[26th of December, 2740 AD; Lead Campground Inner Forest, north of Habicht, Ahnlikohn]
Korbin chuckled as he paced back and forth. “This is a tough situation, isn’t it? It kinda looks like we’ve been had, haven’t we, Bradley?”
Sorin and Eva continued to keep their swords drawn as the ex-Iiayi soldiers stepped forward with their guns out and pointed at Korbin, Bradley, and Erik. It was obvious the advantage was in Sorin’s favor, but Korbin’s cockiness had made it difficult to assure that advantage. Sorin had to wonder if there was something that Korbin or Bradley had planned, though if he had to guess, it was Bradley’s idea and Korbin went along with it. Regardless, Sorin had to remain one more step ahead in case Korbin had any ideas.
“This was a rigged game from the start,” Bradley said. “They weren’t going to play fair with us at all; not as long as that nasty Queen Thedam has anything to say about it.”
“Fuck, don’t bring her up now,” Korbin replied. “I want to deal with Sorin now! I need my fucking fill!”
“Relax, Korb, we got this,” Bradley said. “Sorin, did you really think that we wouldn’t have prepared for this?”
“Whatever you have ready, we’ll be sure to stop it,” Sorin replied. “I don’t plan on losing tonight.”
“If anyone’s rigging anything, it’s them,” Eva said. “They’ve already caused too much trouble for so many people already. Let’s put an end to them right here, right now, Sorin!”
“Not so fast,” Bradley said. “Have you two already forgotten about who you’re dealing with over here?”
Another rustle of the trees showed several Ameci soldiers standing off in the distance, ready for their next command. Bradley crossed his arms as Sorin kept his composure. He was not going to be intimidated by Bradley’s threats. Not as long as Sorin was not alone.
“I know exactly what you’re thinking, Sorin,” Bradley said. “You’re thinking that as long as you’ve got that little band of soldiers with you, you can’t lose. Am I correct? Of course I am.”
“What are you talking about?” Sorin asked.
Bradley scoffed. “It must be nice to be so foolish,” he replied. “Korb, I think it’s about time you showed Sorin how serious you really are. Let them get a small sample of the little show you’re about to put on!”
Korbin flexed his right arm and lowered his blade. “There’s no escape for you, Sorin Wilk,” he said. “I’m going to show you how much I’ve grown over time and once you see that, you’ll realize you have no way of winning!”
Korbin proceeded to take a few steps forward, brandishing his blade with the ex-Iiayi soldiers pointing their guns at him. Sorin was tempted to run in and stop Korbin, but he had a suspicion that Korbin was ready to use one of his tricks against him. Eva remained in her stance as she kept close watch on both Bradley and Erik. There was no doubt that Sorin, Eva, and their crew were surrounded now that Korbin and his Blood Ravens entered the picture.
“I gave you and your friends a little taste of this back in Rezar, but it wasn’t finished yet,” Korbin said. “You see, that shock wasn’t nearly enough to be lethal, but now with everything set up as it is, I’ve got just what I need to unleash upon you and Johan Kuu!”
With that, Sorin watched as Korbin guffawed. Korbin’s awful laughter was jarring, but not enough to completely unsettle Sorin as he was used to these sorts of antics by now. However, with Korbin’s laughter came an invigorated surge of power unlike anything Sorin had seen up to this point. The power that Korbin seemed to possess flashed bright from his right arm, which caused Sorin to cover his eyes. Sorin could tell that Eva did the same, as well as the soldiers that stood behind them.
“These improvements… my dad gave them to me,” Korbin said. “He’s the so-called genius, after all. Why don’t I go ahead and show you a little bit of my strength before we fight!?”
“Sorin, watch out!” Eva said.
Almost on instinct, Sorin dropped to the ground. Eva soon followed as they tried to take cover. They had no idea what Korbin was going to do, but all Sorin could do was hope that the soldiers behind him and Eva would be able to stop any oncoming attack.
“Everything’s lining up perfectly for us,” Bradley said. “Now, Korb, go and give those pathetic soldiers hell!”
“Fuck yeah!” Korbin exclaimed. “This is the true power of the Blood Ravens that I’m about to show you! Watch me, Sorin!”
Korbin roared, with Sorin watching him run forward. Sorin knew that he had to do something, but Korbin looked to move quickly through the crowd of ex-Iiayikohnian soldiers before him. Though the soldiers appeared ready to fire, Korbin’s swift movements made him a difficult target to focus on. His nigh erratic speed caught everyone off guard, which caused the soldiers to scatter across the area. Korbin began to swing his sword and landed a quick strike on one of the unsuspecting soldiers, dropping him to the ground.
“Damn it, they’re looking nervous,” Eva said. “We can’t watch this, Sorin; we need to help out!”
Sorin nodded. “There’s no other choice.”
“Think again!” Erik exclaimed.
“Don’t think we forgot about you,” Bradley said. “Of course, Korbin still wants his revenge, but who am I to turn down a fight with you two? At least I’ll get to have some fun.”
Bradley chuckled as he donned his special gloves. He then handed off a sword to Erik, who twirled it around for a moment before getting into a stance. Neither Sorin nor Eva could not afford to be distracted, but with their enemies standing in the way, Sorin could tell that there was no way he could avoid either of Korbin’s lackeys.
“Korb’s got the skills, but I’ll put up enough of a fight while he has his fun,” Bradley said. “I already know I stand no match to either of you, especially not her… Eva Bellamy, is it? Well, this whole thing is about to get real interesting, wouldn’t you say?”
“Don’t waste your breath,” Eva said. “It doesn’t matter who you are. All that matters is that you’re complicit in Foundation’s crimes.”
“So?” Bradley asked. “My father’s a powerful man now thanks to Isaac Kunigunde. Think I care if a nobody like you believes that I’m a criminal? Not a chance in hell!”
“You tell them, Bradley,” Erik said. “This is all because Mr. Kunigunde was so happy to help us!”
“Besides, it’s not like you have anything worth fighting for, do you,” Bradley said to Eva while he cracked his knuckles. “Yes, it looks like everything’s lining up perfectly for us… Even you, Erik, can taste the victory that will come soon the moment we win.”
Erik cackled. “Do you remember what you said to me, Sorin? Everything I said about Harold was true… Well, almost everything.”
“Almost everything?” Sorin asked.
“Maybe you should ask your father,” Bradley said. “Of course, that may prove to be difficult now…”
Sorin turned to Bradley. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” Bradley replied. “Though perhaps you shouldn’t be too worried. After all, there’s a good chance that you might see him again soon. Soon enough, even.”
“Don’t you dare bring Kirk into this,” Eva said.
“It’s too late now,” Bradley said. “You’re still in the dark, aren’t you? Well, figuratively speaking, of course…”
Eva looked down at the ground as she tightened the grip on the handle of her sword. “Sorin… We have to win against them,” she said. “I don’t care what’s going through your mind right now… Until we see Kirk again, we have to stop them. You understand… don’t you?”
However, all Sorin could focus on right now was what was happening in the corner of his eye as Korbin kept fighting with the soldiers. One by one, each soldier fell to Korbin’s blade as none of them were able to get off a shot before he ran his sword through each soldier. What once looked to be a strong and trusted group of men and women now stood no match for Korbin Mars, who proved to be frightening all on his own.
“Sorin!” Eva called out. “Are you listening to me?”
Sorin snapped back over to her. “I’m listening!”
“We can’t let them get to us,” she replied. “Whatever doubts you may have, just put them in the back of your head for now.”
“I got it,” Sorin replied.
“You may want to go and get angry, but you have to remain strong,” Eva said. “It’s the only thing we’ve got and we won’t let any of our doubts get in the way. They have to be stopped.”
Sorin looked over to Korbin again. He had to stop him no matter what. He weighed his options and made a decision, but Eva had already made hers as she lunged at both Bradley and Erik.
“I’ll handle these two!” Eva exclaimed. “Go take care of Korbin!”
Sorin nodded. “I will!”
He did not need to worry about Eva fighting both Bradley and Erik at once, as Sorin knew all too well what Eva was capable of doing in a situation like this. What Sorin had to worry about was stopping Korbin before he could wreak even more havoc on the ex-Iiayi soldiers still standing. With everything he had, Sorin rushed over to Korbin and challenged him.
“Stand back!” Sorin yelled over to the soldiers. “I want you to stand back and deal with the Ameci hiding in the forest right now!”
“Oh no, I’m not gonna let you stop me, shithead!” Korbin exclaimed. “I’m going to get my fill before I take you on, just watch me!”
Sorin did his best to keep up with Korbin, who continued to move about. It proved tough to keep up the pace as Korbin used his right arm and sent a surge of electricity towards the remaining soldiers. The bolt struck true as the soldiers were caught up in the shock and found themselves unable to move. Korbin was ready to strike, but Sorin jumped in to stop his attack with the most unlikely of defenses: his scarf. Sorin tied his scarf into a loop and used it to subdue Korbin’s arm before he could swing his sword. Though Korbin struggled, Sorin made sure not to loosen his grip.
“I won’t say this again,” Sorin said to the soldiers, “But please go. Eva and I will handle these three. Just take care of the Ameci soldiers around here.”
The soldiers did so and got up, scattering as they proceeded to search for the hiding Ameci assailants. Now Sorin was able to face Korbin head on with no distractions. Just then, Korbin laughed.
“Not a bad strategy, Sorin Wilk,” Korbin said. “Guess I’m going to get a good fight out of you now after all!”
“I’ll just make it quick,” Sorin said. “Where’s Harold?”
“Shit, are you really asking me such a stupid fucking question?” Korbin asked. “I’ve no idea where the fuck he is right now, but it’s not like it’s going to matter once this fight’s over!”
Sorin heard a brief click as his scarf began to come loose. He soon realized what happened as Korbin’s metallic arm came off of his body. Electricity surged once more as Sorin backed away just at the right moment.
Korbin grinned as he picked his arm off the ground. “You still use those tricks of yours, don’t you?”
“Was what you did not a trick?” Sorin asked.
“Don’t try to fuck with me,” Korbin replied. “I still haven’t had my revenge yet and I’m still full of energy! Let’s fucking go, Sorin!”
Sorin took a moment to see Eva handling her fight with Bradley and Erik. The two put up a fight, but it was clear to Sorin that Eva had the upper hand as she disarmed Erik before he could even land a hit on her. Bradley, meanwhile, continued to defend himself, but Eva was ready to break through. Sorin had only one thing on his mind the whole time: Korbin. No way was Sorin about to let him gloat and win.
“Then let’s fight, Korbin,” Sorin said. “I’ll give you exactly the fight you’re asking for, so don’t you even dare think about blinking until after I swing my sword.”
“Oh! If it’s like that, then, then I’m going to give you everything I’ve got as well,” Korbin replied. “It only makes sense that I get to kill you here once and for all, Sorin Wilk!”
Sorin thought only one thing: whoever landed the next blow would be the winner of this fight. He could not let the fight with Korbin drag out any longer. It was now or never that Sorin had to give it his all against Korbin, otherwise, there was little chance that he would make it out with his and Eva’s lives. With nothing else to think in this moment, Sorin rushed towards Korbin and swung his sword at him.
“This is it!” Sorin exclaimed.
Korbin raised his sword in defense. “Son of a bitch!”
The two swords clashed against each other, with Sorin providing the power needed to break through. However, Korbin continued to hold his sword up as he could only use his blade to stop Sorin’s attack. Both men used all of their strength in order to win, but Sorin knew that he had the slight advantage.
“Back down,” Sorin said. “If you don’t want to get hurt, Korbin, then back down right now!”
“S-Screw you!” Korbin screamed. “I’ll fucking break you before you even try, Sorin!”
The standoff kept going as both Sorin and Korbin were at their limits. It was then that Sorin noticed a break between the two swords. Soon enough, it got Korbin’s attention too as both blades broke upon the pressure, the severed metal somehow flying past both men without delivering so much as a scratch to either one. At that moment, Sorin realized what would happen next, as he was sure that Korbin did as well. With both men unarmed, Sorin just had to land a final punch and Korbin would be finished. However, before either Sorin or Korbin could do anything, a familiar, hostile voice echoed.
“You’re as disappointing an idiot as ever, Korbin…”
It did not take long for Harold Mars to make his entrance, which stopped everyone in their tracks. Eva had finished taking down Erik, but when Harold had entered, she was distracted enough for Bradley to find an opening as he reached for her neck and lifted her off the ground.
“Don’t even think about using that sword against me,” Bradley said, blood running down the left side of his face. “See, I’ve got the advantage now… You go and stab me, I’ll crush your fucking throat!”
Eva kept her composure, though she wanted to eviscerate Bradley. Sorin’s safety remained her priority as she turned her focus to Harold. As he walked to Korbin, Harold took a look at Erik lying on the ground.
“Pathetic,” Harold said. “I guess if I need someone killed, I’ll just have to do it myself.”
He brought Erik up to his feet. Erik dazed out as Harold delivered a stern slap to his face. The impact brought Erik out of his daze as his eyes began to fill with fear.
“M-Mr. Mars! I… I got in like you told me,” Erik said. “But… But I didn’t gain any new information. But! But I did help bring these two here after all, didn’t I?”
“You’ve performed as well you could,” Harold replied. “That, however, is the extent of your usefulness. Your parents will have Isaac Kunigunde’s regards, Erik Ellis.”
In less than a blink of the eye, Sorin could only see the aftermath as Erik fell backwards to the ground. Blood spurted from his neck as Harold held a long knife covered in red in his right hand. Korbin, though, clenched his fist as he ran up to his father. Sorin could only watch as he wondered what would happen, though he had very little time to react as two Ameci soldiers tackled him to the ground and placed his hands behind his back.
“What are you doing?” Sorin asked.
The burly soldier pressed his knee into Sorin’s back. “We have you now!”
“It’s been a while, but it looks like we’ve got our guy,” a soldier holding handcuffs said. “We’ll be sure to get a generous reward for sure!”
“Why the fuck did you kill Erik!?” Korbin asked. “He didn’t tell them shit, so there’s no reason to drop him like that!”
“Silence, fool,” Harold replied. “You still have a job to do, don’t you?”
Korbin snarled. “I wasn’t finished with Sorin Wilk yet! I had him right in my sights and you had to ruin it!”
Harold gritted his teeth as he showed the blood covered knife to Korbin. “Don’t test me,” he said. “Unless you want to die like Kormac did, then you’ll do your best and listen to me!”
Korbin’s fist kept shaking at his side, until he could do so no longer. “Fine, I’ll go along with you,” he replied. “Maybe at least give me a chance with Sorin before he rots in prison!”
“I’ll be sure to tell Bradley,” Harold said. “Speaking of which… Crawford! Are you going to kill that woman or not?”
“It would be tempting,” Bradley said. “Though do you think that it would be better if we killed Sorin here first before I do her in?”
Eva could not move as she held onto her sword. “Bastards…”
Harold chuckled. “Ah, it seems you’re taking a cue from me,” he said. “They don’t know, do they?”
“Well, I was going to tell them before you showed up,” Bradley replied. “But Korbin was so eager to fight, I forgot about it.”
“Guess there’s no choice, then,” Harold said. “Then again, I love to watch as the looks of pain and despair shape upon their faces. It brings me the satisfaction that nothing else does. It makes me feel powerful.”
“Then I’ll let you go ahead and tell them,” Bradley said. “They’ll be meeting him soon enough, anyway.”
Sorin could only watch from his viewpoint as Harold’s smile grew larger. There was little that either Sorin or Eva could do now, and what had become a terrible situation soon turned for the worst as Harold delivered his revelation with a devious tone in his voice.
“I am the one who killed Kirk Wilk,” Harold said. “I would suggest that you do your best to fear me from now on.”
To be continued…