Chapter 15

One month later, they were all gathered in the main hall for another important event. It was not of the tragic nature this time around. Somehow, Mr. Hsiao and Mr. Tseng had convinced Mr. Wang to proceed with Jiro and Cyndi’s wedding. It was only fair since the last one was ruined and delayed–and eventually forgotten. Like last time, Joanne and Sharon were the bridesmaids; Calvin and Chun were the best men.

There were still no traces of Luther and his sneak attacks. It seemed like he had dissolved into the air. But they were still on alert, ensuring all sorts of security measures for the possibilities.

The day was indeed very special. A day every one of them had looked forward to witness. It was not only to fulfill Jiro and Cyndi’s wish, but also for them. It was a completion of a ceremony. A glint of hope for all of them.

*****

Two weeks later after Jiro and Cyndi’s wedding, Mr. Wang called them all to a meeting. They were gathered in the main hall again. The three leaders were standing in front with the others forming straight lines, waiting.

“We finally have the answer,” Mr. Wang began. His eyes passed toward Sophia. “Miss Chou, if you want to withdraw your deal now, you still can.”

“I’m not going to withdraw,” Sophia replied crisply, her expression determined.

Mr. Wang turned to the others again. “To be absolutely fair, I will let everyone know where Luther is. That way no one could blame me for anything.”

“When are we going to strike?” Joanne asked, looking at her father.

“Tomorrow we’re going to start the journey,” Mr. Tseng replied, looking at everyone in general. “It would take a day. We will stop and rest for the night and attack them the following day.”

“Unlike the last few times,” Mr. Hsiao took over. “We will return here. If you are injured and can’t make it back here… Find temporary shelter elsewhere but when you recover, you must report back here.”

“Some of you will be assigned to stay behind and guard this place,” Mr. Wang said. “Any questions?”

“No, sir,” The guards and gang members chanted.

Mr. Wang scanned the female population. “How about you five?”

They shook their heads. What was the point of asking? They’d been waiting for the day to come. And it finally arrived.

*****

That night, Angela was sitting around in the den watching the night sky again. She was not planning to stay up all night. Just for the last time. She had a feeling she won’t return to this place anymore.

“You should go to sleep,” Chun’s voice startled her out of her thoughts.

Chun had not been talking to her since…she could no longer remember. Why was he approaching her now? He had the right to hate her and she did not blame him.

“If you don’t have enough energy for the day tomorrow, you won’t make it,” Chun said, settling at the seat next to her.

“I’m going to go sleep soon,” Angela replied.

“That’s good.”

They sat watching the night in silence.

“I’m sorry,” Angela said after a few minutes.

“For using me?” Chun asked, turning to her.

Angela shook her head. “For being unreasonable.” She let out a sigh. “I know you probably won’t believe me, but I didn’t plan the opportunity when you were lost to…” Why was it harder to explain than she thought? She took in a deep breath. “I…didn’t know you were part of the gang until I saw your gun. I didn’t plan to follow you afterward either. It just happened.” She gestured her hands. “I mean I would eventually find a way to sneak in but…”

“I believe you.”

Angela turned to him. “Really?”

Chun nodded. “I knew I didn’t plan to get lost either. If I had paid more attention, I wouldn’t have met you.”

She sighed out, hugging her knees. “I guess so.”

“What I mean is then you wouldn’t have to decide between us and your job.” He let out a bitter laugh. “Sounds all too familiar. It’s just our luck to encounter two police officers who have to abandon their duties because of us.”

She shook her head. “No, it’s our choice.” She paused briefly. “I used to be confused with the decision. But after talking to Sophia I realized something.”

“What?”

“If I wanted to fulfill my duties as a cop, I would’ve already taken the action instead of dwelling on what to do.”

Chun smiled.

*****

The next morning, they packed lightly and set out. Of all the members, fifteen were left behind to guard the place while the rest were separated into three groups with the exceptions of the princesses, the guards, and the two guests. They were to meet up again at the end of the day to set up camp and go over the plan further. They did not share more to ensure words getting out of their techniques.

“Miss Chou, I would trust you not to attack first,” Mr. Wang warned Sophia as they were parting ways.

“I wouldn’t do that,” Sophia said.

“Good.”

With that, he left with his group. Like the last time they separated, Mr. Tseng was the second last group to leave.

“Sophia, there’s still time to change your mind,” Mr. Tseng said, his voice full of concern–unlike Mr. Wang’s cold words. “Old Hsiao and I could convince Old Wang to let the kids start a new life. It’s just a matter of time. Why this?”

“How long will it take?” Sophia asked back. “The police could come in at any moment. It’s just a matter of finding us.”

“How could you be so sure they’re coming here soon?”

“I have seen their signals along the way. There is someone on this island who’s spying on us and it wouldn’t be long before they could get a hold of this place and send words back to the mainland. We were lucky these past months because we’ve been moving around.”

“You should’ve said that to Old Wang instead of declaring the ultimatum.”

Sophia shook her head. “He wouldn’t listen. And he has every right to because I was once a cop. Not to mention if he’d known someone’s here, he would suspect one of us. Or try to off some other unknown person who could be living at a secluded place just because he or she feels like it.”

“Sophia…” Cyndi spoke up, feeling like she needed to defend her father.

Sophia turned to Cyndi. “I’m not blaming him. But if I were him, I would do anything to protect the safety of my people too. It’s just that by doing this, it would allow a chance for everyone to start anew.”

Mr. Tseng nodded at last. “I guess I can’t change your mind anymore.” He turned to Jacky. “I hope you won’t disappoint her.”

“No, sir,” Jacky responded.

Mr. Tseng turned to leave with his group.

They stood there for a while before setting out themselves.

*****

That night, their group of nine arrived last at their destination. The others had already set camp. They huddled around their own little fire a distance from the rest of the gang, knowing the others were talking about their attack tactics.

“Let me cook,” Sophia said. “It might be the last time.”

Joanne felt a lump forming in her throat. “Sophia jie, don’t say that.”

Sophia smiled. “It’s the truth.”

Joanne swallowed her lump. “But I want to help.”

Sophia nodded. “Come here.”

The others watched in silence, exchanging looks among themselves. The night passed in a hectic atmosphere. Though they went to sleep early but not all was able to sleep. Their hearts were indescribably heavy.

The next morning, they awakened and packed up. But instead of bringing their belongings with them, they hid it in a nearby cave, claiming to come back later to retrieve it. They only carried with them a light sack as necessary for the coming battle.

As they set out, they noticed that the two groups were obviously lacking by a far margin. As if that was news. Yet knowing this day could be the last day made it even more unnerving.

“Are we separating?” Joanne asked Sophia.

“If we really have to,” Sophia replied. “Let’s go to the scene first.”

The others followed closely.

When they arrived at the supposed location, the other gang members were already engaged in a battle. Like the last battle, it was as chaotic. The difference was how they were participating in it from the start. And that they had a mission to complete.

“Luther is the goal,” Sophia said when they were closer to the house. “It doesn’t matter about the others.”

They knew that. Yet even Sharon didn’t mind of Sophia’s constant reminder this time.

Though the goal was simple, but the battle lasted into the afternoon without much progress. They had trained for over a month already. But that did not guarantee in being able to find Luther or getting to Luther first. Luther was a moving target. He was not going to stand around for them to snatch up and claim the prize.

Like many times before, they were forced to break up and scattered into different parts of the area. They tried their hardest not to lose sight of Luther, eliminating the obstacles one by one. Luther was on the run by the time the sun was threatening to go down. He was running low on manpower. He only had one choice–to flee on his own.

“Don’t let him escape!” They heard Mr. Wang yelled out from somewhere.

“After him!” Joanne cried out.

Though the others were occupied but they knew Joanne’s warning meant they had to finish up and give chase or they would end up losing.

The tall grass fields gave leverage for Luther’s escape attempt. But the others weren’t about to give up. Both groups were closing in on him. Yet some of the gang members ended up being slashed as Luther turned back once in a while to get rid of some.

“Be careful!” Calvin called out to the others.

“No one said we have to take him in alive!” Chun yelled out as he was running along the field.

Luck finally stroke as the grassy field ended and gave way for an open space filled with rocks. Calvin, Joanne, and Chun emerged from the field and closed in on Luther. He attempted to run toward the other side where the grass field continued. It was still a long distance from the other side yet, he wasn’t willing to give up. Just when he thought he was going to make it, Jacky and Sophia appeared from the other side. Luther gasped in shock, turning around and trying to find another route.

“Give up, Luther,” Jiro said, emerging from another side with Cyndi. “You can’t win.”

Luther had one side left to run toward while the others forced him into a circle. And he had lost his opportunity because Angela and Sharon showed up at that time and blocked his final path.

“You think you little kids can catch me?” Luther said, his voice full of mockery and his smile matching it.

“We know that you can’t run anywhere,” Joanne said, her eyes determined.

“Don’t make me use this on you,” Angela threatened, holding up a wooden box.

“What are you going to do?” Luther challenged. “Toss it at me?”

“No,” Angela replied, her voice leveled, shifting her hand a bit.

They saw some silver rays shooting toward Luther faster than anything and hit his left arm, causing him to drop his only weapon left on him.

It was the box they found in Angela’s belonging at Cyndi’s house more than a month ago. Chun told her of its purpose the night before they set out. She had been using it for the battle most of the day. And she wasn’t afraid to use it again.

Luther seemed alarm of the development, but he soon recovered. He still had on his smirk. “Child’s play.” His right hand moved at that time and a curtain of white powder hit every one of them, blinding their visions.

They had to dodge out of the way, leaving space for Luther to escape. Only Jiro and Jacky managed to shield themselves in time. Jiro rushed over to check on Cyndi and the others as Jacky chased after Luther.

“You all right?” Jiro asked, his hands on Cyndi’s shoulders.

Cyndi coughed, not being able to reply. The others were going through the same thing. Jiro attempted to brush the strange powder off Cyndi.

“This is…” Jiro muttered, his strength weakening.

Too late. The others had crashed one by one around him. Jiro felt himself drawing closer to the ground as well. The last he heard were some faint slashing sounds and loud gunshots.

© Friday, February 4th, 2011

Posted: Tuesday, March1st, 2011

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