[31st of December, 2740 AD; Oelaans Outer City Park, Oelaans, Thekohn – Lynx District]
A recurring thought nagged at Sorin as he waited with the rest of the group for the train to arrive at the station. He began to think about Rysol, whom he had not seen for over a month. Johan and Jelka had told him about what happened, but Sorin still wondered where Rysol was hiding. He felt the need to know, which was why he turned to Johan.
“You haven’t spoken to Rysol lately, have you?” Sorin asked.
“Other than what I’ve already told you, no,” Johan replied. “He has been off the map for a while now. No doubt he’s still trying to recover from his fight with Harold, but like I said before, it would be difficult for Rysol to continue onward in this mission.”
“And I guess you’d know where he is,” Sorin said.
“When he called, I could only assume that he was still in Ahnlikohn,” Johan said. “However, there have been no witnesses to Rysol’s whereabouts among the members of the Moonlit Silence. I wish I had a better answer, but that’s all that I have at the moment regarding your brother.”
“Thanks,” Sorin replied.
“Given the current condition he is in, I don’t think Rysol is in any danger,” Johan said. “I would sooner think he’s in hiding somewhere than he would be out there roaming the lands, but that’s only because of what he’s gone through both physically and mentally.”
“All this started because of him,” Sorin said. “My journey, I mean.”
“I get how you feel, buddy, but we don’t always end up sticking to the script that we’re given,” Johan replied. “Rysol proved himself that he wanted to fight for an ideal world without wars, but that wasn’t how he started out. Jelka and Pekka are much the same as well.”
“And what about you?” Sorin asked.
“I had to do a lot of things, some good and some bad,” Johan said. “Aligning myself with the Neu Thekohnian Order appeared bad, but it was through them that I was able to get closer to my goal. That and finding Jelka.”
“You believed in her,” Sorin said. “That’s what you said.”
“I did,” Johan said. “She, like many others, was wronged by a small group of people who only serve to their interests. Even when it came to Ahga and Isla, they too were being used.”
“Do you sympathize with them?” Sorin asked.
“Not necessarily,” Johan replied. “They made their choices and ultimately lost because they only thought of themselves. However, I can understand why they ended up down that path.”
“I guess I get that,” Sorin said.
“That said, just because it’s understandable doesn’t mean that there is any justification,” Johan said. “You remember that fellow Wihll, don’t you?”
Sorin nodded. “How could I forget?”
“He carved his own selfish path into prison, yet I had believed that perhaps there was a chance that he could use his skills towards good,” Johan said. “It’s a bit absurd, but there was a small part of me that saw potential in him. Potential that was like a miniscule flicker of a dimming light bulb: a man who had been used, cut off, and ultimately left to die alone.”
“And you saw that in him?” Sorin asked.
“It’s conflicting, but I’d believed that there was a chance for him to redeem himself,” Johan said. “Even someone like him could confront the errors of his past and become stronger, I thought.”
“Yet he was killed,” Sorin said. “You were there to see it, too.”
“Indeed, it was regretful,” Johan replied. “But even though I felt regret at what happened to Victor, there was a part of me that felt no remorse when Ahga shot him.”
“He never did turn, though,” Sorin said. “To the end, Victor Wihll fought for no one but himself.”
“I wonder about that,” Johan said. “He was a Maeita, albeit one from the northern side. It’s fair to say that he did have noble goals, but lost those goals as he descended further into the depths of darkness. At least, that was what I felt when I witnessed his execution.”
“If you could have done it again, would you have stopped him?” Sorin asked. “Would you have stopped Wihll yourself?”
“I despise using violence as a means,” Johan said. “Though there are some times which that violence is the only possible answer, it was not the answer to Victor Wihll’s struggles.”
“But I’m not talking about that,” Sorin said. “I’m saying if you had a chance to do everything over, would you have stopped him from going down that path he went down? Would that have saved his life?”
“There’s no use asking that question,” Johan said. “We lack the ability to do over the events of the past. All we really can do is direct the events of the future by doing things now.”
“I know that,” Sorin said.
“I’ll tell you this, buddy,” Johan said, “We may not be able to change the past, but it does influence us towards our future. You know as well as I do what’s at stake and the people who have been taken from us.”
“Yeah, there’s no way I’d ever forget,” Sorin replied.
“Then let’s keep going,” Johan said.
Sorin smiled. “Agreed.”
It was Johan’s words to put Sorin at ease. He had no explanation as to why, but Sorin knew that Johan was good at staying calm since around the time that they were children. Seeing Johan remain calm made Sorin calm as well, the two being able to stay focused even as the pain made its presence known.
“Hey, it looks like the train is about to arrive,” Gale said.
Sorin noticed Gale walking over with Pekka, while Luna, Dustin, and Jelka were busy talking with each other. They had waited for a few minutes since they had arrived at the station, but the bell had finally rung.
“We’ve got plenty of time to talk on the train,” Johan said. “Besides, we’ll be in Ahnlikohn before you know it, Sorin.”
“I think we’re well aware of that,” Gale said.
“We’ve got a way to go,” Pekka said. “If we’re fast enough, we’ll be in Glora past nightfall.”
Gale looked over to Luna. “Wonder if she’ll be singing the whole way,” she said. “It’s not that I mind it, but she does know that we’re trying not to draw a lot of attention to ourselves, right?”
“Nothing wrong with a little song,” Johan said. “Something does tell me that she’ll probably quiet down once we’re moving.”
“Why do you say that?” Gale asked.
“It’s just a feeling,” Johan replied. “Viewing the countryside by train can be quite romantic, and I do happen to have a soft spot for that.”
“Good grief, you’re starting to sound like Law,” Gale said.
Johan chuckled. “I’m pretty sure you don’t mean that as a compliment,” he said. “Besides, if I really wanted to sound like him, I’d have been more risque with my comments.”
Gale sighed and turned around. “Sorin, it’s fine, isn’t it?”
“What do you mean?” Sorin asked.
“We’ll be okay,” Gale said. “After all, you trust Johan, so there’s no reason for us to doubt.”
“Of course,” Sorin said. “I believe in all of us, but most all, I can trust you to be there.”
Gale looked back at Sorin with a smile. “I’m glad to hear you say that,” she said. “I believe in us, too.”
It was then that the train arrived. As the doors to the train opened up, Sorin knew that he and the others could not waste any more time in the station. He had no idea about what awaited them on the path to meeting with the Ahnle family, but Sorin knew that he had to keep his guard up and prepare for anything that came up against the group. But as long as he had these friends and allies with him, he, Gale, and Johan would be able to confront anything.
[31st of December, 2740 AD; outskirts of Helm, Ahnlikohn – second floor of the abandoned Mars factory]
The pursuit continued. Gavin had to keep up the pace in order to catch up with Casper as he rushed through the winding hallway. He began to wonder how far he would have to run before he caught up with the president, as Gavin was well aware that Casper had to have another means of defending himself. Gavin’s pursuit took him to the end of the hallway as he turned to the right and hurried down the next hall. With the way the building was constructed, Gavin knew that there were not that many places Casper could hide. There were several doors on the right, each of them concealing a secret of their own. That meant that there was a chance of a surprise attack, Gavin deduced. He checked the first door and turned the doorknob and found that it was locked.
“Unlikely he’d be here,” Gavin said, his eyes peering over to his left. “I’d be wasting too much time checking each door like this. Damn it…”
He looked down at his pistol, then back up and down the hall. The lengthy corridor held little in terms of places for a person to hide, which only made Gavin more suspicious. There were not a lot of places that Casper could have run off to, Gavin thought as he raised his gun. He took two steps forward, keeping an ear out for any activity that may alert him to the whereabouts of Casper.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Gavin said. “How was he able to escape so easily?”
He arrived at the next door and looked through the small window. Nothing. Gavin took a deep breath and sighed as he turned back to the hall, only for him to hear a sudden crash coming from a considerable distance down the hall. Gavin could only imagine that Casper had something to do with it and rushed as fast as his feet could take him.
“I knew he couldn’t have gotten far,” Gavin said.
That was when he stopped in front of a door near the end of the hall. Gavin had a feeling that this door was the one where Casper was hiding. He took a look into the window but did not see any trace of Casper. However, something caught Gavin’s eye as a metal ladder led up to an open hatch.
“That has to lead up to the rooftop,” Gavin said. “It’s the only place he could have gone now. Let’s fucking go.”
Before he opened the door, though, Henry and Law caught with Gavin, both men stopping before he went inside. Gavin was glad that they arrived in time as he began to turn the doorknob.
“What took you so long?” Gavin asked.
“Ah, we were just making sure that those guards wouldn’t pursue us,” Law replied. “But it seems you found out where we gotta go next, am I right?”
“Looks like he went up,” Gavin said.
“So he’s on the roof,” Henry said.
“I don’t know what he’s got waiting for us, but we won’t know until we go and confront him,” Gavin said. “It’d be wise if you two backed me up in the case that something goes awry.”
“You’ve got a plan?” Law asked. “Now that’s a good thing to hear.”
“I’m not familiar with the layout of this factory,” Gavin said. “None of us are, actually.”
“Well, neither should Casper,” Henry said. “He’s winging it just like we are, only he has the head start this time.”
“Which is why he’s dangerous, even if he’s by himself,” Gavin replied. “I’m not going to hesitate if it gets rough.”
“There’s also one other thing,” Henry added. “You may want to consider all of the options he has at his disposal.”
“We’ll get there if it comes to that,” Gavin said.
“Yeah, let’s get moving,” Law said. “We’re already wasting time right here, so let’s go and get this bastard, bro!”
Gavin knew that Law was right and burst down the door. He went towards the ladder and climbed it. As he suspected, Gavin ended up on the rooftop where the wind started to pick up. Though it was not strong enough to be a hindrance, it did cause enough trouble for Law as his long hair swayed with some of it in front of his face until he took action and tied his hair back. Henry, however, had no such trouble as his hair was not nearly long enough.
“There he is,” Henry said.
Over on the other end of the roof stood Casper, who appeared to have been waiting for the three to confront him. Gavin kept his focus on the president as he evaluated the area around him. In terms of places to hide behind, there were few machines and fans for one to take cover. That was all, however, as Gavin wanted to stop Casper before he had the chance to do anything drastic.
“Go ahead and shoot me,” Casper said. “Are you comfortable with that? Is that what you want: to kill a leader?”
“A man like you is no leader,” Gavin replied. “You’re just Isaac Kunigunde’s useful ally and nothing more.”
“Oh, and you three aren’t acting under the orders of Rain Zano Thedam?” Casper asked. “Tell me something, Gavin Power. Tell me why you want to serve against the homeland that’s treated you so graciously.”
“Gracious?” Gavin asked. “Don’t make me laugh. Where the hell was this graciousness when Lawence and I had to stick it out for ourselves? You tell me because I sure as hell didn’t see shit like that growing up.”
“So serving in the military wasn’t enough for you, then,” Casper said. “To think that one would turn down such a privilege all just to protect a traitor like your brother.”
“You don’t know a damn thing about us,” Gavin said. “There’s no way that Lawrence would do something so reckless without a good reason!”
“He’s right,” Law said. “I didn’t leave because I felt like it. I left because it was worse than dying. If I remained with the Ameci military, I’m sure that I’d be a dead man by now.”
“And what about you, Henry?” Casper asked. “You know, it’s not too late to come to your senses.”
“Not happening,” Henry said. “If it means having to deal with the likes of Isaac and you, then I want no part of your corruption.”
Casper laughed. “Sad,” he said. “So sad.”
“More like you’re a sad, sorry ass excuse of a leader,” Gavin said. “But don’t worry because we’ll make sure that you and Foundation will feel sorry.”
“Are you sure about that?” Casper asked. “I think I said something earlier about my accomplishments… Well, I haven’t even begun to show everything that I can do! Now what are you waiting for? Come at me!”
To be continued…