[21st of September, 2740 AD; the outskirts of Glora, Ahnlikohn]
After the incident at the Glora Grand Hall, Korbin and Erik reunited with Bradley at the city limits. The rest of Bradley’s troop had already made it back, save for Lance Keld. Inside one of the trucks was Prince Amile, who was being watched by a couple of soldiers. Korbin looked at his rifle as he unloaded it, while Bradley spoke on the communicator.
“Yes, that’s right, general,” Bradley said. “I’m afraid to announce that they have already struck first. The chancellor himself has even decided to declare war on us, even though we acted in self defense.”
“Getting that call to Fercewend done, are we?” Erik asked.
Bradley ignored him and listened to Fercewend. “We’ll be back soon in Rezar soon enough,” he said. “We lost a man during the scuffle, but I think we’re going to be okay. Just have to inform his family, that’s all.”
“Speaking of which, where is Lance?” Korbin asked. “That son of a bitch better not have fucked this up!”
“Well, he was the one driving the truck,” Erik replied. “Perhaps he got lost?”
“The fuck he did,” Korbin said. “The next time I see his face, I’m just going to fucking go all out!”
“Anyway, General Fercewend, I’ll be sure to update you if there’s any changes,” Bradley said. “I’ll see you and Randolph later.”
Bradley switched off the communicator and placed the device inside the truck. He turned to Korbin and Erik while the other soldiers got onto the trucks. Just then, Lance showed up and stopped to catch his breath as everyone looked directly at him.
“Hey guys,” Lance said. “I got lost along the pathway, but it looks like I made it just in time.”
“You did, it seems,” Bradley said. “What of the queen, the prince and the chancellor? I saw that they scurried away like the rats they are.”
“Yeah, about that… I’m sorry,” Lance replied. “It’s just… I got lost…”
“That’s too bad,” Bradley said. “You did a good job of hiding yourself all throughout the speech; not even Johan was able to spot you.”
“Johan was there?” Korbin asked. “How come you didn’t tell me?”
“I didn’t think it was that important,” Bradley answered. “He just wanted to watch the speech from what I saw. We even had a nice little talk.”
Korbin looked away. “That may be so, but I don’t like that he was there,” he said. “What if he decides to tell Fercewend?”
“I don’t think he’s going to,” Bradley said. “He has a different reason for being here and as long as it doesn’t interfere with what we’re doing, it shouldn’t matter to you, right?”
“Fine, I guess you have a point,” Korbin replied. “That Johan Kuu, though… If only I had the chance, I’d go and break his fucking face for trying to make a fool out of me!”
“Maybe you should calm down, Korbin,” Lance said.
“I am fucking calm!” Korbin exclaimed. “Am I not calm to you?”
“Of… of course! How could I be mistaken?” Lance asked.
Korbin grabbed Lance by his jacket. “You’ve been getting on my goddamn nerves for a while, Lance Keld,” he said. “You were late earlier and you managed to fuck up killing the Ahnlikohnian regime!”
Lance’s hands began to shake. “I said I’m sorry, didn’t I?”
“Not good enough!” Korbin shouted as he shoved Lance to the ground. “I’ve had to deal with a shit stirrer like Johan Kuu the past 24 hours, so now I’ve gotta go all out!”
Lance tried to get up but Korbin got on top of him before he could. Korbin gritted his teeth and stared into Lance’s eyes as the man on the ground could only lay in fear. The air felt dense between the two men as Korbin punched Lance in the face.
“Korbin, please,” Lance said, “I don’t know what else to say…”
“You’ve already said enough, bastard,” Korbin replied, “Now lay back and let me punch you!”
Korbin continued to punch Lance in the face, each hit being stronger than the last. As he tried to endure the nonstop onslaught, Lance could only attempt to cover his face his his arms. Bradley sighed as he continued to look on as Erik did the same.
“But I did all I could,” Lance whimpered. “We’ll get them next time.”
“Of course we will,” Korbin replied, “But for you, there won’t be a next time!”
After that, Korbin kept on striking Lance’s face with his fists until the other man could no longer defend himself. Korbin began to scream, which soon turned into a laugh as he could not stop punching Lance. His laughter was the only thing that could be heard in the silence over Lance’s protests and Korbin’s strikes.
“Should we do something?” Erik asked.
Bradley chose not to respond as Korbin’s fists started to bleed. Lance began to bleed as well, his face being unrecognizable as he stopped moving.
“Son of a bitch,” Korbin said. “You made me bleed, asshole!”
Korbin stood up as Lance tried to turn over, but was kicked in the face. Bradley headed for the front seat of the truck as Erik tried to break up the beatdown. With each kick to Lance’s face, he tried to reach out but his hand dropped to the ground. Erik rushed in to restrain Korbin, but Korbin still kept kicking Lance in the face long after the young man could no longer move or breathe.
“Korbin! Korbin! I think he’s had enough,” Erik said. “Shit, I think you might have killed him…”
Korbin caught his breath. “Good,” he replied. “Piece of shit… He deserved it after what he did to me.”
“Hey, Bradley!” Erik called out. “I think we’re going to have to use that body bag after all!”
“Fucker got blood all over my boot,” Korbin said. “Swear to god, if Johan Kuu comes around… I’ll fucking kill him too!”
“Okay, Korbin, it’s okay now,” Erik said. “Yeah, he’s definitely stopped breathing alright.”
“It’s in the back,” Bradley said. “Hurry up already!”
“Right, right,” Erik said. “Korbin, maybe you should go join Bradley in the front. I’ll take care of things here.”
Korbin exhaled and grinned. “Got it.”
He walked away to join Bradley as Erik went to the back of the truck and got out one of the body bags. Erik and one of the other soldiers then walked over to Lance’s lifeless corpse and knelt down as they proceeded to take care of the now dead man.
“He really did a number on you, didn’t he?” Erik asked. “Man, if this is what happens when you get too on his bad side, I’d hate to see him when he’s around Johan again.”
[21st of September, 2740 AD; Sparrow Hotel – Outdoor Lounge, Glora, Ahnlikohn]
Johan picked up the phone receiver and began to call. He had attempted to phone Lauren Ahga earlier, but was not able to reach him. By now, Johan hoped that Ahga would be available as the phone started to ring. A few seconds passed as the phone rang one, two, three times until the person on the other end picked up and spoke.
“Hello?” Ahga asked.
“Sir Lauren, you’ve finally returned my call,” Johan said. “I was hoping to talk to you earlier, but it seemed to be as if you were busy when I had called the castle.”
“Ah yes, I am glad that you called, Mr. Kuu,” Ahga replied. “I had another matter to take care of at Her Majesty’s request, which was why you couldn’t have reached me earlier.”
“I understand,” Johan said. “Queen Isla has quite the long leash, doesn’t she?”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, pay no mind to that,” Johan replied. “I was just thinking out loud, that was all.”
Ahga laughed. “I don’t do what I do for Her Majesty for the thrill of it, you know,” he said. “No, she’s a woman who demands more from a man like me, and I certainly am not going to be a slouch when it comes to my duty.”
“Does she now?” Johan asked.
“Isla’s much more than just the Queen of Thekohn,” Ahga said. “If I could, I would write an entire novella about her feats, but I’m afraid I would be straying far off the course of where you and I are supposed to be.”
“Then I won’t bother,” Johan said. “You know exactly why I’m calling you, after all.”
“So it’s been done, then,” Ahga said.
“I was worried that they weren’t going to do it, but it seems like they made the first strike after all,” Johan replied. “Of course, their firebrand was there to help drive things in the right direction, even if he’s not too fully aware of it himself.”
“Harold’s son?” Ahga asked. “Well, as long as they took care of business, it will all work out anyway.”
“Fortunately, it seems that Queen Amelia survived as well as Harring,” Johan said. “Perhaps they’ll be forced to surrender once they realize how outnumbered they are?”
“Either way, I must thank the Ameci military for putting their foot in the door,” Ahga said. “Isla will be very pleased once she hears the news.”
“You really do like to please her, don’t you?”
“Is that meant to be a joke, Mr. Kuu?”
Johan chuckled. “I’m being completely serious.”
“Her goals and my own are completely mutual,” Ahga replied. “She wants to attain this land for her reasons as do I. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“Then that answers my question,” Johan said. “What’s next the next course of action, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Well, if what you have suggested to me is true, then we’re waiting for the next strike,” Ahga answered. “No doubt about it, the Ahnlikohnian military will be looking to punch back.”
“Except this time, it will be seen as the first strike,” Johan said.
“That’s what people will think,” Ahga said. “Those Ameci have been very helpful in getting this plan off the ground. It’s really too bad, isn’t it?”
“I don’t have any ties to Ameci,” Johan replied.
There was one, however, though Johan chose not to say it.
“You’re always welcome here, Mr. Kuu,” Ahga said.
“Thank you,” Johan said. “By the way, what will you do about Rain and Storm?”
“You don’t need to worry about that,” Ahga replied. “I’ve already got a plan in place should she and her friends decide to come back. I also have a little insurance plan, just in case.”
“Insurance?” Johan asked.
“You know her well, of course,” Ahga said. “I still cannot believe that you of all people would allow her to lock you up in the cell.”
“I just needed a way to get this all started,” Johan said.
“And it looked like she believed it,” Ahga replied. “Jelka really does believe in you, you know that?”
“She never told me that,” Johan said. “Guess she’s too proud to admit something like that.”
“Well, she’s leaning on you,” Ahga said. “Not a bad place to be, if I do say so myself. You should treat her sometime.”
“I’ll think about it,” Johan said. “Listen, I think it’s best I hang up now. Looks like someone wants to use the phone now.”
“Very well,” Ahga replied. “Take some time for yourself, though I should recommend that you do it outside Ahnlikohn… I hear it’s about to get messy out there.”
“I’ll definitely do that,” Johan said.
He said his goodbyes to Ahga and hung up. As he turned around, there was no one behind him that had wanted to use the phone. Johan smiled as he walked over to the bar and greeted the bartender.
“Welcome,” the bartender said. “What will you be having today, sir?”
“I’ll just take a light mineral water,” Johan answered.
The bartender nodded and reached for the drink. As Johan received the drink from the young woman, he looked off to the benches over on the other side. He knew there was a chance that everything could backfire, but then again, he had a feeling that he would be able to get out of any problem that arose. That was not his concern, nor was he concerned about Sorin. No, there was someone else that Johan had to look out for now.
“Jelka, if only I could just tell you,” Johan said. “Maybe then you’d truly understand what it is I’m working toward.”
To be continued…