[24th of December, 2740 AD; Oelaans Outer City Park, Oelaans, Thekohn – Lynx District]
Kirk tightened the buttons on his coat as he looked towards the country’s border. He left Thedam Castle early and made a few preparations before heading to the bus station. Though he had some regrets about leaving the royal kingdom on such a short notice, Kirk knew that he had to go alone without anyone trying to stop him. That was why he had written that letter to Henry and made sure that he would not tell anyone about it unless he was asked to do so. Most of all, Kirk wanted to make sure that Sorin would not get involved with this matter; after all, this was Kirk’s mission. Sorin was busy trying to clear his own name, while Kirk had a more pressing issue to take care of in the meantime.
“If I’m lucky, I can get there just after nightfall,” Kirk said. “If my hunch is correct, then he should be there as well.”
He still had a way to go, but Kirk had to make it back to Iiayikohn before he could do anything else. At the least, Kirk could think out his next move without any interference. He had the feeling that who he was chasing after would be in the country, though Kirk had to pinpoint Harold’s location first. For now, though, Kirk waited for the next train to Helm to arrive; the last time Kirk checked the schedule, however, he saw that the train would not arrive for another hour. Until then, he had another fifty minutes to spare and devise his next move.
“I have to consider that he’s hiding in the darkness, waiting for me,” Kirk said. “But I can’t wait any longer. As long as Rysol remains captive, I can’t just let Harold get away with this.”
He had passed the duty onto Sorin a while ago, but Kirk knew that he could not do it now. Despite the fact that he was not getting younger, Kirk continued to remain confident in his abilities as he flexed his fingers. He was going to have to be sharper than usual against his enemy, because Kirk had the feeling that Harold did not slack off over the years. He could not afford to underestimate his enemy, no matter how damaged Harold was. Harold, after all, had plenty of connections and would not be afraid to challenge Kirk with a barrage of soldiers if he chose to do so. Even now, with Harold lacking his arms and his leg, he still had the brains to engineer a devious plan just in case.
Kirk, however, knew that by doing this, he would leave Eva to worry and he knew that he did not want that to happen. But for now, Kirk had to betray her. He had to, if he wanted to secure a future for her and everyone else. He did not want to say it out loud, but Kirk was willing to put everything on the line for her and for his sons, even if it ended up costing him. Though he was certain that he would come out victorious, Kirk had to fight like he was cornered with no means of escape. That was how he would win in the end, and how he had won against Harold in the past.
“She would understand eventually, I know it,” Kirk said to himself. “This is just something that I have to do alone… Eva, please forgive me…”
His thoughts went to no one, but Kirk continued to think about her. Though sometimes she and him would disagree, Kirk loved Eva as much as he could. She had been there for him during his darkest hours, and he for her as she had lost people close to her. Tragedies had brought the two together, but Kirk knew that he and Eva were going to earn their happiness. He would help to defeat the evil that only served to create more tragedy, and make sure the rest of the world would receive peace as well.
Kirk looked up and around, finally, and hurried over to the train station. He had to wonder if enough time had passed for the train to arrive, but when he looked at the station clock, there were still forty-five minutes until the top of the hour. Dejected, Kirk took a seat on the bench and reached into his bag. With only himself to pass the time with, Kirk decided to read the kingdom’s newspaper. It was then that he realized that the winter festival was close. He had to wonder if Rain would still have the festival take place, given what has happened. It would certainly take some time before the wounds of Glora and Ahnlikohn healed, and more time for the relationship with the kingdom to heal. That just made Kirk’s mission even more important, he thought.
“Everyone’s hurting,” he muttered. “Even the queen herself; she won’t say it, but she’s been feeling it worst of all.”
[24th of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Inside Thedam Castle Hall]
When Sorin got back to the castle with Eva, they were both surprised at who was waiting for them in the main hall. It had been a couple of days since the attacks in Glora when he last saw the two, but Sorin was glad to see that both his friends were okay. Sorin took a few steps forward and greeted the two while Eva decided to stand by the door. He almost forgot why he had left in the first place, but realized that Johan was not here to reunite.
“It’s nice to see that you care, buddy,” Johan said. “I take it that you were out in the cold looking for someone?”
“Uh, yes, I was,” Sorin replied. “You didn’t happen to see my father before you got here, did you?”
Johan ran his fingers through his own hair. “I wish I could say that I did,” he said, “But I hate getting my friend’s hopes up. Instead, I’ve gained some good information that I’m sure the queen would love to hear from me.”
“You’ve got information?” Eva asked. “You’re not going to try and extort the queen, are you?”
“Just what kind of guy do you think I am, Eva Bellamy?” Johan asked. “Why would I ever want to do that to a friend of Sorin’s? By the way, Eva, you look quite attractive today.”
“I don’t have time to play these kinds of games with you,” Eva said. “Tell us what information you have already or don’t.”
“Seems I’m already pretty popular around here,” Johan replied. “First it was Gavin, now it’s you. Oh well, I’m not here to steal anyone’s heart.”
“Johan, please, if you will,” Sorin said.
“Well, we’ve got two big pieces of some good news,” Johan said. “Of course they’re both related, so it really doesn’t matter which one you pick because it all leads down the same path.”
“The Ameci military is planning an attack on Thekohn soon,” Jelka said. “It will be on Oelaans and will happen two days from now.”
“On Oelaans?” Sorin asked.
“It’s the prime route between the kingdom and the rest of the Thekohnian Region,” Johan said. “They intend to cut you guys off and corner you. Well, that is if you don’t count the wastelands.”
“Yet the wastelands are hard to traverse on their own,” Jelka said. “Going through such a place is unwise.”
The Thekohnian Wastelands were to the east of the kingdom. Though it sat many kilometers away from the kingdom, Sorin knew that the wastelands were the long connecting path back around to Ameci, Oci, and Elemci. Traveling by foot was not an option as the wasteland spanned nearly twice the length of Iiayikohn, Ahnlikohn, and Maeitakohn combined. The better option was to drive by car or truck, but Sorin had heard that doing that was only better in the sense that placing one’s hand on a hot stove was better than lighting one’s hand on fire. Thus, it would make sense to leave through other means, the main one being through Oelaans and the other through the south towards Maeitakohn. That was why Sorin had his concerns.
“But, I’ve also found out that they’re planning to strike this kingdom first,” Johan said. “Sometime sooner than Oelaans, which would be between now and two days from now.”
“Wait, so which one’s the good news?” Sorin asked.
“You lied to us again,” Eva said. “How the hell are we supposed to interpret either one as good news?”
“Well, I did say that they were both related,” Johan said. “I didn’t lie there and I didn’t lie when I said this was good news. You have valuable information at your hands and you’re choosing to get angry with me over it?”
“I’m not angry at all, Johan,” Sorin replied. “But I think it’d be best for us if you told Rain yourself, because I don’t really want to break any sort of bad news to her.”
Johan chuckled and put two fingers to his left temple. “Sorin, Sorin, Sorin… Buddy, you’re looking for strategies to take down Foundation and Isaac, and this is quite possibly the best I can give you,” he said. “They’re going to attack, yes, but we know that they’re going to attack. It doesn’t matter how many soldiers they send, right? Just have an effective counter and hold the line.”
“Can we trust what you’re telling us?” Eva asked.
“Trust me or don’t,” Johan said, “But I don’t do things for my own sake, I do it because someone has to stop this world from falling into the wrong hands. All that I say is for Sorin’s benefit, which extends to the rest of you.”
Eva looked to Jelka. “I suppose you believe him, too?”
“I trust him,” Jelka answered. “That is something I would never have said not even six months ago.”
“If I was going to turn on you guys, Eva, then I wouldn’t have come here in the first place,” Johan said. “I risked a lot to come to the kingdom, given my status at the moment. I can’t even go see my own mother… Surely you must know how it feels not to see the ones you love, let alone having the fear of losing them plague your mind.”
Eva took a moment to respond, but not before she left out a reluctant sigh. “All right, I believe you,” she said. “You’re the most wanted man in Ameci now, so coming to meet us is a huge risk for you. And I obviously can’t ignore those words about your mother, either…”
“I’ve done my work,” Johan said. “I don’t have the time to make up stuff for fun, nor do I have much time for anything that isn’t involved with bringing down Isaac Kunigunde and Foundation.”
Jelka placed a hand on Johan’s shoulder. “But for now, we do have time to relax,” she said, “That is, after we meet with Queen Thedam first.”
“Rain should still be in the meeting room,” Sorin said. “We’ll catch up with you in a bit.”
Johan removed Jelka’s hand from his shoulder. “Take your time,” he said. “I have a lot that I need to say to her, anyway.”
As Sorin watched Johan walk with Jelka to the meeting room, he could not help but notice how the two interacted with one another. With the two holding hands and Johan managing to make Jelka smile, a rare sight for anyone to behold, Sorin had a feeling about what happened between the two, but chose not to bring it up. His thoughts were soon broken up by Eva, who tapped him on the arm in order to get his attention.
“What is it?” Sorin asked.
“Come on,” Eva said.
“Where are we going?” Sorin asked. “I thought we were going with Johan and Jelka.”
“Did you forget why you followed after me in the first place?” Eva asked. “Kirk is still out there on his own, you know!”
Sorin was not sure what Eva had in mind, but he followed her regardless because he wanted to find out the answer to his father’s departure. Whatever Johan had to say to Rain, Sorin would have to wait.
To be continued…