[16th of September, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Rio Grove]
Sorin entered the park to see Noa pacing around back and forth. He had already seen Rain and Mina off as they spent their time treating Storm to a walk around the city. Meanwhile, Sorin had to know where Noa had gone off to and to find out if he was doing well. Noa was busy muttering something to himself as Sorin approached him.
“Are you okay?” Sorin asked.
“I’m fine,” Noa replied. “It’s nothing you should be concerned about, not when Her Highness has more to worry about.”
“Still, if something’s on your mind, it wouldn’t hurt to seek out some help,” Sorin said. “We’ve traveled long enough for us to be considered as acquaintances, if not friends.”
“Did Mina put you up to this?” Noa asked. “She always seems to target me for some reason.”
“I’m doing this for my own reasons,” Sorin replied. “At least tell me if you aren’t going to tell anyone else.”
“Why should I tell you?”
“Because if you don’t tell anyone, it’ll just get at you,” Sorin said. “It will continue to be a burden on your back and it really doesn’t have to be that way at all, Noa.”
“You don’t have to say my name like that,” Noa said. “Fine, if it will saitsify you, I guess I can say to you what’s on my mind.”
“Really?” Sorin asked.
“I could continue to refuse and you would keep pressing on,” Noa replied. “It’s a real pain in the ass, but maybe if I told you it would all be okay.”
“All that matters is that you take a step,” Sorin said. “Just one step forward does wonders.”
“Whatever it is, I’ll do it,” Noa said. “I just want to know if you knew the full truth, would you think of me any differently?”
“The full truth of what, exactly?” Sorin asked.
“What I told you all back in Helm, it was not the entire story,” Noa said. “Something that I couldn’t mention… No, I did not want to mention. Something that would change how you felt about me entirely.”
“I’m sure that it’s nothing that would change my opinion of you,” Sorin said. “If it’s too embarrassing to admit to everyone else, you can at least confide in me about it.”
“Then I guess it would be okay to tell you,” Noa replied. “Fine…”
At the front gate of the castle, Johan led Luna and Pariton to the guarded area and hid behind the nearby bushes. He was going to have to pull off a difficult move, with or without their help, and needed his plan to go off without any problems. Of course, Johan knew that things would have to work out regardless of what happened next. He still owed Lauren Ahga another visit, after all. He eyed the two guards with intent while Pariton turned to him.
“Mr. Johan, you’re certain that Ahga is here?” Pariton asked.
“He’s going to want to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch,” Johan replied. “That’s why Victor is going to through these gates without a single question asked to him. Preferential treatment, obviously.”
“We’re so close to stopping them, I can tell,” Luna said. “This close to taking down the leader of the Neu Thekohnian Order. I can’t wait to see the look on their faces when we thwart their plans and laugh in victory, don’t you, Johan?”
“Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, yet,” Johan said. “If we fail, then we’re going to end up paying the price with our lives.”
“I do wonder why Victor is able to join up with the Neu Thekohnian Order so easily,” Pariton said. “You said it yourself that he was on the run from them when you saw him over in Helm.”
“The game has changed,” Johan replied. “Right now, their side has made a very powerful acquisition at a very low cost. They’re going to need Victor right now if they’re to get what they want without too much hassle.”
“What do you mean?” Luna asked.
“If what my deduction is correct, then they’re going to eliminate a major threat to their plan,” Johan said. “That obviously cannot be allowed to happen if we want to avoid seeing a potential war break out.”
Luna grabbed onto Pariton’s shoulder. “War!? But we’ve been at peace for years, haven’t we?”
“Hey, let go of me,” Pariton said.
“That is their goal,” Johan said. “They’ve been wanting to see the Royal Kingdom of Thekohn to go to war with Ahnlikohn for a while now. Now that they’ve got a reason and an ally in the cause, it’s that much easier to do.”
“They lucked out with that prince,” Pariton replied.
“War’s the logical conclusion to that whole mess,” Johan said. “They were going to get their war one way or another.”
“If that’s what they’re after, then they’re even worse than I thought,” Luna said. “Not only are they cowardly enough to get the crown prince of Ahnlikohn to do their dirty work, but they want a war, too? It’s absolutely horrible!”
“Hold on, I think I see him coming,” Johan said. “Duck down.”
They crouched down behind the bushes as Victor Wihll arrived at the gate by himself. The guards took one look at him and nodded, which appeared to be enough to let Wihll pass through. Johan turned to Luna and Pariton and then over to the guards.
“I have a feeling that something’s up,” Johan said. “Follow me.”
“What, really?” Luna asked.
Johan stood up and hurried for the gate. Pariton could only follow, as did Luna. At the gates, Johan eyed the guards that were appointed as he walked up to them with Luna and Pariton right behind him.
“Hello,” Johan said. “I believe I have business here at the castle today.”
The right guard raised his eyebrow. “Do you now?”
“My name is Johan Kuu,” he said. “You would be able to check, wouldn’t you?”
“Hold on,” the right guard replied.
He walked over to the left guard and whispered a few words into his ear. The left guard whispered back to him, to which the right guard nodded. It was only for a few seconds but to Johan, it felt like minutes. Not that he minded, though he knew that he’d have answer ready regardless.
“Sir Lauren has anticipated your arrival,” the right guard said. “Am I to assume that they are with you, Mr. Kuu?”
“Yes they are,” Johan replied. “Thank you for confirming.”
“You’re very welcome, Mr. Kuu,” the right guard said. “Please go on in, and make sure not to cause too much of a ruckus.”
“Very well,” Johan said. “Let’s go, guys.”
With his entry confirmed, Johan walked past the guards and towards the castle. Luna and Pariton hurried after him, with Luna walking by Johan’s side.
“Wait, you actually have business with him?” Luna asked.
“Let’s keep going,” Johan said as he kept walking.
“Hold on, she had a question for you, Mr. Johan,” Pariton said. “Are you just going to ignore her like that?”
“We can’t waste any time,” Johan replied.
He entered the castle as Pariton looked over at Luna. She could only look back at him while Johan disappeared into the castle. There was only one thing Johan needed to do now and he needed to confront Lauren Ahga in order to do it. He stood in the middle of the main hall, which was currently empty, as Luna rushed in after him with Pariton not too far behind her.
“Just tell us what the hell is going on,” Luna said. “Do you or do you not have business with Mr. Ahga?”
“He does indeed have business with me, miss,” Ahga said.
She looked up to the stairs where Ahga was. He slowly walked down the steps as he grabbed the railing on the side. Pariton gritted his teeth and clenched his fists, going into a fighting stance as Ahga made it to the bottom of the stairs.
“Victor Wihll, where is he?” Johan asked.
“Oh, he’s off to complete the hit,” Ahga replied, “But I thought you already knew that based on the eavesdropping you did back at the hotel.”
“How do you know that?” Luna asked.
“My dear, I’m not stupid,” Ahga said. “And I know as well that Johan isn’t that daft, either, which is why I wonder you why haven’t told them yet.”
Johan did not respond and only continued to stare at Ahga.
Ahga smirked. “Even your lovely friend is badgering you for answers,” he said. “Do you think that little of your friends that you would keep a secret from them, no matter what the cost?”
“Johan, just answer us,” Luna said.
“You bastard,” Pariton said. “What have you got on Mr. Johan?”
“Oh, I’ve got nothing on him,” Ahga replied. “No, the choice he made was all his own doing. It’s a smart choice, but still I’m curious as to why you couldn’t have told them sooner.”
At that moment, Sorin entered the main hall with Rain, Mina, Noa, and Storm with him. Johan noticed him in an instant as Ahga laughed out loud, the laughter echoing through the room.
“Good, good, almost everyone is here,” Ahga said. “Well, except for one, but I guess he’ll be here soon enough.”
“Johan, what are you doing here?” Sorin asked.
“You’re his friend, yes?” Ahga asked. “And Your Highness, I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed.”
Rain looked at him. “What do you mean?”
“You honestly don’t understand,” Ahga said. “Then again, where are my manners? When you’ve got a guest in the house, you should let them speak first. Tell them, Johan, about your newfound allegiance with the Neu Thekohnian Order!”
Almost everyone gasped while Johan chuckled. There was no holding back now that it was all out in the open. He had no other choice, but then again, it all went exactly as he planned it.
“You can’t be serious!” Luna exclaimed. “No, I refuse to believe you!”
“He’s wrong, Johan,” Pariton said. “He is… isn’t he?”
“Johan, what is he talking about?” Sorin asked. “You’re not actually working with them, are you?
“Go ahead, Johan, tell them,” Ahga said. “You and I are allies after all now, aren’t we?”
Johan laughed. “You really know how to put a man in a corner, don’t you? Not like it matters anymore. Fine then, I admit it.”
“There’s no way this is possible,” Sorin said. “What would compel you to join with the Neu Thekohnian Order of all people!?”
“They’re villains of the worst kind!” Mina said. “How could you?”
“I can’t forgive you,” Pariton said. “To use my trust just to turn against us all… You are a coward!”
Pariton charged at Johan with his fist raised high. Johan, though, countered Pariton’s attack by grabbing him and throwing him to the ground. With the now devastated man flat on his back, he could only gaze up at Johan, dumbfounded at his betrayal.
“Nice try, Pekka, but you seem to forget that I used to be soldier,” Johan said. “Anything you can throw at me, I’m capable of striking back in self-defense. As for you, Sorin, I thought you would be better than this.”
“Just tell me why, Johan,” Sorin said. “You can’t actually be serious about this, can you?”
“Sorin, I’ve been a man of my word,” Johan replied. “I mean exactly what I say when I want to create a world without wars. I’m just choosing the side that will make it so.”
“But you just told us that the Neu Thekohnian Order wants to start a war,” Luna said. “You’re just a liar, aren’t you?”
“Well, he’s not the only one,” Ahga said. “I notice that particularly pathetic looking man alongside Her Highness over there. Now I remember where I’ve seen him from. You’ve betrayed the princess too, haven’t you?”
Noa grumbled as he slouched his shoulders. Rain turned to him, which only made him turn away in response.
“Noa, what is Sir Lauren speaking of?” Rain asked.
“I haven’t told you the absolute truth, Your Highness,” Noa said. “I was certain that this secret would be taken to my grave, but I guess I have to admit that I’ve lied to you, too.”
Mina looked at Noa with disbelief in her eyes. “Really, Noa? You would betray us, too?”
To be continued…