Chapter 20

I couldn't breathe. There, in the midst of it all, I saw Asuka, struggling and squirming as one of the two larger and stronger men held her arms. The other man was carefully undressing her.

"No! Please!" she screamed. "Stop! Please stop!" her voice was strained from all the screaming.

"What's wrong, woman?" the first thug said, "Don't you remember us from 5 years ago?"

The other thug laughed, "Well let me refresh your memory. It was a very rainy day, and we were just about to have some real fun with you on this same alley, when that kid showed up."

"I remember that rich kid's name like it was yesterday." The first thug said. "Edo Phoenix."

My heart skipped a beat. Asuka gasped as one of the thugs held her breasts. "Do you remember that day? He saved you. He risked his life to save you."

"That was one brave kid, and I must agree, he really gave us a beating." The other thug said, "But luckily, tonight, we saw you walking down that street again. And we remember you."

"Oh, yeah we do." the first one agreed. "And we're planning to finish off what we've started on that night."

"No, please-" Asuka whimpered.

"-And no Phoenix is going to save you now!" the other thug said, laughing.

I remembered what Asuka told me. 'I actually hated him at first, you know,' she had said, 'But then it all changed after an encounter in an alley…after that, I just… couldn't get him off my mind… everything was just crazy after that.'

Edo saved her on this alley… from these same thugs that harassed her…. five years ago. And that's how they started. "No!" I shouted. It shouldn't end here. Not where it all began. Not after everything they've been through.

Memories I have of Edo and Asuka suddenly rushed past me. Their laughs, their joys, their tears and hardships… they deserved better. They should deserve each other!

"Get away from her!" I roared, running towards the thugs. I ran my fist across one of them. He fell to the ground.

"Who the hell is this?" the thug that held Asuka said. Asuka was staring at me, partly surprised, partly horrified. I caught a glimpse of her face. She had tears flowing down her cheeks. I was momentarily hypnotized, but before I could snap back, the other thug had already hit me.

I felt a pang of pain on my cheek. I was tasting my own blood again.

"Another hero wannabe, I suppose." The thug who attacked me said. "Don't worry. I'll handle this, just hold the girl."

When I was about to stand up, the man kicked me hard- where it really hurt. I crouched in pain. And before I knew it, he kicked me once more. The pain was unbearable.

The thug was laughing at me. "Hah! Some hero this guy turned out to be." He continued kicking in all places. Amidst all my pain, I snuck a glance at Asuka. She was whimpering as she saw me. The thug that held her suddenly pinned her against the wall and started to violate her. She screamed. "Get away! Get away!" she shouted, gradually getting louder and louder as she said it again and again. The sight of her suffering made my heart ache. It made me feel so useless. "No… Asuka…" I groaned. I've got to help her. I must… I must… "Don't… hurt her…" I muttered.

Suddenly, I felt a surge of strength flow all over my body. And, as if it were a miracle, the pain that overcame me subsided. As the other thug kicked me, I grabbed his leg and pulled hard. He fell to the ground. I got up and punched his face. After giving him one hell of a beating, I turned to face Asuka's harasser. I grabbed him by his shirt and threw him back. Asuka slumped down to the floor, hyperventilating. I knelt down beside her. "Are you okay?"

"Y-Yeah…" she whimpered. "Kaiser… I… I'm scared…" her voice sounded so tired. She was shivering, too. I turned around to see if the thugs have recovered. Sure enough, one of them was standing up. "Stay here. And keep warm." I told her, handing her my jacket. Afterwards, I stood up and ran towards the thug.

"You stupid kid!" the thug exclaimed, delivering a fist at me. I evaded it, and gave my own punch in return. The other thug rose up and grabbed me from behind. Before I could break free, the thug that I just punched hit me hard on my stomach. I groaned in pain. I heard Asuka scream my name desperately.

"Had enough, kid?" he asked. I didn't answer. "What? You want more?" he said. "You want more, you bastard?" he punched me on my stomach again. I tried my best to stay strong. The thug pulled out a knife from his pocket. I glared at him, trying to control my ragged breathing. He smiled at me. I shut my eyes tight and bit my lip. I knew what he was going to do. Before I knew it, the dagger pierced right through my stomach. I shouted in pain. I dared to open my eyes. I saw my own blood drip down from the dagger that was in me. The thug pulled it out. "Aaargh!" I shouted, feeling nothing but pain.

I was breathing deeply. I glanced at Asuka. She was staring at me, frightened. I gave her a look that told her not to do anything but watch. I saw a tear trickle down her face. "Kaiser…" she muttered. The thug pierced his knife right through me again. "Aaargh!" I shouted. "Kaiser!" she screamed.

When he pulled out his knife again, I couldn't bring myself to exclaim anymore. I felt too drained for that. Instead, I banged my own head at the thug who held my arms. His skull hit the wall behind him. I knew my head would bleed; but I also knew the collision was strong enough to knock him out. Sure enough, the hands that held me lost their grip, and I finally had my hands free. When the other thug saw this, he was prepared to strike his knife at me again- but I was ready. The moment he pierced his knife through my stomach the third time, I resisted the pain. I then grabbed the knife from his hands and took the knife off my stomach myself. I felt the dagger's blades as I pulled it out, but the good thing was, I already had the knife in my possession.

"Let's see how it'll make you feel." I said, striking the knife at the thug's chest. He gasped, then, as I removed the knife, he fell to the ground, dead. I turned to the other unconscious thug. With all my remaining strength, I stabbed him right through his heart.

"Kaiser!" Asuka's voice called to me. I turned. When I saw her worried face, I smiled. Then, realizing that the surge of adrenaline just left me, I lost my strength and fell. "Kaiser!" she cried, catching me just in time. I wanted to mutter her name, but I was too weak to do it. She lay me on the ground, gently. I coughed out some of my blood.

"Don't worry. I'll call for help." She said, about to stand up.

"No…" I pleaded. I held her hand tightly. "No… don't leave me."

She stopped and turned to me. "Don't go," I whispered. "Stay here… with me."

"But Kaiser, you're bleeding, and if you don't get treated soon-"

"-then let it be." I interrupted. She fell silent. I gave her a smile. "It's better off this way."

At this, Asuka, began to cry. "W-what?" she asked, her voice trembling. "How can you say that? You'll be okay. You will…"

I pulled her closer to me. "Yes, I will… if you stay."

At last, she stayed and sat beside me. I reached out for her. When she moved closer, I touched her face gently. "Don't cry, Asuka." I whispered. "I'll be fine."

She held my hand. "Kaiser… I… I…"

"I have to tell you something." I interrupted. She held her thought and listened. "I'm sorry." I said finally.

"S- Sorry? For what?" she asked.

"It was me, Asuka." I muttered. "I tried to set you apart from him… from Edo."

"What?" her voice faltered.

"It was me." I repeated. "And the Stephanie thing… it was me. I planned everything."

"I… I don't understand…" she muttered.

"I was jealous." I confessed. "I hated seeing you so happy with someone else… I… I love you, Asuka."

As I said this, I felt as if a heavy burden was being lifted out of me. It felt so good to confess to her. And when I saw her tears fall, I tried my best to wipe them away. "But now I'm happy for you." I continued, "Now I realize that you'll never be complete without him. So I'm happy… because you're happy."

Asuka closed her eyes and looked away, as if to prevent me from seeing her break down. When she looked my way again, I saw nothing but sadness. "I... don't know what to say." She said finally. When she said this, I winced in pain as I began to bleed even more. I began coughing out some more blood. Concerned, Asuka came closer and wrapped her arms around me, and held me close. She gently rested her head on mine. "Kaiser, don't do this," she cried, "Please… you'll be alright. Tell me you'll be alright…"

I held her arms and treasured the moment as she gave me her tight embrace. "I love you, Asuka." I whispered, over and over, as my vision of her began to fade away. "I love you… I love you… I love you…"

I felt her heart pounding. I heard her whimpering and crying. Finally, I was now too weak to keep my eyes open. "I… love you…" I continued whispering, feeling my own heart beat slowing down.

"Kaiser…" she muttered. "Please don't go… you're the best friend I've ever had…"

I didn't know if it was because I already had my eyes closed, but it felt like everything was getting darker and darker. I found it hard to just breathe.

Finally, letting out one last and final breath, I struggled to tell her those three words once again, even if it was just a faint whisper. I wanted, at least for one last time, to tell her how much she meant to me, how much I treasured her and admired her for just being there, how much the moment felt like it would last forever.

But before I could even begin, I could've sworn I tasted her essence- her warm, angelic breath merging with mine. I wasn't sure if it was just a dream, or if it was really her, but it was the last thing I felt before my heart finally stopped beating. And even for just one brief moment, it almost felt like we were together again.