[26th of December, 2740 AD; Lead Campground Inner Forest, north of Habicht, Ahnlikohn]
Jelka arrived with the Maeitakohnian forces by her side, much to Sorin’s relief. An overwhelming amount of soldiers crowded the forest’s exist as Jelka drew her sword. The light shining behind her from the portable spotlights did well to gain the attention of the Ameci forces, who turned their sights on the Maeitakohnian soldiers. The two soldiers who had Sorin pinned down got up, to which he responded by sitting up. He noticed Eva by the side and hurried over to here while everyone else was too busy with Jelka and the Maeitakohnian military to even notice him moving in the first place.
“Eva, can you hear me?” Sorin said as he tried to sit her up. “I have no time to explain, but we have to get out of here now!”
She did not reply. The only thing she did was continue to hold a blank stare while the standoff between Ameci and Maeita forces took place.
“Eva, please, we have to go,” Sorin said. “I’ll help get your sword, but we’ve got to leave while we still have the chance!”
“Why… Why should I even bother?” Eva asked. “It doesn’t matter anymore. None of this does…”
“Eva, come on, there’s no time,” Sorin replied. “We’ll have the time to think once we’re back in the kingdom.”
“How intriguing,” Harold said. “So the Maeitakohnians decide to crash this little party after all.”
Harold flexed his right hand as he began walking towards Jelka. She stood in place with her sword ready, while the soldiers behind her readied their guns at Harold. Sorin was not about to stay for the action, but he knew Jelka had a plan ready. That, and the fact that Johan had to be close as well.
“You’re nothing more than a soulless murderer,” Jelka said. “I would have reservations about killing someone, but for you, I won’t hold anything back.”
“I see,” Harold replied. “Jelka Arne, is it? Well, I suppose you know a few things about Foundation given that they were happy to provide you with help. Not that it matters to me, anyway.”
“The past is just that,” Jelka said. “I’ve made mistakes in the past, sure, but I won’t be making any mistakes once I’m finished dealing with you.”
“If it’s me you’re after, then perhaps I should even the score a bit,” Harold said. “After all, it is you who’s making the declaration that you will kill me, so there should be no need for any supporting players in our bout.”
Harold took off his coat and tossed it aside. With his upper body exposed, Jelka saw the true secret that Harold kept with him. She continued to have her sword out and her stance ready to fight, but even so, Harold continued to move towards her.
“If you want to die, then I’d be happy to oblige,” Jelka said. “I’ll end you regardless of whether you’re flesh or metal!”
She charged at Harold and swung, but he deflected her strike with his hand as he pushed her off to the side. Jelka regained her composure as she hurried and tried to attack him again. Meanwhile, Sorin continued to convince Eva to escape with him, but was interrupted when Bradley kicked him to the ground.
“Pathetic, that’s what you are,” Bradley said as he pinned Sorin down. “Hey, Korb, perhaps you should take that sword and finish what I started. Nothing like a little aftercare, wouldn’t you say?”
Sorin watched as Korbin looked to Eva and then to her sword. “No way you wouldn’t dare,” Sorin said. “You can’t!”
“Fuck, what’s the goddamn point of it?” Korbin asked. “There’s no fun to be had in killing this woman when she doesn’t want to live herself! Why don’t you fucking do it, Bradley?”
Bradley got up off of Sorin and stood up. “Are you disobeying my order? I am the one in charge here, you know.”
“So what? That doesn’t mean I want to do it,” Korbin replied. “If I wanted to kill that bitch, I would’ve done so already. Doing it now takes the fun out of it all. At least with Sorin Wilk, he still wants to fight on!”
“I gave you an order,” Bradley said, “And now you want to disobey me? Are you out of your fucking mind right now!?”
While the two fought, Sorin’s chance at escape with Eva had revealed itself as he crawled over to her and picked up the broken handle of Kirk’s sword. With the Ameci and Maeita militaries facing off against each other, there was no one to spot them. There was only one choice Sorin had as Eva could not find it in herself to get up, so he decided to get her sword with his right hand while using his left to grab her hand and leave the forest. Korbin and Bradley continued to bicker as the sound of Harold’s oncoming onslaught against the Maeita soldiers began. As the painful screams from the soldiers filled the air, Sorin tried to block them out while he hurried with Eva to the main area of the campground.
“It’s going to be okay,” Sorin said to Eva. “Jelka and the Maeitakohnian troops will hold off Harold while we get out of here.”
As he continued to walk, Sorin could notice Eva’s grip on his hand loosen. He looked to her as she stopped in her tracks and looked down at the ground by her feet.
“Eva, we can’t stop here,” Sorin said. “Not when Harold and Korbin are not far off from us.”
“There’s no point,” she said. “It’s meaningless. This fight will never end and we’ll never see him again…”
“It’s not meaningless,” Sorin replied. “We’re almost near the entrance. We’ll be okay, I promise.”
“Just leave me behind,” Eva said. “Everyone that cares for me dies… I can’t let you suffer the same fate.”
“I can’t do that to you,” Sorin said. “Even if my father is gone, I won’t betray him or what he’s fighting for. Let’s just keep going for now.”
He reached for Eva and grabbed her hand as he continued on with leaving the campground. However, Sorin and Eva were in for a surprise as they spotted the Ahnlikohnian military standing off in the distance towards the campground entrance.
“Damn it, were they called here too?” Sorin asked.
“Over here!” Henry said.
With a quick look around the area, Sorin spotted Henry, Gavin, and Law by the main building. The three were accompanied by more Maeitakohnian soldiers, as well as Johan, much to the surprise of Sorin. As he had little other choice, Sorin hurried over them with Eva straggling behind him. Once he met with the group, Sorin heard the loud screams coming several meters away from where he was standing and looked back. The forest he had once been in was now ablaze as fire began to burn the trees down.
“I don’t care where any of you insects run,” Harold exclaimed, “Because I’ll go and burn this entire place down as long as it means killing you!”
Sorin worried about Jelka and the other soldiers still within the forest, but Johan stepped in before anyone could do anything to help.
“You shouldn’t worry too much,” Johan said to Sorin. “Go and take a look over there.”
As Johan directed, Sorin took a look at the trail leading towards the forest. Indeed, Sorin saw Jelka hurrying down the path with a few other soldiers behind her. The numbers of the Maeitakohnian forces had depleted but remained large in number as the two groups of soldiers reunited.
“We’ve bought enough time to escape from here,” Jelka said as she caught her breath. “It won’t be too long before Harold and the Ameci military realize where we are, but we’ve still got the numbers to match them if need be.”
“That shouldn’t be our concern,” Sorin said. “We need to leave right now! We can’t waste any time.”
“Well, I can gather as much just by looking at the two of you,” Henry said. “Eva, I take it that they were much more overwhelming than we previously had thought?”
Eva could not respond.
“I don’t think she wants to talk right now,” Sorin said. “It’s… It’s much more than either of us thought.”
“What is?” Gavin asked.
Sorin sighed. He had no other choice but to tell them what Harold told him. Though he was still trying to process it, Sorin knew that he had to tell the others about what Harold told him. He kept it brief but informative as he took out the handle of Kirk’s sword. Everyone listened to Sorin’s words while Henry hung his head down.
“I can’t believe it,” Henry said. “Are you sure about what you heard?”
“I don’t want to believe it myself, but it’s not good,” Sorin replied as he eyed the handle in his hand. “It’s hard to mistake this handle for any other.”
Henry grabbed the handle out of Sorin’s hand and analyzed it. “Even so… it doesn’t mean what you think it means,” he said. “There’s a possibility that Kirk is still alive, but hurt. That has to be the explanation.”
“What are you suggesting?” Law asked. “Think we can organize a search team? Where would we even start?”
Henry took one more look at the handle. “I have one idea,” he said. “I guess I should apologize, first, though.”
“There’s no time for anything,” Jelka said. “Why must we talk when the enemy is breathing down our necks? We have to go!”
Sorin saw what Jelka was talking about and looked to see that the Ameci military was headed their way. With the main entrance blocked off, however, Sorin had to wonder what the others had planned for an escape.
“Of course,” Henry replied. “Sorin, we’ll talk about this once we head back to the kingdom. Just leave the handle with me, okay?”
“I got it,” Sorin said. “But where can we go? Our best bet is blocked off by the Ahnlikohnian army!”
“It does look pretty bad, doesn’t it,” Henry said, “But I did some mapping out of this place and there is one exit that we can take.”
“It’s not going to do us good if we’re all together,” Johan said. “Trust me, the large crowd just makes us stand out that much more.”
“You’re right,” Henry said. “I did think that one over as well, which is why I have another route planned just in case we had to deal with any obstacles. Is that good enough for you, Mr. Kuu?”
Johan shrugged. “I suppose I shouldn’t doubt you,” he replied. “Jelka, could you go with Sorin?”
“I’ll do that,” Jelka said. “What about Eva? As I see her, she seems to be in no condition to fight.”
“I can understand why,” Henry said.
“Let me handle it,” Gavin said, walking up to Eva. “It will be okay, trust me on this one.”
Eva only sighed as Gavin took her hand. After a few steps, however, Gavin soon decided to carry her upon his back as he and Law joined with Henry.
“Even if what Harold said was a lie, it’s still despicable,” Law said. “I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised.”
Sorin saw the groups beginning to form as he and Jelka were to one side and Gavin, Law, and Henry were to the other with Eva in tow. Then there was just Johan, who looked at the Maeitakohnian soldiers circling two of the paths to the main building.
“So it is true, isn’t it?” Johan asked. “All of you are willing to go this far for the queen, aren’t you?”
“That is correct, Mr. Kuu,” the backmost soldier, a scrawny man, said. “We were given the order to protect the people closest to Queen Thedam by President Khadir himself. Even if that costs us our lives, I am willing to die in order to serve the best interests of Maeitakohn!”
“I suppose I can see where you’re coming from,” Johan said. “But it wasn’t as if I had any interest in changing your mind, so I guess I was just wondering if this was the path you’d take. Thank you.”
Johan turned around and looked at Sorin. Neither man spoke a word but they both knew they had a long road ahead of them. Wherever their route took them, Sorin knew that he could trust Johan.
“We’ll see you once we’re out of the campground,” Henry said. “Let’s not forget what we wanted to talk about later, okay?”
“Okay,” Sorin replied.
With that said, the two groups split up and left the Maeitakohnian soldiers to hold the line. Sorin rushed with Johan and Jelka to the left path while Henry and the others took the right. However, as they continued to rush, the growing fire continued to burn many meters behind them with no signs of slowing down. Their escape had to be quick, Sorin thought to himself as he continued to run with Johan and Jelka by his side.
To be continued…