I walked aimlessly as I tried to take in everything that happened.
Nanatili si Mayu kasama ng medical teams nang makabalik siya. They gathered everyone who needed medical attention while Akira stayed with Akemi and Mitsuo. On the other hand, Hideo was summoned by the admins and the council. There were also several trackers wandering around the forest to arrest and hold the Shinigamis who failed to escape in check.
Patuloy pa rin ang pag-ulan. Fog was starting to cover the forest, making it harder to see the path. I helped some of the trackers and dragged several Shinigamis to the border so that they wouldn’t be able to use the Black Dimension.
My feet steered me to a familiar place and the tears I was holding back streamed silently down my face. The cabin I built past the border for my training came into my view and I remembered the promise I had given to Hideo.
If the council won’t allow her to live inside the campus, she can have my cabin in the forest. Pwede mo siyang dalawin doon.
My knees buckled as the sword I was gripping tightly dropped on the ground. I was raised as a warrior. I never allowed myself to be seen crying but this night, I wasn’t strong enough.
I wasn’t strong enough to save my friends.
I wasn’t strong enough to accept their death.
I wasn’t strong enough to keep my tears from falling.
Hindi ko kayang manatili sa tabi nila gaya ni Akira dahil ayaw kong tanggapin na wala na sila. I didn’t want to see their lifeless bodies. All I ever wanted was for us to be complete again despite the repercussions pero kahit ang maliit na kahilingan na iyon ay hindi pinayagan ng tadhana.
I sobbed amid the pouring rain and the thick swirls of fog obscuring my vision. At least, no one would see me drowning in misery. This was the only time I could mourn for them . . . the only time I could allow myself to be weak.
Hindi ko alam kung ilang oras akong nakaupo lang doon habang patuloy na umiiyak. It was hard to tell the time because of the thick canopies of trees blocking the sky. Unti-unti na ring humihina ang ulan makalipas ang ilang oras na pagbuhos nito nang malakas. Somehow, it felt like it was signaling the end of this war and the start of the new year. It was absurd that we had to start this year mourning for our dead friends.
I didn’t want to move or do anything but the hairs on my neck bristled. I felt an eerie sensation behind me. Despite the grief, I managed to pick up my sword and I got into a defensive stance.
The cold wind brushed harshly onto my skin, sending shivers down my spine. My clothes were soaked from the rain and mud and my body felt heavy after fighting a horde of Shinigamis earlier. Ilang minuto akong naghintay kung anuman ang paparating ngunit walang nangyari.
I wasn’t sure if my senses were just playing with me or my emotions were affecting them. It was hard to stay focused when, at the back of my mind, I was still thinking about Akemi and Mitsuo.
Isang malalim na buntong-hininga ang pinakawalan ko. I relaxed my body and started walking toward the cabin when I felt that sinister air again.
The air crackled, and I almost gasped when I saw the Black Dimension opening.
Two Shinigamis came out, blood gushing down their mouths. But the pain in their faces disappeared when they saw me. Agad iyong napalitan ng galit at mabilis silang sumugod papunta sa akin.
My instincts and rage took over. I summoned a spear, and along with my sword, I swung both weapons at their direction.
The spear pierced the Shinigami’s chest, just like what they did to Mitsuo, and my sword punctured the other’s throat, killing him instantly. I pulled my weapons out of their bodies and their blood splattered onto my face and clothes.
I wanted to kill them for the second time, to see the despair in their eyes, and that moment, I realized this must be how Hideo had felt earlier. Kahit na alam kong hindi na maibabalik pa ang buhay nila, sa ganitong paraan ko lang sila maipaghihiganti.
The Black Dimension closed, leaving me with two dead bodies. I drew a shaky breath and found myself trembling in anger and grief. Muli akong naglakad pabalik sa cabin ko. My remaining strength was already seeping out of my body. The adrenaline rush had faded and exhaustion had caught up with me.
I was several steps away from the hut when something suddenly appeared in front of me. The next thing I knew, I was already face to face with a Shinigami.
With a last-ditch effort, I summoned back my sword and pointed it at the Shinigami, but before I could move, he had already collapsed on his knees.
“R-Rielle . . .”
Hearing Akemi’s real name from the Shinigami’s mouth made my skin tingle. He coughed up blood and I realized the long gash on his chest down to his abdomen. He grabbed the tip of my sword and I winced upon seeing the blood spurting from his palm.
“Is . . . is she . . . alive . . .”
His intense eyes stared at me, demanding an answer. I was about to swing my sword at his neck but I halted when I saw a tear dropping from his left eye.
“T-tell me . . .” he groaned in pain, “she’s . . . s-she’s still alive, isn’t she?”
Para namang sinampal muli ako ng katotohanan at gaya niya ay muling tumulo ang luha sa mga mata ko. Then, realization hit me. This guy . . . he was with her when she went back to her world . . . to her real family.
“Y-you . . .”
“Just tell me!” he cried in anger.
I stifled a sob and slowly shook my head. “Akemi . . . s-she’s . . . she’s . . . dead.”
I still didn’t want to accept it but saying it out loud made me realize that I couldn’t escape the reality and how it could be so harsh. Pakiramdam ko ay nakatayo ako ulit sa harapan nila. Pakiramdam ko ay pinapanood ko ulit ang pamamaalam nila.
“No . . .” he muttered, a pained expression on his face. “That can’t be true . . . s-she . . .” He tried to stand despite the amount of blood he had lost and grabbed me by my shirt’s collar. His lips were shivering from the cold, shock, and anger. “You . . . d-don’t lie to me or I’ll fucking kill you.”
If I wasn’t overwhelmed with guilt and grief, I must have cowered from his threat. For a half-dead man, he could still intimidate someone like me.
Before he could do anything, with my last ounce of strength, I punched his wound. He glared as he staggered until he collapsed on the ground.
Muling nabalot ng katahimikan ang paligid at bukod sa mahinang pag-ulan ay tanging paghinga ko lamang ang maririnig. I quietly stood in place, trying to process everything again.
Naomi said Akemi’s Elites let her escape the dungeon she was in. They must have been charged with treason after betraying their leaders. Looking at this guy’s state, it seemed like he had already received his punishment.
Sound judgment and personal reasons quarreled in my head. I wanted to hurt him more for what they have done to her, but a part of me saw myself in him—heartbroken and guilty from losing a friend.
I heaved a sigh as I and tilted my head backward after minutes of deliberation. Groaning, I started dragging his unconscious body toward my cabin.
For Akemi, I thought. I would save this guy’s life for her peace of mind. After all, he saved hers, too.