[24th of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Thedam Castle Training Grounds]
Mina drew her sword. She stared directly ahead as the cold air continued to remain still. Opposite her was Arthur Dierk, the former Iiayikohnian officer, who held a sword in his hands as well. With a short amount of time to prepare, Mina knew she had to be ready for anyone who dared to threaten her friends and allies. Dierk was willing to train with her, as Mina made sure that she would soon get closer to Sorin in terms of skill. She needed to be the hero that her friends expected her to be, and so, Mina readied herself to strike first.
“I’ve never had to go up against you before,” Dierk said. “You know this is just training, right?”
“I know,” Mina replied, “I just want to give it my all! I can’t let Rain down, and neither can I let my friends down either! Everyone is counting on us to do the right thing and bring peace to the region, so we gotta get strong enough in order to defeat Foundation!”
“But are you sure you want to face me?” Dierk asked. “I’m not exactly that good with a blade, and certainly not with a saber like this one.”
“If we don’t cover up our weaknesses, then the bad guys will use it against us,” Mina said. “It’s just as important to train in stuff in which we aren’t good at as it is to be trained in stuff in which we are good at! It’s simple!”
“You have a point,” Dierk said. “Really, though, we aren’t sure where the opposition is going to come from.”
“Well, there’s the main way,” Mina said. “It’s the way me and you went in, so they’d have to go that way.”
“Yes, but it’s not the only way,” Dierk replied. “I just hope that Her Majesty is prepared, that’s all.”
“Rain’s plenty prepared!” Mina exclaimed. “She’s so prepared, she’s more prepared than anyone I’ve ever seen!”
Dierk chuckled as he lowered his blade. “Of course, I’m not surprised you have such loyalty to her,” he said. “I guess if she has you by her side, then there’s no doubt that we’ll be able to handle whatever comes our way.”
“We’re going to win,” Mina said. “Heroes never give up, even when it looks bleak! Even if these villains have us cornered, we’ll win because I know that we will!”
“I admire your confidence, Mina,” Dierk said.
“Thanks,” Mina replied. “I really admire your devotion to justice!”
“It wasn’t an easy decision for us soldiers to make,” he said. “Both Reiss and Ansa have done so much to support us, yet at the same time many were hesitant about leaving the country we served and grew up in. It is like choosing between one’s parents, only in this instance, the stakes were much higher.”
“I guess so,” Mina said.
“Some of my fellow soldiers expressed their concerns to Ansa and I about the thought of being branded a traitor, and I couldn’t blame any of them if they wanted to stay back in Iiayikohn,” Dierk said. “Yet, not a single soldier chose to do so. You know why?”
“Why’s that?” Mina asked.
“Because it was Ansa who inspired them,” Dierk replied. “She made it known that we were still fighting for Iiayikohn. We weren’t fighting for Dezine, we were fighting in order to save the soul of Iiayikohn itself. If that meant going up against Dezine, then so be it.”
“Ayanna has always fought for what’s right,” Mina said, “And I’m so happy that the others are fighting for the same thing, too.”
“I’ll admit it opened my eyes,” Dierk said. “I had believed that the prime minister was the voice of Iiayikohn, the one who speaks for the people, but when the truth about Dezine came out, it made it hard to decide what I should do. Do I serve the prime minister or do I do what I believe is right?”
Mina tucked her sword back in its sheath as she continued to listen intently to Dierk.
“I have a family of my own back home,” Dierk continued. “My folks have always supported me, but I’m not sure if they would’ve supported this decision. My father works in the government and I don’t know exactly how he’s dealing with my departure. He and my mother showed their support for the previous prime minister, but they’ve been supportive for all of them prior to Dezine, so I imagine they may very well support Dezine as well.”
“That must be tough…”
“They’re not bad people, not in the slightest,” Dierk said. “They just aren’t aware of the misdeeds that Dezine has committed. That is why I hope we find a way to take care of Dezine soon.”
“Of course we’ll take care of Dezine,” Mina said. “He won’t be able to get away with his crimes any longer!”
“As of now, there’s only one way for Dezine to step down,” Dierk said, “By having him voluntarily do so.”
“We can’t just expose him?” Mina asked. “Is this another one of those things he did?”
“Dezine passed those orders with the intention of holding to his position for a long time,” Dierk replied. “I imagine that this Isaac Kunigunde was able to gift him this role as long as he cooperated. Actually, that does give me an idea now that I think about it…”
“An idea? Tell me!” Mina said.
“I have to imagine that their relationship is one of benefits,” Dierk said. “As long as Dezine is able to be of use to Isaac, then Isaac is happy to help him. What if there was a way for their relationship to take a dive, as it were, and because of that, Isaac sees no use for Dezine?”
“What are you saying?” Mina asked.
“Your friends say Isaac was the one who helped the Neu Thekohnian Order, only to turn on them in the end, right?” Dierk said. “He probably sees Dezine the same way he saw Isla Zano Thedam: as a means to an end. If Isaac doesn’t see Dezine like that, then he’d abandon him immediately.”
“I don’t know,” Mina said. “It sounds like something that Johan would say… I’m not sure if they’ll really turn against each other.”
“It is just an idea I had,” Dierk said. “Nothing more than that. Either way, it would be somewhat unlikely.”
“Besides, that wouldn’t feel nearly as satisfying as punching them in their faces,” Mina said. “Nothing’s more glorious than to beat a villain so bad that he has no choice but to give in!”
“We can’t exactly beat everyone like that, though,” Dierk said. “Especially not Dezine now that he has his own select service at his hands.”
“Well, that’s just silly,” Mina replied. “Even he’s not safe from a patented Mighty Mina Beatdown!”
“Patented?” Dierk asked. “I suppose with the way you speak, tales of your courageous feats will pass down for years to come…”
Mina’s eyes lit up. “You really think so?”
“Well, if we win, then almost certainly,” Dierk replied.
“You mean when we win,” Mina said, “Because I know that we will win no matter what!”
Dierk smiled. “I almost forgot.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Mina said. “As long as we work together, we’ll be on top and able to achieve victory!”
Now Mina was ready. She was ready to fight for everyone near and dear to her, as well as for the people of the Thekohnian Region. With everything at stake, Mina knew that stopping Foundation was the top priority, as was clearing Sorin’s name. Mina took one look at Dierk and drew her sword once more.
“And if we’re going to win, we’ll have to be stronger than ever before,” she said. “I hope you’re ready!”
Dierk gripped the handle of his sword. “If you insist, then I’m willing to do what it takes to save Iiayikohn!”
“Then let’s do our best,” Mina replied. “Prepare yourself for battle, Officer Dierk, because here comes my Mighty Mina Magnificent Sword Slash!”
The energy Mina had was sure to overwhelm Dierk, but even so, she had to hold back to an extent. But now the training would begin. It would be the biggest test of Mina’s progression with a sword, as well as how she could use it with her other attacks. She could see Dierk stare her down and gulp as he braced for the inevitable impact. With nothing holding her back, Mina was ready to charge at Dierk. Before either of them could do a thing, Sorin and Eva entered the training grounds.
“Hey Mina,” Sorin said as he waved to her.
Mina looked at Dierk and then over to Sorin and Eva. “Hey! You want to train with me, Sorin?”
She put her sword back in the sheath as she hurried over to Sorin. Dierk sighed as he put away his sword as well.
“Sorry, I don’t think I have any time,” Sorin replied.
“Aw, why not?” Mina asked. “Didn’t you promise me that you would see how good I got at using this thing? And that you would practice with me?”
“I know I did, but there’s much more important things to worry about,” Sorin said. “Maybe some other time.”
“Mina, we don’t have a lot of time to play around,” Eva said. “There’s much we have to do before the enemy attacks us.”
“They’re going to attack us soon?” Dierk asked.
“According to what we heard, yes,” Eva answered. “Rain’s already being informed about the situation as we speak.”
“So they really want to come at us with everything they got,” Mina said. “If Isaac really thinks he can just win with a bunch of dirty tricks like that, then he’s mistaken! We’ll show him justice, won’t we!?”
“We… We will,” Sorin said. “But it’s not just the kingdom being targeted, it’s Oelaans as well.”
“Oelaans too,” Dierk said. “I guess they intend to burn down Thekohn right before they come for us.”
“Not exactly,” Eva said.
Mina listened as Sorin explained what he learned from Johan. She was not sure what to make of Johan’s sudden appearance, but he must have had a good reason for coming. All Mina knew was that she could not trust him compared to Sorin and that there was still a lot she had to know about Johan.
“If he knows, then how did he find out about it?” Mina asked. “That can’t be all he has to know about Foundation’s plans, right?”
“I wish I could tell you,” Sorin said, “But Johan loves to keep his secrets. I can ask him, but I can’t guarantee that he’d answer me.”
“It doesn’t matter now, though,” Dierk said. “We know what the enemy is plotting. That should make it easy for us to plan for their arrival.”
“Yeah, then we can beat them and win,” Mina said. “They’ll be met with the true face of justice before they know what hit them!”
“You can do that,” Eva said, “But Sorin and I have other things we need to do first.”
Mina raised her eyebrows. “Really? Where are you going?”
“Well, Kirk decided to leave without much notice,” Eva said. “I was hoping to find that damn fool before he left, but it seems quite likely that he’s already left the kingdom.”
“I don’t know what you want to do,” Sorin said. “Maybe you should take a seat first.”
“Sorin, please don’t test me,” Eva replied.
“I’m not trying to test you,” Sorin said. “I just think we need to sit down and think about it first. If you or I head out of the kingdom, we’d only create a bigger problem for everybody else here.”
“Mr. Wilk seems like he’s able to handle himself,” Dierk said. “Besides, we have more urgent things to worry about.”
“I think you just need to believe in my father,” Sorin said to Eva. “He’ll be back soon, I just know he will.”
“There’s no way he’d fail,” Mina said, “Especially not against any villain that dares to challenge him! He’d kick their butts so hard that they’d have no choice but to give up!”
Eva looked to the ground and sighed. “It doesn’t make much of a difference anyway,” she said. “Even if I did catch up to him, he’d just keep going regardless. I really am useless…”
Mina grabbed Eva’s shoulders. “No, you’re not useless!”
“Everyone seems to think I am,” Eva replied. “What can I do here, Mina? I’m just here… That’s all.”
“That’s not true,” Sorin said. “You’ve been helpful to us! Hell, I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for your training!”
“Yeah, Sorin’s completely right,” Mina said. “Don’t ever think you’re not useful, Eva, because you certainly useful! You’re amazing!”
“Thanks, but I think I just want to be alone,” Eva said.
Eva turned away from Mina and walked in the other direction out of the training grounds. Mina reached out for her, but stopped when Eva glared at her. Eva’s captivating stare froze Mina in her tracks while Sorin stepped forward.
“Don’t follow me,” Eva said. “I mean it when I say I want to be alone right now, so stay where you are.”
No one said anything as Eva left. Mina was left speechless as she had no idea what to do. She obviously wanted to talk to Eva, but hesitated at the thought of breaching the boundaries set in place. The last thing that Mina wanted to do was make it worse for Eva, who had already shown her vulnerabilities to Mina once before. As Mina pondered on what to do next, Sorin proceeded to go after Eva and headed to the door.
“Wait, Sorin, Eva said not to follow her,” Mina said.
“I know that,” Sorin replied. “I also know that it means I should follow her, because she won’t admit it herself.”
Mina watched as Sorin left in order to follow Eva. Though Foundation was the main concern for everyone in the castle, Mina knew she could not leave Eva by herself.
“I’m so sorry, Dierk, but I guess we’ll have to train later,” Mina said.
“I understand,” Dierk replied. “Though I’m glad now because I wouldn’t have been ready after that.”
“Yeah, me too,” Mina said. “I’ll be back soon!”
And with that, Mina hurried to the doors and opened them. If anything, she knew that she had to be of some help to Eva now. It was the least that Mina could do for someone that she considered to be her friend, and Mina was not about to waste any time standing around doing nothing.
To be continued…