Chapter XX – The Token

The next day, it was obvious that the wounds and bruises of Randolph still hurt. But, he’s more alright than last night. His funny personality got back. He even made fun of Rem during the bath time.

However, Randolph was again ordered to go straight the forest. He will still continue facing those experienced Arkimans.

“No,” said Rem to the escorts. “He should be resting.”

“Mr. Burrows, I think you are in the wrong position,” said one of the big guys. “When you are out there, fulfilling your vow, do you honestly think that your enemies will let you rest?”

“But training is different from reality,” said Rem while trying to stop Randolph from walking outside. “When we are faced with that kind of situation, that’s the time we should deal with it.”

One of the escorts then pushed Rem prompting him to fight back. However, four more big men, including Dricks, and Jimmy, piled on him.

“Bro, as I said relax,” said Randolph. He looked serious. “I think I’m being insulted here. Are you trying to underestimate me?”

“No… I just wanted you to take a rest,” said Rem.

“That’s what you wanted. What I want is to continue,” said Randolph silencing Rem.

Randolph walked along with his escorts while the big men released Rem. He can’t do something but just stare at him while he walked away.

*****

During his forest training, Rem hoped that he will again find chances of stumbling with Randolph; he used to look around in hopes that he can see Randolph. He’s out of focus.

“You are a very distracted young man,” said Jacklyn to Rem. “What seems to be the problem?”

“Oh nothing, Miss Jacklyn,” said Rem.

Jacklyn then took the pictures on Rem’s hand.

“First of all, I asked you to call me Ms. Jack as that what my colleagues call me,” she said. “So, I can say, you are not listening.”

“Oh no, Miss Jacklyn… I mean Miss Jack, I am listening,” said Rem. “I’m listening. I swear I’m listening.”

“Alright, can you tell something that you remember about this plant?” asked Ms. Jack while showing a picture of the plant they discussed earlier.

Rem didn’t answer and sighed.

“I’m so sorry Miss Jack. Honestly, I’m just a little worried. There are lots of things going through my mind,” said Rem. “I do apologize Miss Jack.”

“Okay, change of plan,” said Jack. “Let’s look for a plant based on the function of your choice.”

Rem smiled.

“Miss Jack, can we find plants or trees that can produce ropes?” asked Rem.

Jack agreed and asked Rem to follow her. There were times that she will take pictures and explain what the plant can do. When it’s edible, they will eat it. It’s same

After a few minutes of walking, they stumbled with huge succulent plants with huge stout leaves ending to a sharp point.

“Oh! Here it goes,” Jack blurt out of excitement. “This plant has one of the stronger fiber inside. This is called the agave.”

“See this needle-like at the tip?” said Jack while touching the pointed part. “This one’s connected to strands. That’s why this buddy is called nature’s instant needle and thread.”

Jack then twisted the needle-like tip of the plant using her teeth and pulled it. Rem was mesmerized after the strands were revealed. Without being asked, he tried it himself. He got more excited and tried several times.

“What are you going to do with those, Mr. Burrows?” Asked Jack.

“I’m actually getting interested into knots,” said Rem who showed a happier mood, while rolling the string into his hand. “So, I’ll do some practice to my room,” he added while keeping the strings in his pocket.

“Alright…” said Jack and obviously, she’s amused. “Just what like the other mentors said, you are persistent.”

“Do we still have time, Miss Jack?” asked Rem

“No, my darling. Actually, our time’s up. We still have to walk back to the entrance,” said Jack. “Why did you ask?”

“I would again ask a certain plant,” said Rem. “Since it’s time, can we look for it tomorrow?”

“Sure. If that’s going to keep you focused, why not? But, can I ask what is it?” the woman replied. “So, I can have an idea. You know? I know this place.”

“I want colors with my ropes, Miss Jack. Can you please help me with that?”

“As you wish Burrows, as you wish. But, as of now, we have to go back.”

*****

After they got back to the entrance Rem saw Marybeth talking to Bradley and it seems like she’s really into it. He never saw her in such determined face. When they got nearer, Bradley gave her a tap on the shoulder and walk away.

Jack gave Rem a tap on his back and nodded before they separated. He and Marybeth head straight to the dome and into the living room. After a few minutes of chatting, the two got themselves cleaned up. But, Rem head first to his room to keep the strands he got from the forest.

Rem turned the heater on and just let the water droplets from the shower fall on his shoulder and back. Because of the worries, stress, and physical exhaustion, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to relax.

However, after a few minutes, Rem heard a click from his front and right after he opened his eyes, he saw a towel flying to his face. He never had chances to react. The tower was rubbed with soap. It stung his eyes.

“I told you, you shouldn’t underestimate me,” said a man who opened a shower beside Rem’s cubicle.

Rem knew it was Randolph. He removed the towel on his face and threw it to him.

“My eyes hurt, Randolph,” said Rem while rinsing his face. “It stings!”

Randolph was not finished. He also squeezed his shampoo bottle on Rem’s head and giggled.

“Damn it, stop it now!” said Rem while rubbing his hair to remove the shampoo on his head. When he’s done, he looked at Randolph. He was giggling while looking at him.

“Thanks, man!” said Randolph, turning serious. “I appreciate what you did earlier. But, I don’t think it’s appropriate. No chances at all.”

Rem looked at him, smiled, and then, he looked down.

“Look, Rem, we’re like brothers here. So I am just asking you to believe,” said Randolph. “Alright, bro?”

Rem nodded.

“How’s Drey and Tat?” asked Rem.

“I went to the clinic before going here,” Randolph replied. “They are ok now. The attendants said they might be discharged tomorrow.”

“You seemed alright,” Rem noticed. “What happened there?”

“Nothing. I’m actually asked to look for shelter. They said if I suffered from such condition, I should just hide and keep myself hidden until I regain my strength. I’m actually good at it.”

Then, they were both done. After they changed clothes, they head straight to the dining table and after a few minutes of waiting Marybeth arrived.

While eating their supper, the two asked Randolph to spill some beans of what awaits in the beach and during the latter parts of the training. He decided to tell stories of what happened to him while taking on experienced Arkimans in the forest.

The storytelling was continued to supper and in the living room until they were asked to go their corresponding rooms.

Right after entering his room, Rem immediately laid all the strands he got from the forest. He carefully untangled one by one and grouped all the strands in terms of their length. He twisted them, producing sturdy ropes of almost same diameter. Since they were still fresh, he hung them.

The next morning while taking a bath, Randolph, and Rem were greeted by Dreyford. He joined them in the shower. He said the doctors and nurses cleared him and Tatiana. He also said they didn’t have any fractured bones or any other internal damages.

After their early meal, the three were again asked to go to the forest. Rem, thinking of what he and Randolph talked during the shower yesterday, didn’t react much. He just wished them good luck.

At the forest, Rem and Jacklyn looked for things that can color his ropes. The young man requested for several colors to help him out. She kept on asking the reasons but the young man didn’t want to say them.

Jacklyn introduced Rem to different plants that can produce ink like berries, annatto, cacti fruits and flowers, and a lot more. She also showed him how to utilize their natural inks in order to color his ropes.

Rem collected annatto and wild blueberries and colored his ropes right in front of Jack.

*****

While walking to the dome, Marybeth kept on asking Rem about the ropes, but again, he refused. They were surprised and at the same time, happy, seeing Dreyford, Randolph and Tatiana having good times inside the living room.

After some chit chats, all of them decided to take a shower. There, Rem asked Randolph and Dreyford about what happened in the forest.

“Nothing new,” said Randolph. “We were again hunted by those freaks.”

“And now we learned something,” Dreyford added. “We were able to ambush them. When I was cornered, Randolph suddenly appeared and helped me out. Then, were done!”

“And it feels good knowing that their alarms went off,” Randolph boasted.

“Alright! Two heads are better than one,” Rem said.

“Tatiana’s better,” said Dreyford. “She took one by using a trap and went head to head with two older and more experienced fighters.”

“Really?” asked Rem out of amusement. “Oh my! I’m getting scared of her now.”

*****

During supper, Rem noticed the bruises on the face of the three. But, based on their spirits, they are alright. Knowing that they did well, he became sad thinking that anytime soon, they will leave.

In his room, Rem took all his ropes and braided them using the techniques he got in one of his camp training before his abduction. He didn’t want to procrastinate, thinking of no assurance tomorrow.

The next day continued. They took a bath, had their morning meals, and got separated with each other with the three going through the last part of their training.

During their stay at the living room after supper, Rem was not comfortable hearing that the three got through the training almost smoothly. Randolph even boasted that he was quite ready to serve his purpose.

Later, in his room, Rem can’t sleep thinking of what will happen. He took his ropes and sneaked through to the room of Randolph.

Upon entering, Rem was like a shy kid who first saw his kindergarten teacher.

“Here we go again,” said Randolph. “You are acting strange and I know there’s something going through that mind.”

“Nothing, Randolph. I just knew the fact that you, Tatiana and Dreyford will be leaving soon,” said Rem. “I’m just getting lonely and….” Rem added followed by a long sigh.

“You’ll going to miss me, right?” asked Randolph. “Me too, I can sense that any moment now, we’ll be leaving this place.”

Silence took over.

“We’ll I’m going to miss you too, young man,” said Randolph while giving Rem a mild punch on his head. “As I said, I treat you like my younger brother. So, just think about my promise. The one I told you when I was beaten up.”

Rem again sighed, stood and walked to leave the room. But, before he closed the door, he looked at Randolph smiling.

“I left something under your pillow,” said Rem. “Just keep your promise and I also promise you that I’ll survive here,” he added and went straight outside.

Randolph removed his pillow and smiled seeing a blue hand-crafted bracelet. He picked it and took a closer look before wearing it.

Instead of going back to his room, Rem went to Dreyford’s. He peeked through his window and he found out that he was still awake. He knocked.

“Rem!” said a surprised Dreyford after opening his door. “You aren’t supposedly here.”

“I know,” Rem replied. “If you won’t let me in, the chance is I’ll get caught.”

Drey didn’t say a word, he just completely opened the door. Rem went straight and sat on his bed.

“It’s weird. Really weird,” said Dreyford. “Do you want something from me?” He added while sitting on his mini-cabinet. Rem was seated on the bed.

“Yeah! It’s weird, but I know you guys are leaving,” said Rem. “So, I wanted to give you guys something; you know, tokens.”

Rem then stood, picked something from his pocket and revealed an uncolored bracelet.

“Just keep that and when I’m out of here, I’ll look for it,” said Rem. “Remember, you, I, and Randolph will still see each other… in a boxing ring.”

Rem then left the room. He went straight to Tatiana’s and when he saw her folding her clothes, he knocked.

“Oh, Rem!” said Tatiana in an excited manner. “Come in, come in.”

“Nice room!” said Rem. “It’s more organized and fresher than Randolph’s and Drey’s,” he added laughing.

“Don’t say that,” said Tatiana who was picking something in her cabinet. “I use to see your room. It’s dirty as well.”

“Here have some,” she said handing him some berries on a huge dried leaf. “I use to pick them in the forest. They are the best-tasting berries.”

“Thanks,” said Rem.

He put a berry inside his mouth and indeed, they were sweet.

“Hmmm… They are sweet!” he blurted. “Where specifically in the forest you get these?”

“They are actually scattered around,” said Tatiana while munching. “But they are plenty near the swamp.”

“Anyway, you already miss me?” asked Tatiana kiddingly. “We were together an hour ago.”

“I just wanted to check you out,” said Rem. “I want to know if you are alright.”

“That’s it?” she asked and with her tone, she was confused. “You should have asked me that when we are still in the living room. And to give you peace of mind, I’m more than alright.”

Rem paused for a while and finished his berries. He stood and threw the leaf in the trash can.

“I’m going to miss you when you go outside,” said Rem.

“Ohhhhh!” she said. “Me too, Rem. You are like my younger brother here,” she added crumpling his face.

Rem then stood, and reached something from his pocket revealing an orange bracelet.

“Here, it’s for you!” said Rem.

“Ohhh! How sweet!” said Tatiana who took the bracelet and gave Rem a hug. “It’s cute. Did you make it? How? Where did you get the color?”

“Yes, I made that,” Rem boasted. “The strings came from agave plant while the color is from the seeds of annatto tree.”

“It’s beautiful Rem,” said Tatiana while wearing the bracelet.

The two shared some more stories until Tatiana realized that they should be taking rests. Rem agreed, but before he left the room, she gave him a kiss on his cheek.