[1st of January, 2741 AD; nearby Ahnle River, outside North Glora, Ahnlikohn]
The calm, flowing river was all that spoke now. Mina looked over Bradley, who was on the ground in a heap. As she looked for a response, Mina decided on the fact that she would have to consult with Luna on how to deal with Bradley now that he was incapacitated. Now, though, Mina had to see if Pekka was doing better now that he was not under attack.
“Luna, how is he?” Mina asked.
“He’s breathing, so he’s doing well,” Luna replied. “I’ll see if I can get him to wake up…”
As Luna attempted to get Pekka to wake up, Mina had to wonder if Eva had found the others already. She had to imagine that Eva would be heading this way soon, given all of the commotion that had taken place. Defeating Bradley was one thing, but Mina could not stop there. Foundation in all of its entirety needed to be taken down if there was to be peace.
“It looks like he’s waking up,” Luna said. “Pekka, do you hear me?”
Mina watched as Pekka opened his eyes, groaning as he placed his hand on his chest. He looked up at Mina and Luna, both relieved to see that he was well. It was all Mina needed to see that she had arrived at the right time. Pekka then sat up and pointed at Mina.
“Behind you!” Pekka said.
Mina and Luna turned to see that Bradley had gotten back up, unnoticed by anyone. He started to rush at the two, picking up the knife on the ground in the process as Mina readied herself.
“You’re a fool to think that you had it over with!” Bradley exclaimed. “Now I don’t even care what happens, so long as I kill you all!”
But before Bradley could reach the three, Eva sprinted onto the scene with her sword drawn out. One quick swing of Eva’s blade stopped Bradley and made him drop the knife. Blood splattered onto the snow as Bradley found it difficult to breathe. Mina saw for herself what Eva had done to Bradley: she had just slashed his throat. He uttered not another word and dropped to the ground again.
“I haven’t forgotten,” Eva said. “Now choke within the flames.”
She cleaned her sword of blood and sheathed it. Sorin arrived and became witness to what was now Bradley’s corpse. Mina then registered what happened as she hurried towards Eva.
“Eva! Looks like you made it just in time,” Mina exclaimed. “I can’t believe how much that guy didn’t want to give up.”
“It’s not your fault,” Eva said. “Had he accepted what had happened, then maybe he would have received a little mercy.”
“I wonder about that,” Luna said. “He seemed set in his beliefs, even as it cost him his life.”
“He was dangerous, that much we know,” Sorin said. “People like him have to be dealt with one way or another.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Luna replied. “Somebody like him is a threat that we just can’t take lightly, you know?”
“He was done no matter what,” Pekka said, standing up. “Had Eva not come sooner, Mina would’ve been ready. Regardless, that’s one less piece of trash we’ll have to deal with now.”
“Speaking of which, maybe we should get moving,” Luna said. “The sight of him over there, even if he was horrible, is unsettling.”
“Of course,” Eva said. “I’m very sorry you had to see that.”
“It’s okay,” Luna said as she looked towards the forest. “Once we’re back on the path, then I think I’ll be fine.”
With Bradley taken care of, Mina went with the group on the way back to the main path. She felt that she and Eva made a great team, but now it was time for the group to get back together. One thing Mina noticed, though, was the fact that there were two unaccounted for: Johan Kuu and Jelka Arne. However, it was Luna who spoke up first.
“So, where are they?” Luna asked Sorin.
Sorin did not say.
“Johan is okay,” Eva said. “As for Jelka, it’s a different story…”
As Eva explained what happened to Jelka, everybody went silent. Neither Luna nor Pekka could respond to what they had heard. Eva’s words became the confirmation of what they were afraid of, as well as confirming Mina’s worries. Sorin continued to keep his head down while he walked. It was then that Mina realized that despite everyone’s efforts, it did little to change the reality that Jelka had died and Korbin Mars remained a threat. A few steps later, Luna proceeded to break the silence.
“If what you said is true, then Korbin should still be around,” Luna said. “He’s the one who killed her, right? Well, we should be going after him!”
“Korbin is long gone by now,” Eva said. “He knew that he would’ve stood no chance against us, which is why he took the extra measures he did.”
“He may have killed her, but she didn’t die without wounding him first,” Pekka said. “Korbin may have escaped, but Jelka dealt a serious blow to him. That is why he chose to flee.”
“At least we should find Johan,” Luna said. “He has to be taking it the worst, so we should be there to console him.”
“I think we should give him some time to himself,” Sorin said. “It wouldn’t do us any good to stay here any longer than we need to.”
“Aren’t you worried about him, though?” Luna asked. “He… He really did care a lot about Jelka, and that’s what worries me the most.”
“We don’t have to worry about him,” Eva said.
“I know that Johan doesn’t let his anger get the best of him,” Pekka said, “But all the same, maybe it would be best for us to go to him and see what we can do from there.”
“Yeah, there’s got to be something we can do,” Mina said. “Even if it means very little, I’m sure that Johan would appreciate our help!”
“It would be nice, but we all know that he wants this time alone,” Sorin said as he looked up. “The path is right over there; we’ll go and find Gale and Dustin. Besides, Johan knows where we’ll be staying, so it’s not like he’s going to be lost without us.”
“Are you sure?” Luna asked.
“Let Johan grieve by himself, Luna,” Eva replied. “After that, he’ll come and find us at the hotel.”
“If you’re okay with it then I guess I am, too,” Luna said. “Well? What are we all waiting for? Let’s go! We can’t just do nothing with this opportunity now, not when we’ve got a chance!”
Mina smiled and pumped her fist into the air. “We aren’t going to let this go to waste,” she said. “For Jelka and Kirk, as well as everybody else that’s lost their lives because of Foundation, we will put an end to these evildoers!”
Mina could see that everybody was devastated by what happened to Jelka, so she decided to remain positive. She had to if they were going to focus on the goal before them. Mina also wanted to do this because she did not want anyone to be forgotten, both living and not. It was Mina’s task to take and she did not mind at all. As long as she had some way of helping, then Mina knew that it would not be a waste of time.
[1st of January; 2741 AD; Ameci Embassy, Rezar, Iiayikohn – Deca District]
It was a long and silent walk down the hallway as General Fercewend and Isaac Kunigunde entered the president’s office. With Casper nowhere to be found, Fercewend had to wonder what had happened to him. He felt uncertain as Isaac made his way over to the desk and pulled out the chair.
“To sit in this chair signifies that you’ve been bestowed a limitless amount of power,” Isaac said. “Since we’ve no idea where our friend is, perhaps you’d like to have a little taste of what’s to come in your future?”
Fercewend just shook his head. “Until we get a confirmation on President Bradley, I will have to decline,” he said. “Plus, Hasker should be here in a couple of days, so it’s his role to assume.”
“You still have faith in Casper, I see,” Isaac said. “I’d expect no less from you, Rohan.”
“I will admit that the uncertainty is making me think about it,” Fercewend said. “To serve the people of Ameci by becoming president would be the highest honor, yet still I wonder to myself would I be ready when the time comes. I know that you don’t really think about it that much, Isaac, but this is something that I’ve worked towards ever since I was a young lad.”
“I’m fully aware,” Isaac said. “You’ve been quite useful, and you ought to have hope that you will remain useful for years to come.”
“That’s what I wish for,” Fercewend said.
“Yes, you’ll be very useful indeed,” Isaac said, turning away to look out the window. “Quite useful, no matter what happens.”
“What do you mean by that?” Fercewend asked.
“Ah, what I mean is that no matter what, we’ll be victorious,” Isaac replied. “It’s always good to plan for anything, and I think you would agree.”
“Of course,” Fercewend said. “No matter what happens, we’ll be ready to face off against anything, even the unknown.”
Isaac turned back and smiled at Fercewend. “Seems to me that you’re well beyond ready to tackle the presidency, Rohan.”
“We’ll see when the time comes,” Fercewend said.
Fercewend heard the door swing open and turned around. Casper Bradley hurried into the room with his clothes covered in dirt and blood while his hair was unkempt. As Casper dropped to his knees, Fercewend went over to the man and reached out his hand.
“Thank you, general,” Casper said as he grabbed Fercewend’s hand and stood up. “My car had run out of fuel the moment I crossed the Iiayi borders. It took me a few hours, but I finally made it back just in time.”
“You’ve made it back just in time, indeed,” Isaac said. “Just in time for you to receive your retribution, in fact. General Rohan Fercewend, I want you to place this man under arrest.”
Fercewend’s eyes lit up as he looked over to Isaac. “What? What for?”
“I’m sorry for not disclosing this to you earlier, Rohan, but I’ve spoken to President Hasker this morning,” Isaac said. “After what Casper has done and has tried to do to us, it’s only fitting that he gets locked away for a long time.”
“Impossible,” Fercewend said. “What did he do?”
“He was using you, Rohan,” Isaac answered. “Casper was going to use you as a scapegoat for his illegal activities, but when I stepped in, he knew he couldn’t do that. That’s why he carried out an illegal mission on his own.”
“You must be playing a joke on me, cousin,” Fercewend replied. “Casper was going to stab us in the back?”
“It’s all bullshit!” Casper exclaimed. “Isaac is lying through his teeth!”
“How about you stay silent and let me talk, viper,” Isaac said. “Casper had a plan from the very beginning, acting on his own accord. Him becoming president in the wake of Hasker’s poisoning? It was all Casper’s plotting.”
Casper shook his fist. “Lies! You’re spouting nothing but lies!”
He charged at Isaac, but Fercewend restrained him before he could get any closer. Fercewend could not even begin to imagine what Casper had planned to do with him, but he had to guess that he was to take the fall should the news of Casper’s crime come to light.
“That’s enough, sir,” Fercewend said. “I think it would be for the best if you explained yourself, right now.”
“Well, those traitors are coming here,” Casper replied. “After I failed to stop them, I ran off. It was a cowardly move, but I had the traitors on my tail; I had no idea if they were coming after me, so I ran as fast as I could and ended up in the town of Helm.”
“A likely story,” Isaac said. “If it were the truth, that is.”
“It is the truth, Isaac,” Casper said. “Once I was there, I called my son and told him about what had happened. Crawford suggested that I lay low for a bit, which I did do, but only until I was sure I was in the clear!”
“What did happen, sir?” Fercewend asked.
“Oh, Rohan, it’s obvious that all he’s going to do is lie continuously until he thinks we’ll believe him,” Isaac said. “If you want proof, ask Piere. He’ll tell you all about it, from how Casper set up the poisoning all the way to how he would throw you underneath the wheel if he got caught.”
“You… You’re the one who suggested poisoning!” Casper replied. “It was you who told me to do it, damn it!”
“And where is your proof?” Isaac asked. “Unless you have something that’s written down in print, then it’ll be very hard to prove that I did anything.”
“I think it’s about time we take a precautionary measure,” Fercewend said, letting go of Casper. “I do not wish to believe that you would try and kill a fellow countryman, but I’m afraid until I’ve spoken to President Hasker, you will need to be placed in a holding cell.”
“This is ridiculous!” Casper exclaimed.
“Not as ridiculous as what you’ve been saying,” Isaac replied, as he then snapped his fingers. “Luckily, I’ve also been prepared for a while.”
Two guards entered the room and grabbed Casper by either arm. He tried to break free, but failed. Fercewend looked over to Isaac, and in that moment, he thought he saw Isaac crack a small grin on his face. However, Isaac had a scowl upon his face while Casper continued to struggle.
“You think you’ll get away with this?” Casper asked. “Crawford won’t let you get away with this once he hears it from me, I’ll have you know!”
“Oh, so now we’re devolving into threats,” Isaac said. “Did you think that you were invincible so long as you had Crawford?”
“What are you talking about?” Casper asked.
“President Hasker wasn’t the only person I spoke with this morning,” Isaac said. “After I finished talking to Piere, who else but Crawford would call me? Yes, your son went and told me a lot because he was quite concerned. It’s not easy to point the finger of accusation at someone you’ve known for all your life, but for Crawford, he was willing to tell me everything because he cared so much.”
“No, not Crawford,” Casper said. “There’s no way in hell that he’d turn his back on me!”
“Face it, Casper, no one is going to come and save you,” Isaac replied. “This is all the result of the truth surfacing to the top. You can kiss your wild dreams of power goodbye, my friend, because this is the end for you.”
The guards began to drag Casper out of the room, his struggling doing little to deter them. Isaac took a seat next to the desk while Fercewend sighed. There was a lot to take in, Fercewend thought. He still had trouble believing Casper was the one who attempted to kill Hasker, yet Isaac’s words made sense. Everything made sense, yet at the same time, they made no sense. Still, Casper had one last utterance while the guard escorted him out.
“Gloat while you still can, Isaac Kunigunde,” Casper said. “Because if you take me down, you’ll soon feel the same heat! Dezine knows!”
Fercewend watched as Casper left the room with the guards. The air was lighter now but the tension remained high. He had to wonder what Ameci would do now without Casper in charge and Hasker still a few days away from arriving. All Fercewend knew now was that it all stopped with him.
“Looks like it’s your turn,” Isaac said.
“My turn?” Fercewend asked.
“Don’t be nervous,” Isaac replied, as he gestured his hand over to the chair behind the desk. “This is exactly what you wanted, isn’t it? Go ahead and have a seat, Rohan; you’ve earned it.”
To be continued…