[1st of January, 2740 AD; Outside the Chancellor’s Mansion – Entrance Gate, North Glora, Ahnlikohn]
Sorin could find no words. What could he have said to Johan? He could not find it in himself to tell Johan that he was sorry. Sorin felt responsible for Jelka’s death and he believed that little could be done to change that. The silence did not waver as Sorin looked down at his shoes. He was not sure what Johan would say, but he was ready regardless of what Johan would tell him. After a brief moment, Johan spoke up and caught Sorin’s attention.
“Just wait right here, Sorin,” Johan said. “I’m going to go see if everything’s clear.”
Johan hurried up the mountain, climbing as fast as he could while Sorin did what he was told and remained where he stood. He had to imagine that Johan wanted something much more conclusive, but Sorin knew that Jelka Arne’s final breath was remarkable. There could be no mistaking that scream for anything other than the succumbing to a fatal blow. Jelka had been killed, and Korbin was her killer without a doubt. Sorin had to wonder how Johan continued to remain calm even in the wake of this tragic turn of events. As he continued to wait, Sorin saw Eva arrive with her sword at her hip. He saw in her face that she was already aware of what had happened as she avoided looking him in the eyes.
“I don’t even need to ask, do I,” Eva said.
“There was little I could do,” Sorin said, as he then explained to Eva what happened. “I was too careless.”
“You shouldn’t blame yourself,” Eva replied. “Jelka was protecting you for Johan’s sake, I’m sure.”
“I know that,” Sorin said. “I know why she did it, but I still don’t feel better about it.”
“It never feels good to lose an ally,” Eva said. “But we’re still going to fight together no matter what. Isn’t that right?”
“Yeah, it is,” Sorin replied.
“If Jelka didn’t shove you out of the way, then you wouldn’t be here,” Eva said. “If she didn’t, then everything… would be a lot worse, that’s all I’ll say about that.”
“What about Gale?” Sorin asked. “Is she okay? What about the others?”
“Mina and I ran into her and Dustin on the way here,” Eva answered. “She is okay. As for the other two, Mina’s already helping them out.”
“Korbin didn’t come alone, that’s for sure,” Sorin said.
“The ruthlessness of these soldiers has no boundary,” Eva said. “Don’t ever forget about that.”
“I won’t,” Sorin said. “I’ve already made up my mind about what’s going to happen the next time I see Korbin.”
“He’s thinking the same thing, too,” Eva said. “Whatever you have planned, be prepared to fight as if you’ve got no other choice but to kill.”
Sorin knew it was something he did not want to admit, but what Eva said to him was true. Korbin was beyond all reason at this point. Having him surrender would be impossible as Korbin possessed a headstrong mentality that ensured he would never give up. Even so, Sorin had never killed anyone before. Even when he fought Korbin in the past, Sorin hesitated to use lethal methods. Now, though, Sorin felt that this was the only choice.
“Anyway, you two weren’t the only ones here,” Eva said. “I’m sure that that fiend is still roaming about the area. Johan’s here too, isn’t he?”
“He went to see for himself,” Sorin replied.
“He’s unarmed,” Eva said. “Is he that foolish?”
“You’re going after him?” Sorin asked.
“Of course,” Eva replied.
Just as Eva said that, the rustle of bushes caught the attention of both her and Sorin. Sorin saw Johan return with his head down, quite a different air from when he had left earlier. Despite peering at Johan’s face, however, Sorin did not see any tears. Johan sighed as he lifted his head up and looked over at Sorin and Eva as she looked at him as well.
“I’m sorry,” Sorin said.
“Buddy, you don’t need to apologize to me,” Johan replied. “The pain within your heart should not be stronger than the pain in mine.”
“It’s not easy,” Eva said. “That pain… neither you nor her deserve any of it, I truly mean that.”
“Jelka fought to the very end,” Johan said. “I knew she wouldn’t die without causing some damage against her enemies first… Those Blood Ravens never even stood a chance against her, and Korbin didn’t escape unscathed, either.”
He pulled an Ameci badge from out his pocket and showed it to Sorin and Eva. Small spots of blood decorated the badge, and a torn piece of cloth looked to have been taken from off of Korbin’s uniform.
“There was a lot of blood, but one thing I know is that Korbin attempted to erase his presence,” Johan said. “Most of the snow at the entrance gate had been removed by the time I arrived, which is impressive all on its own.”
“That’s quite unlike him,” Sorin said.
“I’ll tell you what I think,” Johan said. “I think he’s afraid. He wouldn’t care about removing his presence in a battle. Why would he?”
“Because he doesn’t want to be followed?” Sorin asked.
“It’s because I think he realizes that there’s nothing for him,” Johan replied. “Korbin fights only because it thrills him, yet slowly but surely he’s finding out he can’t even win all his fights. He can’t beat you by himself, nor is he able to kill me. Even against Jelka, she left her mark on him. That’s something he can’t just get rid of no matter how much he wants to try and hide it.”
“You’re saying that he’s a sore loser, then,” Eva said. “That seems too simple to be the reason why he wants to hide that fact, even for him.”
“I’m still trying to figure it out myself as well,” Johan said. “Despite how he often acts, Korbin’s a lot more complicated than I gave him credit for.”
“It’s got to be Harold,” Sorin said.
“I think so, too,” Johan said.
“As do I,” Eva said. “Regardless, we can’t let Korbin get away with any of his crimes. He has to be dealt with.”
“You mean to say that he needs to be killed,” Johan replied.
“That’s the only answer,” Sorin said. “Korbin can’t be reasoned with, nor would he be willing to reason with us. It’s beyond impossible at this point for us to attempt that.”
“Let me ask you a question, then,” Johan said, “Who is it that you should be angry at right now? Because Korbin’s not the one you should be directing that fire at, not in the slightest.”
“Korbin is a criminal,” Eva said. “Of course Sorin and I should be angry at him. He can’t be allowed to go on much longer.”
“I agree he should be dealt with, but you can’t forget the ones behind all of this,” Johan replied. “Sorin, if anyone’s going to have to deal with Korbin, it has to be me. He’s the one who has repeatedly impeded my mission, as well as the fact that he has hurt me the most.”
“Let me help, then,” Sorin said.
“I appreciate it,” Johan said. “However, I mean it when I say I’ll deal with him myself. You’ve got another person to direct your anger towards, and that is not Korbin. He’ll have to answer to me and me alone.”
“Just what do you have planned?” Sorin asked.
“I’ve got my ways,” Johan replied. “I’ll make sure that Korbin sees justice, just watch.”
Eva sighed. “I sincerely hope that you consider what is at stake, as well as what he did to both you and Jelka,” she said. “If you still think that you can solve all of this without any bloodshed, then you’re mistaken.”
“I don’t plan to stop you or Sorin,” Johan said. “What you do next is entirely up to you. I prefer to use my methods, even if you don’t happen to see eye-to-eye with me.”
“If you believe that, then I won’t stop you,” Eva replied.
“Very well,” Johan said. “It may be tough, but we have to keep going. Jelka gave Sorin this chance to fight on and we should use it.”
“Then let’s go,” Eva said. “Sorin, we’re going to go and find Mina, got it?”
“Understood,” Sorin said.
Sorin followed after Eva, but stopped as he noticed that Johan continued to remain where he stood. He turned around and waved over to Johan, catching his attention in the process.
“Aren’t you coming?” Sorin asked.
“Go on ahead,” Johan said. “I just want to have some time by myself, if you please.”
“Okay,” Sorin said.
He did not need to say anymore. Sorin understood what Johan wanted and respected that. Even as he was not showing it, Sorin could tell that Johan was in pain and nothing could alleviate it, at least not now. An immense amount of pain had been inflicted upon everyone now all thanks to Korbin, Harold, and Isaac. It was unforgivable, Sorin thought. He was determined more than ever to go forth and help Johan accomplish his goal.
[1st of January, 2741 AD; nearby Ahnle River, outside North Glora, Ahnlikohn]
Mina glared at Bradley. It took everything she had in order to keep herself from flying at him, given who he is and what he had done. There was nothing Mina wanted more than to drub Bradley, to show him the pain that he had caused for others. The thought was tempting, Mina had to admit to herself, but she knew that Bradley could not wait. Whatever he had ready, Mina had to watch out for because he had already demonstrated his worst on Luna and Pekka.
“Let’s not fool ourselves here,” Bradley said. “I can already tell you exactly what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.”
“You wish, villain,” Mina said. “I’ve already seen what you’ve done! You’re nothing but a coward who can’t win without the help of Isaac Kunigunde! He’s the only reason you’ve been able to get away with this for so long!”
“Watch your words,” Bradley replied. “Don’t think even for a second that I care for anyone by myself and my family line!”
“He really means that,” Luna said. “He means what he says, Mina! All this monster cares about is himself and nothing more!”
“Everything that has happened has only happened because I strived for my fill,” Bradley said. “Using people like Korbin and Erik helped me get closer to that goal, which I’m sure you wouldn’t understand.”
“Of course I wouldn’t understand,” Mina replied. “How could anyone begin to comprehend that unless they were evil like you?”
“Do you think everything is so black and white?” Bradley asked. “I’m not the only one who uses people for their own gain, you know; I just happen to be very good at it.”
“I don’t care what you think!” Mina exclaimed. “All I care about is making sure that I stop you!”
“You can try, but I will come back,” Bradley said. “Even if I lose, I’ve already ensured my victory. Even my father can’t stop what I’ve got planned for him. The fool won’t even see it coming!”
“You’d even use your own father for your own gain?” Luna asked.
“I’ve already told you,” Bradley said, “People exist solely to be used by me and that man is no exception.”
“Even someone like him is just a pawn to you, huh,” Mina said. “To think I would find some pity for a villain like him, all because an even worse villain was using him for his own greed!”
“I’m not the only one,” Bradley said. “I’m sure he was thinking about how he was going to throw me on the sword… Even your precious Queen Thedam uses people too, you know?”
“You don’t know a thing about her!” Mina replied.
“Why else would you be here?” Bradley asked. “You’re only here because of what she told you, am I wrong? You’re nothing but a tool to her, and she’d gladly throw you away if she had the chance.”
“Not another word,” Mina said. “That’s it!”
She wanted nothing more to do with Bradley. The time for talk was over as Mina clenched her fists. Bradley appeared to realize it, too, as he got into a stance and prepared himself. Mina was not going to waste any time fighting Bradley; she knew that there was no going back.
“No matter,” Bradley said. “I’m going to beat you like I did those two, and we’ll see who truly is right here!”
Mina did not need to hear any more from him. She sprang forth and ran at Bradley, who decided to do the same. He threw the first punch at Mina, who took the chance and responded with a punch of her own. The two were close now with next to no room for either one to dodge. Mina watched as Bradley’s fist flew past her. Bradley, however, had no way to say the same as Mina’s fist made a direct hit with his face. He recoiled and stepped back while Mina turned and looked at him. She had him now.
“We’re far from finished!” Mina exclaimed.
“You… You think you’ve already won, haven’t you?” Bradley asked. “Well, I can still fight!”
Bradley leapt forward at Mina. She prepared herself for whatever Bradley had next. He led forth with a roundhouse kick, something Mina was ready for as she crouched down. As his kick missed, Bradley began to lose balance. Mina then jumped up and took out her sword. She thrust the handle of her blade up into Bradley’s jaw, making him reel once more. With Bradley losing his stance, Mina now had her chance to end the fight. As she stepped forth, though, Bradley began to laugh.
“I’m not going to give up,” Bradley said. “I’m not going to lose to you! I’m sure as hell not going to lose to you!”
“Forget it,” Mina replied.
“I won’t go down without taking you out first!” Bradley exclaimed.
But as Bradley tried to maintain his composure, he stopped. The wound in his shoulder had registered, causing him to react as he reached over for his stab wound. Mina could see that Bradley had trouble moving his right arm.
“It’s just a little pain,” Bradley said. “I can still fight! I can do it!”
“You really think so?” Mina asked. “Because it looks to me as if you can’t even move your arm.”
Bradley looked at the wound once again, then back to Mina. “Then it really is over, isn’t it? I clearly can’t fight, can I? Then maybe show me some mercy or something!”
“No way,” Mina replied. “After all you’ve done, now you want us to show you mercy?”
“Yeah, you can’t just get away with everything!” Luna said.
“Aren’t you all about justice and heroics and all that crap?” Bradley asked. “Then why would you beat on someone who’s clearly hurt!?”
“Because the pain you feel is nothing compared to the pain and suffering you’ve caused others,” Mina said as she sheathed her sword. “Luna, take this! I’m going to finish it!”
“Okay,” Luna replied.
Mina tossed over her sword to Luna, who caught it with her free hand. All that remained now was for Mina to take down Bradley. He had no way to stop her now as she rushed at him.
“No, please, don’t!” Bradley pleaded.
Mina ignored his weak attempt and shoved Bradley into the tree nearby. It took little time for Mina to thrash Bradley as she thrust her fist into his stomach. The impact took Bradley out as he had no shot at defending himself against Mina and her attacks. Mina kept up the pressure with an elbow to Bradley’s face. With that decisive blow, Mina knocked Bradley out cold as his body collapsed onto the ground. With the fight concluded, Mina breathed a victorious sigh of relief.
To be continued…