That Fateful Day
“I believe this is yours? Pavel, if you would?”
Leon's eyes darted over at Pavel, who grabbed his hand and placed a pocket watch in it. Leon then looked over at Gearald, who smiled.
“I don't deem a watch dangerous, they really shouldn't have taken that from you.”
After Leon's answer, the room's atmosphere had changed. Every Targent member had relaxed, talking to Leon as if he had always been a part of their group.
If they were worried or just not in the mood to get rid of another person... Who knew what they were nervous about before, that mood was gone.
“You wanted to ask Leon about the artifact, right Jin?”
Gearald had tried a bit of small talk, but it didn't seem to work, so now he switched the conversion to something Jin was eagerly waiting for.
Jin quickly stood up and walked behind the couch. He placed on some gloves and picks up a case, popping it open. It showed a small figurine inside, standing on a pedestal. The figure was a small woman wrapped in a long cloak with a wing design, the colors gold and a light blue with a greenish tint to it.
On the back of the cloak was an odd pattern that didn't seem to look right. In fact, even the front looked off, the pattern of the wings not matching at all. The whole center part of the figurine looked like a mishmash of design.
The pedestal appeared to have had some damage to it, long thin pieces from the bottom were laid out neatly in the case.
Leon recognized it as one of the artifacts that himself and Standwood found. The one Standwood sent him. Leon was sure he knew why they wanted that one in particular, he had already started to work out its purpose before he and his family were kidnapped.
Jin sat back down on the couch, careful to pull out the figurine. Leon noticed a change in Jin, the man he'd seem timid and unable to look at anyone, wasn't so anymore. He was sitting straight up, staring at the figurine for a moment before turning his gaze to Leon. Jin's eyes and smile widen, unnervingly.
“Isn’t it lovely, Mister Bronev?” Jin's tone had changed, while still quiet, it came off a lot more confident and focused. “Look how well kept it is, despite being underground. The Azran's structure is amazing, outlasting even them.”
“Looks broken to me.” said Fin, unimpressed. He had placed a cigar between his teeth, however he hadn't lit it.
Jin shot Fin a disappointed look. “O-ohh... Only if you refuse to pay attention.” He looks back at Leon, smiling again. “You understand what I mean, right? It's a puzzle. An Azran puzzle, isn't it?!” Jin giggled with excitement. “I want to see those ruins...”
Ji looked away from Jin, looking uncomfortable. She stood up and walked away from everyone, deciding to stand somewhere off to the side of the room.
“I assume it will be a while before we're allowed near the ruins, with a murder investigation going on.” Gearald shook his head, disappointed. “We'll have to hold off on that expedition for a while. I want Leon to be a part of it, having seen it firsthand.”
“What do you know about the artifact?” asked Fin, gesturing towards Leon to answer.
Leon took a deep breath. “I-I could show y-you if...” Jin stood up and walked over to Leon, handing him the case and a pair of gloves before Leon could even finish. The young man eagerly awaited Leon to explain what he knew of the Azran artifact.
Leon put the gloves on, then turned the figurine upside down, having the seemingly damaged part facing him. “These cuts are far too clean to be damage over time. As, um--”
“It's fine, Mister Bronev.” Jin said, a twinkle in his eye. “Call me Jin. Everyone does.”
“Uh, yes.” Leon cleared his throat. “As Jin said, everything the Azran built was made to last.” Leon looked over the figurine, slowly twisting the center of the figurine, a small clicking and popping noise coming from it, which made Fin flinch. He thought to take the artifact away from Leon until he realized what he was doing.
Small shift-able lines became clear around it, making it possible for Leon to line up the back design. It made the decorations begin to sync up correctly, the jumbled and misshapen art now becoming visible around the cloak, forming symbols.
“My my.” Jin peered closer at Leon, studying what he was doing. “I didn't even noticed.”
“I only became aware of it through the rushed shipping job done by Haris...” Leon frowned, now fully aware of the reasons why. He decided not to think about it and continued on. “It seemed different than I last remember seeing the figurine, and I noticed that I could twist the center piece. It took a while to figure out the correct pattern, as there are several different parts I can move... Also if I do it too much...”
Leon stopped and the figurine made a load clicking sound, snapping all the pieces back to how it was before, causing Leon to start over.
“So I was right, it is a puzzle.” Jin said happily.
“Yes, but what does it do?” Fin asked, still doubtful.
“It's part of the Azran!” Said Jin, insulted by Fin's attitude. “I'm sure it's a key to the ruins!”
“Right, Jin.” Fin laughed. “No need to get worked up. You're like a kid with a new toy.”
“Come now you two.” Gearald waved his cane in between them both. “We're all here to work together. Get along.”
Leon finished, a small humming sound came from the figurine, much to the confusing of everyone. Leon then picked up one of the thin 'broken' pieces and placed it near the bottom of the figurine. As he did so, there was a small flash as a light bounced between the two, causing the Targent members to jump.
“Ah!” Jin clasped his hands together. “Another artifact showing signs of a brand new energy source!”
“Now you have my attention.” Fin pressed his lips together on his cigar in thought, though he was now watching Leon closely.
Leon shows them all that the thin piece was now attached to the figurine. “I also believe it is a key. Haris and I found a door with no lock and no way to open it. There was a hole that this might fit into, however we never got the chance to try it.”
“Impressive.” Fin grinned at Leon. “So you figured out the entire puzzle on your own?”
Leon shook his head. He pulled out two of the thin pieces and switched their position. They snapped in place on the figurine just as easily as before. “The combinations I can make on this are quite a few. I would need to study more of the ruins and the door itself. An answer might be there...” He clicks the figurine's center again, causing it to reset and the humming stopping. The thin pieces fell onto Leon's lap, all detaching now that whatever force was holding them in place had stopped.
“Leon, why did you go and do that?” Fin was annoyed, now Leon would have to do it all over again.
Leon's gaze never left the figurine. He didn't like how casual they were all being towards him, nor did he like them calling him by his first name now. He was not their friend. They were not even friendly.
Nonetheless, he could not express this if he wanted his loved ones safe. Rachel an the boys weren't too far away. They had been moved out of the room, taken somewhere they could get some real sleep, Leon being left with the leader of Targent to...talk.
“I'm not sure if it's a good idea to keep it on.”
“Mister Bronev is probably right.” Jin took the figurine from Leon and put it back in the case, along with the thin pieces. “We still don't fully understand how the technology of the Azran work. You are going to have to show our engineers how to solve the puzzle after we're done with the ruins.”
“That sounds like a good idea.” said Gearald, his attention shifting to Jin. “You know, Jin, since Corrin is probably going to be... taking a holiday, why don't you show Leon how we work at Targent?”
“Eh?” Jin blinked, coming out of whatever it was that had filled him with confidence. His shoulders slumped and he stared at the floor. “U-uh, um...What do you mean?”
“Would you like Leon to work with you for a while?”
“I think that would be a good idea.” said Ji, rejoining everyone. “It would be good for you to work with someone other than Corrin for a while.”
“That's enough for now.” Gearald gestured to Leon. “Jin, show Leon where his family was moved. Get to know each other, you might be working together for a while. I'll send someone to get Leon when we land.”
Jin nods slowly to Gearald before heading towards the door. He looks at Leon to make sure he was following before heading out.
Nothing was said as Leon followed Jin, though that didn't surprise him. Jin didn't come off as the talkative type, at least when he was like this. What that personality change earlier was, Leon could only assume what that could have been, possibly related to the Azran. Jin seemed obsessed with them.
Most Targent members ignored them, only moving aside if they were in Jin's way. In fact, Leon took note that they all appeared to be avoiding Jin as much as they possibly could.
The man came off as weird, however he wasn't that strange. Was there something Leon didn't know?
Jin stopped at a door with two guards in front of it. Leon was relieved that Jin was just taking him to the room his loved ones were and not delaying on that.
Jin turned to the guards. “You both, I want you to leave for, say, ten minutes? I don't care what you do, take a walk, eat something, talk about the weather. Just leave. Can you do that?”
Leon heard the tone change from Jin, much more commanding. The guards uneasily walked off, barely getting out a 'yes, sir'.
Jin stood in front of door and smiled at Leon. “Let's talk, Mr. Bronev.”
Leon became agitated, Jin keeping him from his family by just a door. The problem was, Leon didn't think he was in any position to argue with the Targent Member.
“No one is around now.” Jin said as soon as the guards were fully gone from view. He adjusted his glasses and straighten his posture out. “I just wish to speak with you in private before I return you to your wife and children. Just for a moment, don't get so...upset. We will be working together from now on, after all.”
“Why?” Leon found himself replying before he could think about it. He was upset. Jin wasn't helping with that feeling. He wasn't sure what Jin wanted with him and it couldn't be good considering that Jin wanted to do this away from the leaders of Targent.
“Why?...” Jin mused over the question as if it never occurred to him. “Why indeed... Hm. Am I that desperate that I'm looking to a third rate archaeologist living in the country side of England for the answer to my dilemma? Has it truly gotten this bad?”
Leon frowned at Jin.
“Oh come now, Mister Bronev.” Jin chuckled at how insulted Leon was. This amused him greatly. “Surely you don't think I approved of you because of your work. You were a nobody for a reason.”
Leon decided to say nothing in response this time.
“Not curious as to what I mean?” Jin pushed off the door, though kept a hand on it, as if to continue denying Leon a chance to leave. “Hmph. Well, my original assumption of you being such a...push over was correct. Fine then. I'll tell you anyway. And will get to the point.”
Jin tapped the rim of his glasses, unable to stop fiddling with them. “Why I decided not to have you and your family shot and thrown away like a bad idea was because you have something Targent is sorely lacking these days. We have plenty of good archaeologists. We could use a few more of course, but what we truly lack is people with a good eye for puzzles. I wanted to test you on how far you got with the artifact. You went much further than I was expecting, which is why I have decided to keep you.”
Leon didn't like what he was hearing. Jin proved to be as flippant about people's lives like the rest of the heads of Targent. At least to those who were not in their organization.
“I want you on my team.” Jin continued. “See, Mister Gearald may have said this was temporary, however I can make you a permanent member of my personal team. I hand picked them myself. You just have to not resist my request to keep you on.”
Jin then frowned. “Problem is you'll have to work with Corrin, our ever so wonderful second in command. It is a small price to pay for the work, my team gets the best archaeological sites. Also, having you around will mean I'll get to look at the ruins you and Standwood found.”
Leon crossed his arms, getting fed up with this man deciding his whole life. “What if I refuse?”
Jin chuckled. “You won't. With a word I could have you and your family removed. After all, you aren't true members of Targent yet and I was the one that recommended you. I have full control over what happens. It would be very eas--”
Jin didn't get to finish, Leon having walked up and grabbed him by the collar of his uniform, slamming him against the door. Leon had enough of these people threatening his family, mocking them, controlling their lives. The whole night, the whole day was filled with nothing but terror and helplessness.
With Jin all by himself, Leon found himself for once feeling like he could do something. He wanted so badly for these people to suffer.
“So you do have a backbone.” Jin smirked, unfazed by the attack. “Suddenly have courage when I'm alone? I wouldn't, you are trapped on an airship. Where do you think you'll be going if you do anything to me?”
Leon grimaced, realizing what he was doing. Jin was right, this would do nothing other than make everything worse. His grip loosened on Jin, who pushed his hand away.
“I'll let that one slide.” Jin adjusted his collar. “It's been one long and hard day for you. I'm not completely heartless, Mister Bronev. I do care about Targent. If you survive long enough to truly become part of us and if you live up to my exceptions, we may become colleagues.”
Leon clenched his hands into fists, trying to keep his temper in check.
“Now that we have an understanding.” Jin walked away from the door, heading back down the hall they originally came from. “You can go. I will see you later when we land, Mister Bronev. I hope you make the right decision.”
Leon watched Jin walk away before he slowly opened the door and went inside, quietly shutting it behind him.
At the end of the room sat Rachel, looking very concerned for Leon. Did she hear what was said outside?
The inside of the room was small and looked as if it was a sleeping area for Targent agents, a few beds lining the walls, mounted onto them. There wasn't much to the room, looking very plain. Not that it mattered to the two young boys who were asleep, not even the sound of the airship's engine keeping them awake.
Rachel stood up and rushed over to Leon, wrapping her arms around him. Leon slowly hugged his wife tightly, unable to think of doing anything else.
“I'm so sorry, Rach--”
“Please, Leon.” Rachel cut Leon off. “I told you before, do not blame yourself. This is not your fault.”
“I know...” Leon rested his head against Rachel's, his anger from before had all but left him, leaving him drained. “I wish I could have sent you and the boys home.”
“You tried. That's all we can ask of you.” Rachel's voice was quiet and Leon could tell it was shaking a little. She was trying to hide it, but she was terrified. Despite this, she laughed a little. “Besides, we would worry about you all the time if we were sent home.”
Rachel's breathing became heavy again, much to Leon's concern. The stress of the situation was probably getting to her, it seemed to be really affecting Rachel's health.
“Are you alright?”
Rachel nodded. “I'll be fine. Just... I just need a moment.”
“If you're sure.” Leon's gaze went to his children, his heart sinking. “How are we going to raise them?”
“We'll just have to do our best.” Rachel took Leon's hand in her's. “We're together, that's all that matters.”
Leon closed his eyes and said nothing more. The two just held each other, unsure of the future before them. While it was awful that his family was in this with him, Leon found he truly needed Rachel at this moment. He didn't know what he would do facing this alone, uncertain of the well being of his wife and children.
At the same time, a dreadful feeling sank into the pit of Leon's stomach, his anxiety building. He wasn't sure why, but he felt like the worst was about to come once they landed.
What else could Targent do to them that they hadn't already?
That only grew worse once he felt the airship shake, nearly knocking him and Rachel over and waking the two boys up. Leon helped Rachel balance herself before they both went over to Hershel and Theodore, Rachel picking the youngest up.
It wasn't long before the door swung open, Targent guards standing outside. The Bronevs were escorted out, being lead outside of the airship to a hanger area.
It became more and more clear how organized Targent was.
“Well it's time to show you all to your new living quarters.”
Leon looked to see Fin, Ji, Jin, Pavel, and Gearald coming up to them, several guards along side them. The grim feeling Leon had grew worse as they closed around them.
“Jin here will show you where you'll be working.” Fin waved his hand towards Jin, who had gone back to his meek persona. “Some of our men here will show Misses Bronev where you'll be staying. And these two here will be taking the children to the learning facilities.”
“Excuse me?” Leon barely got the words out before he found himself placing a hand on Hershel's shoulder to move the boy behind him. He looked at Rachel, who was holding Theodore even tighter, a look of horror on her face.
Fin appeared bothered, but it wasn't about what he was telling them. “I'm sorry, we really should have been more clear about the arrangements. We were all caught up by the events of the day and what you showed about the Azran artifact, we forgot all about discussing it.”
“Don't be so distressed.” Ji smiled at Leon as if this was all normal. “Think of it like the boarding schools in England. It's not as if you will never see them again. You will have visiting hours and time off to see them with the proper permission forms filed.”
“Please... Don't do this.” Rachel barely got out, her eyes filling with tears rather quickly.
Leon found he couldn't speak. He couldn't even think. The idea of these people taking his children away was too terrible. What was worst was he knew he couldn't stop them.
“Let's not make this more difficult than it has to be.” said Fin plainly, not showing any signs of backing down. “This is for the best.”
“Please.” cried Rachel, holding her son as close as she could as the guards moved in on them.
“C-can we have one moment with them?” Leon finally found himself saying, trying anything to stall. He could see Fin wasn't happy with this idea. “Just give us some time, please...”
Fin let out a huge sign and motioned for the guards to back off. He turned around and walked off. “You have five minutes.”
Leon nodded and knelt down to Hershel's height, placing his hands on the small boy's shoulders. Hershel frowned at his father before looking at Fin with a scowl. Leon knew right away that Hershel definitely understood what was about to happen.
“Hershel, look at me.”
Hershel's eyes darted back to his father, though he still looked angry.
“I need you to listen to me.” Leon glanced over to see if the guards were watching them closely. For the most part they didn't seem to be paying too much attention, the situation making them uncomfortable.
Leon looked Hershel in the eyes. “Hershel, remember what I told you before?”
Hershel nodded. “Yes. We're suppose to stick together.”
“I know.” Leon frowned. “I'm going to need you to do that for me. For your brother.”
Hershel's shoulders sank. “But...”
“I know, I know.” Leon tried to hide his frustration, but could tell it was coming through. “I'm asking a lot from you today. I'm sorry it has to be this way. Your Mother and I will do everything we can to get to you and Theodore. But right now, you both need to listen to these... people.”
“Right...” Hershel's breathing shorten. Much to Leon's dismay, he could see his son was getting very distressed.
Leon dug into his pocket and pulled out the pocket watch, placing it in Hershel’s hand quickly, hoping the guards didn't see it. “Be brave. I will make this right one day.”
Hershel clasped the watch and nodded before his father sent him over to his mother, Leon taking Theodore aside. The little boy looked very confused and scared.
Leon hugged Theodore tightly. “I need you to go with these people.”
Theodore gripped onto his father. “Do I have to?”
“Yes. You do.” Leon patted Theodore's back. “Just for a while. Your Mother and I will get you as soon as possible. Until then, listen to your older brother, okay? Be good.”
Theodore nodded slowly. “Okay...”
“We can't do this...”
Leon looked to see Rachel sobbing.
“Rachel... We don't have a choice.” Leon hated how that sounded, but it was the truth.
“Don't cry, Mum.” Hershel placed his small hand on Rachel's face, which Rachel quickly grasped. “Theodore and I will be fine.”
“That's enough.” called out Fin, coming back over to them. “It's time.”
Leon slowly let go of Theodore, even if every part of of him wanted nothing more than to shield them from being taken away. He knew that was impossible and it pained him to see them and his wife have to go through this.
Hershel quickly made his way over to Theodore, grabbing his free hand and pulling him to stand a bit behind him. The guards moved over to them, the two shaking in fear.
“Mister Gearald, may I ask... request?”
Leon looked over to see Pavel speaking with Gearald.
“They are scared. I take them? One guard over many more might calm them.”
Gearald laughed quite loudly at this. “You have such a soft spot for children. Of course you can, Pavel my boy.”
“Father, really.” Fin rub his temples, annoyed.
“Oh quiet.” Gearald waved his hand at Fin in dismissal. “We're back home, what do I need my bodyguard around for now? He can do what he wants. Come Ji, we've got a lot of paper work to do.”
Gearald left with Ji without another word on the matter.
Pavel made his way to the two boys and smiled at them. “Come with me.”
Theodore felt a little better that the taller and scary men were backing off, however he was still feeling bad about leaving with a stranger. Hershel eyed Pavel, not showing any signs of easing up like his little brother.
Pavel placed a hand on Theodore's and Hershel's shoulders and ushered them away from everyone, disappearing down the hanger. Leon wondered if...
No, he couldn't think like that. He would see them again. He would make it happen.
“We should get going as well, Mister Bronev.”
Leon clenched his teeth, holding himself back from saying something vile to Jin. He took a deep breath and turned to reply, but stopped himself short when he heard a 'thud' noise.
“Someone get a doctor here!”
Leon's heart stopped. Rachel had collapsed to the floor, her body in a crumpled heap. Targent guards moved quickly and gathered around her to see what had happened.
“Ra...Rachel?” Leon moved to go to his wife, but found himself stopped by two guards. They grabbed him by his arms and pulled him away. “Rachel!”
“You heard the man.” Said Fin calmly and coolly to one of the guards, unfazed by anything going on. He finally got a lighter out and lite the cigar he had in his mouth. “Inform the doctors they'll have a new patient. It's going to be another one of those days...”
“Well...” Jin came off surprised by it all, though his eye was mostly on Leon's reaction. “This really hasn't been your day.”
“Let me go!” screamed Leon. “I have to--”
“Have to what?” Jin stepped in front of Leon, blocking his view of Rachel. “We have doctors here, Mister Bronev. They will take care of her. You on the other hand have a job to do, remember?”
“You...” Leon struggled to get loose, but the guards were much stronger than him. It didn't take him long to tire himself out. Though he wanted nothing more than to get to Rachel, he knew it was hopeless.
Leon could see from behind Jin that the Targent guards had picked Rachel up and were taking her away, Fin going with them. Leon at that point slumped over in defeat.
“You done? Good. Let us go then.” Jin started off down the hall in another direction, the Targent guards that had Leon dragged the broken man with them.
Leon cursed under his breath. He would make them pay for this. He wasn't sure when or how.
One day he would make Targent pay.