Sa nagdaang mga taon ay itinuon ko ang atensyon ko sa pagtuturo. I wanted to help the kids learn about basic techniques in fighting to survive in the real world. I never wanted them to experience what we had gone through. If they strive to be strong, they could protect themselves and their loved ones.
Hideo was doing better, too, despite the constant nightmare. He had been trying his best to be a good leader and a father to Hiro. He said he wanted to be busy so that he wouldn’t drown in his own thoughts and memories.
“Finished?” tanong ko habang nakaupo sa couch at naghihintay na matapos siya sa paperworks niya.
He sorted the files on his desk. “Five more minutes.”
“Ang tagal naman,” reklamo ko.
Whenever I feel some hunger for battles, I would ask him to fight with me as we are relatively on par with each other. It also helps us relieve stress from administrative works, especially me, since my brain wasn’t wired for that kind of stuff.
“You should find another training partner when I’m busy,” he commented while giving me a meaningful glance. “Still waiting for him?”
I glared at him but he just continued with what he was doing.
Hindi pa rin ako makapaniwala na alam niya ang mga nangyari noon. I remembered how he vaguely brought that topic up few months after Mayu and Akira’s wake. He told me to be careful and I realized he was talking about him.
“I don’t want you to go through what I went through,” he said that time. “But I want to see you happy, too. Whatever happens, I’ll support your happiness.”
Even though he didn’t directly say it, I knew what he meant and I was thankful for his words. We only had each other for the past few years and the only thing we could do to keep from crumbling was making sure that we were striving to be happy. That after these painful years of waiting, we would find our happiness and reasons for being alive.
Matapos ang ilang minuto ay tumayo na rin si Hideo. He took off his coat and loosened his necktie. We went to the farthest part of the Latens forest since we might disturb the campus once we started.
Somehow, both of us were spirited. Maybe because in a week, we would finally see Naomi and of course, he could finally look at her daughter.
Muli ko namang naalala noong sinabi niya sa akin ang naging desisyon ng Council fifteen years ago. He said they insisted that Naomi and Rainie should be brought back here to decide for their fate. Hindi ko alam kung paanong hindi iyon natuloy dahil hindi na niya sinabi ang ibang detalye pero nagpapasalamat ako na hindi sila bumalik dito.
We were covered in dust and sweat after an hour of fighting. It felt like both of our battle prowess became quite rusty since we hadn’t taken any class S+ missions for years. It was a bit worrisome because we knew another war was looming. Rainie’s existence would be used by both Senshins and Shinigamis.
Pagkatapos naming mag-training ay bumalik kami sa kanya-kanya naming bahay. Well, I went to my cabin instead. I was more comfortable here than my house in the campus.
Nahiga ako sa kama ko at napatingin na lamang sa kisame. It’s been ten years since I last saw him and seven years since he last sent a message.
At first, I didn’t want to admit it, but that guy helped me a lot of times. His presence was something I didn’t know I’d miss when I’m alone. I remembered how I felt relieved after receiving a note from him seven years ago because that meant he was still alive.
Maybe he was still trying to find his former comrades. Maybe he was having a hard time evading all the Shinigamis who were chasing him. Maybe he couldn’t use the Black Dimension that much because it was guarded by Rin’s army. Or maybe he decided to just have a quiet life . . . away from everyone.
If I’m given a chance to live normally, I wonder if I would take it. What would happen if I were in Naomi’s shoes? Would I want to continue living away from the world where I belong, or would I yearn to return here?
Napabuntong-hininga ako nang maisip ko iyon. I missed her. Gusto ko na siyang makita. One more week and I would see her again. This time, I would do anything to protect her.
The plaza was bustling with students and staffs. Dahil pasukan na in two days ay abala sila sa pagp-prepare sa next academic year. Agad ko namang nakita si Reina na naghihintay sa harap ng isang stall kaya tinawag ko siya. She immediately smiled and waved when she saw me.
“Ma’am Michiko!” she beamed as she tackled me with a hug.
“Waiting for those two?” tanong ko.
Agad siyang sumimangot. “Yeah. Late na sila ng three minutes and twenty-two seconds. Lagi na lang.”
I chuckled upon hearing her complains. I couldn’t believe the kid who was just following us everywhere before was a grown-up lady and a teacher now. Naalala ko rin noong umiyak siya sa akin few years ago dahil nakita niya si Naomi sa school ni Rainie.
Only the Council and the Atama family knew that Naomi was alive. Everyone thought she had gone missing and died after the war. Pero mas Mabuti na rin iyon dahil mas magiging ligtas siya kung palalabasin na wala na siya.
“You’re going to give her the letter tomorrow, right?” tanong ko.
“Yup,” she replied. “I’m sure magugulat ang batang ‘yon.”
Nagkwento siya sa akin tungkol kay Rainie at kung anong klaseng estudyante siya. Reina said she was awkward and seemed to be only comfortable with one of her classmates.
Naudlot naman ang pagkukwento niya dahil dumating na sina Hayate at Hiroshi kaya nagpaalam na rin ako sa kanilang tatlo. Talking about Rainie made me miss Akemi so I walked toward the forest to visit her grave. Dumaan muna ako sa cabin para magpalit ng damit. Paglabas ko ay nakasalubong ko si Hideo na mukhang doon din ang punta.
The bags under his eyes were too noticeable this time and it seemed like his mind was a mess.
“Nightmares again?” tanong ko.
He had been having continuous nightmares for fifteen years but he didn’t complain even once because he said that was the only time he could see Akemi and Rainie again.
Nang makarating kami sa grassland ay agad na umupo sa harapan ni Akemi si Hideo at ngumiti. Maging ako ay napangiti nang makita ko ang mukha niya.
“You’ll see her in two days,” I softly said.
“Yeah,” he mumbled. “What should I do?”
He looked worried and excited. Hideo had been lonely for the past fifteen years and it warmed my heart to see him looking forward for the days to come. I couldn’t wait to see the happiness on his face.
He deserved to be happy, too.
I waited at the top of the Midori building while the transferees flock in the forest just beyond the lake. My heart was racing so fast as I tried to find Naomi but they were too far.
‘Are they here? Nasaan sila? Malapit na ba sila?’
Halos hindi ako mapakali kakahanap kung nandoon na ba sila. Suddenly, my sight got better after Hideo shared his sixth sense. I saw him smiling while sitting in front of Akemi’s grave.
‘There,’ he said and I inhaled sharply when I saw Naomi emerging from the forest with a teenager who looked like Akemi.
Suddenly, memories that weren’t mine started to flood my mind. Tears fell from my eyes as I saw Naomi smiling from a distance. She looked older but she still have that quizzical gleam in her eyes. I had been waiting for so long to see the genuine smile from Hideo and Naomi.
I promised not to cry in front of anyone anymore but seeing a friend after a long time made me sob like a kid. I was so happy that she was here again and at the same time, guilty that she wouldn’t see Akira and Mayu with us. I know it would be hard but I was glad the three of us were together again.
‘Welcome back,’ Hideo and I both greeted.
Finally. Everyone’s home.
“Are you sure you want to take this mission?” tanong ni Hideo kay Naomi nang makarating kami sa office niya.
“Yes. Please let me,” she replied. “Besides, I have a debt to pay.”
Sa totoo lang, gusto kong gawin din ang mission na ‘to pero pinagbawalan ako ng admin at ng Council. Since I have classes this semester and I have a position in the administrative board, I couldn’t go out of the campus. That was the case with Hideo, too. As an Atama, only Naomi could do this without any complications.
“Sigurado ka ba, Naomi?” tanong ko.
“Of course. I’ll find Haruka.”
Finding them would also mean knowing if that guy is still alive. For sure ay nahihirapan siya dahil mag-isa lang siya at wala siyang anumang information. With Naomi leading, she would probably trace their whereabouts in a few months. Maybe I could also ask her for some updates once she started the mission.
Umalis si Naomi para pumunta sa Intelligence Department. She wanted to do it right away. Naiwan naman kaming dalawa ni Hideo at napatingin siya sa akin.
“Worried?” he asked.
I scoffed. “Why would I?”
“You should see your face.”
Sinamaan ko siya ng tingin at nagpaalam na rin ako bago pa tuluyang mapunta iba ang usapan. Nang makabalik ako sa cabin ay agad kong kinuha ang huling mensahe na natanggap ko mula sa kanya noon.
This place is friggin’ cold. Hope they are here. By the way, this pistol can withstand the extreme winter cold.
“Where the hell are you?” I mumbled, wondering if he would ever come back . . . if he would stay true to his words that he wouldn’t die.
And just like that, several months had passed and the war we were worried about happened right in front of our eyes. But there were no signs of him.