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Chapter 26

“Ariel, I think you’re making a huge mistake,” Rainie said to her, as she wrapped her Twin Swords with cloth.

“Trust me, this is the only thing I’m doing right,” she said frankly.

Ariel had just been released from court a couple days ago and she had decided to not cause anymore pain; she needed to be alone and away from the ones she grew to love.

“Ariel?” Kris asked. “Why are you leaving?”

“I need to be by myself for a while,” she said with a steady smile.

“Do you have to? I mean, you just came back, don’t you think you should rethink this?” she asked.

“No Kris, I have to leave you guys. Just pretend that I never came OK?” she said wholeheartedly.

“Ariel, this isn’t right,” Rainie said.

“I’m sorry I won’t make it to the wedding, Rainie,” Ariel interrupted. “But you have my blessings. I hope you can treat Mike the way I never did.”

“ARIEL!” Kris said pouting. “Are you leaving because of me?”

“What? Why would you think that?” she asked.

“Because I don’t think I was being a good friend,” she wept. “I’m sorry I hit you that time Joe got shot. I mean, I should have known better. He gets shot all the time!”

“I’m just glad he’s just in the hospital,” Ariel said to Kris. “Listen, I don’t think I’ll be here when he wakes up, so can you do me a favor?”

Ariel kneels down and whispers something into Kris’s ear.

“Can you do that for me?” Ariel asked.

Kris, pouting even more, hold’s onto Ariel’s face with her small hands and says “do I have to?”

“Please??” Ariel laughed.

“For you, Ok…” she says giving her a last kiss on the cheek.

“Rainie?” Ariel asks. “Can you walk me out?”

By the edge of the corner, Ariel turns to Rainie and gives one more thanks before she leaves.

“Thanks for the hospitality Rain. I know I haven’t been there for you as much as you have for me…”she began, before Rainie hugged her.

“No Ariel. You’ve been a great friend. Please promise me something?” she asked. “Take care of yourself.”

“I will, Rainie,” she said with a smile.

“Go see Joe before you leave. It’s the least you could do.”

“I’ll see ya Rainie,” she ended. By the time she had crossed the street Rainie stopped her.

“ARIEL!” she screamed to her. “You’ll always be my SISTER!!!”

Ariel first made a stop by the river. It was the same river where Joe had first saved her that day when everything had been revealed to her; that Mike was in the hospital, and Alex was manipulating her. It was the day she remembered most; the place that she could always go if she ever came back to Taipei.

“I thought I’d find you here,” said mike from afar.

“Mike? How’d you know I was here?” she asked.

“I told you; we think alike,” he said smugly. This was the river where I proposed to Rainie. I knew this place would be special to you some how.”

“I suppose you heard…” she said

“Yea, you’re leaving soon?” he asked.

“Soon.”

“Why are you leaving?” he asked bluntly.

“You want the truth?” she asked.

“That would be best,” he joked.

“I don’t belong here, not like this.”

“What do you mean? I thought everything was fine after the trial,” Mike tried to reason.

“It’s not that simple,” she said shaking her head. “Even if I live to be 100, I’ll still have the ‘Twin Sword Warrior’ label on my epitaph. I’m not meant to live in this society.”

“So you’re doing this because you’ll always be the Twin Sword Warrior?” he asked.

“I’ll always have the criminal aspect attached to the name. I’ll always be the poor little orphan girl who was awkward all her life. My emotions are all screwed up and I sure as hell can’t handle my feelings like a ‘normal human being’. My stepmothers were right.”

“Forget about that, Ariel!” Mike screamed. “So what if other’s think of you as just the Twin Sword Warrior? It just makes them that much more ignorant! It’ll never change how the ones that love you, feel.”

“Maybe not all, but certainly one…” she said grimly.

“Is it because you can’t handle Joe?” he asked frankly. “You can’t handle what will happen once he wakes up?”

“No…” she answered quietly. “I can’t handle hurting him again.”

“Hasn’t anyone told you before?” he joked. “He gets shot every weekend!”

“I don’t mean in that way,” she said seriously. “I’m not going to let my past hurt him.”

“Ariel…” Mike tried to persuade.

“I can’t Mike…it’s not fair.”

“What’s not fair is not giving him a chance to say if it’s OK to hurt him or not!” he yelled. Let him choose if he wants to get hurt by you. Give him that much.”

“Why?” she asked. “He doesn’t have to deal with me anymore and I’m sure he doesn’t want to…”

“Even if he loves you?” Mike asked interrupting her. “You would hurt him that much just so he doesn’t have to deal with who you were in the past?”

“He doesn’t love me, so he won’t get hurt,” she said frankly. “He’ll find someone better than me, and he’ll live the life he deserves.”

“Ariel!” he screams in frustration. “Why can’t you understand…”

“Mike…”she says calmly. “If you had a choice to let go of Rainie so she could live a better life, wouldn’t you do so in an instant?”

“But…”

“If you loved her, you would give her up right?” she asked again. “Same idea. I’m just the Twin Sword Warrior, remember? Prince’s don’t fall in love with the criminal. And Joe won’t fall in love with me.”

“You’re still making the wrong decision, I hope you know that,” Mike joked.
“And you’re still as stubborn as the day I met you!” she joked back.

Mike sighed and finally lets her go with her decision.

“Just promise me you’ll be there for the wedding,” he finally says with a smile.

“Mike…”

“Don’t do it for me, do it for Rainie. She’ll be crushed if you don’t come.”
“…sure,” she says smiling with him.

Holding her once more like he did so many years ago when she first left him he manages to say “This won’t be the last time I’ll see you, Ariel. Even if I have to wait another 20 plus years, I’ll be waiting.”

“You will always be my best friend Mike!” she cried. “I will never forget you.”

“Ditto,” he smiled back, leaving her at the river.

Her last stop was towards the hospital. Every step closer to Joe made her harder to breathe. It had been a long time since she had last seen him. What would she do when she see’s him?

As she makes her way through the door and into the hospital room, she sees Joe lying on the bed lifeless. The machines were wired and making beeping noises that made the anticipation even harder. Slowly, step by step, Ariel walks up to the side of the bed and looks at the man that could have been hers.

She gently grazes her hand over his, and could feel the gentle pulse rush into her body, leaving her weak and unable to breathe.

“I’m so sorry!” she wept to him as her knees drop to the floor. “I’m so sorry, Joe. I’m so sorry!! I never meant to hurt you…”

She held onto his hand, gripping as hard as she could without hurting him, slowly descending into her own world. It was hard for her to let him go but she knew in her heart she had to. She couldn’t let her hurt him anymore. Slowly getting up from her knees, she peers into his pale face to catch one more glance. No longer would she see the man she first saw in the alley that night she first met him. Those loving eyes would never smile at her again. That feeling he gave her every time he touched her would never be felt again. Those beautifully delicate lips would never be kissed again…

Taking a few more deep breaths, Ariel finally decides to leave him. As she loosened her grip from his hand only to feel his grip, tighten.

“…stay,” he manages to utter softly with his eyes still shut tight.

“…I can’t” she whispers. “I have to go.”

“…till I fall asleep…” he softly continues.

Giving in to his request, Ariel sits in the hospital room, holding onto his hand until he finally drifted asleep. When she realized it was time to go, she kissed him one final time on the forehead and made her way to the door, leaving him in silent peace.

 

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