Napatalon ako sa itaas ng puno. I watched the larger bear as it bared its teeth after I landed a cut on its body. Napatingin ako sa isa pa na mas maliit nang kaunti at nagtama ang mga mata namin.
Despite its bulky body, it was fast. Sinangga niya ang katawan nito sa puno kung nasaan ako kaya agad akong napalipat ng pwesto. The larger bear saw what was going on and lunged at my direction, too. I hastily summoned two swords and jumped off the tree, landing on the larger bear’s shoulders, but the beast anticipated it.
I yelped as its claws grazed my ankle. Agad akong tumakbo at nagtago sa likod ng isang puno. I cursed in my head, berating myself for being careless. I tried to calm down and started concealing my presence. These beasts could smell fear and anxiety. This shouldn’t be the time to feel those.
Dahan-dahan akong tumayo at hinigpitan ang hawak sa sword ko. I quietly motioned toward the smaller bear and threw the sword right at its eyes. I ran toward its direction as it roared in pain and pulled it from him, landing on the nearby tree.
The attack succeeded and the smaller bear escaped as blood trickled down its face. The larger one tried sniffing my scent and I had to breathe deeply to control my emotions. Napakagat na lang ako sa labi ko nang maramdaman ko ang sakit sa paa at tuhod ko.
Naghintay ako ng ilan pang minuto at mukhang nawalan na ng interes ang oso. Nakahinga ako nang maluwag nang tuluyan na itong umalis. My weapons disappeared and I leaned against the tree, panting.
I wanted to train fighting against enemies that only use their instincts and would always have that intent to kill so I figured I could use the beasts as training partners. But damn, they were too wild and aggressive.
There were wounds and scratches all over my body. Despite the pain, I ran back to my cabin.
Buti na lang at may natira pa akong bandages kaya agad kong nilinis at tinakpan ang mga sugat na natamo ko mula sa Green’s Bane. I checked the Shinigami but he was still unconscious. I wondered how long he would stay like this. Gustuhin ko mang malaman ang totoo niyang kalagayan ay hindi ko naman siya pwedeng dalhin sa Medical department.
I sighed after dressing my wounds. Tumayo ako at mabilis na nagbihis. Matapos ‘yon ay pumunta ako sa campus at dadalawin ko sana si Akira pero nakasalubong ko si Kohaku, her husband, habang hawak si karga si Vivien.
“Ah. Michiko,” he greeted.
Kinumusta ko naman agad siya at napangiti ako nang mabalitaan kong nagising na si Akira. He said she was resting in their house at the Senshin Village and he was on his way home from the Central Plaza. Napatingin naman ako kay Vivien. She has the same red hair as Akira. She giggled as she reached one of my fingers.
I smiled at her. “Listen to your mother, okay?”
She chuckled in response. Ang cute.
Nagpaalam na si Kohaku sa akin at dumiretso ako sa office ni Hideo. Balak ko sanang dumalaw kay Akira pero mukhang mas kailangan niya ng pahinga.
Nang makarating ako sa office niya ay nakadungaw siya sa bintana. He had that wistful expression on his face, as if he was reminiscing something. The first thing I thought about was the time when Akemi went back to her family. That was the same face he had that time.
Pagkatapos ng nangyari kahapon ay nanatili lang siya rito. Facing the Shima head must have been frightening but he did well.
Napabuntong-hininga ako habang palapit sa kanya. I tried to smile despite missing Akemi and Mitsuo again.
After everything that happened, I wanted to be of use. Hideo, Akira and Mayu were all down and I wanted to be their emotional pillar so they wouldn’t crumble. I wanted to support them in any way that I could.
“Hideo!” I called as I plopped to the couch near his desk.
“Why are you covered in wounds?” tanong niya habang papunta sa direksyon ko.
I shrugged. “Training.”
“You should be resting, not tiring yourself out.”
“Hah!” I scoffed. “Galing talaga sa’yo, ha? Sino kayang hindi natutulog?”
“I can stay awake for days,” he returned.
I was about to say he wasn’t Akemi nor Mitsuo to do that but that would surely make him sad. Buti na lang at napigilan ko ang sarili ko.
“I can read your thoughts,” he suddenly said. “You’re getting careless.”
Napaiwas agad ako ng tingin. I thought my mind would be safe without Naomi here, but I forgot that this guy could read our thoughts, too, if we weren’t that guarded.
“A-anyway, ano na ang naging desisyon ng Council?” I asked, trying to shift the topic, though it was still about Mitsuo.
“They changed their verdict,” he replied. “They’re allowing us to bury him here.”
A faint smile escaped my lips. At least, may magandang balita kaming natanggap ngayon. That old man really scared the crap out of the elders.
Napatingin naman ako sa gilid at nakita ko si Demi. She jumped onto Hideo’s lap and climbed to her favorite spot—his head. Kahit madalas niya iyong gawin ay natatawa pa rin ako tuwing nakikita ko.
“Nasaan nga pala si Nathan?” tanong ko. Hindi ko pa ulit siya nakikita matapos ang nangyari.
“With Mayu,” he replied as he heaved a sigh. “I can’t take care of him right now.”
With the responsibilities he had to shoulder and the fact that he had to be separated with his own daughter, I was already expecting this. Still, he should at least spend some time with him.
“Pero bigyan mo pa rin siya ng time kahit papaano,” I said. “Maybe when things calm down a little.”
He nodded. “I will. I promised them that.”
His expression softened for a bit but I could see the regret and pain in his eyes. My heart sank upon seeing that. Huminga ako nang malalim para kalmahin ang sarili ko. I had to be strong for his sake.
“Hay!” sabay sandal ko sa couch. “Sana may ibigay na ulit na missions.”
I wanted to distract myself from my depressing thoughts and maybe doing missions would let me have some peace of mind. Maybe getting away from this place for a while would somehow heal some wounds.
“Wala bang Class S missions for Intel department?” tanong ko.
“None for you,” he said.
“I won’t allow you.”
Napaayos naman ako ng upo. “Why?! I want to—”
“Not until I’m confident enough to let you go.”
Napatigil naman ako sa sinabi niya. For once, Hideo looked hesitant. The air of confidence that was always with him disappeared. He was scared to lose someone again.
“Hey, don’t worry, you won’t lose me,” I softly said.
He gave me a melancholic smile. “That’s what they said, too.”
Para namang lumubog ang puso ko nang marinig ko iyon sa kanya. I couldn’t believe Hideo would fall apart like this. Parang dati, niloloko lang namin siya na baka wala siyang expression kapag namatay ang isa sa amin. How insensitive and foolish we were.
“I won’t promise, but I’ll try to cling to life, even if death would be better,” I said. “Hindi ko kayo kayang iwan. At saka, hoy, don’t underestimate me. There are times na mas malakas ako sa’yo.”
He chuckled lightly. “Right.”
“Yan, tumawa ka naman kahit papaano,” I teased. “Hindi na nababanat ‘yang muscles sa mukha mo kasi lagi kang nakasimangot.”
Muling bumalik sa pagiging expressionless ang mukha niya. “No.”
“Tss. Parang tatawa lang. Anong mahirap do’n?” I muttered. “Pero palihim namang nangingiti dati kay Akemi.”
Bigla naman niya akong sinamaan ng tingin.
“O, bakit, totoo naman? Akala mo ba hindi namin napapansin? Kami pa ba ni Akira ang hinamon mo?” dagdag ko. “Nag-bet pa nga kami kung magugustuhan ka niya o hindi.”
Lalo pang naningkit ang mga mata niya. I snickered in my head.
“Mukha ngang mas interested siya kay Mitsuo no’n, Ewan ba namin bakit sa’yo nahulog—”
“Leave,” he said, cutting me off.
“Hala, pikon,” I retorted. Tumayo naman na ako dahil mukhang iyon na ang quota ko sa pang-aasar ko sa kanya. “Naku, huwag mo lang ‘yan mapasa kay Nathan, kundi lagot ka kay Naomi.”
“Oo, eto na nga, aalis na.”
Naglakad ako papunta sa pintuan at paglabas ko ay napatigil ako dahil sa narinig ko.
‘Thank you,’ he said and I smiled upon hearing that.
I didn’t say anything in return and just continued walking. At least, I managed to lighten up his mood even for a bit. Okay na ako ro’n.
Naglakad ako pabalik sa gubat. Nang makarating ako sa cabin ay balak ko sanang mag-training ulit pero napatigil ako sa naabutan ko.