“How was it?” tanong ko matapos muling maglakad papasok sa hallway.
I followed Mayu to her lab as she continued checking the data she had gathered. She had been studying it for months and she would ask for me when they needed to see or monitor something inside.
“Hmm . . . looks like we are right,” she muttered. She sat behind her desk and a holographic video of me appeared in front of her.
Lumapit ako sa kanya. “What did you find out?”
“The effects of that dimension aren’t as detrimental as it should be,” she continued. “Maybe because there was an external force or power that changed the matter interactions which then altered the spacetime continuum and its properties.”
She explained something about quantum fluctuations but I didn’t bother listening. Paniguradong hindi ko rin naman maiintindihan ‘yon kahit anong explain niya.
I went back to my cabin to rest and instinctively sidestepped as I opened the door. The silent and vacant space came into my view. Napabuntong-hininga na lang ako. It had been a month since that guy left yet I still couldn’t get used to his absence.
Ganito rin ang pakiramdam ko noong bumukod na sina Mayu at Hiroshi at naiwan akong mag-isa sa dorm. It was hard to adjust especially since Mayu and I had been together for years. Kaya nga minabuti ko na rin na sa cabin na lang tumira. It turned out this place would also have a lingering presence.
Bumagsak ako sa kama ko at tumingin na lang sa kisame. I summoned the dagger that was originally his because he stole mine.
“I shouldn’t have given away my dagger,” I muttered. “That was my favorite. Damn it.”
Nagulat naman ako nang bigla akong may narinig na ingay mula sa labas. I gripped the dagger and carefully went to the door.
Ah. That voice.
Agad kong binuksan ang pinto at sumalubong ang mukha ni Akira. She flashed a grin and I knitted my brows when I realized she was in her training gears.
“Kohaku’s gonna take care of Vivien today,” she said. “Wanna train?”
I smirked in return. “Guess we’re back to being training partners, huh?”
Akira almost got me after I taunted her. She was clearly not as agile as before but her power improved.
Napahiga na lang kami sa lupa matapos ang dalawang oras na paghaharap. We were covered in scratches and dirt but I still managed a smile while catching my breath.
I missed this.
Bumangon naman siya at humarap sa akin. “So, kailan ka pala magsisimula sa pagtuturo, Ma’am?”
Sinamaan ko siya ng tingin pero tinawanan lang niya ako. Nakakainis, pinaalala niya pa. Sir Eichii said I passed the preliminary training and seminars and I could start next academic year, which would be five months from now.
“Bwisit talaga ‘yang si Hideo, pinahirapan pa lalo ang buhay ko,” reklamo ko at muli siyang natawa.
“Mukha namang bagay sa’yong magturo,” she remarked.
“Hindi talaga,” I retorted. “Siya, si Mayu at si Naomi lang ang bagay magturo sa ating pito—”
Napahinto ako sa pagsasalita nang mabanggit ko si Naomi at ang bilang namin. The words hang heavily in the air and Akira gave a melancholic smile while looking at the clear sky.
“Yeah,” she said. “Naomi would be a good professor.”
“Mm,” I added. “Her students would probably be scared of her imposing aura.”
She chuckled. “Right? Kahit ako, matatakot kapag nag-sit in sa class niya.”
There were a few seconds of silence after that and we both sighed. Kumusta na kaya si Naomi? Kumusta na si Rainie? I hope they are doing fine.
Matapos ‘yon ay inaya niya ako sa bahay nila dahil magluluto raw siya for dinner. I teased her about her cooking but she said she was already improving.
“Talaga ba? Mas magaling pa yata ako sa’yo magluto,” sabi ko.
She scoffed. “Excuse me? Araw-araw na kaya akong nagpa-practice.”
“Wait, don’t tell me, iyon ang pinapakain mo kay Kohaku?”
“Oo,” she shyly replied. “Mukha namang nasasarapan siya.”
“More like napipilitan,” I retorted. “Siya ang nag-a-adjust ng timpla. ‘no?”
Hindi naman siya nakasagot kaya lalo ko lang siyang inasar. Buti na lang talaga at marunong magluto si Kohaku dahil kung hindi ay magugutom silang pamilya o ‘di kaya ay lagi sila sa plaza.
We continued talking and teasing each other for the whole night and it felt nice. It felt like we were back to the times when everything was still nice and simple. I hope this kind of peace would last a lifetime.
That went on for a few months. Nagt-training kami ni Akira. Pumupunta ako kay Mayu para sa monitoring ng Black Dimension sa hallway at sa development ng weapon summoning. Dadalaw kay Hideo para asarin siya at manghingi ng mission pero ayaw niya pa ring ibigay.
Hanggang sa magsimula na ulit ang klase.
It was a nerve-wracking day. I thought I would pass out but the three of them were surprisingly encouraging me.
“Just act natural,” Mayu advised. “You’re going to be a great instructor.”
“Isipin mo na lang weapons ang mga estudyante mo,” dagdag pa ni Akira.
“Don’t swear,” Hideo said. “Don’t lose your temper.”
Hindi ko na lang pinansin ang mga pinagsasabi nila at tuluyan nang lumabas ng office ni Hideo papunta sa una kong class.
There weren’t a lot of transferees this time. Maybe because of what had happened before. Some might be hesitant to send their children here, knowing that a war just broke out several months ago.
I was assigned to the Basic Psychomotor Learning class. Basically, I would be teaching them motor skills—coordination, speed and dexterity—which would be the foundation of handling weapons and fighting.
Dahil orientation pa lang naman ay isa-isa lang silang nagpakilala. They also showed their sixth sense and some would probably complement their fighting styles.
It was a stressful morning but I gradually calmed down when the students seemed to be interested in the subject since this would be the only class in their semester where they could move around and get physical.
Pagkatapos ng una kong class ay halos pagod na ang utak ko. I’d rather be physically tired than mentally exhausted.
Lumabas ako mula sa room at naglakad palabas ng building. Mamayang hapon pa naman ang next class ko kaya may time ako para magpahinga.
‘You were good.’
Napahinto naman ako nang marinig ko ang boses ni Hideo. I looked at my right and saw him leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. Ni hindi ko man lang naramdaman ang presence niya. He strode toward my direction and walked with me.
“Were you nervous?” tanong niya.
“Malamang,” sagot ko naman. “Mukha siguro akong ewan kanina.”
“A bit,” he commented.
I kicked his calf in return but he didn’t even budge. Inirapan ko na lang siya at tahimik kaming naglakad hanggang sa makarating kami sa graveyard.
Akira and Mayu’s figures came into our view as we walked toward Mitsuo’s grave. Two years ago, we met him and Akemi. Hindi ako makapaniwala na sa maikling panahon ay naging malaking bahagi sila ng buhay namin.
Akira let out a dejected sigh. “Sana nandito rin si Naomi.”
The mention of her name immediately made the atmosphere heavier. Just like Hideo, she had sacrificed a lot, and what was more saddening was that she’s alone right now. She had to stay strong for the sake of Akemi and Hideo’s daughter. She had to carry the pain and burden alone.
Thinking about how hard it must be for her made me tear up. I wish I could help her even just a little. I wish I could support her even from afar.
Nanatili kami roon ng isang oras at inalala ang mga panahong kasama pa namin si Mitsuo. Akira burst into tears and Mayu got teary-eyed as we reminisced those happy memories. It was hard to hold back the threatening tears but I managed to stay composed for their sake. I comforted them as much as I could and tried to lighten the mood.
Matapos ‘yon ay si Akemi naman ang pinuntahan namin. Hideo placed a bouquet of green flowers on her grave and silent tears streamed down his face. We stayed by his side and quietly consoled him.
“You’re still having nightmares?” tanong ni Mayu.
He nodded and a faint smile escaped his lips. “It’s okay.”
“Hideo . . .”
“That’s the only time I could see them again,” he murmured.
Occasionally, I would also dream about them. Sometimes, it got so bad that I ended up crying and catching for my breath for two hours, or I had to hurt myself to wake up . . . to remind myself that it was just a dream. Meanwhile, Hideo had been having nightmares since the day Akemi died. Technically, three days after, because he hadn’t slept at all when that happened. It had been nine months, yet those nightmares didn’t stop.
After an hour, Mayu and Akira returned to the campus while Hideo stayed at her grave. Bumalik naman ako sa cabin ko para makapagpahinga at mag-prepare para sa afternoon class.
I was about to open the door when I felt something strange. I summoned my dagger and carefully opened the door.
Nobody was there but there was something on my bed. I hastily walked toward it and saw a strange weapon, as well as a note.
You suck at long-range combat. Maybe you can improve with this chakram.
I scoffed upon reading the message on the paper. The tone already gave away who the sender was. Ang kapal talaga ng mukha.
I held the split chakram and inspected it. To be honest, I wasn’t well versed in long-range weapons because I don’t like fighting in that style. Still, him pointing it out was irritating.
But I didn’t expect him to do something like this. I guess he really didn’t want to be indebted to me, so he had to return the favor.
The next few months and years passed by quietly. Everything was peaceful except for the kids that I had to babysit whenever their parents weren’t around. That guy also sent a couple of new weapons with his ever annoying and conceited notes every year.
I thought the peace would last for a long time, but I was wrong. The pleasant time was short-lived.
Five years after the tragedy, another wave of devastation plowed through us, but this time, I crumbled and wished death was the better option.