Aurora – Chapter 22 (Part 2)

[24th of December, 2740 AD; Quiet Falcon Train Station, Helm, Ahnlikohn]

 

Kirk hopped off the train and onto the platform nearby. He had made it to Ahnlikohn without much delay and now had another hour long break before he had to head off to Iiayikohn. He looked around the train station as people quietly kept to themselves as he went to the lobby.

“Seems everyone here is still reeling,” he said.

He was certain about the fact that the impact left by Foundation was sure to be felt by the people of Ahnlikohn, but to see it up close was a different story. Kirk had come through Helm in the past before and each time he found the people to be friendly and inviting. Anywhere he went, Kirk was sure to bump into someone who was willing to greet him and tell him stories about the locale. Now, however, all appeared to be quiet as distrust loomed in the air. Kirk could see a few people give him strange looks as he picked up a map and opened it.

“I have to stop him,” Kirk said. “What he’s done is unforgivable.”

As Kirk took a seat, however, an old woman approached him up front. He looked up from his map and caught her staring at him, though her forest green earmuffs caught his attention as well.

“Can I help you, ma’am?” Kirk asked.

“You… You couldn’t be him,” the forest green old woman said. “Your hair matches his, but you look much older than the description.”

“Tell me,” Kirk said.

“That man they say killed the chancellor, what was his name? You wouldn’t happen to know, would you?”

Kirk shook his head. “I can’t help you there, ma’am,” he said. “I’m waiting for the next train, that’s all.”

The old woman adjusted her earmuffs. “You really don’t know, do you? Oh well.”

“I’m just going through here, that’s it,” Kirk said. “I don’t have any clues about this man you’re talking about.”

“Well, you must’ve heard the news, right?”

“That I did,” Kirk replied. “I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.”

“They say he was spotted up in Glora earlier,” the old woman said. “I don’t know it if it’s true, but maybe he feels guilty about what he’s done.”

“He was there?” Kirk asked. “Impossible…”

“What was that?”

“Nothing,” Kirk said. “You say he was in Glora today?”

“Yes, that’s what I’ve heard,” she replied. “The description matches him down to the last little bit: tall, long hair, and bearded! Couldn’t mistake him for anyone else! Well, I guess I did with you earlier, but you’d forgive me, wouldn’t you?”

As the old woman laughed, Kirk began to think. Was it Rysol? No, there was no way it could be him. Unless there was more to this story, Kirk had to dismiss it. He had no reason to believe what the old woman told him was true, but what if it was? As he thought about it more and more, Kirk wondered if he should head to Glora in order to investigate. But he had to make sure of his idea first.

“Where did you hear this from, anyway?” Kirk asked.

“Oh, I heard it from one of the officers,” she answered.

Kirk put down the map. “You are certain of that?”

“I may be old, but I’m not forgetful, dear,” the old woman said. “Nor would I lie to you. Heck, I don’t even know you!”

“Thank you, ma’am,” Kirk said.

“Why, you’re welcome,” she said. “I knew good people like you still existed in this world!”

Kirk thanked her once more and stood up. He put the map back where he found it and headed outside of the train station. There was no telling what waited for him in Glora, but now Kirk needed to see for himself. If he was going to get closer to finding Rysol and, in the process, Harold, then Kirk needed to act on his notion and take the next ride to the great city to the north.

“Even if it’s just a chance, I have to take it,” Kirk said. “If you’re out there up in Glora, Rysol, then wait for me! I’ll help both you and Sorin out!”

 

*****

 

[24th of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Thedam Castle Upper Balcony]

 

It did not take Sorin long for him to find Eva. She was looking out over the balcony when he entered. Sorin tried to enter without making much of a noise, but she was quick to notice his entrance.

“I thought I told you not to follow me,” Eva said. “Forget it. What’s the point if you don’t even listen?”

“Eva, please listen to me,” Sorin said.

“What are you going to say to me this time?” Eva asked. “Did Mina come with you, too?”

“No, I didn’t ask her to,” he replied. “I came here on my own because I care about you. You’re my friend.”

“You really think I’m your friend?”

“I’d like to think so, Eva,” Sorin said. “I don’t know exactly what it is that you’re going through, to be honest, but I can’t continue to sit by and let you beat yourself up.”

“Surely you can understand it when I say ‘leave me alone,’ don’t you,” Eva said, which she followed up with a sigh. “You really are just like him, I swear to god…”

“What is it?” Sorin asked.

“You want to help, but I’ve already told you that I don’t need it,” Eva said. “I don’t understand why the two of you are so god damned stubborn when it comes to listening to others.”

“Regardless, there’s no turning back,” Sorin said. “There is more at stake than just us. Rain is doing her best to lead, even with the weight of everything on her back, and she needs our support. I think that’s why my father decided to head out, because I know he wouldn’t leave us without a good reason.”

“I don’t doubt his intentions,” Eva replied. “I’m worried because I… I guess I’m worried because I fear the worst.”

It was then that Eva explained to Sorin about her fears. After the battle in Bel, Kirk had suffered a minor injury to his ankle. He had promised to Eva that he would not fight again, but she had a feeling deep in the back of her mind that that wish would wait for a while. Kirk was older than he was when Eva first met him, and she had been through loss as well. Even when they had returned to Ameci, the nightmares did not go away as Eva found it difficult to live peacefully with Kirk. Yet still, Eva found herself in a difficult position of not wanting to lose Kirk versus her desire of not wanting to be alone.

“You’re not alone,” Sorin said. “You have everyone here and I’m sure they’d all sing praises about you.”

“They all mean well, I’m sure, but I can’t accept it,” Eva said.

“Why not?” Sorin asked.

“Because I don’t deserve it,” she replied. “I don’t want them to worry about me; in fact, I think it’d be best if they didn’t think about me at all.”

“Please don’t say that,” Sorin said.

“Why? It’s true,” Eva said. “In my life, the people who’ve shown generosity toward me usually end up injured or dead. Especially the people I’ve cared for… Their deaths still haunt me, even now.”

“It’s not your fault,” Sorin replied. “You had nothing to do with their deaths, so please don’t blame yourself.”

“As much as I want to believe that, I… I don’t think I can,” Eva said. “I wish I could be done with this, but I know I can’t rest until this is over. Not as long as Isaac Kunigunde is still around. As long as that man continues to walk freely, I’ll have to keep fighting.”

“You don’t have to fight,” Sorin said.

“Do you doubt me?” Eva asked. “I will waste no time making sure that Isaac pays for his crimes. He and Dezine were behind Alan’s death and I want nothing more than to finish them off myself.”

“I don’t doubt you,” Sorin replied. “As your friend, I’m worried about you. I don’t want to see you get hurt, much like I don’t want my father to get hurt.”

“I won’t get hurt,” Eva said. “I’ve fought many battles over the years and have survived each one. Losing isn’t an option to me.”

“But if that’s the case, then maybe it’s better to sit this one out,” Sorin said. “Not once have I ever doubted you, but I know you must be going through a lot right now.”

“Thank you for being concerned, but I’m not going to quit,” Eva replied. “If there’s only one thing I’m good at, it’s swordfighting. I’m not going to put down my blade just because you feel worried about me.”

Sorin knew that he was not going to win the argument. “Okay, I got it,” he said. “I won’t press you on it anymore.”

“Good,” Eva said. “I do feel a lot better now.”

“You do?”

“I guess I just had some stuff I had to get off my chest,” Eva said. “I’m still worried about Kirk, but even he’s not stubborn enough to throw himself into a fight that he can’t win.”

“He’ll be back soon,” Sorin said. “He’s gone so many years on his own, that I’m sure this is a breeze to him.”

“And like a breeze, Mighty Mina enters spectacularly!” Mina exclaimed. “Here I am!”

Sorin and Eva looked out to the balcony entrance. Mina stood in between the open doors as she pumped her fist into the air and struck a pose.

“How long have you been there?” Eva asked Mina.

“Oh, I just got here,” Mina answered. “Why do you ask?”

Eva shook her head. “It’s nothing.”

“Were you looking for us?” Sorin asked.

“Of course I was,” Mina said. “I was looking for you for a few minutes, then I got an idea and looked in the upstairs hallway! It was then that I found you two out here!”

“Well, you found us,” Sorin said.

“Oh, that’s right,” Mina said. “There was something else I needed to tell you about. Actually, can you two keep a secret?”

“We can do that,” Eva replied.

“I guess I really don’t need to ask Sorin,” Mina said. “Well, it’s about Ayanna and Law. I was busy getting something to eat when I overheard them and I could have sworn I heard them talking about marriage!”

Eva sighed. “That’s just Law,” she said. “He probably said it out of nowhere just to get a reaction out of her.”

“Well, no, it was Ayanna who brought it up first,” Mina replied. “Law was the one who sounded shocked!”

“Law was the one who got caught off guard?” Sorin asked. “That’s news to me.”

“I kind of didn’t want to listen because it’s not nice to eavesdrop,” Mina said, “But I didn’t want to get up from where I was sitting, so I was listening either way.”

“It can’t be helped,” Eva said. “Anyway, we have time to ask them later once we’re done planning.”

“You’re right,” Mina said. “Let’s go downstairs and meet with the others! I’m sure Rain’s got something good planned that will help us win!”

There was a sense of relief from Sorin that they were about to head down, but he knew that there was something to Eva that he just could not shake. He had no clue how to tackle the problem directly, but Sorin had to keep it in mind. Until then, though, all Sorin could do was see what Rain had planned.

 

*****

 

[24th of December, 2740 AD; Thekohnian Border, outside of Thekohn]

 

The base camp was set up several miles from Oelaans. Korbin looked to both Bradley and Erik as they were fully aware of what they were about to do. After the events in Glora, now was the time to strike once more, this time on the city of Oelaans. It was sure to attract the attention of the kingdom, which Korbin knew would draw out his target. As the three loaded up their weapons, Bradley chuckled as he looked at the sky above Oelaans through his binoculars.

“It’s a nice view, isn’t it?” Bradley asked.

“They got a view?” Korbin asked as he took the binoculars from Bradley and saw for himself. “What are you talking about? It’s the same boring shit we saw before!”

“Not after we’re done with it,” Bradley said. “We’re going to send a message to the queen on behalf of Isaac. Make her know the real meaning of fear and whatnot, you got it?”

“That’s a good idea to me,” Erik said. “Well, the rest of the guys look ready. Want to rally the boys, Korbin?”

Korbin put down the binoculars and turned to the mass of soldiers behind him. They had been given a generous amount of soldiers to join their side and Korbin knew that they could not waste their chance. He had to get them riled up and ready to go for the attack. That was when Korbin cracked a smile and began to laugh.

“You ready, motherfuckers?” Korbin asked the soldiers. “We’re gonna go all out and make our presence known!”

He was met with a roaring response. Korbin knew then he had his moment and had the soldiers at his will. This was going to satisfy him, Korbin thought to himself, as he raised his fist to the air with his thumb and pinky extended. Now Korbin was ready.

“Repeat after me,” Korbin said, “Long live the Blood Ravens!”

And like that, the soldiers repeated his words.

“You’re catching on fast, Korb,” Bradley said. “Anything else you want to say to them before we strike tonight?”

Korbin grinned. “We won’t stop until the entire city of Oelaans is in ash,” he said. “Hell, we won’t stop until the entire kingdom is burned to the ground! Who’s with me!?”

The raucous response was music to Korbin’s ears. He had the backing of not only the Ameci military, but Foundation as well. And with Iiayikohn now at their side, Korbin was sure to impress. He would face off again with Sorin in no time, that much he was certain of as he looked to his newly built arm. As the roars of the soldier’s continued on, Korbin looked to Oelaans once more.

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Chapter

Aurora – Chapter 22 (Part 1)

[24th of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Thedam Castle Training Grounds]

 

Mina drew her sword. She stared directly ahead as the cold air continued to remain still. Opposite her was Arthur Dierk, the former Iiayikohnian officer, who held a sword in his hands as well. With a short amount of time to prepare, Mina knew she had to be ready for anyone who dared to threaten her friends and allies. Dierk was willing to train with her, as Mina made sure that she would soon get closer to Sorin in terms of skill. She needed to be the hero that her friends expected her to be, and so, Mina readied herself to strike first.

“I’ve never had to go up against you before,” Dierk said. “You know this is just training, right?”

“I know,” Mina replied, “I just want to give it my all! I can’t let Rain down, and neither can I let my friends down either! Everyone is counting on us to do the right thing and bring peace to the region, so we gotta get strong enough in order to defeat Foundation!”

“But are you sure you want to face me?” Dierk asked. “I’m not exactly that good with a blade, and certainly not with a saber like this one.”

“If we don’t cover up our weaknesses, then the bad guys will use it against us,” Mina said. “It’s just as important to train in stuff in which we aren’t good at as it is to be trained in stuff in which we are good at! It’s simple!”

“You have a point,” Dierk said. “Really, though, we aren’t sure where the opposition is going to come from.”

“Well, there’s the main way,” Mina said. “It’s the way me and you went in, so they’d have to go that way.”

“Yes, but it’s not the only way,” Dierk replied. “I just hope that Her Majesty is prepared, that’s all.”

“Rain’s plenty prepared!” Mina exclaimed. “She’s so prepared, she’s more prepared than anyone I’ve ever seen!”

Dierk chuckled as he lowered his blade. “Of course, I’m not surprised you have such loyalty to her,” he said. “I guess if she has you by her side, then there’s no doubt that we’ll be able to handle whatever comes our way.”

“We’re going to win,” Mina said. “Heroes never give up, even when it looks bleak! Even if these villains have us cornered, we’ll win because I know that we will!”

“I admire your confidence, Mina,” Dierk said.

“Thanks,” Mina replied. “I really admire your devotion to justice!”

“It wasn’t an easy decision for us soldiers to make,” he said. “Both Reiss and Ansa have done so much to support us, yet at the same time many were hesitant about leaving the country we served and grew up in. It is like choosing between one’s parents, only in this instance, the stakes were much higher.”

“I guess so,” Mina said.

“Some of my fellow soldiers expressed their concerns to Ansa and I about the thought of being branded a traitor, and I couldn’t blame any of them if they wanted to stay back in Iiayikohn,” Dierk said. “Yet, not a single soldier chose to do so. You know why?”

“Why’s that?” Mina asked.

“Because it was Ansa who inspired them,” Dierk replied. “She made it known that we were still fighting for Iiayikohn. We weren’t fighting for Dezine, we were fighting in order to save the soul of Iiayikohn itself. If that meant going up against Dezine, then so be it.”

“Ayanna has always fought for what’s right,” Mina said, “And I’m so happy that the others are fighting for the same thing, too.”

“I’ll admit it opened my eyes,” Dierk said. “I had believed that the prime minister was the voice of Iiayikohn, the one who speaks for the people, but when the truth about Dezine came out, it made it hard to decide what I should do. Do I serve the prime minister or do I do what I believe is right?”

Mina tucked her sword back in its sheath as she continued to listen intently to Dierk.

“I have a family of my own back home,” Dierk continued. “My folks have always supported me, but I’m not sure if they would’ve supported this decision. My father works in the government and I don’t know exactly how he’s dealing with my departure. He and my mother showed their support for the previous prime minister, but they’ve been supportive for all of them prior to Dezine, so I imagine they may very well support Dezine as well.”

“That must be tough…”

“They’re not bad people, not in the slightest,” Dierk said. “They just aren’t aware of the misdeeds that Dezine has committed. That is why I hope we find a way to take care of Dezine soon.”

“Of course we’ll take care of Dezine,” Mina said. “He won’t be able to get away with his crimes any longer!”

“As of now, there’s only one way for Dezine to step down,” Dierk said, “By having him voluntarily do so.”

“We can’t just expose him?” Mina asked. “Is this another one of those things he did?”

“Dezine passed those orders with the intention of holding to his position for a long time,” Dierk replied. “I imagine that this Isaac Kunigunde was able to gift him this role as long as he cooperated. Actually, that does give me an idea now that I think about it…”

“An idea? Tell me!” Mina said.

“I have to imagine that their relationship is one of benefits,” Dierk said. “As long as Dezine is able to be of use to Isaac, then Isaac is happy to help him. What if there was a way for their relationship to take a dive, as it were, and because of that, Isaac sees no use for Dezine?”

“What are you saying?” Mina asked.

“Your friends say Isaac was the one who helped the Neu Thekohnian Order, only to turn on them in the end, right?” Dierk said. “He probably sees Dezine the same way he saw Isla Zano Thedam: as a means to an end. If Isaac doesn’t see Dezine like that, then he’d abandon him immediately.”

“I don’t know,” Mina said. “It sounds like something that Johan would say… I’m not sure if they’ll really turn against each other.”

“It is just an idea I had,” Dierk said. “Nothing more than that. Either way, it would be somewhat unlikely.”

“Besides, that wouldn’t feel nearly as satisfying as punching them in their faces,” Mina said. “Nothing’s more glorious than to beat a villain so bad that he has no choice but to give in!”

“We can’t exactly beat everyone like that, though,” Dierk said. “Especially not Dezine now that he has his own select service at his hands.”

“Well, that’s just silly,” Mina replied. “Even he’s not safe from a patented Mighty Mina Beatdown!”

“Patented?” Dierk asked. “I suppose with the way you speak, tales of your courageous feats will pass down for years to come…”

Mina’s eyes lit up. “You really think so?”

“Well, if we win, then almost certainly,” Dierk replied.

“You mean when we win,” Mina said, “Because I know that we will win no matter what!”

Dierk smiled. “I almost forgot.”

“That’s why I’m here,” Mina said. “As long as we work together, we’ll be on top and able to achieve victory!”

Now Mina was ready. She was ready to fight for everyone near and dear to her, as well as for the people of the Thekohnian Region. With everything at stake, Mina knew that stopping Foundation was the top priority, as was clearing Sorin’s name. Mina took one look at Dierk and drew her sword once more.

“And if we’re going to win, we’ll have to be stronger than ever before,” she said. “I hope you’re ready!”

Dierk gripped the handle of his sword. “If you insist, then I’m willing to do what it takes to save Iiayikohn!”

“Then let’s do our best,” Mina replied. “Prepare yourself for battle, Officer Dierk, because here comes my Mighty Mina Magnificent Sword Slash!”

The energy Mina had was sure to overwhelm Dierk, but even so, she had to hold back to an extent. But now the training would begin. It would be the biggest test of Mina’s progression with a sword, as well as how she could use it with her other attacks. She could see Dierk stare her down and gulp as he braced for the inevitable impact. With nothing holding her back, Mina was ready to charge at Dierk. Before either of them could do a thing, Sorin and Eva entered the training grounds.

“Hey Mina,” Sorin said as he waved to her.

Mina looked at Dierk and then over to Sorin and Eva. “Hey! You want to train with me, Sorin?”

She put her sword back in the sheath as she hurried over to Sorin. Dierk sighed as he put away his sword as well.

“Sorry, I don’t think I have any time,” Sorin replied.

“Aw, why not?” Mina asked. “Didn’t you promise me that you would see how good I got at using this thing? And that you would practice with me?”

“I know I did, but there’s much more important things to worry about,” Sorin said. “Maybe some other time.”

“Mina, we don’t have a lot of time to play around,” Eva said. “There’s much we have to do before the enemy attacks us.”

“They’re going to attack us soon?” Dierk asked.

“According to what we heard, yes,” Eva answered. “Rain’s already being informed about the situation as we speak.”

“So they really want to come at us with everything they got,” Mina said. “If Isaac really thinks he can just win with a bunch of dirty tricks like that, then he’s mistaken! We’ll show him justice, won’t we!?”

“We… We will,” Sorin said. “But it’s not just the kingdom being targeted, it’s Oelaans as well.”

“Oelaans too,” Dierk said. “I guess they intend to burn down Thekohn right before they come for us.”

“Not exactly,” Eva said.

Mina listened as Sorin explained what he learned from Johan. She was not sure what to make of Johan’s sudden appearance, but he must have had a good reason for coming. All Mina knew was that she could not trust him compared to Sorin and that there was still a lot she had to know about Johan.

“If he knows, then how did he find out about it?” Mina asked. “That can’t be all he has to know about Foundation’s plans, right?”

“I wish I could tell you,” Sorin said, “But Johan loves to keep his secrets. I can ask him, but I can’t guarantee that he’d answer me.”

“It doesn’t matter now, though,” Dierk said. “We know what the enemy is plotting. That should make it easy for us to plan for their arrival.”

“Yeah, then we can beat them and win,” Mina said. “They’ll be met with the true face of justice before they know what hit them!”

“You can do that,” Eva said, “But Sorin and I have other things we need to do first.”

Mina raised her eyebrows. “Really? Where are you going?”

“Well, Kirk decided to leave without much notice,” Eva said. “I was hoping to find that damn fool before he left, but it seems quite likely that he’s already left the kingdom.”

“I don’t know what you want to do,” Sorin said. “Maybe you should take a seat first.”

“Sorin, please don’t test me,” Eva replied.

“I’m not trying to test you,” Sorin said. “I just think we need to sit down and think about it first. If you or I head out of the kingdom, we’d only create a bigger problem for everybody else here.”

“Mr. Wilk seems like he’s able to handle himself,” Dierk said. “Besides, we have more urgent things to worry about.”

“I think you just need to believe in my father,” Sorin said to Eva. “He’ll be back soon, I just know he will.”

“There’s no way he’d fail,” Mina said, “Especially not against any villain that dares to challenge him! He’d kick their butts so hard that they’d have no choice but to give up!”

Eva looked to the ground and sighed. “It doesn’t make much of a difference anyway,” she said. “Even if I did catch up to him, he’d just keep going regardless. I really am useless…”

Mina grabbed Eva’s shoulders. “No, you’re not useless!”

“Everyone seems to think I am,” Eva replied. “What can I do here, Mina? I’m just here… That’s all.”

“That’s not true,” Sorin said. “You’ve been helpful to us! Hell, I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for your training!”

“Yeah, Sorin’s completely right,” Mina said. “Don’t ever think you’re not useful, Eva, because you certainly useful! You’re amazing!”

“Thanks, but I think I just want to be alone,” Eva said.

Eva turned away from Mina and walked in the other direction out of the training grounds. Mina reached out for her, but stopped when Eva glared at her. Eva’s captivating stare froze Mina in her tracks while Sorin stepped forward.

“Don’t follow me,” Eva said. “I mean it when I say I want to be alone right now, so stay where you are.”

No one said anything as Eva left. Mina was left speechless as she had no idea what to do. She obviously wanted to talk to Eva, but hesitated at the thought of breaching the boundaries set in place. The last thing that Mina wanted to do was make it worse for Eva, who had already shown her vulnerabilities to Mina once before. As Mina pondered on what to do next, Sorin proceeded to go after Eva and headed to the door.

“Wait, Sorin, Eva said not to follow her,” Mina said.

“I know that,” Sorin replied. “I also know that it means I should follow her, because she won’t admit it herself.”

Mina watched as Sorin left in order to follow Eva. Though Foundation was the main concern for everyone in the castle, Mina knew she could not leave Eva by herself.

“I’m so sorry, Dierk, but I guess we’ll have to train later,” Mina said.

“I understand,” Dierk replied. “Though I’m glad now because I wouldn’t have been ready after that.”

“Yeah, me too,” Mina said. “I’ll be back soon!”

And with that, Mina hurried to the doors and opened them. If anything, she knew that she had to be of some help to Eva now. It was the least that Mina could do for someone that she considered to be her friend, and Mina was not about to waste any time standing around doing nothing.

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Part

Aurora – Chapter 21 (Part 2)

[24th of December, 2740 AD; Oelaans Outer City Park, Oelaans, Thekohn – Lynx District]

 

Kirk tightened the buttons on his coat as he looked towards the country’s border. He left Thedam Castle early and made a few preparations before heading to the bus station. Though he had some regrets about leaving the royal kingdom on such a short notice, Kirk knew that he had to go alone without anyone trying to stop him. That was why he had written that letter to Henry and made sure that he would not tell anyone about it unless he was asked to do so. Most of all, Kirk wanted to make sure that Sorin would not get involved with this matter; after all, this was Kirk’s mission. Sorin was busy trying to clear his own name, while Kirk had a more pressing issue to take care of in the meantime.

“If I’m lucky, I can get there just after nightfall,” Kirk said. “If my hunch is correct, then he should be there as well.”

He still had a way to go, but Kirk had to make it back to Iiayikohn before he could do anything else. At the least, Kirk could think out his next move without any interference. He had the feeling that who he was chasing after would be in the country, though Kirk had to pinpoint Harold’s location first. For now, though, Kirk waited for the next train to Helm to arrive; the last time Kirk checked the schedule, however, he saw that the train would not arrive for another hour. Until then, he had another fifty minutes to spare and devise his next move.

“I have to consider that he’s hiding in the darkness, waiting for me,” Kirk said. “But I can’t wait any longer. As long as Rysol remains captive, I can’t just let Harold get away with this.”

He had passed the duty onto Sorin a while ago, but Kirk knew that he could not do it now. Despite the fact that he was not getting younger, Kirk continued to remain confident in his abilities as he flexed his fingers. He was going to have to be sharper than usual against his enemy, because Kirk had the feeling that Harold did not slack off over the years. He could not afford to underestimate his enemy, no matter how damaged Harold was. Harold, after all, had plenty of connections and would not be afraid to challenge Kirk with a barrage of soldiers if he chose to do so. Even now, with Harold lacking his arms and his leg, he still had the brains to engineer a devious plan just in case.

Kirk, however, knew that by doing this, he would leave Eva to worry and he knew that he did not want that to happen. But for now, Kirk had to betray her. He had to, if he wanted to secure a future for her and everyone else. He did not want to say it out loud, but Kirk was willing to put everything on the line for her and for his sons, even if it ended up costing him. Though he was certain that he would come out victorious, Kirk had to fight like he was cornered with no means of escape. That was how he would win in the end, and how he had won against Harold in the past.

“She would understand eventually, I know it,” Kirk said to himself. “This is just something that I have to do alone… Eva, please forgive me…”

His thoughts went to no one, but Kirk continued to think about her. Though sometimes she and him would disagree, Kirk loved Eva as much as he could. She had been there for him during his darkest hours, and he for her as she had lost people close to her. Tragedies had brought the two together, but Kirk knew that he and Eva were going to earn their happiness. He would help to defeat the evil that only served to create more tragedy, and make sure the rest of the world would receive peace as well.

Kirk looked up and around, finally, and hurried over to the train station. He had to wonder if enough time had passed for the train to arrive, but when he looked at the station clock, there were still forty-five minutes until the top of the hour. Dejected, Kirk took a seat on the bench and reached into his bag. With only himself to pass the time with, Kirk decided to read the kingdom’s newspaper. It was then that he realized that the winter festival was close. He had to wonder if Rain would still have the festival take place, given what has happened. It would certainly take some time before the wounds of Glora and Ahnlikohn healed, and more time for the relationship with the kingdom to heal. That just made Kirk’s mission even more important, he thought.

“Everyone’s hurting,” he muttered. “Even the queen herself; she won’t say it, but she’s been feeling it worst of all.”

 

*****

 

[24th of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Inside Thedam Castle Hall]

 

When Sorin got back to the castle with Eva, they were both surprised at who was waiting for them in the main hall. It had been a couple of days since the attacks in Glora when he last saw the two, but Sorin was glad to see that both his friends were okay. Sorin took a few steps forward and greeted the two while Eva decided to stand by the door. He almost forgot why he had left in the first place, but realized that Johan was not here to reunite.

“It’s nice to see that you care, buddy,” Johan said. “I take it that you were out in the cold looking for someone?”

“Uh, yes, I was,” Sorin replied. “You didn’t happen to see my father before you got here, did you?”

Johan ran his fingers through his own hair. “I wish I could say that I did,” he said, “But I hate getting my friend’s hopes up. Instead, I’ve gained some good information that I’m sure the queen would love to hear from me.”

“You’ve got information?” Eva asked. “You’re not going to try and extort the queen, are you?”

“Just what kind of guy do you think I am, Eva Bellamy?” Johan asked. “Why would I ever want to do that to a friend of Sorin’s? By the way, Eva, you look quite attractive today.”

“I don’t have time to play these kinds of games with you,” Eva said. “Tell us what information you have already or don’t.”

“Seems I’m already pretty popular around here,” Johan replied. “First it was Gavin, now it’s you. Oh well, I’m not here to steal anyone’s heart.”

“Johan, please, if you will,” Sorin said.

“Well, we’ve got two big pieces of some good news,” Johan said. “Of course they’re both related, so it really doesn’t matter which one you pick because it all leads down the same path.”

“The Ameci military is planning an attack on Thekohn soon,” Jelka said. “It will be on Oelaans and will happen two days from now.”

“On Oelaans?” Sorin asked.

“It’s the prime route between the kingdom and the rest of the Thekohnian Region,” Johan said. “They intend to cut you guys off and corner you. Well, that is if you don’t count the wastelands.”

“Yet the wastelands are hard to traverse on their own,” Jelka said. “Going through such a place is unwise.”

The Thekohnian Wastelands were to the east of the kingdom. Though it sat many kilometers away from the kingdom, Sorin knew that the wastelands were the long connecting path back around to Ameci, Oci, and Elemci. Traveling by foot was not an option as the wasteland spanned nearly twice the length of Iiayikohn, Ahnlikohn, and Maeitakohn combined. The better option was to drive by car or truck, but Sorin had heard that doing that was only better in the sense that placing one’s hand on a hot stove was better than lighting one’s hand on fire. Thus, it would make sense to leave through other means, the main one being through Oelaans and the other through the south towards Maeitakohn. That was why Sorin had his concerns.

“But, I’ve also found out that they’re planning to strike this kingdom first,” Johan said. “Sometime sooner than Oelaans, which would be between now and two days from now.”

“Wait, so which one’s the good news?” Sorin asked.

“You lied to us again,” Eva said. “How the hell are we supposed to interpret either one as good news?”

“Well, I did say that they were both related,” Johan said. “I didn’t lie there and I didn’t lie when I said this was good news. You have valuable information at your hands and you’re choosing to get angry with me over it?”

“I’m not angry at all, Johan,” Sorin replied. “But I think it’d be best for us if you told Rain yourself, because I don’t really want to break any sort of bad news to her.”

Johan chuckled and put two fingers to his left temple. “Sorin, Sorin, Sorin… Buddy, you’re looking for strategies to take down Foundation and Isaac, and this is quite possibly the best I can give you,” he said. “They’re going to attack, yes, but we know that they’re going to attack. It doesn’t matter how many soldiers they send, right? Just have an effective counter and hold the line.”

“Can we trust what you’re telling us?” Eva asked.

“Trust me or don’t,” Johan said, “But I don’t do things for my own sake, I do it because someone has to stop this world from falling into the wrong hands. All that I say is for Sorin’s benefit, which extends to the rest of you.”

Eva looked to Jelka. “I suppose you believe him, too?”

“I trust him,” Jelka answered. “That is something I would never have said not even six months ago.”

“If I was going to turn on you guys, Eva, then I wouldn’t have come here in the first place,” Johan said. “I risked a lot to come to the kingdom, given my status at the moment. I can’t even go see my own mother… Surely you must know how it feels not to see the ones you love, let alone having the fear of losing them plague your mind.”

Eva took a moment to respond, but not before she left out a reluctant sigh. “All right, I believe you,” she said. “You’re the most wanted man in Ameci now, so coming to meet us is a huge risk for you. And I obviously can’t ignore those words about your mother, either…”

“I’ve done my work,” Johan said. “I don’t have the time to make up stuff for fun, nor do I have much time for anything that isn’t involved with bringing down Isaac Kunigunde and Foundation.”

Jelka placed a hand on Johan’s shoulder. “But for now, we do have time to relax,” she said, “That is, after we meet with Queen Thedam first.”

“Rain should still be in the meeting room,” Sorin said. “We’ll catch up with you in a bit.”

Johan removed Jelka’s hand from his shoulder. “Take your time,” he said. “I have a lot that I need to say to her, anyway.”

As Sorin watched Johan walk with Jelka to the meeting room, he could not help but notice how the two interacted with one another. With the two holding hands and Johan managing to make Jelka smile, a rare sight for anyone to behold, Sorin had a feeling about what happened between the two, but chose not to bring it up. His thoughts were soon broken up by Eva, who tapped him on the arm in order to get his attention.

“What is it?” Sorin asked.

“Come on,” Eva said.

“Where are we going?” Sorin asked. “I thought we were going with Johan and Jelka.”

“Did you forget why you followed after me in the first place?” Eva asked. “Kirk is still out there on his own, you know!”

Sorin was not sure what Eva had in mind, but he followed her regardless because he wanted to find out the answer to his father’s departure. Whatever Johan had to say to Rain, Sorin would have to wait.

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Chapter

Aurora – Chapter 21 (Part 1)

[24th of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Inside Thedam Castle Queen’s Office]

 

Two days remained before the Winter Festival was to begin. Sorin glanced over at Gavin, who laid a large map out on the table in the queen’s office. Rain circled out a point on the map with a pencil while Ayanna and Reiss took notes. Gale and Rado were also in the room as well offering their suggestions. Rain had an idea in mind and proceeded to get everyone’s attention.

“Okay, I believe that our path is clear now,” Rain said, “In order to take on Isaac Kunigunde and Foundation properly, we must gain the advantage. Rado, if you will, please tell us all what you have ready.”

“I have been ready,” Rado replied. “It is important to have a good position. We stop them before they get here, we stay in good position.”

“So Rado is suggesting that we head to Oelaans,” Gale said. “It is the single most important gateway to the kingdom and if my suspicions are correct, they’ll try to go through that way to get here.”

“Well, we shouldn’t count out other their opportunities,” Reiss said. “Every point is laid out right on this map, including the Thekohnian Wastelands to the east of us.”

“Don’t worry,” Rain replied, “Sir Dustin and Sir Gamal are already working on mapping out those points to the soldiers.”

“They’ve proven their worth, that much I can say,” Reiss said.

“General—er, I mean, Roderick—if I may, I would like to suggest an idea to the rest of the room,” Ayanna said. “Right now, we’re playing to defend against a potential attack, but what’s to stop the enemy from wreaking havoc like they did in Glora? I know it’s probably just speculation, but I think it’s worth looking into whether or not our allies are at risk.”

“Well, if we’re talking about Iiayikohn, its greatest ally is Ameci,” Reiss said. “But right now, our ally is the current president in Maeitakohn. Your Majesty, you have been keeping in contact with Khadir, haven’t you?”

“That’s correct,” Rain answered. “I’ve made plenty of notes and continued to keep him up to speed about what has happened. So far, he’s said that it’s been quiet down in Maeitakohn, but I will be sure to contact him later today to see if anything has changed.”

“He’s still got a lot to handle, though, given his immediate ascension,” Reiss said. “That country has gone through quite a lot in the past few months and I’m not sure what Isaac and the rest of Foundation thinks of Khadir at this point. For all we know, that’s their next move.”

“So we’ve got a lot more to worry about,” Gavin said. “Damn it, this is just a pain in the ass just thinking about it.”

“I know you’re frustrated, Gavin,” Rain said.

“If we’re going to worry about Thekohn, then we should also be concerned about Maeitakohn, too,” Sorin said. “I’ve got no doubt about Khadir’s ability as a leader, but it makes sense that Foundation may go after him first.”

Gavin stood up. “Guess it’s up to me, then,” he said. “Ayanna, I’m going to need some assistance.”

“You want me to go with you?” Ayanna asked. “Or do you need more than just my help?”

“I need numbers,” Gavin replied. “Even five people would be good enough for me. Lead me to the best men and women that Iiayikohn has to offer and I’ll be sure to do the rest.”

“You sound sure of yourself,” Ayanna said. “Fortunately, Reiss and I were able to round up a few soldiers that were willing to help us.”

“They didn’t take too kindly to Dezine’s new executive orders, so they just decided to join us once I told them everything,” Reiss added. “They were none too pleased about the connection Dezine has to Foundation, either, so we’ve got quite a squad ready to go.”

Gavin smiled. “Looks like I really will get the best,” he said. “So you were able to coax over plenty of soldiers to the cause, then?”

“That I was,” Reiss replied. “Two-hundred and fifty, to be exact.”

“Two-hundred and fifty?” Gale asked. “When you said a few, I didn’t think it would be that many. I thought it would be only thirty soldiers…”

Reiss chuckled as he laid his palm on the table. “Oh, believe me, Gale, as far as numbers are concerned, Dezine’s still got the upper hand,” he said. “But when you count the queen’s royal military as well as Maeitakohn’s, it becomes a little bit more even when we’re going up against Foundation.”

“Numbers are nice, but not enough,” Rado said. “You and I know that. It is why we are here, are we not?”

“Yes, I know that, Mr. Liffe,” Reiss replied. “I’ll tell you this, Gavin: go out to the courtyard. Arthur should be out there assisting the other soldiers as we speak, so finding enough people for your mission should be easy enough.”

“If I may add, you’re free to recruit anybody from the royal military if you so choose,” Rain said.

“Thank you,” Gavin said. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

As Gavin proceeded to leave, Eva stormed into the room. The sudden push of the doors caught Gavin off guard as he leapt backwards and placed a hand on his sunglasses. Sorin glanced over at Eva, who got the attention of everybody in the queen’s office as she stood still catching her breath. Rain put on a smile as she made eye contact with Eva.

“Are you looking for something, Eva?” Rain asked.

Eva breathed a heavy sigh. “It seems Kirk didn’t go through here, either,” she said. “That damn idiot… where the hell is he?”

“Didn’t see him earlier,” Rado said.

“Of course you didn’t,” Eva said. “As big as you are, you miss a lot!”

“Eva, it’s okay,” Gale said. “I’m sure Kirk is around. I don’t think he’d leave suddenly while we’re still on the defensive.”

“Besides, this is a pretty big castle,” Gavin added. “I’m sure he’s just off in a different room thinking about what to do in regards to our current situation. In fact, that’s what we’re all doing right now.”

“True, we are all thinking of ways we can move forward,” Ayanna said. “If I had to guess, Kirk is probably out in the courtyard.”

“So none of you saw him earlier?” Eva asked. “Not even you, Sorin?”

“I’m afraid that I didn’t see him this morning,” Sorin said, as he leaned his head against the palm of his left hand and sighed. “If you want, I can help you look for him.”

“Neither of you need to do that,” Rain said. “I’ll just ask my advisers if they saw him walking around. I think Sir Dustin should still be over in the armory, if I recall.”

Rain walked over to the phone on the cabinet near the wall and picked up the receiver. After a few rings, the other side appeared to pick up as Rain began to talk. One brief conversation later, Rain said goodbye and hung up. Sorin and the others waited as Rain looked back over to them with a hint of disappointment in her eyes.

“Well?” Eva asked.

“I spoke with Sir Dustin and it appears that neither he nor Sir Gamal have seen Kirk,” Rain answered. “Not in the morning, and definitely not now.”

“That doesn’t mean he left,” Sorin said. “He’s still probably around here somewhere… Maybe.”

“Way to sound reassuring to Eva,” Gavin said. “Good grief, Sorin, at least try to sound a little more positive.”

“Either way, I’m sure that there’s no reason for him to leave anyway,” Rain said. “We already have a plan in mind and I’m sure he doesn’t want to put that plan into jeopardy.”

“You don’t get it,” Eva replied. “There is a reason… Damn it, it’s all my fault that he just decided to leave!”

“Eva, please don’t start jumping to conclusions,” Rain said. “I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

Eva turned towards the door and walked away. “With all due respect, Rain, I don’t jump to conclusions,” she said. “I’m sorry, but I just need to know what the hell he’s doing before it’s too late.”

Without another word, Eva left the room. Now Sorin was concerned as he decided to follow after Eva. He hurried after her until both reached the outside of the castle and into the eastern courtyard. Sorin continued to follow Eva until she turned around and glared at him.

“Why are you following me?” Eva asked.

“Because this is as important to me as it is to you,” Sorin said. “If my father did leave here, then I want to know where he went.”

“I’ve no idea why it matters to you so much,” Eva said. “You barely knew him before a few months ago… He’s almost like a stranger to you.”

Sorin was shocked. “Eva…”

“I’m… I’m sorry,” Eva replied. “I’m so sorry. It’s just that I worry about him so much. You forgive me, right?”

“Of course I forgive you,” Sorin said. “I’m worried about him too. All of us are, honestly.”

Eva looked down at the ground and shook her head. “That idiot couldn’t at least give us a message or something?”

“Oh, you guys are here too?” Storm asked.

Sorin and Eva turned their heads to the front gate and saw Storm entering with a guard at her side. As he watched Storm thank the guard and walk away, Sorin greeted her as did Eva. There was an air of peace that Storm brought as both Sorin and Eva settled down. They then proceeded to tell her about Kirk and how he had left, which made Storm think.

“Do you remember seeing him?” Sorin asked.

“Yes, I did,” Storm replied. “It was just earlier this morning. I was outside in the other courtyard helping the guards clear snow from the pathway when I saw him leave the castle.”

“Okay,” Eva said. “Did he say anything to you? What did he say?”

“I waved to him, but I don’t think he saw me,” Storm said. “If it helps, I saw him head over towards the plaza where they hold the annual parade. I have no clue where he went after that.”

“Thank you,” Eva said. “Come on, Sorin.”

“We’re going now?” Sorin asked.

“There’s a chance that he may still be there,” Eva said. “Please don’t start asking any needless questions now that we have a lead.”

Sorin realized that there was no time to waste and agreed. He and Eva said goodbye to Storm and headed off to the plaza in hopes of finding Kirk. There was only a slight chance, but Sorin knew that it was better than nothing. Sorin wanted to find out what his father was up to, which was why he followed after Eva in the first place. What also got his interest was why Eva was so bent on finding him. He knew that he wanted that answer as well and so decided to ask her as they took a walk down the sidewalk.

“If it’s okay with you, I’d like to know what’s going on,” Sorin said. “What is my father doing, or what do you think he’s doing?”

“Sorin, it doesn’t have anything to do with you,” Eva replied. “Your father is just chasing some case that already ended years ago.”

“A case?” Sorin asked. “Like an investigation?”

“Something like that,” Eva said.

“Well, maybe it’s important,” Sorin said. “Perhaps I can help if I knew more about it.”

“Forget it,” she said. “Like I said, it has nothing to do with you. It happened years ago.”

“A lot happened years ago,” Sorin said. “If it involves my father, then it has to involve me somehow.”

“You don’t want to get involved in whatever he’s doing,” Eva said. “Besides, there’s more important things to worry about right now.”

“Then at least tell me what it is,” Sorin replied, “That way, I can tell whether it’s important to me or not.”

“It’s a very long story,” Eva said. “I’m even sure if I’d have enough time to tell you all about it. I wasn’t even involved with what happened.”

“When we get to the plaza and find my father, I’ll ask him,” Sorin said. “One way or another, I’m going to find out what the hell is going on.”

 

*****

 

The plaza was busier than Sorin and Eva expected. People filled the area as the odds of finding Kirk were low, but Sorin knew that he could not back down now. He had the feeling that Eva also thought the same as they looked around the plaza. They looked around the shops close by when they saw Henry leaving one of the buildings next to them. He noticed them instantly and waved at them, which followed with him walking up to the two.

“Sorin, Eva, did you two come to check out the shops?” Henry asked.

“No, not really,” Sorin said.

“Henry, just tell us if you saw Kirk or not,” Eva said. “It’s important.”

“Well, I did see him near the inn earlier,” Henry said. “I was going to invite him for breakfast, but he declined my offer. Is he not at the castle?”

“That’s why we’re here,” Sorin replied. “We were told he went this way and maybe you could help us. Did he say anything to you?”

“We did talk for a few moments,” Henry said, scratching his nose. “But we weren’t talking about anything interesting. All he asked me was about my family and how they were doing and little things like that.”

“You’re not telling us the whole truth, are you,” Eva said.

“I’m not lying,” Henry replied.

“I didn’t say that, did I?” Eva asked. “You’re being vague. It’s not like you at all to leave out concise details.”

“He told you something,” Sorin said to Henry. “Something about a plan, perhaps?”

Henry sighed. “I’m sorry, Kirk,” he said. “I promised him I wouldn’t tell a soul, but I can’t keep you in the dark, Sorin.”

“You’ll tell us, then,” Eva said.

“That I will,” Henry said, pulling what looked to be an envelope from out of his pocket. “Kirk gave me this before he left. He said that he had to head back to Iiayikohn to meet with Gamil.”

Eva took the envelope from Henry and opened it. “I see.”

“Did he really write that letter?” Sorin asked.

“I don’t have any reason to lie about it,” Henry said.

Eva finished reading the letter and folded it up. “It’s his handwriting,” she said. “I believe you, Henry.”

“Thank you,” Henry replied. “It was nice meeting you, but I gotta meet back with Tori; we’re taking the boys to see the park and I don’t want to hold her up at the plaza.”

“Go, then,” Eva said. “I’m sorry if I snapped at you.”

“No, it’s fine,” Henry said. “Anyway, see you around!”

Henry rushed off, leaving Sorin and Eva to themselves. It was as Eva said: Kirk wrote the letter. Sorin, though, had no idea why his father would suddenly leave the kingdom without telling anyone, especially Sorin himself. It was yet another mystery that had to be solved and Sorin was not sure what he and Eva needed to do next.

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Part

Aurora – Chapter 20 (Part 2)

[Various dates over the years across many places]

 

(The Impact of The Ruthless – Kirk’s account)

 

Quite honestly, I had never been the strongest growing up. I was tall, yes, but I lacked the strength that the Ameci military demanded. When I was younger, if you were of the age, then it was pretty much necessary to enlist if you wanted to support your family and yourself. Even to this day, there are those who enlist because they feel as if they are required to do so, but that is another topic for another time. As I was saying, I did not possess the strength needed to be a soldier in the Ameci military. I grew up the son of parents who were always too busy to do much at home, so I usually had to make my own meals and provide for myself. I do not hold any sort of grudge against my mother and father for not being there; after all, it was all they could do to make sure I grew up strong.

One day, however, all of that changed. I do not know the exact details, but my father was killed by a lowly man. He worked as a bus driver, so he came across many people, but for someone to kill him while he was just doing his job was unthinkable to me back then. Who would do such a thing? Sadly, I never got to find out who did kill him, but I still think about father to this day. The day my father died, my mother made sure to do what she could to provide even though she and I both knew the toll it would take on her, mentally and physically. It was sad to see her come home every night, which was when I made my decision. I had to bring peace of mind for my mother so that she would not need to overwork herself ever again.

That road would be a tough one to travel, as I found out from the Ameci general that there was no way I could enlist. It takes a special kind of person to join the military, and apparently I was not one of the lucky ones. Some got in through thanks to their strength, while others got in thanks to their brains. As for me, I had decent strength, but it was not good enough, nor were my smarts good enough to even be something like a spy. Dejected, I left the base and headed to the nearest bar I could find. Once there, a new opportunity opened up for me in the form of an older man with long hair sitting on the patio. He was in the middle of talking to another man when he noticed me. That was when I introduced myself to Alan Berry for the first time.

I did not know at the time what Alan had seen in me, but looking back I knew that it was because he saw that desire in my eyes. The desire for wanting to change the world for the better, which he himself proudly fought for. He told me all about his friends Lowell and Tre, who were also working towards the same goals he was, and said that I possessed plenty of potential. I asked him what it would do for me and Alan replied that he would see to it that he would help my mother and I personally. Alan was just a nice guy like that, as he was with the other members of the eventual Swords of Eight. And like a fool with nowhere else to go, I happily accepted Alan’s offer to join his crew.

Little did I know at the time, the man Alan had previously been speaking with would be the man who would go on to become the catalyst to all the pain me and my family would suffer for years to come. He had an ambitious mind at the time, but apparently all Alan needed to see was his reaction after I joined. Alan looked to the man and said simply that he would decline his offer. After that, he got up and walked away with a briefcase in his hand. Alan shook his head and remarked to me that I had the desire to bring good in the world while that man did not. I asked Alan who that man was and all he said was that he was a young businessman who came to offer Alan money. As I wondered why Alan declined the man’s offer, he said that it was not about money but community. That was why he did not take the offer from the man known as Harold Mars.

I learned a lot from Alan over those years, and eventually I was able to turn the opportunity he gave me into a chance to help others. Soon enough, I ran into the woman who I wound up marrying. April was everything to me, and I to her, as we ended up having our first child together. I knew in my heart that Rysol had the potential to grow up in a better world than the one I grew up in and for that I was happy. He was the happiest child as he was always curious and willing to learn what he could in order to grow. Rysol was a small river but I had a hope in my heart that he would go on to be even bigger than that. Six years later, Sorin would be born.

Of course, that was when I noticed it. That ever creeping evil that seemed to follow me around ever since April gave birth to Rysol. I thought little of it at the time, because I was able to fend off any assailants and was confident in my abilities as a sword fighter. My allies were always around to help as well when I needed them. I had thought it was because of what Walton Lokke did, but I was not able to directly implicate him. Not until later, anyway. I assumed that once the war was over, most of these attackers would run away with nowhere to go, but during one eventful day, I had to go with Alan to investigate an incident. If I had realized sooner, then I knew that I would have been able to save April and Rysol and none of this would have to happen.

But it was too late.

She was already dead and Rysol was nowhere to be found. The men who killed her tried to attack me, but I killed them before they could even scratch me. It was such a pain in my heart that I swore to that day I would never take the life of another ever again, because I knew full well the impact that it caused. As I went over to Sorin’s crib, I knew that it would not be safe for him to stay with me any longer. At least, not until he was old enough. Determined to find answers, I left Sorin to the care of my trusted friend, Raymohnd Smith. Everything changed that day, that much was certain.

I searched around the world for the next five years, making many friends and allies as the answers always seemed to evade me at each turn. Soon enough, I found the answer lying in wait for me back in Ameci. The man who Alan turned away was my lead thanks to someone willing to tell me what he knew about him. That is, after I made sure to subdue him first before he could try anything. I did not know at the time whether or not Harold played a part in Rysol’s abduction or April’s murder; after encountering him, however, I knew for a fact that he was the one who orchestrated everything.

My investigation led me to the great ship Ameci Wyse as I searched high and low for Harold Mars. The ship remained docked as I hurried down into the hull in hopes of finding him. The chances that Rysol would be with him were high enough to make me delve deeper into the ship, to which I ended up in the ship’s engine room. Harold was there, of course, though Rysol was not.

So you finally figured it out, haven’t you?” Harold asked.

I readied my sword. “You admit it, then,” I said. “Before I take you out, tell me why you did it. What could possibly drive you to kill a fellow Ameci like this? Why did you target my wife?

Harold hunched over the controls and began to laugh. “You really are so damn idiotic, aren’t you,” he replied. “The only thing I care about is making you suffer. Whether she died or you died, I would get my results all the same.

My hands gripped the handle of my blade tightly. “Results? What the hell could you possibly mean? And where is Rysol!?

Rysol? I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about,” Harold said. His grin told me all I needed to know. “But what I do know is that I have a goal in mind for this world. A goal so grand that I cannot allow anyone to interfere with it, and that includes the likes of you and the other Swords.

You intend to kill me, then?” I asked.

You must be insane to think I would do such a thing to you,” Harold replied. “There’s no way I would kill you myself. Not in Ameci, anyway…

That was when I noticed that the ship had already begun moving. As the horn blared out, I was now stuck on the Wyse with my worst enemy. The ship had to have moved while Harold and I were talking, somehow. No way were we too far off from shore, however, and I could easily swim back. I just had to run first before Harold could do anything.

Your fate has been sealed, Mr. Wilk,” Harold said. “I know full well how good you are as a swordsman, and that is why I came prepared.

Bring on your worst, Harold,” I said. “I’ll take down anyone you send at me before you can even blink!

But that was not Harold’s intention. No, he thought different from me. The preparation he made was to kill me on the ship himself. Overseas, Harold could deal with me and be over with it. That was when I noticed the gun in his hand as he pointed it directly at me.

Life has given me many, many obstacles,” Harold said. “Obstacles in the form of people like you and Alan, as well as the others I’ve already dealt with. After I’m done with you, I’ll be that much closer to reaching my goal.

You’ve mentioned your goal already once before,” I said. “Would part of this twisted goal involve killing the other Swords as well?

Harold smirked. “I see no real reason to answer you,” he said. “I’m done talking with you, Mr. Wilk. Now die.

He was trained on me and the hallway behind me was narrow. My odds of leaving uninjured were low. I had to find a way out. Luckily, I knew what I had to do and lunged forward at Harold. Though it was reckless, Harold was caught off guard. There was my chance. I swung my sword down at his right arm as all he could do was try to move out of the way. With his back turned to me, I found my opening and plunged my sword deep into his back.

Son of a bitch… You son of a bitch… Kirk Wilk, you son of a bitch!” Harold screamed, which followed with some loud coughs.

I made a promise to my wife that I would never kill again,” I said, “But in this one instance, I know she would understand.

I had him pinned against the back wall now as my sword remained within him as he had nowhere to run. He had thought me trapped, but in all actuality, he was the one who was trapped.

At least, that was what I thought.

Idiot… You think a simple wound like this will deter me from achieving my goals?” Harold asked. “You’re just as much an idiot as the woman who dared to call me insane! I’ll kill you, Kirk Wilk! I’ll kill you right here and now and send you to your watery demise!

Harold proved to match his words and wriggled his way out. He used up all of the strength he had and elbowed me hard. As I was sent backwards, my sword went with me as Harold picked up his gun and ran away. I chased after him as I ran through the halls of the ship until I found him right up on the deck tending to his wound.

Some swordsman you are,” Harold said. “I won’t make the same mistake twice, you hear me?

I said nothing. He said nothing. The night had arrived as the two of us were face-to-face on the deck of the ship. Harold gave everything he got, but he was no match for my speed. With each slash and slice I made, Harold lost both his arms as well as his left leg. He then looked at me all scathed and bloody, still with the same confidence he had moments ago.

Don’t… Don’t think that you’ve won… Kirk Wilk…

With that, Harold fell over the ship’s guardrail. It must have been a long descent into the ocean, but there truly was no place for him to go now. After all, I severely wounded him. At least I knew that April could rest in peace, but Rysol remained my priority.

 

*****

 

[23rd of December, 2740 AD; Sparrow Hotel – Rooftop, Glora, Ahnlikohn]

 

“Harold Mars… I knew I’ve heard of him before, but I never thought that he was that ghastly,” Henry said.

“If I’m being honest, that’s not even the worst thing he did,” Kirk replied. “A man like that has no heart in him whatsoever.”

Eva shook her head. “You saw him fall to his death,” she said. “Please don’t tell me that your memory is shaky now.”

“It isn’t, trust me,” Kirk said. “I’m not changing anything I’ve said, nor will I suggest that what happened isn’t true. No…  Harold had some help. Someone that was willing enough to help him in the event that something went wrong for him, which was the case then.”

“And I guess you’re going to suggest that Lokke helped Harold in his time of need?” Eva asked.

“It wasn’t Walton Lokke,” Kirk said. “No, the answer isn’t as simple as that. Besides, he’s dead now.”

“Now I remember where I’ve heard that last name before,” Henry said. “It’s been a bit since leaving the Ameci military, but there is an up-and-coming soldier by the name of Korbin Mars. I can’t help but think that this is more than a mere coincidence, but what do the two of you think?”

“Yes, I knew you would ask about him eventually,” Kirk replied. “In fact, he has just as much a place in Harold’s plan as any of the other people involved. He’s reckless and has trouble holding his own in a fight according to my son, but that doesn’t mean Korbin isn’t dangerous.”

“So he’s related, then?” Henry asked.

“It was only recently I found out, but yes, Harold and Korbin are father and son,” Kirk said. “He’s the most useful person to Harold right now.”

“This is still confusing,” Henry said. “I think would’ve heard about this when I met Korbin, but maybe I’m forgetting something here.”

“It’ll do us no good to talk,” Kirk said. “We need action right now and that begins with tracking Harold down.”

“Even so, we don’t know where Harold is,” Eva replied. “Let’s not rush into a mindless chase until we meet with the others.”

“You have a point, I suppose,” Kirk said. “Very well, we should head out to the kingdom now, then we’ll be able to take on Harold.”

Henry was fortunate to have friends like Kirk and Eva. Though the trip to Glora ended on bad terms, Henry remained optimistic. He had to be for Tori and the kids. Fortunately, he was sure that it would be safer to be in Thekohn. Henry took one last look at the city, the beautiful city that it was, and closed his eyes as he breathed in and exhaled. Now he was ready.

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Chapter

Aurora – Chapter 20 (Part 1)

[23rd of December, 2740 AD; The Robin’s Nest, Glora, Ahnlikohn – Erithacus District]

 

Rain looked across the long table. It was only five minutes since Khadir had left, going out the same bombastic way in which he had entered through. Still, the only thing that had not changed was the accusation of assassination against Sorin and the trouble that Foundation had caused to influence Amelia’s decision. Rain knew that Amelia was being led away from the truth thanks to Isaac, but even with Khadir’s assistance, there was only so much they could have done yesterday. Now with several of the other leaders, including Wilson Dezine, bowing out of the summit, Rain had no choice but to postpone it indefinitely.

“Don’t be upset at yourself, Your Majesty,” Gamal said. “It’s that damned Isaac Kunigunde’s fault for creating this mess.”

“There’s no point in remaining upset,” Rain replied. “We just need to head back to the kingdom and think up some strategies. I have no doubt in my mind that this isn’t the last we hear from Isaac, so it’ll do us good to move as soon as we can.”

“And we can even check on Sorin, too,” Mina said. “I’m sure him and Gale are just waiting to see us again!”

“Are you forgetting someone?” Gavin asked.

Gavin entered the room with Luna and Pekka behind him. Rain and Mina got up to greet the three and welcomed them to the lounge room. Along with the three were Kiku, Noa, Igor, and Ayame, who Rain also greeted as well.

“How did you know we were here?” Mina asked.

“Let’s just say I had a feeling you’d be here,” Gavin replied.

“I told Gavvy that you might be here,” Kiku said to Rain. “It was quite a bit of a walk from the hotel, but luckily Nona was willing to carry me up the steep hills all by himself!”

“They were pretty steep,” Noa said. “We could’ve taken a bus or something, you know…”

“Give me a break, it wasn’t that far of a walk,” Gavin said. “Anyway, Rain, I think we need to talk about what we’ve got to do next.”

“I was thinking the same thing, actually,” Rain replied, “But it’s not going to do us any good to stay here. We have to head to the kingdom.”

“Yeah, that Queen Amelia’s been busy lending her ear to Isaac,” Dustin said. “Really makes us feel unwelcome in this land, you know?”

“He’s just been a terrible nuisance!” Luna said. “And shame on Her Majesty for even entertaining Isaac in the first place!”

“I know how you feel, Luna, but keep your voice down,” Gavin replied. “Get too loud about that and it’ll attract a lot of unwanted attention towards ourselves. Got it?”

Pekka crossed his arms. “Our lanes are closing one by one,” he said. “Isaac Kunigunde is making sure of that. Slowly the canvas will be painted blood red as he looks to turn all of the Thekohnian Region against Rain.”

“That was pretty poetic, PK,” Kiku said. “Even if it is a little scary to think about.”

“It’s what has happened before,” Pekka replied. “Isla came under similar fire and yielded the throne because of it. The only difference now is that we’re the ones being labeled the villains.”

“If Isaac Kunigunde thinks he can label us the villains, then I’d be glad to remind him just who the villain really is here!” Mina exclaimed. “He’s nothing but a coward that hides when things don’t go his way!”

“Seriously, do I have to say it again?” Gavin asked. “This isn’t a private place, even if we’re in a different room.”

“Oh, sorry,” Mina said. “It’s just that I’m just so worked up about thinking about this. I’m just tired of sitting around doing nothing!”

“That’s why we’re thinking of something, Mina,” Gavin replied. “We can’t just be reckless, because that’s what Isaac wants us to do. What we need to do is weaken Foundation, and the only way we can have a chance at doing that is if we plan accordingly.”

“Then we don’t have any more time to waste,” Rain said. “Tonight, just after sundown, we will be heading back to the kingdom. I hope that you will all be able to come on time.”

Gavin grinned. “If there’s anything I hate, it’s not being on time,” he said. “I will be at the station whenever you are ready, and I’m sure that these two will be ready as well.”

“Well, we’ll have to if we want to see Ahnlikohn at peace again,” Luna said. “I don’t want to sit idly by either, Mina, which is why I’m ready to help you beat the crap out of Isaac!”

“I doubt Isaac would put up much of a fight,” Pekka said. “I’d say it would be unfair, but he’s screwed people over long enough that it doesn’t really matter anymore.”

“That’s great,” Mina said. She looked over to Kiku. “What about you guys?”

“We’re happy to be of assistance,” Ayame said. “But it is unlikely we will be able to join you, at least for the time being.”

“Yes, it seems as if my mother has her own idea about how to move things forward,” Kiku said. “I don’t doubt her one bit, but still I worry about what might happen. Hopefully I can convince her to arrange a trip to the kingdom so she can meet with you, Ray!”

“Please, let her know,” Rain said. “Even if the summit itself is over, I’m very willing to meet with her.”

“We’ll let Madame Yamazaki know as soon as possible,” Ayame said.

“And we’ll be sure to let you know once we let her know that you wanted to let her know that you wanted to meet her,” Igor said.

“That’s a lot to know,” Luna said.

“And a lot we already know,” Gavin said. “But we shouldn’t waste much more time while we’re here. There’s still somebody I want to meet.”

“Of course,” Rain said. “I will see you later, then, Gavin.”

“Same to you,” Gavin replied. “Kiku, are you guys coming or do you want to stay here?”

Kiku looked to Rain. “I think I might stay a little longer,” she said. “I could always do with more Ray in my life, as well as Minnie!”

“Okay, fine,” Gavin said as he glared over at Luna and Pekka. “Come on you two, let’s go.”

Gavin knew, however, that he still had not met with Kirk and Eva and was determined to find them before he had to leave. There were many places within the city where he could find them, but Gavin could not find a reason as to why they would leave the hotel. Thus, Gavin’s best bet was to head back with Luna and Pekka to the Sparrow Hotel and look for Kirk and Eva.

 

*****

 

[23rd of December, 2740 AD; Sparrow Hotel – Rooftop, Glora, Ahnlikohn]

 

“So you’re all set?” Eva asked Henry.

“It’s as set as we’ll ever be,” Henry replied. “It is a bit disappointing to think that we’ll be cutting the stay in Glora short, but it must be done.”

Henry had finished packing up with Tori their belongings, as well as the kids. They were going to leave Ahnlikohn and head towards Thekohn, with a trip to the kingdom as well. Henry came to this decision after speaking with Eva and Kirk earlier, knowing now that Glora was no longer safe for his family. Now, with everything set and ready to go, Henry took some time to reflect upon his stay in Glora. Both Eva and Kirk decided to join him up on the rooftop, as they were tired from trying to find Gavin with no avail.

“So you’ve told me about what happened two days ago, but I’m still trying to understand what Isaac’s goal is,” Henry said. “He had Harring assassinated so he could pin the blame on Sorin? I can get trying to place the blame on somebody else, but why the chancellor? Last I heard about him, he was quite unpopular with Ahnlikohn’s citizens.”

“It’s not about whether or not Harring was popular,” Kirk said. “Harring had been protected for Isaac’s sake, which was why he remained chancellor even after what had happened.”

“Then why kill him?” Henry asked. “If he was useful, then why couldn’t Isaac have somebody target the royal family instead? Both the queen and the prince were shaken up over Prince Amile’s actions and I’m sure that there are many who would’ve liked to see them pay.”

“He was useful to Isaac, that much is true,” Kirk replied. “That’s why Isaac disposed of him. Harring was just a tool for Foundation do they could stage their attack and create panic within the borders. Ahnlikohn’s already taken hits before, which is why it was easy for Isaac to do what he did.”

“I understand that,” Henry said. “Though I have to wonder about Sorin and why the queen blamed him for the assassination. Was that part of Isaac’s doing, too?”

“I’m pretty sure of it,” Kirk said.

Henry placed his hand on his chin. “It truly does baffle me,” he said. “Why did Isaac target Sorin, then? They don’t have any connections to each other, do they?”

“If I had to suspect, it’s because of me,” Kirk replied. “No… was this also the reason for Rysol’s abduction as well?”

“Rysol?” Henry asked. “Are you saying that Rysol was kidnapped by Isaac? Was he trying to draw you out?”

Kirk cradled his forehead in his hand. “That can’t be it,” he said. “No, Isaac was in Ameci when that happened…”

“You’re not talking about what happened earlier this month, are you?” Eva asked. “We would have seen him by now if Isaac had taken him.”

“Damn it, this is confusing me,” Kirk said. “Sorin was blamed, but Rysol was kidnapped. Isaac… he isn’t working alone in this.”

“We know that,” Eva said. “He’s got the president and General Fercewend at his command!”

“I still can’t believe what Rohan did,” Henry said.

“No, I’m not talking about either of them,” Kirk replied. “They’re just tools for Isaac to use. Who I’m talking about is not involved at all with Ameci, nor are this man a part of the Thekohnian Region. Damn it, I really should have seen this a lot sooner…”

“Who are you talking about?” Henry asked. “Would I happen to know this man?”

“You’ve probably heard about his name, but nothing more than that,” Kirk replied. “He’s… Well, let’s just say he’s a unique case.”

Eva sighed. “Please tell me you’re not talking about him,” she said. “Kirk, it’s been many years… There’s no way that he could possibly be alive, especially not after what he did and what happened to him!”

“Eva, it’s hard to believe it myself, but it makes way too much sense,” Kirk said. “I had wondered why all of this was happening now, but considering what we’re dealing with right now, it only stands to reason that he’s still alive and kicking.”

“Don’t be an idiot, Kirk,” Eva replied. “You ought to know what happened to him! He’s dead and there’s nothing more to it than that.”

“I want to believe that, I really do,” Kirk said, “But that man is resilient. He doesn’t know how to give up, even when it looks like the odds are stacked against him. Such a strong will would be admirable if weren’t for his crimes.”

“Okay, I think I get the idea,” Henry said. “At least, I get the fact that we’re dealing with a lot more than just Isaac digging his claws into Ameci affairs. What I don’t understand is why you’re just coming to this conclusion all of a sudden, Kirk. How does this man you’re talking about factor into this?”

Kirk took a few steps away from Henry and Eva and turned around. “When April was killed trying to save Sorin and Rysol, I wanted to know desperately who would do such a thing,” he replied. “Was it a terrorist? Was it the workings of the Thekohnian military? Or was it just a sick fuck looking for a cheap thrill? That day, when it felt like nearly everything had been taken away, I knew that there was more to it than that.”

“Was Isaac behind it?” Henry asked.

“The thought crossed my mind, but no, he had nothing to do with it,” Kirk said. “Isaac had only just inherited Kunigunde Industries from his father; with that as well as the birth of his daughter, Isaac was too busy with paperwork back then to even think about plotting against me.”

“Yet he does hold contempt for you,” Henry said. “I guess it’s not surprising, given Isaac seems to think less about a lot of people…”

“When you fight to change the world for the better, it attracts attention,” Eva said. “A lot of attention, both good and bad. Isaac would prefer to stay with the status quo for his sake, though there are others who genuinely believe in following that path because that’s all they’ve ever known.”

“There’s a lot of people who want to see me meet my end,” Kirk said. “One such man existed in Ameci, though I could never guess why he had such hatred for me. Now, though, it makes more sense why he’d carry out such an attack against my family.”

“Kirk, please, there’s no way he’d be alive,” Eva said.

“I think it’d be easier for me to understand if you just told me who you guys are talking about,” Henry said.

“I’m sorry,” Eva said. “It’s just that this idiot is too stubborn to realize that we’ve already been through this once before and there’s no need to dwell on it any longer.”

“Perhaps it’s okay to tell you, Henry,” Kirk said. “Although, I’ve said you may have heard of his name, just telling you his name wouldn’t do you any good. No, there’s more to it than that.”

“That much I can tell, apparently,” Henry replied. “Please just say it and quit stalling.”

Kirk nodded. “Understood. I’ll tell you all that I know,” he said. “There’s a reason why I avoid mentioning this man’s name. Not only has he caused a great deal of ire towards many people thanks to his ideas, but he had earned a moniker befitting of his mannerisms and the pain he caused.”

Henry listened as Kirk revealed this title: The Ruthless. A simple name, yet one that carried ample amounts of dread that made Henry’s stomach twist. The name brought up memories of the past that Henry thought he and several other Ameci had forgotten, but now it had came back to the forefront. There was no doubt about what The Ruthless had done for so many years during the War of the Lands that countries were still trying to recover from his evil. That was when Henry realized where Kirk was going when he brought up the name, and he soon would not forget about it any time soon.

“Now where should I begin?” Kirk asked.

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Part

Aurora – Chapter 19 (Part 2)

[23rd of December, 2740 AD; New Prime Minister’s Office, Rezar, Iiayikohn – Deca District]

 

After the attack during the summit, Ayanna found herself back at the prime minister’s office. Wilson Dezine has made the decision to pull out and return to Rezar, bringing along the officials and military with him. However, Ayanna knew that there was more to the withdrawal than Dezine let on. A lot more, in fact, that she and Law decided to pay a visit to the prime minister’s office the moment they arrived in the city. If Wilson Dezine was associated with Foundation as Johan had claimed, then there had to be evidence that contributed to that claim. She went upstairs as Law walked alongside her, the two making a direct line to Dezine’s office with no one to stop them.

“You know, it’s not like you to gamble like this,” Law said. “Usually, I’m the one who likes to roll the dice in situations like these.”

“Fortunately for us, we don’t have much to worry about,” Ayanna said. “All the others have either left early or did not decide to come in today. Let us count that as a sign of good luck, if you will.”

“I will,” Law replied. “So, what do you think? You worked pretty hard to get to where you are, you know.”

“If I’m being honest with you, there is much I wish I could’ve done that day,” Ayanna said, “But the whole reason why I am doing this is because of Dezine’s actions then. If he had been in the Iiayikohnian meeting room, then I would not have my doubts.”

When the shooting broke out, Ayanna had been in the crowd listening to Rain’s speech. After the announcement, she coordinated with Reiss and the other soldiers to make sure everyone was safe. She had wanted to find Dezine first, as it was important to ensure the prime minister’s safety, but was told by Reiss that he had already left for the meeting room with a couple of soldiers at his side. Still, it concerned Ayanna that the prime minister had left by the time of the shooting. It did not help that afterwards, she had seen Dezine speaking with Casper Bradley and Isaac Kunigunde, laughing as though nothing had happened.

“There was little reason for him to leave Rain’s speech so early before the attacks began, especially when nobody else was informed until after the fact,” she said, “I must get to the bottom of this incident before it has a chance to get worse. I have to do this not just as a lieutenant general, but as a citizen of Iiayikohn as well.”

“Well, we both should have an idea of what happened,” Law said. “There’s no point in trying to deny the reality of the situation: Dezine’s been working with Foundation and Isaac.”

“Right,” Ayanna said. “Though it will be difficult to oust him even if we can obtain information on him.”

“Does Dezine have a few tricks up his sleeve?” Law asked. “Perhaps he has a fail-safe in case someone were to come to his office. If that’s the case, I’ve got a good idea of what we can do.”

“That’s not it,” Ayanna said. “All the doors in this building have the same lock and cannot be tampered with easily. No, what I’m worried about are the actions he took in order to secure his position.”

Ayanna explained briefly to Law the “Prime Minister Protection Act,” and how it factored into this conversation. In the most basic sense, Dezine would be able to see to it that he always has a select group of soldiers suited to his security, as well as being able to enact certain protections that prevented him from coming under scrutiny, as well as avoiding any potential threats.

“That’s quite vague,” Law said.

“I believe that that’s the point,” Ayanna replied. “Even in our books, it’s left as vague as possible about what any of that entails. While I do believe it’s good to have the prime minister secured, given what happened to Alan Berry, we are all left in the dark as to what these protections are and what Dezine believes to be a threat to him.”

“Well, it could be your classic threats like terrorists, or it could be anyone who opposes him,” Law said. “I’m willing to bet that it’s the latter, however, since he’s all good pals with Isaac and they’re looking to start power tripping as soon as they can.”

“That is what I’m afraid of,” Ayanna said. “Dezine may just be all talk, but it is Foundation and Isaac that worries me the most.”

“So what about General Reiss?” Law asked. “You said he’d be here to help us out, but it’s just us right now.”

Ayanna did find it strange that Reiss did not show. She informed him of her intention to investigate Dezine, to which Reiss replied that he would come as soon as possible to help. But even without his help, Ayanna would find the truth. As Ayanna arrived at the door to Dezine’s office, however, she hesitated as she set her hand on the doorknob.

“I am wondering myself where he is, too,” Ayanna replied. “I’m hoping that he is only late, given that this is a covert mission.”

“Well, we can wait here and make ourselves look more obvious, or we can go in and not have to wait for the man himself,” Law said. “It’s your choice.”

Ayanna unlocked the door and began to turn the knob. “It’s important that we do this for the sake of Iiayikohn. Follow me.”

Law shrugged. “Why wouldn’t I?”

Once inside Dezine’s office, Ayanna surveyed the room. Nothing looked to be out of the ordinary, she thought, but that just made Dezine more suspicious in her eyes. Ayanna decided to look through Dezine’s desk, while Law spent time by looking through the bookshelves. As she looked through each drawer, Ayanna found nothing of interest that caught her eye. Everything from letters, bills, and even newspapers occupied the drawers of Dezine’s desk and none of them had provided Ayanna with any clues.

“Damn, he’s pretty secure,” Ayanna said.

“I don’t think he’s careless enough to hide anything incriminating inside his desk,” Law replied. “No, if he was going to hide something here, then it has to be stuffed inside a safe.”

“Well, Alan did keep a safe in this office,” Ayanna said. “Though I’m pretty sure that his grandson took it out after the funeral.”

“I see,” Law said. “You wouldn’t happen to know where he kept this safe, do you? You know, because you worked pretty closely with him and all, so I can only imagine that Dezine may have put something in that place.”

“Actually, you’re not too far off from where it is,” Ayanna replied. “It’s in the bookshelf next to the one you’re looking through.”

Law placed his hand on a protruding book. “So it would be around here, then? Let’s see what we’ve got, then.”

Ayanna walked over to Law as he began to pull the books from out of the bookshelf. True to Ayanna’s word, there was a cavity behind the stacks of books, but what she did not expect to see was another safe. She was sure that Alan’s was removed, so this one had to belong to Dezine. How he got it inside his office was another story, however, as there was little chance he could have done it without the help of the guards. There was no time to question, though, as Law placed his hand upon the lock and turned it.

“Seems like we can turn this guy from zero to one hundred,” he said. “I gotta be honest, though, when I say that I’ve got no clue how to even crack this thing.”

“It’s usually three numbers,” Ayanna said. “You just have to turn the dial in the correct order and try to open it.”

“Well, we don’t have a lot of time,” Law replied. “We could spend all day trying to open this safe, but that’ll get us nowhere. Though, if you have any idea what the number might be, I’m all ears.”

Ayanna shook her head. “No, that’s fine,” she said. “The fact that this safe exists means that Dezine has something to hide.”

“So we don’t need any evidence, then,” Law said. “Then again, the safe is all the evidence we really need right now. We just need to utilize it when the time is right.”

“More like I’m going to need it,” Ayanna said.

“What do you mean?” Law asked.

“Nothing,” she replied. “Let’s just clean this up quickly before we leave and get out of here.”

After Ayanna helped Law clean up the mess he made, they hurried to exit Dezine’s office. She knew that she would have to bring up that safe to Dezine in the future, but did not know how he would react once she mentioned it. After all, she had found in in what was considered an illegal search. Ayanna did her best to abide by the laws of the land, but even she knew that there was cause for concern involving the prime minister. If it came down to what she truly believed in, then Ayanna would choose to act in the interest of Iiayikohn and the citizens before anyone else, and that included the prime minister himself. Even so, Ayanna knew that she may have to sacrifice all she worked hard to achieve in order to seek out this justice and it was not an easy decision for her to make.

“I bet you feel better now,” Law said. “Some doubts are probably clearing up in your head, I’m guessing.”

“They are, but it doesn’t make me any happier,” Ayanna replied.

As she and Law left the prime minister’s office, General Reiss stood outside waiting for her. Ayanna closed the door behind her as she noticed that he was exhausted and gasping for breath. She ran up to him instantly as Law followed her in suit.

“Sir, are you okay?” Ayanna asked.

“I’m fine,” Reiss said. “Listen, it was a mistake to come here today. You two should leave now before he sees you!”

“Ah shit, so he’s caught wind of our antics, hasn’t he,” Law said. “Well, if we get moving, we’ll avoid him before he even makes it upstairs.”

“We’re not going to leave General Reiss behind,” Ayanna said. “Sir, it’s fine, I can help you.”

“Ansa, you have to move right now,” Reiss said. “Dezine’s going to chew my arse out and that’s fine. I’ll be glad to fall on the sword for you two! Run!”

“It’s quite noble to see you stand up for her,” Dezine said. “Even though she has been a nuisance to me, you don’t give up on her. I’ll admit, Roderick, that you have earned my respect.”

Reiss stood tall. “Damn it, you came in at the worst time,” he said. “Well, I have no problem with that. Just leave them alone, they have nothing to do with this.”

“So you’re going to play dumb, then,” Dezine replied. “It doesn’t suit you at all, my friend. Your peers have praised you on your intelligence, so choosing to act like a simpleton only makes you reek of the foul stench of suspicion, General Reiss.”

“Just what are you planning to do with us, old man?” Law asked.

“You should treat me with much more respect, Mr. Power,” Dezine said. “I’ve heard plenty about you and will not hesitate to use my position as prime minister in order to deal with you.”

“Just tell me, sir, what happened in Glora,” Ayanna said. “The sooner you explain to us what you did, the faster we can figure out who was responsible for Chancellor Harring’s assassination.”

“Ah, so you believe I may have had a hand in his death,” Dezine said. “Tell me, general, was the reason you came here because you believed what she said over what I told you?”

“There is no reason for me to lie to you, Prime Minister,” Reiss replied. “It came as a surprise when your name was mentioned in that broadcast, that I’d found it impossible to believe. Yet, on the day of the attacks, I heard from one of my subordinates that she’d seen you head up to the top floor with the president of Ameci and Mr. Kunigunde.”

“So you would call me, the prime minister of Iiayikohn, a killer?” Dezine asked. “All because I decided to take a stroll?”

“It’s not because you took a stroll, sir,” Ayanna replied. “It’s the time and place in which you took your so-called stroll.”

“I’d like to believe that the leader of this country would not stoop to a low such as assassination of a neighbooring country, but too many pieces line up for me to dismiss such claims,” Reiss said. “The other soldiers that were tasked with looking for you have all corroborated the subordinate’s claim, and even the lieutenant general here says she has found evidence.”

Dezine scoffed. “To think that even the general himself would choose to believe such slanderous accounts… I’ll deal with those soldiers later,” he said. “What I should do now is deal with the three of you. Luckily, that’s where my power comes in.”

“What are you planning on doing to us?” Reiss asked.

“Oh, I won’t do a thing to you,” Dezine replied. “If I try anything drastic, I just know that it’ll attract the vermin to me. Instead, I will sign the papers that will process your retirement, general.”

“You think I would comply to that?” Reiss asked. “Even then, I know that you’ll draw attention if you force me out.”

“That is true, Roderick,” Dezine said, “But I consider this to be the lesser of two evils. As for you, Ansa, I have something different in mind: I’ll reassign you to a specialized post outside of Iiayikohn. Neither of you will argue these conditions, unless you wish for misfortune upon your families.”

“Like hell we’ll allow that to happen,” Reiss replied.

“So you honestly think you’ll get away with this,” Law said. “I’m not sure if you’re stupid for believing in that or if you’re stupid for telling us. Either way, old man, this is pretty reckless for someone like you.”

“Oh, I’ve had this planned for a while,” Dezine said. “With my new laws in place, there’s no chance of anyone upending me. But you three still think you can disobey a direct order, in which case I will exercise the privilege of the ‘Prime Minister Protection Act’ and order my men to do their work.”

“And it all comes back to that,” Law said. “I’d think even you’d have the decency to leave innocent people out of this, but I suppose I can be wrong.”

“Waste not your breath on me,” Dezine said. “Well, general and lieutenant general? Will you comply or not?”

Before Reiss could speak, however, Ayanna knew that she had to speak up and respond to Dezine. She knew how important it was to stop Dezine now that he revealed his true self to her.

“You’ll not harm either of our families if we obey your order, am I correct?” Ayanna asked. “Is this the honest to god truth?”

Dezine smiled. “Believe me.”

“Then I will comply,” Ayanna replied. “To show you that I am serious, here… take this.”

Much to the shock of both Law and Reiss, Ayanna took off her lieutenant’s badge and handed it over to Dezine. It was a difficult decision to make, but she knew that it was the easiest option out of the two. Neither man spoke as Dezine wrapped his fingers around the badge and placed it in his pocket.

“Consider me quite surprised, lieutenant general,” Dezine said. “Or should I say… Miss Ansa? Either way, I am glad you understand.”

“And General Reiss will agree to these terms as well,” Ayanna said. “We will comply and get out of your way.”

“Then I’ve got no need for you,” Dezine said. “Now get out of here.”

Ayanna nodded and looked to both Law and Reiss. With one look, she could tell that they understood and followed her out of the prime minister’s office. That she was able to pull off such a feat against the prime minister made Ayanna much more confident about moving forward. Now, however, came the difficult part as she exited the building with Law and Reiss with her. They still looked to be in shock as Ayanna turned to them with a smile on her face.

“I didn’t think he’d fall for it, but he did,” Ayanna said. “To think I’d pull off such a trick like that… I must admit it’s quite thrilling!”

Law chuckled. “I think Roddy over here deserves a bit of an explanation,” he said. “I mean, I totally understood what you did, but let’s fill the man in on the trick you pulled.”

“Yes, I’d like to know what the hell you were thinking, too,” Reiss said. “You didn’t just give up, did you? Even if our families lives were at stake, there’s no guarantee he’d leave us alone if we obeyed.”

“That much we know is true,” Ayanna replied. “If he works with the likes of Isaac and the Neu Thekohnian Order, then I know that there’s no reason to ever accept a deal from him. That’s why I want him to think we would.”

“Okay, now I’ve got to ask you what that means,” Reiss said. “We may have worked together for years now, but I’ve no idea what you’re saying.”

“Basically, if we make Dezine think he’s won this little war, it will be easier for us to know what he’ll do next,” Ayanna said. “I know he’ll try and go after us anyway, which is why I still need your help, sir.”

“There’s no need for formalities now,” Reiss said. “You can just call me by my first name. Anyway, what is your plan now?”

“We’ll need to head off towards the Royal Kingdom of Thekohn,” Ayanna said. “Right now, a friend of mine is in trouble and he needs our help. We’ll need to find some soldiers that will be willing to assist us as well, since I’m sure that Foundation is thinking up a new plan as we speak.”

“Are we sure about that?” Law asked. “I’m not exactly sure we can round up a select group of soldiers in record time, but then again, I’m not going to start doubting you yet, my dear.”

“I already know of one man who will help,” Ayanna said. “If we convince him, then we can convince several others to join our cause.”

“If that’s the case, then I’ll make the calls,” Reiss said. “If you are speaking of the man I think you’re speaking of, then I want you to take him with you. I’ll be sure to join up with you later.”

“Very well,” Ayanna said.

“And one more thing, Ayanna,” Reiss said. “You don’t need to worry about your family, either; I’ll help them out.”

Ayanna nodded. “ Thank you.”

“If anything goes wrong, let me know,” Reiss said. “Now go.”

With everything agreed on, Ayanna and Law went off to find Dierk and take him with them to the kingdom. It would be a long trip, but they knew that they had to regroup as soon as possible. Dezine and Foundation were moving fast. For Ayanna, that just meant that she had to move faster.

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Chapter

Aurora – Chapter 19 (Part 1)

[23rd of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Inside Thedam Castle Hall]

 

The snow continued to fall from the sky as Sorin looked out the window. He and Gale spent the night bundled together in bed as he tried to take his mind off of the past couple of days. At least for now he could relax, Sorin thought. For how long, though, was another story and one that Sorin would have to answer to if he were to make it out of this mess Foundation had created. There did not exist any doubt in Sorin’s mind that this was just the beginning. As Foundation was the one behind Chancellor Harring’s death, Sorin had to wonder when, not if, they would devise their next attack. Sorin worried that the Royal Kingdom of Thekohn may become the next target, but he was confident that he and Rain would form a strategy for any and all attacks that could come their way.

“You know, I’ve never seen this much snow before,” Gale said. “At least for as long as I’ve lived, it’s never snowed quite this much.”

“It really is something, isn’t it?” Sorin asked.

“To be honest, I’ve always enjoyed cold weather,” Gale replied. “I kind of want to go down there and walk around and leave footprints.”

“Yeah, it sounds kind of fun,” Sorin said.

Truth be told, Sorin did not mind the cold, but the snow was a different story. When he worked with his father’s friend Raymohnd Smith, Sorin found the snow to be rather bothersome and had always made trips to and from cities to be excruciating. Though now that he was traveling alongside Gale, Sorin found the snow to be much more of a delight than a burden.

“There’s also other things that are more fun when it’s cold,” she said. “I’ve never been held so tightly like you did last night…”

“Oh, yeah, of course,” Sorin said.

“It’s just times like that take my mind off of what’s happened,” Gale said. “You agree, don’t you?”

“I do,” Sorin replied. “Being with you has made happier, that much I can say. Even now, of all times, I feel happiest when I’m with you.”

Gale hugged Sorin. “And I can say the same,” she said. “It’s been hard to express how I’ve felt over the years, which is why I felt it tough to open up to anyone, much less towards someone I loved. That’s why I’m so relieved to hear you say that to me, Sorin.”

Sorin rested his hand on Gale’s back. “Well, it’ll be relieving once this is all over,” he said, “But until then, I won’t leave you. I promise you that no matter what may happen, I will make it through for you.”

He spent a few more moments with Gale close to him. So many people that Sorin could count on, but one person above all else provided him the motivation to keep moving forward. He knew he had given himself an expectation that may prove to be tough to follow, but Sorin knew that he had to fight in order to make sure the future was clear. Any obstacle in his way, Sorin would confront it head on without a doubt in his mind.

“So, I guess we should go downstairs, right?” Sorin asked. “I think Storm said there would be a big breakfast waiting for us.”

“She did say that, didn’t she,” Gale said. “Let’s go and see what they made for us, then.”

They made their way downstairs and towards the dining room where both Storm and Rado waited for them. Indeed, it was as Storm had said last night as a bountiful breakfast awaited Sorin and Gale as they took their seats next to each other. Storm smiled as the two took their share of omelette and pastries, while Rado was busy eating his share of food.

“I’m so glad to see you two are happy,” Storm said.

“I’m glad to see you,” Gale said. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it? How have you been?”

“Well, I have been keeping up with my studies,” Storm replied. “There is so much that I’ve learned in the past couple of months considering all that my sister has gone through.”

“Yeah, it’s been rough,” Sorin said.

“She mentioned to me last night that there seemed to be some sort of deal between Queen Amelia and that Mr. Kunigunde,” Storm said. “He’s the one who was aiding my mother, was he not?”

“That’s correct,” Gale said. “She was being used by him.”

“I see,” Storm said. “If only I knew beforehand about it, then maybe mother would still be here today. Maybe she wouldn’t need to turn to that man’s help and sacrifice everything…”

“It’s already done, Your Highness,” Rado said. “Isla made her choice. Now she pays for her sins.”

Storm looked down at her plate. “I guess so,” she replied. “She is fortunate that she’s still alive after what she did. Even if she wanted to kill Rain and I, it is still hard to completely forget about her. Is that a bad thing?”

“It’s difficult,” Rado replied. “Family is tough to disregard, especially ones who you know for so long. But sometimes you must know to let go.”

“Maybe a day comes when that happens,” Storm said. “How about you, Gale? Mr. Kunigunde is your father, right?”

“He may be in name, but I never had much of a connection to him,” Gale answered. “I don’t have any guilt in my heart when I say that I hate him.”

Rado pushed the cleaned off plate forward. “Easy to understand,” he said. “I know Isaac. Have since the war. He supplied weapons, took the money, and ran. That’s it. He cares only about himself.”

“Do you happen to know about him before the war?” Sorin asked. “Perhaps there’s something we don’t know.”

“Nothing personal,” Rado replied. “But I hear he looked up to Rohan even though he’s older.”

“If anything, he sees Rohan as a tool,” Gale said. “That’s what it seems like to me.”

“Maybe so, maybe so,” Rado said. “Isaac has two faces: one of the public, and the real face. We saw the real Isaac.”

“I’m just worried about Rohan,” Gale replied. “I can’t even begin to imagine what he’s thinking right now.”

“It’s difficult for me to say since I don’t know him,” Storm said, “But I think you have to believe in him.”

“I do,” Gale said. “He has been nothing short of nice to me for all of these years. I would never turn away from him after what he’s done for me.”

“We will see about the general,” Rado said. “He has much aspirations that I am sure he will want to keep. If it is a choice, Gale, will you believe in him?”

“You’re asking me if will believe in him?” Gale asked. “I said that I believed in him, didn’t I?”

Rado shook his head. “For now,” he replied. “But a person can change. Even Rohan. I ask because he holds the third highest rank in Ameci. Something were to happen to Bradley? Rohan’s next man up.”

“So you think that he’s trying to climb the ranks?” Storm asked.

“It has to be Isaac,” Gale said. “It would be as close as he could get to such power and he has the means to do it if he wanted.”

“You keep mentioning Isaac,” Rado said. “He’s a problem, yes. He’s not what I speak of, though. I don’t doubt that Rohan’s thinking about it, too.”

“It’s likely,” Sorin said. “Then again, he’s been awfully quiet. I wonder if that means anything.”

“One can change if they are promised power or wealth,” Rado said, “Or it reveals their true self. Isaac places the idea in Rohan’s mind and walks away. It’s then Rohan who ponders it. Does it change him or is it who he’s always been? If you ask me, I say it’s changed him.”

“I just have trouble believing that,” Gale replied. “Even if Isaac offers him the world, I doubt Rohan would take it if it meant others would get hurt.”

“You can believe, but I’ve seen good men turn bad once their wallets weigh them down,” Rado said. “They start out protecting others, but only hold regard for themselves once they’ve got pay.”

“No matter what it is, I pray that Gale will not have to worry about that,” Storm said. “If he’s as Gale says, then I doubt Rohan would change because he is offered power.”

“It’s not bad to hope, Your Highness,” Rado replied. “But you also know that it has happened before. Your mother, she turned. She went bad because Isaac had promised her power as well. She did what she could to have it.”

“That is true,” Storm said. “But even so, I still want to believe.”

“Be hopeful, not foolish,” Rado said.

“It’s best if we continue with what to do next,” Sorin said. “We can talk and talk about General Fercewend all we want, but it won’t change the fact that Isaac is still our top priority.”

“That is right,” Rado said. “We get nowhere if we keep talking. It’s time for action. That means we must move soon.”

“Are we moving already?” Storm asked. “There’s not many places we can go…”

Rado guffawed. “Ah, I speak in metaphor,” he said. “We must plan ahead or else we suffer consequences. That Foundation and Isaac will be looking here soon if we don’t plan.”

“Well, why don’t we do that?” Sorin asked. “I’m done with breakfast. What about you guys?”

“Do you ask?” Rado asked. “I am done.”

“I guess I wasn’t as hungry as I thought,” Gale said as she looked down at her plate, still full of food. “Oh well.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it, Gale,” Storm said. “We can have lunch together and not have to worry about bringing up any bad thoughts.”

“That would be nice,” Gale replied.

“So, do you have any ideas, Mr. Liffe?” Sorin asked.

“Strategy was never my strong spot,” Rado said. “I can assist, however, but it is Gale who has ideas.”

Gale stood up. “I’ll try,” she said. “Even if I can’t fight, I know that I want to help. This is something I want to see through to the end.”

“True,” Rado replied. “Isaac cannot go on longer. Now let’s head to the war room.”

Sorin, Gale, and Storm agreed and followed Rado out of the dining hall. It was good to know that they had someone like Rado on their side, Sorin thought to himself. He did wonder, however, when the others would join up with him and Gale, since the status of the summit was left up in the air.

 

*****

 

[23rd of December, 2740 AD; Sparrow Hotel – Interior Parlor, Glora, Ahnlikohn]

 

Gavin looked around the room. The group had been splintered off since the attacks, which only served to fuel Gavin’s unease. With Sorin accused and on the run, Gavin knew that he had to be the leader. He had to since both Ayanna and Law left for Rezar and Rain had not yet arrived at the hotel. That said, he took a look at who was sitting down: Luna and Pekka, who decided to meet with Gavin, and Kiku with her bodyguards and Noa. He wanted to see Kirk and Eva, though they did not respond when he knocked on the door to their hotel room. Sighing, Gavin sat down and clapped his hands together.

“Guess we’re going to work with what we’ve got right now,” Gavin said. “It will have to do.”

“What are you talking about?” Pekka asked.

“I’m talking about working together,” Gavin replied. “Right now, I don’t care about what hangups you may have about Sorin and Johan. What we need now is cooperation and I’ll be damned if we can’t come together, so I suggest to you and Luna that the two of you help us out.”

“But how can I do that when neither Sorin nor Johan are here?” Luna asked. “If they can’t even be here in this room, then how am I supposed to trust either of them?”

“Look, I can understand how you feel about Johan, I honestly do,” Gavin said. “To be honest, I think he’s in it for his own gain. What it is, I don’t know, but I know that he cares more about having control than he does about teamwork. That said, I do not blame Sorin for the actions he took, because I know he was worried about keeping everyone safe at the time.”

“So you think it was a good idea for him to lie to everyone,” Pekka said. “I too can understand the reason, but it doesn’t mean that I accept it.”

“He’s aware of that,” Gavin replied. “At least, that’s what he’s told me and I choose to trust him. There’s no reason for him to lie without a good reason, and his was sufficient to me.”

“Luna… What about me?” Noa asked. “When you and the others found out about my past, did you harbor a grudge towards me?”

“Well, I can’t say I didn’t have a little distrust of you,” Luna said. “But you didn’t lie to anyone.”

“I may as well have,” Noa said. “If it’s anything like Sorin, then I too have deceived you. Then again, I guess he lied to protect others while I lied to protect myself…”

“Oh, don’t beat yourself up over it, Nona,” Kiku said. “So what if you had a different name before? You’re who you are now and that’s all that matters!”

“I guess… No, you’re absolutely right, Kiku,” Noa replied.

“And Wilkie isn’t the type of guy who deceives, either,” Kiku continued. “He had to do it for all of you, didn’t he? He thought about every one of you the entire time and I’m sure that he wanted to tell you the truth, but couldn’t.”

“If anything, he was thinking a few steps ahead,” Gavin said. “All because he knew that danger was waiting just around the corner.”

“Oh, to have that sort of planning,” Kiku said. “I bet even now, Wilkie’s just thinking up some sort of idea to get out of this jam like the hero he is! You agree, don’t you Gab?”

“You know, that sounds like something Mina would say,” Luna said. “She’d probably say ‘Sorin’s going to go and beat the villains’ or something like that, and she would laugh with an infectious enthusiasm that I’d have no choice but to agree with her because she’s adorable like that and I can’t just say no when Mina gets all heroic and pumping her fists into the air. I… I envy that about her, if I had to be honest.”

Kiku did her best not to laugh. “It’s… It’s very cute,” she said. “I could listen to you talk for hours, Gab, and I would never get bored of what you say.”

“You think so?” Luna asked. “Er, I mean, we are still talking about Sorin, aren’t we?”

“Yes, we are,” Gavin said. “Am I supposed to take what you just said as a yes or no, Luna?”

“Well, Sorin never did stab us in the back,” Luna said. “I guess I can forgive him. Gosh, that makes me an idiot, doesn’t it?”

“No, it doesn’t,” Ayame said. “We all make mistakes.”

“Even Iggy makes mistakes,” Kiku said. “One time, before a public event, he woke up and went to the plaza square and forgot to put on some pants!”

“Madame, I thought you wouldn’t share that story,” Igor said. “And it wasn’t like I was going to the commander or anything! I still had shorts on!”

Kiku giggled. “It’s okay, Iggy,” she said. “So what of you, PK? Are you ready to forgive your friend Wilkie?”

“I am still upset about it, but I guess I can forgive him,” Pekka replied. “He had his reasons for doing what he did and there’s no reason for me to continue to harbor any sort of anger toward him.”

Gavin stood up and turned to the parlor entrance. “I’m glad to know that we’re on the same page,” he said. “Noa, you don’t have any plans, do you?”

“Why do you ask?” Noa asked.

“I need to know what you’re doing so I can confirm with the others,” Gavin answered. “If you want to sit back and relax, then that’s fine by me, but I gotta know now whether or not you’re going to aid us.”

Noa let out a mild groan. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I can’t imagine I’d be of much use to you guys, nor could I offer any insight.”

“Nona, we saw what happened,” Kiku said. “When a friend of mine is in trouble, it hurts me so much. I want to help Wilkie and everyone because they’ve been so nice to us, and I don’t want to abandon him when he needs us the most! We have to help Wilkie, even if it’s only of the slightest significance!”

“Even Madame Yamazaki expressed her concerns,” Ayame said. “For me, it was a shock to see as she is usually calm and collected whenever I see her. That is enough to tell me that we must do our part.”

Noa took a deep breath and exhaled through his nose. “I can’t deny any of that,” he said. “All of you have stood by my side during the worst, so it only makes sense for me to do the same for Sorin. I owe him that much.”

“Wonderful,” Gavin said. “Now let’s go see what’s keeping Rain.”

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Part

Aurora – Chapter 18 (Part 2)

[22nd of December, 2740 AD; on the road to Thekohn, outside Glora, Ahnlikohn]

 

It was a miracle that Sorin was able to board the bus with Gale unnoticed by anyone, let alone the driver. He did not want to risk staying in the city for any longer in case the royal military decided to come looking for him. It was that and the fact he did not want to put any of his friends in danger, yet Gale requested to come along with him. It made the bus trip to Thekohn less lonely, but even so, Sorin knew that isolation was beginning to close in on him.

“We’ll be fine, I think,” Gale said. “As long as Rain is on our side, then we’ll be fine. That’s something I know for a fact Isaac can’t take away from us.”

“I’m not just worried about him,” Sorin said. “It’s Rysol I’m worried about as well. He’s still being held captive somewhere and none of us are any closer to saving him. It’s made me worried that whatever pain Rysol’s in, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“But you know where he is, don’t you?” Gale asked. “He isn’t gone forever. We… I know you will find him again.”

“And I never want you to get hurt, either,” Sorin continued. “If they come after me, then they’ll certainly come after you, too.”

“It’s a risk that we’ll have to take,” she replied. “I’m not going to abandon you, Sorin, nor would I ever allow Isaac or his friends to bring harm to you. And I know you’d do the same for me.”

“Thanks, but does that mean you’ve got an idea?” Sorin asked.

“I’ve got a plan, but it’ll require everyone to be in the kingdom,” Gale said. “I’m going to let Rain know as soon as we arrive that the others need to come to Thedam Castle so we can discuss what we need to do in full detail.”

“I wonder if everyone is willing to do that,” Sorin said.

He remembered what both Luna and Pekka said to him and wondered if it was possible they would cooperate. They did manage to help yesterday, but even so, Sorin was not sure if they were fully ready to meet with him eye-to-eye yet. It would most likely take some time, he thought.

“We have to,” Gale replied. “I know Isaac. He’ll try his best to capitalize on any weakness we might have. Unless we’re unified, it will be tougher for us to do what’s needed in order to take down Foundation.”

“He was never really fond of us in the first place, was he?” Sorin asked. “I remember the first time I saw him.”

It had been a while, but Sorin recollected that first encounter with Isaac Kunigunde in his mind. The mere presence of Isaac suggested an aloof, arrogant man who seemed to want nothing to do with anyone he felt was beneath him. Sorin, however, did not think that that meant Isaac was evil; rather, it was that instance that suggested that Isaac was nothing more than a simple agitator who strived only to upset people. It was only a few months ago when Rain’s mother revealed the true mastermind behind the Neu Thekohnian Order that showed off what a terrible man Isaac Kunigunde was and that he had to be stopped before he could do it again.

“Isaac made all his money on other people’s suffering,” Gale said. “It only makes sense that it was done by dealing weapons. That’s why it’s important that we stop him before he can start another incident, or even worse…”

“I know,” Sorin said.

“Sometimes, I just wonder what would have happened if my mother were still alive,” Gale said. “Would anything have gone differently? Would Isaac still be the same man he is now? I really don’t know…”

“I wish I could answer that one for you,” Sorin said. “But seeing as I barely got to know either of my parents until recently, I feel pretty much the same way that you do.”

Gale rested her head on Sorin’s shoulder. “I probably shouldn’t ask those questions,” she said. “Even if I knew the answers, it wouldn’t change anything. It all happened and I can’t change that fact no matter what.”

Sorin looked at Gale. She looked beautiful resting against him. He wanted to show he much he appreciated her, even during a troubling time like this, but knew that it would be better if he saved it for later.

“Say, Sorin, when this is all over, is there anywhere you want to go?” Gale asked. “I’ve read that there are some islands to the south that are nice around this time. Perhaps we can go to the isles and see for ourselves.”

“That would be a great idea,” he replied.

“You think so?”

“Of course I do,” he said. “As you said, we’ll be able to get through this soon enough. There’s nothing more I’d like than to spend more time with you.”

“I’m so happy to hear that,” Gale said.

And Sorin knew that it was true. He had to remain hopeful even when the odds looked like they were against him for Gale’s sake. It was then that Sorin had an idea, but he had to meet with everyone first beforehand. He did not want to make the same mistake and leave the others out of what he had planned, and he knew that they may have had some grievances towards him because of it. Now more than ever, Sorin needed their help and he would make sure that they knew how important they were to him.

 

*****

 

[22nd of December, 2740 AD; location unknown, Hurst, Iiayikohn]

 

Korbin could hear some gruff laughter from the other side of the door. He could tell that it was his father, Harold, as Bradley went ahead and knocked on the front door. The door soon opened after a few seconds as Korbin headed inside with Erik and Bradley behind him. It was time for them to meet with Harold, who looked to be delighted as he had a triumphant grin on his face.

“You came just in time, Korbin,” Harold said. “I suppose that even an idiot like you can do something right the first time… I would be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised, but let’s not waste any time. Come.”

Down the dim hallway, Korbin looked around. There was a lot inside his father’s residence that had changed over the years, but the cold air continued to remain the same. Even during the warmer months, Korbin had always found the place to be quite cold compared to where he usually stayed. Korbin spent most of his time sharing a room with Bradley, who he had always counted on as a friend, but sometimes he found himself here with his father. Now again was the time that Korbin had to come back, given the setback he suffered from Sorin, but first he had to know what exactly Harold was talking about when he asked him to come here last night.

“I can see that you went and got my gift broken,” Harold said. “As expected of a brainless maggot, you went ahead and got too full of yourself.”

“It wasn’t my fault!” Korbin exclaimed.

“Be quiet! I’m not done talking yet,” Harold said. “After all, you ought to be thanking me for what I’m going to give you. It’s a more advanced version of the arm I made, because I knew somehow you would mess up.”

“Well, we could use it,” Erik said. “Korbin’s been real agitated that he’s got nothing to do right now.”

“Have I given you permission to speak?” Harold asked. “No, I have not, so learn your goddamn place, Ellis!”

“I’m… I’m very sorry,” Erik replied.

Harold sighed. “Now, where were we? Oh yes, yes, the reason I demanded you to come,” he said. “Crawford, I assume that you spoke with your father about the next course of action, did you not?”

“I told him,” Bradley said.

“And you made sure that he received my message?” Harold asked. “Let it be known that if you are lying to me, I will find out. You really do not want to know what would happen if I found out you were lying to me, Crawford.”

Bradley nodded. “Trust me, Mr. Mars,” he said. “I don’t intend on deceiving you, nor would my pops.”

“If I wanted to hear what Casper had to say, I’d ask him,” Harold said. “But that’s not important. What’s really important is that you see this.”

They reached the end of the cold, dark hallways and ended up at the lone steel door. Behind that was whatever Harold had planned, Korbin believed. That was it. He had to wonder for himself what could possibly be behind the door, but it was then that Korbin realized that perhaps his father was successful with his methods. That his father could use whatever tactic he had in order to win, that was what caused the sudden turn in the man that they kept hostage.

“I want you to stand back,” Harold said. “There may be a chance that he could come at you.”

“You don’t mean what I think you mean, do you?” Erik asked.

“Erik, shut the fuck up,” Korbin said.

“So it’s finally time, eh?” Bradley asked. “I guess those methods really do work, but I guess when it comes to you, sir, I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“It was easier than I thought,” Harold said. “Even for a genius like myself, I knew it would take some work. There was always a chance that he’d continue to resist me, but even so, I had his life in my hands and he knew that I could end it at any time. Of course, that’s true about anyone who crosses paths with me.”

“I can’t say you’re wrong,” Korbin said.

“There is no doubt in my mind that any man would desire for the ability I have,” Harold said. “In this pathetic excuse that we call this world, I am sure that people would step over each other in order to attain this power were it to become available to them. Selfishness is the ultimate driving force behind most of what is done in the world, which is why we as people are still fighting to this day.”

“Well, are we going to see him or not?” Erik asked. “I’m starting to get kind of bored waiting here…”

Harold glared at Erik and delivered a punch straight to his abdomen. The sheer power behind the punch, which Korbin heard boom just like a cannon, sent Erik reeling as he tried not to fall to the floor but failed as he collapsed onto his knees. Harold looked over to Korbin as he placed a hand on the doorknob and began to turn it.

“He should be fortunate,” Harold said. “If I were to be less considerate of your feelings, Korbin, then I would have killed Mr. Ellis instead. Let that be yet another lesson to you.”

“Yeah, shut your fucking face already, Erik,” Korbin said. “You gotta let my dad take care of this one.”

“That goes for you as well,” Harold said to Korbin. “My patience with you has already been tested; don’t try and push me any further.”

With a final turn, Harold opened the door. Rysol stood in the middle of the room with a sword in his hand, slashing into the air before him. The increasingly steady swift slices struck nothing, but it was the speed that impressed Korbin the most. Rysol’s impressive speed made everyone look twice as the long-haired man moved from one side of the room to the other.

“It’s now our time to move,” Harold said. “The worthless insects that keep about as if they stand a chance against us will be in for a surprise once they see what they’re in for with the reawakened Rysol Wilk. Behold, the efforts of my hard work stand right before your eyes!”

“You don’t need to say another word,” Korbin said, stepping forward as he drew his sword. “I may be down an arm, but I can take you all the same! Come at me, Rysol Wilk!”

“Korb, no,” Bradley said. “Damn it, you’re too headstrong sometimes.”

“Let him see for himself,” Harold said. “Maybe then this idiot will finally understand how important it is to follow my orders.”

Korbin positioned his blade horizontally in his left hand. He looked over at Rysol, who turned to him in response. Their eyes set as they could not look away from one another, with Korbin moving closer. In less than a second, Rysol rushed at Korbin with his sword raised high with no time for him to move out of the way. The two blades clashed against one another as Korbin did his best to hold off the incoming Rysol, as the sheer amount of pressure being placed upon him made him hesitate to move.

“Damn, he’s as good as ever,” Korbin said. “The son of bitch better watch it, because here I come!”

He rolled out to Rysol’s left away from his blade and swung towards him in a vertical motion. Rysol, though, had caught Korbin’s strike by defending with his sword. Once more Korbin chose to move out of the way and attack again, but no matter how hard he tried to get Rysol, Rysol seemed to possess a near inhuman ability to predict and counter anything thrown his way.

“Don’t you think we ought to stop the fight?” Bradley asked Harold. “I know how important it is to see how strong Rysol is, but it would be bad if Korbin got hurt any further.”

Harold turned to Bradley. “What do you think? If something happens, it’s because of Korbin’s recklessness,” he replied. “All I want to know is how strong these results are. These results that my hard work created, that is the reason why I will not stop this little battle. No matter what becomes of this battle, the fact remains that one of them will have resigned to his fate.”

“That’s not what this is, though,” Bradley said. “We’re only measuring this man’s strength! What’s happening here is just reckless!”

“Quite a few men and women were victims of the attack that took place in Glora yesterday,” Harold said. “They probably didn’t expect to become victims but that was their fate and only by running away from my son and his cronies did they end up resigning to the notion as they stood no chance. Korbin may be an idiot, but he is a capable soldier. A useful idiot, in short.”

“Damn you, I’m going in,” Bradley said.

Harold put out his arm before Bradley and glanced at him. “So you wish to resign to your fate,” he said. “I’d be willing to help you, but doing so would put a damper on my relationship with Casper. Such foolishness, yet he still needs me as I him. Stay.”

Even Bradley felt frozen by Harold’s demeanor. “I… I understand, sir,” he replied. “Then I’ll stay right here.”

Korbin still fought with Rysol in the training room. He could not admit it, but Rysol had proven to match him for every blow. It was then that Rysol went and delivered a strong strike with his blade to Korbin’s sword, knocking it out of his hands. Korbin landed on his backside as Rysol stared him down with his blade pointed at his face. There was no fear in Korbin’s mind as he gritted his teeth and looked for his sword. However, Rysol decided to withdraw and turn away from Korbin right as he found his sword.

“Alright, Rysol Wilk, it’s time for me to go and push your shit in!” Korbin exclaimed. “Hey, come back here, you asshole! I’m not done fucking around with you yet!”

“Stay your blade, idiot,” Harold said. “I’ve seen enough, and it appears that Rysol sees the same as well.”

Korbin growled as he sheathed his sword. “Fucking fine, then,” he said. “I can’t fucking fight without my arm, anyway.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Harold said as he walked over to Rysol. “Now it’s finally time for my plan to go in action. You remember your mission, don’t you, Rysol? About the man who betrayed you? The man who abandoned you? Tell me, Rysol, you really wish to kill your father, don’t you?”

Rysol looked at Harold. “Yes,” he said. “I will kill my father.”

“Very good,” Harold said. “It appears that my hard work has paid off. Now, Rysol, it’s time to begin the next part of your training.”

 

To be continued…

 

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Aurora – Chapter 18 (Part 1)

[22nd of December, 2740 AD; Glora Grand Hall – The Wings of the Albatross, Glora, Ahnlikohn]

 

There was a somber mood all throughout the Glora Grand Hall the next morning as Rain went upstairs in order to meet with Amelia. Rain had worked hard over the past few weeks in order to bring everyone together, but the summit was left up in the air due to yesterday’s attack. Rain worried about whether or not they would continue, climbing up the stairs with her advisors while Mina tried her best to keep everyone’s spirits up.

“We can’t let them get away with this,” Mina said. “You’re going to go talk with the queen of this country and make everything right, I just know it!”

“Thank you,” Rain said. “I want to share your optimism, so let’s all hope that we’ll be able to work everything out.”

“If anything, we gotta hope that Queen Amelia is ready to make sense of all that’s happened,” Dustin said. “I can’t blame her for wanting to find the guy who’s responsible for the chancellor’s death, but I’m sure you two can get a good start in clearing Sorin’s name.”

“That is the most important thing, Sir Dustin,” Rain said. She stopped and set her sights ahead. “It appears we don’t have to walk any further.”

Gamal looked over and spotted Amelia talking to General Fercewend. “And it looks like she’s already deep in conversation with our colleague.”

“Let’s go,” Rain said.

Rain led the three forward and met with both Queen Amelia and General Fercewend, the two turning to greet them. Though the two of them were kind to her, Rain felt the lack of effort that was given in Fercewend’s handshake. On the other side, Amelia did not bother to shake hands and only focused on the general. Regardless, Rain decided to start the conversation.

“Are you doing well?” Rain asked Amelia. “I can’t even begin to imagine the pain you and your son must be going through.”

“Yes, she has been going through a lot,” Fercewend said. “Though I wonder to myself if it is necessary for you to try and talk to her right now.”

“I only wish to help,” Rain replied. “You must feel the same way, General Fercewend, because why else would you come here?”

“It really seems to be a bad time, general,” Amelia said. “After all that’s been said and done, I want nothing to do with this entire charade.”

“Trust me, I am doing my best to find the ones responsible,” Fercewend said. “Even if there’s a possibility that they may be in this building, I will promise that if we work together, our military and yours can work together to put a stop to this malevolent organization.”

“You’ve been saying this, yet was it not your men who shot and killed so many yesterday?” Amelia asked.

Fercewend sighed. “It is a regret that I have, but I promise their intentions were for the greater good,” he replied. “They were supposed to find a defector in the midst but they were unsuccessful in doing so and for that, I apologize deeply for what happened.”

“I would like to think that they did not start the attack just because they were upset they didn’t find who they were looking for,” Amelia said.

“According to the commander of that troop, they were attacked by a couple of assailants sympathetic to the traitor,” Fercewend said. “It appeared to be quite a scuffle that got out of hand.”

Dustin shrugged and laughed. “Come on, General Fercewend, you can’t call yourself a proper general if you’re not on top of everything,” he said. “You gotta hold those fellows responsible for what they’ve done, accident or no.”

“Dustin, please,” Gamal said.

“No, he is allowed to have his opinion,” Fercewend said. “Even if I may not care too much for his tone, he’s allowed to air his grievances against the Ameci military.”

“Ah, I’m not airing any grievances at anyone but you, general,” Dustin said. “As a former sailor, we all made our share of mistakes, but the captain’s the one who speaks for them when a big fuckup happens. You, sir, have got a big fuckup that you need to speak for and I’m not that sure that Queen Amelia has enough patience to stand here for much longer.”

“Tell me, you are an Ameci, aren’t you?” Fercewend asked.

“Well yeah, sure,” Dustin replied.

“Then you would know that the general bears a lot of responsibilities in guarding the country and its order,” Fercewend said. “I do my absolute best to fulfill that duty by making sure that that order is maintained, as well as making sure that Ameci works alongside its allies.”

“Good for you,” Dustin said. “I would give you a gold star, but it appears I’m all out of stars.”

“Sir Dustin, I really don’t think that now’s the time,” Rain said. “After all, we came here for a different reason, didn’t we?”

“I’m sorry, Your Majesty, but that’s one order I’m going to have to ignore,” Dustin said. “So, general, you’re concerned more about order than you are doing the right thing, aren’t you?”

“I did not say that,” Fercewend replied. “All I said was that I had a duty to fulfill and I will fulfill it regardless of what you or anyone else may say. A general doesn’t worry himself about what’s right, he just does his job.”

“It seems like you’re deep in conversation with this individual,” Amelia said. “I suppose it’s time for me to head off and meet with my advisors, so I’ll see you and President Bradley soon.”

“You’re leaving already?” Rain asked.

“Again, it is a stressful time,” Amelia said. “I had a bad feeling about the timing of this summit before it started and it seems that my suspicions were correct. If I am to be honest with you, Queen Rain, then I blame you for leading forth with such negligence not only against Ahnlikohn, but the entire region of Thekohn. It is times like now in which I am left wondering if you have some sort of ulterior motive in mind.”

“I don’t understand why you would believe that,” Rain said. “Through the process, you and I have been complementary towards one another and I’ve even offered to help you restore trust with the people of this country. Why now, in a time of need, do you decide to reject that offer?”

“I’ve already told you,” Amelia replied. “Bringing forth so many people here to this city invited trouble, yet you had tricked me into believing that it would all be okay.”

“It was a great misstep on all our parts,” Fercewend said. “Though even if it was disastrous, the Ameci government and I are willing to work with you to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

“You are treading on the thinnest of ice here, general,” Amelia said. “It was an Ameci that assassinated the chancellor, so indeed it was a great misstep by you in letting him run wild.”

“Believe me, I had trouble believing it at first,” Fercewend said, “But after sleeping it over, I am certain that without a doubt that that man was the one who put an end to Gerhardt Harring’s life.”

“Are you certain, General Fercewend?” Rain asked. “Are you able to make that claim with no doubts in your mind?”

“With all that’s been provided to me, I have no doubts,” Fercewend replied. “That’s why I find it important to work with Queen Amelia here and capture this man before he has a chance to strike again.”

“If you are certain, then let us see the evidence,” Rain said. “There may be a possibility that this assassination was all set up.”

“I don’t think so,” Fercewend said.

“Why not?” Mina asked. “She’s offering to help you guys out!”

Fercewend looked at Amelia. “This is starting to become a rather difficult situation,” he said. “If you are willing to later, then I can talk with you further about everything, even Mr. Wilk’s organization.”

“I’ll give you ten minutes at maximum,” Amelia replied.

“Then let us go up to your office,” Fercewend said.

Neither Fercewend nor Amelia said goodbye to Rain or the others as they made their way upstairs. Other groups arrived, but they ignored Rain and headed for their meeting rooms. She turned to Mina and sighed.

“I suppose it was too early,” Rain said. “Maybe I was impulsive in trying to speak with her so soon.”

“No, Rain, you’re not the one who’s impulsive,” Mina replied. “It’s Amelia! Why did she change so suddenly? I thought she wanted your help!”

“I’ve got no idea,” Rain said.

“Aha, too bad, ‘Your Majesty,’ but it looks like Queen Amelia sees through your pathetic ruse!”

Rain turned around and saw Isaac. He glared right at her with an ecstatic smile as he began to walk towards her. Mina clenched her fists, though Rain put a hand on her shoulder. Dustin and Gamal walked forward to Rain’s side.

“I don’t think Her Majesty asked for your input,” Gamal said. “You would do best to turn around and walk the other way.”

“You’re Gamil’s son, aren’t you?” Isaac asked. “A former baseball player, am I correct?”

“That has nothing to do with what I said,” Gamal replied. “If you are here just to gloat, then you should turn the other way and walk.”

“Listen to me when I’m talking,” Isaac said. “You’re nothing more than a mere minor leaguer in my eyes, as is that woman there. It is only a matter of time until others begin to see how incompetently dangerous you truly are, Rain Zano Thedam, so I would suggest you that you learn your place.”

“Who has asked you?” Rain asked. “I think if anyone is dangerous, then you should look at your reflection.”

Isaac laughed and looked away. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said. “Was it I who decided to hold a summit in a place already reeling from tragedy and was at its tipping point? Was it I who worked alongside one of the sympathizers of Ameci’s most dangerous traitor? Or was it I that knowingly did so regardless? You are but a foolish person to think that I could ever be caught doing anything like that.”

“You must not have listened, then,” Rain said. “Because I heard everything from the leader of the Neu Thekohnian Order herself. You may act as if you have nothing to lose, but deep down, I can tell that you are scared.”

“Don’t even bother, Your Majesty,” Dustin said. “I know a guy like him isn’t going to care. Even if he is scared, he’s not about to show it to us.”

“Yeah, he’s just a coward, that’s all,” Mina said.

“I guess we’ll have to see for ourselves, won’t we?” Isaac asked. “I will tell you this, though: all that you hold dear… well, I would suggest that you value their importance greatly.”

“You can’t threaten Her Majesty,” Gamal said. “I would sooner have you on the ground before you even try anything.”

Isaac smirked. “I dare you to try, Mr. Gomel,” he said. “Or do you not value Her Majesty’s sister? I hear she misses her brother greatly… Perhaps a reunion is in order for her?”

“That’s enough,” Rain said. “You’ve already done enough to bring harm to everyone and I will not allow you to bring forth any more.”

“Looks as if I’ve hit that nerve of yours,” Isaac replied. “But I am just a nice fellow that only wants what’s best for Ameci and the Thekohnian Region.”

“Go away,” Rain said.

“Well, it seems to me that I know when I’m not wanted,” Isaac said. “I can only hope you know when you’re not wanted, because it certainly does seem that Queen Amelia doesn’t want you here.”

Rain watched as Isaac turned around and left down the stairs to the first floor. She had remained calm all throughout her conversation with him, but after what had happened, she did not want anything more to do with him. Isaac only served to bring displeasure to her and her friends, and it was only amplified by the fact that he was the one behind all of the madness that had plagued the Thekohnian Region for the past few months.

“That villain!” Mina exclaimed. “I really wish I’d punched him! That way, he’d know what true justice looked like!”

“True, Isaac’s displayed a complete lack of remorse regarding the attack,” Gamal said. “If he’s trying to look innocent, then he’s not doing a very good job of showing it.”

“It’s because he wants to see me break,” Rain said. “All throughout our talk, Isaac sought to antagonize us by using death threats and cheap slights whenever he feels like it. I do have to admit that he got to me, if only for a moment, with what he said regarding Storm.”

Dustin stretched his arms upward. “Pardon my Theias, Your Majesty, but I must say that Isaac Kunigunde is a goddamned prick,” he said. “I swear to you I’ll help you and your pal Sorin find a way to take down this asshole, even if I have to do it alone.”

“You can’t be serious, Dustin,” Gamal said. “There’s too much risk if you go it alone! Where would you even start?”

“Besides, it’s not like we’ll get to see the top floor where the assassination took place,” Rain said. “Considering how Amelia feels about me, it may take some time before we begin to see some progress.”

“Then what about Sorin?” Mina asked. “We all know he didn’t assassinate the chancellor and we know it had to be Isaac somehow! There’s no way I’ll ever be content with letting a villain like him walk away like this!”

“We’ll just have to report back to him when we get the chance,” Rain said. “As for Sorin, he should be on the way to the kingdom as we speak.”

“So what’s next, Your Majesty?” Gamal asked. “I know you wanted to speak with Queen Amelia, but as you said, that doesn’t seem like a possibility now.”

“There is one other person I want to talk to,” Rain replied. “If I recall, he should be at the hotel.”

And so, Rain left downstairs with Mina and her advisors. With how hectic everything had become, Rain did have one person that she could confide in. She just needed to get there before Karim Khadir left.

 

To be continued…

 

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