Aurora – Chapter 32 (Part 1)

[30th of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Upstairs Thedam Castle]

 

Thoughts continued to linger in Eva’s mind as she relaxed in the bathtub. She was thankful that Sorin was there for her, but even so, Eva knew that it did not completely wash away the fact that she had come close to ending it all. Still, Eva had to persist. If not for Kirk, then for what Kirk and everyone else were still fighting for as the battle against Foundation felt unending. But Eva was also sure that as long as she had reliable friends on her side, she would be able to face the fears she had tried hard to ignore for so long. Confronting those fears would not be easy, but Eva never expected it to be easy in the first place.

“Just as it is,” she said to herself.

But as she tried to lay back, Eva heard a knock at the door and sat up. She turned her line of sight towards the door as another knock followed.

“Eva, are you in there?” Mina asked. “I just wanted to see if you were okay, that’s all.”

“I’m fine,” Eva replied. “Thank you for asking.”

Eva wondered if she had spent enough time and reached out to drain the bath. Time had felt as if it had stopped, Eva thought, which was why it felt like a long time when Mina knocked on the door. There was only so much time until they had to get moving again and Eva knew that she had little time to sit back and wait for something to happen.

“Do you know how much time it’s been?” Eva asked.

“I… I don’t know,” Mina replied. “Maybe about ten, fifteen minutes. Maybe even twenty-five!”

Eva had a feeling Mina would answer something to that effect, but it was still a reminder that the urgency to take down Foundation was looming.

“Thank you again,” Eva said. “Are you by yourself?”

“Yes I am,” Mina said. “Why?”

“I’m just wondering, that’s all,” Eva replied.

Eva looked around the room for her towel and found it on the rack. She got up and did everything she could to dry off, but still had to go back to her room in order to get dressed.

“Do… Do you want me to go?” Mina asked.

“You’re fine,” Eva said. “I just have to head back to my room.”

“Oh, okay,” Mina said. “If you need any help, I’m here for you. Just letting you know!”

“Fortunately, I don’t need any help right now,” Eva said. “You can go back if you want already, Mina; I have things covered here.”

No response. Eva took it as a sign to leave and exited into the hallway with nothing but the towel draped over her shoulders. However, Mina still stood in the middle of the hallway observing a painting hanging on the wall. Once the door had closed, Mina turned and saw Eva by the door. She turned away in an instant as Eva walked towards her.

“Sorry, I didn’t think you were just going to come out like that,” Mina said. “I thought you’d be all dressed and everything!”

“I’m still a bit soaked,” Eva replied. “Do you take a change of clothes with you when you wash yourself?”

“No, but I don’t usually go out naked like you do!” Mina said.

“As far as I can recall, this is the first time this has happened,” Eva said. “Then again, I don’t usually bathe around evening time.”

“But you’re okay, aren’t you?” Mina asked.

“Yes, I’ve told you already,” Eva said. “And you don’t need to look away from me if you don’t want to. It’s fine.”

“I guess you’re right,” Mina said as she turned around and looked at Eva. “Wow, you really are wet, aren’t you! You must be really cold right now!”

“My feet are a little cold, I admit,” Eva said.

“Well, then let me go with you,” Mina said. “All this time you spent and you never once walked around like this!”

“It’s a packed castle,” Eva replied. “Besides, Mina, it’s not exactly as if you’re  looking at anything special here…”

“Guess not,” Mina said. “But I mean, I can show off my muscles, but I don’t think I’d ever be comfortable showing everything to anyone that isn’t Rain.”

“That’s your decision entirely,” Eva said. She then stopped in front of the bedroom door. “Looks like we’re here. I don’t know how many times I’ve thanked you already, but thank you once again.”

“You’re very welcome, Eva,” Mina replied. “It’s so good to know that you’re keeping up and everything!”

Eva nodded. “That’s what I’m doing now,” she said. “I’ll be back down soon, okay?”

With a swift turn of the doorknob, Eva entered the bedroom and closed it behind her. That she could be comfortable with Mina made Eva more certain of what she had to do going forward. This was not just a fight against Foundation, but a journey to create a future where no wars needed to exist. It was what Eva had fought for with the Swords of Eight alongside Kirk and the others, and she knew that everybody else in the castle was working towards that goal.

“I’m not going to give up now,” Eva said as she got dressed. “You wouldn’t have wanted me to, either… Would you?”

It was only a thought spoken out loud, but Eva had to confront the reality of Kirk’s death. The fear of losing him had come to an unfortunate truth, but as she came close to succumbing to her despair, Eva could not finish it. Sorin had come only a few moments after, but during that time between her attempt and his arrival, Eva felt a strange sense of calmness. A sort of relief that she could not figure out, yet still that relief was what she was on her mind at that time.

“Is that what it was?” Eva asked.

There was not a lot of time to figure out why she could not go through with her plans, but Eva wondered if it had to do with Kirk. Was it because of him that she stopped herself just in time?

“No, that can’t be it,” Eva said.

The burden would not go away, nor did Eva think it ever would. As long as she continued to breathe, Eva would have to carry on the memories of Kirk along with the memories of the others who were close in her mind. But she could not continue to dwell on them forever, Eva thought.

“It’s because I wanted to keep going,” she said. “Why I’m still standing here right now… That’s because I wanted to. That’s why.”

It was the conclusion that she came to. Sorin had been the one to reach out to her, but Eva knew that she did not want her life to end so soon. That was why she still drew breath. The will to finish what had been started so long ago by the Swords of Eight had now given Eva the strength she needed. She knew well that the pain in her heart was strong, but that did not mean she could not continue to fight for what she knew was right.

“I guess I should see what can be done right now,” Eva said.

With that, Eva exited her room fully dressed alongside a renewed desire to achieve peace. She wanted to fight not because it was Kirk’s goal, but because this was the path she had decided to take. That path was not an easy one, not at all in the slightest, but Eva knew that she could handle whatever obstacle was thrown in her way. And she knew that the others would be there for her as well.

 

*****

 

[30th of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Thedam Castle Rooftop View]

 

“Glad to see you two up here,” Johan said to Sorin and Gale. “There’s a lot I want to talk to you about.”

Sorin had decided to go up to the rooftop to meet with Johan and Gale had decided to go along with him. It was at Gale’s request that she go with Sorin and he had no objection to her whatsoever. He had to figure that there was a reason as to why Gale needed to hear Johan, most likely having to do with the plans that Ayanna and Reiss were trying to draw up in regards to Iiayikohn. So it was not at all a surprise, either, when Sorin saw Jelka up on the rooftop, though he was a bit surprised at the presence of Luna and Pekka.

“We’ve put aside our issues with Johan for now,” Pekka said. “Foundation poses a far greater risk to the Thekohnian Region than any of our bickering ever will.”

“Most of all, I’m tired of seeing Ahnlikohn getting caught up in all of this mess caused by these bad guys,” Luna said.

“It’s hard to come up with solutions when one end wants nothing but to see the world plunge into pandemonium,” Johan said. “The reason as to why Isaac wants to cause another war is because it serves him. Bloodshed is beneficial to him and he will stop at nothing to create discord between us.”

“That’s why we’re all here,” Sorin said.

“Yet now, there are plenty of people in this world that are starting to look down at us,” Johan said. “Dezine controls the reigns in Iiayikohn and thus he’s the one with the power to influence the people there, with a little added help from his friend Isaac, of course.”

Sorin took a seat next to Johan. “So what’s our plan, then?”

“It’s not going to do us much good to head into Rezar, despite what I’ve just said about the prime minister,” Johan replied. “Especially you or me; the Ameci military has their sights set on us and will waste no time trying to eliminate us should we show ourselves.”

“However, we do know for a fact that the military presence in Ahnlikohn has started to taper off,” Jelka said. “As it stands now, unifying with the queen in Ahnlikohn would be beneficial to Rain here.”

“Well, she’s been talking about it,” Sorin said, “But it seems Rain’s nowhere near close to speaking to Amelia, regardless of what’s happened.”

“I see, then,” Johan said.

“But you’ve got a plan, don’t you?” Gale asked. “It always feels like you’ve got just the right idea at the right time, even if you’re not telling us directly.”

“If I were to tell you that I don’t have an actual plan right now, would you believe me?” Johan asked.

“Not to worry,” Jelka said. “If anyone has a plan surrounding Ahnlikohn, it’s me. I’m the one who has the plan this time.”

Gale turned to Jelka. “What is it?”

“Normally, there is little reason for the royal family to accept visitors,” Jelka said, “However, they are always welcoming to those who have served a role with the Ahnlikohnian military. That, or someone related to such a person.”

“That’s your plan, then,” Pekka said. He peered over to Luna. “Wonder how you feel about it…”

“So you’re suggesting I should go in by myself?” Luna asked Jelka. “I mean, my father and my brother served, but that doesn’t mean they’ll go and let me walk in just because I’m related to them! Besides, what if they find out that I’m with you guys? I don’t want any of this trouble!”

“Luna, you know that there are plenty of risks involved,” Pekka said. “Even risks that might involve having to fend for yourself should it come down to that. You can’t hesitate just because you have fear; you must confront it.”

“Besides, the rest of us have targets on our backs,” Jelka said. “You’re the only person here who is able to reach out to the Ahnle family.”

“And you’re certain this will work somehow?” Gale asked. “I understand the idea, but if the Royal Family were to find out that Luna’s involved with the Moonlit Silence, I can’t even begin to imagine what they would do.”

“I don’t think we should have to worry about that,” Johan said. “They’ve got next to nothing on Luna.”

“Just how much do these people know about you and Jelka, anyway?” Luna wondered. “I’d be more than a little concerned if they told me things that only so many people know about me, not to mention that they may be in cahoots with the Foundation people.”

“You aren’t going to have to worry about that,” Jelka said. “This isn’t a solo mission. We are all going to run together.”

Luna’s eyes lit up as she leaned in towards Jelka. “Wait, really?”

“There is one place that I wish to visit in Glora while you’re busy trying to seek an audience with the Royal Family,” Jelka said. “Chancellor Harring has got plenty of secrets he’s kept hidden, even after his death. That’s why I want to look for any clues that may lead us towards taking down Foundation, but leads aren’t the only thing that I’m after in Harring’s mansion.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Sorin said.

“If you’re trying to stop Isaac, then you should let Henry know,” Gale said. “I’m sure he’d be able to help you out.”

“Thanks, Gale, but there’s something else I’m sure Jelka wants,” Johan said. “As much as we’re all in on going after Foundation, this is one task that I think she wants to do for her own personal reasons.”

“Closure,” Jelka replied. “That’s what I’m looking for.”

“And you’ll think you’ll find it at Harring’s mansion?” Pekka asked.

“It was a long time ago,” Jelka said. “To be honest, I thought about it as I spoke about our little plan. That said, there is a chance that I could find nothing related to what Harring did to my parents. However, that doesn’t mean it is true. I have to know for myself if he kept the documents or not and if I can clear the Arne name before it is too late.”

“You want to know so you can have peace,” Johan said. “That’s what that means to you.”

“There’s also the chance we may find something related to Isaac,” Jelka said as she looked at Sorin. “I’m wondering if you’d be able to help me.”

“What do you need?” Sorin asked.

“You can still fight,” Jelka replied. “Though it is a problem that you have no sword to defend yourself with.”

“That won’t be a problem,” Gale intervened. “Sorin is already waiting for his new sword to arrive.”

“Yes, Mr. Hudde has said he’ll be here in the morning to deliver it to me,” Sorin said. “He’s aware of what’s happening and will be offering his support for us.”

“If that’s the case, buddy, we won’t have to worry too much,” Johan said. “I think I’ve figured out how we’re going to tackle these two tasks in one day. Jelka: you, Sorin, and Pekka will head to Harring’s mansion.”

Jelka nodded. “I’ve got no issue with that.”

“Good,” Johan replied. “Meanwhile, I need a good eye to help Luna out just in case something goes wrong. I suppose I’d be content with asking a fellow ally to attend with her, but I’m not sure if that will be the right solution.”

Johan stood up and looked around. His sights settled on one location, which Sorin was quick to follow. Out by the stairs stood Dustin Cage, who appeared as if he had been standing there for a while. Dustin shrugged and smiled as he walked over to the group.

“You found me,” Dustin said. “Guess it was a little too obvious, wasn’t it?”

“Seems like you’re got something to say, Sir Dustin,” Johan said. “Who am I to turn down a good word or two?”

Dustin chuckled. “I’ve got much more than two words to say, I’ll have you know,” he said. “I couldn’t help but overhear you were heading over to see our friend Queen Amelia… Her Majesty’s been trying her best to reach out to Amelia, but that lady’s been all cold like a pack of pickles.”

“Of course,” Johan said. “That’s why Luna here is going to go in Rain’s steed and find out for herself what’s going on.”

“You’ve got quite the grasp on things,” Dustin said. “The fact you’re able to sketch up these plans in your head means you’re quite an intriguing person. I’m envious about how you’re not at all afraid of getting your hands wet, if I have to be honest.”

“Despite Rain’s immense power, there are some things that she just can’t do,” Johan said. “That she can’t get out there herself makes it difficult to find the answers… Luckily, that’s where I step in.”

“Guess that answers that,” Dustin said.

“So what is it you want, Dustin?” Gale asked. “Does Rain know that you’re up here with us?”

“It’s like Mr. Kuu said,” Dustin replied. “There’s stuff that Her Majesty can’t do at the moment. Right now, she’s buzzing up the line in order to speak with Kiku Yamazaki and is already planning her next meeting.”

“Looks like it’s happening,” Sorin said.

“Indeed, there’s little to stop a meeting between the heads of the kingdom and Kikuisha from meeting,” Dustin said. “Her Majesty’s going to be busy with all the diplomats and stuff and Gamal’s got a better handle on that stuff. That leaves me with little to do around here. That is, unless, Mr. Kuu happens to see me as a useful partner.”

“Having a representative of the kingdom working with us could become… problematic,” Pekka said. “Don’t you feel that way, Johan?”

Johan dug his hands into his pockets and grinned. “Ameci’s going to be on us if this comes out? Let’s not fool ourselves, Pekka; they’ve been gunning for the kingdom for a while now,” he said. “Rain’s just their newest target in order for Isaac to justify his greed-driven desire for war.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Pekka replied.

“Does this mean you want to head off as soon as possible, Mr. Kuu?” Dustin asked. “Not that that’s an issue to me, but I do have to let Her Majesty know of my little involvement.”

“I’d rather this be kept as low key as possible,” Johan answered. “Then again, what have we really got to lose here?”

“Besides everything?” Gale asked.

“Gale, come now, you’ve got to have a little more confidence in me,” Johan said. “I don’t make claims that can’t be backed up and I’m not going to start doing that now. We will take down Foundation and we will put an end to Isaac’s plans, I assure you that much.”

“I don’t doubt you at all,” Gale said. “It’s just that this problem goes beyond Isaac and I’m afraid we might run into trouble again because of it.”

“You have every right to have concerns,” Jelka said. “For me, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to find what we’re looking for in Harring’s mansion. That is something that must be considered, yet all the same, I won’t know unless I find out for myself.”

“We’ll figure it out on the way,” Sorin replied.

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Dustin said. “I’ll happily let you guys handle all of the brain work while I help Miss Luna out.”

Johan removed his hands from his pockets. “Good with me,” he said as he shook Dustin’s hand. “Guess you won’t have to worry about going by yourself after all, Luna.”

Luna looked up and down at Dustin. “Hooray? I mean, yes, of course that’s good! I’m happy you’re going with me, sir!”

“If that’s the case, then I’m going with them,” Gale said.

“Oh, then you’ve made up your mind?” Johan asked. “Fine with me, then. Everyone, make sure that you remember that we’re meeting up tomorrow at Rio Grove before we leave. Got it?”

“You don’t like to wait, do you,” Dustin said. “Well, better than jetting off at this very moment.”

“There are some last minute preparations I’ve got to make,” Johan replied. “Besides, I don’t expect you to back out, Sir Dustin.”

“Then it’s settled,” Dustin said. “See ya.”

And just like that, Dustin left the same way he came in. Sorin wondered to himself about exactly how much freedom Dustin had in order to do this move, and thought back to Isla’s advisor, Lauren Ahga. The rules likely had not changed since Rain’s coronation, Sorin imagined. Whatever the case, Sorin had to remain ready and had only so much time before he had to leave. There were certain risks involved, but if there was some progress to be made, then Sorin knew that he could not continue to wait any longer.

 

To be continued…

 

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