[22nd of December, 2740 AD; on the road to Thekohn, outside Glora, Ahnlikohn]
It was a miracle that Sorin was able to board the bus with Gale unnoticed by anyone, let alone the driver. He did not want to risk staying in the city for any longer in case the royal military decided to come looking for him. It was that and the fact he did not want to put any of his friends in danger, yet Gale requested to come along with him. It made the bus trip to Thekohn less lonely, but even so, Sorin knew that isolation was beginning to close in on him.
“We’ll be fine, I think,” Gale said. “As long as Rain is on our side, then we’ll be fine. That’s something I know for a fact Isaac can’t take away from us.”
“I’m not just worried about him,” Sorin said. “It’s Rysol I’m worried about as well. He’s still being held captive somewhere and none of us are any closer to saving him. It’s made me worried that whatever pain Rysol’s in, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“But you know where he is, don’t you?” Gale asked. “He isn’t gone forever. We… I know you will find him again.”
“And I never want you to get hurt, either,” Sorin continued. “If they come after me, then they’ll certainly come after you, too.”
“It’s a risk that we’ll have to take,” she replied. “I’m not going to abandon you, Sorin, nor would I ever allow Isaac or his friends to bring harm to you. And I know you’d do the same for me.”
“Thanks, but does that mean you’ve got an idea?” Sorin asked.
“I’ve got a plan, but it’ll require everyone to be in the kingdom,” Gale said. “I’m going to let Rain know as soon as we arrive that the others need to come to Thedam Castle so we can discuss what we need to do in full detail.”
“I wonder if everyone is willing to do that,” Sorin said.
He remembered what both Luna and Pekka said to him and wondered if it was possible they would cooperate. They did manage to help yesterday, but even so, Sorin was not sure if they were fully ready to meet with him eye-to-eye yet. It would most likely take some time, he thought.
“We have to,” Gale replied. “I know Isaac. He’ll try his best to capitalize on any weakness we might have. Unless we’re unified, it will be tougher for us to do what’s needed in order to take down Foundation.”
“He was never really fond of us in the first place, was he?” Sorin asked. “I remember the first time I saw him.”
It had been a while, but Sorin recollected that first encounter with Isaac Kunigunde in his mind. The mere presence of Isaac suggested an aloof, arrogant man who seemed to want nothing to do with anyone he felt was beneath him. Sorin, however, did not think that that meant Isaac was evil; rather, it was that instance that suggested that Isaac was nothing more than a simple agitator who strived only to upset people. It was only a few months ago when Rain’s mother revealed the true mastermind behind the Neu Thekohnian Order that showed off what a terrible man Isaac Kunigunde was and that he had to be stopped before he could do it again.
“Isaac made all his money on other people’s suffering,” Gale said. “It only makes sense that it was done by dealing weapons. That’s why it’s important that we stop him before he can start another incident, or even worse…”
“I know,” Sorin said.
“Sometimes, I just wonder what would have happened if my mother were still alive,” Gale said. “Would anything have gone differently? Would Isaac still be the same man he is now? I really don’t know…”
“I wish I could answer that one for you,” Sorin said. “But seeing as I barely got to know either of my parents until recently, I feel pretty much the same way that you do.”
Gale rested her head on Sorin’s shoulder. “I probably shouldn’t ask those questions,” she said. “Even if I knew the answers, it wouldn’t change anything. It all happened and I can’t change that fact no matter what.”
Sorin looked at Gale. She looked beautiful resting against him. He wanted to show he much he appreciated her, even during a troubling time like this, but knew that it would be better if he saved it for later.
“Say, Sorin, when this is all over, is there anywhere you want to go?” Gale asked. “I’ve read that there are some islands to the south that are nice around this time. Perhaps we can go to the isles and see for ourselves.”
“That would be a great idea,” he replied.
“You think so?”
“Of course I do,” he said. “As you said, we’ll be able to get through this soon enough. There’s nothing more I’d like than to spend more time with you.”
“I’m so happy to hear that,” Gale said.
And Sorin knew that it was true. He had to remain hopeful even when the odds looked like they were against him for Gale’s sake. It was then that Sorin had an idea, but he had to meet with everyone first beforehand. He did not want to make the same mistake and leave the others out of what he had planned, and he knew that they may have had some grievances towards him because of it. Now more than ever, Sorin needed their help and he would make sure that they knew how important they were to him.
[22nd of December, 2740 AD; location unknown, Hurst, Iiayikohn]
Korbin could hear some gruff laughter from the other side of the door. He could tell that it was his father, Harold, as Bradley went ahead and knocked on the front door. The door soon opened after a few seconds as Korbin headed inside with Erik and Bradley behind him. It was time for them to meet with Harold, who looked to be delighted as he had a triumphant grin on his face.
“You came just in time, Korbin,” Harold said. “I suppose that even an idiot like you can do something right the first time… I would be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised, but let’s not waste any time. Come.”
Down the dim hallway, Korbin looked around. There was a lot inside his father’s residence that had changed over the years, but the cold air continued to remain the same. Even during the warmer months, Korbin had always found the place to be quite cold compared to where he usually stayed. Korbin spent most of his time sharing a room with Bradley, who he had always counted on as a friend, but sometimes he found himself here with his father. Now again was the time that Korbin had to come back, given the setback he suffered from Sorin, but first he had to know what exactly Harold was talking about when he asked him to come here last night.
“I can see that you went and got my gift broken,” Harold said. “As expected of a brainless maggot, you went ahead and got too full of yourself.”
“It wasn’t my fault!” Korbin exclaimed.
“Be quiet! I’m not done talking yet,” Harold said. “After all, you ought to be thanking me for what I’m going to give you. It’s a more advanced version of the arm I made, because I knew somehow you would mess up.”
“Well, we could use it,” Erik said. “Korbin’s been real agitated that he’s got nothing to do right now.”
“Have I given you permission to speak?” Harold asked. “No, I have not, so learn your goddamn place, Ellis!”
“I’m… I’m very sorry,” Erik replied.
Harold sighed. “Now, where were we? Oh yes, yes, the reason I demanded you to come,” he said. “Crawford, I assume that you spoke with your father about the next course of action, did you not?”
“I told him,” Bradley said.
“And you made sure that he received my message?” Harold asked. “Let it be known that if you are lying to me, I will find out. You really do not want to know what would happen if I found out you were lying to me, Crawford.”
Bradley nodded. “Trust me, Mr. Mars,” he said. “I don’t intend on deceiving you, nor would my pops.”
“If I wanted to hear what Casper had to say, I’d ask him,” Harold said. “But that’s not important. What’s really important is that you see this.”
They reached the end of the cold, dark hallways and ended up at the lone steel door. Behind that was whatever Harold had planned, Korbin believed. That was it. He had to wonder for himself what could possibly be behind the door, but it was then that Korbin realized that perhaps his father was successful with his methods. That his father could use whatever tactic he had in order to win, that was what caused the sudden turn in the man that they kept hostage.
“I want you to stand back,” Harold said. “There may be a chance that he could come at you.”
“You don’t mean what I think you mean, do you?” Erik asked.
“Erik, shut the fuck up,” Korbin said.
“So it’s finally time, eh?” Bradley asked. “I guess those methods really do work, but I guess when it comes to you, sir, I shouldn’t be surprised.”
“It was easier than I thought,” Harold said. “Even for a genius like myself, I knew it would take some work. There was always a chance that he’d continue to resist me, but even so, I had his life in my hands and he knew that I could end it at any time. Of course, that’s true about anyone who crosses paths with me.”
“I can’t say you’re wrong,” Korbin said.
“There is no doubt in my mind that any man would desire for the ability I have,” Harold said. “In this pathetic excuse that we call this world, I am sure that people would step over each other in order to attain this power were it to become available to them. Selfishness is the ultimate driving force behind most of what is done in the world, which is why we as people are still fighting to this day.”
“Well, are we going to see him or not?” Erik asked. “I’m starting to get kind of bored waiting here…”
Harold glared at Erik and delivered a punch straight to his abdomen. The sheer power behind the punch, which Korbin heard boom just like a cannon, sent Erik reeling as he tried not to fall to the floor but failed as he collapsed onto his knees. Harold looked over to Korbin as he placed a hand on the doorknob and began to turn it.
“He should be fortunate,” Harold said. “If I were to be less considerate of your feelings, Korbin, then I would have killed Mr. Ellis instead. Let that be yet another lesson to you.”
“Yeah, shut your fucking face already, Erik,” Korbin said. “You gotta let my dad take care of this one.”
“That goes for you as well,” Harold said to Korbin. “My patience with you has already been tested; don’t try and push me any further.”
With a final turn, Harold opened the door. Rysol stood in the middle of the room with a sword in his hand, slashing into the air before him. The increasingly steady swift slices struck nothing, but it was the speed that impressed Korbin the most. Rysol’s impressive speed made everyone look twice as the long-haired man moved from one side of the room to the other.
“It’s now our time to move,” Harold said. “The worthless insects that keep about as if they stand a chance against us will be in for a surprise once they see what they’re in for with the reawakened Rysol Wilk. Behold, the efforts of my hard work stand right before your eyes!”
“You don’t need to say another word,” Korbin said, stepping forward as he drew his sword. “I may be down an arm, but I can take you all the same! Come at me, Rysol Wilk!”
“Korb, no,” Bradley said. “Damn it, you’re too headstrong sometimes.”
“Let him see for himself,” Harold said. “Maybe then this idiot will finally understand how important it is to follow my orders.”
Korbin positioned his blade horizontally in his left hand. He looked over at Rysol, who turned to him in response. Their eyes set as they could not look away from one another, with Korbin moving closer. In less than a second, Rysol rushed at Korbin with his sword raised high with no time for him to move out of the way. The two blades clashed against one another as Korbin did his best to hold off the incoming Rysol, as the sheer amount of pressure being placed upon him made him hesitate to move.
“Damn, he’s as good as ever,” Korbin said. “The son of bitch better watch it, because here I come!”
He rolled out to Rysol’s left away from his blade and swung towards him in a vertical motion. Rysol, though, had caught Korbin’s strike by defending with his sword. Once more Korbin chose to move out of the way and attack again, but no matter how hard he tried to get Rysol, Rysol seemed to possess a near inhuman ability to predict and counter anything thrown his way.
“Don’t you think we ought to stop the fight?” Bradley asked Harold. “I know how important it is to see how strong Rysol is, but it would be bad if Korbin got hurt any further.”
Harold turned to Bradley. “What do you think? If something happens, it’s because of Korbin’s recklessness,” he replied. “All I want to know is how strong these results are. These results that my hard work created, that is the reason why I will not stop this little battle. No matter what becomes of this battle, the fact remains that one of them will have resigned to his fate.”
“That’s not what this is, though,” Bradley said. “We’re only measuring this man’s strength! What’s happening here is just reckless!”
“Quite a few men and women were victims of the attack that took place in Glora yesterday,” Harold said. “They probably didn’t expect to become victims but that was their fate and only by running away from my son and his cronies did they end up resigning to the notion as they stood no chance. Korbin may be an idiot, but he is a capable soldier. A useful idiot, in short.”
“Damn you, I’m going in,” Bradley said.
Harold put out his arm before Bradley and glanced at him. “So you wish to resign to your fate,” he said. “I’d be willing to help you, but doing so would put a damper on my relationship with Casper. Such foolishness, yet he still needs me as I him. Stay.”
Even Bradley felt frozen by Harold’s demeanor. “I… I understand, sir,” he replied. “Then I’ll stay right here.”
Korbin still fought with Rysol in the training room. He could not admit it, but Rysol had proven to match him for every blow. It was then that Rysol went and delivered a strong strike with his blade to Korbin’s sword, knocking it out of his hands. Korbin landed on his backside as Rysol stared him down with his blade pointed at his face. There was no fear in Korbin’s mind as he gritted his teeth and looked for his sword. However, Rysol decided to withdraw and turn away from Korbin right as he found his sword.
“Alright, Rysol Wilk, it’s time for me to go and push your shit in!” Korbin exclaimed. “Hey, come back here, you asshole! I’m not done fucking around with you yet!”
“Stay your blade, idiot,” Harold said. “I’ve seen enough, and it appears that Rysol sees the same as well.”
Korbin growled as he sheathed his sword. “Fucking fine, then,” he said. “I can’t fucking fight without my arm, anyway.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Harold said as he walked over to Rysol. “Now it’s finally time for my plan to go in action. You remember your mission, don’t you, Rysol? About the man who betrayed you? The man who abandoned you? Tell me, Rysol, you really wish to kill your father, don’t you?”
Rysol looked at Harold. “Yes,” he said. “I will kill my father.”
“Very good,” Harold said. “It appears that my hard work has paid off. Now, Rysol, it’s time to begin the next part of your training.”
To be continued…