Mitsuo has finally finished the raft, however, it was already dark. Without anything, we can’t risk traveling at night. In addition, even though he doesn’t want to admit it, I know that Mitsuo is afraid of the open ocean. In the end, we decided to stay in this island tonight. He made a temporary shelter for us and we both took a rest. Nakaupo ako lang ako sa gilid at inaalala ko lahat ng nangyari sa nakalipas na mga araw. My mind has never been this exhausted since my parents’ death. I wanted to sleep but my thoughts won’t allow me to. Napatingin naman ako kay Mitsuo na nakahiga sa gilid ko. Bigla ko tuloy naalala ang nangyari kanina. He was so helpless a while ago and I thought I would lose him. He looked strong and invulnerable but seeing him like that a while ago was a breath of fresh air. It felt like the wall he built around him collapsed and all I could see was his true self. Napangiti naman ako habang nakatingin sa likod niya. I know that he’s a disaster, someone that could ruin me, but I can’t help being drawn to him. “You should rest,” he suddenly said and he turned to my direction. I can’t see anything because there was no light but his eyes gleamed in this darkness. “Yeah. Later,” I replied. Nagulat naman ako nang umupo rin siya. In the middle of this silence, my heart throbbed painfully against my chest and I was worried if he could hear or feel it. The atmosphere was uncomfortable and the tension between us made it harder to breathe. May gusto akong itanong pero hindi ko alam kung dapat ba. Iniwas ko na lang ang tingin ko sa kanya at pinagmasdan ko ang dagat pero makalipas ang ilang minuto ay napagdesisyunan kong magsalita. “Do you have someone you like?” I asked, breaking the silence. Hindi ko siya tinignan dahil natatakot akong makita ang expression niya. All of a sudden, I heard him chuckling. “I don’t even know if I’m capable to feel that,” he said and that made me look at him. “Is it because of your clan?” “Yeah. We were raised as killing machines. I can kill someone without even blinking an eye. Do you think someone like me, a coldblooded executioner, has the right to love someone?” His expression remained serious but his words held so much emotions. I wanted to say that everyone has a right to love but I didn’t. Hindi ko alam kung bakit pero bigla kong naalala si Akemi. Magkapareho talaga silang dalawa. They both have dark secrets that can change everything if the people around them find them out. “I have a question,” sabi ko kaya napatingin siya. “About what?” “Do you know that Akemi is a Shinigami?” “Yes. Right from the start,” he said. “Then why didn’t you tell us?” “Because she’s a bit different and somehow similar to me. I saw myself in her,” he said and the way he looked at me made me jittery. “We both defy the norm. I am a Senshin who kills to live. She’s a Shinigami who can’t even cut her ties with her archenemies.” “You’re right.” Bigla ko namang naisip si Hideo. I knew that those two have special feelings for each other. However, because of their differences, it would only lead to tragedy. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang nangyayari ngayon pero sigurado akong hindi titigil si Hideo sa paghahanap sa kanya. He’s that kind of guy, after all. Itinuring ko nang kaibigan at parang kapatid si Akemi kaya naman nang malaman kong Shinigami siya ay kakaiba sa pakiramdam. Our tribes have been in constant fights since centuries ago so being connected with a Shinigami felt bizarre. “Ayos na ba ang pakiramdam mo?” biglang tanong ni Mitsuo. “Hmm?” “I mean, you went through the Black Dimension and the ocean . . .” he said in a guilt-ridden tone and that made me smile a little. Bigla ko namang naalala ang nangyari noong nakaraan. “Why are you unaffected from the effects of Black Dimension?” I asked. The Black Dimension is dangerous, and might be deadly, to Senshins but he looked fine after saving me from there. “I’ve been chasing Shinigamis since I was a kid and every time they wanted to escape, they would resort in using the Black Dimension. You could say that I became immune to it, or rather, the effects became tolerable to me.” Is that even possible? Sabagay, Senshins and Shinigamis were originally from the same ancestors. Maybe at some point, we could have learned how to use or even navigate that dimension but evolution and mutation took place, successfully setting our tribes apart. I was about to ask another question but I when I looked at him, he was just staring at me. My heart suddenly increased its pace and it felt like it would go out of my mouth. “W-why are you staring at me like that?” I asked, hoping that the absence of any light would hide my blushing cheeks. “I’m just curious. Why do you like me? What did I do to be worthy of your feelings?” tanong niya at halos mawalan ako ng hininga pagkatapos no’n. So what I had said before was still on his mind. I like him, yes, but I do not know why. Ngumiti ako sa kanya at siya naman ang nagulat. “I want to know why, too,” I muttered. We were silent for a few seconds, just looking at each other’s eyes, hoping that this moment would last. Ako na ang unang umiwas ng tingin at agad akong humiga. Kailangan na naming magpahinga para maaga kaming makaalis sa lugar na ‘to pagsikat ng araw. “Let’s sleep now. Maaga pa tayo bukas,” mahina kong sabi at naramdaman ko naman ang paghiga niya. Mas mabuti nang nakatalikod ako sa kanya dahil baka hindi lang ako makatulog kung kaharap ko siya. Hindi ko alam kung ilang minuto na ang lumipas pero hindi ako makatulog. The wind and our current location weren’t helping either. My clothes were still wet so I was shivering due to the cold, harsh wind. Umikot ako para dumaloy ang dugo ko pero nagulat ako nang magtama ang mga mata namin ni Mitsuo. “Are you cold?” he whispered and suddenly, my face didn’t feel freezing. “Why are you still awake?” mahina kong tanong at ngumiti naman siya. “I should ask you the same question.” Naging seryoso naman siya bigla. “Come here.” “H-huh?” He didn’t say anything but he gently pulled me toward him and the next thing I knew, he was already hugging me. My head was spinning and my heart was ready to burst any moment now but his warmth calmed me down. I was worried that he might feel my pounding heart but when I heard his, somehow, it reduced my anxiety. He’s also nervous. “You’re warm,” I breathed and I heard him snicker. “’Yan din ang sinabi mo dati.” “Really?” “Yeah. I still remember it,” mahina niyang sabi kaya napatingin ako sa kanya pero mukhang maling desisyon ‘yon. The tip of my nose hit his and even though I didn’t use my sixth sense, it felt like the time around us has stopped. “I . . . I thought your memories easily fade away?” I asked even though it was hard to speak and breathe. “Yes, but some memories are worth keeping,” he said and when he smiled, I was the first one to break our eye contact. I hid my face on his chest and I had to close my mind real tight because he might read my thoughts. Pakiramdam ko ay lalabas na ang puso ko sa sobrang lakas ng pagtibok nito at ang init na rin ng mukha ko. Hindi na ulit kami nag-usap at hindi ko rin alam kung paano ako nakatulog pagkatapos no’n. *** “Let’s go.” Agad kaming sumakay sa raft na ginawa niya at mukhang kalmado naman ang dagat. Sana lang ay hindi na magpakita ang Huntres na nakalaban namin kahapon. Tinulungan ko siyang magsagwan at hindi ko na alam kung ilang oras ang lumipas bago kami tumigil. Halos namanhid na ang kamay ko at kumakalam na rin ang sikmura ko dahil hindi pa ako kumakain simula nang mapadpad ako sa Black Dimension. Tinignan ko naman ang paligid at wala pa rin akong nakikitang kahit anong isla. We were still in the middle of the ocean. “Here,” he said while giving me something that looked like berries. “I got it from that island.” Dahil sumasakit na ang tiyan ko ay kinain ko na rin ‘yon at gano’n din ang ginawa niya. Pagkatapos ng ilang minuto ay naubos namin kaagad ang kinakain namin at bumalik kami sa pagsasagwan. Siguro ay lima o anim na oras na ang lumipas nang biglang tumayo si Mitsuo kaya napatingin ako sa kanya. That was when I realized we were surrounded by fog. “We’re finally here,” sabi niya at binilisan niya ang pagsagwan. I did the same thing and after some time, the fog was gradually thinning. My jaw dropped open when I saw an island behind the fog. It was majestic yet it gave a horrendous vibe. Mitsuo looked at me with his serious expression and I could tell that he’s quite worried. “This is Shima, the island of the damned,” he said and the cries and screams of agony of the people inhabiting it filled my ears.