After the war of 1972, world leaders made the superior decision of splitting the surviving ten million people into six distinctly different domains - merging culture, religion as well as language in order to live in their own perspective territory. Each domain is ruled by a Prime Minister, guaranteeing that all persons be provided by whatever they need to survive.
Over the years, it had remained peaceful, but five nations soon began to display their desires for more territorial claims. Only the nation of Siho remains in neutral grounds, choosing the side of peace.
To prevent another war from breaking out, Siho's Prime Minister created the National Guards Alliance, a special defense army that vows to fight for peace and order. They act as the kingdom's peacekeepers, and are made up of men not only from Siho but also those who sided with Siho's beliefs.
Anna, a Siho native, is accustomed to seeing men in uniform roaming around town since she was a child, but the presence of a new face awakens her curiosity, and ultimately, her heart.
This is a love story of a young couple, of a different world, in a different time, where war is inevitable.
Chapter Six: A Revelation
To my dearest Anna,
Do not cry for me at all. Instead, be cautious of your surroundings as you open the content of this letter. Do not read further if you are with someone else. Make sure you are completely alone.
As I write this letter, we are two days from following the track of the Sonddor soldier on businessin Andestris. A few weeks ago, I made the mistake of shooting down a fighter jet that caught my suspicion. It had been tailing me for days, so I could not let it pass. When I came close to it, I found the dying pilot to be a member of the Sonddor Army from the flag patched on his uniform - a stitching of a brown tiger head in black fabric. The pilot, too, was very familiar. He was one of the men who disappeared with your father two years ago. His name is Elliot Gringer, a lieutenant from Captain Ellixon's squadron. Although I pitied the man for trying to breathe his last few, I still tried to ask him if any other men had survived somehow, or if your father was still alive.
Unfortunately, he stopped breathing before I could get a an answer or even a location. I searched his pockets to find a piece of paper with information on a rendezvous point. My team has decided to pursue this operation in secret. I have taken charge.
No one else knows about this information except you. I'm sorry Anna, but this letter will bring you burden soon. I realized too late that the airspace where I shot Gringer belonged to the Union Republic, and they are not ones to let anything pass unnoticed.
If you can, keep this to yourself. People will come after you, asking you exactly what it is I've seen, but say nothing. However, if you are every threatened, go to the camp and look for the man called 'Hansel.' I trust him with my life, and you can trust yours with him.
I pray you never have to see this letter. Instead, I want to be the one to say it. I want to tell you that your father may be alive, and to not lose hope. But if by chance you are reading this now, I apologize for not being able to come back. As my childhood friend, I ask you to watch over my mother until she gets back to her old self.
Do not read too much books in the dark.
Marry a good man.
Anna folded the piece of paper neatly and hid it in her pockets. She had read it fourteen times already. It had been three weeks since Daniel's team recovered Sahl's body along with a few others, and now Anna is watching over Mrs. Macintyre.
All this time she had been staying in their house, cooking everyday to make sure her health would not decline any further. At first, Mrs. Macintyre would not eat nor sip a cup of water, but eventually she managed to eat a few spoonful of porridge and a few pieces of brown wheat bread.
Anna sighed in defeat, but her attention soon turned to the short, stouty woman who was slowly closing the door to Mrs. Macintyre's bedroom. It was Gretchen Mayfield, one of Sahl's far away relatives.
"She's finally sleeping," whispered Gretchen. "Thank you for doing this, Anna. You must be tired too."
Anna shook her head. "This is the least I could do. The Mcintyre's have been very considerate of me and my father."
Gretchen sat beside Anna and gave her a big hug. "What a strong girl. I've been living in Valkondh all this time, so I didn't know they had someone like you. Thank you." She let go of Anna.
"I will be here with her, so for the life of me, go home and get some sleep."
Anna closed the door, and made her way back to her own home. She was fortunate enough to get a whole month off from both of her jobs, but now she wishes she didn't.
After all, she just can't help not wanting to be alone today.
She hasn't seen Daniel since then.
He disappeared like the night, and she couldn't see even a glimpse of his hair. It was clear to her now that unless he made any intention of seeing her, their paths won't have to cross at all.
The National Guards Main Headquarters, simply called "the camp" by everybody else, has everything he could every need. Every soldier receives a generously sized quarter to sleep on, a big cafeteria where cooks create simple yet delectable cuisines for every meal, with the menu changing every day. Aside from the large field where soldiers perform everyday drills, a separate sport complex offers space for basketball, soccer or even tennis.
There's also a library where thousands of books are archived for references, and even a swimming pool.
It's possible that some soldiers don't bother going outside the gates, and only move out during assignments.
And even if Daniel still wanted to be out in the morning, she would either be working at the bookstore, or sleeping at home until it was time for her evening shift at the clinic.
With such a huge divide, it scared her to think how easy it was to pretend they never met.
Anna was thinking so hard as she was walking that she lost her chance to avoid the small crowd of girls fussing over a man hunched down in a bench in front of the post office.
"Tell us all about the things you do inside the camp!" Urged Cara Meldevine, a girl the same age as Anna. She fluttered her dress all over Daniel with a devilish grin.
"Yeah! Tell us!" Said another, a tone too high for Anna's ears.
Anna never had a lot of friends, but she never once considered joining the snooty group headed by Cara Meldevine. She wasn't too keen on the idea of following good-looking men around town as a hobby, or buying expensive clothing merely to make a statement. It seemed too much of a hard work.
Then again, she found herself listening in as girls chimed in questions after questions, but only one took her interest
"Do you have a lover?" One girl asked. Anna recognized her to be Brianna Sui, the only heir to rich, silk trader parents from Ezterdelle.
Anna rolled her eyes. "Of course," she thought in an instant. Daniel would be the type to get a woman's attention. He was tall and lean, but in him there was strength.
He appears shy, but he was the protective type that carries a kind and caring nature.
He could be the ultimate gentleman, with smiles that kills and biceps just big enough to defend a nation, even with a woman in his arms.
"But what do I know," grumbled Anna. "I've barely been around him for long."
She looked at the crowd in obvious distaste.
"Surely he must be enjoying the attention," thought Anna. She promised herself she'll just look at his face just one more time, but as she took a peak of him, he wasn't looking too good.
His face was red, as if he was about to pass out.
Another man appeared in his aid. The man was a little taller than Daniel. He has light brown hair, ocean-blue eyes, a clear-shaven face and a defined, chiseled jaw. One grin from him and all the ladies immediately flocked over.
He shooed them off with his hand, and grabbed Daniel from the back.
"Forgive us, but he isn't feeling too well. How about we postpone this another time?"
The girls booed them playfully before walking away. When the coast was clear, Anna watched as Daniel grabbed the hand resting on his back and twisted it in one painful turn, making the other man go weak to his knees.
"Damn it, Han!" The man shrieked, pulling his hand back quickly.
"I'm not joining these games anymore, Ilyan," he said as held his head in pain. "I mean it."
" Give you a gun and you go all out, but leave you alone with women for five minutes and you give up?" Said Ilyan in a sly-like tone. He grabbed an apple from his pocket and wasted no time taking a mouthful. "Talk about cliché."
Anna had been so absorbed with listening in that she didn't realize someone had been calling for her attention.
"...Elixon. Ms. Elixon!"
She turned her head to find a pale and slender man wearing an expensive black suit standing in front of her.
"Yes!" She exclaimed, surprised. She was so loud that everyone turned their head to her direction, including Daniel and his friend.
The man, flustered by her response, cleared his throat and gave her a small and polite smile. He was a significantly old man, maybe a few years over fifty. He took something from his pockets and showed it to her - it was an old silver watch. The hands were no longer moving, and a piece of the glass cover shattered, but none of that mattered to her
There was no mistaking that it was her father's watch.
"You got my attention," she said to him.
"Let's find a place to talk," said the old man. " Come with me."
Before she left, Anna turned around to look at Daniel, who hadn't moved from his spot.
She didn't say anything, and neither did he. A few seconds lingered before he turned his head away from her.
"Ms. Elixon?" Her visitor called out.
"I'm coming," answered Anna. As she walked, she found a new purpose.
"This is your battle," she thought as she left. Your battle alone.
A few minutes later, Anna found herself inside one of the quieter coffee shops in town. She sat across the man with the black suit, who focused on reading the entire menu while his glove-covered hands tapped quietly on the table. She doesn't see a lot of people wearing those elegant white dress gloves nowadays, but he seemed to be in the right generation for it.
But what bothered Anna was that she couldn't read him at all. She couldn't tell whether he was someone to be suspicious of, or someone she could trust.
"Ms. Elixon, have you decided on what to get?" He asked her suddenly.
"I'll just be getting a cappucino," she answered.
The man sat still in his seat as they waited for someone to take their order. His back was not hunched. It was perfectly straight, aligning seamlessly to the mahogany chair he was sitting on. She could tell he was a man of power. The suit he wore looked as if it would amount five times higher to any ordinary suit that they sell at Siho.
A young woman with a light brown apron came to them with a smile. "What will it be?"
"A cappuccino and a cup of black coffee," he said to the waitress, and he glanced at Anna for a split second before looking back at her. " Get a slice of cake too."
"We only have strawberry cream."
As she walked away, Anna couldn't help but blurt out her thoughts to him.
"You don't seem the type to eat a fruit cake," she said to him.
"I don't. It's for you," he replied. "This is going to be a long one."
He took a leather holder from his pocket. Flipping it up, Anna saw a badge and an identification card, with his picture and a flag representing another notorious nation in Zuwan Kingdom.
"I am Detective Alan Miskov from the Union Republic."
The Union Republic, mostly known to others as the Politician land, was famous for using backhanded deals with other nations to get what they want. With five out of six nations showing desire for another war, Siho's National Guards are busy everyday, ensuring that no such violence occur ever again.
"How strange for someone of your status to come here," said Anna. "What could you possibly want from me?"
"Information," replied the detective.
He then nodded at the waitress who placed their order on the table. When she was gone, he took a sip of the coffee before proceeding to speak.
"I am well aware of the disappearance of the National Guards' Recon team two years ago. There were no traces, no bodies, not even a bloody rumor of where they are." He placed his cup down.
"One of our men found this watch while on an isolated island in our realms. Your family's last name is engraved on the case cover," he paused.
"You should know your family is famous for two reasons."
Anna gave him a dirty look.
He held his hands up dismissively.
"Well, let's not dwell on the past. I'm here because I need information on a recently deceased warfare pilot from the National Guards."
Anna's hands felt cold.
"Why are you asking me these questions?" She said. " Wouldn't it be easier to go directly to the base if you're doing an investigation?"
It was an extremely dumb question, but Anna asked anyway.
The detective only sat there and laughed. "Well, I'll give you two reasons why I didn't go there. One, it wouldn't end without someone getting into a bloody fight. Two, the pilot's name is Sahl Macintyre. If my information is correct, the two of you have a close relationship. You seem to have received a letter from him when his body was taken back."
He was smiling at her now, but Anna was starting to feel uncomfortable.
"I'm sure you can tell I'm not saying all this on a whim. Macintyre shot down a fighter jet in our airspace but no reports have been made on the pilot's identity or where he came from. In my position, wouldn't you think it's suspicious?"
The detective placed both his hands on the table and fixed his gaze on Anna.
"You do understand what I'm trying to do, don't you?"
Anna was downright terrified. She can tell that this detective was interrogating her for information on Sahl, in exchange for information on her father. It wasn't as if she didn't expect it either. Sahl had already warned her that something like this thing will happen. He trusted that she make the right decision.
And decision she will make.
"It's true that I'm looking for my father," she said to him, "but I'm afraid Sahl hadn't mentioned anything like that.
Anna didn't dare look away for one second. She maintained a calm voice, and she didn't fidget either.
Excitement, uneasiness and guilt are three of the things that expose a suspect in an interrogation room. Her father had made sure she was well aware of these things.
She could hear the detective sigh dejectedly. He had given up for today, she thought.
"Well, I guess you can't trust me yet, Ms. Elixon," he said as he stood up. "But let me tell you this."
He leaned in close to her ears, and said the very words she was expecting him to.
"I'm not the only one out there, you know. You'll realize soon I'm one of the good guys."
He reached inside his pocket, and took out her father's silver watch.
"As promised," he said as he handed it to her. "Let this not be the last time we see each other again."
Once he left the building, Anna dropped to the floor. She was shaking like a leaf.
"Ma'am?" The young waitress had run to help her up. "Are you all right?"
Anna nodded. "I'm alright, thank you."
Anna grabbed the cup that the man had been drinking on, only to find that it had not been touched at all. There was no trace of his lips ever touching the cup. The cup was still full.
"He faked it," she whispered, her head panicking. "He pretended to sip on the cup twice in a row to loosen me up."
Her throat began to hurt. Someone who would be careful enough not to leave a single physical trace was someone to be afraid of.
She reached for her phone, and called the National Guards' mainline.
"Hello," answered the receptionist in a friendly tone.
"My name is Anna," she breathed. "Can you get Lieutenant Daniel Han on the line? It's very important."
"Give me one second," the receptionist answered. A few seconds passed before she got back to Anna.
"I'm sorry, but Lieutenant Han is not taking any calls at the moment. He seems to be busy."
"Do you know his phone number? It's urgent I speak to him," Anna insisted, but the receptionist wouldn't budge.
"I apologize, but I cannot give that information to just anyone. Besides, if it truly important, the person trying to reach him must have already known his direct line, wouldn't you agree?"
Anna turned the phone off. She got up, and quickly grabbed the waitress by the shoulder.
"I'm sorry," said Anna, "but I'm in a hurry. Do you have any surveillance cameras in this shop at all?"
The waitress shook her head. "None. This is only a small coffee shop after all. Who would dare come in and make trouble?"
Anna dropped her hand.
"Someone did," she said in her head. "Just now, someone was here trying to make another war happen."