When the afternoon sun had set its yellowish gradient hue in the west, the city lights slowly turned on blinking as the caliginous twilight approached. The heavy smog couldn’t be seen at all as it blended well with the incoming darkness. Tired of the city’s pollution, Tarius rode away towards the outskirts of the city where she could clean her lungs with pleasant air. Riding away had become her habit whenever she felt suffocated. The greenish scenery in the outskirts was relaxing even in the dark of night where it appeared murky green in a curtain of heavy shadows.
‘’ Hoy Miss! Nice!’’, a group of males riding their motorbikes shouted in unison followed by naughty whistles. One could tell that they are fraternities judging from the way they look. Their heavily dyed hair looked like a dirty rag, their ears pierced with a lot of metallic jewelries looked like a pincushions. Tattoos of different colors and figures crawled on their arms, necks, chests, and even their jaws. Chains of golden and silver necklaces decorated their necks and wrists.
‘’ Going somewhere missy?’’, one guy sped up and rode beside her. “ You look sexy. Rawr!’’, he laughed like a perverted maniac. She ignored him and cursed under her breath. “ Come on, say something.’’, the guy laughed but she never spoke and tried to speed up. She heard him shout and then caught up beside her again, maintaining the same speed.
‘’ Shut it idiot!’’, came a shout from one of the gangsters. The guy riding beside her scoffed and then left without hesitation. Tarius sighed and kept her distance from the group until she spotted a huge balete tree. She slowed down and stopped beside it while keeping her gaze up on the blinking lights of a hundred fireflies around the tree. “ Wow”, she smiled. She took her helmet off and drowned herself in the glowing little lights hovering around the huge balete tree. The breeze pampered her face with a comforting chill, relaxing her fiery nerves. It was a beautiful night.
She stayed under the shade of the tree for half an hour before riding away to the nearest inn. “ Good evening.”, she greeted the old lady standing outside as soon as she stopped.
“ Good evening iha.”, the woman smiled and welcomed her warmly. “ Yes, it’s me again Lola.”, Tarius smiled. “ Get inside.”
The air inside was sweetly warm with moisture indicating something was being cooked or steamed. “ Go find a seat.”
“ Thank you Lola Martha.”, Tarius draped her leather jacket on a chair and took a seat. “ This is the 10th time you’ve showed up in this month. Is there something bothering you?’’, Martha asked.
“ Yep, the city keeps on bothering me but this time it’s a little complicated.”, she answered. “ Ah. Well we have dumplings tonight. Emily made it this afternoon.”
“ That sounds nice. Dumplings.”, Tarius flashed a satisfied grin and Martha wasted no time to serve her dinner. “ How much?’’, Tarius asked. “ Eight each.’’
Tarius stared at the pasty-white steaming dumplings on her plate. “ Ahh, nice.”, she inhaled deeply before taking the first bite. “ This is delicious.”, she nodded. Martha sat across the table, staring at her while she fill herself up.
Tarius took her leave after dinner with all the cooked up stories inside her mind. Whenever she passed by a huge tree beside the road, her heart would skip a beat. She couldn’t deny the fact that she got a little scared knowing the legendary tree’s story.
‘’ Brace yourself Tarius, nothing’s real.’’
The intensity of her fear escalated as she spotted a body lying on the road after taking a sharp curve. Waves of sudden fear knocked her system as she pressed on the brake. She stared at the unmoving body for a moment before leaping out of the motorbike. She braced herself as she walked towards the body.
‘’ Sir?’’, she spoke. Her chest tightened in a twinge of doubt and fear. Her mind jumbled dramatically with absurd thoughts. “ Sir?’’, she called once again. When he didn’t respond, she released a breath and slowly lowered herself to touch the body. ‘’ Can you hear me?’’, she shook him a little. He didn’t respond so she shook him a little harder.
A startled scream escaped her lips as she heard him groan and cough. Tarius couldn’t take her eyes off as the man slowly sat up. ‘’ Ugh Damn it! ‘’ he cursed.
‘’ Why in the world were you lying unconscious in the middle of the road? ’’ her brows furrowed. He ignored her and slowly stood up. Tarius scoffed and stood up as well.
‘’ Hey! ‘’ she took a step back as he suddenly pointed a gun on her. Shocked and disturbed, she didn’t say a word. She just stared at his stoic green eyes shadowed by the night, heavy with anger. They were captivating in a dangerous way.
‘’ Who the hell are you?’’ he asked, his voice heavy and deep. Afraid of what he might do, she forced herself to answer, ‘’ I was just passing by.’’
‘’ Answer me!’’ he fired a shot and she jumped in surprise. Her heartbeat banged wildly against her chest and she felt her knees tremble.
What the hell!
‘’ Okay, okay ‘’ she inhaled. ‘’ The name’s Tarius.’’ The man tilted his head as he fully stared at her. When he didn’t say a word, Tarius bit her lip feeling her nervousness plummeting to a double.
‘’ Who sent you? ‘’ he glowered.
‘’ Sent? Look I told you I was just passing by. Who would send me anyway?’’ she said. Judging by the murderous look in his eyes and the gruff in his voice, he was indeed a dangerous guy who, unluckily she just coincidentally met.
‘’ Tss.’’ he lowered the gun and studied her face. Clearly, he can the glint of fear and nervousness swimming in her eyes and it was enough to conclude that she was harmless. Glancing at the motorbike beside them, he sighed. Turning his attention back to Tarius, he said ‘’ Give me your phone.’’
‘’ What? ‘’ she blurted in disbelief. He was very rude that it ticked her annoyance to light up. But no matter how pissed she was, there was no way she could argue when he was holding a gun. Fishing her phone out of her pocket, she tossed it to him. Catching the phone on his hand, he started dialing someone’s number.
Tarius stared at his face, colored with annoyance and anger. His jaw clenched as he chewed on his anger. Those thick lush brows furrowed adding a temperament heat to the flaring emotion dancing in his eyes. To her, he was the perfect version of a raging bull, a handsome one though.
‘’ Hey Carlos, can you trace this damn location and pick me up.’’ he said vehemently making her raise her brow. She didn’t like his brusqueness at all.
‘’ Do it quick and to hell with that old man. Just come and get me!’’ he spat and hanged the phone up. He was about to return the phone but something caught his attention. Staring at the screen, he opened the text message that just came in. It read, Hello Ms. Tarius Ash Sylvester, we wanted to ask you if your full middle name is Vila because we couldn’t find any information you’ve requested since your name cannot be found in any of our server. We suggest you tell us immediately to resume your request.
‘’ Huh? So it’s a she.’’ he slowly looked up and Tarius stared at him in confusion. What is wrong with this guy, she thought. Her nerves shot up again as he advanced towards her.
‘’ This is interesting.’’ he whispered with a faint smirk on his subtle lips perfectly carved as a bait of temptation. He stopped just inches away from her and dropped her phone inside her pocket. His eyes searched deeper into her soul, reading the oblivious uneasiness in her dark brown eyes that appeared heavy black in the night.
‘’ Finally we’ve met.’’ he said, staring at her with a devilish smirk tugging at the corner of his lips. Those words were enough to make her wonder, gaining her focus back. Staring at his face, she tried recollecting her memories if ever she saw him once or twice but no matter how much she tried, she was very sure she didn’t knew him.
‘’ Do …you--‘’ she slowly turned her head, avoiding eye contact. ‘What the hell is wrong with this guy? ‘ she thought.
‘’ Ah, since you’re okay, I should take my leave.’’ she smiled and nodded.
She kept glancing around as he came closer to fill the gap between them. As he got close enough, he pulled her towards him. Caught in between his strong arms, she tried to push herself off him.
‘’ Let me go!’’ she shouted. While she was busy struggling at the moment, her peripheral vision saw something shiny and fast. Her head whipped to the direction of the object and its line of trajectory. ‘’ Oh crap!’’, she cursed. Adrenaline kicked inside her system and she immediately pulled him towards her. They both landed on their side with a thud. ‘’ Aw.’’, Tarius hit her head and she curled in pain. ‘’ Damn it!’’ the man cursed as he caught sight of a sharp blade stuck on a tree.
Five figures emerged from the shadows, each armed with blades and pipes. Their eyes were firmly set on the guy beside Tarius. ‘’ What is wrong with you guys?’’ she hissed in pain as she stood up and stepped back as soon as she saw five armed men advancing towards their direction.
‘’ Ugh damn it.’’ she heard the man beside him curse.
‘’ Oh gold.’’ she whispered as she saw him took his gun out and aim. There was no hesitation in his eyes as he pulled the trigger, firing five consecutive shots. Painful grunts and shouts were heard from the five injured men lying on the ground. They were all shot on their legs, their wound badly bleeding.
‘’ You—what di—‘’ Tarius bit her lip to suppress herself from talking. It was a horrible sight to her; looking at helpless men squirming in pain. She knew the fact that they came bearing harm but she couldn’t help to pity them a little. Her own feeling was the problem that would later on bring her down to the real face of danger lurking around this cruel world.
‘’ You dumbass! ‘’ one stood up and took out a blade from his pocket. Even with the heavy pain tugging at his leg, he managed to throw the blade. It came so fast that even Tarius didn’t have a chance to dodge as it was accidentally aimed towards her. The blade nipped her right arm, cutting through her flesh.
‘’ Ah.’’ she hissed at the sudden sting.
‘’ Now where the hell is Carlos?’’ the guy mumbled in frustration. ‘’ Hey, you know these guys?’’, Tarius asked him and he ignored her. Feeling the warm trickle of blood running down her arm, she winced again. Glancing at her motorbike just few steps behind her, the urge to get away from the unwanted situation she was in kept on bothering her to get away. Her nerves got excited as she heard an approaching vehicle. That should be this bull of a guy’s golden carriage, she thought.
‘’ Yow bro!’’ the car stopped right beside them and Tarius walked towards her motorcycle.
‘’ Since you’re fine, I’d better go.’’ she said before riding away in a monstrous speed. Knowing the fact that the guy earlier seemed to know something about her when on the contrary she didn’t have a hint about him, it was a better idea to get away from a weird stranger.