Sa tuwing makikita ko si Rainie ay hindi ko maiwasang hindi maalala si Akemi. Now, she uses the same alternative name, too.
It was hard because we weren’t allowed to tell her the truth. The Council said that she should prove herself first. Besides, she needed to get acclimatized to this new environment, too. Lalo lang siyang mahihirapan kung malalaman niya agad ang nangyari sa parents niya at kung sino talaga siya.
Hideo could only watch from afar, but he was contented. At least, his nightmares finally stopped. Tuwing makikita niya si Rainie ay parang nabubuhayan siya ng loob. Sapat na sa kanya na matanaw siya mula sa malayo. He said he might get overwhelmed if he started talking to her.
But that kind of comfort was short-lived. The Shinigamis started moving again after learning her existence. She had her mother’s blood running in her veins and they would surely use her against us.
At iyon na nga ang nangyari.
Hideo and Rin had been monitoring each other’s movements for years. The tension between both tribes reached the point where another war was already inevitable. Rainie’s disappearance was the trigger.
We were in the middle of a meeting when Hayate dashed in his office with a look of horror on his face.
“Anong nangyari?” tanong ko.
“Rainie . . .” The mention of her name made Hideo’s presence stronger. “S-she was taken by some Reapers.”
Nang ikinuwento niya ang nangyari ay parang bumalik ulit lahat ng masasakit na alaalang gusto ko nang kalimutan. He said the Shinigamis who killed Akira baited her daughter to run to the forest and Akemi followed her. I remembered how Akane saw her Mom getting killed and hearing their voices must have triggered those traumatic memories.
Kaido and Ichiro, I thought. Those were two of the names he had given to me the last time I saw him.
When Hideo heard that, Hayate almost lost his consciousness because of his suffocating aura. Maging ako ay napahawak sa dagger ko. He was giving off an immense killing intent that made me want to protect myself from.
“Michiko,” he called in a controlled tone. “Gather everyone.”
His eyes were burning with rage. “A council of war,” he replied.
“Hideo . . .”
“We have already lost everyone, Michiko,” he said and my heart sank upon hearing that. “I can’t bear losing her, too.”
Pagkasabi niya no’n ay agad akong napatayo. He was right. This time, it would be different. We had to protect the people who they sacrificed their lives for. That way, their deaths wouldn’t be for nothing.
Nang makabalik si Rainie sa hallway ay nakahinga rin nang maluwag si Hideo. He was ready to risk everything to save her but thank goodness Demi was with her. Kinailangan pa naming pigilan si Hideo para lang hindi siya sumugod mag-isa pero naiintindihan ko siya. He just got reunited with his daughter and the Shinigamis were already using her as a pawn.
It took us days to reach the Huntres and Custos tribes’ leaders. Fortunately, Reina and her team had already made contact with the allies of the current leader of the Huntres tribe before. They agreed to help us since Hideo had been trying to get the three tribes into an alliance for years. Maybe because he knew this time would come and we needed their help.
I contacted Naomi, too, and asked about the situation of the Shinigami rebels. She said she just needed the keys to free them but the jailers seemed to change every now and then.
“So . . . only Haruka and Daiki were there?” tanong ko.
“Yeah. Hindi ba may isa pang Elite si Akemi? Did he die that night?”
I was silent for a few seconds. “I don’t know . . . maybe . . .”
If he was also looking for them, then he might be there, too. But Naomi didn’t even encounter him. I was hoping they would cross paths, and maybe help each other but that wouldn’t happen because those two were too prideful.
Napabuntong-hininga na lang ako. “Okay. Just tell me if you’re ready,” I added. “We need you here.”
“Yeah.” There was a hint of pain in her voice. “This time, I won’t run away.”
Naomi returned two days after but we didn’t have the time to go into details because an explosion signaled the start of the war. She just said they already had copies of the keys before she could hand the real ones after subduing the guards on duty.
Parang bumalik naman ako sa panahong iyon. The chaos, the cries of the students, the sound of weapons clashing and more explosions in the place we call home. The terror that I felt after losing Akemi and Mitsuo crept into my heart but seeing Hideo and Naomi around gave me the willpower to fight again.
Years of anguish and pent-up fury got unleashed in the battlefield. Green eyes resenting each other. All driven by revenge and hatred.
I let Naomi and Hideo face Rin because of their personal reasons while I fought against Sarah, the little girl who was once an apprentice of Akemi. But all she wanted to do was hurt Rainie and take her away from here.
‘Don’t worry about them,’ I said as I exchanged blows with Shinigamis along the way. ‘I’ll protect them, so finish the fight you couldn’t fifteen years ago.’
Hideo and Naomi were both distracted by Rainie and Nathan. Sa tagal nilang hindi nakasama at nakita ang mga anak nila ay alam kong mas gusto nilang makita silang ligtas kaysa lumaban.
But Rin had improved so much. Idagdag pa na nakuha niya rin ang sixth sense ni Akemi. I didn’t know how that worked but I remembered Akemi having only one eye when she returned to us. It was hard to land an attack on her because she could attract and repel anything that she sees . . .
. . . not until Rainie and Hideo combined their attacks. Arrows flew toward Rin’s chest and impaled her. Hideo gave him the fatal blow using Akemi’s cards. But that came with a cost.
“Demi!” sigaw ni Rainie habang hawak ang duguang katawan ni Demi.
Hideo’s memories of how they first found Demi flashed in my head. She was their cat. She was there when Akemi needed help. She was there when Rainie needed to return here. Now, she would be there on the other side together with her owner.
The war ended with Rin’s death.
Halos manubig naman ang mga mata ko nang makita ko sina Hideo at Naomi habang kausap sina Rainie at Nathan. Their bodies were covered with cuts and blood but those were the happiest expressions I had seen on them for the past fifteen years.
Yuuki and I led the retrieval of both Senshins and Shinigamis’ bodies in the forest. It took us hours to gather everyone and my heart sank upon seeing some familiar faces. I know that not everyone would survive in a war but it still hurts.
“You need to go to the Medical department, too,” Yuuki noted while glancing at my wounds.
I gave her a faint smile. “I’m okay. Itutulog ko na lang ‘to.”
She glared at me. “Michiko—”
“Mas maraming may kailangan ng rooms ngayon,” I reasoned. “Besides, you know that I can dress my wounds like an expert now.”
Hindi na siya nakipagtalo pa at agad na tumakbo nang tinawag siya ni Dr. Miwako. The day was already breaking when we finished our tasks. I was so tired that I was already half-dragging my body back to my cabin.
Kahit nanalo kami ay mabigat pa rin ang loob ko. Marami ang namatay at ilan ay mga estudyante at co-teachers ko. Ang hirap tanggapin na hindi ko na sila makikita kinabukasan. In addition, I was expecting to see the Shinigamis that Naomi freed, hoping that there would be a little chance he’d be with them. But they didn’t show up.
I unlocked the door and had to stop for a while because my vision was already starting to get blurry. Damn it. Dapat ba ay tumuloy na lang talaga ako sa Medical department?
“No,” I muttered. “I’m not dying anyway.”
I froze upon hearing his voice. Agad kong nilibot ang paningin ko at kahit madilim sa loob ay nakita ko siyang nakaupo sa kama ko. I had to rub my eyes to see if I was just seeing things but I suddenly got dizzy. Pagdilat ko ay wala na siya roon.
“Wow,” I scoffed. “Now I’m hallucinating.”
Maglalakad na sana ako papunta sa kama ko nang biglang may humawak sa balikat ko. I instinctively drew my dagger as I turned around but I halted when his face came into my view.
“You haven’t changed,” he remarked as blood trickled down his palm after intercepting the momentum of the dagger with his bare hand.
“You . . .” My voice faltered, still in disbelief that he was here and that this wasn’t a hallucination. “W-why are you . . . you’re not dead . . .”
“Why would I?” he returned. “You said I shouldn’t.”
Before I could throw a retort, everything around me spun and the last thing I saw was him catching me before my body hit the floor.