Sundown – Chapter 46 (Part 1)

[23rd of September, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Flumen Field]

 

Though the sun was beginning to shine, it did not compare to the amazing, lightning-like entrance of Korbin Mars, who kept his pistol trained on Johan. At first, Sorin looked down to Johan and kept his distance away from Korbin. Soon, however, the turn of events was too much for Sorin to take as he set his sights on Korbin and drew his sword. Sorin stepped in front of Johan as Rysol and Jelka hurried over.

“The fuck are you doing?” Korbin asked. “I gotta make sure that he’s dead! Get the hell out of my way, Sorin Wilk!”

“You bastard!” Sorin exclaimed. “What gives you the right?”

“It’s my job,” Korbin said, “I’m good at it. The fact that this helps Bradley out is just the cherry on top!”

“Bradley?” Rysol asked. “What… What does he want?”

Korbin grinned. “He’s a good man, I’ll say,” he said. “He and my dad go back, that’s for sure, so it only makes sense to do him this favor and extinguish this flame going on.”

“I know what’s on, then,” Rysol replied. “You… You intend on supporting Foundation… That’s what this is, isn’t it?”

“You’re asking me?” Korbin wondered.

Rysol drew his blade. “I’m not going to let that happen!”

With a scream, Rysol charged at Korbin with his blade pointed forward. Korbin moved out of the way as he put away his pistol and took out his sword instead. Rysol spun around and swung at Korbin, but he defended himself with his blade. For Sorin, he saw the rare opening that he needed to use and began to rush right at Korbin’s back.

“Don’t think that this is like the last time, damn it,” Korbin said. “You can’t fool me twice, Sorin Wilk!”

Korbin then backed off of Rysol and moved once again to the side. Rysol could see Sorin coming at him with only one way to defend himself. Sorin, though, came to a stop a foot away from Rysol and turned to Korbin. All Korbin could do was laugh as Sorin began to realize what just happened.

“You really did make it easy for me,” Korbin said, sheathing his sword and taking out his gun again. “Go ahead and try to stop me, because it’s fucking over for him!”

Jelka was the only one standing between Korbin and Johan. She was not about to move out of the way, however, as she took out her gun and aimed at Korbin.

“You wouldn’t dare,” Jelka said. “Unless you want me to decorate your skull with lead, you’ll put down your weapon at once!”

Korbin laughed again. “I’d like to see you try it,” he said. “Or do you not care about what happens to Johan over there?”

“Don’t even think of mocking me,” Jelka replied. “You have no chance of escape, no matter how hard you try and squirm your way out!”

“You think I’m going to escape?” Korbin asked. “You dumbass, I’m Korbin Fucking Mars! I’m not someone who’s going to fall back because it looks like I’m at a disadvantage! You… Hahaha… You really chose the wrong man to fuck with, Jelka Arne, because I will destroy you!”

Korbin took his gun and aimed at Jelka. He fired twice without any hint of hesitation. Jelka tried to aim, but was stopped. Not by getting shot, but rather, because she was shoved to the side. Sorin watched in disbelief as he and Rysol had no words. Johan stood there wounded once more in his stomach, as well as his shoulder, as Jelka sat up.

“No, why would you do this?” Jelka asked. “Johan, answer me!”

Johan coughed. “I’m sorry, Jelka…”

He collapsed to the ground and did not move. Korbin moved closer with his gun still trained on Johan.

“You move one step further and I will kill you,” Jelka said. “And if I can’t do it, they will.”

Sorin and Rysol readied themselves. All Sorin wanted to do now was make sure Johan got treated, but that would be impossible as long as Korbin was still around. He was not sure how, but Sorin wanted to deal with Korbin before anybody else arrived.

“Like I said,” Korbin replied. “Any of you move and I’ll fire again. Johan Kuu is already breathing his last breaths, anyway…”

“You believe… that?” Johan asked. “Sorin, we can’t… let him win…”

Johan tried to stand up, but when he placed his hands on the ground and pushed himself up, he collapsed again. With his face down, Johan could not move a single inch as Korbin aimed again. Sorin was at a loss at what to do, and he was certain that both Rysol and Jelka felt the same.

“I know it’s such a struggle for you to move,” Korbin said to Johan. “Hell, you may even be dead right now! But I’m not going to let a job go unfinished just because you don’t have the strength to fight back!”

No distraction could stop Korbin now, Sorin thought. At least, he thought so, but in that moment, Rysol begged to differ. Korbin could not even get a shot off as Rysol struck from behind and swung his sword. It looked to be a shock to Korbin as his right arm fell to the ground. Rysol had cut Korbin’s arm off, the gun in his hand dropping to the ground as well. Jelka dashed at Korbin and thrusted the barrel of her gun into the bottom of his chin. Sorin remained at the back and made sure that Korbin could not possibly pull off an escape.

“Finally got you now,” Jelka said.

Korbin’s breathing increased, his desire to scream growing. “You! You, you, you, you, you, you, you, you… son of a bitch, Rysol Wilk!”

“Better pray now,” Rysol said. “If you want any sort of mercy, it’ll have to be in death!”

“It’s over, Korbin,” Sorin said. “Surrendering won’t do you good now, nor will cowering for your life.”

“You… you would do this, wouldn’t you?” Korbin asked. “You’d kill me now after all that’s said and done?”

Sorin shook his head. “I’m not going to kill you,” he replied. “I can’t say the same for these two, though.”

“That’s it, huh?” Korbin asked.

“You’ve got only seconds to live,” Jelka said. “Not another word, you coward!”

Korbin smirked. “You think I’m a coward?”

“Asshole!” Rysol exclaimed. “With your life forfeit, you choose to mock us both?”

“I’m only getting started!” Korbin exclaimed.

He bursted into laughter as he used his remaining hand and grabbed Jelka’s wrist. Korbin turned the gun away from him as he headbutted her in the face. Jelka turned away and covered her face as Rysol attacked next, but Korbin quickly drew his sword and faced Rysol. Rysol attempted to attack, but Korbin defended himself from each blow. Sorin hurried over to help Rysol, but found himself unable to hit Korbin. No matter what he could do, Sorin could not land a single strike.

“Did he just get stronger?” Sorin asked.

“Impossible,” Rysol replied. “There’s no way he should be able to keep fighting!”

“You underestimated what a man like me is willing to do,” Korbin said. “It looks like I’m not going to see to Johan’s death, but it’s not like you fuckers can do anything about it, anyway! Farewell!”

Korbin swung as hard as he could, jarring both Sorin and Rysol. They were caught off guard by the instantaneous attack. Before Sorin defended himself, though, Korbin instead opted to run away. He ran as far as he could until he reached the hill and decided to roll down it. Rysol attempted to chase him, but was stopped by Sorin.

“He’s not going to get far, brother,” Sorin said. “Right now, we need to see if Johan is okay.”

“You’re right,” Rysol said. “As much as that man… As much as he infuriates me, we have more important things to attend to…”

They hurried over to Jelka, who was already at Johan’s side. Sorin wanted to believe that Johan would survive. He did. When he looked at Johan sprawled out on the ground, however, Sorin knew. He knew that the damage had already been done and that all he could do now was take the next step.

 

*****

 

[23rd of September, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Outside Thedam Castle]

 

Walking back to Thedam Castle did not take too long for Sorin, yet all he could think about was Johan and his dream. There was no other choice in Sorin’s mind: he had to carry on Johan’s dream. He had to do it, somehow, but at least in his case, Sorin knew that he was not alone. That proved to be true once he made it back to the castle, where everyone, save for Gavin and Law, waited outside for him. Kirk was the first to greet Sorin, patting him on the back while the others ran up to him.

“Are you okay, Sorin?” Kirk asked.

“I’m okay,” Sorin replied.

“If that’s the case, then what the hell was up with those gunshots?” Lowell asked. “I was under the impression that all those Neu Thekohnian Order people were taken care of.”

“It’s already been taken care of,” Sorin said.

“Taken care of?” Eva asked. “Did something happen?”

Kirk looked around. “Rysol… Don’t tell me it involved him…”

“He’s fine,” Sorin replied. “Rysol just has some unfinished business that he needs to deal with, that’s all.”

“That man can’t really go back to Ameci,” Pekka said. “That’s what you believe, isn’t it? Well, whatever it is he has to do, you seem to be comfortable with the answer.”

“What about Jelka and Johan?” Rain asked. “If not for their help, who knows what would have happened with my mother…”

“Jelka’s with Rysol,” Sorin replied. “There’s a lot that they need to do right now and they’re not going to stop until they’re done.”

“You kind of already mentioned that,” Noa said.

“Did I?” Sorin asked.

“That doesn’t matter, honestly,” Rain said. “I’m just glad they’ll be okay after all this.”

“But Sorin, you haven’t said anything about Johan,” Luna said. “Is he with them, too?”

“Yeah, it’s weird you didn’t mention him,” Mina said. “Usually, Johan would be the first person you’d mention in this sort of situation!”

“Is it really that odd, though?” Pekka asked. “I suppose I do want to know what Johan’s going to do now that the Neu Thekohnian Order is no more. What about him, Sorin?”

Sorin turned away. “Johan… He’s gone now…”

“What? No, you’re kidding, aren’t you?” Luna asked. “Sorin, don’t leave me hanging like this! What do you mean when you say Johan’s gone?”

“That’s what I said,” Sorin replied.

He explained everything the group needed to know about the encounter between Johan and Korbin at Flumen Field. Luna was the first to react as she covered her mouth and muttered to herself, while Pekka just clenched his fist. Noa had nothing to say, but it was clear in his eyes that the news affected him, too. Rain felt the need to look off into the distance while Mina continued to listen to what Sorin had to say.

“I can’t believe it,” Mina said. “Korbin knows no end to his countless crimes at all!”

“We can get angry and sad all we want,” Eva said. “It’s only natural to feel that way, especially when it involves someone you know well.”

“But Korbin’s been severely incapacitated,” Sorin replied. “I doubt he’d be able to do much now in his current condition.”

“It still hurts, doesn’t it?” Luna asked. “Johan was your friend, wasn’t he? There’s nothing that any of us do now to bring him back!”

“There’s plenty of time to mourn his loss,” Eva said. “Right now, we still have to make sure everything is okay around here. Your Highness… er, I mean, Rain… it’s clear that you will need support.”

“Which is why we’d be happy to help you out,” Kirk said. “As a member of the Swords of Eight, we will be there every step of the way until you become the Queen of Thekohn.”

“And I’ll be there to help, too,” Mina said. “That is, if you want me to…”

“Thanks, everybody,” Rain replied.

“So have you heard from either Gavin or Law yet?” Sorin asked. “I’m not sure where they’re going to take Isla, to be honest.”

“Oh, about that,” Mina said, “Gavin said that he’d call us once he and Law made it to Maeitakohn.”

Rain explained that General Khadir had already been informed of the decision to exile Isla prior to the morning. That was when he offered to complete the process himself.

“We can trust Karim to handle this,” Kirk said. “If only I could say the same about Rodik Mahrk.”

“He’s sure to play by the rules for now,” Tre said. “The man’s trying his best not to rock the boat too hard down there, lest he ends up meeting the same fate as his predecessor.”

“True,” Lowell replied.

“But that’s not for us to worry about,” Rain said. “Come now, let’s gather inside. I’m sure that the royal guard has already cleaned it up by now.”

Everyone agreed and headed back inside. Sorin was the last to enter, though, as he looked back to the sky. The clouds were almost gone now and the sun was shining bright. He had no idea what was in store for him in the future, but as long as he remained dedicated, he would make Johan’s dream possible. That much Sorin could promise to his friend.

“See you… Johan…”

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Part

Sundown – Chapter 45 (Part 2)

[23rd of September, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Rio Grove]

 

“Isla Zano Thedam is dead?” Henry asked.

“That’s the truth of it,” Eva replied.

Eva was the first to speak as she, Kirk, Lowell, and Tre met with Henry’s troop in the Rio Grove. Overnight, Rain confided to her what she planned to do, which was to fake Isla’s death so that she could be exiled without problem. Eva, though reluctant at first, saw to it to make sure that Rain’s plan would succeed. She told Kirk, Lowell, and Tre about it on the way to the grove, to which they all agreed with the decision. Henry looked to the rest of his troop as Aron began to speak up.

“Well, that’s good, right?” Aron asked. “We were told that we were to help Her Highness Rain Zano Thedam in succeeding to the throne, so all of this is good news!”

“I do have one question, though,” Henry asked, “Where is it? Isla’s corpse, I mean.”

Tre grinned and shook his head. “Well, you really missed it,” he replied. “Those guys in the Maeitakohnian military… boy have they gotten a lot better since the last time! You wouldn’t believe that guy with the sniper rifle, what was his name, Noah Zaydee-something? Well, his name ain’t important, but his shot sure was!”

“So she was shot, then,” Henry said.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t locate her body,” Eva said. “I’m sorry.”

“What do you mean you couldn’t locate it?” Henry asked. “I’m starting to get a little concerned about what’s going on here…”

“It means that her body just fell into a river and was swept away,” Lowell replied. “If that answer doesn’t satisfy you, Henry, then you can go and cram it up your ass!”

Everybody reacted with a stunned silence.

“I’m sorry, Henry,” Lowell said. “Just got carried away there. I don’t mean any ill will towards you.”

“No, it’s fine,” Henry said. “I guess there’s not much I can do but accept that answer. What about the princess? Where is she?”

“She’s at the castle right now,” Eva said. “She only just found out about what happened.”

“I see,” Henry replied. “Can’t really begin to think how much this has all been for her, to be honest.”

“Her Highness is a much stronger person than you think, Henry,” Kirk said. “Besides, isn’t there a more pressing urge that you and the rest of the Ameci military need to worry about?”

Henry raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“Well, since the Neu Thekohnian Order is without its first and second in command, they’re bound to dissolve rather quickly,” Kirk replied. “I figure that you would take the time rounding up all the members you can find.”

“Yeah, and we may even learn something new from them,” Aron said.

“That’s true,” Henry said. “I guess there’s not much else we can really do, is there?”

“Well, you can inform the Iiayi military,” Eva said.

“Sounds like a good idea to me,” Henry said. “Aron, let’s go and get to the communicator. Also, let’s let the other troops know about this development.”

“Right, Henry,” Aron said. “You see, I am getting used to calling you by your full name!”

Henry smiled. “I told you it was fine,” he said. “Hopefully, I will see the rest of you later!”

Once Henry exited with Aron and the rest of his troop, Eva looked over to Kirk. She knew that there was a lot that needed to be done afterward, but she also knew that there needed to be a resolution.

“Our job isn’t done yet,” Eva said.

“That’s for damn sure,” Lowell replied. “All I know is that we just can’t sit on our asses anymore and pretend that everything around us all happiness and sunshine, you know.”

“Well, it starts with a clean slate,” Kirk said. “I have faith that Rain will lead this kingdom back on the right path.”

“Aren’t you ever so hopeful?” Tre asked. “But I do agree with you so long as she has the right people around her.”

“Let’s go back, then,” Kirk replied. “We’ve already dealt with Henry, so we need to assess the situation back in the castle.”

“Sounds good to me,” Eva said. “At least we can agree there.”

Eva hurried with the other three back to the castle. There was nothing else that they needed to do outside, so they went back. Either way, Eva knew that she had to check in and see how Rain was doing.

 

*****

 

[23rd of September, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Flumen Field]

 

Sorin joined alongside Rysol and Jelka in the field a few blocks away from Thedam Castle. Johan awaited their arrival as he leaned up against a large tree. Right now, Sorin wanted to know what Johan had planned next now that it was certain that the Neu Thekohnian Order and its leader were dealt with, but there was also a concern in Sorin’s mind that something was amiss. Given all that had happened, Sorin wondered about Foundation and what their next move was going to be in the future.

“I guess keeping you in the dark wouldn’t be fair, now would it?” Johan said as he got up off of the tree.

“To be fair, you’ve been keeping a lot of secrets from almost everyone I know,” Sorin replied. “And it may end up costing you if you’re not careful…”

“Buddy, I don’t think that you should be worried about me,” Johan said. “Now, what you should be worried about is what’s going on with Ameci. Namely, the man that’s behind all of this.”

Sorin knew. “How do you plan on stopping Isaac Kunigunde?”

“Unfortunately, it’s far too late to reverse the damage that he has done,” Johan said. “Currently, Ameci is going to hear the news of Isla’s demise and they are going to celebrate, but not before Isaac ties up a few of the loose ends left hanging. He’s a meticulous person, for sure, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we hear some ‘shocking’ news out of Ameci.”

“He doesn’t trust anyone but himself, does he?” Jelka asked.

“You’re concerned because you feel like you might understand him,” Johan said. “I get what you’re probably thinking, yet I would advise you against treating Isaac lightly.”

“Isaac and Dezine… they’re no different from Harring,” Jelka said. “How do so many of these men walk away from the mess they created without a single repercussion?”

“Asking that question isn’t going to change anything,” Johan replied. “The only way that we can fix this is if we step up and deal with these guys ourselves. You agree, don’t you, Sorin?”

“You certainly are dedicated,” Sorin said.

“Anything to make this dream of mine possible,” Johan said. “Isaac is but one direct threat to my dream, if not the biggest. He’s a man who cares about money and money only, and what better way to fill your pockets with cash than to play as many sides as possible and get the entirty of the Thekohnian Region to wage war against each other?”

“He’s the one… He’s the one who keeps making us fight,” Rysol said. “Even back then, before I got this arm, I was forced to fight for Foundation’s sake. I was a fool for not realizing it sooner…”

“Speaking of which, how did you get a new arm?” Sorin asked. “I still have the one from before, so what happened?”

Rysol turned away as he gazed at his metallic arm. “It is a complicated matter,” he replied, “But still… still I can’t go back to my home, no matter how much I desire a normal life.”

“Believe me, Rysol, when I say that all of us just want to live normal lives without worry,” Johan said. “That is why I must continue to pursue this dream and make sure that Isaac Kunigunde and the rest of Foundation is taken down, and I can’t do it without the help of you and Jelka.”

“And the rest of those people that were with you are also part of this?” Sorin asked. “How were you able to convince my brother to work with you, anyway?”

“He told me… what needed to be done,” Rysol said. “After I killed Rhodes in Maeitakohn, I… I wanted to run away, even when you tried to save me… I chose death because I thought I had no more hope left…”

“But that wasn’t the end of the road for you,” Johan said. “There was a purpose for you, just like there was a purpose for Jelka.”

Rysol sighed. “I should be thankful that I hit the water,” he said. “It was only after coming to my senses… down in Jiaikohn… did I realize that I was not done fighting yet.”

“Rhodes was only the smallest of steps that needed to be taken,” Johan said. “Slowly, we’re climbing up this ladder until we can take out the one at the top of all this: the leader of Foundation.”

Isaac Kunigunde. That was the only thing repeating in Sorin’s mind. Isaac was the mastermind hiding behind both Rhodes and Isla, and in turn was the one supporting both the True Thekohnians and the Neu Thekohnian Order. Sorin wondered how Johan would even be able to take down someone like Isaac, but he had a feeling that if there was anyone who could bring to light Isaac’s collusion with both organizations, Sorin knew that Johan was just the kind of person to pull it all off.

“The funny thing is that Harring is not even a member of Foundation,” Jelka said. “Though I guess it makes sense considering Isaac and Dezine wanted to start a war with Ahnlikohn…”

“Don’t worry, Chancellor Harring’s time is running out,” Johan replied. “Queen Amelia will want to save face after what happened, so Harring will be the casualty.”

“And what of the crown prince?” Sorin asked. “Last I heard about him, he was spending time at the prison in Aesker.”

“He’s not going to see the light of day for a long time,” Johan said. “Whether you think that’s a good thing or not, what I do know is that Ahnlikohn will be going through rough times in coming months.”

“I guess so,” Sorin said.

“So since you’ve asked quite a bit, let me ask you something,” Johan said. “What is your plan now? You’ve already seen that your brother is doing well, so that much you don’t have to worry about.”

Sorin was not sure what he could do after this. Was there any way that he could convince Rysol to come home now? At this point, Sorin had to feel as if he had no way to convince him to stop, not now, anyway.

“I don’t know,” Sorin said. “I do want to keep helping Rain and if there’s anything my friends need me for, I’d be happy to help them out.”

“Well, Rain does need help in becoming the queen of this kingdom,” Johan replied. “It’s going to be her place to rule and she’s going to need all the help that she can possibly get. But I assume that she’ll find the right people.”

“I do wish her well,” Jelka said. “I wonder…”

“What is it?” Johan asked.

Jelka shook her head. “It’s nothing.”

“It’d do you well to share to me how you feel,” Johan said, “But I’m not going to pressure you about it if you don’t want to answer.”

Johan took a step ahead in the field. Sunlight came through the clouds as he took a deep breath. With a long sigh, Johan continued to walk forward towards the street.

“I’m just glad you’re able to realize your potential,” Johan said to Jelka. “No matter what happens, I want you to have a dream worth living for. I want you to make that dream a reality, no matter what it takes.”

“Thank you,” Jelka said.

Johan looked up to the sky. “I can see the sun coming out now,” he said. “You see it too, don’t you, Sorin?”

Sorin wanted to reply, but was interrupted by an abrupt gunshot. His eyes shot up as he begun to look around. Jelka and Rysol did the same as well as they all wondered where the came from. However, Sorin looked over to Johan and saw him kneeling on the ground. He hurried over to Johan’s side and he could not believe what he saw.

“J-Johan, you’re bleeding!” Sorin exclaimed.

Johan gritted his teeth as he tried to look up. He was doing his best to cover his wound, but Sorin pulled his hand away and saw for himself where Johan was shot. The bloodstain started to grow larger around Johan’s stomach as Sorin tried to help out. That was when he heard a cackle that sounded all too familiar.

“Finally got you, Johan Kuu,” Korbin said, twirling his gun. “I’m finally going to give you what you deserve! Prepare to die!”

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Chapter

Sundown – Chapter 45 (Part 1)

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

 

Rysol brandished his sword once more. He moved past Johan, his group, and Jelka, and confronted Isla. There was a lot that Sorin wanted to say, but he was not sure he would be able to do so while his brother faced off against the Queen of Thekohn. The soldiers behind Isla readied their guns, but Rysol was quick to react. However, Rysol moved at a rapid pace, getting behind Isla and swung his sword, which sliced through one soldier’s neck. He sliced, slashed, and stabbed his way through the rest of the soldiers with ease as Johan looked away. Now only Isla remained and she had nowhere to run.

“Now… Now it’s time to confess,” Rysol said as he wiped his blade of blood. “The rest of your loyal army… they’re either dead or already occupied at the moment. Don’t even think about trying to run now…”

“Rysol, please!” Sorin exclaimed.

“Stand back, brother,” Rysol said. “I will get this woman to talk!”

“I don’t have to answer to you,” Isla said, “Not at all! There’s no way you can make me confess anything!”

But as she finished speaking, Isla noticed that Rysol had moved again. Only after noticing the blade against her neck did Isla realize Rysol was right behind her. He kept the sword close to her as she dropped to her knees, the sharp blade only an inch or so away from her skin.

Rain reached out her hand and took a few steps forward. “Mother!”

“Stop right there,” Rysol said. “I’m not going to kill her… yet…”

“What are you trying to do?” Pekka asked.

“The queen… she has a secret,” Rysol said. He looked down to Isla. “Go ahead! Tell them everything you know about Foundation!”

“Like hell I will!” Isla exclaimed.

“Mother, please, for my sake at least, tell us what you know,” Rain said. “You’ve got nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and after this is over, nothing to call your own. It’s best you tell us while you still can…”

She rubbed her eyes as Johan walked up to Rysol.

“Well, I think I can at least fill some of the gaps since Isla doesn’t seem to want to cooperate,” Johan said. “You see, this was all a collaborative effort that I found out about only a couple of weeks after the Battle of Bel. I stumbled upon a detailed conversation between two of these members of Foundation only after finishing my mission to locate one Pekka Varjostaa.”

“What does that have to do with this?” Luna asked.

“I’m getting there,” Johan replied.

He continued on as he recounted the conversation. Such details included how Foundation could get rid of Alan Berry, start a new war, and not only take out the country of Ahnlikohn, but even the Royal Kingdom of Thekohn as well. Johan only saw one person at the time, but even so, they had obscured their face so as not to be seen.

“Still, I’m pretty sure that I’ve heard that man’s voice before,” Johan said. “Isla, I know that you’ve spoken to at least one member of Foundation. I’ve got a pretty good idea of who it might be, but for the rest of the audience, tell us the name of the man that you spoke with.”

“You think I’d tell you?” Isla asked.

Johan sighed as he placed his hand on his forehead. “You’re choosing to defy even with your life on the line,” he said. “It would be admirable if not for the fact that you used your power and influence for evil.”

“I’m begging you,” Rain said to Isla. “Even though you’ve done so much for your own selfishness, you’re still my mother.”

Isla scoffed. “You truly don’t understand, do you? I’d rather have my throat slashed before I tell you lot!”

“Believe me… I don’t want to do this either,” Rysol said. “I already know what it feels like to lose the one who raised you… Killing you would only stain my heart while breaking hers at the same time…”

“You’re only making it worse for yourself, Isla,” Mina said. “Surrender yourself right now and tell us about who you spoke with!”

“It looks like I’ve failed,” Isla replied. “All this work, for nothing… What a failure I am!”

She began to chuckle, which then turned into laughter as Johan nodded to Rysol. Rysol looked at him and then back down at Isla. He took his sword away from her neck and sheathed it as Isla continued to laugh. Everybody else in the main hall could only watch as the queen began to compose herself and slowly get back on her feet.

“You’ve had yourself a good look, now it’s time for things to end,” Isla said. “Still, I do feel as if I accomplished at least one of my goals before all of you came here…”

“I will be sure to clean the mess that you made,” Rain replied. “As of right now, however, you must surrender yourself immediately.”

“And what will you do?” Isla asked. “You, with so little life experience, thinks that she can rule a kingdom? I worked hard to set this plan into motion, and yet you think you can come back here and take the throne?”

“I already have,” Rain said. “You just can’t admit it. I don’t know why you can’t, but you can’t fight any longer. Everyone is headed this way and you’ve got no other option but to surrender.”

“That is what you think, then,” Isla said. “Well then, what do you plan to do with me? Will you order my execution?”

Rain shook her head. “As heinous a person you are, I can’t do that,” she said. “There’s only one option for you now.”

“That’s right,” Johan said. “You must leave here at once. To ensure that Rain becomes the queen, you have to go into exile.”

“But before we can order that, you must be placed in captivity,” Rain said. “As long as you’re out here, they will not stop until you are dead.”

“I can handle this,” Pekka said. “Just tell me where she needs to be placed and I’ll take care of her.”

“I see,” Isla said. “Rysol, was it?”

“What do you want now?” Rysol asked.

“I heard about Rhodes’s demise at your hand,” Isla said. “But I know the truth. That man was a coward through and through and thus took the easiest option he could think of at that time.”

Rysol growled. “Are you saying that you’re not a coward?”

“I am saying that I am much braver than he was,” Isla replied. “Rain only won because I have more honor than Rhodes did.”

“You tried to kill your own daughter in this castle,” Luna said. “How can you even say you have honor after that? That’s lower than anything I could possibly think of!”

“Think what you will,” Isla said, “But I’m done here.”

“At least tell me that man’s name,” Johan said. “Before you do anything else, I deserve to know that.”

“You do not know how to quit, do you, Mr. Kuu?” Isla asked.

Johan clenched his fist. “Answer the damn question.”

“Fine, it’s not like I have anything left to fight for,” Isla said. “As I assume that you can tell, the man I spoke with is an Ameci. But I guess you already knew that, didn’t you?”

“Tell us his name!” Luna demanded.

“I was almost about to say it,” Isla replied. “His name is Isaac Kunigunde. There, I hope that that satisfies even the dimmest of bulbs here.”

Pekka took Isla’s arm while Luna ran over to assist him. Rain walked over and told the two where to keep Isla for the time being. Luna nodded as she and Pekka led Isla out of the main hall.

“She’s done more to help than she realizes,” Jelka said to Isla. “Now it is known not just between us, but with the princess and her allies.”

Jelka lowered her gun and walked Johan to Sorin. Sorin already knew that Isaac Kunigunde was a member of Foundation, but had no idea that he was this capable of pulling off a disastrous feat quite like this. Rain and Mina joined Sorin as Jelka faced the three.

“Johan told me everything he knows,” Jelka said. “This goes further than Chancellor Harring and Rain’s mother.”

“Because Mr. Kunigunde is at the top,” Sorin replied.

“What he has done is unforgivable,” Mina said. “Not only was he the cause of all this, but to do all of it behind the curtain? That’s the lowest of low for any villain!”

“And my job isn’t done yet,” Johan said. “Taking down the Neu Thekohnian Order is but a small step in making my dream a reality.”

“Without a leader to guide them, the rest of them should scatter all across the land,” Jelka said as she flicked her hair back, “But they are not the problem right now.”

“I’ll see to it that the entire staff and military are evaluated,” Rain said. “It should be easy after we pick up all the pieces, but I do need some help.”

“So what will you do now?” Sorin asked Johan.

Before Johan could answer, however, Kirk barged in through the front. He struggled to catch his breath and bent down, his hair dangling in front of his face. Lowell and Tre followed after, as well as Gavin, Law, Eva, and Noa. The rest of the Maeitakohnian soldiers were now at the front entrance of the main hall, also, as they lowered their weapons.

“Seems like things wrapped here pretty quickly,” Gavin said. “Here I was all ready for battle, too.”

“Where’s Isla?” Eva asked.

Rain explained what happened and where Isla was currently being held. She also revealed what she, Sorin, and Mina had learned from Johan and Jelka, as well as what had to be done next.

“And that’s pretty much it,” Mina added.

“You mean to tell me that that man has being playing the goddamn Neu Thekohnian Order all this time?” Gavin asked. “You gotta be fucking kidding me…”

“Johan Kuu’s just devilishly good at what he does,” Law said. “And I do mean that literally.”

“Speaking of which, why is he leaving right now?” Noa asked.

“Wait, you can’t be serious,” Sorin said. “Johan!”

But when Sorin turned around, he found that Johan had left through the other entrance. Jelka and Rysol still remained in the castle as Sorin ran up to them. Kirk hurried over to Sorin’s side, his breath completely caught up.

“It’s about time,” Kirk said. “Rysol, I knew that you were alive this whole time. There was no doubt in my mind that what I believed was absolutely true, and here you are now!”

Rysol hung his head low. “Father… I appreciate the effort, but… but it’s not over yet,” he said. “This fight we’re fighting… it isn’t over.”

“We have to catch up with Johan,” Jelka said. “There’s something that we need to do right now.”

Jelka and Rysol began to walk toward the side entrance as Sorin extended his arm and called out for them.

“I’m coming with you!” Sorin exclaimed.

He ran past Jelka and Rysol to the doors and opened the left one. Rysol hurried after Sorin while Jelka just sighed.

“Really, he intends to go with us?” Jelka asked. “Well, if there is no other choice, then I don’t see why not…”

“I’m going, too,” Kirk said. “That much I can do for you.”

“No, it’s not wise to bring so many along,” Jelka replied. “That was what Johan told me, at least.”

“Come on, Kirk,” Lowell said. “We gotta get the message through to the other countries.”

“Yeah, we gotta tell them what happened over here,” Tre said. “I already know that the Ameci forces just arrived, so we can relay everything over to them.”

Kirk reluctantly sighed. “Okay, I’ll go with you guys.”

“That’s good,” Eva said. “Gavin, I’m going to go with them. What are you and Law going to do now?”

“I guess that’s for Rain to decide,” Gavin replied.

“Well, we still need to take care of my mother,” Rain said. “That and we do need to find the rest of the royal military that haven’t died or run away.”

“A lot of clean-up, it seems,” Law said. “Noa, you’re pretty good at that kind of stuff, aren’t you?”

“I guess I could do it,” Noa said.

“Okay, so you and the rest of the Maeita forces got that job,” Law said. “Now we just need to know what we have to do with the former Queen of Thekohn.”

“I already know what we need to do,” Rain said.

“Then let’s just make it happen,” Gavin said. “Come on, Lawrence, we’ve got to wrap this up.”

“Oh, I’d like to go with you!” Mina said.

“No, I think it’s best that we stay here,” Rain replied.

“Don’t worry,” Gavin said to Mina. “I understand what Rain wants to do, though I’m not too big a fan of just letting Isla walk free.”

“Oh, that’s not at all what I’m intending with this,” Rain said. “It’s exile from the entire Thekohnian Region, not a an exoneration.”

“You can say that all you want, but some people just don’t deserve to be spared,” Gavin replied. “Anyway…”

He walked with Law over to the place where Isla was being held. Rain looked back to Mina and let out a sigh.

“I… I think you’re doing the right thing,” Mina said. Then, she smiled as she pumped her fist. “I doubt Isla would want to come back to the kingdom after all the humiliation she suffered! We really put a stop to her and her villainy, didn’t we, Rain?”

“Mina, thank you,” Rain said. “There’s still so much to do, but thank you for what you’ve done.”

“Oh, you’re welcome,” Mina said.

Just then, Rain proceeded to hug Mina, who returned the favor.

“I know that this will take a while to fix,” Rain said, “But as long as you’re here with me, I feel as if I can’t fail no matter what comes our way. Thank you so much.”

“Rain…”

Rain let go from Mina and looked into her eyes. “What is it?”

“Nothing,” Mina said. “I was just wondering what you were going to do right now.”

“Well, there’s a couple of calls that I’ll need to make,” Rain said. “One to the Iiayikohnian government and the other to the Ahnle royal family.”

“Alright,” Mina replied. “Let’s go!”

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Part

Sundown – Chapter 44 (Part 2)

[23rd of September, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Douglas Junction]

 

Lowell put down his binoculars. “They’re well guarded, alright,” he said. “So what do you think, Kirk?”

Kirk grabbed the binoculars from Lowell and looked at the castle himself. It was just like Lowell said: guards were placed at every entrance he was able to see. He handed the binoculars back over to Lowell and began to think.

“Considering what Sorin will want to do, I think it’s necessary to help draw out the enemy,” Kirk said. “I expect that Queen Isla will anticipate this, however, so we will need to do our best.”

“Hey, as long we have our Maeitakohnian friends over here, we should be able to win the battle,” Tre said. “Doesn’t matter how many soldiers the other side has, it just matters how we use the territory around us!”

Kirk agreed. He had spoken with General Khadir early in the morning to discuss what they needed to do in Thekohn. That was when Kirk learned that the general would be sending more troops to the kingdom today just in case. Kirk did not know how to respond, but Khadir had told him that he knew about what the princess intended to do and made sure that until they were certain that Isla had surrendered, the Maeita forces would hold the line.

“Well, how are we going to draw out our opposition?” Lowell asked. “I think we better start moving our asses.”

“True, but we still have to wait for the others,” Kirk replied. “I assume they’re not all going to arrive together.”

“Look at it this way,” Tre said, “If we move, we’ll have the early start.”

Around Kirk, he saw the architecture surrounding him and his group. The best course of action that he thought would be beneficial would be for them to use height to their advantage. Already, the one Maeitakohnian sniper was up on the roof of the building nearby and hid himself from view. Kirk also knew that the other sniper, Noa, was set to arrive soon as well as the others.

“We can’t count out the possibility that they have people high up as well,” Lowell said. “Then again, I can’t help but wonder if they’re taking their time planning out their shots before they strike.”

Tre laughed. “Again, I already know we’ve got the advantage,” he said, pointing his finger at the castle. “Even at my age, my eyes don’t fail me. Look over there, please.”

Lowell picked up the binoculars and viewed where Tre was pointing. “Son of a bitch,” he said. “Well, it looks like we already know where their point man is standing…”

“Yeah, he’s just waiting for the order from his superior,” Tre replied. “How about we give him a little head start instead?”

Kirk nodded and looked over to the Maeitakohnian commander next to him. “You got that? Tell the sniper to aim close to their point man, but don’t hit him. We need to draw them out.”

The commander picked up his receiver. “Yes, I’ll let him know right away,” he said. He relayed the order over to the sniper and turned to the other soldiers in the troop. “I want you all to get ready. This will not be an easy fight, so I don’t want to see any of you dragging your feet!”

Kirk watched as the point man from the castle stood over. He waited for the shot to ring out, but nothing happened. That was when he heard the footsteps starting to grow louder from the right.

“Look out!” Kirk exclaimed as he drew his sword.

Everybody else turned and saw several men in red charging at them. The commander directed his soldiers to counterattack, but the Neu Thekohnian Order were quick enough to get in a few attacks. Kirk could see that they were at a slight disadvantage in numbers, but Lowell had already drawn his blade and went in to help the Maeitakohnian troop.

“Damn, looks like they got the jump on us,” Tre said. “You ready to go, Kirk?”

“We got no choice,” he replied. “I don’t know what happened to the sniper, but we’ll have to worry about that later.”

There was no hesitation from Kirk as he thrust himself into the fray. The plan was far off course now and he had to salvage it any way he possibly could. That did not hold up for too long, however, as one by one, the Maeitakohnian forces were brought down by the Neu Thekohnian Order. The small disadvantage between Kirk’s group and the enemy grew larger as several soldiers lie on the ground suffering from their wounds.

“We could really use some help right now!” Lowell exclaimed, swinging his sword from side to side.

Kirk, Lowell, and Tre held up well with the remaining Maeitakohnian soldiers, but soon found themselves surrounded. There did not seem to be any sign of escape, Kirk thought. He would have to fight his way out alongside his allies. Before anyone could do anything, however, a single shot rang out, striking one member of the Neu Thekohnian Order in the head. The rest of the members looked around, as well as Kirk. Kirk turned around and saw the sight of Noa Mzade holding his sniper rifle atop a Maeitakohnian truck.

“Way to go, Noa!” Law said.

“Are you guys kidding me?” Gavin asked. “Are you trying to make Eva worry with all this? Good lord…”

Gavin, Law, and Eva stepped outside the truck as several more Maeita soldiers joined the battle. Noa used his precise aim to assist as Kirk led Lowell and Tre from out of the thinning group of Neu Thekohnian Order members. With the assistance from the arriving soldiers, there was relief on Kirk’s side. The ones left standing were captured by the Maeita soldiers. Kirk hurried over to Eva, who just shook her head.

“It’ll do neither of us any good to talk about this,” Eva said. “I’m… I’m just happy that you’re okay.”

“As am I to see you well,” Kirk replied.

“Oh, ain’t that nice,” Tre said.

“That’s great and all, but we’ve got bigger things to worry about,” Lowell said. “Those guys, for one!”

Gavin looked in the direction of where Lowell was directing and furrowed his brow as more Neu Thekohnians rushed his way. “Well, only one thing to do,” he said. “Noa! Get your rifle ready, because here they come!”

Noa set his sights to the oncoming opposition and steadied his aim. “I’ve got it… I got it…”

Before he could pull the trigger, however, a guttural scream filled the ears of everyone in the area. Kirk was the first to notice the man that had appeared before him and opened his mouth in surprise. Then, Kirk almost attempted to smile, but held his emotions back. His son Rysol had appeared almost out of nowhere, it seemed.

“Is that who I think it is?” Eva asked.

Rysol’s long, flowing hair moved while he dashed up to the group of soldiers guised in Royal Thekohnian uniforms. His sword was swift with each slice and slash, taking down each member of the Neu Thekohnian Order that stood in his way. Noa lowered his rifle and looked on in awe at Rysol’s onslaught of the enemies before him. Not a single Neu Thekohnian Order member was left alive in Rysol’s sights, with blood splattered all over the street.

“Well, that’s one way to take care of the problem,” Lowell said. “I can only imagine that more will be coming.”

“Rysol… You’re alive,” Kirk said as he hung his head. “I knew that there was no way you’d die back there. Not like that.”

Rysol sheathed his sword. “Father… why are you here?”

“It’s about the Neu Thekohnian Order, isn’t it?” Kirk asked. “I can tell that you’ve got some sort of unfinished business with them.”

“No… it’s not like that,” Rysol said, clutching his head. “I’ve come here to the kingdom because… because of a warning…”

“Gee, a warning,” Law said. “Who exactly would this warning be for, if I may ask kindly?”

Rysol growled. “That… She’s not here, is she? The one you’ve been helping this whole time… She’s not here!”

He looked up into the sky and screamed. Rysol looked at his metallic arm and shook his head as he started to run towards the castle. Kirk was left unable to say anything as yet again, his eldest son had run away from him. Refusing to accept this, Kirk hurried off in pursuit of Rysol. He was sure that the others would follow, too, but right now, he needed to catch up.

 

*****

 

[23rd of September, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Underground Secret Passage]

 

Once the passage was cleared of the Neu Thekohnian Order, Sorin and the others continued on their way. Rain went back to leading the group forward while Pekka kept himself to the back. He had to make sure that those soldiers had no chance of getting back up and attacking them again. But Sorin had a feeling that those guys would not try to attack his group any time soon. Not after the quick work that everyone made of them. It was impressive how well they had fought together, but Sorin knew that he and Rain and everyone else had much more difficult trials ahead of them.

“We should be getting closer to the end now,” Rain said. “I can already feel a bit of a breeze blowing this way.”

“Yeah, it sure seems like it,” Sorin said. “But if they already know we’re here, how will we be able to counterattack if they happen to have the exit surrounded?”

“There’s only one way to find out,” Rain answered.

“We’re not going to lose to them, Sorin,” Mina said. “We already dealt a blow to those villains bad there, so we can definitely handle a few more bad guys if they decide to attack us again!”

“Besides, I’ve kept our back guarded very well,” Pekka said. “And if, for any reason, Rain needs to back out, I am willing to put myself on the line.”

“I honestly hope that it doesn’t come to that,” Sorin replied.

Luna agreed. “You’re more than just an asset, Pekka,” she said. “I’m sure that even Johan would probably say that as well…”

“I know that,” Pekka replied.

But before he could say anything else, they arrived at the end of the secret passage where a ladder stood against the wall. Rain looked up and saw the hatch above, still closed as she put her hand on the nearest rung.

“Keep quiet for now,” she said. “Who knows what’s waiting for us once we get inside.”

Everyone nodded as Rain was the first to climb up the ladder and opened the hatch. She went inside as Sorin was the next to go, followed by Mina. Luna was next and then Pekka was the last to come up. Mina kicked the hatch shut as she realized where she was.

“I remember this place,” Mina said. “Not even Lauren Ahga knew about it, did he?”

Sorin saw through the darkness that they were inside what appeared to be a storage room. Boxes were stacked on top of each other and placed against the walls as Rain searched for a light. She came up to a lantern and looked around to see if she could light it with a match, but to no avail. However, there was a small beam of light coming from the door at the other end.

“I’ll go see if I can open it,” Sorin said.

He felt his way through the room, keeping a hand on the box near him as he moved through the room. Sorin did his best not to stumble on anything. Soon he was able to reach the door and trailed his hand downward until he reached what he assumed to be the doorknob. With a sigh, he turned the knob and found it unlocked.

“Okay, it looks like we’ve got a way in,” he whispered. “Everyone, behind me. I don’t know what they’ve got ready for us…”

As Sorin pulled the door open, everyone behind him braced themselves for what might happen next. To their surprise, though, no one was waiting for them. Confused, Sorin stepped out into the hall and looked to either end. Emptiness. That was all he saw in the hall decked out with glamorous decorations, as well as the others. Rain looked around and set her sights on the way to the main hall of the castle.

“This only mean one thing,” Rain said. “We have to move.”

“Okay,” Mina said, “I’ll be right at your side. No one is going to bring us down!”

Rain hastened through the hallway while everyone tried to keep up with her. Something was wrong, Sorin thought. Had things already escalated? He had no way of knowing from where he was, so he could only do what he had to and follow Rain. Once they made it to the main hall of the castle, Sorin saw a sight that he could not believe.

“You’re turning on me, too?” Isla asked.

“That implies that I trusted you,” Johan replied. “No, the answer is much more simple than that, I’m afraid.”

Isla was confronted by Johan. He had the assistance of several masked marksmen behind him, while Isla had her own loyal subjects with her.

“What… What the hell could you possibly mean?” Isla wondered.

“What I mean is that I knew your plan was doomed to fail,” Johan said. “The moment you turned your back on your own flesh and blood was the moment that I knew my plan was going to work.”

“You’re lying!” Isla exclaimed. “I haven’t lost yet!”

“If you haven’t lost, then let me ask you a question,” Johan said. “Actually, maybe she should ask you instead.”

He noticed Rain and the others arriving onto the scene. The standoff continued as Sorin tried to figure out what Johan was talking about. Isla looked over and scowled at what she saw as Rain took a step forward.

“This could be a trap, Rain,” Mina said. “I don’t know if we can truly trust Johan yet.”

“Johan, tell me about this plan of yours,” Rain said. “I think it’s obvious now that you and my mother do not see eye to eye.”

“Well, let’s just say that I’ve been aware of what’s been going on,” Johan replied. “Nearly every known military force is headed this way and it’s all because of a mistake that our late friend Sir Lauren made. Actually, I guess you could say I had a hand in helping him, but it was only a mere suggestion on my end.”

Sorin stepped up. “Are you talking about what happened in Ahga Manor?”

Johan shook his head. “Think back to a little earlier than that,” he said. “Something that involved our firebrand swordswoman.”

“You mean when she attacked me and Gavin in Rezar?” Pekka asked.

“Well, Pekka, that is the correct answer,” Johan said. “If not for that little incident, she would have never had the chance to run into the foundation that gave way for the downfall of the Neu Thekohnian Order.”

“You’re talking nonsense,” Isla said. “I should just kill you on the spot! All of you!”

“Before you do that, I do have a special guest with me,” Johan replied, wagging his finger. “I guess it about time for you to show yourself, don’t you agree, Jelka?”

One of the marksmen behind Johan stepped forward. Sorin gasped as he saw the mask drop to the ground and reveal Jelka Arne, armed and ready with her gun pointed at Isla. With a quick look around him, Sorin could see that the others were just as surprised as he was.

“While I am angry at this man, nothing compares to the hatred I have for you,” Jelka said to Isla. “If only I could kill you myself, I would, but even I know it won’t change much.”

“Johan, are you saying that you knew that this was going to happen?” Luna asked.

Johan chuckled. “Would you be mad if I said yes?”

“This isn’t funny, Johan!” Luna exclaimed. “How are you so comfortable with using people’s live like this?”

“You’re right,” Johan replied, “This isn’t something to laugh about so easily. What Isla has done has caused damage to this continent, but even so, she still has a lot more to answer for.”

“How are you going to get her to answer?” Rain wondered.

“Oh, that’s not going to be my job,” Johan said. “No, I’m going to let somebody else do that for me. Sorin, I believe you’re very familiar with my next guest, am I right, buddy?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Sorin said.

The front door to the castle busted open at that moment. Everybody looked to see who it was that had entered. Sorin was the first to notice the long, flowing hair and unkempt beard. As everybody could only gaze at Rysol, he meandered his way into the main hall.

“Johan, so it was you,” Sorin said. “You knew where my brother was, didn’t you?”

“Didn’t I tell you, buddy?” Johan asked. “He was headed this way. I told you no lies back in Ahga Manor.”

Isla stomped her foot. “Even you, Mr. Kuu, have some nerve,” she said. “This man… Rysol Wilk… You’re the one who found him?”

Rysol pointed his blade at Isla and laughed. “You appear to be frightened,” he said. “You should be… You should be, because I’m going to bring the secrets of the Neu Thekohnian Order to light!”

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Chapter

Sundown – Chapter 42 (Part 2)

[22nd of September, 2740 AD; Ahga Manor – Backyard, just outside of Oelaans, Thekohn]

 

Sorin and Mina stepped outside through the back door of the mansion. They found the others waiting by the back gate and ran up to them. Rain was the first to see the two and greeted them. Mina, in return, jumped onto Rain and wrapped her arms around her while Luna and Pekka just smiled.

“I’m so glad you’re okay!” Mina exclaimed. “But I knew you would be, you know, because I believed that you would be!”

“Thank you,” Rain said. “I’m happy you’re happy, but maybe you should loosen your hold on me… maybe a little bit?”

Mina noticed and pulled back. “Oh, sorry,” she said. “We’re not exactly in the right place to celebrate, are we?”

“It’s fine,” Rain said, placing her hand on Mina’s chin. “We ought to be able to celebrate even the smallest of victories, shouldn’t we?”

“You’re right,” Mina said. “It only inspires us as heroes to celebrate our victories over the villains and stuff…”

Rain closed in on Mina and the two shared a brief moment together. After their kiss, Mina was about to return the favor but noticed Sorin looking back off towards the mansion.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Mina asked.

“I was just wondering about what Johan said,” Sorin replied. “Sorry about earlier, by the way.”

“Oh, no problem,” Mina said.

Sorin thought about the small conversation he and Johan had earlier. After chasing him down with Mina, Sorin was able to corner Johan in a closed off room and asked him what his plan was now. Johan explained to him and said to Sorin that in order to stop Queen Isla and have Rain succeed her as queen, there would have to be a lot of effort. Curious, Sorin asked Johan what he meant, but instead of answering his question, Johan brought up something else relevant to Sorin’s interests.

I saw him,” Johan said. “Your brother, I mean. He’s not too far off from where we are right now.

Really?” Sorin asked. “Around here?

Not exactly,” Johan replied. “I mean that he’s headed towards the kingdom right now.

Sorin could only look at Johan in disbelief. “Why are you telling me this? More importantly, why are you telling me about this?

Consider it a helpful clue towards stopping Isla,” Johan replied. “After all, he’s one of the most important players in this game.

This game?

You’ll see,” Johan said. “In chess, you need to stay at least two steps ahead of your opponent. You just need to know who your opponent is, Sorin.

After that, Johan escaped through the back window.  Sorin wanted to pursue him but there was no use doing that, especially after Mina had broken down the door. He explained to her in minor detail about what Johan told him, to which she deduced that he must be talking about the queen.

“Why do you think he’s helping us now?” Mina asked. “Isn’t he working with Rain’s mother?”

“I wonder about that as well,” Rain said. “Perhaps he’s changed his mind about supporting the Neu Thekohnian Order?”

“That seems too convenient,” Pekka replied.

“Who knows,” Sorin said, “But we’ve got to keep moving. Our goal isn’t Johan, it’s the Queen of Thekohn.”

“And what about Mr. Ahga?” Mina asked. “Have you already… taken care of him, Rain?”

“He’s inside the mansion right now,” Rain said. “Fortunately, he’s not able to run away, but it is taking him quite a bit of time to come back…”

“Do you think we should head in?” Luna asked.

But before anyone could respond, Sorin and the others heard a rumble from inside the mansion. Right after that, an explosion echoed from the inside, followed by several more. The blasts broke the windows and severed several structures of the mansion as there seemed to be no end to the explosions. Rain could only look onward, shocked at what was happening before her.

“What are you guys doing?” Pekka asked. “Get down now!”

Sorin and the others agreed and dropped the ground for cover. They were far enough from the location of the blasts, but Sorin knew that they wanted to make sure nothing else happened. Sorin kept his eyes closed until he heard no more explosions. Just to make sure that his ears were not playing tricks on him, Sorin stood up and indeed, that was the last of the explosions. It was also the last of Ahga Manor, as the once vintage mansion was now dilapidated due to the destruction delivered onto it.

Rain looked at the ruins. “Sir Lauren!”

“I doubt he would have made it out in time,” Pekka said. “There’s only a couple of people who could have done this… Johan…”

“There’s no way it was him,” Sorin replied. “Korbin must have done this with some help. That has to be it.”

“Him and that repugnant soldier, then,” Pekka said. “Seems like evil loves to keep good company.”

“Well, we know that they were trying to target you,” Luna said to Rain. “I guess they thought you were still inside.”

“Is that so?” Rain asked. “I wonder if they’ll come after us once they find out they killed the wrong person.”

“This must be so conflicting for you,” Luna said. “I can’t even begin to imagine what you’re thinking right now. It’s so horrible.”

Rain exhaled. “I don’t know,” she said. “But what I do know is that we’ve only one thing we should do now. Come on, we must not keep everyone waiting in Oelaans!”

“There’s no other choice,” Pekka said. “We can’t just wait here any longer, now can we?”

“Nope,” Luna said. “We just need to move on already and put an end to the afwul Neu Thekohnian Order!”

“Alright! We’re going to Oelaans now,” Mina said. “I can’t wait to finally see the others again!”

“Me neither,” Sorin replied.

However, Sorin wondered if everyone was trying to keep it together after what they witnessed. The fight was far from over and Sorin knew that Rysol was going to be there as well. It had been a while since he had seen his brother, but now Sorin was trying to figure out how his brother played into the matter of the Neu Thekohnian Order. Whatever it was, Sorin knew that he could not afford to hesitate now. Not when the future was at stake.

 

*****

 

[22nd of September, 2740 AD; High Restaurant, Oelaans, Thekohn – Felis District]

 

With the nightfall approaching with each passing hour, Gavin began to wonder if Sorin’s group would arrive before the darkness. He had already went through question the three members of the Neu Thekohnian Order, to which little was actually learned. After questioning, two of the Maeitakohnian soldiers called the local officers and had the three men taken away.

Once that was done, Gavin went with Eva, Law, and Noa to a restaurant that Law had picked out. He soon learned why exactly his brother chose the place and it was due to the fact that the entire staff was made up of attractive women. Gavin sighed as he looked over the railing of the patio.

“So we didn’t learn anything new, did we?” Eva asked.

“Well, nothing we didn’t already know,” Law said, “But I did see that you enjoyed my impression of Kirk, did you not?”

“That… I was only thinking of something else,” she replied, “Though I can acknowledge that your impression of him was very close.”

Law laughed. “Thank you! At least someone understood what I was going for,” he said. “Bro, are you even listening?”

“What are you trying to do?” Gavin asked.

“I want to know if you’ve been paying attention,” Law said. “It’s been a bit of a slog trying to wait for them, hasn’t it?”

“They’ll be here soon enough,” Gavin said.

“So nothing about this place interests you?” Law asked. “You don’t even want to try the local dish?”

“I don’t even know what you’re trying to accomplish here,” Gavin replied. “You must be up to no good, given the fact that you chose this place.”

“Nothing wrong with hitting up the top spot in town,” Law said. “Wouldn’t you agree with me, Noa?”

“Why are you bringing me into this?” Noa asked.

“If I had to guess, it’s because of those girls over there,” Eva said as she looked at Law. “Sometimes he can think rather clearly, but other times, he just ends up thinking with what’s in his pants instead.”

“Whoa, hold up, that’s not at all what I’m trying to do,” Law replied. “I’m a man who’s in a happy relationship. I just want us to enjoy our time together before we have to head off to the kingdom.”

“Sure, say that,” Eva said. “I’ve heard it all, by the way.”

“So this is where the party’s happening, huh?”

Gavin directed his attention to the outside. On the other side of the railing was Kirk Wilk, as well as Lowell Page and Tre Hendricks. The three waved at the group and hurried over to meet them on the other side of the railing.

“Not who I expected,” Gavin said, “But it’s good to see you.”

“It’s good to see you guys, too,” Kirk replied. “Especially you, Eva.”

“So you really are going to fight,” Eva said. “I knew it.”

“Well, we’re not leading the front lines,” Lowell said. “My fighting spirit is no match for old age.”

“But we are ready to help in whatever way we can,” Tre said. “Even if that means we’re the ones who have to clean up all of the mess!”

“Just be careful,” Eva replied. “At least tell me you can do that,.”

“You know that I would never try to make you worry,” Kirk said. “Didn’t I tell you that?”

“No matter how many times you keep saying it, I know how stubborn you can be,” she said. “All I want is for you not to act recklessly.”

“Hey, I got my eye on him,” Tre said. “If there’s anyone you can count on to make sure Kirk doesn’t go all out on his own, it’s me.”

“So what are we doing?” Law asked. “Our lovely princess has yet to arrive and, to be honest, it is a little boring doing nothing around here.”

“Yet you use this time to look at women,” Gavin said. “Give me a break, Lawrence.”

“Then maybe you should suggest something, bro,” Law said. “I don’t see you seeking out something for us to do in the meantime.”

Gavin sighed. “It’s not important.”

“Well, if you come up with something, I’d love to hear it,” Law replied as he sat back in his chair. “Now should be the time for us to get the check, don’t you guys think?”

“So this is where you guys have been!” Mina exclaimed.

With no time to waste, Mina dashed over to where the group sat while Sorin and the others joined her side. Everyone was now together as Gavin stood up and greeted the group.

“It’s about time you made it here,” Gavin said, shaking Sorin’s hand.

“We were held up for a bit,” Sorin replied. “It’s a complicated, but I guess we can explain what happened.”

They took their time to explain what had happened in Ahga Manor as well as what Sorin had learned. Everyone listened with intent as Rain spoke about Ahga and his motivation in addition to his demise.

“So the right hand of the queen is dead,” Law said. “I wish I could say that that was a good thing, but if what you said is true, then the Ameci military is not too far off from where we are.”

“Sounds to me like we have to keep our eyes open,” Kirk said. “I think that something is in the air and it’s not good at all.”

“What do you mean?” Mina asked.

“I think we need to be aware of what forces are driving behind the scenes,” Kirk replied. “If the queen falls, that’s the end of the Neu Thekohnian Order, but if the Ameci military is working with them? It only spells trouble.”

“Seems like it,” Lowell said. “We can’t just turn a blind eye to the evil that’s happening in our own land.”

“That is something we have to pay attention to,” Kirk replied. “Anyway, Sorin, was there anything else you found out while at Ahga Manor?”

Sorin did not mention anything about Rysol, but he felt like there was a need to do so. But what could he say? They would end up running into him if what Johan had said to him was true. He did not want his father to worry about Rysol, not at a time like this, but there seemed to be no other choice. At least, Sorin would have to talk to his brother again.

“No, that was all we learned,” Sorin said.

“Is that so?” Kirk asked. “Well, at least we know what to watch out for moving forward.”

“That is true,” Law said, “But we’re not going to be able to do much while the sun is going down. Why don’t we just take the night to have some fun and live a little before the morning?”

There was some agreement amongst the crew, but all Sorin could not stop thinking about what might happen tomorrow. There was much he was uncertain of, but there was little he could really do before the morning came.

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Chapter

Sundown – Chapter 38 (Part 2)

[21st of September, 2740 AD; New Prime Minister’s Office, Rezar, Iiayikohn – Deca District]

 

As the night followed the sunset, Ayanna was busy trying to get some last minute paperwork in her office through when Dierk walked through with Gale. Ayanna continued sorting through each document until Dierk approached the desk and placed his hand down on the desk. Ayanna looked up and saw Dierk and Gale standing next to each other.

“I’m sorry to interrupt you and your work, but Miss Kunigunde is here to see you,” Dierk said. “She says it’s important, so I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you want to talk to her.”

Ayanna placed the document on her desk and stood up. “Thank you, Dierk,” she replied, shaking his hand. “I can take it from here.”

“Understood, lieutenant general,” Dierk said. “I will be going on my way now. For now, I’ve got to see what Miss Brynjarr is up to.”

He spun around and hurried out the door. Gale, meanwhile, approached the desk and shook Ayanna’s hand.

“Please, let’s take a walk,” Ayanna said. “I’ve been working the past few hours on papers, I just want to get out of this stuffy place for a moment.”

“Okay,” Gale said. “What did you have in mind?”

“Oh, it doesn’t have to be anything in particular,” Ayanna replied. “We can just take the time to get some fresh air while we talk.”

Gale nodded. “I got it,” she said. “You must have been really busy with what’s happened today.”

Ayanna sighed as she walked with Gale down the hallway. “You haven’t even seen the half of what I’ve been going through,” she said. “Meeting after meeting and it’s only getting more tense what with having to discuss things further with the prime minister.”

“You and the general have been on your toes all day, huh?” Gale asked. “I can only imagine what the two of you had to go through today.”

“So far, we’ve been stuck at a standstill regarding the Royal Kingdom of Thekohn,” Ayanna said. “They’ve been cooperative so far with Prime Minister Dezine, but right now there’s been some disagreement regarding the action to take with Ahnlikohn.”

“Yet we know why,” Gale said.

Ayanna knew, too, but there was not much she could do in this position. It proved to be frustrating since there was little that could be done to convince Wilson Dezine of the Queen of Thekohn’s involvement with the Neu Thekohnian Order. All Ayanna could really do was hope that the others would be able to find a way to convince the queen herself. As long as Rain was on their side, Ayanna knew there was a chance, but even so, she also knew that that chance was slim to none. Still, Ayanna continued to keep on believing in hope that everything would work out in the end.

“You know what?” Ayanna asked.

Gale perked up. “What is it?”

“Let’s go to that cafe close by,” Ayanna said. “I think now’s about the time for some dessert, don’t you think?”

“I’m not that hungry, to be honest,” Gale replied, “But I could go for some tea right now.”

They were already on the ground floor as Ayanna opened the doors. The light posts illuminated the street as a couple of cars passed on either side. A few people were beginning to cross the street as there were no other cars in sight. Ayanna and Gale followed and soon found themselves on the other sidewalk with the cafe right next to them. Inside, they were surprised to find Kirk, Lowell, and Tre sitting down near the entrance with Kiku, Ayame, and Igor.

“Oh, Kirk, I didn’t expect to find you guys here,” Gale said. “What’s going on?”

“Well, we were just speaking with Yamazaki earlier and she had to go into a meeting with the prime minister,” Kirk answered. “Miss Izumi wanted to come along with us, I guess.”

“We’ve been here for quite a while,” Lowell said.

“But it’s been so nice getting to speak with you, LP,” Kiku replied. “You’ve all got some interesting tales to tell and I’ve been curious about them for a while. At least Quirky was able to tell me a little more about his son!”

“No offense, miss, but I’m not here for chit-chat,” Lowell replied. “Tre, don’t you think that it’s about time we take action and begin making move on towards the kingdom?”

Tre took a sip of his tea. “I must say, you really have a good eye for tea, Miss Izumi,” he said. “Also, you were right when you said the orange scones were like nothing I’ve ever had before. I guess that even an old man like me can discover new things, after all!”

Kiku smiled. “I’m glad you enjoyed it, Tracy.”

“Damn it, Tre, did you not hear me?” Lowell asked.

“I sure did,” Tre replied. “I’ve given it a lot of thought and I know we’ve got to put our butts on the line if we’re gonna go and stop this wound from festering, but what do you think is the best plan of attack?”

“If I may, perhaps there’s some way that I can help out,” Gale said, taking a seat at the table.

“What’s on your mind, Gigi?” Kiku asked.

“It’s about what they’re planning to do,” Gale replied. “Right now, I know Sorin and Gavin’s groups are already taking their routes to the kingdom, but there is one path you can take.”

“You’ve got this all drawn out or something?” Lowell asked. “Because it’s easy to just say you’ve got something, but showing it is a different story.”

“Yes, I can draw something out,” Gale said. “Igor, do you mind lending me your napkin?”

Igor eyed the napkin underneath his cup. “This one? What for?”

“Just give it to me, please,” Gale said. “Does anyone have some sort of pen or pencil I can use?”

“Yes, Gale, I do,” Kirk replied, taking out a pencil from his breast pocket. “It’s a little used, though.”

Gale looked at the pencil and found no eraser on the other end. “It’s fine,” she said. “So as we’re speaking, we have one group here…”

She drew a circle at the top of the napkin and pointed a line to it with the label “Sorin.” Gale started to draw out the border lines with each country labeled in their respective area.

Gale then began to write on the bottom of the napkin. “And then there’s another group down here…”

This one was labeled “Gavin” and was positioned in the area marked as Maietakohn. But Gale was not done yet and proceeded to draw another circle on the map as Kirk and Lowell leaned in.

“There’s one more group we have,” Gale said, “And that’s you three.”

She drew arrows coming from each circle and pointed them over to the area labeled Thekohn. Sorin’s group was up at the top and Gavin’s was on the bottom, but the group labeled “Kirk” was in between the two as it was pointed directly at Thekohn.

“I’ve taken the time to study the maps some more,” Gale said. “What I’ve found is that there is a way for you to get to Oelaans without going through Helm or Bel.”

“Seems you’ve done your work,” Kirk replied. “Though I thought that that route was closed off years ago.”

“Officially, it is,” Ayanna said, “But the ‘Thekohnian Highway’ still exists and some have indeed used it, though I can’t exactly say it’s advisable to drive down that path.”

“Whatever is the reason, Ani?” Kiku asked.

“Ah-nee?” Ayanna wondered. “Never mind. The reason why it’s not considered a good idea is because even though the road was supposed to be fixed, the measure to do so was blocked.”

“Yes, I think I heard about this,” Ayame said. “The highway itself is shared between the four countries and thus the leaders have to come to an agreement in order for the measure to pass.”

“Who would block it, though?” Igor asked. “Wouldn’t it be more convenient to have it open? Why block the measure?”

“Oddly enough, it was Ahnlikohn’s leader, Chancellor Harring,” Ayanna replied. “He refused to put his signature on the measure and ever since then, the road has been closed down.”

“How curious,” Kiku said. “Gigi, do you have any idea why he might have done that?”

“I’m not exactly sure,” Gale replied. “Still, I think that you should take the chance on this.”

“Well, maybe we should put this up to a vote,” Kirk said. “Lowell, do you agree with her?”

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t skeptical,” Lowell replied. “Yes, the highway is a good bet, but no way is it suited for us to drive there. And you can count out walking because it would take too long.”

“For a normal car, no, it’s not suited to drive on that highway,” Ayanna said. “But we do have vehicles at the base just outside of the city that are made for offroad conditions.”

“Sounds like we’re in luck, then!” Tre said, slamming his hand on the table. “Come on, Lowell, we can’t deny it’d be fun to do a little off roading!”

Lowell placed his hand on his forehead and turned away. “I’m way too old for this crap.”

“I think it’d fit the three of you well,” Kiku said. “Haven’t you always wanted to be a little more rebellious in your life, LP?”

“Your imagination runs a little too wild at times,” Lowell said. “But I guess there’s no other choice strategically.”

“Then it’s settled,” Kirk said. “I think it’s about time we prepared, anyway. Lieutenant general, we’ll be coming to you tomorrow morning.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” Ayanna replied.

Kirk, Tre, and Lowell stood up and said their goodbyes. Once they left the cafe, Ayanna decided to go and order something while Gale looked down at the napkin before her. That was when she realized something.

“They forgot to take the napkin,” she said, “And Kirk forgot his pencil, too… Oh well.”

“You don’t seem that upset about it,” Igor said.

“Not really,” Gale replied. “I kind of expect them to find the highway without my help. Seems like I just said a lot for nothing, honestly.”

“Don’t be like that, Gigi,” Kiku said. “I enjoyed hearing you speak and come up with that plan of yours.”

“Thanks, I guess,” Gale said. “Say, didn’t you have a flower in your hair earlier?”

“Oh, I gave it to Nona before he left,” Kiku replied.

“I see,” Gale said.

“Yeah, he was all nervous when I gave it to him,” Kiku said. “I wonder if he’s still holding on to it right now and thinking of me…”

 

*****

 

[21st of September, 2740 AD; outside of Habicht, Ahnlikohn]

 

Walking through the woods, Erik struggled to stay to his feet as he tried to cover his wound and minimize the bleeding. He had to make it back to the truck and use the first aid kit inside before he had to go back to Rezar. Night time was already here and Erik felt his vision begin to blur as he fell to the ground.

“Shit, shit, shit,” Erik said. “I can’t die here!”

With his strength escaping him, Erik began to crawl across the ground, grabbing the dirt and using his feet to keep moving. He had no idea where he was right now, but he had to be close to the truck. His breath left him with every move he made until he could not move any move any more. With no more strength to move forward, Erik felt his eyelids become heavier down until darkness surrounded him.

“Damn it,” he said. “Sorry, Korbin…”

It was only a few minutes late that Erik had come to and woken up in the back of the truck he had come in on. He looked around and found Harold Mars sitting in the driver’s seat. Erik then looked down at his stomach and found that he had already been bandaged and saw his coat hanging off of the back of the passenger’s seat.

“You’re awake,” Harold said as he drove.

“Mr. Mars! I’m surprised you’re here,” Erik said. “What brings you to Ahnlikohn?”

“You clearly don’t understand who I am,” Harold replied. “You should be lucky that Korbin likes you, otherwise I would have just left you to die.”

“Well, thank… thank you,” Erik said. “I guess you’ve already figured it out, huh? They’re already heading on their way to Oelaans…”

“Fortunately for you, that’s no longer your problem,” Harold said. “You’ve done well enough to bumble around and let them off the hook.”

“Mr. Mars, sir, I promise you that next time, I won’t fail!” Erik exclaimed. His outburst caused him to cough again, once more with blood exiting from his mouth. “Fucking woman… she really had the guts to do that, didn’t she?”

“Don’t talk,” Harold said. “You’re in delicate condition and it’s obvious you’re not suited to fight any time soon.”

“This is nothing,” Erik replied. “You can count on me, just ask Korbin.”

“You think I give a shit about what that idiot thinks?” Harold asked. “No, you should sit back and let the adults handle what you could not. You let the princess of Thekohn go and I cannot excuse that!”

Erik could not reply. What could he possibly say in this situation to convince Harold otherwise?

“And as for that disgrace of a human being, she will not last long on her own,” Harold said. “Our main concern is with the royal family. If our goal is to be realized, then we must tie up every loose end.”

“All of them?” Erik asked.

“Did I not tell you to shut up?” Harold asked. “It is as I say: that queen is still here only because she’s still useful to us. The same goes for Lauren Ahga, as well. Once our victory is assured, we will waste no time in eliminating them.”

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Chapter

Sundown – Chapter 33 (Part 2)

[21st of September, 2740 AD; Executive Hotel, Entrance Lobby, Rezar, Iiayikohn]

 

The night had passed and now it was a new day as Sorin got up from bed. One of the first things that he did was call the Executive Hotel to see if Ayame and Igor made it back safely. Kiku replied to him with a fortunate tone as both made it back to the hotel last night. However, there was one concern that Kiku did have and she requested that Sorin and the others visit her at once. When they arrived, they were met with a big surprise.

“Sorin, you’ve finally made it,” Kirk said.

As Kirk, Gamil, Lowell, Rado, and Tre joined with Kiku and her mother, Sorin could only stare at them with his sight not breaking for even a moment.

“I should be the one saying that to you!” Eva said as she walked up to Kirk. “What the hell have you been doing?”

“Eva, please, it’s not that important,” Kirk replied. “There’s much more pressing matters to discuss right now.”

Eva scowled. “I should just smack you in the face right now,” she said, “But I’m not going to dwell on that. What did you three want to discuss?”

“Oh, Evie, I didn’t know you could be that cute while you’re angry,” Kiku said. “Quirky and his friends decided to drop by and greet my mother, so I figured you all would love to have a sit down with each other.”

“What about the bodyguards?” Gavin asked. “Where are they?”

“They’re upstairs,” Kiku answered. “They looked pretty pooped after all that happened, so I just left them to cuddle with each other.”

“Too much information,” Lowell said. “Look, we wanted to meet with all of you because we couldn’t just sit on our asses anymore and wait for evil to strike again.”

“We got a tip from Henry about something going on in the Royal Kingdom of Thekohn,” Kirk said. “Given that you just came back from there, I would assume that you know firsthand about what has happened. Isn’t that right, Your Highness?”

“That’s correct,” Rain replied.

She explained to them about what she and the others had discovered about the Neu Thekohnian Order and who the real leader was. How the Queen of Thekohn decided to orchestrate an entire war against Ahnlikohn and manipulate Prince Amile Ahnle into killing Alan.

“I see,” Kirk said.

“So Alan’s blood was spilled all so Iiayikohn could be justified in being the queen’s puppet,” Gamil said. “I could just punch a wall right now, but I don’t want to hurt my knuckles.”

“If you want, I can punch that wall for you,” Mina replied. “I’m just as angry as you are about this, Mr. Gomel!”

“As you should be,” Tre said. “So many people will be hurt because of this and this Neu Thekohnian Order is going to be laughing their heads off while they wait for the dominoes to fall.”

“There’s one thing I don’t understand,” Rado said. “Why pick Ahnlikohn? What do they hope to accomplish?”

“Sometimes, it’s always the simple reason,” Kiku Yamazaki answered. “I think you would agree with that, wouldn’t you, Kirk?”

“That is indeed a good reason,” Kirk said. “More or less, this seems like a power grab by the queen. Although, I can’t place my finger as to why, considering the fact that there’s nothing wrong in the kingdom as far as I know.”

“Well, whatever the reason, we know who was behind Alan’s murder,” Eva said. “I don’t care if she’s the queen… I just want her dead.”

Rain looked down and away from Eva.

“That bad, huh?” Pekka asked.

“I’m sorry, Your Highness, but she truly is a horrible human being,” Eva said. “Anyone who would kill for such a selfish reason deserves to die.”

“I know that she is a terrible person,” Rain said, “But at the end of the day, she is still my mother.”

“Yeah, I can see why you would feel that way about what Eva said,” Law replied. “Hell, even the thought of Eva running that sword of hers through someone gives me goosebumps.”

“That spirit of yours is admirable, Eva, but the obvious problem that would pop up would do nothing but only make things worse,” Lowell said. “Believe me, I want nothing more than to bring Queen Isla down for what she did to Alan, but it would do us no good to retaliate senselessly.”

“I know that,” Eva said. “I’m more than willing to find a way to remove her from her throne so long as she receives her punishment afterwards.”

“It may be difficult, though,” Noa said. “Are we so certain that we can truly oust this queen?”

“Yes,” Rain answered. “We can convince her to step down.”

“Now that sounds pretty senseless,” Law said. “So we’re just going to walk on in and ask Isla kindly to please step down from her throne?”

“She would if her being the queen were to become a detriment,” Rain said. “That’s one way we could get her to surrender.”

“Your idea, while noble, may not be the best option,” Tre replied. “If we’re to resolve this without much bloodshed, then we can’t go about bringing danger to the kingdom, can we?”

Rain sighed. “You’re right,” she said. “I don’t wish to put all of those people, my people, in danger because of this.”

“Then we’re back where we started,” Gavin said. “Shit, this isn’t helping us one bit, is it?”

“Son, if there were an easy way out of this mess, we would have found it a long time ago,” Lowell said. “Unfortunately for you, the real world isn’t that easy to figure out. Not right this second, anyway.”

“I fear that we’ve no time,” Rado said. “How much longer do they wish to wait until they take it out on Ahnlikohn?”

“That’s something we don’t know,” Lowell replied. “Damned morons over at the prime minister’s office have no clue of the blood, sweat, and tears we helped pour into making this peace possible.”

“I still have my in, though,” Law said. “Of course, I’m not sure where Ayanna is right now but there’s still that route.”

“I wonder,” Yamazaki said. “Kirk, you still have that connection to Karim, don’t you?”

“It’s been a while since we’ve spoken to each other,” Kirk replied. “Though I’m sure he’d be happy to see me again.”

“Oh yeah, that general dude,” Law said. “He and I seemed to get along pretty well when we went to Bel.”

“There could be a chance to work with him again,” Eva said. “Of course, if he’s willing to do that for us.”

“Any possibility that exists, we know when can strive toward it,” Kirk said. “So if I can get in touch with Karim, I’m sure he would help out.”

“From what I gather, I can assume that you’ll be the one making the call,” Lowell said. “Granted, it would be foolish to lead a single prong straight into enemy territory, so we’ll have to work out who’s going where.”

“That’s not going to be a problem,” Gavin said. “I’ve already set up who’s going where since I knew that we would have to split up down the line.”

Lowell rubbed the side of his head. “You live for this moment, don’t you? Always thinking like you’re a leader and whatnot, right? Well, it’s a good mentality to have, so lay it on me.”

“Right then,” Gavin replied. “Since Lawrence and I already have rapport with General Khadir, it would be best if the two of us, along with Eva and Noa, make the trek to Bel.”

“Wait, why me?” Noa asked.

“Don’t ‘why me,’ dumbass, you know why I picked you,” Gavin said. “You know all there is to know about the Maeitakohnian army, which will be an asset to us if we want to move forward.”

“Then it looks like things are settled,” Law said. “So we’re going to go talk with the guy down there and he’ll just help us, then?”

“Let’s just focus on meeting him,” Eva replied. “Kirk, does this mean you’re coming, too?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” Kirk said.

“Kirk’s got a different mission with us,” Tre said. “It’s a kind of top secret joint that the rest of us can’t just tell you all.”

“You could at least tell me,” Eva said.

“I’ll tell you in private after this,” Kirk replied. “Not when there’s so many people around.”

“So what about us?” Sorin asked.

“Well, that’s going to be left to me, I guess,” Gale said. “Based on the conflict with Ahnlikohn right now, it looks like trying to go through there will not be an option if heading to the kingdom is our goal.”

“If that’s the case, I may just have a solution,” Pekka said. “If it’s alright with you, I’d like to discuss this with the rest of you.”

Sorin looked around. Of the people remaining, it was him, Gale, Mina, Rain, Luna, and Pekka that were most likely going to be the group heading through the north route to the kingdom while the other group went southbound. This did not include Sorin’s father or his allies, nor did it include Kiku or her mother. At least, that was the assumption.

“So away from here, then?” Sorin asked.

“Exactly,” Pekka replied.

The understanding between the two led them to head to one of the side rooms in the main floor of the hotel, but not before saying goodbye to the other groups first. There was no telling when they would be able to reunite again, but Sorin knew that it was only a matter when, not if, they reached the Royal Kingdom of Thekohn that they would all be together again and finally deal with the true leader of the Neu Thekohnian Order. Sorin hoped that they would all be ready to go by then.

 

*****

 

[21st of September, 2740 AD; Glora Grand Hall – The Nest of the Albatross, Glora, Ahnlikohn]

 

People shuffled around outside the Glora Grand Hall as Johan watched from a distance. According to the guidebook, this outdoor area was called the “nest” of the building, which was fitting considering that it was named for the royal family. That was why it only made sense for Queen Amelia to show up as several soldiers gathered on stage while Harring began to give his speech. Johan took no time to listen; after all, he was only here to confirm the prince’s location. He noticed the pay phone nearby as he turned back over to the stage.

“I don’t see him yet,” Johan said. “I guess they’re keeping the prince under high security right now…”

“So you did decide to come here. Looks like Korb’s suspicions were right.”

Johan turned his head to the left and saw Crawford Bradley standing beside him. He was the only one to show as Korbin and the rest of his crew were nowhere to be found. A quick scan of Bradley revealed that he was unarmed and the only thing that was visible on his uniform was a communication device. With that settled, Johan looked back to the stage where Harring was still giving his speech to the crowd while the queen continued to watch.

“My sources brought me here,” Johan said. “It seems that someone from the Neu Thekohnian Order is trying to interfere with the queen’s speech.”

“You know, it wouldn’t be surprising to me if what you said last night was true,” Bradley said. “The comment about you working with the Neu Thekohnian Order, I mean.”

“What makes you think that it’s true?” Johan asked. “After all, you said it was just a joke, or at least a poor idea of one.”

“It makes me wonder what you’re really doing,” Bradley replied. “Given your rank, it wouldn’t be too out of the realm of possibility to infiltrate the enemy and gain information on them.”

“We both know that such a thing is preposterous,” Johan said. “If I were to walk into a base that was occupied by the Neu Thekohnian Order, I would be killed the moment they spotted me.”

Bradley looked over the crowd. “You have a point.”

“So where is Korbin, anyway?”

“He’s observing the crowd from another place,” Bradley replied. “It does us good to have an advantage in case anything happens to go wrong. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Is this all part of the ‘damage control’ you talked about?” Johan asked.

“You could say that,” Bradley said. “It seems like they’re taking their time bringing the prince out. I wonder if I should give them a call…”

“There’s enough time,” Johan said. “The chancellor is still giving his speech, after all.”

“Quite a long-winded one, I’ll say,” Bradley replied. “This guy’s just going to go one for a while, isn’t he? I’m getting impatient.”

Johan sighed as he continued to observe the stage. There was nothing he could do about Bradley for now, nor did Johan want to do anything about him. He just had to remain diligent as he watched the chancellor continue on with the speech before the crowd. It would be easier for Johan, though, if he could just get Bradley out of the area.

“Are you sure this is a good area to observe the speech?” Johan asked.

“I’m sure,” Bradley answered.

“Interesting,” Johan said.

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, if what you’re doing is important, I would think it to be easier if you got closer to the stage,” Johan replied. “That way, you’d ensure that nothing could possibly go wrong.”

Bradley tilted his head upwards. “You might be right, Johan Kuu,” he said. “I’m sure everything will go off without a hitch regardless, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be that much closer to the action.”

He did a brief scan from left to right as Johan took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Bradley was almost there, Johan thought. All that needed to be done now was to lead Bradley to where Johan wanted him to go.

“I think Harring’s about done with his speech,” Johan said. “Better go now, unless you want to be stuck in the back of the crowd.”

“Then I’ll go,” Bradley replied. “Oh, before I part, a quick reminder: you’d do best not to cross Korb again; I can’t guarantee that things will end well for you, otherwise.”

“Thanks,” Johan said, “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.”

Not another word was said as Bradley left from the vantage point to the lower level. Johan watched as the chancellor walked off the stage as the queen made her way towards the podium. Meanwhile, the two princes were escorted onto the stage with a high amount of security surrounding them. The pay phone was unoccupied, but Johan decided to wait and see what happened next before he had to make the call.

“Let’s see what we’ve got out here,” he said.

Onstage, Queen Amelia began her speech as both Amile and Amos took their seats at the back. She began by greeting everyone present as she went into the events that had happened over the past few days. Throughout her speech, Johan could see Amile fidgeting in his chair as Amos placed a hand on his shoulder. There was no avoiding what had transpired between Amile and the prime minister of Iiayikohn and everyone listening to Amelia’s speech knew that, which was why Johan made sure to pay extra attention to what she would say next.

“There is no denying to what has happened to Alan Berry,” Amelia said. “As queen of this country, responsibility eventually has to fall on me and this is no exception. What Amile has done cannot be erased, nor can we pretend that the assassination never occurred.”

From the tone in the queen’s voice, Johan could tell that she meant every last word. At the very least, he knew that the speech was convincing enough for the people in the crowd to buy it. However, there was a job to be done and Johan had little time to waste.

“That is why we will pursue a fair trial for Amile,” Amelia continued. “I will not look the other way for any longer! We will not be intimidated by outside forces for any longer! Our country, our people, we shall rise up in the name of justice!”

Cheers followed the queen’s words, only to be interrupted by a thundering rattle of metal crashing to the ground. Everyone looked around as Korbin Mars, the unexpected guest, crashed the speech with a rifle in his hands as he and the rest of Bradley’s troop ushered themselves onto the main stage. The security guards stood up and aimed their guns at Korbin and the others.

“Excuse me, but you have no right to barge in onstage,” Amelia said. “Guards, please escort these men off the stage.”

The guard in front nodded. “Will do!”

“If you want your beloved son to leave here unharmed, you will do as I say,” Korbin said as he pointed his gun at Amile. “I can pick him off right here and no one could do a thing about it.”

“You… you have some nerve!” Amelia exclaimed.

Korbin grinned. “I get that a lot,” he replied. “Here’s what you’re going to do: you’re going to surrender Prince Amile Ahnle to the Ameci military.”

“I don’t have time for this,” Amelia said. “Guards!”

The guards aimed their guns at Korbin and his troop, but were dispatched in a swift manner as Erik and the troops with him caught them off guard from the other end. Several guards dropped to their knees as Korbin moved closer to Amelia.

“We don’t take no for an answer,” he said to her. “I can just as easily kill you, too, but we don’t want to risk an international incident, do we?”

“Did General Fercewend put you up to this?” Amelia asked. “I can’t believe he would even–”

Korbin pressed the barrel of his gun into the side of her face. “No more questions,” he said. “Now I suggest you head up to that podium and finish your speech while we take care of the prince for you. Now!”

Two of the soldiers behind Korbin hurried over to Amile and dragged him along until they were offstage. Amos stood up and followed after them, but was stopped as Korbin thrusted the butt of his rifle into Amos’ face. The young prince fell to the floor as Korbin began to kick him in the chest.

“You have nothing to do with this, you useless son of a bitch!” Korbin exclaimed. “Just lay there and die!”

“I can’t! I can’t do this!” Amos said. “I can’t live without my brother! I just can’t!”

“What are you doing to Amos?” Amile asked. “Tell me, damn it!”

He struggled, but the two soldiers grabbing his arms would not let him go.

“Stop resisting,” the threatening soldier said.

“You would do best to let it all happen,” the arrogant soldier told Amile. “Everything now will all be over soon, anyway.”

“What… what do you mean?” Amile asked.

“Brother! I won’t let them take you away!” Amos said as he stood up. “I won’t let you take him away!”

He sprinted towards the two soldiers that were holding Amile captive, but was brought down by a bullet in his lower back. Korbin raised his rifle as Amos’ body plummeted to the floor.

“You should be lucky it’s not a killing blow,” Korbin said. “Come on, Erik, let’s go already.”

“Of course,” Erik replied.

“You scoundrels,” Harring said, “You think you can just come in and tell our queen what to do? You won’t get away with this!”

Korbin scoffed. “I think we already did,” he said. “We’ve got you all surrounded! There’s no way you have the upper hand!”

“The military won’t let you get far!” Harring said. “This is grounds for war!”

“So be it,” Erik replied. “You’ve already lost, anyway.”

“You… you trick!” Harring exclaimed.

“Erik, let’s hit the road,” Korbin said. “Besides, it’s about time for the big finish, isn’t it?”

Erik chuckled. “You’re about right,” he replied. “Bradley’s got the vantage point, after all.”

He joined with Korbin as the soldiers joined them as they helped Amile off stage and to the truck close by. Amelia was resigned to her speech, but as she did, she was in shock as another truck came in and plowed through the crowd. It was another truck that belonged to the Ameci military, running over various civilians as Korbin and Erik watched. Harring moved to the backstage as the remaining guards helped escort Amelia and Amos out to the back. Johan remained witness from his vantage point to what happened before his eyes and could only sigh at the tragedy before him.

“I should make that call now,” Johan said. “I’ll tell Ahga that everything went exactly as expected.”

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Chapter

Sundown – Chapter 30 (Part 1)

[17th of September, 2740 AD; New Prime Minister’s Office, Rezar, Iiayikohn – Deca District]

 

After a busy day in Bel Dale, Ayanna received word from Henry about the potential attack towards the Royal Kingdom of Thekohn. However, there was little that she could do as General Reiss told her that the Thekohnian military had already taken care of the problem. With little else to do, Ayanna ordered her troops to pull out and head back to Rezar. Inside Ayanna’s office, she and Gale awaited for Henry to arrive.

“It’s strange, isn’t it?” Gale asked.

“What is it?” Ayanna asked.

“We got the news that the Neu Thekohnian Order was going to attack the kingdom yesterday but then heard that the Thekohnian military was already prepared,” Gale said. “This may sound paranoid, but it seems too convenient, don’t you think?”

“We’ve got no choice,” Ayanna replied. “It was a direct response from the queen, according to General Reiss.”

“I know that,” Gale replied, “But I can’t help but shake the feeling that there’s something wrong with all of this. The rescue mission went off without too much trouble, but we found out about the attack only to learn it had been taken care of. Surely there has to be an explanation.”

“Well, I’d try to ask Queen Isla, but she’s already left for her homeland,” Ayanna said. “Not a lot we can do there, I’m afraid.”

Henry opened the door and entered the office. “Hope I’m not barging on any personal conversation.”

“Oh no, no,” Ayanna said. “I assume you’ve already made the necessary moves going forward?”

“About that,” Henry said, “The Ameci military has already received word to set forth into Ahnlikohn starting next week. I do not know whether or not the Iiayikohnian forces have received a similar order, but I am informing you that I will be leaving today to help set up camp in Habicht.”

“I have not been informed on any advancement into Ahnlikohn, actually,” Ayanna replied. “That will be an interesting conversation with General Reiss, I’m sure, but thank you for letting me know what the Ameci military is going to do next.”

“We only have one option in times like these,” Henry said. “Keep moving forward, no matter the cost.”

“That is your motto, isn’t it,” Gale said.

“It is indeed,” Henry replied.

“But is it worth it if you don’t know what the goal is?” Gale asked. “Why exactly are you being placed in Ahnlikohn when we all know that the Neu Thekohnian Order has been wreaking havoc all over the region?”

Henry shook his head. “These are just the orders I’ve been given,” he said, “And while I am in good standing with my colleagues back in Ameci, I’d prefer not to rock the boat regarding the little things.”

“This hardly seems like a ‘little thing,’ though,” Gale said.

“Well, it’s not exactly something that’s within my control,” Henry replied. “Thus, I would say that to me that this is a little thing, but I suppose it’s all about the perspective.”

“Anyway, is that all you wanted to inform me about?” Ayanna asked.

“That’s about it,” Henry said. “I’m not sure if I’ll meet anyone from the Iiayi military over in Ahnlikohn, but I do hope that I’ll be able to meet with you again, Lieutenant General Ansa.”

“As do I, Junior Lieutenant Randolph,” Ayanna replied. “May we meet again.”

Henry saluted her and left the room, closing the door behind him. Ayanna set back to her documents when the phone on her desk rang. She reached for the receiver and picked up, placing to her ear.

“This is Lieutenant General Ayanna Ansa speaking,” she said. “Yes, she’s here. I’ll hand the phone over.”

Gale received the phone from Ayanna and began to speak. “Hello, who is this? Oh, Sorin! How are you?”

The door opened again and revealed General Reiss. He entered the office, leaving the door open behind him as he stood across from Ayanna.

“Ansa, I’ve come with important news,” he said. “It’s rather urgent, so I need you to come with me now.”

“Okay, I’ll wrap things up here,” Ayanna replied. “Gale, I’m afraid you’ll have to cut your call short because I’m going to lock my office.”

“Hold on,” Gale said. She listened intently to what Sorin had to say. “That can’t be possible… What should I do? … Okay, I’ll try to do that. Listen, I’ll try to call you back. Where are you? … Stay there and I will give you a call later. Tell Gavin that I’d want to speak with him, too. … I love you. Goodbye.”

She handed the phone back to Ayanna, who promptly placed it back on the hook. Ayanna stood up and moved her desk as Gale followed her.

“Gale, I have to meet with the prime minister now,” Ayanna said. “I don’t what he’s going to say but I want you to meet me back at my home. You know where to go, right?”

Gale nodded. “I do.”

“Then I will see you there, Miss Kunigunde,” Ayanna replied. “Let’s go, general.”

Ayanna left with General Reiss as Gale hurried out as well. With Ayanna locking the door to her office, Gale did not have much to do for now. She decided to leave the prime minister’s office and head outside into the city. As there was nowhere else to go to, Gale decided to head back towards Drake Rask’s house. That was then when she ended up bumping into Kirk Wilk, Lowell Page, and Tre Hendricks, who were standing outside of the cafe on the other side of the street.

“Oh, Kirk, you’re still here?” Gale asked.

“Yeah, just doing some catching up,” Kirk replied. “It’s been an interesting past few days, hasn’t it?”

“I know,” Gale said. “A lot has happened… Say, would you mind hearing me out? It’s pretty important.”

“Who are we to deny listening to a beautiful, young lady like you?” Tre asked. “We ain’t the kind the kind of guys to turn that sort of thing down, are we Lowell?”

“Sure, why not?” Lowell asked. “We’ve got some time before that Dezine fellow goes out to make his speech.”

This was the first time Gale had heard this. “There’s going to be a speech?”

“Just announced it, seems like,” Tre replied. “Something big is going to happen, I can feel it.”

Lowell scoffed. “They’re gonna say they’ll strike back,” he said, “But it’s all just a big show for Dezine’s chance to take the reigns.”

“That man has been waiting for a while to become the prime minister,” Kirk said. “Looks like he’s fully embraced his role now and he’s going to make sure that he doesn’t let go.”

“But we shouldn’t bore you with those details,” Tre said to Gale. “You’ve got other things on your mind, for sure.”

“Right, let’s go in and I’ll tell you everything,” Gale replied.

 

*****

 

Gale took her time to relay all of the information that Sorin had given her in the phone call. Kirk nodded and listened to every word with intent as Lowell and Tre also paid attention. Once Gale finished, she rested her hands on the table and awaited Kirk’s response.

“You’ve told no one else, correct?” Kirk asked.

“I was asked not to tell anyone in the Ameci or Iiayi militaries,” Gale said, “When I saw you, that’s when I decided that I should tell you guys.”

“Then you’ve made the right choice,” Kirk said. “I’d never thought I’d hear such a thing happening in the kingdom, but I don’t believe that my son would lie about this.”

“I just can’t process the fact that the queen is the mastermind behind the Neu Thekohnian Order,” Lowell said. “And the fact that she would have the gall to not only deceive the rest of us into attacking Ahnlikohn, but to have her own children killed? Goddamn psychopathic, if you ask me.”

“It’s all paranoia, I’d wager,” Tre said. “If you want to cover up your tracks, best to tie up all of the loose ends.”

“Fortunately, the hope of the Royal Kingdom of Thekohn is still alive,” Kirk said, “And she’s fortunate enough to travel with my son.”

“Isn’t supposed to be the other way around?” Tre asked. “You gotta think that with all this journeying, there might be a little more going on than them being allies?”

Gale glared at Tre. “Can you please stay on topic, Mr. Hendricks?”

“Ah sorry, Gale, where are my manners?” Tre laughed and took a drink of his coffee. “Well, there must be something we can do, right?”

“What do you mean?” Lowell asked.

“We’re not gonna just sit here in the mud and let what we’ve fought for go to waste,” Tre said. “I’ll be damned if we can’t find a way to help Sorin and his pals out! How about it, you two?”

“Alan’s our brother,” Lowell replied. “I guess I can’t just let his name be forgotten, can I? I’ll do it, especially if it means I’ll get to kick some ass.”

Kirk crossed his arms. “I’ve told Eva that I wouldn’t fight,” he said, “But this is a crisis and I’m sure that she would feel the same way.”

“You really think you can still fight?” Gale asked. “Not that I’m trying to sound insensitive or anything, but…”

“Gale, it doesn’t matter how old the three of us are,” Kirk replied. “What matters is that the heart of a warrior still beats within each one of us.”

“I like that,” Tre said. “It’s like a poem or a limerick of some sort.”

“Aren’t those the same thing?” Lowell asked.

“Nah, Lowell, a poem’s got rhyme and rhythm while a limerick’s just a humorous and raunchy lyric,” Tre replied. “Although now that I think about it, perhaps maybe they are one and the same.”

“We can talk about that later,” Kirk said. “It appears like Dezine’s set to make his speech now, though.”

He pointed outside, to which the others looked to see many people heading towards Iiayine Castle’s Macro Plaza. Kirk decided to stand up and head out as Lowell and Tre did the same. Gale hurried with them, too, so they could get a good look at Dezine when he will make his speech. As they went through the crowds that were now rapidly forming, Gale was able to secure a spot where she and the other three could get a good look.

“They’ve got this whole thing set up for him and everything,” Lowell said. “Definitely going to be a big speech here.”

On stage, eveything from the banners to the podium was decorated with flashy and sparkling ornaments. Gale assumed it was for Dezine to stand out and have his own look, but she felt the whole display to be gaudy. Several guards came out of the castle and onto the stage, with Wilson Dezine finally making his appearance to the sound of applause.

“It’s the man himself,” Tre said. “How’s he gonna start this one off, I wonder?”

Dezine waved to the crowd as they cheered him on and walked over to the podium. He grasped either side of the podium as the microphone feedback lightly rang throughout the speakers. With a smile on his face, Dezine adjusted the microphone and cleared his throat.

“People of Iiayikohn, I speak to you today because you are in a crisis,” he began. “After the events that had transpired over the past week, it has come to my attention that now more than ever this country needs to reclaim its glory.”

“Reclaim our glory?” Gale asked. “What is he talking about?”

“Let’s see,” Kirk said.

Dezine slammed his fist on the podium. “I must respond to these attacks on this country with a multitude of new measures,” he said. “With all due respect to the fallen prime minister, Alan Berry, this would not be the time for hesitation. No, now is the time for action!”

People began to clap as Dezine took in the applause.

“He’s leading up to the big one first,” Tre said. “No better way to start off a speech like this than to come out swinging hard.”

“I shall send a message to the nation of Ahnlikohn that these attacks will not be tolerated and that begins with retaliation!” Dezine exclaimed. “If they believe that they can get away with this, then they are sorely mistaken when they mess with me!”

More applause followed as Kirk looked to Lowell.

“You can tell, too, can’t you?” Kirk asked.

“It certainly looks like he’s having fun with his newfound privilege,” Lowell replied.

“They’re all cheering for war,” Gale said. “Do they really want bloodshed?”

“Nah, I doubt it,” Tre said. “This is a desperate time and Dezine’s just taking advantage of them while they’re vulnerable.”

“I guess, but it is a little disheartening to hear,” Gale replied.

“I know you feel,” Tre said. “We just gotta keep hoping and keep fighting, that’s all.”

Dezine continued. “In addition, I will introduce new measures to ensure that violent acts committed against me, the prime minister, will never happen again,” he said. “One of which is the ‘Prime Minister Protection Act,’ while the other is the ‘Iiayikohnian Security Act.’ Both these laws will be brought about in order to establish a new path forward in which I will lead you to a stronger and much more secure Iiayikohn than the one you’ve been living in!”

“Only he will do that?” Tre asked. “Man, when you stand him up against Alan, it’s like night and day!”

“It’s not going to matter right away,” Lowell said. “That’s how it’ll work.”

“What do you think will happen?” Gale asked.

“Optimistically, perhaps he’ll be the stepping stone for a brighter future,” Kirk answered. “Worst case scenario? Well, I can’t even begin to imagine.”

“Come on, Kirk,” Lowell said, “You’ve heard this kind of rhetoric before. You’d be a fool to think that Dezine’s anything more than a power hungry prick determined to do what he sees fit!”

“I agree,” Tre said, “Though maybe I wouldn’t call him a prick. That’d be an insult to needles.”

“You know where I was going with that,” Lowell replied.

“It seems like we’ve learned all we need to from this speech, anyway,” Kirk said. “No use hearing the rest out.”

“Are you sure?” Gale asked.

“If there’s anything we need to know, we’ll just read it in the paper or hear it on the radio,” Kirk replied.

“Okay,” Gale said. “Would you mind going with me to Lieutenant General Ansa’s house?”

“You got something in mind?” Tre asked.

“There’s something I want to talk to her about,” she replied. “I just think that you guys might want to be there as well.”

“Sure, why not,” Kirk said. “I think you’ve got an idea of what we should do now, so why don’t you lead the way Miss Kunigunde?”

Gale agreed and led the three men out of the crowd and towards Ayanna’s house located in the Tera District. Dezine continued to get a generous applause as he concluded his speech while Gale could only think about what was happening in Oelaans with Sorin and the others.

 

To be continued…

 

Previous | Next Part

Sundown – Chapter 22 (Part 1)

[14th of September, 2740 AD; Iiayine Castle Graveyard, Rezar, Iiayikohn – Deca District]

 

A few days had passed since the attack on Helm. In that time, Kirk, Lowell, and Tre had arrived in Rezar in time for the funeral of Alan Berry. The others had decided to head back to Iiayikohn as well, because Rain felt that it would not be right if Eva did not get the chance to say goodbye one last time. After the initial service, Eva stood with Kirk and Rain, who held a bouquet of flowers, in the graveyard at Alan’s grave.

“You didn’t have to come, Your Highness,” Eva said. “I only wanted to see Alan one more time.”

“No, it’s fine,” Rain replied. “I want to see him as well.”

Eva brushed back her hair. “There’s no problem with that,” she said. “You know, that speech you gave earlier… I have to say it truly moved me.”

“I’m glad to see that in this darkness, there’s still hope,” Kirk said. “I can see it all around, what with Her Highness and my son getting along so well. My only hope for you that you stay strong during these times.”

“Thank you, Mr. Wilk,” Rain said. “Miss Bellamy, do you want to start now?”

Eva knelt down near Alan’s grave. “I just want to thank you for what you did for me,” she said. “There’s nothing that I can do that will be good enough to repay you. My only wish is that you didn’t have to go so soon… I swear on my life that I’m going to find the one responsible and kill them myself!”

Tears formed in Eva’s eye as she placed a hand on her forehead. Kirk helped her up to her feet and hugged her as Rain looked at Alan’s grave. Rain then decided to lay the bouquet in front of the grave as she clasped her hands together and closed her eyes.

“Though I’ve only known you for a small amount of time, I know that you were a great man,” Rain said. “I will pray for your family in this time and for you up in heaven, prime minister.”

As Rain continued to pray, Kirk consoled Eva as he place his hand on the back of her head.

“My heart hurts,” Eva said as she sobbed into Kirk’s shirt. “Why aren’t we doing more, Kirk?”

“We have to have faith in the others,” Kirk replied. “I gave up my sword five months ago and entrusted my job to Sorin. There’s not much I really can do, especially not on a bad ankle.”

“Then I’ll do it,” Eva said. “I can’t sit here and do nothing… There’s no telling what the Neu Thekohnian Order will do if we don’t do anything.”

“I know,” Kirk said, “But I’d hate to think that something would happen to you and I know you’d feel the same about me.”

Eva looked up at Kirk. “What do you mean?”

“I want you to consider putting aside your sword,” he replied. “Not just because of what may lie in wait, but… but also because of your health.”

“Don’t do this,” Eva said. “Not here, not now.”

“No one else is here except her and she’s still praying,” Kirk said. “I only bring it up because I love you. I care about you. I’d just hate to think that something could happen to you.”

“You really are stubborn, aren’t you?” Eva asked. “I’m not like you, you know. I can still wield a blade without trouble.”

“It’s not your proficiency with sword that I’m worried about,” Kirk replied. “I’m the only one you’ve shared your deepest feelings with, and the fear that I have is that you might end up falling victim to that demon.”

Eva pushed herself off of Kirk. “I knew it,” she said, “You really are a stubborn idiot.”

“Stubborn because I care,” he said. “If caring about you makes me an idiot, then I have no problem with that.”

Eva shook her head. “I can’t take this right now,” she said. “I need some time to think by myself.”

Kirk watched as Eva stormed off towards the building. He sighed as he thought about how he could have handled that better. Rain finished as she then turned to Kirk.

“Should I go talk to her?” Rain asked.

“It’s not your problem, Your Highness,” he said. “Besides, I don’t want to have you worry about her because of what I said.”

Rain took a look past Kirk. “Are you sure? I can try and cheer her up.”

“She’ll be fine,” Kirk replied. “Anyway, I should see what Lowell and Tre are doing right now. It was nice to meet you.”

Rain reached out her hand to Kirk and shook it. “I’ll say the same to you,” she said. “Hopefully we can meet again next time under better circumstances.”

“I hope so too.”

With nothing to say, Kirk left Rain by herself. He had business to attend to with both Lowell and Tre, who were probably still talking with Gamil over in the audience hall. Kirk wanted to catch them both before they left and had no time to waste.

 

*****

 

Inside the castle, Sorin sat with Gale, Mina, and Noa in the parlor where many of the other people were sitting. A lot of people attended the funeral for Alan, though one man did not go to the service: Wilson Dezine. His absence made many people wonder where he could have been, especially Ayanna and General Reiss. Still, Sorin felt that it was a nice service even though he barely knew the prime minister.

“Our job isn’t done,” Sorin said. “I wonder if Rain is still out there…”

“She’ll be back,” Mina replied.

“I’m surprised you didn’t go with her,” Gale said.

“I wanted to, too, but it didn’t feel right,” Mina said. “Do you think that was the right thing to do?”

“Rain would’ve liked it if you were there,” Gale replied. “She probably feels sad that you didn’t go with her.”

“Oh no, I don’t want her to be sad!” Mina exclaimed. “Maybe I should go to there now before it’s too late!”

“It probably doesn’t matter,” Noa said. “All these people, though… they really cared about this man, didn’t they?”

“Of course they did,” Gale said. “Every person here either knew the prime minister or was helped by him in some way. I can’t imagine there would be anyone who would think bad of him, at least that’s what I would like to think.”

“You think?” Noa asked.

“Forget I said that,” Gale replied. “Sorin, should we go see what Gavin and Law are up to?”

Sorin stood up. “Don’t see why we shouldn’t.”

“Wait, what are you guys going to do?” Mina asked. “Can I come along?”

“It’s more something I want to ask the both of them personally,” Sorin said. “If you want to come along, that’s fine, but I think that Rain might want to see you first.”

“Guess you’re right,” Mina said, “I need to go cheer Rain up!”

Mina jumped to her feet and ran out of the room. Sorin then thought to himself about the events that led up to this day. After Korbin and his gang had left, Johan helped Ayanna in ensuring Silvia receive a proper burial. There were plenty of questions that Sorin had wanted to ask his friend, but Johan seemed to have other plans as he left with Pariton as soon as the burial was finished.

“It’s time to go,” Johan had said. “See ya, buddy.”

After that brief exchange, Sorin had left with the others and headed back to Rezar. He and Mina had wanted to push forward onto Thekohn and Oelaans, but Sorin decided that it would be better to head back and rethink their strategy. He also was not sure what Gavin and Law were going to do, but above all else, Sorin wanted to make sure that Gale would be safe. There was no telling what awaited him going onward, but he felt that Gale would fare better and be safer with the two brothers.

“Where did they say they were going to be?” Sorin asked.

“Law told me it wasn’t far from here,” Gale said. “Let’s go.”

Gale and Sorin then headed out of the parlor room and towards the front door. They pushed the door open and found Gavin and Law hanging outside. Gavin was busy reclining against the wall while Law spent his time observing the city.

Sorin waved his hand. “Hey.”

Gavin looked up. “Hi. What is it?”

“It’s about earlier,” Sorin replied. “Have you made your decision?”

“Yeah, I think we have,” Gavin said. “Are you sure that you two are okay with this?”

“I think Sorin might not feel too confident in his own abilities,” Law said. “That’s why you’re asking us, right? Gale, what do you think?”

“There’s no problem here,” Gale answered.

Law eyed Sorin. “And you?”

“I believe in myself, as do I Gale,” Sorin said. “That’s why we came to you, because I know she’ll be a great help to you.”

“How so?” Gavin asked. “I’m not trying to be an asshole, but I’d really like to know.”

“You’re going to find the one responsible behind Alan’s assassination, aren’t you?” Gale asked. “If there’s anything I can do, I’d be glad to help you out and draw out a plan with the two of you.”

“It doesn’t hurt to have an extra brain in this operation,” Law said. “Besides, I not so sure if Eva’s planning on staying here for much longer.”

“What do you mean?” Sorin asked.

“Oh, so you haven’t spoken to him yet,” Law replied. “Seems like you should hear it from Kirk himself, then. Go on, don’t just stand there!”

“You could just tell me,” Sorin said.

“Why would I want to ruin the surprise?” Law asked.

“Fine,” Sorin replied. “I’ll see you later, Gale.”

Sorin exchanged his goodbyes with Gale and headed off to find his father. He bumped into Noa, who stood in the hall as more people started to leave.

“Have you seen my father pass by?” Sorin asked.

“Your father? I can’t say that I have,” Noa answered.

“Damn it, where could he be?”

As Sorin wondered where Kirk was, he saw Eva exiting from one of the nearby rooms with Ayanna. Thinking that she might have information on where his father could be, Sorin walked up to Eva.

“You two wouldn’t happen to have seen my father, have you?”

“I don’t really know where he is,” Eva replied, “And I don’t if I care to find out.”

Sorin was taken aback. “Did something happen?”

“Nothing you should be concerned about,” Eva said.

“So I guess it’s like that, then,” Sorin said.

“It’s best that we leave some things unsaid,” Ayanna said. “My schedule is busy after this; I’m supposed to meet with Dezine later to discuss the recent turn of events.”

“Speaking of which, what became of the two princes?” Sorin wondered.

“Currently, they’re set for a hearing a week from now,” Ayanna answered. “It seems that the news really caught Queen Amelia off guard, so she’s yet to make a speech about what happened. Dezine’s been communicating with the chancellor, however, so we might find out soon.”

“So the only answer is which country they’ll be tried in,” Eva said. “I would think they’d want to do it in Ahnlikohn, all things considered.”

“If there’s anything I know, though, it’s that Reiss wants to take care of this case as swiftly as possible,” Ayanna said. “He looked up to the prime minister, almost like an older brother of sorts, and he’ll want to make sure that the hammer is brought down on these two.”

“That makes sense,” Sorin said. “What will become of that family, I wonder? Do you have any idea?”

“Not exactly my place to say,” Ayanna replied. “I think that Chancellor Harring is looking for a lighter sentence for the younger prince, considering it was the crown prince that confessed to assassination.”

“I can’t help but feel, though, like we’re still in the dark about what really happened,” Eva said. “Even that prince was being used for someone else’s means. It’s unforgivable is what it is.”

“Unfortunately, that’s not a concern for Dezine and Reiss,” Ayanna said. “All that mattered to them was finding the assassin.”

“Sorin, you don’t think that way, do you?” Eva asked. “Whoever’s out there is still pulling the strings. They might even have their next target in place! I… I can’t allow for that to happen!”

Sorin nodded. “I think she needs to know, too,” he said. “If I know Mina, they’ll still be outside. Shall we?”

“You really need me?” Eva asked.

“There’s not much else we can do right now,” Sorin replied. “I still want to see my father, too, so hopefully he’s out there, too.”

Eva ran a hand through her hair. “Oh, if that’s the case, then I don’t want to go with you. Not if he’s there.”

Sorin wanted to respond, but did not. He saw no reason to convince Eva of going with him, at least not for now. If he wanted to get going back on the journey to Thekohn, he would have to talk to Rain. With nothing else to do inside, Sorin headed towards the graveyard in hopes of finding Mina and Rain there.

 

To be continued…

 

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Sundown – Chapter 16 (Part 2)

[10th of September, 2740 AD; on board the Ameci Wysert – Amthe Ocean]

 

As the sun began to submerge itself under the ocean, Kirk could only think about what he might have to say at Alan’s funeral. There were many things he could say about the man who gave him an opportunity when no one else could. Even when things had gotten tough, Kirk could depend on Alan to make the right choice that would benefit everyone. He also had to wonder if Eva had heard the news by now. No, he had a feeling that she would have found out on her own.

“If only I could be there with you,” he said to himself. “I know how much he meant to you, too.”

“Hey, Kirk, you just gonna stand there on the deck like that?” Tre asked.

“I’m sorry, I was just thinking aloud.”

Tre laughed. “I get you,” he said. “I’ve been trying to cope the best I can, but still it feels like a piece of me has been ripped out.”

“I can only imagine how the others feel,” Kirk replied. “Speaking of which, where’s Lowell?”

“Probably taking a rest or something,” Tre said. “Maybe we’ll get to see the others there, too. Wonder how our friend Gamil’s doing…”

“Last I heard, he’s still working as a fisherman,” Kirk said. “Though he did say he was dealing with his bad back. Perhaps I’ll ask him if he’s planning on a change of jobs.”

“Doesn’t hurt to ask him.”

“Suppose not.”

“So what are you going to do now?” Tre asked. “I’m thinking about getting to the banquet room before it gets too late.”

“Isn’t that place open all night?”

“Well, I always like to pace myself,” Tre answered. “Get some energy and get some exercise in after. The food’s just an added bonus!”

“I guess I’ll walk with you, then,” Kirk said. “I’m not hungry right now, but I guess I’ll go down to the hull and walk around until I get tired.”

“That’s great!” Tre said. “Let’s go.”

Kirk followed Tre down inside the hull of the ship, the two passing through the doors to the banquet room. The room was well lit and had fancy tables, each one decorated with fine tablecloth and candles atop the surface. With no other option, Kirk decided to sit at one of the tables while Tre went to get some food. Off the distance, though, Kirk saw Isaac Kunigunde speaking with President Hasker at a table that was only a few feet away from where he was sitting.

“What’s this?” Kirk asked.

He looked away, but still decided to listen in anyway.

“It will be a tough request, but I’ll try to do it,” Hasker said.

“That sort of effort is not appreciated by me,” Isaac replied. “Either you will do it or you won’t, and I don’t accept someone who doesn’t do what they are asked of me. You’d do best to remember that, Piere.”

“I understand.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Isaac said. “That’s what sets you from all the others, after all.”

“If I could ask one thing, however,” Hasker said, “Are you sure that I have to speak with him directly? I only ask because I have other places I need to be.”

“It’s the only way,” Isaac answered. “He’s a valuable ally of mine in this world. There are only so few I can trust.”

“Right, because of your aspirations,” Hasker replied.

Isaac leaned forward. “When I want to drive my car and the engine won’t start, what do I think I do?”

Hasker shook his head.

“I find the part that doesn’t work and I replace it,” Isaac said. “I simply head to the store and buy the part I need. If the parts to my ‘car’ don’t work, then I merely need to get better ones.”

“Do you believe that you have the right parts?” Hasker asked.

“I do believe so, but it’s a shaky foundation,” Isaac replied. “Say your meeting with Ahga doesn’t work out and you’re back to square one.”

“You mean for the both of us.”

“Oh no, talking with him isn’t my job,” Isaac said, “It’s yours. You and you alone will head this meeting with several of your best people alongside you. Unless they don’t happen to be the best, in which case, I would suggest you start thinking of what you’ll be doing with some more free time on your hands.”

“Sorry about that,” Hasker said. “You’re right. I should be focusing on this meeting.”

“As you should,” Isaac replied.

Hasker adjusted the collar of his shirt. “Mind if I ask what it is you’ll be doing once we’re in Iiayikohn?”

“Well, once the funeral’s said and done, I’ve got some business of my own to conduct,” Isaac said. “There’s a certain general I have to meet, for instance.”

Kirk knew that Isaac was referring to General Fercewend, but he wondered for what purpose it would be. As he continued to listen in, Tre arrived at the table with a full plate and sat down across from Kirk.

“You really don’t want anything to eat?” Tre asked. “They’ve even got some of the finest pasta here.”

“No, I’m good,” Kirk said.

Tre eyed over to the table where Isaac and Hasker were sitting. “I see what it’s about,” he said. “So what’s going on over there?”

“I’m trying not to draw too much attention to myself,” Kirk replied. “What it does seem like is that there’s some sort of meeting that’s supposed to happen.”

“Seems like it,” Tre said. “Lowell was telling me there’s probably more than meets the eye when it comes to who killed Alan. This doesn’t happen without a reason, no sir.”

“That’s true.”

“Listen, Kirk, it’s going to be rough,” Tre continued. “Alan was the reason why Iiayikohn has achieved stability after the war. He knew how to lead, how to listen, and definitely knew when to put his foot down. Make no mistake; this was an action carried out with the purpose of throwing all of that to the wayside.”

“It sounds like you’re not optimistic,” Kirk said.

“I put my body on the line so our children wouldn’t have to fight another war,” Tre replied. “God only knows how long it’s going to take until we have another ‘dispute’ that’ll lead everyone to fight again.”

“I still have faith,” Kirk said. “There’s plenty of capable people all over this world, my sons included. I know for a fact that Sorin has some great friends by his side, and Rysol is still out there somewhere.”

“That’s good to hear from you,” Tre said. “Maybe you’re right. The younger ones are going to be the ones leading the way in the future, so maybe I oughta take your initiative and have some faith as well!”

Tre laughed as he began to eat. Because of that, Kirk turned his focus back over to Isaac and the president, who were just finishing up their conversation.

“So I expect that everything will go well, yes?” Isaac asked.

“Of course you can,” Hasker said.

“Good,” Isaac said. “It would quite a shame if things were to go awry because one man couldn’t do what he was asked of.”

“Please… you don’t have to worry,” Hasker replied.

“I know several people due to my work in the manufacturing industry,” Isaac said. “Some of them have created some very useful tools. Tools that can be used for combat, for instance.”

“I’m not sure I get what you’re saying,” Hasker said.

“I’m saying that if you fail, perhaps you and your family would like to see firsthand how these tools work,” Isaac replied. “Ah, but maybe I’m saying too much. Seems like those two over there have their time preoccupied while we talked. You have a good day, Piere.”

Isaac stood up. He walked over to the table where Kirk and Tre sat at and leered at the two. Kirk directed his view at Isaac, who appeared to tower over the two men.

“Can I help you?” Kirk asked.

“I wonder what it is that brings you to eavesdrop on my conversation,” Isaac said. “Perhaps it’s because you’ve got nothing better to do?”

“You were speaking in a public place,” Kirk said. “Anyone could’ve heard you talk from a mile away.”

“Please save the smart talk for later,” Isaac replied. “Where’s that pitiful bald coot you were with?”

“If you’re talking Lowell, he’s taking a nap,” Tre said. “I bet he would’ve loved to see you, though!”

“Do you intend on not taking me seriously?” Isaac asked. “Should remind you of what’s at stake once we arrive in Rezar?”

“You don’t need to worry about that,” Kirk replied. “I think it’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen once we get there.”

“Your overconfidence will only serve as your downfall, Mr. Wilk,” Isaac said. “I think that you should be more cognizant of your position in this whole thing, because if you do not then it will only make things worse for you.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Kirk said. “So what sort of business do you have with our friend General Fercewend?”

“That’s not for you to know,” Isaac replied. “If you really care, maybe you would ask him yourself, though I doubt that you would even be able to get an answer out of him on this trip.”

“Do you ever try being nice?” Tre asked.

Isaac turned away. “It seems that our conversation is over,” he said. “I expect that neither of you will be bothering me for the rest of this trip, otherwise I will be quite upset.”

He hurried back over to the other table and left Kirk and Tre to themselves. Tre appeared to be finished with his dish as Kirk got up from his chair. There seemed to be nothing else he could do right now, so Kirk decided that now was a good time for him to go lay down. The trip to Rezar would be over in a few more days, so there was not much that he could do for the moment. He had to wonder, though, what was going on now that Alan was gone.

 

*****

 

[11th of September, 2740 AD; Ameci Embassy, Rezar, Iiayikohn – Deca District]

 

In the late night, Henry Randolph headed to the main lobby of the embassy and gazed at the phone sitting on the table. He picked up the receiver and began to dial the number to his home in hopes that Tori would pick up. As the phone started to ring, Henry sat down and wondered what news she had for him this time. The next ring stopped midway as a voice familiar to Henry came through.

“Hello?” Tori asked.

“Hi, it’s me,” Henry said.

“Oh, you finally called!” Tori said. “I was getting nervous because it must be really late over there right now. I’m glad you didn’t forget.”

“I could never forget about you, you know.”

“I’m only kidding, Henry,” she replied. “You must have worked pretty hard today, didn’t you?”

“Well, we had a meeting earlier today,” Henry said. “Rohan wanted to discuss our next course of action now that one of our men has been rescued. Seems we have some business back over in Ahnlikohn.”

“And you were just there, right?”

“Looks like they’re having a summit,” Henry answered. “I wonder if they’re just waiting for President Hasker to show before they can start.”

“Whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll be okay,” Tori said.

“Yeah, I think so too.”

“Okay, well, anyway… I’ve got some news I want to share with you,” she said. “You remember the day before you left, right?”

“Yeah, I do,” Henry replied. “What about it?”

“You remember what I told you late that night, don’t you?”

“I recall that you were talking about the future of our sons,” he answered. “They look up to me quite a bit even though they’ve known me for so little.”

“That’s because you’re their father, of course!” Tori said. “And of course, a father would have to be a great role model for his children, including the one that hasn’t been born yet.”

Henry’s eyes widened. “You don’t mean what I think you mean, do you?”

“I do,” she replied. “I’ve been waiting to tell you for when you got back, but I just couldn’t hold it any longer.”

“That’s… that’s great!” Henry said.

“It really is,” Tori said. “If only you were here right now, though…”

“Don’t worry,” he said, “I’m not going to miss seeing the birth of my child, not this time. I don’t care what happens, you can rest assured that I’ll be there with you when that time comes.”

“Just hearing you say that makes me happy.”

“I know,” Henry said. “By the way, do Bradley and Junior know yet?”

“They’ve already been told,” Tori answered. “It just didn’t feel right not being able to tell you until you got back.”

“Well, now you did and now I can’t wait,” he said.

General Fercewend appeared from the hallway and entered the lobby. He eyed Henry in a way that told him that he needed to talk. Henry nodded and turned back to the phone so he could finish his call.

“I wish I could talk to you all night, but it looks like Rohan wants to talk with me,” Henry said. “I’ll call you as soon as I can, okay?”

“I understand,” Tori said. “Good luck.”

“Thank you.”

Henry exchanged his goodbyes with Tori and hung up. With nothing else to do, he got up and approached Fercewend. There was a concerned look upon Rohan’s face as Henry wondered what had happened.

“Is something the matter, Rohan?” Henry asked.

“I really hate to interrupt your conversation, but it’s important,” Fercewend said. “You wouldn’t have happened to have seen Mars, have you?”

Henry shook his head. “Not a trace,” he said. “I thought he was to report to you today.”

“Normally I wouldn’t make too much of a note of this, but it’s the third time he’s been tardy to my call,” Fercewend said. “That and the fact that he has been running off during the day when we need him during missions.”

“Right, but then again, it might be hard to punish him given who his father is,” Henry replied.

“No matter what happens, I’m not scared of Harold,” Fercewend said. “As the general of the Ameci military, I won’t be swayed by a man just because he has more money than I.”

“And that’s why people think so highly of you,” Henry said. “So what are you suggesting that I do about Korbin?”

Fercewend closed his eyes and thought to himself. “Next time you see him, just keep an extra eye on him,” he said. “Perhaps you should enlist the help of another soldier to see what exactly Mars is up to when he runs off.”

“I’ll try to do that, Rohan,” Henry said. “Pretty sure that I can find someone who can do this task for you.”

“I’d expect nothing less from you,” Fercewend replied. “Well, I leave this task in your capable hands. Good night, Henry.”

“Same to you.”

Fercewend departed as Henry turned away. There was a new task on the horizon for him, though Henry wondered if it was true that Rohan did not fear Harold Mars. That was something he would for another time, however, because now Henry had a lot to wonder about as well as a new addition to his family.

 

To be continued…

 

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