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Chapter 8

Stunned by this new revelation, Ariel stopped struggling in the man’s arms and tried to swallow that huge lump in her throat

“Wha…What did you say?” she managed to utter.

“Ariel, it’s me. Mike. Remember? You were my princess,” he said gently.

“…no, no! Get away from me!” she said angrily, shaking her head. This was not Mike; he would not come back to her in this way. He could not be back like this.

“Ariel, Ariel stop it!” he said trying to restrain her from hurting herself.

“NO, let go of me!” She said as his grip loosened from her arms.

“Listen to me, please,” he asked, wincing at her tugs.

Forcefully loosening her arm from his grasp she screamed “No, you listen to me! I don’t know who you are, but stay away from me!”

He grabbed her hand again.

“Ariel, if I weren’t the man I said I was how would I know about the time you cut yourself from Old Man Beatty’s fence…” She continued to struggle from his grip. “…or the time when we vowed to become prince and princess of Taichung!” he said softly.

“I DON’T KNOW!” she yelled.

“Ariel!” Suddenly he pulled her close to his body hugging her as hard as he could and gently rocked her head. “The world will no longer hurt you anymore. I am here now. This is just a fantasy. Remember our fantasies? We would have so much fun, remember? Go back to those dreams Ariel. That is your true reality. Everything that has happened after you left and before we met again was just a lie. The times in the cabin and now are your true realities. Those dreams of living in a castle and saving the world; those are our true selves! Go back to those dreams, Ariel.”

He was right. She was living in a world which hurt her so much. She needed to believe in a fantastical reality which he gave her. Unable to accept anymore pain, Ariel tightened her arms around him and slowly melted in his arms.

“You’re back…you’re finally back,” she whispered.

“Yea, I’m back,” he said reassuringly.

Days after their reunion, he was able to show her sites around Taipei. She had never been happier in her life but in the back of her head, she kept on having this little nagging feeling that Mike was keeping something from her; perhaps a secret of some sort. But she dared not to question him. For once in her life she wanted to be as happy for as long as she could possibly be.

One day he had led her to his underground sanctuary. It was a place where he would stay away from the world. You see, he too was struggling in this God forsaken society. Growing up poor had left him with nothing but a few close friends which helped him from time to time with money issues; the same friends whom attacked Ariel a couple days before. He often talked about how in this society, there was nothing for people like them. He and Ariel were not supposed to live in such a place because they weren’t rich enough to afford the “essentials of life” and live up to the expectations the whole world had upon them, therefore the government was able to screw with them. She believed everything he said because it either personified her own life or personified his. In turn, he learned to fend for himself with his friends by robbing others. If the government was not able to help the needy, well then Mike believed that he should be allowed to take matters into his own hands.

As the days progressed, Ariel had not left the underground hideout in a while, so Mike told her that he would take her to the city. However he had a hidden agenda in mind. As they walked around the streets Mike suddenly pulls Ariel to the side, away from peering eyes.

“Wha…what’s wrong, Mike?” she said quietly.

“Nothing…its just some business,” he said with a nervous look on his face. He pulled out a cell phone and a gun from his pocket and looked at a restaurant in front of him.

“Yeah, he’s here…” he quietly said to the man on the end of the receiver. “…get ready for operation J-5, I repeat operation J-5 is in process! Ariel, take this. Use this when I need you the most, you hear me?”

Ariel looked at Mike, noticing his anxious body quiver and his voice tremble with anticipation. Something bad was going to happen, and fast. A few minutes past by, and Mike peers out to the restaurant in front of him again and eyes a man in dark clothing behind a dark alley. He was dressed in a long trench coat and wore a hat and glasses to conceal his face. Odd, Ariel thought. Why would Mike be associated with such ambiguous people?

But rather than dwell on that idea, something even more intriguing caught her eye; it was the Lieutenant she met a couple days before. He had just come out of the restaurant with a plastic bag in hand, probably his lunch. He was dressed well; wearing a dress shirt and dark jeans that fit well. Unable to keep her heart from pounding wildly, she clutched her chest. The site was like a brilliant film; he would walk with such grace and perfect posture, a smile on his handsome face and with one hand in his pocket. All this happened with Ariel not knowing that Mike had been signaling the mysterious man the whole time.

Just as the Lieutenant headed for the dark alley, the mysterious man had grabbed him from behind and covered his mouth with a piece of cloth, dragging him towards the shadows. Before Ariel could even widen her eyes from what she witnessed, a hand covered her own mouth. Mike tried to keep her quiet while taking her back to the hideout.

Opening his tired and sleepy eyes, the Lieutenant tried to regain consciousness and sense’s the familiarity of where he was dragged to. He had been here before, the question was when. Tied to a wooden pole which extended from the ceiling to the floor, the Lieutenant struggled his way through the ropes that tied his upper body and hands. Just as things couldn’t get any worse for the Lieutenant, he spots a dark figure closing in on him. It took him a while to recognize who it was and when he did fire blazed in his eyes.

“Long time no see pal,” said an arrogant Mike.

“You bastard!” screamed the defenseless Lieutenant.

“Now, now, is that any way to speak to a friend?” Mike said mockingly.

“Don’t you dare call yourself a friend! Not after what you did to me,” said the grim Lieutenant.

“Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear the last time you were here…”

Ariel was sitting on the sidelines; she was quietly listening to the confrontation behind a wall, waiting anxiously for Mike to do what he had to do and come back to her in one piece. Behind the wall, she was looking in at the scene from the Lieutenant’s perspective. She didn’t play a significant part in this and therefore looked onward from afar. But she was confused at what was happening. How did Mike know the officer and what kind of relationship did they have? Were they close friends before?

“You know what, I have tortured you over and over again and yet…you say nothing,” said a wide-eyed Mike. “I guess you really are useless to me.”

Mike looked at the ground for a couple seconds, pacing back and forth. From Ariel’s perspective, he wasn’t mad or anything. He looked more like he was teasing the Lieutenant by stretching time and elongating the anticipation. But Mike’s odd behavior didn’t hold onto Ariel’s attention. This whole time the officer had been moving his feet intricately as if his feet were dancing; he would tap his right heel twice, then his left and then tap the tip of his right show three times then the left. Suddenly a group of men were lined up in front of their prey. They were armed with a sorted mixture of weaponry; some held huge bolted chains, some held massive artillery, some held long, dark crow bars. With one snap of Mike’s fingers, one man fired his weapon on a window letting glass fall around the defenseless officer.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we gather today in order to pay our respects to our dear Lieutenant in his time of passing…” stated Mike feigning a mock eulogy for the departing Lieutenant. “…too bad it has to end like this old friend,” he added. Mike raised his left arm and folded his hand into a “snap” position, triggering the men to fire. But before the two fingers could spark up, the Lieutenant spoke.

“You think my death could ever stop anybody from knowing what a fraud you are…” he said calmly. “You’re just the pathetic meathead I regret meeting ever since I saw those ugly bug eyes of yours. It took three of us to devise a perfect friendship, and it still does. Without us, you were just a quivering mess waiting for failure. If not for us, you would have been dead years ago from whatever STUPID idea you kept coming up with…like dragging your friends to a secret hideout and trying to hog all the glory to yourself…”

That caught Mike’s attention. It angered him so much his blood started boiling and he clenched his fist hard.

“You piece of…” Mike started

“Wait! You wouldn’t let a man die without tying his shoe first would you?” said a tired-eye officer.

“What…” Mike said in disbelief.

“Lemme just tie my shoe first, you can at least give me that much; die with the dignity you will never understand…”

With that he raises his right foot a bit and shakes his foot. It looked like he was doing the hokey pokey, but he had plan. As the shoelaces wiggled around the foot, they appeared like they were wrapping into a knot! Seconds later, his shoe had been tied, without any help, or hands. Amazed, the men dropped their armor to their sides and ogle the magical shoe, not knowing the small, hidden slabs of glass behind the other shoe. As the Lieutenant shows every man the shoe, he abruptly kicks widely letting huge pieces of glass fly around the room. Shielding their faces, the men drop their weapons. The lieutenant slides his body towards the glass and rubs the ropes fiercely, trying to escape.

“Sorry, for the early departure guys…” said the smug officer wiping off excess glass of his shirt and brushing off any other ties. “…but I have a funeral to catch. Yours” he said grimly.

As the men struggle to get their weapons, the Lieutenant had already been on the attack. Violently, he dismembers the weaponry from the men and continues to let them fly into the air one by one. Mike, backing up more and more, was now the one who was defenseless. The Lieutenant closes into Mike, but everything comes into a crashing halt as a gun fires at the ceiling. Frightened and shocked, both men turns around to see a trembling Ariel holding the gun Mike had given her hours before.

 

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