“So, are you ready to talk about what you have learned?” Michiko asked and Hideo nodded.
Nandito kaming lima ngayon sa kwarto namin matapos kong makapagpahinga nang maayos sa loob ng ilang araw. Hideo told us to meet him here since he wanted to tell us the things he learned after observing both of them.
‘Thank you, but I shouldn’t be loved. I might hurt and break you so give your heart to someone who could really protect you. But your feelings toward me, I’ll treasure it.’
His last words suddenly rang inside my mind and it made me feel awful. He always looked cool and commanding yet those words showed his worry and fear. It’s okay if he doesn’t reciprocate my feelings, as long as he’s with us but that won’t happen anymore.
“I heard something last night,” biglang sabi naman ni Akira habang nakatingin kay Hideo. “She said you should’ve killed her before that happened.”
I looked at Hideo and his expression changed. He’s the type of guy who wouldn’t allow someone to trick him yet he let Akemi escape. The same as me, huh?
“Noong una pa lang, alam kong may kakaiba na sa kanya,” dagdag naman ni Mayu. “She’s not the same as us, as well as Mitsuo.”
“Yeah. I don’t want to be suspicious but their actions were really different,” Michiko chimed in.
Silence followed and the tension went up. I know that we all have the same thoughts but we’re afraid to say it . . . to know the truth. After all, we considered them as a member of the family.
“She’s a Shinigami,” Hideo said, breaking the silence.
No one uttered a word after his statement, proving that all of us already know her identity. I was hesistant at first but her actions the past few days gave it away. Her calculated movements and bothered expressions strengthen my intuition but what proved my theory was her last cloud of thoughts before she went unconscious.
‘I shouldn’t get too attached to them. This is just a mission and during a mission, you should set aside your feelings or you’ll end up failing or worse, dead. Habang tumatagal ako rito, mas lalo lang akong naguguluhan. Sometimes, I feel too comfortable, I keep forgetting that I do not belong here. That I am not a Senshin.’
I was surprised by that and I tried to hide it by asking her if she was okay. I wanted to know more about her but she went unconscious and Mitsuo’s presence kept on distracting me, especially after the madman incident. In the end, I followed him, but just like Akemi, he left us.
“So she’s really a Shinigami,” Akira said and she looked dejected.
“What’s her mission then?” tanong ni Michiko at lahat kami ay tumingin kay Hideo.
“They wanted to know more about that ability--the seventh sense.”
I knew it. She kept on insisting about decoding the books we got on the restricted section. I thought she was just eager to know the history of our abilities but now, it made sense.
“But why is she not detected by the Shinigami trackers?” Akira asked and that was the thing that bothered me.
“She’s right,” dagdag ko. “There are several Shinigami trackers in the campus but they didn’t discover her.”
“Maybe that’s the reason why she was chosen to infiltrate here,” sagot ni Mayu. “And as you know, the Querino Clan doesn’t want to work inside the campus. When it comes to tracking, they’re definitely the best. Maybe if one of their trackers are here, they have the chance to expose her identity. We have Reina but she’s still too young for that.”
“She might also be undetectable,” Hideo said and that made us silent.
“W-wait, what do you mean by that?” tanong ni Michiko.
“Just a hunch. Our Shinigami trackers might not be as good as the Querinos but still, they didn’t find her out. Maybe she has something that makes her sort of invisible against our trackers.”
Napansin ko naman ang hawak niyang tracking device na kanina niya pa tinitignan.
“Hey, is that . . .” Tinuro ko ‘yon at tumingin silang lahat sa kamay ni Hideo.
“Isn’t this a tracking device?” sabi ni Michiko. “Wait, did you put a tracker to Akemi?”
“Yeah but it isn’t transmitting anything.”
“Maybe she’s inside the Black Dimension,” Mayu mentioned. “Come to think of it, our weapons are also equipped with trackers which are more reliable than the old one.”
“But she left her staff and her cards are her own ones,” dagdag ni Akira.
“Wait . . . Mitsuo brought his gun. Can you detect him?” tanong ko naman at ang bilis ng tibok ng puso ko dahil sa kaba.
“Let me check.”
Umalis si Mayu at pumunta siya sa kwarto nila habang kami ay naghihintay. We were all uneasy because of the situation and there’s a high probability that Akemi’s return might give way to a war. With the information they got and the way Akemi felt after leaving, her parents and comrades might see those as reasons to start the long-awaited war between the Senshins and Shinigamis.
After a few minutes, Mayu returned with her laptop and certain devices that I do not know. She said that the main system is in the Technology department but she can access it using her ID. A radar appeared on the screen and a green dot was moving along the circular path.
“Is that him?” tanong ni Michiko habang nakatingin din sa screen.
“Yes. I’ll just overlay the map so we can see his coordinates.”
May ilan pa siyang pinindot at inaccess hanggang sa may mapa nang nakalagay sa screen. The location was just several kilometers from here.
“He’s still here,” I whispered.
“Why did he leave?” tanong naman ni Akira at nagkatinginan kami ni Hideo. I’m sure he also knows something about him.
“He’s not a Shinigami, right?” tanong ni Michiko sa akin.
“No, but he’s not a normal Senshin,” sabi ko naman at naalala ko ang sinabi niya dati.
“Maybe if I am a normal Senshin . . .” His words trailed off and I didn’t get the chance to hear the whole sentence but he was saying that he wasn’t like us.
“What do you mean by that?” tanong ulit ni Michiko.
“I am not sure but he’s from a family of executioners and he’s been receiving missions from Kyo, just like Hideo,” sabi ko naman at nagulat si Hideo sa sinabi ko. ‘What? I already know it. I saw you with him several times,’ I said and he looked at me as if I just exposed something that I shouldn’t have.
“Executioners? Wait, I think I’ve read something about them before.”
Napatingin naman ako kay Michiko. Kailan pa siya natutong magbasa nang hindi pinipilit? Among us, she and Akira are the ones who hate reading.
“Who are they?” tanong ko sa kanya.
“Well, they are wielders . . . and killers.” After saying that, it felt like the temperature in the room dropped. “They kill Erityians and even humdrums who defy the laws of their respective tribes.”
“But that clan is just a myth, right?” Akira asked.
Bakit hindi ko alam ang tungkol doon? What are these clans they are talking about?
“It’s actually famous when I was a child,” sabi ni Akira. “My mother would always say that I should behave because there’s a Senshin clan that captures naughty kids and they would take the kids in their secret place.”
“Do you think they are real?” tanong ni Michiko at natahimik kaming lahat.
I was about to say something when an alarm suddenly went off. Pagtingin namin, nagbiblink na ang relo ni Hideo.
“Sorry, but we have a case to solve,” he ordered and even if we wanted to continue the discussion, the welfare of the humdrums is still our priority. “Naomi,” he called.
“You have a different order,” sabi naman niya kaya napakunot ang noo ko. When I reached his mind, there was only one thing directed to me. ‘Find him, and make sure he’ll return. I don’t want to lose another family member.’ ‘Are you sure about that? What if he doesn’t want to come back?’ ‘Are you really asking me that even if you are determined enough to bring him back?’
His retort made me smile a little and I saw his lips moving, too. I missed the way we tease each other and I’m glad that he can still think thoroughly even though we’re in a rough situation.
“Mayu, I need some help,” sabi ko at agad naman siyang tumango.
Ilang araw makalipas ang pag-uusap namin, naghanda na ako para sa pag-alis ko. It was already midnight when I left the dorm. My plan was to get out through the Latens Forest, the least dangerous part of the forest, since it’s also the shortest route to the humdrum’s world aside from the lake and park.
Mayu and Michiko provided me with weapons and supplies that I needed. Nang nasa loob na ako ng gubat ay bigla naman akong nakarinig nang kaluskos sa paligid. I immediately drew my fan but I didn’t expect him to come out.
“Sir Kyo?” He looked at me with his intense eyes but I didn’t backed down.
“Where are you going, Nathalie?”
Hearing my real name from him made me shiver. Bigla ko tuloy naalala ang pagkabata ko. Siya ang nagbigay sa akin ng alternative name ko matapos mamatay ng mga magulang ko. He, together with Hideyoshi and Tora, raised me and the rest of the Atama family.
“I have a mission,” I said as my heart pounded against my chest.
“Mitsuo, isn’t it?” he said and that made me flinch.
“How did you know?”
“Are you sure about this?” tanong niya naman at hindi niya ako sinagot. “You don’t know him nor his background.”
“It’s because he’s a member of the Atama family,” sagot ko at nakatingin lang siya sa akin. “As a former member of that, I’m sure you know how we value our family.”
He gave me his familiar smirk and somehow, that eased the tension between us. Kita sa mga mata niya ang pag-aalala at alam kong dahil ‘yon sa binabalak ko. After all, he lost his daughter because of a mission as uncertain as this.
“Seems like your unwavering decision is hard to change,” sabi niya naman. “I wanted to assist him but due to some matters, I can’t. If you’re really determined to bring him back, then you must help him first.”
Nagulat naman ako sa sinabi ni Kyo. I never expected him to agree with my decision but now he’s telling me some details.
“W-what do you mean?”
“You’ll learn everything along the way but let me tell you that this mission is dangerous and you should always be alert. Do you understand?” Tumango naman agad ako. “He’s chasing convicted Erityians and humdrums alone so lend him a hand. That kid is powerful but against those monsters, he can’t subdue them by himself.”
“Then why did you give him that mission?”
“Because he’s the only one who can do that here. The other ones are busy restraining that place.”
“That place?” He gave me a menacing smile that sent chills down my spine.
“Shima, the island of the damned.”
After several hours, I finally reached the place where I saw him last vacation. The park looked empty in the middle of the night. Bigla ko namang naalala ang sinabi ni Sir Kyo kanina. I’ve never heard Shima until today. I don’t really understand what he meant by that place but I’m sure it’s connected to Mitsuo. And the mission he was talking about . . . I have a hunch that the Senshin he killed right in this park is one of them but I still don’t get the whole point of it.
Nilabas ko naman ang radar pero wala na ro’n ang dot na sinusundan ko. Hindi ko tuloy alam kung may masama nang nangyari sa kanya o nawala lang ang weapon niya pero imposible namang mangyari ‘yon.
I was about to move but then I felt a presence around me. My senses were heightened by the anxiety and I slowly readied my weapon. My body tensed when I heard a sinister laugh but the park remained deserted.
“Who are you?” I whispered but nobody answered.
Suddenly, the hair on my nape tingled and someone spoke near my ear.
“I’m here,” the voice whispered and before I could even react, he pulled me into a dark space cutting through the air--the Black Dimension.
My whole body seared, as if I was thrown into the fire. I can’t breathe properly and my senses were slowly fading. The Shinigami pulled my hair and his face came into view. I don’t know if I was hallucinating but his face was full of scars that I can’t distinguish his features anymore.
“You’re going to die here, Senshin,” he said with a frightening smile.
I groaned as the heat intensified and I felt like my organs were already melting. I can’t feel anything anymore.
“Die, Senshin. Die. Die,” he continuously chanted.
“Mm . . .”
“Are you saying something? Huh?” He pulled my hair toward his face but I can’t feel any pain.
“Mitsuo . . .”
That was the last word I uttered before accepting my fate but suddenly, a light passed through and simultaneous gunshots made my ears ring.
“Don’t touch her.”
My sight gave up on me but even if I can’t see him, I know his voice. I know that it’s him. I wanted to call his name but my senses betrayed me. My consciousness slipped away.