Napahinto ako sa pintuan nang maabutan ko sina Akira at Mayu sa office ni Hideo. They greeted me with smiles on their faces.
“Bakit nakatayo ka lang d’yan, Michiko?” asked Akira. “Tara na rito.”
Ngayon ko lang na-realize na two months na ang nakakalipas noong huli kaming nagkasama-sama. It had been two months, too, since Akemi and Mitsuo died.
Agad naman akong umupo sa tabi ni Akira. Michiko sat right across us while Hideo was sitting behind his desk. Sabi niya ay may ibibigay siyang mission kaya excited akong pumunta pero hindi ko akalaing nandito rin silang dalawa.
“Are you sure you’re okay staying in that cabin?” tanong ni Mayu habang nakatingin sa hologram sa harapan niya. She was busy with the modifications of some of the devices they were building.
“Oo nga. May bahay ka naman sa village,” added Akira. “Ang layu-layo mo tuloy.”
I forced a laugh. “Well, training ground ko na rin iyon kaya mas efficient kung doon na lang ako titira.”
“Feeling ko ang dami nang alikabok at dumi ng bahay mo sa village,” Akira grimaced. “Doon ka na kasi para pwede kong ipaalaga si Vivien sa’yo anytime!”
“Excuse me, hindi babysitter ang role ko rito, ha!”
Mayu chuckled at my remark while her eyes were still focused on the hologram. Hideo cleared his throat and we all looked at him.
“Ikaw rin,” dagdag ko. “Alam n’yo minsan feeling ko ako ang magulang ng mga anak n’yo. Stop making me their babysitters!”
Akira laughed at me. “Ayaw mo no’n, parang training na rin kapag nagkapamilya ka.”
I rolled my eyes at her and groaned. “No thanks. Pagod na ako sa inyo pa lang.”
Our meeting started after that but my mind was elsewhere. Bago ako pumunta rito ay kapapalit ko lang ng benda ng lalaking ‘yon. I hope he wasn’t “training” again because his wounds wouldn’t heal if he couldn’t even stay still.
Napatingin naman ako kay Akira. She looked a lot better now. That one-month rest really helped her recover. Hindi na siya ganoon kakulit at carefree kumapara dati pero mas ayos na ito. I didn’t want to see her devastated anymore.
Meanwhile, Mayu was doing well. She was finally appointed as the head of the Technology Department three weeks ago. Her first project was to study the hallway that somehow became a “dormant” state of Black Dimension, though she wasn’t sure if it was, indeed, dormant.
“What’s the status of that?” tanong ni Hideo.
“I’m still not sure about the long-term effects, if there are any, but it seems like the current dormancy was a result of . . . someone’s power. We can’t risk any of the researchers to enter it completely. Baka kasi biglang ma-trigger at maging active ulit. We can test it but Sir Kyo—”
Napatigil si Mayu. The atmosphere abruptly went down upon hearing his name.
Two weeks ago, napag-alaman namin na wala na sa campus sina Sir Kyo at Sir Tora. According to Hideo, there was a council meeting involving all the administrative divisions that day. He didn’t tell us what had transpired but based on the things he said, it seemed like Sir Kyo and Sir Tora shouldered all the blame so that Sir Hideyoshi could still have the power over the council.
Sir Kyo said he could have done better. He could have saved both Akemi and Mitsuo. Ganoon din si Sir Tora. He said he felt weak and powerless after a student, Mitsuo, died in front of him. Hindi namin alam kung nasaan na sila. Tanging si Sir Hideyoshi lang ang makapagsasabi.
For sure, pinag-usapan si Rainie.
I let out a sigh. Tuwing naririnig ko ang pangalan niya, hindi ko maiwasang hindi malungkot. Akemi only had the chance to name her after barely escaping from their base. She was supposed to be the source of happiness of Akemi and Hideo, yet she had become the catalyst of everything.
I’m sure Hideo misses her. He wanted to be with her but he couldn’t. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang naging desisyon ng council tungkol sa anak nila pero mukhang wala silang balak hanapin o pabalikin siya . . . for now.
“I could be the test subject,” Hideo said, breaking the silence.
“No,” sabay-sabay naming sagot kaya nagkatinginan kami.
“No, Hideo,” Mayu replied. “You can’t.”
“Ako na lang,” sabi ko. “I want to participate in that project. Besides, maybe that could make me stronger.”
“But it’s dangerous, Michiko,” Mayu warned.
I gave her a smile. “Oh, you know I love danger.”
I went back to the forest after that meeting. I was still annoyed at Hideo after telling me the mission he wanted me to do.
“The Weapons division of the Technology department recommended you as an instructor for classes involving fighting and weapons. You need to train as a teacher. That’s your mission.”
Ilang segundo akong nakatulala lang sa kanya habang tumatawa sina Akira at Mayu. I thought he was joking at first but he didn’t budge.
“Seryoso ka ba?! Me? An instructor?” I asked while pointing at myself.
He nodded. “You’re one of the best fighters here. With you as the teacher, students will surely improve.”
“I can’t teach!” I retorted. “No, I don’t want to teach!”
“Hindi bagay!” Akira chimed in. Halos maluha-luha na siya kakatawa. “Feeling ko kapag ako ang estudyante mo, tatawanan lang kita.”
“May I seat in in one of your classes, Ma’am?” teased Mayu. “Ah. Baka maging teacher ka pa nina Hiroshi.”
Iniisip ko pa lang na tuturuan ko sa klase ang tatlong ‘yon ay sumasakit na ang ulo ko.
“Bahala kayo r’yan!” sigaw ko. “I won’t be a teacher!”
Upon turning the doorknob, I immediately sensed danger. I summoned a dagger on my left hand and forced the door open with my left. Another dagger clashed against mine and it fell to the ground with a clang. Pagtingin ko sa kama ay nakangisi ang hayop.
“I can throw things now,” he announced as he slowly rotated his right wrist.
Pinulot ko ang dagger niya at binato papunta sa kanya. It landed just inches away from his leg. Naglakad ako palapit at tiningnan ko ang kondisyon niya.
He could move better now compared before but he still couldn’t walk properly. The nerves on his hands seemed to be damaged, too. Siguro ay 80-90% na lang ang capability no’n. But it looked like he could still fight, given that he just threw that dagger at me with all his might.
Nakakapagsalita na rin siya kahit papaano pero hoarse pa rin ang boses niya. He was a smart mouth, all right, pero hindi ako papatalo pagdating sa asaran at kawalanghiyaan.
“Still no,” I said and he glared in return. “Kapag nakakalakad ka na nang maayos, saka kita dadalhin kay Akemi. I don’t want to get caught hiding and aiding an enemy.”
He cursed under his breath and gripped his dagger but he didn’t say anything anymore. Napabuntong-hininga naman ako. Kung sa taong ‘to pa lang ay nauubos na ang pasensya ko, paano pa kaya sa mga batang tuturuan ko? Nakakainis talaga! Why did they even recommend me?!
Napansin ko naman na nagdudugo ang kamay niya. Wait, did he grip the blade a while ago and not the hilt?!
“Gusto mo talagang nasasaktan, ano?” I remarked while looking at his bleeding hand.
He scoffed. “This is nothing.”
“Sabagay, muntik ka na ngang mamatay,” I retorted.
“That, too, was nothing.”
Hindi ko alam kung nagjo-joke ba siya o ma-pride lang siya . . . o baka totoo ang sinasabi niya. What would be worse than the wounds he received that day?
I started dressing the wound on his palm as silence permeated the air.
“Have you been imprisoned?” he asked.
Agad ko naman siyang tiningnan. “Hindi ako masamang tao.”
He raised his eyebrow. “Are you sure?”
I tightened the bandage while wrapping his hand and he winced. Wala talagang preno ang bibig ng isang ‘to. Dahil lang naman sa kanya kaya minsan nagiging masama ako.
He remained silent after that but his eyes looked . . . sad.
Nakulong na ba siya? Well, hindi na ako magtataka dahil masama ang ugali niya.
“I can’t wait to see her,” he muttered.
Despite being disrespectful and annoying, it seemed like he really wanted to get better so that he could see Akemi.
Sa totoo lang, hindi ko alam kung paano ko siya sasamahan doon dahil araw-araw dumadalaw si Hideo kay Akemi. He had been religiously visiting her every day because he said he couldn’t be there when we sent her off. He would only smile when he’s there. He would only relax when he’s with her.
Muli akong napabuntong-hininga matapos kong bendahan ang kamay niya.
“I hope you can walk soon,” I murmured. He looked at me with a confused expression and I smiled in return. “So that you can see her and you can leave this place.”
“Don’t worry, I can’t wait to leave this place, too,” sagot naman niya.
“Mabuti naman at may hiya ka pang natatago.”
He stared daggers at me. “Once I recover, you’d be my first casualty.”
I smirked at him. “Oh? Just so you know, I’m stronger than you.”
Tumayo ako at pumunta sa kusina para magluto. Tamang-tama, may itinuro sa akin si Mayu noong nakaraan. I hope I could do it right.
“I am the stronger one,” he retaliated but I just shrugged my shoulders.
“Oh, wow, I’m scared,” I flatly commented.
“I’m going to kill you one of these days,” he murmured.
Pinigilan ko naman ang tawa ko. Wow. Shinigamis got a short fuse. Maybe I could use that to my advantage when I encountered one during missions.
But, kill me, huh?
Sorry, but I couldn’t afford to get killed. As long as my friends need me as their support, I’d try my best to stay alive. I still have a lot of people to protect.
Dying was still not in my options. And I hope there wouldn’t be a time where it would be one.