Chapter XXIII – The Chase

A grown man in an Arkiman suit was running through the field fast with the training dog. He had been running for a quite some time, but his speed never changed. He can still cope up with the canine. When he reached the shelter, he removed his facemask… It was Rem.

Rem, already 19, reached the peak of his adolescent stage. His muscles were bulking up on his suit obviously showing that he was pounded to training. He also had grown into a very good-looking man. His curly blonde hair and thick eyebrows added manliness and swag. His blue pupil became noticeable.

“Good job, Tobie,” said Rem while rubbing the dog’s head. He then entered the shelter and just released the dog inside.

At the gate, he saw a woman running fast along with a yellow Labrador retriever. As they reached his spot, the lady removed her facemask… it was Marybeth.

Marybeth, also 19, bloomed into a beautiful lady. Her blonde bouncy hair, almond eyes with long eyelashes, rosy cheeks, small lips and slender body will align her to one of those high school prom queens.

“Hey,” said a smiling Rem to Marybeth. “How many d’you have?”

Marybeth, who was panting, looked at her wrist to see how many miles per hour she had.

“14,” said Marybeth. “You?”

“20,” Rem replied. “You did great! You too Sumi. Good girl!” Rem added while crumpling the ear of the dog.

“I need water,” said Marybeth. “I’ll go ahead.”

Marybeth walked inside the shelter.

Rem looked at her smiling. What she doesn’t know he was actually having some feelings for her. But, since he doesn’t have any guarantee of what will happen, he only kept it inside him.

Marybeth showed a fake smile as she walked away. She actually can’t look at Rem, who, for her, was more attractive when soaking wet with sweat. His short side bob hairdo was too good to handle. She also had fallen in love with him. Likewise, she just wanted to keep it because of no assurance outside.

*****

Minutes later, Vincent appeared riding a motorcycle. He asked Rem to ride and he will bring him back to the dome so he can take a long rest.

Then, lunch time.

While having a chit chat in the living room after their meals, Rem and Marybeth were informed that the forest and beach training were canceled, because of a surprise that will wait for them tomorrow.

Rem and Marybeth just decided to spend the rest of the day practicing inside the defense shooting area. It was actually their first time to do the defense shooting together and because of their training, they both wiped the machines out in a couple of minutes. They repeated it four times, but the results were just the same.

Draining all their energies, the two decided to just take a rest in the living room before taking a bath for dinner.

While eating, Rem can’t help but ask Marybeth about the cancellations of their training. Both of them knew that they will soon go up against the experienced Arkimans.

Their conversation about what will happen continued while they were eating and taking time resting in the living room. They got more puzzled when one of the escorts ordered them not to go out until they were asked to do so.

Hours after, they were finally asked to go to the dormitory to take a rest. Rem noticed that the room beside his was lighted. He knew the new recruits came. He was not interested in taking a peek.

*****

The next day, while showering, Dricks appeared along with a young guy who was about 11 years of age.

“Burrows, this Benedict,” said Dricks. “Guide him. Also, wear the Arkiman suit; you will go directly to the forest.”

Rem confirmed that he will have to go up against experienced fighters. His heart was pounding. He was anxious enough not noticing that Benedict entered the next cubicle. He was only distracted when he heard the shower.

“I’m Rem, Rem Burrows,” Rem said while scrubbing himself. “And you are?”

“Benedict McKnight,” said Benedict, who was quite tall for his age, curly hair, brown eyes and tamed features.

Then silence.

“You’ll soon cope up in here,” said Rem. “After a few days, you will somehow enjoy especially when you are about to level up. Just make sure you will listen to the teachers.”

“Yeah, I know and I am looking forward.”

“If you have questions here you can just ask me. You can treat me as your older brother.”

Benedict nodded along with a thrift smile.

Even while they were changing clothes, Benedict will only give him one answer and obviously, he’s shy. During their early meal, Marybeth introduced a young lady named Anikka.

*****

Rem and Marybeth met Jacklyn and Bradley outside the dome. The two mentors didn’t waste any time and asked their corresponding students to come with them in the forest.

Right before entering the forest, Jacklyn revealed that Rem will indeed go up against the experienced fighters.

“Rem, we are here for your training called ‘The Chase’,” said Jacklyn while pulling Rem’s arm to stop him from walking. “You will be facing experienced fighters, who will show no remorse in hurting you.”

“You will be first introduced to them so they will have time to meet you physically. Then, a cannon will fire and it’s time for you to go. After 10 minutes, another cannon will be heard and it’s for them to run after you.”

Rem can’t say a word. This was actually the first time that he can feel his heart pounding.

“You can do it, Rem,” said Jacklyn tapping his back. “Don’t be afraid. You are well-trained. Just focus. I’m counting on you!”

“I’m not afraid Ms. Jack,” said Rem. He breathed deeply.

Jack smiled.

“Try your best to formulate plans in separating them. Use the materials around you; set traps, always look for a shelter that no one will suspect and be cautious, alright?” Jacklyn noted.

Rem gave his mentor a half smile and a nod. He felt cold but sweating like there’s no tomorrow.

“Alright let’s go,” said Jacklyn.

They walked for a few minutes and then they got into a grassy place.

“There they are,” said Jack referring to three men wearing Arkiman suits. They were looking at them. “You can do it, Rem. I believe in you!”

The three met them.

“Heyyyy, Jacklyn my darling,” said a tall, that was about 6-foot-6 in height, and a slender man. He tried to give Jacklyn a kiss on her cheek. The woman however denied by pushing him.

“Ugh! Aren’t you going to give me a warm greeting?” the man said with thick lips, nape-long blond hair, long chin, and big eyes.

“Stop it, Buster,” said Jacklyn. “Don’t play around! We are here to train Rem.”

“It’s just a friendly hug, no mean, no harm,” said Buster. “Unless, you find me attractive. Just like my man, Arnold!” He added giving the man beside a light elbow.

“So, Rem is the name of you mentee!” said another tall, that was about 6-foot-3 man. He was huge like those of Rem’s escort. He was also bald, had a piercing on his nose and a demon clown tattoo on his right neck.

“Yup,” said Jacklyn with an angst smile. “And I’m proud of him.”

“Let’s see,” said Arnold.

“If we beat this guy, you will date me, Jack,” said the third guy, who was about 5-foot-7 in height. He was also slender, but his muscles were bulking. He had this angelic face, dark hair, medium eyes and a noticeable scar on his right cheek near the ear.

“Shut up, Khyle,” said Jacklyn. “Enough with the words.”

Rem felt more nervous seeing the three. From their looks, he’s becoming more intimidated. He felt cold, but sweating, and his whole body were shaking. The feeling was like having a rheumatic fever.

“Alright, we’ll give you guys some time to talk,” said Arnold. “Vincent said he will just call us up when we have to start.”

Jacklyn then pulled Rem to the nearest log. She shook him, face to face, in order to release the tension because the young man was pale. She sat and pulled him.

“These guys are brutal,” said Jack. “They are maybe fooling around. But, as soon as the cannon fires, their aim is to give you a blow. There are actually rewards waiting for them if they beat you.”

“Buster is one of fastest runner the Arkimans produced,” said Jacklyn. “He’s also one of the forest trainers. His knowledge of this forest is as same as mine.”

“Arnold. He can’t run fast since he gained weight. But, don’t you dare near him because once he got a grab on you, no chance of escaping.”

“Khyle is the smallest. But, just like Buster, he is fast. He also has the highest level of combat skills in our group. Whether you believe it or not, he is already 54 years old. But can still kick your *ss.”

“And because all of them are Arkimans expect them to be sharp shooters.”

*****

After 20 minutes, Jacklyn’s phone rang.

“Alright. Right away,” said Jacklyn over the phone.

“It’s time Rem,” said Jack mildly pulling Rem’s suit and started walking towards the three. She then handed Rem a belt bag containing daggers.

“Good luck Rem,” said Jacklyn. She then gave him a kiss on his cheek.

“Ohhh! I’m getting jealous now!” said Buster. “And when I’m jealous , I go crazy!” He added while showing a fist up.

“Shut up, big mouth,” said Jacklyn. She then walked away leaving Rem.

“So. Rem,” said Arnold. “Rem, Rem all the way. Let’s see how long that pretty face stays pretty.”

“Or swollen,” Buster added while laughing.

Khyle was just staring straight at Rem.

Then, a cannon went off.

Rem ran as fast as he can.

“Runnnn, you p*ssy,” Buster shouted.

After Rem saw that the three was already out of his sight, he shifted direction for a chance of confusing the three to where he went. Then the second cannon went off, pushing him to run faster.

After a few minutes of running and changing directions, he drew his strength. He stopped and tried to catch his breath.

Rem already had his plans years ago. He will set traps using ropes. So he continued to look for agave plants and was lucky enough to find a group of them. He carefully connected the ropes to make a long one that he turned into a quick-release knot.

He proceeded and this time, his aim was to look for food and water to nourish him as he already lost some vital fluid after running. He remembered Tatiana and her amazing berries. He looked for the swamp.

*****

The swamp was amazing. The clear water was being surrounded with luscious greeneries. From the bank, he can see what’s below. The berries were indeed plenty in the area. Rem started to dig through them.

After consuming much of the berries, Rem decided to go for a swim. He wanted to satisfy his curiosity. He wanted to check the marine life below.

Rem was able to see how beautiful below and got mesmerized by the marine life. The rotting logs served as breeding ground for the creatures. The fishes were obviously not used to human because they hid after seeing him.

Rem didn’t waste time and picked some mussels and kept them inside his pockets. He then realized that he can’t be relaxing.

Rem then tried to swim slowly to the part where he came when suddenly, a knife hit his back. He also heard a splash of water.

When he looked back, Rem saw another dagger coming his way and it’s quite fast. He was only able to twitch his body to prevent the dagger from hitting his head. It hit him on his right shoulder.

The knife hurts, but because of his suit, he wasn’t wounded.

He also saw Buster swimming through his way. He thought he won’t stand a chance of fighting in the water. He also knew that the two will also dive in the water anytime soon to help their buddy. So, he just swam through the other side.

Rem was slowed by the daggers that were continuously thrown at him.

Rem reached the land with Buster only about four meters away. He again ran as fast as he can, but indeed, Buster was really a great runner.

Buster reached for Rem’s shoulder and pulled him via his suit. He was left with no choice but to fight. They are actually of the equal match. They showered each other with punches. He noticed that the two were already swimming through and they were also fast. So, he tried his best push Buster away.

When he was able to push Buster, Rem took a hold on the tip of his rope and waited for an opportunity… He was waiting for Buster to punch him. His wish was granted.

In a snap, Rem pulled his rope and able to tie Buster’s arm.

Buster was shocked with what happened. The next thing he knew, Rem’s fist is about to hit his face. Again, in a snap, the younger Arkiman was able to tie the rope around his other arm and then, around his feet disabling him. He tried to use his body strength to get out. He failed.

Rem then moved two steps back and did a spinning hook kick hitting Buster’s right cheek, which triggered an alarm. It indicated that Buster was out of the game.

Rem then smiled and looked at the two. They stopped swimming and were obviously, stunned with happened. He reached for his rope around Buster and tried to untie him. When he saw the two continued swimming, he just cut the rope to at least maintain a long one. He again ran fast.

The two reached the land for about two minutes. Arnold checked on Buster. He was alright and still laughing. Khyle, on the other hand, checked the place from afar to see where Rem went.

“Go ahead, I’m done,” said Buster laughing. “Rem is no ordinary kid… He went straight.”

Khyle and Arnold nodded at each other and ran to the direction Buster said.

Rem again ran as fast as he can, knowing that they can easily catch up. However, his confidence was boosted because he just beat a more experienced fighter. When he’s tired, he decided to keep himself hidden. He squeezed himself in a bush.

After a few minutes of staying inside the bushes, Rem decided to take a nap to regain his strength.

After his power nap, he slowly crawled outside the bushes and when he knew that the coast was clear, he stood and walked away. Every time he saw agave plants, he will get their fibers to make another rope.

He then looked for an area that he can use for his plan. After deciding for a clear part of the forest, he set his traps and added some signs so he won’t fall on them.

Rem then picked some dried woods and made fire. He also cut a piece of bamboo to cook his shells for his meal.

*****

While eating, Rem was disturbed.

“There you are,” said one man behind him. “What you did to Buster was unforgivable.”

Rem smiled knowing that his plans were perfectly falling into pieces. He then stood and faced them. Arnold and Khyle were standing about 30 feet away from him.

“Alright, you got me,” said Rem raising his hand. He was still chewing his food.

Arnold walked as if he will attack Rem. But, Khyle stopped him.

“As what Buster said, don’t underestimate this kid,” said Khyle silently. “He used to run, but now he’s staying there waiting for us despite knowing we outnumber him. Maybe, there are traps.”

Rem knew that they busted him.

“Alright,” said Rem. “I’ll be the first to attack.”

Rem then picked a dagger and threw it to Arnold who had successfully dodged it. He attacked back by throwing his dagger, but Rem also dodged it with a tuck somersault and immediately threw another one but this time, aiming Khyle, who also successfully avoided his attack.

Khyle and Arnold had an exchange of dagger with Rem and since they are more skilled and more experienced, they forced him to look a shield to one of the boulders. However, they felt powerless as they can’t move forward to Rem’s position, thinking of traps waiting for them.

While hiding behind the boulders, Rem tried to think of a better plan as his first attempts of leading Khyle and Arnold to the traps he set failed. He pulled his remaining rope and made a knot featuring a huge loop. He breathed deep and came out to face the two.

Right after appearing from the boulder, Rem threw about five pieces of fist-sized rocks against the two.

The rocks mildly separated the two and for Rem, that was the best opportunity he can have. So, he took his chances and picked a huge long bamboo he cut a while ago and used it to push Arnold away to the cliff.

Arnold lost his balance and opted himself to roll down the cliff in order for him not to fall hard.

After successfully pushing Arnold, he turned to Khyle and challenged him to a fistfight. Indeed, Khyle’s combat skills were way superior that his. But, winning against him to a brawl was not Rem’s intention.

Overpowering Rem, Khyle grabbed him from behind choking him. After a few minutes, Rem was already losing air so, used all his power to push him.

A few seconds of struggling, a loud snap was heard and Khyle was then suspended in air via his right foot. Rem, still coughing and crutching his hand on his legs, evilly smiled knowing his plans of pushing him to the snare trap that was attached to a bent bamboo hidden among the leaves worked. He again didn’t waste any time. He picked two knives, tied them using his remaining ropes, and threw them one hand each.

Khyle readied himself to dodge Rem’s attack. Right after the younger fighter threw the knives, he flipped his body and laughed thinking he successfully avoided them. But, Rem pulled the ropes attached to them turned out a large loop was purposely created to catch his hands. Then, he was completely tied. Technically, he was paralyzed.

Rem tied the two ropes to the exposed roots of a huge tree, picked the huge bamboo and swayed to hit Khyle. The more experienced Arkiman shouted in pain. An alarm went off.

Rem immediately climbed the group of bamboo where Khyle was suspended while carrying a huge leaf using his mouth.

“I’m so sorry Mr. Khyle, but you must not see,” said Rem while tying the leaf on Khyle’s face to cover his eyes.

Rem jumped and created more snare traps that he kept hidden in the dried leaves. Knowing that he doesn’t have more time to bend bamboos, he hid and waited for Arnold to step on those snare traps.

Arnold came bruised and panting. He tried to climb the cliff fast. Seeing Khyle above, he shouted out of frustration. His ego was badly hurt knowing that the three of the – all more experienced and older – were beaten by a young man, who was still a trainee.

“What happened to you Khyle?” said Arnold. “The kid beat your ass?”

“Shut up Arnold, I’m out of here. That kid outsmarted me and he’s just here. Be vigilant,” Khyle replied.

“Come out, come out wherever you are!” Arnold sang. But, deep inside him, he was starting to get nervous. He felt powerless knowing that Rem was anywhere waiting for the right time.

“Keep your feet light,” said Khyle. “Snare traps are everywhere.”

Rem remained calm in his hiding place and patiently waited for Arnold to step on one of his traps. Arnold, on the other hand, used a stick to dig through the dried leaves. Soon he uncovered traps, including those attached to the bent bamboos.

“You are now busted, pretty boy. Come out now,” Arnold teased.

Rem remained in his position and it looked like he’s still up to something. Still careful, Arnold continued walking.

Knowing that Arnold was quite careful, Rem had to improvise.

Rem stood in front of Arnold. The latter stopped seeing the tiger look on the young man’s face, waiting waited for the next move. He was paranoid enough not to do the first attack.

Rem bawled and ran towards Arnold challenging him into a one-on-one combat. Miss Jack was right, Arnold was a little slow and trying his best to grab him. So, he observed extra caution to prevent himself from falling to those deadly grabs.

But despite Rem was faster, Arnold was still able to dodge the attacks and landed more punches. His punches showed no effects to the big man.

So Rem stayed away from Arnold. He wanted to regain his composure. He inhaled deep and exhaled using his mouth to release the tension and nervousness. He then proceeded in attacking Arnold. After a few exchange of fists, Arnold tried to give him a full-swayed knock-out punch, which was the opportunity that Rem waited.

Rem pulled a roped around his waist and let Arnold’s fist pass through a loop that he immediately pulled in order to tighten. He was again quick in tying the body of Arnold. However, the bigger man prevented him by grabbing his shoulder. Arnold pulled him, leaving him with no choice but to tied his hand to him.

They ended up tied by their backs. However, Rem retained his waist below widely opened. He bent down to carry Arnold and walked towards to the cliff. But, before they fell, he threw a knife that was tied to a long rope… He aimed for the loop he created earlier when he tied the rope that was holding one of Khlye’s hands. His knife perfectly shot through it.

The rope was tied to Rem’s left hand leaving them clinging.

“What’s next, Mr. Genius?” asked Arnold.

Arnold was ready to flip their position to use Rem as a board when they fall.

“Mr. Arnold, we are both Arkimans,” said Rem. “So, I know we are allies.”

“I purposely made a long rope so when you fall, you won’t have broken bones, but, hopefully, it will trigger your alarm,” Rem noted.

Rem then pulled a part of the rope that he used to tie their bodies. It turned out that the whole knot is a one-pull-knot. Arnold’s eyes widened when he suddenly fell. Right after he hit the ground, his alarm went off.

Rem breathed deep out of relief knowing he outsmarted them. He swung himself in order to reach the other side and rappelled up. After reaching the top, he lay on the ground out of exhaustion. Suddenly, a voice was heard over his earpiece.

“Rem, being an Arkiman means also protecting your alliances,” said Ms. Jack. “Look for Marybeth. She’s still up. She started just near the swamp.”

Upon hearing it, Rem immediately went up and ran to look for Marybeth.

Right after reaching the swamp, Rem swam through in order to go to the other side and continued running despite he’s already getting tired. A few more minutes, he started to felt dizzy and confused. He stopped in order to gasp for air. Fortunately, there are lots of berries for him to get moisture and energy.

After munching lots of fruits, Rem became calmer and able to think well. He looked for a tall tree and climbed it for him to have a bird’s eye view.

Atop of tallest tree, Rem estimated where Marybeth ran and thought he was on the right track. After climbing down, he also searched for more clues such as footprints, destroyed parts of plants and landscape.

Hours of walking, searching for signs and climbing trees, Rem heard women laughing, shouting and taunting. He had these gut feelings that it was Marybeth being chased.

He was correct. Right before his eyes, he saw Marybeth being played on by three women – two slender and a bulky. One of the slender women was holding the end of the rope while the other two used to push, punch and kick her.

The woman who was holding the rope had black hair while the other slender one was blonde.

Rem fumed seeing Marybeth in that kind of situation. Despite he can’t wait to attack and avenge her, he still remained calm.

Rem recalled that Marybeth used to land some punches on him during their sparring sessions. Therefore, the three can easily beat him. He cleared his mind and tried to formulate a plan. After a few minutes, he took a dagger and ran fast.

He then appeared from the bushes and without hesitation, he kicked the bulky one on her left hip and was thrown a few feet away. He then released Marybeth by cutting the rope with a knife.

“Marybeth, fight,” said Rem while running towards the slender blonde.

Rem threw punches to that woman. She was obviously shocked with what happened and unable to react. A few seconds after, her alarm went off.

Rem ran and wrestled the huge lady. The woman, who was almost twice his size, was strong and was able to grab him from behind and locked her arms around him. She tried to pin him down, but Rem fought back by pushing up. After a few seconds of pinning and pushing, Rem released the tension by bending down with his buttocks pushing her stomach. She lost her balance. He flipped her.

Rem picked a thick stick and choked her from behind.

“Come on,” said Rem as he continued choking her.

Her alarm went off.

Rem released her and without looking, he attacked the last woman, who was actually winning against Marybeth. She even tried to fight back, but he overpowered him. He then successfully locked her arm at her back.

“Marybeth now,” said Rem.

Marybeth laughed while wiping the blood coming from the side of her mouth. She moved a few steps backward and kicked her right to the stomach that immediately triggered the alarm.

Rem released the woman and pulled Marybeth. Together they ran away from the scene. They stopped after a few minutes. She looked at him smiling, but Rem was serious and about to cry. He suddenly hugged her tight.

“Wait, wait, wait,” said Marybeth who was shocked. “We beat them right?”

Rem laid his palms on Marybeth’s cheek and pulled her face near him. She mildly resisted, thinking he will kiss her. She was wrong. They ended up forehead to forehead.

“The moment I saw those women playing around on you, I got mad,” said Rem. “As long as I’m here, none can hurt the people I treasure.”

“Huh?” said Marybeth who was already getting conscious. “You are getting overly dramatic,” she added pushing Rem away,

Rem kissed her cheek and hugged her again.

“I’m serious,” Rem whispered. “I treasure you, Marybeth. I treasure you.”

Rem only released Marybeth when he heard a voice instructing them to go back to the field. He then wrapped his arm around her shoulder and walked back.

Right after Rem and Marybeth reached the entrance of the forest, they saw their mentors walked to meet them and even from afar, they knew both Brad and Jack were smiling.

“Rem, I’m so proud of you,” Jacklyn said in an excited manner while giving Rem a hug. “You are amazing!”

Brad just wrapped his arms onto Marybeth’s shoulders and squeezed her while smiling at her. He then asked for a high five.

After a few minutes of giving compliments with each other, the mentors asked their mentees to go back to the dome as it was already getting dark. The two went directly to the living room and saw Benedict lying on the floor while Anikka was sitting. They were already resting and about to go to bed.