[2nd of January, 2741 AD; Harold Mars’s Temporary Hideout, Rezar, Iiayikohn – Nano District]
Upon entering the building, Sorin and Johan were greeted with a moonlit lobby. Several boards and glass decorated the almost barren entrance as Sorin took a step forward. Harold Mars hid within the depths of the darkness alongside Korbin, both of whom had to be anticipating this pursuit. Sorin had to keep his guard up just in case one of them showed up while Johan continued to walk forth in a casual manner.
“It’s no use hiding from us, you know,” Johan called out. “You can only run so far until you’ve nowhere else to hide.”
“He’s close, isn’t he,” Sorin said.
Faint footsteps echoed about the building, hurrying as Sorin readied his hand by the handle of his sword. He had to be ready for anything. The sound of the footsteps grew louder as Johan turned towards the stairs. Sorin looked over and saw Korbin standing at the top of the stairs with his sword drawn out and ready to strike. Johan took a deep breath and sighed as Korbin walked down the stairs, each step heavier than the last.
“Get out of the way,” Johan said. “If Harold is using you to try and buy some time for himself, it’s not going to work.”
“You… You’d say that, wouldn’t you!?” Korbin asked.
“It’s pointless to fight me,” Johan replied. “I know what you’re going to do before you even do it.”
“Shut up!” Korbin exclaimed. “Just shut your fucking mouth!”
“You’re going to try and kill me, but it won’t work,” Johan said. “You think by getting rid of me, you’ll be spared. But you’re just lying to yourself.”
Korbin began to hyperventilate between each step. “Goddamn you, Johan Kuu, I’m not some shitty stooge you can break with your words,” he said. “I’m going to kill you like I did that bitch back in Ahnlikohn!”
“True, you did kill Jelka, but she left an impression on you that you can’t shake away,” Johan replied. “It’s the first time you’ve felt fear, wasn’t it? You’re afraid now that Bradley is gone, aren’t you?”
“Who the hell do you think you are to judge me!?” Korbin yelled. “I fight because it thrills me, not because I’m some weak ass pussy that can’t think for himself! Just watch me, Johan Kuu, as I run this sword through your gut!”
“Stand back, Sorin,” Johan said. “I got this.”
Before he knew it, Sorin watched as Korbin leapt off the stairs and lunged towards Johan with his sword pointed forward. Sorin was ready to fight back, but it was just like Johan said. Korbin came to a complete stop and looked at Sorin in the face.
“Impossible… How the hell did that happen!” Korbin exclaimed.
Johan had already moved ahead and seized Korbin from behind, raising both of his arms in the process. The sword pointed upwards now that Johan had Korbin secured, while Sorin just stood in amazement at how fast Johan was able to see Korbin’s attack. Though it may have been that Korbin had hesitation, the fact that Johan had the chance to disarm him proved valuable.
“You’ve already lost,” Johan said. “This entire fight was decided when you tried to attack me.”
“Do you think I’m going to lose to you?” Korbin asked. “I could just stab us both if I really wanted to!”
“Go ahead,” Johan replied. “I’m not going to fight back but I will make sure that you will never hurt me or my friends ever again, that much I can say to you, Korbin.”
“Put down your sword, Korbin,” Sorin said. “We’re here to stop Harold, not to entertain your twisted desire.”
“That’s what this fucking is, huh,” Korbin said. “This whole thing is to stop my dad, is it? Well, like hell I care! I just want to see bloodshed!”
Korbin struggled in Johan’s grasp, but could not escape. He then tried to move his sword and make good on his word to stab both himself and Johan, but that proved difficult as well. Johan remained strong in restraining Korbin while Sorin walked closer to the two of them.
“You’ll get no such thing from either of us,” Sorin said. “Stop standing in our way already.”
Korbin laughed. “That’s how it is, isn’t it? I’m just an obstacle for you, is that it?”
“Right now, you’re the only thing between us and Harold,” Sorin replied. “But if you really want to drag this out, then Johan and I won’t have any trouble dealing with you.”
“You think I just get in the way, huh?” Korbin asked. “Is that what Bradley thought of me, too?”
“He cared only about himself,” Sorin replied.
“Like hell I’m going to believe that!” Korbin exclaimed.
He erupted into a loud cackle and shook himself even further against Johan as he tried to break free. However, Johan spun himself and Korbin around and flung him over towards the stairs, causing Korbin to stumble until he fell and hit his face against the bottom step. His sword dropped and clanged against the cold hardwood floor as he tried to stand up. Korbin propped himself against the edge of the bottom step as a small amount of blood began to stream down the side of his face.
“I’d run if I were you,” Johan said. “I’d run far away as I possibly could if I were in your situation.”
Johan approached Korbin at a slow pace. It was a silent approach as the only thing that stood between both men was the fact that Johan would remain good on his word about not fighting back. Korbin looked at Johan, then to his sword which was a few feet away. Sorin kept himself ready for whatever Korbin had next. The distance shrank between Johan and Korbin now as less than a foot separated the two men with Korbin leaning against the stairs. Just then, Harold called out to Korbin.
“Just as I thought,” Harold said. “It seems as if you could only hold them up for so long until you finally broke.”
“N-No! That’s not it at all!” Korbin exclaimed as he backed his way up the stairs. “They just… Johan Kuu and Sorin Wilk are just trying to fucking cheat me, these sons of bitches!”
Sorin scanned the area, but Harold was nowhere to be found. He had to be hiding upstairs, Sorin thought.
“Keep your head up, Sorin,” Johan said. “Right now, we’re not too far away from our enemy…”
“Heh, it really does delight me,” Harold said. “I can hear your cautiousness from where I’m standing, Johan Kuu.”
“I’m only cautious because I know how far you’re willing to go in order to fulfill your awful deeds,” Johan replied.
Harold cackled. “So it would appear,” he said. “Very well, if you and Sorin wish to die by my hands so badly, then I welcome you!”
“This… This isn’t fair!” Korbin said. “I won’t be ignored! I won’t!”
Korbin sprung up to his feet and sprinted upstairs. Sorin began to move a little closer to the stairs, but stopped when Johan put out his arm.
“He wants us to get closer,” Johan said. “Harold wouldn’t say that unless he had something prepared for us.”
“How could he prepare so quickly?” Sorin asked.
“I don’t know,” Johan answered. “What I do know is that we won’t find out if we just stand here. Get what I’m saying?”
“The only way we can stop him now is if we proceed,” Sorin said. “Even if it means we’re headed straight into danger.”
“We will defeat him,” Johan said. He took a deep breath and exhaled. “We’ll defeat him because we’ve got great friends on our side, and because you’re here to help me. This is our goal, Sorin; let’s accomplish it together.”
He reached out his hand to Sorin, who in turn extended his own hand and shared a handshake with Johan. No matter what Harold was going to do, Sorin believed in himself. He believed in Johan. Sorin believed in everyone that fought alongside him all this time because he knew that they were all on the same side to defeat Foundation. Now it was their turn to defeat Harold Mars.
“Let’s go,” Sorin said.
Though he could not see much upstairs due to the lack of light, Sorin went up the stairs after Johan. The two used caution as they climbed the stairs as they made it halfway between the first and second floors. Upon the two making it up midway, Sorin looked up towards the second floor to see Korbin looking from behind the wall. As Sorin spotted him, Korbin then hid behind and moved from his spot. They were getting closer, that much Sorin was aware of. There were a few more floors to the building, which made Sorin wonder where exactly in the building Harold was hiding.
“Where we see one, the other’s not far away,” Johan said. “It wouldn’t be a surprise to me if Harold was at the top floor.”
Harold’s voice echoed out. “You’re close,” he said. “Very close.”
“He wants us to hesitate,” Johan said to Sorin.
“I can’t let him get away with what he’s done,” Sorin said. “Do you hear me, Harold?”
“I hear you both loud and clear,” Harold replied. “I even hear that idiot son of mine scurrying away from you like the frightened coward he is. This truly is the fight you want with me, isn’t it, Sorin Wilk?”
Sorin did not feel the need to respond. He was set in stopping Harold and nothing would deter him from doing so. Upon setting foot on the second floor, it was there that Sorin and Johan saw Korbin on the next floor, which had a large gap with guardrails. Even in the dark, Sorin could make out some of the wear on the railing as Korbin looked down at him and Johan.
“This is not over,” Korbin said, “This is not over! It’s not over, do you two hear me or not!?”
“You want to keep fighting?” Johan asked. “Then why are you running from us? Why do you still continue to hold a grudge against Sorin and I?”
“Because… Because all I can do is fight!” Korbin responded. “I’ll fight and fight on because I don’t want to give up to you!”
“That’s enough, Korbin,” Harold said.
Korbin looked from side to side. “What? That can’t be it!”
The impactful sound blasted throughout the open area. An explosive noise unlike anything Sorin had ever heard before rang in his ears. What followed next was a disgusting crunch and the faint sound of liquid splattering onto the floor below. Sorin looked up to a glimpse of Harold’s face right behind Korbin, who was now coughing up blood. Sorin then saw the cause of the pain as Harold had plunged his fist through Korbin’s back and exited from beneath his chest. Johan gritted his teeth in silence as Harold chuckled.
“I’ve always held your life in my hands, Korbin,” Harold said. “As easy as it was to have you at my side, you’re no longer needed in my plans.”
“I’m… not needed anymore?” Korbin asked.
“You’ve been a hindrance for quite some time now,” Harold replied. “As a matter of fact, you’ve stopped being useful long ago.”
“N-No way,” Korbin replied.
“Did you truly believe that you were nothing more than a tool to me? Even a moron like you can’t be that delusional,” Harold said. “You’re as replaceable as Isaac Kunigunde and once I’m done with you, they’re next.”
Sorin could not speak up to the unspeakable sight before him. Even Johan, who had been calm throughout, was at a loss for words. However, they were not aghast at Harold’s heinous deed but rather Korbin’s eyes. Sorin could only watch as tears began to roll down Korbin’s face. Harold withdrew his arm from Korbin’s body as he then proceeded to shove Korbin over the railing. Korbin fell down and hit the floor with a loud thud, his body landing in the pool of blood below. While Sorin could only look on at Harold in horror, Johan moved forward.
“You still want to fight me, don’t you,” Harold said. “So be it. Come up to the top floor if you really wish to die so badly.”
Harold then disappeared into the shadows above. Sorin snapped out of his daze and joined Johan, who knelt near Korbin. They both saw the devastating wound Harold left Korbin, the massive blow an unpleasant reminder to Sorin that Harold meant business. As Johan placed his fist on the ground, Korbin coughed and looked over to him.
“Johan… you two saw it, right?” Korbin asked. “My father… Harold, he… he’s stronger than both of you now…”
“He betrayed you, just like he did everyone else who worked with him,” Johan said. “Yet you fought for him anyway…”
“You don’t get it, Johan Kuu,” Korbin replied. “I didn’t have a choice… This was all I had…”
“Tell us,” Sorin said. “I can’t imagine you’ve got much time left, so just tell us about Harold. Tell us everything about that bastard so we can stop him. You can do that, can’t you?”
“Even I… can’t answer that,” Korbin said. “We only just got here… after all. This… This was all his plan…”
“His strength lies in his technology,” Johan said. “It’s how he survived and how he’ll try to take us on. His work benefits only himself.”
“He… So it’s all for him,” Korbin replied. “Rysol… Harold killed him like it was nothing… because I…”
Korbin drifted off. Sorin closed his eyes as he remembered the pain Harold caused him. The pain that had gone on for years had now struck again and Sorin had to stop it. He and Johan could not back down now.
“Harold’s responsible for so much,” Sorin said to Korbin. “You, too, are to blame for that pain and yet I can’t shake this feeling I have. The pain you had to endure for so long… even if you became numb to it, it was still going on.”
Johan checked Korbin’s body. “He’s dead,” he replied as he stood up and dusted off his pants. “It’s useless now to wonder now about what Korbin must have felt.”
“I know that,” Sorin said. “But still…”
“There is indeed a part of me that wonders about what would’ve happened had things been different,” Johan said. “Korbin might’ve had a chance if it all had gone differently. There were plenty of catalysts in his life that caused him to take the path he took, but even with that, Korbin had other paths to take.”
“That’s true,” Sorin replied. “I guess I was just trying to find a reason for all of this.”
“I understand,” Johan said.
“So we know where we got to go,” Sorin said. “Harold said it himself. Are you ready?”
“I’ve been ready for a while now,” Johan replied. “Let’s not waste any more time here, buddy.”
Sorin agreed. They had to follow after Harold. Despite the fact that Harold was capable of such a devastating move, Sorin continued on with Johan. On the top floor, they would find Harold waiting for them. Sorin could not say he was not afraid, but he had to press on and remain courageous. He had to because he was well aware that Johan felt the same way and they were walking towards a new future, but first they had to finish what had been started so long ago.
To be continued…