[30th of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Inside Thedam Castle Library]
Sorin turned away from the fireplace. All his hope meant nothing now that the news was confirmed: his father was found dead at the bottom of the cliffs of Ahnle Peak. There was nothing that Sorin could do about it as he tried his best to keep himself focused. Henry had been the one to deliver the awful news one day after the group made it back to the kingdom. Since then, the group remained at the castle as Rain tried to deal with the Ahnle family with little to no result for her troubles. Sorin recalled what Henry said to him after delivering the news of his father’s demise, as he noticed the obvious attempts by Henry to hold back his sadness over the loss.
“I’m so sorry,” Henry said. “I don’t think that you will want to hear about the condition we found him in, but I’ll say this: there was nothing the doctors could do to save him, even with their best efforts.”
Sorin could not find it in himself to say much except for one thing. “Thank you, Henry,” he said. “Really, thank you.”
“All that can be done now is to hold a funeral for him and hope for him to find his peace,” Henry said. “Though it’ll be tough, Kirk deserves that much from all of us here. I just wish that there was more I could have done to help him… Damn it all, if only I didn’t hold back and went with him to Glora, then none of this would have happened!”
“There’s a lot I wish I could’ve done, too,” Sorin replied. “But I’m not sure that any of us would’ve stood a chance against Harold that night. Even Rysol was left severely injured after his encounter…”
Henry sighed. “Perhaps you’re right,” he said. “I’m just trying to handle this as best I can. Kirk’s my friend, which is why I’ll never forgive Harold for what he did to him, nor will I ever forgive Isaac.”
The two men responsible for Kirk’s death continued to hold their presence over the entire Thekohnian Region, the royal kingdom still the main focus in all of the conflict. As long as Isaac remained involved with Ameci’s policies, Sorin knew that there was no way to avoid the oncoming battles ahead. He had to wonder if this was the only way, but given what took place a few nights prior, the Ameci military would continue to be an opponent. Sorin could tell as much when he asked Henry about it, which was enough to tell him that negotiations would be difficult to pull off.
“You’re still in here?” Gavin asked.
Sorin looked to the library entrance. Gavin entered the room alone and approached Sorin. They did not share too much with each other since the escape from the Lead Campground, but Sorin was glad to see Gavin regardless.
“I’m sorry,” Sorin said. “It’s been a rough couple of days.”
Gavin looked to the side as he pushed up his sunglasses. “I don’t fault you for continuing to mourn,” he said. “What happened was devastating and it’s easy to see how low morale has been since that day. Hell, it’s only going to get worse with Foundation preparing their next attack.”
“Yeah, they’re not going to give up,” Sorin replied. “I know we shouldn’t give up, either, but it’s… it’s really hard to keep going with a brave face when the losses are personal.”
“I would imagine that Rain thought the same thing,” Gavin said. “Quite a few of us have that in common. I suppose in a way, our losses are what brings us all together around here. That’s why you can’t run away just yet.”
“Giving up is not an option for me, especially not now,” Sorin said. “I can’t afford to lose now, which is why I’ll keep fighting.”
“I never expected you to give up,” Gavin replied. “I know that you’ll keep going no matter what. Who I’m really concerned about, though, is Eva.”
“Have you seen her today?” Sorin asked.
“That’s what I wanted to know,” Gavin said. He sighed and shook his head. “She’s not unfamiliar with loss, but ever since we got back to the castle that night, Eva has become much more distant.”
Sorin could understand why. His father was important to Eva, which only made her more distant ever since finding out the news for herself. Sorin wanted to help, but found it difficult to process as well. He was not sure what he could even say to Eva, considering she was the one who had done so much for him in the first place. What Sorin was sure of, however, was that he knew Eva had to be dealing with an unrelenting pain that did not go away easily.
“I noticed,” Sorin replied.
“Lawrence can read people better than I can, but even I can see the kind of agony that’s wrapped around Eva,” Gavin said. “You should seek her out and just talk to her, I guess.”
“I’ll try to do that,” Sorin said.
“We wouldn’t be so worried if it weren’t for that piece of shit,” Gavin said. “I’ll let you know this one, Sorin: we’re going to look deeper into Harold Mars and figure out how we can put that info to good use.”
“How are you going to do that?” Sorin asked. “It’s not like we can gain any of those records easily, especially considering the fact that we don’t know much about him.”
“Don’t worry about that one,” Gavin replied. “Henry and I are going to take care of gathering information; if we’re persistent enough, then we will be able to find a definitive connection between Harold and Isaac. Something that will surely take them both down.”
“Let’s hope so,” Sorin said. “I guess I should just go now…”
“Kirk didn’t give up,” Gavin said. “Even down to his final breath, that man kept fighting for a better world. The injuries say as much: your father did not go until his body could give no more.”
“I know you understand,” Gavin said. “But sometimes even I doubt our chances of winning… That’s why it’s important to say this so we don’t give in to apathy and despair.”
“And we can still win,” Sorin said. “I know if my father were here, there’d be no way he’d ever allow us to give in after our encounter with Harold.”
“Then you should know what to do,” Gavin said.
“Thank you,” Sorin said.
Sorin could not deny that truth as he left the library. He knew that he had to keep on no matter what stood in the way. However, Sorin also knew that it was necessary to keep everyone on the same path to victory and had to do his part in order to keep everyone’s spirits up, even after a devastating loss. Even with the pain still strong, Sorin had to keep pursuing peace. But first he had to find Eva and speak with her.
[30th of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Rio Grove]
Mina crossed her arms as she tried to stay warm. She had to do more, Mina thought to herself. It had been too long for her since she had gotten involved and far too long since she exhibited what a hero was. And in this time of need, Mina had to help more than ever. To do that, she had to get out there and contribute once more in order to protect not just the people of the Thekohnian Region, but the people of the Ameci Region as well. Training would be different in the cold and snow, but Mina had to press on if she had to live up to the title she had set for herself long ago. But even so, Mina could not forget the one person that had been with her most of her life.
“I wonder how my uncle is doing in all of this,” she said. “I wish I could see him and my mother, too, but I don’t know if that’s possible right now…”
It was all the more reason for Mina to get back into the fight and help her friends. Everyone important to her was not only counting on her, she thought, but they were also doing their part to protect the Thekohnian Region. Mina knew that she had a goal in mind and she would do whatever she could to make sure that goal became a reality. As she trained, however, Mina noticed Eva walking off in the distance. She stopped what she was doing and hurried over as fast as she could to Eva and greeted her.
“Hi Eva,” Mina said. “How are you?”
Eva paused for a moment before turning away. “Good,” she replied. “I just wanted to take a walk…”
“Do you want me to go with you?” Mina asked. “It’s pretty cold even with a coat on.”
“No, it’s fine,” Eva said. “Just keep focusing on your training… Please don’t worry about me.”
Mina tilted her head a bit to the left. “Where are you going?”
“It’s none of your concern,” Eva said.
She started to walk away as Mina followed her. However, Eva spun around and put out her hand palm first. Mina stopped as Eva looked away.
“Don’t follow me,” Eva said.
“But why?” Mina asked.
“I already told you,” Eva replied. “It’s none of your concern. Please leave me alone, Mina. I mean it.”
“I just want to help,” Mina said. “I can’t even begin to imagine how much pain you’re in, but I want to do everything I can to help! To ignore that cry for help is something that I just can’t do, Eva!”
Eva said nothing and instead chose to turn back around and continue on with her walk. It was a conflicting feeling in Mina’s heart as she wondered to herself whether or not to keep following after Eva. The sorrow was obvious and Mina only wanted to help Eva during the down time. Mina was fortunate enough to not have to deal with losing someone close to her, and that was something she hoped she would never have to experience, but she knew all too well her friends losing those closest to them. It was not too long that Rain had lost her younger brother and Mina was there to help console her lover through the grieving. But now, with everything moving onward, Mina felt like she needed to be there again for yet another friend in pain.
“What can I do now?” Mina asked. “I can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t want to leave Eva alone, but it doesn’t seem like she wants my help…”
“There you are,” Ayanna said.
Mina looked behind her and saw Ayanna and Law. In almost any other circumstances, Mina would be delighted to see the two. This time, however, was much different.
“Oh, hi guys,” Mina said.
“So we didn’t miss anything, did we?” Law asked. “Because it looks like you were talking pretty deeply with Eva just a minute ago.”
“You saw that?” Mina asked. “I guess you guys heard me talking out loud again…”
“She’s still grieving,” Ayanna said. “There’s no doubt that out of all of us here, Eva is the one person who would be shaken up the most right now by the news of Kirk’s death.”
“Well, her and Sorin,” Law said, “Though he seems much more determined to fight on than ever before.”
“I just wish I could do something about it,” Mina said, “But no matter what I do, Eva just keeps pushing me away.”
Ayanna sighed. “Yes, she’s been more distant than ever,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve even seen her around the castle since that night, so I’m a little surprised to see her walking by herself.”
“Well, I know she had been in one of the guest rooms,” Mina said. “I usually went to the door to see if she wanted to eat, but she didn’t answer me.”
“So Eva hasn’t left that guest room, hasn’t eaten, and now just went off on her own and told you not to follow after her,” Law said to Mina. “I’ll go and see if I can catch up to her while you go and check out her room.”
“Are you going with him, Ayanna?” Mina asked.
“I think in this situation, Law should go by himself,” Ayanna replied. “It’d probably not be a good idea for us both to find Eva while she’s in this state. I’ll go and focus on talking to Rain instead.”
Mina nodded. “Okay!”
The three went on as Mina could not shake the thoughts from her mind. All she could do now was do what Law suggested. Mina was not sure what she was supposed to do once she got to Eva’s room, but Mina knew that Law had some sort of idea regarding Eva. All Mina needed to do was find out whatever that was and figure it out from there.
The calm weather outside did nothing to take Rain’s mind off of what had happened. Though she had little connection with Kirk, Rain could not help but feel sorrow even as she kept up a brave face for everyone. She knew that she could not give up on her goals, but Rain felt it hard to continue as she knew that her friends were dealing with the loss in their own ways. There was little for Rain to do but to look down at the map laid out on the table as Ayanna and Reiss walked in.
“Has there been any progress?” Ayanna asked.
“Unfortunately, we’re back to where we started,” Rain said. “The best that I could do was come into contact with the prince, but even his people are distant. So far, that’s the best I can do right now.”
“You’re clearly stressed,” Ayanna said. “As your friend, I advise you to take some rest for a bit and then come back.”
“It’s hard not to feel this way,” Rain replied. “After what happened, what we learned has only served to increase the urgency of accomplishing our goals. To sit back and do nothing, even for a moment, would do me no good as a leader.”
“I understand how you feel, but I did not say to forget about pursuing the meeting,” Ayanna said. “Our allies are growing by the day with the news about Foundation coming to light.”
“The only thing standing in our way is Foundation itself,” Reiss said. “But we’ve got Maeitakohn on our side as well as the president of Thekohn.”
“That is true,” Rain said. “I just wish we weren’t fighting so much. To think that these people would actively work against the best wishes of those who have gone through hell is disheartening. But I know that I can’t give up.”
“We’re not alone, not at all,” Ayanna said. “We’re all working towards the same goal, regardless of how we got here or where we’re from. As you wish for a region of peace, I wish for a day where I will never have to see a family broken by the tragedies of war because there will be no need to fight ever again. Perhaps it’s a high goal, but it is one that I wish to see in my lifetime.”
“Well, I’ve got a couple years left,” Reiss said. “Let’s work on kicking these Foundation hooligans in their arses and we’ll be another step closer to that goal of yours, Ansa.”
Just then, Sorin rushed into the room. Rain watched as Sorin looked around the office from right to left, his hands placed on either side of the doorframe. The sudden entrance by Sorin could only mean one thing, Rain thought, as she walked towards him.
“You guys haven’t seen her, have you?” Sorin asked.
“I haven’t seen her,” Rain said. “Eva hasn’t been in this office at all today, to be honest.”
“Well, that was something I was going to tell you,” Ayanna said. “Mina did happen to see her just before I got here.”
“She did?” Rain asked.
Ayanna told Rain all about what she had seen and heard from Mina, which also caught Sorin’s attention. Rain knew that Eva had been going through a rough spot in recent days and the news about Kirk only helped damage that morale for Eva. All Rain could really do was offer her support as Eva had continued to lock herself up in the guest room without leaving. The account from Mina meant just a few possibilities, some of which Rain hoped were not the case.
“So Law is already out there looking for her,” Rain said. “I know why she doesn’t want us to pry too deeply, but I wish that I could’ve done a lot more for her this time.”
“We’ll have plenty of time after we find her,” Ayanna said. “It would be for the best if we don’t bring any of this up to her once she’s back.”
“I agree,” Rain replied.
“That is a good idea,” Reiss said.
“Does that help answer any questions you might have?” Rain asked Sorin. “I am again sorry for what happened to your father.”
“It’s fine,” Sorin said. “I just want to make sure that Eva is okay.”
He stepped into the office and left the door behind him. Mina ran into the room a few seconds after Sorin entered. Rain saw a folded sheet of paper sitting in Mina’s right hand, a piece of paper that looked familiar to Rain.
“Guys! Thank god you’re here!” Mina exclaimed. “I’m so glad I found you all before it gets too late!”
“Mina, you don’t need to be so loud,” Rain said. “Just tell us about what you found, okay? I’m sure you have a lot to say about what’s written on that paper, as it looks like it came from my desk.”
“But it’s important,” Mina said. “I can’t just stay calm! Eva might be… She might be in trouble!”
“I know,” Rain replied. “That’s why Law is out there looking for her. All of us just want to see our friends safe; that includes Eva.”
“But Law just said he couldn’t find her!” Mina said. “He just came back and he said he lost sight of her!”
“He said that?” Rain asked.
That was all Rain could say. Mina had no reason to lie and neither did Law. Rain knew Mina had an honest heart and Law was a trusted friend, so their two accounts were trustworthy. However, that did mean that Eva was still out in the city on her own with no one searching for her. Law came in, shaking his head as he placed his hands in his pockets.
“I could’ve kept following her, but I think we need a few more feet on the ground if we’re gonna find her,” Law said. “I know shouldn’t have come back here until I found her, but I looked around in the immediate area as well as I could. I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to apologize,” Ayanna said. “You did what you could. We should get to looking, shouldn’t we?”
Rain thought for a moment and then looked to Ayanna. “Yes, we should,” she said. “Sorin… I’m sorry about this.”
“Mina, do you mind if I see that paper?” Sorin asked.
“I… I don’t mind,” Mina said.
She handed the paper over to Sorin, who then unfolded it and began to read what was written on it. His eyes lit up as he folded the paper back up and shoved it into his pants pocket.
“Excuse me,” Sorin said to Law.
He made his way past Law and out the doorway. Rain tried to stop him, but it was already too late as Sorin left. Whatever was written on that paper had an effect on Sorin, that much Rain was certain of as she looked over to Ayanna and Reiss. There was one more call that she had to make.
To be continued…
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