I instinctively summoned my dagger upon opening my eyes.
Halos mapasigaw ako nang may makita akong mukha sa harapan ko. If it weren't for his exceptional reflexes, he would have received a fatal blow. Paano ba naman kasi ay nakaupo lang siya sa gilid at seryosong nakatingin sa akin.
"What the heck are you doing?"
"Ang tagal mong gumising," he complained.
Pagtingin ko, he was already putting his cloak. Napaupo naman ako.
"You're leaving?" tanong ko.
He turned his head to my direction. "Why? Want me to stay?" he taunted.
"No," I muttered as I rolled my eyes.
He chuckled as he readied his dagger. "That brat's persistent," he said. "I can feel his intent even from afar. I need to get away."
"Why don't you just tell him directly that you don't want to be part of the rebellion?"
"His parents are stubborn,” he added. “Do you think that brat won't be? And I didn’t say I don’t want to be a part of it." His face darkened and for a second, I could feel his killing intent. “I’d help them in the shadows. I just don’t want to become a pawn anymore.”
Bigla ko namang naalala si Akemi nang sabihin niya ‘yon. She lived her last years as a pawn of both tribes and only became free from everything when she died. And just a few months ago, her daughter almost suffered the same fate.
My train of thought dissipated when he started walking toward the door.
"I see,” I muttered. “Then, goodbye, I guess?"
"But there's a problem."
Iyon pala ay hindi siya makaalis sa cabin dahil activated na ulit ang detectors sa gubat. It seemed like last night, somehow, most of the markers and detectors around this area were turned off and that was how he got in easily.
Pagtingin ko ay madilim pa sa labas at pasikat pa lang ang araw. Still, I had to deactivate the markers so he could go away without causing any disturbance. I'm sure the staffs don't want any, too, especially during the holiday.
It took me a few minutes to finish everything. I had to double check just in case I skipped some detectors that might trigger an alarm. Nang matapos iyon ay agad siyang lumabas.
“May I visit her?” tanong niya.
Tumango naman ako. The only place without any detectors was that part of the grassland. Hideo wanted her grave to be a safe place for everyone to visit, especially to his daughter.
His cloak fluttered as he walked silently toward that direction. Tahimik lang din akong nakasunod sa kanya. Nang makarating kami roon ay hinayaan ko siyang lumapit kay Akemi. I stayed behind a nearby tree and watched him as he stood quietly in front of her grave.
It took me a moment to realize someone else was around. Nagulat na lang ako nang lumabas si Rainie mula sa gubat. Our gazes met and we were surprised to see each other.
There was a hint of fear on her face. “M-Ma’am Michiko?”
“Rainie . . . what are you doing here?”
Her shoulders tensed. “Uhm, g-gusto ko lang po sanang dalawin si Mama.”
“At this hour?”
She must be anxious because she let her guard down. Now, her mind was just open for me to read her thoughts. It seemed like this was the first Christmas that she felt truly happy. Naomi would always get sad whenever the year is ending because of what had happened years ago and Rainie didn’t want to force her to celebrate the holiday and her birthday with at least a happy mindset.
She wanted to get closer to her mother, even after her death, and tell her stories. She wanted to spend more time with her through visiting her grave.
Bigla namang kumunot ang noo niya at napatingin sa direksyon kung nasaan si Kid. I panicked when he turned his head to our direction, but I knew this would happen sooner or later.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “He’s not an enemy.”
There was a confused look on her face but she didn’t ask any questions anymore. Naglakad naman siya patungo sa amin habang nakatitig pa rin si Rainie sa kanya. There were a few seconds of silence between them. I couldn’t read his thoughts nor his expression but it seemed like he was recalling memories from years ago as he stared at her.
He gave him a gentle smile and a pat on her head. “Live well, kid,” he said. “Even if it’s hard, live for a long time.” She was silent for several seconds until she asked him a question. “Are you . . . are you my mother’s friend?” Ilang sandal rin siyang natahimik pero muli siyang ngumiti. “I am.”
Rainie remained silent as she tried to process what was going on. Tumalikod naman si Kid at nagsimulang maglakad palayo. A smile escaped my lips as I recalled how he didn’t want to use that term before. Nagulat naman ako nang bigla kong narinig ang boses niya sa isip ko.
‘I’ll be going,’ he said. ‘If you miss me, you know where to find me.’
I scoffed at his remark. ‘Ha. Don’t worry, I won’t.’
He chuckled. ‘Liar.’ ‘But take better care of yourself. You’re not young anymore.’ ‘You, too.’ He opened the Black Dimension from a distance. ‘And see you soon.’
As soon as he stepped inside the Black Dimension, Rainie started asking questions but I just smiled at her and told her to keep everything that happened a secret. In exchange, I would train her in combat fighting. In the end, she agreed because she thought she was still behind when it comes to fighting techniques and she wanted to learn everything so she could protect her friends and her father.
The thought of her protecting Hideo was kind of funny because he was literally one of the strongest fighters here, but it was also cute. Sinundan ko na lang siya ng tingin habang naglalakad papunta kay Akemi.
Don’t worry, I thought while looking at her grave from a distance. Your daughter is living her life well. I hope you are at peace now . . . Rielle.
“Wow,” Naomi blurted out. “You’ve got a lot of weapons.”
Nandito kami ngayon sa sarili kong storage room sa armory. Naomi said she wanted to get back her senses in fighting. Of course, she wouldn’t give up her fan but I thought it would be better to have additional weapons.
I recommended emeici, a sharp metal rod used for stabbing, mounted on rings that could be worn on the fingers. Naomi always had the grace even when fighting so I thought this weapon would be the best option for her when it comes to short-range distance.
“Saan tayo?” tanong niya.
“Forest, of course.”
It had been almost a year since the war happened. She had a part-time job as a lecturer this semester and when I asked why she didn’t want to be a permanent professor, she said she still wanted time for missions.
“Maybe it’s because I have been inactive for more than a decade that my body is craving for some fights and thrills,” she snickered.
“Oh, I know what you mean.”
Simula noong naging professor ay mas dumalang ang missions para sa akin. Naiintindihan ko naman kung bakit pero madalas ay nami-miss ko pa ring lumabas at makipaglaban.
“And I kinda wanna live up to their expectations,” she mumbled.
She must be talking about the Jikko clan. She said they visited them few months ago because Nathan wanted to know more about Mitsuo. From what I had heard, the Jikko were one of the physically strongest clans among the Senshin tribe. Knowing Nathan’s capabilities, I’m sure he would be having a hard time since their combat techniques were inherently different than what he was taught of.
I chuckled upon imagining him lose. “He must be frustrated.”
“Yes,” she snickered. “Now that he’s slowly learning to express his emotions, mas nakikita ko na si Vince sa kanya.”
“Lalo na kapag galit, ano?”
She laughed. “Right.”
Napag-usapan din namin si Sir Kyo at Kiyoko. He had been the de-facto leader since Sir Ise died while Kiyoko became his adviser. Sometimes, she would visit Dr. Miwako and spend some time here, but away from the eyes of everyone.
“Kiyoko said Darwin visited the island last time.”
“Huh? That kid? Bakit?” tanong ko. “And they allowed him to enter the island?”
“Not sure about the details but she said he’s looking for someone.”
I almost flinched when I heard that. Don’t tell me he was still looking for him? Whoa. Kid was right. That guy was persistent.
“Thinking about him again?”
I knitted my eyebrows. “You should stop reading my mind, Naomi.”
She laughed heartily. “Can’t help it. Besides, it’s kind of fun and cute to see you flustered occasionally.”
Pagkatapos naming mag-training ay bumalik na rin kami sa kani-kaniya naming trabaho. Speaking of the devil, I wonder how he’s doing.
Everything was going well and Tantei High was at peace for a while until we received a bad news. It turned out those kids were in trouble. Rainie and Nathan met with young representatives from the other tribes and they secretly planned to find the current Shinigami stronghold.
Naomi sighed in distress. “Those two are as impulsive as Rielle and Vince.”
“Let’s go,” Hideo said while removing his suit and loosening his tie.
We boarded the jet plane developed by Hiroshi. It could take us faster to our destination.
Naomi and Hideo were both restless during the flight. They must be worried about their children. But I’m sure those two would survive. They learned to fight from me, after all.
When we arrived at Sapporo, Hokkaido, everything was already a mess. Cloaked figures littered below us. Halos kilabutan ako nang ma-realize ko ang nangyayari. Shinigamis fighting Shinigamis. They must have made their move.
Hideo opened the door as he swiftly made a cut on his finger. He summoned his broadsword and jumped off the plane.
Napailing na lang si Naomi. “Another reckless person.”
His presence was enough to momentarily stop every fight that was happening. But I’m sure he had more than enough reason to radiate such strong pressure and killing intent. This was the place where Rielle suffered after all.
“Michiko,” he called in an authorative tone.
I jumped off the plane, too, while summoning four swords at once. And just as I landed, I slashed all of them at the same direction—toward that majestic, palace-like building towering everyone.
The building was cleanly cut in halves and countless bodies inside different kinds of chambers were immediately revealed. I winced upon hearing Hideo’s thoughts and rage.
“Hideo,” Naomi called in a controlled manner. “Calm down.”
He drew a shaky breath as he stared at the ruins. “I should have done this years ago.”
There was a suffocating silence between them. Naomi sighed and a faint smile escaped her lips.
“Go all out,” she said. “Erase this place where she had suffered a lot.”
And in that instant, I saw the same Hideo from the first war—someone you wouldn’t want to mess with. A monster.
The battle ended up with a lot of casualties. Elites and Reapers alike weren’t spared. There where several who managed to escape but Haruka and Daiki subdued those who were currently in charge.
I instinctively looked for him, even though I knew he would show up. After all, he said he didn’t want to associate himself with matters like this anymore.
Rainie and Nathan also received an earful from both Hideo and Naomi. Pinauna na rin nila ang mga ito pabalik sa Tantei High. Hideo wanted to talk to both Haruka and Daiki and Naomi chose to stay with him as she was the only one who had already talked to them before.
Nagpaalam naman ako sa kanila at sinabing may pupuntahan ako. Despite not saying anything, they already had a gist about what I wanted to do.
“Just be careful,” he reminded. “And return home.”
“Good luck,” she teased.
I recalled the coordinates he had given me before. 43.3301° N, 145.5828° E. That was the coordinates of Nemuro in Hokkaido. It’s the easternmost region in Hokkaido and it faces the Pacific Ocean. Since I wasn’t familiar with this region, I got lost for hours. Hanggang sa inabot na ako ng kinabukasan.
It took me a while to find where he could be. In one of the hilltops of the peninsula stood a lone cabin, which was a lot bigger than mine. I carefully walked toward that direction but I instinctively summoned my dagger when I felt a dangerous presence.
The next thing I knew, my dagger was already clashing against a sword held by a woman. Everything happened so fast that I was moving through reflex until we finally saw each other’s faces because someone appeared between us.
“Haruka, stop,” he ordered and I couldn’t believe she was here. Sa huling pagkakaalala ko ay nandoon pa siya sa Shinigami base kahapon.
She scowled at me as Daiki, her husband, appeared beside her. Meanwhile, Kid put her hand on my head.
“This one’s my visitor,” he announced, earning a confused look from the two.
Daiki lowered Haruka’s weapon and tried to calm her down. I wondered what they were doing here. Mukhang seryoso ang naging usapan nila.
“Let it go, Dana,” he calmly said. Tumingin siya kay Kid at tumango. “We’ll go ahead.” A second later, his gaze landed on me. He let out a polite smile. “Take care of this one heck of a headache for us.”
“Piss off, Keith,” he retorted.
Hinatak nito si Haruka palayo. “Why do they keep on associating themselves to their kind?” she muttered. “I can’t believe he’s following her footsteps. What if—”
He chuckled at her grumbling. “Calm down.”
Hindi ko na narinig ang sumunod nilang usapan dahil pareho silang nagbukas ng Black Dimension. They disappeared before everything that happened sink in.
His hand was still on my head and I was about to knock it off when he suddenly grinned.
“So . . . you’re here,” he said.
I got flustered as I didn’t know what to respond. “I-I shouldn’t have—”
“Liar,” he retorted. “Come on.”
Before I could protest, he was already pulling me toward his own cabin.