You may want to read CHAPTER 11 first.
The mountains stood like mute witnesses to the drama that was about to unfold on its once pristine grounds. The mephitic stench of bloodbath that had occurred recurrently was now a necessity that they endure- a purge that has to happen to purify their mundane existence.
The three groups – Kumander Benny’s , General Aman’s and Ka Lito’s- were slowly converging at the designated place.
Ka Lito’s band of scalawags however, was a few yards ahead of the two and was intercepting both groups.
When they were more than a hundred yards away from General Aman’s army, Benny ordered a full stop.
The two leaders unarmed themselves and began to walk towards the center of the clearing, as their men watched anxiously; even the forest stood still in eerie silence.
Suddenly, a shot rang piercingly through the thin air . Then another… and then another. ..
Ka Anton, saw Kumander Benny go down in a heap on the first volley of gunfire. “It’s a trap. It’s a trap. Take cover!” he shouted and fired aimlessly into the company of soldiers.
He was about to crawl towards Benny, when he saw him waving his hand shouting, “Retreat, retreat.” Benny knew they were no match for the army’s mighty artillery.
There was bedlam! The media covering the event were busy clicking their cameras unmindful of the danger of being wounded in the crossfire.
General Aman was shouting too
“Cease fire, cease fire!” His face was a mask of anger and anxiety.
A few staccato bullets were fired by the retreating NPA rebels but they were gone within minutes.
There were no casualties on the government side.
“Who fired those first shots ?” General Aman demanded indignantly.
“We didn’t, ” Captain Abasolo replied. “We had assumed , it was them.”
” You mean, they would shoot at their own Kumander? ” the General asked the question incredulously.
“We were shot at too, General. ” Lt. Carreon interjected. “Won’t we be going after them? It would be easy to follow them as their leader is wounded.”
” We are not savages, Lt. Carreon. I gave my word to Kumander Benny that I’ll personally make sure they’ll be safe and sound, and now he is wounded. Listen up,” General Aman was yelling. “No one is to fire another bullet from here onwards.”
He looked at his men soberly and added in a low, powerful voice , ” I want you to remember this, a war can be won, not only in the battlefield – it can also be won peacefully.”
“General Aman is right,” Captain Abasolo seconded, ” We have a bad reputation as an army of ruthless and heartless men. It’s time we start proving to them that there are still good men in the military.”
Ka Lito and his men were watching General Aman’s army from a distance.
“How come they didn’t pursue them?” Ka Lito was frustrated and furious. “They should pursue them and pulverize their camp.”
“Let me shoot that imbecile general,” Ka Dencio was fuming too. He was an envious man, who thrived on intrigues and conflicts. He was immensely enjoying plotting the downfall of Benny – someone he considered a “lucky” bastard.
“Don’t ” Ka Lito restrained Ka Dencio’s hand. ” We’re no match for them, and they’ll come to know, we are the culprits. Let’s go, we have succeeded in our goal.”
“What goal Ka Lito?” the voice rang loud and clear . They all turned to face Ka Anton. ” I’m thankful now I was not able to teach you very well in marksmanship,” Ka Anton added.
Ka Lito tried to reach for his gun, “I wouldn’t dare, ” Ka Anton gave a quick flick of his fingers. Twelve men materialized from the thick foliage. “Disarm them.” he commanded.
Ka Lito’s group submitted without protest. Ka Lito grumbled and scowled but that was all he was able to do.
Ka Anton gave one last glance at General Aman’s retreating army, before he trudged behind the prisoners.
They came upon Benny being treated by Julia. Luckily , the bullet had just grazed his right arm. A second scar that would be a perfect match for the already existing old one.
How much wound can a man take? Ka Anton wanted to ask Benny but he said instead, “The soldiers aren’t pursuing us, Kumander” he assured Benny, ” but I found these traitors .”
“You call me a traitor, hmmp… look who’s talking…” Ka Lito was bursting with so much enmity.
“You’re the ones betraying the ideals of our organization by surrendering. I was aiming at your heart but you’re one lucky devil.” he pointed an accusing finger at Benny.
Benny said nothing but looked straight into him, ” They were the ones who fired the first shots…” he was nodding comprehendingly.
Ka Lito blinked and guiltily looked the other way.
“Let me do the honor of shooting this filthy scumbag,” Ka Anton raised his gun.
“No, ” Benny said calmly. ” They should be brought to General Aman and be held liable for the trouble they had caused.”
(TO BE CONTINUED)