I let out a gasp when I entered his two-storey log cabin. It had almost the same layout as mine, but his was bigger and better. The only significant difference was that the bedroom was on the second floor. Pakiramdam ko tuloy ay nasa cabin ko lang ako.
He led the way toward the strangely spacious living room. Besides the polished mahogany table in the middle, there were also ornamental wood carvings and peculiar weapons hanging on the wall. The kitchen, on the other hand, was quite empty.
“This looks similar to mine,” I remarked.
“Really? I didn’t notice.”
I raised my eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you unconsciously copied it?”
He shrugged in return. “Maybe. But this setup makes me comfortable.”
I sat on his pitch-black couch and realized that everything inside the cabin was either black or mahogany in color. There were also no lights and the only source of illumination was from the sunlight. He sat right across me as he removed his cloak. He gave me an intense stare and I had to avert it because it was making me restless.
“Uhh . . . so what were they doing here?” tanong ko habang nakatingin sa bandang bintana.
“They’re asking me to return to the base,” he said.
Bumalik ang tingin ko sa kanya. His face turned serious and it looked like he was contemplating about that. They had already reclaimed the headquarters from the previous heads and they were planning to rebuild everything from scratch. Haruka wanted him back since they had already controlled the situation.
“So, you’ll return there?” tanong ko.
He leaned against the couch and stayed silent for a few seconds. “I turned it down.”
I knew he had been wayfarer ever since he left my cabin and he didn’t want to be in the front line again but his answer still surprised me. We were talking about his longtime comrades and friends here.
“I can help them without any position,” he said. “Besides, I am already contented here.”
Muli akong napatitig sa kanya. I had not seen him for several years and he had changed so much that it was hard to believe he was the same guy from fifteen years ago. He still had that unwelcoming demeanor but he looked less reserved now. I wondered what happened to him?
“Curious, aren’t you?” he smirked. “You’re getting careless with your thoughts now.”
Halos mapanganga ako nang ma-realize kong nababasa niya ang isip ko. I had to close my mind tighter and wished he couldn’t read it anymore. Nakakainis. Kahit dito ay hindi safe mag-isip ng kung anu-ano.
He chuckled in return. Parang gusto ko na lang umuwi sa cabin ko. I wouldn’t last here.
“Do you want to know the answer?” dagdag niya.
I furrowed my brows. “Bakit, sasabihin mo ba?”
“Sure,” he replied.
Apparently, he lived among the humdrums after a year after he left my cabin. Because he couldn’t use the Black Dimension as Shinigamis were guardian them, he had to travel in the humdrums’ world. He had to “endure” their existence.
“But don’t you, Shinigamis, dislike them?”
“Yeah,” he responded. “But over the years, I kind of envied their normal lives.”
There was a hint of yearning and sadness in his eyes. I didn’t expect that someone like him would envy something from the humdrums. He said witnessing how they lived their lives made him realize the stark difference of the ideals and principles between the Erityians and humdrums. That being ignorant about and away from the world of constant bloodshed and hostility was a life he would want to live.
“So that’s why you won’t return there . . .”
He let out a sigh. “Another thing is that place reminds me of my failure.”
Parang lumubog ang puso ko nang maalala ko si Akemi. All of us had already accepted her death, but sometimes, thinking about her brings back the pain of the past. It would always be a reminder of our failure to save a friend from her demise.
Agad kong binago ang topic at nagtanong muli tungkol sa cabin dahil ayaw kong maging mabigat ang atmosphere.
“I got it from a humdrum geezer and modified it to my liking,” he explained.
“Nasaan na siya?”
“Dead,” he flatly said.
I gave him a confused look. Wait, don’t tell me--
“Don’t worry, I didn’t kill him,” he added as his lips curved upward. “He died of natural causes.”
Nagtanong ako tungkol sa second floor at puro kwarto pala ang nandoon. One was his room, the other one empty and the largest was his man cave. It turned out it was his workspace for Shinigami matters.
Pagpasok ko sa room ay bumungad ang isang malaking map na nakasabit sa pader. It was a layout of a huge building-like infrastructure.
“That’s the plan for the new base,” he said while following me from behind.
“Ikaw ang nagplano?”
“For the Black Dimension pathway,” he replied. “The Dungeon is an intricate passageway and that girl’s abilities have changed it so much that it requires the abilities of someone like me.”
Hindi ko akalaing may kakayahan din pala siya sa ganitong aspeto. I gave him a curious look and he raised his eyebrow in return. I thought he was all brawn.
“I smell some judgment,” he muttered.
Besides the huge map, there were also more collection of unique and antique weapons on the other side. There were several that caught my attention and I secretly wanted to have them.
Tumingin ako sa kanya. “Mukhang nahilig ka na rin sa pag-collect ng weapons.”
He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. “And whose fault do you think is it?”
I scoffed in return. “Sinisi mo pa ako. Manggagaya ka lang talaga.”
Pagkatapos no’n ay pumunta kami sa kabilang room—his room. It was as simple as it could get. Kama lang ang nandoon at isang closet. But it got the nicest view. Beyond the windows was the view of the vast ocean from the hilltop.
“Whoa, ang ganda rito,” I blurted out as I stood by the window.
Since Tantei High is in the middle of the forest and the city was inland, I had only gotten a chance to see the ocean whenever there were missions outside. I kind of envied the location of his cabin. This was the best place to live.
“Pwede bang palit tayo ng cabin?” biro ko. Bigla namang naging seryoso ang mukha niya kaya natawa ako nang bahagya. “Joke lang—”
“I don’t mind you living here,” he suddenly said.
Natahimik ako ng ilang segundo at saka lang nag-sink in sa akin ang sinabi niya. Halos maubo ako matapos iyon at agad na iniwas ang tingin sa kanya.
What the heck?! How could he say those words with a nonchalant expression?! At seryoso ba siya?! Anong pinagsasabi niya?!
I tried to remain calm as possible. “Ha-ha. Pinagsasabi mo?”
“What? We were practically living together when you took care of me—”
“Okay, stop!” I yelled, completely flustered.
I wasn’t the type to get rattled easily but he was making it hard for me to be composed! He was just saying anything he wanted without even getting embarrassed.
Huminga ako nang malalim at muling tumingin sa kanya. “I-I h-have work . . .”
Hindi ko alam kung bakit iyon ang idinahilan ko. My mind wasn’t working right now. My insides were churning. Gusto ko na lang tumakbo palayo dahil hindi ko na kinakaya ang mga naririnig ko.
“That’s a shame,” he said as he steered me out of his room. “I do enjoy your company.”
Fortunately, he was behind me, holding my shoulders, as we got out of the room. My face was burning red and my heart was throbbing real fast, not because of excitement from a fight.
His words echoed in my head as we walked toward the last room. Having a companion while growing old isn’t bad, I thought.
If it’s him, then maybe . . .
Gabi na nang ma-realize kong kailangan ko na palang umalis. I cursed myself for not paying attention. I was so engrossed with trying out the weapons he had that I didn’t notice the time. Wala nang available transportation mula rito papunta sa airport kaya mukhang kailangan kong maglakad. I wonder how long it would take for me to reach my destination.
“You can sleep here tonight,” sabi niya nang mapansin niyang nag-aalangan akong umalis.
I was tempted to accept his offer. Pwedeng madaling-araw na lang ako umalis. My body was exhausted after fighting with the Shinigamis and finding this place for almost a day without having any sleep.
I turned my head to his direction. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll leave tomorrow morning.”
“Then I’ll prepare the room.”
Pinanood ko lang siyang umakyat sa hagdan. It took me several seconds before deciding to tell him what I wanted to say earlier.
‘I enjoy your company, too,’ I said using my inner voice.
He stopped walking halfway and I heard him chuckling inside my head. ‘I know.’
That night, I stayed in his cabin, and strangely, it felt like sleeping in my own home.