Chapter 27 - Encounter
Copyright © DenGlemtePrinsesse, 2020
"Babe, you know I can't do that." Thank God.
"This poor girl is innocent. But if you like I can beat this guy for you." I gasped at that.
Eric and I stood in front of them, listening as they discussed our faith. I can't believe how these people roam around and casually talk about beating someone they just met. Who does that?
"No. Either her or that nerd girl I saw with you earlier."
"Babe, for the nth time, there's nothing going on between the two of us. I'm not going to take this girl. You know I don't hurt girls." My heart, calming down a little. I'm right, kindness is in everyone.
"You don't, I do. Now either give one of them to me or we're so done." The tall girl rolled her eyes at me before she headed to her car with her friends. Everyone watched those three girls slammed the doors behind them and settled inside. She is spoiled.
"Okay. Let's not waste time here, come with us, don't make her wait any longer." I stared at him in disbelief. What happened to 'I don't hurt girls', 'I won't take her' and 'this girl is innocent'?
"Believe me, the angier she gets the uglier things will be." The guy addressed me, defeated by her demand. The way he spoke was completely disturbing. As if getting hurt is inevitable and the only option I actually had is to choose between facing her in her angry state or furious state.
As if he's asking for a casual thing I wouldn't have a problem giving them, and that I should be thankful if she went easy on me. He loves her, I get that but what she wants was illogical and he shouldn't be siding with her.
"What shall we do?" I whispered to Eric. Again, he angled his head to me but his eyes remained vigilant.
"You heard the man, it's you they want. I have no business here. Gotta go." I gripped at Eric's arm when he said that. I can't believe he still afford to cracked a joke when there's six of them and there's two of us, when their vehicle is working, and ours isn't. Around us was just one endless spacious highway that made hiding or running an option not to be considered.
"It's getting late, boys why don't you just head home and be better citizens of the country, or better yet find a non-sadistic girlfriend to worship. That way no one gets hurt tonight." I gaped at Eric as he said that. He spoke as if there's still a way out for us, that insulting his beloved girlfriend won't put us more in trouble. Did he forget his car is broken? And that there's no escape? At all. His chosen words didn't fit in our current situation and he failed to realize that he could just anger these people more.
"Or you head home and let us take her. In that way you won't get hurt tonight." At that remark, Eric let out a scornful laugh, he didn't even bother to hide it.
I panic when the smile on the boyfriend's face vanished, clearly insulted by Eric's smug. I pinched his back to which his hand reached and rubbed immediately, giving me a what-was-that-for look. I was never a violent person, and I'd never pinched anyone before, but I was desperate to make him stop annoying them and turning the situation worse for us.
"Take her." He signalled his largest friend and I stepped back as he walked forward to us. Eric didn't even move an inch, and the boyfriend noticed that as well. He gestured at his other friends to get Eric out of the way. I took their distraction to run back to our car to remain hidden but it was lock! The key was still in the ignition, I can't believe it! On top of everything that's happening tonight the car is lock! I panic but I kept opening it anyway, there's nothing left to do nor to ran. I had to get myself inside.
The noise I made trying to open the door made Eric glancing to my direction, and one of those people took that opportunity to send a punch to his face. I even heard it! When his fist met my friend's face I heard it! It made me shiver. The violence had me lowered myself behind the car, hidding.
"You hit my face." Eric wiped the blood on his lips. In a snap, he sent out one blow back to the guy and I heard something cracked, literally! And I think I wasn't the only one who winced at the loud sound that sent shiver down my spine, for everyone else paused to looked at him.
"Aaaah!" The bad guy cried and everyone turned to gawked at him for he was sent straight to the ground. We watched him removed both his hand from his face to see the damage and— Oh the blood!
My elbows and knees shook at the sight before my eyes. The guy passed out, either upon seeing his blood or because of the impact of the punch, I couldn't tell. The blood covered his entire face, like he'd just been in a car accident. His friends rushed to his side, shaking him but he's not responding.
I glanced at Eric in bewilderment. He was immobile, staring wide-eyed at his bloodied fist. Eric didn't mean to hurt him that way, I could tell because I see guilt, shock and confusion swirling over his face. The same expression Macforth had earlier when he stared at me in horror after I landed on the glass wall. He never meant to hurt me, none of them meant to harm anyone. That I am absolutely certain.
"You're okay, buddy. You're okay." One of them assured the bloodied guy, for he had finally responded and everyone exhaled in relief. Thank God.
And at this moment, Eric and I knew he couldn't fight back. He can, but he must not, especially now that he's still incapable of controlling his strength. These guys in front of us, no matter how bad they are, they're still human. If Eric just put a little more pressure on that blow he sent, he could've broken the guy's skull and killed him instantly. Eric would never want that, none of my friends would. They wouldn't be able to be at peace again if that ever happened.
"Take him to the hospital." They carried their friend to the van, but three of them remained. Enraged now, the boyfriend took the first thing his hand has found in the van before closing the doors so the others could leave.
I stared in horror as soon as I saw the long metal tube in his hand when he finally turned to face Eric.
"You should've not done that." The guy spoke again while his two friends slowly approached to both of Eric's side, they were calculating his movement.
For the second time, Eric didn't move an inch, but unlike earlier it seems like he wouldn't be moving at all.
My eyes were quick to look away, knowing exactly what he had decided. My palms were flat on the ground, searching for something, anything that can help us. But there was none, not even a stone.
"This one's for my brother." And I immediately regretted that I looked up. I couldn't unsee the picture of Eric when the metal tube landed on his forehead while the two other guys kept his face steady. I couldn't unsee the blood coming out from his head.
I tried not to listen, but the sound of them alternately giving him a punch in the stomach is very distinct.
"For flirting with my girlfriend." I heard the metal clung again, I didn't even want to imagine how hard the impact it caused. I couldn't unhear Eric's yelp as one of them started sending his knees to Eric's stomach. What shall I do?
Why is Eric not doing anything? He could at least, avoid their attacks. Is he receiving their blows purposely? Does he think he deserve to be beaten after what he did? No, Eric. You didn't mean to hurt their friend.
I looked around again and saw the other girls still on their car, watching. I can't believe the tall girl remained there and let her boyfriend hurt Eric when I thought they'd shared a connection earlier. How could she watched him getting beaten?
Ironically, I remembered I, too was doing nothing but watched.
Would they stop hurting Eric if I surrendered myself? He did it for me so I shouldn't be hesitating to return the kindness. But why am I so scared to let them have their way when I'd been down this road before? I'd probably had a better practice than Eric regarding this, so why am I making things hard for everyone instead of just surrendering myself?
Perhaps, because I didn't know these people, I don't know what they're capable of, and I got no idea as to how far they could go and do to me.
I can't believe my selfishness. I couldn't offer Eric the same thing he willingly gave me.
Out of the blue, I heard something rang. I looked around and I almost yelled in rejoice when I saw it.
Eric's phone was on the other side of the car, ringing. I must've dropped it earlier when the girls pushed me and towed me out of their way.
I crawled under the car, not risking to be seen by anyone. My heart was beating extremely fast in both delight and fear. Delight that finally hope has been delivered, and fear that I might get caught before I could even get a grasp of the help that's coming, or that someone might heard it and took it before I could. But I wouldn't let that happen. My resolve is to be useful tonight and help Eric. My mind was determined on grabbing the only hope presented to me, I didn't even winced when my head hit the wheel the moment I ducked under the car.
I crawled faster, my forearms scraping against the rough ground. I am so close.
"More. Leave him with something he wouldn't forget." Eric yelped again after that, and my heart beats faster it almost hurt.
Finally I reached the phone and I wanted to cry at the name on the screen.
"Where the he—"
"Macforth! Help us! Help us! Eric's being beaten! Please hurry! He's hurt. They won't stop. Hurry! Hur—"
"Shup up and listen to me!" Macforth was infuriated. Even on phone I managed to irritate him with my incompetence. I couldn't get it straight together. In my mind I know exactly what to say but somehow all the words were rushing to get out at once.
"Where are you?" He demanded. I think I heard Jermond in the background. I sniffed, composing myself. I was struggling to keep the phone steady in my shaking hands.
"On the highway, before the bookstore. We came from the hospital and these people approached us and they're still beating Eric!" I was whispering and yelling at the same time, I couldn't tell anymore. My goal was to give as much information he needed.
"We're in the middle of the road, our hazard lights were on. Hurry please!" In his background I heard car doors closing and the engine being brought to life. I can also hear his heavy breathing on top my racing heart.
"Hurry, please!" My voice broke, I could no longer recognized it as my own.
"There's nothing here I could find to help him. Macforth, what shall I do?" I checked my surrounding again. I haven't left my position under the car yet. At the moment, it felt like it's the safest place on Earth.
I heard him inhaled deeply.
"Stay out of it." The words escaped through his gritted teeth. And I nodded even though he couldn't see me. I heard another sound of anguish from Eric sending my eyes shut.
Macforth must've dropped the phone for I heard a thudding sound from the other line, and some profanity in the middle of that.
"What happened? Where are we going?" The other line might be muffled but I was sure that was Jermond. I'm so relieved Macforth wasn't alone, but I'm also worried that Jermond would've to see his brother in his black and blue state. It'll only break his heart. This memory of his brother getting hurt would only plant hatred in him.
"Your brother's funeral." Macforth must be trying to reach the phone for I heard loud clunking sound next to my ears, like the phone's being pulled and pushed and flipped and it seemed like he's having a hard time reaching it. I could only hope that he's not the one driving.
"I should've put him on a leash." They still manage to joke around. They must've not yet understood the gravity of the situation Eric's in with.
Suddenly I felt the fluid back in my nose again, I wiped it with the back of my palm. Unlike ealier when it stop immediately, this time it took a while, causing me a little dizzy, but it did stop. I wonder if the nosebleeding has anything to do with my back. Was I suppose to drink a medicine earlier so the bleeding would've been prevented? I shrugged, that's the last thing to be concerned about at the moment.
"Macforth?" I called and immediately regretted it. I don't know why I uttered his name all of a sudden when I don't even have anything in my mind to say. My heart has beating sharply but for another reason, part of me was hoping he hasn't picked up the phone yet so I will be saved from the embarrassment.
The silence on the other line had be thinking.
"What is it?" I jumped in surprised, hitting my head against the car when he answered. I wanted to throw the phone away so I wouldn't have to reason but then I realized the calmness in his voice when he responded.
I pulled the phone from my ear to my face to check if it's still him I'm talking to. Macforth had never spoke to me in such a manner before. I wonder if it's because of our situation right now that made that changed. Was he trying to be comforting now because I'm scared? That's really thoughtful, and I wanted that side of him to last.
"I really didn't mean to hurt your family." I just blurted that out, I wasn't even sure where that came from. It's as if my subconscious mind had been dying to apologize to him, and took the first chance offered.
While I know this was not the proper time to bring it up, it felt like this would be the only chance I would get to apologized for what I did to his family. I wasn't sure I could apologize to him personally when he's being grumpy and all, so I took advantage of this side of him while it was still being offered.
There was silence after that. All I heard on the other line was the sound of wheels, driving on their full potential.
On my end, I was listening to my own heartbeat, waiting, though I wasn't entirely sure of what. Was I expecting him to say he forgive me? Or do I want him to chew out on me once and for all instead of giving me the cold treatment? Or maybe none of that. Maybe what I really wanted was to apologize and just be heard.
If that's so, then why do I find myself attentive to the silence on the other line?
"Where's his girlfriend?" My hands flew to my mouth in time before a gasp could escape, dropping the phone in the process. I was so distracted I failed to notice that the three pairs of shoes were already walking by the open spaces on my sides. Thank God they're leaving.
Automatically, my eyes glanced back in front of the car where they were beating Eric a moment ago.
My heart sank when I found him lying on the hard ground, motionless... unrecognizable. What have they done?
I swallowed the lump in my throat. My lips, shaking. My teeth chattered against the cold breeze and the fear brought by the unpleasant thought that popped up upon seeing Eric.
I have to pick him up. I started crawling out but was stop by all the crashing and scrapping sounds above me. My hands had flown to my head instinctively. I looked around, shaking when I found a pair of shoes that had stop by my side.
He wasn't finished yet. The guy decided to go after Eric's car, breaking the windows and denting its exterior. The shattered glasses falling next to me, the high-pitch piercing sound was digging holes into my ears as he scraped the car with the tip of the metal tube he's holding.
I closed my eyes, hugging my head tighter from the ferocious movements above me.
I heard horns from a distant. Whether that was from my friends or just a passerby, that was enough to make his violence paused. I glanced ahead of me.
At the end of the highway — or the fartest I managed to see — was a car speeding its way to us with blinding headlights, something other drivers would definitely complain about. Its horns went louder as it crossed the remaining distance to us, clearly announcing its arrival.
I picked up the phone, crawling out of the car. I intentionally glanced at the bad guy. Suddenly I was brave enough to send him one unfriendly stare before running to Eric, probably because of the anticipation of our coming rescue.
The bad guy was starled upon seeing me popped up from nowhere, his two friends were already in the car with the girls.
"Eric." I called, poking his shoulders, afraid I would break his bones if I lift him casually. I couldn't even stare straight at his face.
"Can you hear me? Please?" Eric's eye winced open. Thank God!
The silver car screeched loudly next to our wrecked car, just in time before the bad guy approached us again. He scowled at the addition in our small crowd.
"They're here." I informed Eric.
"About time they make themselves useful." He still managed to say.
I watched Jermond get off, and headed to us. Relief washing over me at the sight of him.
"Are you okay?" Jermond asked me. I nodded, standing up to give him room towards Eric.
"What the hell?" He exclaimed staring down at his bloodied brother. The bandage on his forehead now gone. And I saw his red ring, hanging on a golden lace around his neck. I did notice the change in his body too, like Eric's his arms and chest got a little more defined under his clothes.
"Don't patrionize me, get me outta here." Eric stretched his hand for his older brother to take. Jermond was glaring down at him, obviously didn't approve of his state. He snatched his brother up in a swift movement that made Eric and I wincing soundlessly. I grimaced at the rough gesture, his tough love for his brother.
Jermond threw Eric's arm over his shoulder to help him walk.
"Mondy, careful." He gestured to his body, reminding Jermond of his state. Then, his other hand, ran back and forth over his shoulder blades. They began heading towards the car and I followed them, hooking Eric's free arm on my shoulder to offer him additional support.
"What took you so long? I thought you're planning to fetch us tomorrow."
"Man, I was just kidding. Why so serious?"
"Do you think this is funny?" Jermond berated. All the laughter I heard from the phone earlier now gone.
"Goddamn it, Eric! What're you doing? What we're you getting yourself into?" I jumped at the anger in his tone, obviously enrange at the violence his brother had to go through.
"If you want answers. Here." Even in his black and blue state, Eric managed to tossed me in front of them effortlessly using his arm that's resting on my shoulder, I winced at the sudden pain it sent to my wounded back but it didn't last long.
Wide-eyed, I found myself facing a fuming Jermond. I shook myself infinitesimally in front of him and pulled myself back to Eric's side.
"What are you doing?" I whispered to him, afraid to get caught in the middle of their fight.
"I saved you from getting hurt. Now save me from getting killed." He whispered back.
"Privs, provoked those peasants. I did what I ought to do. Upheld justice and stand for the weak." He beamed at his brother.
Jermond couldn't portray anymore annoyance at Eric as we continue to the head towards the car.
"Was that the one who beat you?" Jermond asked, pausing in front of the car. Confused, I watched the boyfriend getting towed by his friends to the girls' car.
"Forth, what've you done?" For the first time I glanced at Macforth again after our unfortunate encounter at the mirrored room.
His earring was back on. His straight hair that's usually waxed to fall behind his head's now wet, falling freely on his face. His lean body was covered in a white v neck shirt and black flannel pants. I could only imagine him going to sleep before he received my hysterical message that left him no choice but to fly here as soon as he can.
"I wasn't planning anything. He started it." Macforth answered, getting himself in the car.
"Man, you shouldn't." Eric sighed, frustrated. He pushed himself into the open car and crawled next to the window, staring outside. He turned his back to us, sending a clear message that we doesn't want to talk to anyone.
Jermond and I exchanged glances, confused at Eric's action. Clearly he's upset. And since I don't want to add up to that, I made sure that I'm as light as a feather when I got myself in the car, caustiously sitting next to him—at the farthest end that the seat would allow.
"What's with you?" Macforth asked through the rareview mirror, locking himself to the driver's seat, but Eric didn't answer.
Once everyone's settled we started moving forward and it felt like Macforth was making up for all the time that we'd lost.
Outside, I heard the clanging of metals as we sped through the black and blurry highway. When I searched where it's coming from, I saw Eric's car attached to Macforth's, basically flying as we drove.
Aside from me none of the guys seemed to be bothered by the additional damage being done to Eric's car as we head home.
"You're disturbingly quiet. Are you dying?" Jermond asked, reclining his seat in front of me. Eric didn't respond, his gaze didn't even left the window.
"Are you upset that Forth beat that guy for you?" Jermond grumbled, his voice was deep and sleepy.
And I wonder why none of them bothered to take Eric to the hospital. As far as I can tell, we are heading home. Hasn't anyone worries that his blood is coming out like a waterfall?
"I didn't do it for you. You can still have your way some time." Macforth was being supportive and encouraging to Eric, set aside the context of his sentence.
"I almost killed his brother tonight. He didn't deserve anymore pain than I already inflicted." Oh. Was that what's bothering him?
Whatever training he's gone through the past couple of days, I can see the initial outcome. I couldn't describe how proud I am, hearing those words coming from him. And I think I wasn't the only one who noticed that for Macforth and Jermond remained quiet after that.
I couldn't help the smile on my lips.
"Have you heard from Errol?" Eric asked, clearly changing the subject. He's probably uncomfortable with the awkward silence but it wasn't anything like that. It was actually a proud moment for all of us. While he doesn't want to show this side of him nor talk about it, I'm so happy to see it first hand.
"He's with Dave now." Jermond yawned.
"I don't understand. I thought Errol's the one being targeted. Why did they follow me?" Confused, I glanced up at Eric. Does that mean that he knew those guys? That's odd because it didn't seem like that earlier.
"What did they want?" Macforth, asked.
"I don't know, Errol's right. They're using alien language." Wait, are we still on the same page?
And then I felt the blood in my nostrils again. Only this time, the amount of blood was overwhelming. I automatically looked up at the ceiling for it felt like it wouldn't stop sooner.
I reached for Eric, to ask if he has a handkerchief, but my left hand couldn't find him next to me.
Baffled, I pinched my nose to stop the blood from coming out and started breathing through my mouth so I could glance to Eric. But to my utter surprise I only found an empty seat beside me.
Eric was nowhere in sight.
I glanced around and realized that our car stopped in the middle of the road. And none of my friends were in the vehicle with me.
I jumped when Macforth entered the car and shut his door, buckling up his seatbelt, then started the engine... again.
Dumbfounded, I watched Jermond opened Eric's door. Like earlier, his brother's arm was hooked onto his shoulder, offering him support.
It happened again, isn't it?
"Has someone used his magical powers just now? Did time freeze again?" That's got to be it right? Someone use their power so the time—for us humans— stops. It only continues ticking the moment they stop using the gems.
While I was being intrusive, I couldn't help but ask. My mind is in a state of an absolute disarray at the moment, I needed to know. And it didn't help that Eric was staring at me with so much enthusiam as he slowly ducked to get himself inside.
"It's funny how all these encounter occured while Privs remained oblivious." He cheerfully told Jermond, who's busy helping him settle.
"I forgot to test your theory about the stone while we're on it."
"You were attacked again?" I panicked, looking around the car for traces of magical people. It's alarming that it already happened twice in one night.
"It's amusing that we're probably getting killed in front of her but she's clueless." Eric didn't help at all, he just raised more questions.
So my eyes switched to Jermond, expecting he would atleast translate his brother's words in a way that I would understand. But when our eyes met, I was overwhelmed by his intimidating stare.
Jermond was immobile. His face was blank, like he just realized something. He stood next to Eric, but he was staring straight at me. His eyes, piercing me.
"Is she now?"