not at all,” Sorin said. “We just had to make sure that he wouldn’t run off, so a Maeitakohnian soldier is watching over him in the room next door.”

“And you’re okay with trusting a soldier of the Maeitakohnian military?” The officer looked aside to the other room. “I suppose that I will have to see for myself.”

“Let me go with you,” Sorin said.

Sorin rushed over to Noa’s room with the officer and watched as the man knocked on the door. A few seconds later, Noa opened up and almost jumped in shock as he shrieked.

The officer pulled out his gun and pointed it at Noa. “So you’re the Victor Wihll that’s been on the run!”

“Please, you’ve got it all wrong!” Noa exclaimed as he put his hands up. “I’m just a simple soldier, not some wanted man!”

“Officer, if you would look behind him,” Sorin said.

Victor Wihll sat in the corner as if he had not moved at all the entire night. Noa moved aside as the officer walked inside with his gun trained on Wihll.

“If you’re going to shoot, do it now,” Wihll said.

“You’re coming with me,” the officer replied. “Stand up and put your hands behind your head.”

 

Downstairs, Sorin and Noa reunited with Gale, Rain, and Mina as they decided what they should do next. With Wihll out of the way, the path to Oelaans was made much easier. Still, Sorin had some concerns.

“I wonder if it’s really okay to go,” he said.

“What’s on your mind?” Gale asked.

“We haven’t heard at all from Ayanna,” Sorin said. “I’m wondering if they’ve gotten any closer to finding the assassin.”

“That was also on my mind as well,” Rain said.

“You guys don’t need to worry about that!” Mina replied. “I’m pretty sure they’ve already found the assassin and brought them to justice!”

“Still, it wouldn’t hurt to find out what’s been going on since we left,” Sorin said. “I feel like I should go make the call.”

“No, you don’t have to do that,” Rain said. “I have a hunch that Mina may be right about this.”

“But it’s… it’s not like there’s any reason why she might be right,” Noa said.

Rain smiled. “Well, when she says it with such conviction, it makes me believe as well,” she said. “I can’t say for certain, but it’s good to believe in your friends, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know,” Noa replied. “I guess it’s not worth it to argue with you, though…”

“Noa, tell me,” Sorin said, “Do you still want to go with us?”

Noa frowned. “Why do you ask?”

“If you want to go back, that’s fine,” Sorin replied. “None of us would stop you; however, I believe that you have something to prove.”

“I have something to prove?” Noa asked. “I’m kind of afraid to ask what you’re talking about.”

“We heard you out yesterday,” Sorin said. “I don’t even know what the right words to say are, but you did survive for your family’s sake.”

“It was only because of what I was told,” Noa said. “Running away and hiding from danger has gotten me this far. Why are you bringing this up now, all of a sudden?”

“Just genuine curiosity,” Sorin answered.

“I know it’s probably not much, coming from me, but I am deeply sorry for what happened to your family and the man that took care of you,” Rain said. “What Sorin’s trying to say is that you don’t have to embark on this journey with us, or at least the door is open if you so choose.”

Noa clenched his fists as he looked down. “I could do that,” he said, “But is that what you want me to do? Am I just useless overall?”

“No, that’s not what any of us are implying,” Sorin replied. “You’re a sniper, aren’t you? You’d probably be very useful.”

“Yeah, you might just be a hero yet!” Mina said.

“A hero? But even you called me pathetic,” Noa replied.

“Mina probably didn’t mean to call you that,” Gale said. “I think she was just trying to encourage you… in her own way, I think.”

“Look, I know what it’s like to lose a family member,” Sorin said. “Not being able to know what kind of person my mother was really hurts and I’m only now just getting to know my father better. I can understand your fears.”

“At least you still have a father,” Noa said. “I suppose I don’t have too much of a choice, though.”

“I’ve been saying you had a choice whether or not you want to keep going with us,” Sorin replied. “I don’t know, there’s just something I can see with the look in your eyes. Something that says you want to become better.”

Noa scratched the back of his head. “I don’t know what you mean by that.”

“He means you don’t want to be so pathetic anymore, right?” Mina asked. “Being around us must have awakened some special feelings in you!”

“Special feelings!?” Noa exclaimed. “I mean, I’m around some cute girls and all, but I can’t just spill out my guts all over the place!”

Noa muttered to himself while Gale just placed her palm on her forehead.

“You missed the point entirely,” she said.

“Don’t tell me you’re dating them all, are you!?” Noa asked to Sorin. “I’m not in any place to judge, but even I have limits to my fantasies!”

“You missed the point so hard, you’re up in the stars now,” Gale said.

“I’m sorry!” Noa said. “Sorry, sorry, sorry! Please forgive me for putting my foot in my mouth!”

“Besides, I’m only with Gale,” Sorin said. “Mina and Rain are our friends and allies in this journey.”

“That’s right,” Rain said. “Perhaps we should just get out of this boring inn and see what Helm has to offer?”

“Sounds like a good idea to me,” Sorin said. “What do you think, Noa?”

Noa just nodded his head.

“I’ll take that as a yes, then,” Rain said. “Well, what are we waiting for?”

With nothing else to do at the inn, Sorin and the others left and went into the city. Unbeknownst to them, however, the calm, peaceful city of Helm was being fast approached by many outside parties looking to make a move.

 

*****

 

[11th of September, 2740 AD; Glora-Helm Direct Freeway, Ahnlikohn]

 

Johan gazed off into the clear sky as the bus made its second-to-last stop before Helm. Two people got off and only one got on the bus. The man with short hair noticed Johan and hurried in order to sit right next to him.

“Great timing, Pekka,” Johan said. “Funny how we just seem to meet on transport lately, isn’t it?”

“As long as I get to see you, Mr. Johan, I don’t care if we meet in a run-down hostel,” Pariton replied. “Anyway, I’ve brought some news for you.”

“So what have you got for me about our friend?” Johan asked.

Pariton smiled. “Seems Mr. Mars is coming to Helm,” he said. “Looks like he managed to catch his target.”

Johan placed his hand upon his chin. “Korbin actually managed to catch her, didn’t he?”

“You know who it is?” Pariton asked.

“Oh, pay no attention,” Johan said. “Just thinking to myself, that’s all.”

“Yeah, I’m surprised he’d actually go that far, to be honest,” Pariton said. “I mean I’ve done some things I’m not proud of, but still…”

“I don’t think he’s going to get away with it, though,” Johan said. “If things go according to plan, then Korbin’s plan will come to a halt in Helm.”

“Well, if you think so, then I believe you,” Pariton replied.

Johan chuckled as the bus started to move. “It’s not a matter of belief, Pekka,” he said. “Those Neu Thekohnian Order guys are there right now and are plotting their next attack, or so I’ve heard. Korbin and his crew are going to run either into them, or he might end up facing someone else.”

“Someone else?”

“You have to make a stop in Helm before you go to Oelaans,” Johan said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if they managed to cross paths.”

“I see,” Pariton said. “Anyway, you’re coming in from Glora, right? Did you happen to run into Victor?”

“Unfortunately, I did not see him,” Johan answered. “I did meet Sir Ahga, however, and I got pretty close with the daughter of the Kikuishan Empress.”

Pariton’s eyes shot up. “How close, exactly?”

“Nothing beyond holding hands, I’d say,” Johan said. “As for Sir Ahga, I have a feeling that he’s got a secret that he doesn’t want anyone to know about, and if it got out, it would spell trouble not only for him, but the Royal Kingdom of Thekohn as well.”

“Is that something we’d like to avoid?”

“It’s complicated,” Johan replied. “I’ve personally met with one of the princesses and she was extremely nice to me–she happens a friend of a friend, actually–but I’m not sure how I feel about the queen knowing what Sir Ahga’s been up to.”

“So, you’re not sure at all,” Pariton said.

“I guess we’ll see what happens going forward,” Johan said.

“Guess we will,” Pariton replied.

As the bus drove down the road, Johan could only think to himself about what would happen next. He knew that there was a chance he would run into Sorin again, so he had to think about how he would explain what it was that he was doing in the city. Johan hated the fact that he would have to lie to his friend, but he also did not want to subject Sorin to danger because of him.

“Hey, Mr. Johan, I want to ask a question,” Pariton said.

“Go ahead.”

“You remember the first time we met, right?”

“I think so.”

“Well, I just wanted to thank you again for what you did,” Pariton said. “It couldn’t have been an easy choice for you to make.”

“You’re welcome, but why are you bringing this up now?” Johan asked.

“I just wanted to, you know?”

“Understood,” Johan said. “The reason why we’re friends is because of our similar circumstances, so I think that it’s always good to remind ourselves of the past so we can create a better future.”

“Well said,” Pariton replied.

It was indeed a moment in Johan’s past where he had considered the circumstances of Pariton’s life compared to his. That moment was also the time where Johan had decided to carry out his mission on creating a world without wars. He remembered to starry night very well and the look on Pekka’s face when they first met. Of all the missions he carried out for the Ameci military, this one was a success, at least in Johan’s eyes.

 

*****

 

[4th of May, 2740 AD; Burning Light Lane, Hurst, Iiayikohn]

 

Two weeks after the battle of Bel, the Ameci military had decided to stay in Rezar until things were completely clear. Johan had very little to do, however, until General Fercewend approached him. He tasked Johan with an easy mission: find and locate a stray member of the True Thekohnians. According to the general, the member’s name was Pekka Varjostaa and was considered to be a dangerous man. Numerous accounts were listed off by Fercewend as Johan nodded along.

“Capturing this man is essential for us,” Fercewend said. “It is imperative that you are able to find this man and inform us of his location. Do you understand, Kuu?”

“Affirmative, general.”

“Then do not let me down,” Fercewend replied. “Your father was a great soldier as well. If only he were still alive to see you now…”

Johan commenced his investigation into locating Varjostaa, only to come up short several times. That was when he came up upon a conversation in the quiet town of Hurst, a few miles away from Rezar. It was between two women who had mentioned a ghost that only appeared late at night. An odd talk, he had thought, but it was a conversation that he believed was worth pursuing. Later into the night, Johan strolled the alleys of the Burning Light Lane and came across this shadowy figure drinking from a brown bottle. He slouched against the wall as Johan stepped towards him.

“Are you the ghost the people have been talking about?” Johan asked.

“Interesting question to ask a stranger.”

“Then answer me a different question: Are you Pekka Varjostaa?”

Varjostaa tossed the now empty bottle to the side. “And what if I am? Are you one of those soldiers that’s been looking for me?”

“Well, you’ve pretty much confirmed to me that you are Pekka Varjostaa,” Johan replied. “Don’t worry, though, because I’m not going to take you in.”

“What is this, a joke?”

“It’s not a joke, Pekka,” Johan answered. “My job’s not to capture you. It’s only to locate you and I just happened to make an extremely lucky guess as to where you were.”

“You shouldn’t let them know,” Varjostaa said. “I… I can’t go back to prison. Not again.”

Johan was curious. “Not again?”

“It was only in self-defense,” he replied. “If I didn’t kill him, then…”

“It might not be my place to ask, but what happened?” Johan asked.

Varjostaa explained his self-defense against a man that had threatened his family. Though he had only been seventeen at the time, Varjostaa was determined to make sure that his family would not be killed. Then, one day, the man came to his home and attempted to attack, but this time, Varjostaa stopped him. With only a small knife in his hand, he successfully took the man’s life and ended the threat. At least that was what he thought, but as it turned out, the man happened to be part of a very powerful organization. An organization that would seek to put Varjostaa to death and subject his family to tragedy.

“But you broke out, didn’t you?” Johan asked.

“It wasn’t easy at all, but yes,” Varjostaa answered. “I snuck out of prison by sneaking into one of the large delivery crates that were supposed to go on the truck. It’s why I also ended up being recruited by them.”

“The True Thekohnians, you mean.”

“Lokke had offered me security,” Varjostaa said. “He made sure that once I got him out of prison, there would be no chance that my family would ever be threatened again.”

“You don’t know the kind of man he was, it seems,” Johan said.

“I was told about his crimes, but I had no real escape,” he said. “I couldn’t go out there alone because I would be dead!”

“But you’re kind of in that situation now,” Johan replied. “Do you really think that your family is still alive, Pekka?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then why keep fighting for the True Thekohnians?” Johan asked.

Varjostaa had no answer.

“If it means anything to you, I will let you go,” Johan said.

“Really? You’d do that?” Varjostaa asked.

“I would,” he answered. “As someone who has lost family of his own, I can relate to your pain. Even if it meant using violence, I understand why you had to deal with the man who had threatened you.”

“I… I don’t know what to say,” Varjostaa said. “Maybe I could go along with you, sir?”

“Call me Johan,” he replied. “Sadly, though, I don’t think the Ameci military would look too kindly upon me associating with a former member of the True Thekohnians.”

Varjostaa looked down at the ground. “Then… then what is your goal?”

“My goal?” Johan asked. “Well, it’s more like a dream, but I’ve always wanted to help create a world where no wars needed to be fought. A world where instead of bloodshed, growth is encouraged.”

“Then I will help you make that dream a reality, Mr. Johan!” Varjostaa said. “If it means that less children will have to suffer the same fate as us, then I’m on board!”

Johan smiled. “Thank you so much, Pekka,” he said. “I really wish I could have done more to help you, though.”

“It’s no problem,” Varjostaa replied. “As long as I can help you, that’s a reward enough for me. I’m glad to have met you, Mr. Johan.”

“I’m glad, too,” Johan said.

 

To be continued…

 

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