Blood started gushing out of my arm and I hastily tore the hem of my shirt, tying it to restrict the flow. I breathed deeply, trying to keep myself calm despite the wretched situation I was in.
It had been about a day since they started attacking me. Gusto kong tumakas. Gusto kong bumalik kung nasaan ang mga kasamahan ko pero hindi ko alam kung paano. They were continuously using the Black Dimension to sneak behind me and the only way to prevent them from tracking me was to completely conceal my presence. That requires a lot of concentration, but that was the hardest thing to do right now as I couldn’t help thinking about Mayu, Akira and Hideo.
Calm down, I reminded myself. My friends are strong. They will survive. They have to.
“Family is such a weakness, isn’t it?”
Rin’s words echoed in my mind and my body started trembling. I had to choke back the tears that were threatening to come out. She said she had to use strength and number against me because I didn’t have an emotional weakness. Because I didn’t have a family.
What if . . . no . . . no, I shouldn’t think like that.
Napatigil naman ako nang may maramdaman ako sa paligid. One of the weaknesses of the Black Dimension was that it could only be opened at ground level, unless someone could fly inside and dropped out of the sky while coming out. But there were instances where some Shinigamis appeared on top of trees, though, I could only recall some Elites doing that. Ngayong nasa itaas ako ng puno ay pwede kong makita kung saan banda sila magbubukas, pero may blind spots din sa posisyon ko.
I carefully drew my dagger and waited for them to come out, but something hit the bough where I was sitting, and I fell before I could even react. I groaned as orbs danced in front of my eyes, my wounded leg receiving the weight of my body. Despite the excruciating pain, I hastily got up and readied my weapons as five Reapers and two Elites surrounded me.
“Just give up and let us kill you painlessly,” one of the Reapers said while reloading her Glock. “Just like what is happening to one of you.”
What he just uttered made me drew a shaky breath. Hideo said I shouldn’t lose my cool during a fight, but I just did. The emotions I was suppressing for the whole day burst out and they had taken over my reasoning.
I charged at the Reaper and the next thing I knew, I was already holding a portion of his tongue, his blood splattered all over my shirt and face. He cried in pain, squirming away from me, as the other Shinigamis lunged at our direction.
“Don’t you dare talk about them,” I seethed, anger and pain swelling in my chest. “They won’t die . . . they can’t.”
I summoned a broadsword and swung it in a clean horizontal arc, preventing them from reaching me, and quickly mustered my chain whip. My rage drove me into a reckless battle, attacking everyone despite the injuries I received.
My body was moving on its own while my mind was somewhere else. Memories kept flooding my head: the moment I received my mission; Akira and Mayu telling me theirs; Vivien clinging onto Akira’s neck after hearing she’d be gone for a while; and me, thinking that we would still each other after that short moment.
The rage I felt was gradually dissipating, filling my chest with bout of regrets and grief. I wanted to get out of here and return home. I wanted to make sure that they . . . that they would be there, waiting for me. That these people were lying.
My focus crumbled and I didn’t notice that I was being surrounded again. I felt a sharp pang of pain on my back before I could even recover my senses.
I collapsed on my knees as I cried in pain, my body trembling from the deep cuts I received. My vision was turning hazy, and my breath, ragged.
Stand up, I willed myself as the Shinigamis surrounding me went inside the Black Dimension. You can’t die here.
They would surely attack me where I wouldn’t expect it. I gripped my broadsword so tight that my knuckles turned white. With gritted teeth, I slowly stood up and summoned another longsword.
As if on cue, I felt a presence coming from behind and with a sharp swing, I landed a deep cut on the Reaper’s chest. He growled in pain and went back inside the Black Dimension while I honed my senses to know where they were coming . . . but their attacks were getting faster and calculated.
I hated running away from fights, but in this state, I might actually end up in a critical situation. I was already eyeing my escape route when one of the Elites appeared in front of me with a sly smile.
“We just received a good news,” he announced. “Ah . . . might be a bad news for you. The daughter of that damned Aiwa is dead. One down.”
Ilang segundo akong nakatitig lang sa kanya. His words wouldn’t sink in. He didn’t mean that, did he? No . . . he was just messing with my mind. Mayu is wise and she could take down a bunch of enemies by herself. She couldn’t . . .
“Don’t worry,” he added, “you’ll see her soon in the afterlife—!”
“SHE’S NOT DEAD! SHE CAN’T BE DEAD!”
My vision turned red and I heedlessly attacked her, not minding the rest of his cronies, but that was my fatal mistake. The next thing I knew, my right shoulder was already impaled with a sword and someone landed another slash on my back, but my gaze was fixed with the Elite.
If I couldn’t get out of here alive, might as well take someone with me to the doors of death.
With the last ounce of my strength, I quickly summoned my chakram and threw it on his direction while two of them were pinning my body to the ground. Everything happened so fast that all of them went still for a few seconds. Half of the chakram got embedded on his eyes, while the other half slit his mouth. His body fell to the ground with a loud thud as blood gushed out of his face.
I shoved the Reaper restraining me and tried running away but my legs gave up halfway.
“You fucking Senshin!” the other Elite shouted in anger.
“Shit,” I cursed under my breath. “M-must get away . . .”
I heard the swinging of the blade and I knew I was seconds away from getting beheaded. A dry laugh escaped my lips, realizing how pathetic I was today. I couldn’t even fight to the best of my abilities because of what they had told me. They used my emotions against me, and it was effective.
I promised myself that I would protect them yet I couldn’t even protect myself. I promised Hideo I wouldn’t die yet here I was, waiting for my death. Now, I’d suffer the consequences of my carelessness.
“I’m sorry . . .” I quietly sobbed as I thought about my friends.
With my eyes closed, I waited for the blade to touch my nape but instead, I heard a yell of pain. I slowly opened my eyes and a black cloak fluttered beside me. My gaze carefully went upward, toward his face, and I gasped when I saw him holding my bloodied sword.
“For whom was that sorry for?” he asked, his eyes still focused on the Shinigamis in front of him.
The hood of his cloak was covering his face and a black cloth was wrapped around the lower part of his face, but I knew who it was. His voice and presence were something that I couldn’t forget easily.
“I remember you saying you’re stronger than me,” he retorted while swinging the sword, blood splashing off the blade. “Was that a joke?”
I felt a lump in my throat as I stared at him. For years, I thought I didn’t fear death. Maybe because I was confident with my strength and skills that I didn’t see myself dying in a fight. Death itself was still not terrifying but I realized dying alone was.
I was fighting alone and dying in a foreign land, away from my loved ones. Seeing a familiar face here almost brought me to tears.
The Reapers looked confused and he didn’t give them enough time to think. He used the Black Dimension to attack and a few seconds later, he returned holding an eyeball. My stomach churned as I watched him crushed it with his hand. I almost forgot how brutal he could get.
Bigla naman siyang umupo at tinitigan ang likod ko. The cuts must have been so deep as I could feel the blood trickling down my body. Nagulat ako nang bigla niyang hinigit ang bewang ko.
“Now it’s time to return the favor,” he mumbled.
“What are y—”
“This will be extremely painful,” he noted as we both sensed more presence around us.
“What do you mean—”
Before I could even finish my question, he opened the Black Dimension, and the last thing I remembered was howling in pain as I felt the intense heat that burned my skin and insides, and the suffocating pressure that almost crushed my lungs.
“Come on, wake up.”
My eyes fluttered open as I gasped for air. Nang makita ko ang mukha niya sa harapan ko ay itinulak ko siya kahit na halos wala nang lakas ang mga kamay ko.
“Y-you . . .” I glared at him while stabilizing my breathing. There were blisters on my skin and my insides still felt burning. “Were you trying to kill me?!” He heaved a sigh. “I just saved your ass.”
Balak ko pang makipagtalo sa kanya pero napatigil ako nang makita ko kung nasaan kami at kung ano ang nangyari rito. The crew members who went here with me were slaughtered and their bodies were left on the ground.
Pinigilan ko ang luha ko at huminga nang malalim. Despite the throbbing pain all over my body and the worries flooding my mind, I started pulling them inside the aircraft.
“The hell are you doing?” he asked, watching me struggle with the bodies’ weights.
“Can you fly this one?” I asked, looking at the aircraft and deliberately ignoring his question.
“Why?” he returned.
A weak smile escaped my trembling lips and my eyes started welling up. “Please take us home.”
Please. Let it be lies. Let it be just a nightmare. I want to see them. I can’t lose them.