Ilang segundo akong nakatayo lang sa pintuan dahil hindi ako makapaniwalang gising na siya. It’s been days. I even thought he was already braindead.
Dahan-dahan akong lumapit sa kanya. He still looked deathly pale and sick. Dahil hindi ko siya madala sa Medical Department ay hindi ko alam kung papaano matitingnan ang internal organs niya.
“W-why . . .” he asked with difficulty, “can’t I . . . m-move my body . . .”
Tumayo ako sa gilid niya. His breathing was ragged and it seemed like his condition was still critical, but at least, he was alive and awake.
“Your body was way beyond its limit,” sabi ko at muling napatingin sa hiwa sa dibdib niya. “Hindi ka pa talaga makakagalaw lalo na at damaged pa ang internal organs mo.”
He drew a shaky breath and he winced upon doing that. Even breathing must be painful for him. He must be running in adrenaline when he ambushed me here that time. Now, his body had given up on him.
Hinatak ko ang upuan sa gilid at umupo sa harapan niya.
‘Was it a dream?’
My heart sank when I heard his thoughts. I remembered Hideo saying he didn’t want to wake up if he dreamt about her. About them.
“It wasn’t,” I murmured, trying hard not to cry.
He turned to my direction with difficulty. “R-Ri . . . Rielle . . .”
“Gusto mo ba siyang makita?” tanong ko at marahan siyang tumango. “Then get well. Once you can move again, I’ll bring you to her. Pwede ka na ring umalis pagkatapos.”
He looked at me with a pensive expression but I averted his gaze. I still hate the rest of the Shinigamis for what they did to her. This guy, his eyes were the same—cold and ruthless—but they softened every time he called her name. I felt that hatred boiling inside me whenever I looked at him but I also remembered Akemi at the same time.
This guy was her Elite. Her friend, even though I know they don’t use that term. At least, I wanted to be a little nice to him because he helped her escape.
‘We’re enemies,’ he suddenly said. ‘You don’t have to act nice. I hate you, too, for what you did to her.’
Huminga ako nang malalim at sinarado ang isip ko. ‘My enemies are those who made her suffer,’ I replied. ‘You helped her. You’re her friend.’
He scoffed. ‘Friend? What bullshit is that?’
‘Ah, right. You don’t use terms like that.’
He glared at me, which was kind of scary. ‘I am her Elite. Her subordinate. I just did what I had to do.’
But you still failed, I wanted to say but I held back. We all failed in saving her.
Agad ko namang itinulak iyon sa likod ng isip ko. Ayaw kong umiyak sa harapan ng isang Shinigami.
‘But she was labeled as a traitor by your tribe,’ I retorted. ‘Hindi ba dapat mas sundin mo ang mas nakakataas kaysa sa kanya? Yet you still risk everything for her sake.’ I smiled at him. ‘That loyalty is not just of a subordinate, but as a friend, or maybe even deeper than that.’
Bigla naman siyang tumingin nang napakasama sa akin kaya medyo napaatras ako.
‘Piss off, Senshin. You don’t fucking know anything.’
Napanganga na lang ako sa narinig ko. Man, I already know Shinigamis have foul mouths. Kahit si Akemi, walang galang magsalita madalas but this guy takes the cake. Ang sarap sabunin ng bibig.
Magsasalita na sana ako pero pareho kaming napatigil nang biglang kumalam ang sikmura niya nang ilang segundo. I smirked at his direction and he glowered at me.
‘Ah. Kaya ka ba galit kasi gutom ka?’ pang-aasar ko.
‘I said fuck off.’
‘Alam mo, bahay ko ‘to, kaya bakit hindi ikaw ang umalis?’ I taunted. ‘Ah. Hindi ka nga pala makagalaw.’
Agad akong tumayo at naglakad papunta sa kusina. ‘Yeah, yeah. Dahil mabait ako, ipagluluto kita.’
I snickered as I walked away from him. I didn’t know there were Shinigamis who were kind of funny. Medyo boring si Akemi pero nakakatawa siya kapag magkasama sila ni Hideo.
Bigla naman akong may na-realize. It had been a while since I last laughed. Dahil sa mga nangyari ay nakalimutan ko na kung ano ang pakiramdam kapag tumatawa ka.
I cooked porridge since that was the easiest food to make. Kadalasan kasi, si Mayu ang nagluluto para sa amin. She did teach us how but we were so bad at it. Naalala ko pa na muntik nang masunog ang dorm nang sinubukan namin dating magluto dahil nasa mission siya.
“No, boil the water first,” sabi ni Naomi habang nakatingin sa recipe book na pinahiram sa amin ni Mayu.
“Bakit kasi hindi na lang tayo pumunta sa Central Plaza para hindi na tayo magluto?” tanong ko. “Gutom na ako.”
“Ano ka ba, Michiko, kailangan nating matuto,” Akira said. “Paano kung matagal mawala si Mayu sa susunod? Paano kung hindi natin gusto ‘yong mga pagkain sa plaza?”
“Hindi naman ako maarte sa pagkain!”
“Ikaw ‘yon,” she retorted. “Kami, maarte,” sabay turo niya sa sarili niya at kay Naomi.
Naomi knitted her eyebrows. “I’m not.”
“Excuse me, ikaw kaya ang pinakamapili.”
“She’s right, Naomi,” dagdag ko.
Mukha namang hindi siya makapaniwala at tinuro niya rin ang sarili niya. “Ako?”
Muli akong napangiti nang maalala ko ‘yon. I was glad we tried our best to learn from her. Ngayon, marunong na kaming magluto ng ilang pagkain kahit papaano.
Akira even said she wanted to cook food for her family before. Sabi niya, gusto niya raw turuan si Vivien kapag malaki na siya. She wanted to let her learn early para hindi matulad sa kanya na late na natuto. Para raw maka-survive siya kahit wala siyang kasama.
Isinalin ko sa mangkok iyon at naglakad pabalik sa kanya. Teka, pwede na ba siyang kumain? Pwede niya bang kainin ‘to? Well, halos isang linggo na siyang ‘di kumakain. How come he was still alive?
“O, eto,” sabay lapag ko ng pagkain sa tabi niya.
Muli na naman siyang tumingin nang masama sa akin pero kumalam ulit ang sikmura niya. Hindi ko na napigilan at tuluyan nang natawa.
‘Could you shut up?’ he growled. ‘What an ugly laugh.’
‘Wow. Gwapo? Ugly ka rin.’
He gave me a dirty look and his eyebrows almost became one. Asar-talo pala. Feeling ko tuloy kaharap ko sina Hideo at Mitsuo . . .
Napabuntong-hininga ako nang maalala ko si Mitsuo. I remembered teasing him almost every day. May times pa na natakot talaga ako dahil feeling ko bigla na lang niya akong susugurin kaya madalas, nang-aasar ako kapag kasama ko si Naomi. He was too cautious whenever she was around.
But he became much calmer when Nathan came. Nakasalubong ko pa siya noong nakaraang buwan sa plaza at naghahanap ng libro tungkol sa parenting. He said he wanted to know what a father was and how he could be a good one to his son.
“Protect, huh?” he muttered while we were searching for books in the shop.
“Yup. First, protect him. I mean, I think that’s what a parent does first. Then, take care of them?”
“How?” sabay tingin niya sa akin. “I can only kill for them. Will that count as protection?”
Natawa naman ako sa sinabi niya. “Siguro? ‘Yon lang din ang alam ko.”
“Family is such a complicated thing.”
“I know, right?”
Muli siyang tumingin sa akin nang seryoso. “Ikaw ba? Ayaw mong magpamilya?”
I shook my head. “Ang dami ko nang kailangang protektahan at alagaan. Ayaw ko nang madagdagan pa,” I chuckled.
The Shinigami’s stomach rumbled again and that jarred me back to the present. Saka ko lang na-realize na nakatingin lang siya sa mangkok.
Oo nga pala, hindi siya makakagalaw. Minsan, hindi rin ako nag-iisip.
Tinitigan ko siya at nagco-contemplate kung dapat ko ba siyang tulungan o hayaan ko na lang dahil ang sama ng ugali niya. Pero nang naisip ko na kung sa akin ‘yon nangyari ay agad kong kinuha ang mangkok. Whoa. Ang sama rin pala ng ugali ko minsan.
Lumapit ako sa kanya at dahan-dahan siyang binangon. I carefully let his upper body rest against the headboard.
‘What the hell are you doing?’ pagalit niyang tanong.
Sinamaan ko naman siya ng tingin. ‘Just shut up and eat. Muntik na akong maging masama dahil sa’yo.’
Before he could say anything, I put a spoonful of porridge in his mouth.
Now I have another person to take care of. What a life.