[1st of January, 2741 AD; Ahnle Mountain Base, North Glora, Ahnlikohn]
Eva made it to the base of the mountain with Mina. They had arrived late last night with plenty of time to rest and relax, though Eva felt as if she had little time to do so thanks to concern she had for Sorin and the others. Now, however, Eva and Mina knew that it was time to catch up and hurried towards the Ahnle Castle first thing after breakfast.
“I’m so full of energy,” Mina said. “Don’t you feel the same way, Eva? It’s like that breakfast we ate really made us even stronger!”
“I don’t think it’s that,” Eva replied. “No, we’re strong because you and I are determined. We’re both so determined to help the others that much that we’ll do whatever it takes to succeed.”
“Because we will,” Mina said. “We’ll reunite with everyone here and soon enough we’ll be on the next step to defeating those villains!”
“Not going to be an easy task,” Eva said, “But if there’s anything I know, it’s never easy in the first place.”
“You don’t have to worry about that,” Mina replied.
“I don’t?” Eva asked.
“Yeah, because we’re here now,” Mina said, “And because we’re here right now, we made it even though we were a little behind everybody else! That has to be pretty good, right?”
“That it is,” Eva said.
Mina smiled and looked over to the mountain. “Well, we’ve got to go up to meet with them,” she said. “I wonder how they’re doing…”
“Rain did tell us a bit about this place,” Eva said. “Fortunately for us, it’s a relatively simple path once we get moving.”
They started to walk up the path towards the castle, passing by the scenery as they found themselves within the forest. According to Rain, there were many paths branching out over the mountain, but the path to the castle stood out as the most straightforward. However, Eva and Mina’s trek into the forest stopped once they saw a couple of familiar faces running through the forest. It did not take Eva that long to recognize Gale and Dustin, the two now headed in the direction of Eva and Mina.
“What the hell?” Eva asked.
“Something must have happened,” Mina said. “Something bad, I’m almost absolutely sure of!”
Gale and Dustin arrived, with both of them stopping to catch their breaths. Off in the distance, Eva heard the sound of gunshots as well as yelling. It was then that Eva could conclude that Mina was right. It had to be the work of Foundation and Isaac Kunigunde, somehow.
“Gale, what’s going on?” Mina asked. “Is everybody else okay?”
Gale caught her breath and looked up. “Oh no, Sorin’s still out there with Jelka and Johan!”
“They’re still out there?” Eva asked, her eyebrows furrowed. “Where are they now?”
“Up at the mansion,” Gale replied. “Johan said that he was going to go after them if anything went wrong, but I haven’t seen them at all!”
“If it’s anything like what we saw at Ahnle Castle, then they’ve gotta be on the move, too,” Dustin said. “Seems like we’ve got a lot more to deal with with these Blood Ravens.”
“On top of that, Luna and Pekka are busy trying to deal with that awful Crawford Bradley,” Gale said. “I’m not sure how they’re holding up, but they do have an advantage over him… hopefully.”
“We can’t be sure of that,” Mina said. “You know that villains like him like to cheat whenever he feels like it! Who’s to say that he isn’t playing dirty right as we speak?”
“Looks like we’ve been called to task,” Eva said. “Gale, you and Dustin need to find a safe point where we can reconvene. Sooner rather than later, preferably. As for Mina and I, we’re going to go and help.”
“Got it,” Gale said.
“How about that hotel?” Dustin asked. “We’ll all meet there. Tell the others as well!”
Gale and Dustin hurried past Eva and Mina, leaving the two women to themselves once more. With the new information at hand, Eva knew what was needed and what she had to do: find a way to put a stop to the Blood Ravens’ plans and defeat them once and for all.
“Good enough,” Eva said. “Mina, you know what this means, don’t you?”
“Of course I do,” Mina replied, “It means we’re going to have to beat some villains and save the day!”
“Great,” Eva said. “I’ll go after Sorin, Johan, and Jelka while you go and help Luna and Pekka.”
“Very well,” Mina said. “I’ll see you soon, Eva!”
Mina then went off in the other direction. The urgency to find Sorin, Johan, and Jelka was high as Eva rushed up the path. She was well aware of what would be in store for her, so she kept her hand close to the handle of her blade while she ran as fast as she could.
[1st of January, 2741 AD; Outside the Chancellor’s Mansion – Entrance Gate, North Glora, Ahnlikohn]
The exit out of the chancellor’s mansion provided Sorin and Jelka a needed relief from Korbin’s assault. As Jelka grasped at her wound, the two made it over to the gates without trouble. However, once they were outside of the mansion, Sorin and Jelka discovered that Korbin did not come alone. Several soldiers off in the distance began advancing towards the mansion with their guns ready and their sights set on the two. Meanwhile, behind Sorin and Jelka was Korbin, who would not give up his pursuit of them.
“Shit, this is bad,” Sorin said. “Where the hell is Johan?”
“He must be on his way somehow,” Jelka replied. “With this development, however, it may be impossible…”
“What are you talking about?” Sorin asked. “We just have to hide, that’s all! We’ll just go through the bushes and use that to get to Johan and the others! We can just do that.”
“Johan isn’t going to get here in time,” Jelka said. “Those soldiers came here first. I know Johan won’t take the obvious path.”
“Then we can keep going,” Sorin said. “It’s like I said: we’ll go off the path and meet with Johan that way!”
Jelka chuckled, which turned into coughing. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s not as if I don’t believe you, but we’re trying to run and the only thing I can think about are the bullets inside my body.”
“It can’t be that bad, can it?” Sorin asked. “You were still able to fight! We can still get out of here!”
“You know as well as I do that Korbin’s not giving up,” Jelka said. “If we run away, he’ll still be on our heels. He and his Blood Ravens will be after us if we try to keep running.”
“You can’t give up,” Sorin said.
“Who said I was giving up?” Jelka asked. “I intend to fight with my sword until the very end.”
“If that’s the case, then I’ll fight with you,” Sorin replied. “I know the odds are low, but we can do it, I’m sure!”
“You don’t get it,” Jelka said. “The only reason I’m still standing with you is because I still have the will to fight. Right now… Right now, my job is to stop the Blood Ravens and hold off Korbin!”
She took a deep breath and exhaled as she let go of Sorin’s hand. There was no way she could have Sorin fight a hopeless battle, nor could she find it within herself to look Johan in the eye in case something were to happen to Sorin. This was Jelka’s battle to fight, even as she knew she was going to have to fight it alone with a bullet somewhere close to her heart.
“Damn it, don’t do this,” Sorin said. “We’ve dealt with this mess before and we can sure as hell do it again!”
“Sorin, I can’t let you do that,” Jelka said. “If something were to happen to you, there’s no way I could even bear to tell Johan let alone look him in the eyes. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t do it!” Sorin exclaimed. “Jelka!”
It all happened too fast. Jelka took her hand and shoved Sorin backwards, which made him stumble into the bushes and into the forest. The time Jelka had diminished as she then turned to the arriving soldiers and took out her sword. It was going to take all she had to hold back long enough to ensure Johan and Sorin would be able to escape. Behind Jelka rang a distinctive cackle that belonged to only one man: Korbin Mars. Above all else, Jelka had to settle it with him and finish him off before he had the chance to leave.
“You’re too late,” Jelka said. “You only have me to deal with now…”
Korbin laughed as he twirled his sword. “I’ll just do myself a favor and have my boys do the dirty work for me,” he said. “Killing you myself would be boring, so I’m just gonna go ahead and find Sorin myself!”
“Not going to happen,” Jelka replied. “I’ll kill you before you even have the chance to move!”
Korbin smirked. The soldiers readied their guns. Jelka had to move fast as she charged at the soldiers. More gunshots rang out as the soldiers fired directly at Jelka. Some of the bullets made contact with her, plunging into her even as she rushed them. Jelka did not care at all as she had one thing on her mind. Her deft, driving swings from her sword made short work of each soldier standing before her, the blade slashing through each one. Once Jelka was done, the soldiers had all dropped to the ground, each one left with fatal wounds. Jelka looked before her as she ended up setting sights with Korbin once again.
“And now… you,” Jelka said.
“Looks like maybe I’ll have a little fun after all,” Korbin said.
There were no other distractions. Jelka had no idea where Sorin would end up, nor could she tell where Johan was at the moment. All she could hope for was their safety. But now, Jelka had one last problem to deal with. A single problem that had been going around for far too long stood before her with his sword in his hand. She remembered the pain that Korbin had caused Johan and how he was almost killed because of it. Jelka also knew that it brought her closer to Johan and made her able to trust in other people again. Now she was busy holding off a vile enemy while ensuring that her lover and her ally would both be able to escape to safety at the cost of her own life. Though she regretted not being able to see Johan one last time, Jelka felt nothing but gratitude towards him. She was glad to have met him, if only for a few months.
“I’ll be sure to make this right,” Jelka said. “For Johan…”
Sorin braced himself as he rolled down the hill. He had no control over what was going on and rolled around until his body struck a large tree. Sorin came to a complete stop as he tried to gather himself. The pain coursed through his body, but meant nothing now as all he worried about was Jelka. He wondered if she was still okay. However, his wonder did not last long as a sharp, agonizing scream rang out through the forest. Sorin no longer wondered as his fear came true, the distinct yell belonging to Jelka.
“He couldn’t have, could he?” Sorin asked. “It’s impossible… It has to be, damn it!”
Sorin keeled over and clenched his fist. He pounded his fist hard into the ground below him, all the while struggling to keep calm. A swirling combination of emotions went through Sorin’s head, his fist tightening while he bit his bottom lip. His eyes stayed wide open as he looked at the dry ground. Sorin knew that what had happened was not supposed to take place, yet Korbin had made a direct dent into their efforts. Sorin wanted to do something, but he had no idea where Korbin was right now. Korbin had to be on the move. He had to be looking for Sorin. After all, Korbin had just killed Jelka.
“He killed her,” Sorin said. “Damn it, Johan, I’m sorry!”
But as much as he admitted it, Sorin knew that he had no way of helping Jelka. She had already made up her mind and was already wounded. Sorin only denied it, not wanting to consider that Korbin would have continued with his pursuit no matter what. He would have devastated them somehow, because that was the kind of person Korbin was: a man that served his boredom with an evil intention unlike anything Sorin had encountered. It was then that Sorin realized that he had to continue onward with an inevitable truth entering his mind. A final, decisive truth that Sorin could not deny.
“I’m going to have to do that, aren’t I,” Sorin said as he stood up. “Korbin… When I see him next time, I’m going to do it. I’ll do it for both Jelka and Johan’s sake.”
“Finally found you, buddy,” Johan said. “Jelka… Where is she?”
Sorin turned around. The look in Johan’s eyes told Sorin everything. It was a terrible truth, a truth that Johan had already figured out.
To be continued…