Sunday, February 7, 2016

Page 1174 -- CXXXII.

“I’m not your errand boy,” said Gohvis. “If you want Jackson dead so badly, go kill him yourself.”

Vanderberk’s face flashed with annoyance. “It must be humiliating, having to follow a man who can’t even protect his most valuable assets.”

“The only thing that would humiliate me is working with a man who thinks himself my equal and yet still wants someone else to protect him.”

This time, anger arrived on Vanderberk’s face and stayed there. “This is not productive.”

“Then go and fetch your Salesman. I am not stopping you.”

Vanderberk only stood there.

“You fear the Sandlords,” Gohvis observed. “Admit that to yourself and then go find Jercash. I’m sure he will hold your hand for you.”

Rather than responding, Vanderberk’s eyes just glossed over, and he looked from Gohvis to Emiliana to Ibai.

The Monster didn’t seem to have anything more to say, either.

Unsurprisingly, though, Ibai did. “Hey, does anyone know where we are?”

No one answered him.

“I only ask because that valley over there sort of looks like the Valley of Peace, so it would be kind of ironic if you guys decided to fight here.”

“Who are these two?” asked Vanderberk.

“Not your concern,” said Gohvis.

“Well, apparently, you consider your business with them to be more important than rescuing one of your most valuable allies. So perhaps they are my concern.”

“I am not going to tell you again,” was all the Monster said.

Vanderberk nodded and took a deep breath. “I understand. This relationship of ours won’t be able to move forward until I adjust that attitude of yours.”

And Emiliana watched the sky darken.

Chapter One Hundred Thirty-Two: ‘Resound! Thy swelling regard...!’
Click to display entire chapter at once -- (mobile link)

Hector certainly had his hands full over the next few days. Due to the almost complete destruction of Dunehall, along with Moaban’s geographical isolation, the city had been deemed unfit for civilians, and the Sandlords had issued a mass evacuation. More than three hundred thousand people were in the process of relocating south to Egas.

Page 1173

“Threats, now?” said Vanderberk. “You’re being very stupid. Think about our circumstances for a moment. It’s you, me, Jercash, Morgunov, and Dozer. That’s all we’ve got right now. What if the Vannies decide to take advantage? Hmm? What if they launch a full-scale assault tomorrow? Or next week? The five of us would have to repel the eight of them. Do you honestly not see the importance of freeing Ivan as soon as possible?”

Gohvis did not answer him.

Emiliana felt the air grow heavier still.

Vanderberk smacked his lips again. “Fine. You don’t consider me your equal yet. Comes with being the new guy, I suppose. But tell me. What about the Star? Is he your equal, you think? Because I imagine he’d like to put that to the test. And sometime soon, am I right? I mean, after Horsht and Jesbol, he must be feeling very good about himself. And oh, I have heard such tales! About how he tore your boys to pieces! Gunny and Dunny both! Always thought they were two peas in a pod, so I suppose it’s only fitting that they went out together like that--but by the Star? Of all people? Oof, it must be eating you up inside.”

The air grew heavy enough that Emiliana felt like a thick blanket had been thrown over her. She heard rocks shifting and settling all around them.

“Hey, don’t get mad at me,” said Vanderberk. “I didn’t kill your friends.”

“They weren’t my friends. And neither are you.”

“Oh, is that right? Is that why you’ve been sitting on your ass this whole time instead of avenging them? Why you’re not en route to Jesbol right now in order to make things right? Because they weren’t your friends? Because Dozer doesn’t care that two of his top three were killed in one night? Doesn’t mind how weak that makes him look--especially to us? No, sure, I get it. Obviously. Makes total sense. It’s certainly not because you’re scared or anything like that, right?”

Page 1172

“Get to the point,” said Gohvis.

“Oof. Did you betray Ivan?”

“Do your reports say that I did?”

“Well, no--”

“Then you have your answer.”

“Mm. I see. Good. Then you won’t mind coming with me to free him.”

“I’m busy.”

“That is a shame, but I do think this takes precedence. And I’m sure the others would agree with me. You and I are the closest to Kuros right now, therefore it falls to us to take care of this as quickly as possible. Come.”


Emiliana felt the atmosphere shift. The ensuing period of silence was abruptly heavier.

“I’m sure it won’t take long,” said Vanderberk. “Between the two of us--”


Vanderberk smacked his lips and scratched his forehead. “See, when you say things like that, it makes you look suspicious. Either that, or it makes me think that you don’t respect me as your equal.”

“I don’t.”

Vanderberk’s face scrunched up. “Bold words, considering it’s just you and the old man now. The two of you are running low on reliable friends. Doesn’t make much sense for you to be treating me this way.”

Gohvis finally deigned to stand all the way up and look at the man. Even in this relatively high sunlight, the Monster’s giant shadow reached almost all the way to Vanderberk. “Have I hurt your feelings? Perhaps obliterating another orphanage will dry your tears.”

“Hoh! Maybe it would! But hey, don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it, my friend. Solving future problems today--that’s my motto. And every soul counts, isn’t that right?”

“If you are so interested in avoiding future problems, then I suggest you leave me alone. Now.”

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Page 1171

It was another man, Emiliana saw. He dropped out of the sky in a flurry of wind, stopping in mid-air, just above the ground. A gusty wave passed over Emiliana, rustling her hair and clothes and stealing the breath from her mouth for a few moments.

“Kind of you to wait up for me,” the man said in two voices.

Gohvis hadn’t bothered to turn around and look at him. He remained crouched in front of Emiliana as he said, “Why are you following me, Vanderberk?”

“You don’t already know? I figured that was why you stopped. To clear the air.”

“Clear it of what?”

Vanderberk paused to look at Gohvis’ guests, and Emiliana observed him in return. He seemed normal enough. Perhaps too normal. His flip-flops, tie-dyed shirt, and knee-length shorts didn’t exactly make him look like a typical member of Abolish. Assuming he was one, of course--but Emiliana was reasonably certain about that, considering the way he and Gohvis were talking to each other.

“You must know how this looks,” said Vanderberk. “Ivan having just been captured, you coming from the direction of Sair--where, apparently, you attacked some of Ivan’s men. Until you stopped to talk to me, I was worried that you might be fleeing the scene of some foul treason you’d committed.”

Gohvis still didn’t turn around. “And?”

“Hmph. And... I’m just wondering what you’re doing out here. Where you’re headed. And why.”

“It doesn’t concern you.”

“No? I’m not sure about that. See, the report is that Ivan was captured by one Abbas Saqqaf. One of the Sandlords. Curious thing about that, though, is that according to our intelligence--the Salesman’s own teams--Abbas Saqqaf should not be capable of such a thing. Supposedly, he was using some type of suit of armor, but even still. It’s quite the unexpected development, wouldn’t you agree?”