Chapter Ten: PATRIOT
Anna could not be any more grateful for Harry Fingerstone giving her an extra key to his bookstore. She never thought about having to use it after business hours, but today was an exception.
A completely dire exception.
As soon as Daniel collapsed, she grabbed him and fled to the bookstore's basement. She couldn't remember how she managed to drag the 160-pound man across the empty street, but what mattered to her was getting him fixed up before he gets any worse. After putting him down on the couch, Anna quickly ripped his clothes off him and found his entire torso filled with open cuts and bruises.
She ignored them and instead placed her attention to the gunshot wounds he acquired. She located one on the left side of his stomach and another on his right leg.
He was already losing a lot of blood.
"Why do you have to be such a show off?" She whispered sadly, but she quickly ignored her feelings and focused on what is in front of her. Quickly she grabbed the first aid kit and took some gauzes out of the white bag. She used the white fabric to apply pressure on his wound. After taking care of the other precautions, she carefully extracted each bullet while keeping a cloth in between his teeth.
It wasn't necessary to take them out right away, but Anna knew that if she didn't do them now, he wouldn't bother going elsewhere to get it out.
He was stubborn that way.
Anna held his hand, and as she removed each one, Daniel groaned painfully. Fortunately, they were not deep enough to require opening up, and so she quickly dressed them up and left them to stop the bleeding. Afterwards she cleaned him up, and changed his clothes with the ones she took from her father's closet.
Satisfied with her work, Anna plopped down on the floor in exhaustion. So much happened over the past few weeks that she never had any time to rest at all. Not to mention the fear that was growing inside her.
She imagined Daniel coming over to visit, only to be met with a trap meant for her. What if she just tells them the very information they've been looking for? That according to Sahl, A member of her father's missing squadron was found flying a Sonddor fighter jet in the Union Republic airspace?
Anna may not be the smartest woman in the kingdom, but even she can tell that this information will cause a war in an instant. Shaking her head, her eyes turned their attention to the soldier on the couch.
Watching Daniel sleep was comforting. She still worried about what happened at her house tonight, about his safety and her own, but right now, all of that can go to hell.
Carefully, Anna touched the side of his cheek, and she listened to the soft humming of his breathing as his chest rose and fell in perfect rhythm. What dreams could he have now to have such an innocent expression on his face?
She tried to ignore it, but every time they meet, there was always this expression of guilt and pity in his eyes whenever they look at her.
"You are such a cruel bastard."
Her fingers stroked the top of his forehead, then sliding down the bridge of his nose.
"Why are you doing so much for a woman you don't even like? Why do you drive me away, and then save me the next?"
Anna raised her hand and placed it back to her side.
"I must have been delusion this entire time. Someone like you would do so many things for the sake of those around you. It's just that..."
Her throat felt like fire.
"Somehow I thought I was special."
Anna stood up, and she grabbed a blanket from the large vintage trunk tucked behind the couch. She spread it over him, making sure to cover him up from head to toe.
Afterwards, she sat herself against the opposite wall. She closed her eyes, and drifted into a dream much different from the ones she's had before.
She opened her eyes to find a young girl with short black hair and a dimple on her face. The child stared at Anna in wonder, followed by a generous grin.
"Anna!" The young girl called out.
"...you know my name," Anna replied.
The young girl giggled, and she took Anna by the hand. They ran playfully in the middle of an unharvested cornfield. Anna looked around as they moved, and she couldn't remember seeing this place anywhere in Siho. The meadow full of golden crops stretched for miles, with cows and horses seen from a near distance. It felt so serene, so pure.
Anna looked at the young girl one more time. She imagined her to be about twelve years of age, with tanned skin and small, almond shaped brown eyes.
"What is your name?" Anna asked her, but the girl wasn't listening. Instead, she started to sing a song.
Little brother dance with me
Both your hands in mine you see
One, two, three
One, two, three
Round about so merrily.
With your foot a tap, tap, tap
And your hands a clap, clap, clap
One, two, three
One, two, three
Round about so merrily...
Anna stopped running. Instead, she looked at the girl with widened eyes.
"That song..." breathed Anna. " I know that song...."
"Of course you do, silly!" the young girl answered.
"And I..." Anna was too staggered to answer. "... I know you."
The young girl let Anna's hand go.
"Wait," Anna called out, but the girl didn't listen.
She started to run forward, yet Anna could no longer move.
"Don't leave! Wait! ALEXANDRA!"
Anna woke up with her hands in the air. Her heart was still pumping, and she was sweating from the top of her head. Yet none of that mattered to her.
"Alexandra," she whispered again. "My dear Alexandra."
When Erin was at the tender age of 10, she first met 12-year-old Alexandra when her father, a General from the Andestris territory, came to Siho for business. Anna's father, Captain Elixon, asked that she play with Alexandra, and just as quickly they became good friends. Every time the General visited, Alexandra would be there and they would walk around town, eating cotton candy and caramel apples while occasionally bothering Sahl with his training. Sometimes, they would even talk about Alexandra's hometown.
"There are so many buildings, all of them as tall as skyscrapers!" Alexandra would say, and Anna would be so thrilled to her speak. Her every word was captivating, like building a kingdom with just her words.
"Are there lots of people too?"
"Of course! As many as there are cars! You can walk for hours and still you would not be able to reach the other side of the city unless you ride a vehicle. But my twin brother would rather spend his time with my uncle so he could learn about firearms and wielding other far-ranged weapons."
"...fire...arms?" Anna scratched her head.
"Ah!" Alexandra waved her off. "Forget I said that. Your dad might get mad."
Anna didn't care about it. Instead, she was more intrigued about her friend having a twin brother.
"Does he look like you?" Asked Anna. "Why won't he come here?"
"He looks a lot like me," she replied. "But he won't come. He hates traveling."
"Oh, I see."
Anna couldn't remember what happened after that, but that was the last time she had ever seen Alexandra. She had never seen the General again. Anna was disappointed with herself. How could she forget such an important friend?
Shaking her head, Anna found herself lying down on the couch that she placed Daniel in. Immediately she got up, removing the same blanket that she had put on him. When she looked around, Daniel was nowhere in sight. She went up the stairs, into the bookstore, and found him sitting by the window. He was looking at the moon with a blank expression.
"Are you alright?" Said Anna as she walked near him.
"I am," he replied. "And you?"
Anna didn't say anything. In reality she had so many questions in her head, but she could not dare. Instead, she said the one thing she can only say to him.
"I'm so sorry."
Anna stammered as she spoke. She didn't know how to approach him. How could she talk comfortably after finding him almost half-dead in her living room?
Everyone in their small town knew the Elixons lived in the house across the Faultin River. And everyone knew her father had disappeared two years ago, leaving only Anna in that house.
Every injury Daniel sustained tonight was meant for her.
"Just who came to my house?" She asked, aghast. "What do they want from me?" Anna looked at the injured man in front of her, and she anxiously bit her lip. "How many came to my house to have injured you like this?"
Anna's thoughts grew dark as she imagined how different the situation would have turned out she had reached her house first before Daniel did.
Her shoulders shivered at the memory of the man who pretended to be Detective Mishkov. The man she suspected to have killed the real deal, might have tried to make a second encounter happen tonight.
Let this not be the last time we see each other again.
Suddenly, Daniel jumped down the window and stood in front of her.
"I don't know," he breathed. " But I won't let them get near this place again."
"...What?" This place?
"...of course," Anna said meekly, and her head fell down as reality smacked her in the face.
Daniel was looking after everybody's safety. It was his responsibility as a National Guard. Siho was prone to have random attacks every now and then; it was inevitable. A nation who vows to protect will always make enemies around the corner.
Daniel must have believed that it was the same situation in this case - that it was another random attack, and they just so happen to pick her house.
Anna recognized the fact that he would have acted the same way had it been her home or someone else's.
"A patriot," Anna whispered. She had fallen in love with a living patriot.
Anna grabbed his folded clothes from the table. "You should go now. You've been gone for a long time. I give you my heartfelt gratitude, lieutenant."
Daniel looked at her direction as he heard the last word.
"Lieutenant?" He repeated. "Have you truly... decided to stop calling me by my name?"
He tried to step forward, but Anna shoved his clothes to him and stepped back.
"Calling your name confuses me," she finally replied. "Let me do this, for myself."
I cannot let my delusions run free any longer. It must stop now.
He seemed to have some more things to say but something started to ring from Daniel's pockets. He glanced over his phone, and she watched as his expression change.
"I need to take this," he told her, and he went to the other room to answer his phone.
Anna waited patiently for him, and when he was done he went back to the room and stood in front of her.
"You were right," said Daniel. "They're going crazy waiting for me."
She could only nod at him.
He turned around to collect his clothes, but his head quickly hovered around the room. Anna realized what it was that made him turn his head. Anna walked to a cabinet and took out his 9mm handgun.
She handed it to him.
"Well, that's that."
"I guess I should head home then," said Anna, but Daniel stopped her.
"Ilyan will come here and lead you to an apartment where you can stay in the meantime. Your house had been wrecked. Repairs will be made starting tomorrow."
" I'll be back in two day's time." He continued, but Anna no longer listened.
"You don't have to report to me," Anna said to him. "I'm not your lover, lieutenant. You've made that quite clear."
"This place may not be much, but I think it would be more secure for you to be here than to go back."
Ilyan handed her a key to access a room inside an old apartment complex. She was surprised to see him arrive so quickly, and so quickly he led her to the front steps of the building in front of them.
Anna didn't underestimate Daniel's decision. However, as she found the National Guards headquarters a few short steps away from her now temporary home, it made sense to her.
"Daniel insisted I bring you here," explained Ilyan. "I got the gist of the situation. They'd be crazy to come after you now, no matter how many they are this time."
"How many where they?"
"Ten, all with guns and the sort." Ilyan looked at her. "He told you, didn't he?"
"... He did."
Ilyan sighed in relief. "Good. If I said something unnecessary, he'd kill me." They went inside and stopped in front of closed door in the third floor.
"Well, here you are. Do get some rest. Tomorrow, we'll try to get your things and have them delivered here. I live nearby, so please let me know if you need anything.
"I will. Thank you for your help, Ilyan."
He nodded before walking away.
With the key in her hand, Anna opened the door and did the very first thing she had wanted to do for the longest time.
A nice, long shower.