[1st of January, 2741 AD; Royal Ahnle Castle Grounds, North Glora, Ahnlikohn]
Gale set foot on the brick pathway as she, Luna, and Dustin wondered if they would be able to seek some sort of audience with Queen Amelia. Once they were past the gates, the three were met with a group of guards barricading the path to the castle. This was something that Gale had expected, yet as she stopped she noticed the blond man staring at the group by the castle doors.
“That can’t be him, could it?” Gale asked.
“Well, looks like this is quite the welcome we have here,” Dustin said as he looked around the group of guards surrounding him. “Do you guys think that this may be a bit excessive?”
“Yeah, it’s not like we’re strangers or anything,” Luna said. “In fact, there’s a very good reason why we’re here and we won’t leave until we see the queen herself! I may be nervous to the point where my heart feels like it’s in my throat, but I… I won’t stand down!”
The front guard glared at Luna. “What is your purpose?”
Luna shrieked. “My… My purpose is to live a long and healthy life and maybe marry someday,” she answered. “I mean, I’m here on behalf of my father, who was part of the royal military himself!”
“Yeah, she’s a special one alright,” Dustin said. “Both her papa and brother served their roles well. You think you can let us seek an audience with the queen now or what?”
None of the guards moved from their positions as their focus remained on the three. However, once the blond man began to walk towards the guards, they split up. Once the man got closer, Gale got a better look at his face and recognized where she saw him before.
“You’re the prince,” Gale said. “The younger one, aren’t you?”
“Yes, it has been some time but I believe I remember you,” he replied. “But it seems a proper introduction is in order here. My name is Amos Ahnle.”
He reached his hand out to Gale, who hesitated to respond for a moment but decided to shake his hand. With the guards posted on either side of the brick path, Amos greeted both Dustin and Luna. Gale had to wonder if Amos had any hard feelings concerning his brother Amile, who was in prison for his crimes. She wondered if it would even be brought up, considering Amos’s polite demeanor to the three.
“Let’s not waste any time,” Amos said. “Miss, you stated that your father and brother were both soldiers in the royal military, did I hear correctly?”
Luna nodded. “It’s true,” she said. “They were both really good at what they did, but unfortunately my brother was not nearly as lucky as my father…”
“I see,” Amos replied. “I guess I can understand the feeling.”
“Oh, but I should introduce myself, shouldn’t I?” Luna asked. “My name is Luna. Luna Del Bosque.”
“So that’s why you came here, then,” Amos muttered.
“What was that?” Gale asked.
“I was just saying that I understand the feeling that losing a loved one can bring to a person,” Amos replied. “Losing my brother has been an experience I wish on no one at all. It’s been tough through these trying times, even as I’ve now become the crown prince.”
“It’s not as if your brother is dead, however,” Gale said. “What happened to him is nothing compared to what happened to Luna’s brother.”
“Is it so wrong that I want to relate?” Amos asked.
“Gale, it’s okay,” Luna said. “We just want to seek out an audience with the queen, that’s it. That’s okay with you, right Mr. Prince?”
“Well, mother has been a little overwhelmed lately, but I’m sure she’d want to meet with you if it’s for appearances,” Amos replied. “Of course, I would have to tell her myself that you wish to speak to her.”
“That’s totally fine,” Luna replied.
“I see,” Amos said. “Then follow me.”
Amos turned towards the castle entrance and began walking. Luna looked over to Gale, who noticed that Luna could not hold her excitement.
“I can’t believe that worked,” Luna said. “I was sure I was going to slip up or something, but it looks like the prince is completely on board. We’ll be able to help Rain yet, I just know it.”
“Let’s not get too happy yet,” Gale said.
“You’re right,” Luna replied. “I’m sorry, I was just excited because whatever I just did worked well and I just wanted to express myself in the best way I know how, which is hard not to do when all we’ve had to deal with were losses because it just seems like the enemy has had the advantage lately and we’re trying to do our best to change that…”
“I think we understand,” Gale said. “You don’t need to keep rambling on and on because Dustin and I get it.”
“Just have to follow him, that’s all,” Dustin said. “But I must say that guy seems a little bit off, don’t you think so?”
Gale sighed. “He’s trying to stand on his own now,” she replied. “I guess it’s the logical step he has to take now that his brother is locked away in prison for a long time.”
“Best we don’t bring it up anymore, then,” Dustin said. “I’m sure he wants to keep quiet about it as much as we want to keep quiet about our stuff, so it’d be for the best if we tried not to dredge up those touchy memories.”
Gale agreed as she went with Dustin and Luna towards the castle. The fact that they were able to gain access was good enough. However, Gale did wonder about Sorin and Jelka and how their search was going. Though she was certain that they would be okay, Gale had no idea if they were going to find what it was that Jelka was looking for or if it would even prove helpful to their cause. But Gale knew that she had her own job to do, even if she was not sure where it would end up going.
[1st of January, 2741 AD; West Ahnle Pass, outside North Glora, Ahnlikohn]
At the designated rendezvous that had been set up in the morning, Johan peered through the binoculars. Along with him was Pekka as well as four other members of the Moonlit Silence, who stayed back in case of an emergency. The extra help, even if nothing happened, was a much needed relief and were part of a group that Johan could count on. He continued to keep his eyes trained on the path to Harring’s mansion, which stood a couple of miles away from Ahnle Castle. Johan had to watch out just in case soldiers decided to come down the path to the mansion, which was why he set up the meeting point behind the bushes.
“You seem very keen on that pathway,” Pekka said to Johan.
“It’s our main point of focus,” Johan said.
“So you aren’t concerned with what goes on with the castle?” Pekka asked. “It would seem that we should worry more about Luna, Gale, and Dustin more than we should Sorin and Jelka.”
“I know you’re concerned, but the reason why I’m focused on the mansion is because the path there is straightforward,” Johan said. “To get to Ahnle Castle, one has to go up the winding pathway. Pekka, would you prefer to fight on even ground or a sloped one?”
“It depends on the position,” Pekka replied. “But I know that you’d want to pick the even ground because even in an ambush, there would be no advantages or disadvantages.”
“Which is why I’m more focused on the mansion at hand,” Johan said. “Our friends in the castle are less likely to be ambushed than Sorin and Jelka.”
“Even if it’s less likely, that doesn’t mean it’s a zero percent chance,” Pekka said. “Do you have another pair of binoculars?”
Johan looked over to the Moonlit Silence members. “Ask them for help,” he replied. “They specialize more in close combat, but I believe that one of them can scout out the area for you.”
“You’re worried about them, aren’t you?” Pekka asked.
“Well, it would be unlike me to not care about what happens to the people I care about,” Johan said. “Plus, whatever comes out from the mansion search may prove to be useful.”
“It’s not just about the job, though,” Pekka said. “It’s about Jelka.”
“Yes, she insisted upon this search,” Johan replied. “If she has a hunch, then it’s only natural to want to act on it.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Pekka said.
“Then what do you mean?” Johan asked.
“I think you should know,” Pekka answered. “It’s not as if you’re hiding it, but Jelka means a lot to you as a person.”
“That she does,” Johan said. “She’s one of the reasons why we’re able to get this far. She’s truly reliable.”
“Quit dancing around my comments,” Pekka said. “It’s not like you’re doing a good job of hiding it, either.”
Johan lowered his binoculars. “What is this about, Pekka?”
“It’s something that I have to tell you,” Pekka replied.
“If you have something to tell me, then just say it,” Johan said. “I must say, though, that this seems out of place for someone like you.”
“I’ll just say it once so that I can get over it,” Pekka said. He closed his eyes and sighed, then opened his eyes once more. “The truth is that you’ve inspired me ever since we first met. When you spared me, I didn’t know how to feel at first. I guess that eventually turned into something more the more I spent time with you. That’s what I wanted to say.”
“Is that all?” Johan asked.
“I guess,” Pekka said. “I never gave much thought to it beforehand, though I suppose it’s provided me some introspect into who I am.”
Johan picked up his binoculars again. “And what have you found out about yourself during this time, Pekka?”
“Well, the first is about you,” Pekka replied. “This goal, this dream you have of a world without wars is a lofty one, but I know I want to help you in any way I can. If it serves towards your happiness, then I am willing to help you and Jelka towards accomplishing that goal.”
“I expected as much,” Johan said. “What else?”
“The second is that I’m not going to run after this is all over,” Pekka said. “I’ve already made up my mind in how I want to live my life once this is all over and done with.”
“That means you have a plan, then,” Johan replied.
“I do,” Pekka said. “What about you? What will you do after everything is finished?”
“Taking down Foundation is just one major step in helping to make this world without wars,” Johan said, “Which is why I want to keep helping people in the world.”
“And what does that entail?” Pekka asked.
“My second greatest dream is to provide a future to the children that have lost their parents due to the tragedy of war,” Johan said. “It’s once a dream that my father and mother had before my father died; I want to go and help realize that dream once we’re done with taking down Foundation.”
“That is an admirable goal,” Pekka said.
“Thank you,” Johan said.
“I should be the one saying that,” Pekka replied.
Before Johan could respond, however, the sound of rustling leaves caught his attention. He looked through the binoculars to Harring’s mansion, but saw nothing that stood out to him. Johan then turned to Pekka and looked to the upper path, where he saw a light rustle of the bushes by the pathway. That was enough to have Pekka hurry towards the source of the sound.
“Wait a minute,” Johan said. “Before you do anything, just check and see if it happens again.”
“I have a suspicion that something is up,” Pekka said. “I don’t know what it is, but I’m worried.”
“Truth be told, so am I,” Johan replied.
Johan looked to his right as another member of the Moonlit Silence rushed in to greet him. The man standing at an average height with blond hair appeared exhausted before Johan and Pekka. While the man spent time trying to catch his breath, Johan turned his sights on the man’s clothes all covered with dirt.
“Were you being chased, Irven?” Johan asked.
“The Ameci… there’s still some of them left,” Irven said. “On the path near the river… I noticed three—no, four—soldiers loading their guns!”
“It looks like we’re going to be working with limited time here,” Johan said. “Thank you for the information. I’ll contact you later.”
Irven stood up tall and pumped his fist. “Of course! I’ll hear back from you soon, sir!”
As Irven ran off back in the direction he came from, Johan looked back to Pekka. With the recent news, Johan could tell that Pekka had already made up his mind as he began to walk toward the bushes.
“I’m not going to wait any longer,” Pekka said. “If what he said is true, then I have to go and warn Luna before it’s too late!”
“It will be a tough time getting inside,” Johan said.
“I don’t care,” Pekka replied. “We want to ensure the success of the mission at hand, don’t we? Then I’m going to do my part to make sure it happens!”
Without another word, Pekka hurried off. The two scouts turned to Johan as if to expect his next word. Johan could only reply with a nod, giving the two the permission to follow after Pekka. He knew that the two would do their best to watch the area while Pekka acted on his own. Johan also knew that Pekka could be counted upon to attain access into the castle. As for himself, Johan’s concern for Sorin and Jelka was there, though he did not want to admit it out in the open. All he could do now was wait.
To be continued…