I felt good after feeding him. Kapag susubukan niyang magreklamo ay isinusubo ko kaagad sa kanya ang kutsara. I think his tongue even got burnt. Feeling ko tuloy, nakaganti ako sa Shinigamis, even just for a little.
He fell asleep right after. I had to clean and dress his wounds again because they started bleeding when he moved a while ago.
Sa totoo lang, gusto ko na siyang gumaling para makaalis na siya. I didn’t want to be with an enemy for so long, lalo na matapos ang lahat ng nangyari.
Napaupo na lang ako sa sahig matapos ‘yon. I stared at him and remembered how this was supposed to be Akemi’s house if we managed to save her. I immediately pushed that thought at the corner of my mind. Tumayo ako at lumabas sa cabin.
That was right. I was still weak. I needed to train more.
I went to Green’s Bane and waited for the beasts to find me. A minute later, a tiger the size of a bear fixed its gaze on me. It was a sabretooth and based on its pattern and coloration, this must be one of the three that survived the enhancement. Damn, I got myself a tough one.
Agad akong tumalon papunta sa isang puno nang sumugod iyon sa akin. It was fast and agile and if I was just a second late, my foot would have been torn apart by its teeth and powerful jaws.
It bared its fangs at me as it let out a majestic growl. Suddenly, it felt like facing that rude Shinigami. Agad naman akong napangiti. This could be a good image training. I’d give you hell.
Well, it turned out the beast had adapted well to high-level battles.
Ngayon ay na-stuck na ako sa taas ng isang puno dahil napuruhan niya ako. I was careless earlier and its claws dug into my thigh. Fortunately, I managed to wound its chest and eyes, and I used that to escape. But I was surprised when I saw two more tigers in the vicinity. And those were sabretooths, too.
Hindi ko alam kung na-sense lang ba nila ang presence ko o naramdaman nila na kailangan ng kasama nila ng katulong. I had been fighting against the tiger for hours but I only landed two clean cuts. With my current condition, I don’t think I could face all three.
“Shit,” I cursed under my breath as the tigers lingered below the tree where I was.
Napasandal na lang ako habang tinatalian ang malalim na sugat ko sa binti. I didn’t want to risk escaping by jumping on trees because it was already dark. There might be more predators who were active at night. Dala na rin ng pagod ay naramdaman ko ang pagbigat ng mga mata ko.
Oh, well. Might as well rest here. Saka na lang ako aalis kapag sumikat na ang araw.
‘Kill to protect. That’s the only way.’
Mitsuo’s face came into my view, but something was strange. He looked . . . murderous. Halos mapasigaw ako nang makita ko kung gaano karaming Shinigami ang nasa paligid niya. All of them were either headless or killed brutally.
He looked at my direction, blood splattered on his face, and smiled at me.
‘Michiko, protect them for me.’
But a spear suddenly pierced his chest and his blood splashed all over me.
Agad akong napadilat habang hinahabol ang hininga ko. Panic rose to my throat as I saw the blood on my hands. I started to sob and tried to calm myself, reassuring everything was alright. It took me minutes before I realized it was a dream and I was still on the limb of a tree.
I drew a shaky breath as I leaned against the tree. Napahawak ako sa ulo ko habang pinupunasan ang luhang namuo sa mga mata ko. The nightmares were getting worse. Now, I’m scared to sleep, too.
Ilang minuto pa ang lumipas bago ako tuluyang kumalma. Napatitig ako sa mga kamay ko. They were bloody because of my wound. Seeing them the moment I opened my eyes made the dream look real.
My gaze shifted to the surroundings. Pasikat na ang araw at wala na rin sa baba ang mga tigre kaya dahan-dahan akong bumaba mula sa puno. I stifled a scream as I landed on my injured leg. Despite the pain, I ran from the Green’s Bane.
Initially, I wanted to return to the cabin but I didn’t want that guy to see me in a pathetic state. My pride wouldn’t allow that. Ayoko ring pumunta kay Yuuki dahil paniguradong busy pa sila sa mga nangyayari. In the end, I decided to go to Akemi since that was the safest place in the forest for now.
I was already half-dragging my right leg when I saw the grassland. Pero napatigil ako nang may makita akong tao roon. It was Hideo.
He was sitting in front of her grave while Demi was on his lap.
Napasandal na lang ako sa huling puno bago makarating sa grassland. My heart sank upon seeing him with her in this kind of situation. They deserved better than this.
Lalo pang bumigat ang loob ko nang makita ko siyang ngumiti. That was the smile he would only give to Akemi.
‘What are you doing there?’
I flinched upon hearing his voice in my head. Dahil alam niya na rin namang nandito ako ay lumapit ako sa kanila. I sat beside him and Demi walked toward me.
Hideo stared at my wound. Napalayo ako sa kanya nang kaunti dahil mukhang magagalit siya.
“Michiko,” he carefully called. “Could you—”
“It’s just a scratch,” I chuckled. “Wala lang ‘yan.”
“I told you to be careful.”
“Come on, it’s just the usual training injuries,” I retorted. “Anyway, napuntahan mo na ba si Akira?”
Fortunately, he let it go as soon as the topic shifted to Akira. Napabuntong-hininga siya bago sabihin ang kalagayan ni Akira.
“Yuuki recommended a month of rest,” he stated. “I think she’d be assigned in training or patrol duties instead of missions in the outside world.”
“Mas makakabuti na rin sa kanya na magpahinga muna,” dagdag ko. “Besides, she has a family. It’s better for her to stay here.”
Ilang minuto rin kaming nabalot ng katahimikan habang iniisip ang kalagayan ng mga kasamahan namin. Demi returned to Hideo and I thought that was my cue to exit. He needed some time alone with Akemi.
Matapos kong magpaalam sa kanya ay dumiretso ako sa cabin. Buti na lang at tulog pa siya.
I immediately went to the bathroom and cleaned myself. I had to keep myself from screaming as water ran through the deep wound. Nahirapan din akong magsuot ng shorts dahil sumasagi sa balat ko. Paglabas ko ay agad kong kinuha ang medical kit pero napatigil ako nang makita ko siyang nakatingin sa akin.
“Ah. You’re awake.”
He didn’t respond but he continued staring at my wound. Pakiramdam ko, jina-judge na niya ako. I suddenly felt like I was a weakling.
Hinatak ko ang upuan malapit sa kama at tumalikod sa kanya. I started cleaning it and I had to bite my lower lip to suppress a yelp. Damn those tigers. Sa susunod, sisiguraduhin kong makakaganti ako sa kanila.
After sterilizing the needle and thread, I sutured the wound and placed a thin layer of ointment. Binalutan ko rin iyon ng nonstick bandage para hindi ma-expose.
‘Are you a doctor?’
Halos mapatalon ako nang marinig ko ang boses niya sa isip ko. I turned around and met his gaze.
“No,” sagot ko. “Madalas lang akong magka-injury kaya natuto na rin ako ng ilang first aid techniques.
‘I see,’ he said. ‘That’s why everything is sloppy.’
My eyes narrowed at his retort. Ang kapal ng mukha nitong taong ‘to. Imbes na magpasalamat dahil niligtas ko siya ay nakuha pang magreklamo.
Hinatak ko ang upuan palapit sa kanya at ngumiti. “Well, kung gusto mo, pwede naman kitang ihatid sa Medical Department,” I taunted. “You’ll either get killed or get experimented.”
He scoffed. ‘Like what the doctors did to Rielle?’
I immediately summoned a dagger and pointed it at his neck. Nawala na rin ang ngiti sa mga labi ko.
“Dr. Miwako saved Akemi,” I emphasized. “If you want to blame someone, then it should be the Council, not her. Besides, what your tribe did was worse.”
Muli kong naalala ang huling beses naming nakita si Akemi. Her left eye was missing and she was bleeding badly. She wanted to get back to her family but what did they do to her? They must have studied and experimented on her.
He let out a dry laugh. ‘I agree. In the end, both tribes treated her like a guinea pig.’
Tears were threatening to come out so I had to withdraw my dagger. Tumalikod ako at dali-daling naglatag sa sahig. I lay down and faced the opposite direction.
I wanted to sleep comfortably after spending the night in the forest, but I was afraid to dream about Akemi and Mitsuo again. Thoughts lingered inside my head. There were a lot of what ifs and most were about them being alive.
Napabuntong-hininga na lang ako. I thought I’d get used to their absence. Nawala rin naman sila nang matagal noon. But unlike before, they wouldn’t come back anymore.
I missed them. I missed them so bad.
My life revolved around the cabin and campus for the next two weeks. I had to feed that guy everyday but thank goodness he could finally move his hands after a week. Sa campus naman, lagi kong binibisita sina Akira at Mayu.
Mayu was getting busier because of the takeover. She was preparing for being the head of the Technology department so sometimes, she would ask me to babysit Hiroshi. Tulad na lang ngayon.
Nasa bahay ako ngayon ni Mayu. Hiroshi was with Reina and Hayate kaya mas sumakit ang ulo ko. Buti na lang at nandito rin si Akira para tumulong pero dagdag din sa babantayan si Vivien. Ugh. Ang daming bata.
“Bakit ka nakasimangot d’yan,” Akira chuckled.
I sighed in defeat. “Kids are harder to deal with than enemies.”
Natawa naman siya at agad akong napangiti. Buti at umaayos na ang pakiramdam niya. She seemed lively again but sometimes, she would just stare vacantly at space. She looked better when she’s with the kids kaya naman madalas ay siya ang nagbabantay sa kanila.
Nang palubog na ang araw ay dumiretso ako sa cabin at nagulat ako nang maabutan ko siyang nakaupo sa kama. He gave me a smirk the moment he saw me.
Sa nakaraang dalawang linggo ay hindi kami gaanong nag-uusap dahil sa nangyari bago iyon. I would just help him eat and then I would go out. Babalik lang ako kapag matutulog na ako.
“You can move now?” I murmured.
“Just my upper body,” he said in a hoarse voice.
Napatingin naman siya sa braso ko. It was bleeding because Hiroshi threw the device he was tinkering a while ago when Reina and Hayate kept on teasing him. Even when not in training, I still get injured. Pahamak na mga bata.
Agad ko naman iyong tinakpan at naglakad patungo sa kusina. Naubos ang energy ko sa kanila. Gutom na agad ako kahit hindi pa dinner time.
“Few more days . . .” he muttered.
I turned to his direction and saw him with a wistful expression on his face.
Right. I promised him to show where Akemi was. After that, he would leave. I guess that would be for the best. Hideo also said I could get missions in two weeks. Ilang araw ko rin siyang pinilit para lang payagan ako.
Pagkatapos kong magluto ay inilapag ko sa tabi niya ang share niya. We quietly ate as thoughts lingered in my head.
I couldn’t wait to be alone again.