“Is that okay with you, Reina?” tanong ko.
I left Nathan with her since we received classified missions from Sir Hideyoshi. It has only been four months since Nathan was born yet we couldn't take care of him due to the number of works we needed to do, especially now that the tension between Senshins and Shinigamis is in its peak.
“Naomi, where are you?” Mayu's image projected in front of me.
“I'm on my way.”
Naging sobrang busy namin nitong mga nakaraang buwan dahil sa sunud-sunod na missions. I didn't even have the luxury to rest because of the preparations if ever a war breaks out. The Atama family has been given classified tasks by the Council and Intel department. We were sent back to our respective families or clans to request for their support, however, I wasn't able to travel because of my condition. I was given a month to rest after giving birth to Nathan and it was a hard time for me because Vince wasn't at my side.
Mayu welcomed me in her small laboratory, along with Hiroshi who was tinkering some piece of wire.
“How's Hiro?” she asked and I still couldn't get used to Nathan's alternative name. Those who were born in the campus were immediately bestowed with their alternative names to familiarize them easily.
“He's with Reina,” I answered.
"I didn't expect Reina to like him."
“Me too.” A smile was formed on my lips, “maybe she wants a younger brother and I think she's really good at taking care of others.”
She gave me the letter that I need to give to my grandfather, the current head of Heren clan. Isang beses ko pa lang siyang nakikita at iyon ay noong umalis kami sa bahay para tumira sa campus. I was just five that time and I couldn’t remember his face anymore.
“Sir Hideyoshi said you should meet him,” sabi naman ni Mayu at tumango ako.
“Alright. Bye, Hiroshi,” I said and Hiroshi waved at me while holding the tangles of wire.
Naglakad naman ako papunta sa office ni Sir Hideyoshi at halos lumabas na ang puso ko sa sobrang kaba. Matapos niyang humingi ng tawad sa akin ilang buwan na ang nakakalipas ay hindi ko pa siya ulit nakakausap na kaming dalawa lang. I stood in front of his door and just like what happened that day, it opened before I could even knock.
He was sitting on the couch and I strode towards his direction. Pinaupo naman niya ako sa tapat niya at agad naman akong sumunod.
“I’m sorry for giving this kind of task to you,” he said in an apologetic tone. I promised that I wouldn’t cry anymore after giving birth to Nathan but his words were stirring up my emotions.
“It’s okay. We need them.”
After what happened in Shima, I couldn’t look or speak to any Council members anymore. They were the reason why my parents died, even after their clans joined the Senshin tribe, and the mere fact that they wanted to ask for their help made me want to throw up. I loathed them but I had no choice. I want Vince and Nathan to live in peace and the only way to do that is to win the war.
“I’ll take my leave now—”
Napatigil naman ako sa pagtayo nang sinabi ‘yon ni Sir Hideyoshi. His usual composure was replaced with a worrisome expression. For a second, I wanted to look at his mind but that might cause trouble to both of us.
“Hideo,” he said, “Please help him.”
Pagkasabi niya no’n ay natulala ako. Since we were young, Sir Hideyoshi had been strict and harsh to Hideo because he would be the next President. In contrary, he was a caring father-figure to me and I realized it might be because of what happened to my parents. However, they said that a father’s love to his daughter is different from his son. This was the first time I’ve seen him so concerned about Hideo and that made me smile.
“Of course,” I said. “We’ve been helping each other since we were young. You don’t need to worry.”
Sir Hideyoshi flashed a smile of relief and after that, I went out of his room. Bumalik ako sa kwarto namin at naabutan ko sina Reina at Nathan na tulog. Ang tahimik na ng kwartong ‘to simula nang umalis si Akemi at humiwalay si Akira. I was alone during my pregnancy and the photos, things and my memories were fueling my depression.
During those times, I realized why Hideo fell in love with Akemi—they’re both born to be leaders. They have to put their people first before theirselves. Maybe, he saw himself in her because they are sharing the same fate and pain.
I remembered one time, I thought somebody was inside the room since I felt a presence. I was so scared because it might be a Shinigami, especially now that their attacks were getting frequent. Buti na lang, walang masamang nangyari at mukhang imahinasyon ko lang ang lahat.
Kinumutan ko naman sina Nathan at Reina. Umupo ako sa gilid ng kama at nakita ko ang mga litrato na naka-display sa ibabaw ng mesa—our childhood photos; Hideo and me; Akira, Akemi and me; the Atama family; and my own family. Sometimes, I wish life could be preserved just like moments into photos but I know that it’s impossible.
The succeeding months were the busiest. I was out of town for almost a month because of that mission and it took all my willpower to enter the household.
The Herens, my mother’s clan, is one of the oldest clans in Slavic communities who joined forces with Shinji’s people during the 1650’s. Heren means ‘to hear’ in Old English and it was because they could hear the thoughts of each other.
After weeks of persuading my grandfather, who was intimidating despite his old age, I finally got his approval, however in one condition.
“Give me the names of those Elders,” he ordered and I winced when I felt the pressure . . . his own thoughts . . . in my head. “Looks like you finally know what happened to your parents.”
I almost shivered when I realized he was looking through my mind. Honestly, it was more frightening than hearing the prisoners’ thoughts in Shima. It felt like he was testing my loyalty, knowledge and courage. I thought I would collapse in front of him but I managed to hold my ground. After that visit, I immediately went home to bring the good news but the atmosphere in Tantei High became more suffocating.
Dumiretso ako sa dorm dahil miss na miss ko na si Nathan at pagpasok ko sa kwarto ay napatigil ako sa naabutan ko. Vince was there. He and Nathan were asleep and I had to choke back my tears when I saw Nathan holding his father’s index finger with his tiny hand.
“I can’t take care of him like a normal father.”
“I’ll just protect him from afar.”
“I don’t want him to be labeled as an Executioner’s child.”
Iyon ang mga salitang lagi niyang binibitiwan tuwing sinasabi ko na hawakan o alagaan niya si Nathan. But looking at them now, it seemed like he would be a perfect father.
I covered him with my blanket and left the room. Gusto kong magkaroon siya ng oras para kay Nathan kahit na sabihin niyang hindi niya kaya.
Naglibot ako sa campus at naisipan kong pumunta sa gubat. Ilang oras din akong nagpalakad-lakad hanggang sa makita ko si Hideo. I thought he would see me using his sixth sense but I guess his mind was too chaotic to even notice his surroundings.
Nandito na naman siya at may hawak na naman siyang bulaklak. The green flower, if I remember correctly, is Akemi’s favorite. I wanted to comfort him but I don’t know what to say. Somehow, I felt guilty because I was feeling happy while he was drowning in misery.
I used my sixth sense and froze the time within my range. The rustling of the trees, the wind, and Hideo stopped moving altogether. I approached him and hugged him, hoping that it could bring him warmth and hope.
“Don’t give up, Aaron. I, together with the Atama family, will always stand by your side. You will find her,” I whispered though I know that he couldn’t hear me.
Agad akong umalis nang maramdaman ko ang pananakit ng mata ko. Pagkatapos no’n ay bumalik ako sa dorm para makasama ang sarili kong pamilya.
The sound of sirens woke us up. Vince immediately held his gun while I covered Nathan.
“What’s happening?” I asked and I could sense the panic in my own voice.
“That’s the warning for intruders,” he said and he stood up.
“Where are you going?”
“I’ll check the situation. Don’t get out.”
“I’ll be back so don’t worry.”
Hindi na ako nakapagsalita matapos niyang sabihin ‘yon. Agad siyang lumabas ng kwarto at naiwan kaming dalawa ni Nathan. Sakto namang pumasok sa kwarto sina Reina at Hayate kaya sinabihan ko silang bantayan muna si Nathan. I went out to see what was happening and I saw the Medical department in chaos.
Tumakbo ako papunta roon at nakasabay ko si Michiko papasok sa loob. The doctors were running out of the building and we had to squeeze ourselves between them to get inside. There was smoke coming from the left wing, where the confidential studies of scientists are done.
“Activate shield,” a robotic voice said and we ran faster to get through it.
Nang makarating kami sa dulo ay nakita namin ang hagdan papuntang basement. Agad kaming bumaba ni Michiko at napatigil ako sa nakita ko.
“What in the world . . .” My voice disappeared after seeing the room in front of me.
“Akira, get Dr. Miwako out of here,” Mayu instructed and Akira immediately pulled the unconscious body of Dr. Miwako.
“I’ll deactivate the chamber but it might explode. Naomi, Michiko, you have to—”
“I get it.”
Hindi ko alam kung ano ang buong pangyayari pero nang makita ko ang katawan ni Hideo sa loob ng isang cryogenic chamber at ang isa pa sa tabi niyang sira na at walang laman, alam kong may kinalaman ito kay Akemi. With Mayu’s abilities, the chamber shut down and the glass started to crack. It shattered into fragments when the pressure was high enough but before it reached us, I used my sixth sense to stop the time and get Hideo out of it. I felt the stinging sense at the back of my eyes but I extended the time enough to protect us from the debris. When I released it from being frozen, Michiko was already prepared to shield us from the explosion.
Agad naming dinala sa labas si Hideo at tinulungan naman kami ng ilang doktor na natira. Hinanap ko rin sa paligid si Vince pero hindi ko siya makita.
“He followed the Shinigamis who took Akemi,” biglang sabi ni Akira. It must have been her sixth sense.
“Hindi ko alam. Bigla na lang nawala ang mga boses nila.”
Ilang minuto ang nakalipas bago kami nakapunta sa maayos na medical quarter. Mabuti na lang at nandoon si Yuuki kaya iniwan muna namin sa kanya si Hideo. Nagpaalam naman ako sa kanila para hanapin si Mitsuo. Ni hindi ko alam kung saan siya nagpunta at kakaiba ang pakiramdam ko ngayon. He was chasing Shinigamis and other Erityians since he was young, but those people are different. If they could get inside the basement of the Medical department without getting notice . . . God, Nathalie, stop thinking about bad things!
Kung saan-saan ako tumakbo pero hindi ko pa rin siya makita. I was running out of energy when I suddenly felt an eerie feeling—similar to a Shinigami’s presence.
Agad akong tumakbo papunta sa Midori building at hinanap kung nasaan ang Shinigami pero pagbukas ko ng pinto papuntang hallway ay agad ko rin itong sinara dahil sa nakita ko. It was pitch black and I could feel the smoldering heat even the door was already closed. Several thoughts rushed in my head but I was distracted by a voice . . . a familiar voice.
Without a second thought, I opened the door and saw Vince on the floor. When he saw me, his expression changed into panic but before he could say anything, I stepped inside and reached his hand.
A flash of light almost blinded me and I had to blink several times to get used to the brightness. Pagdilat ko ay nakita kong nakahiga ako sa kama at mukhang nasa medical quarter ako. I tried to remember what happened but my head throbbed painfully.
“You’re awake . . .”
Nakita ko naman si Vince sa gilid ko habang buhat niya si Nathan. He has a bandage on his forehead but it looked like he was fine. Doon ko naalala kung ano ang nangyari.
“The hallway . . .” My voice dissolved into thin air when I saw Vince’s expression.
“It’s now guarded by the Intel department.”
“I don’t know the exact details but I’m sure it was the Black Dimension.”
Kinilabutan ako sa sinabi niya kahit na may idea na ako tungkol doon. Hindi ko alam kung papaanong nangyari ang bagay na ‘yon pero nakababahala dahil mayroon silang pwedeng daanan papunta rito.
“How’s Hideo?” tanong ko naman nang maalala ko ang nangyari sa Medical department pero hindi ako sinagot ni Vince. “Why? What happened to him?”
“He’s . . . in a state of coma.”
Ilang linggo na ang nakakalipas pero hindi pa rin nagigising si Hideo. Hindi ko alam kung dahil ba ‘yon sa chamber o sa nangyari kay Akemi. Dr. Miwako told us the truth and my hatred for the Council of Elders reached its peak. How could they do something so cruel? I thought Senshins lived by the principles taught by Shinji but they were acting like Shinigamis.
“Hideo,” tawag ko, umaasang naririnig niya ako, “don’t give up. I know it’s hard but you can’t give up . . . for the sake of Akemi and for us.”
“I’ve never seen him this frail,” sabi naman ni Michiko.
“Don’t worry. He’s strong and I believe in him,” dagdag ni Mayu.
Mabuti nang wala rito si Akira dahil hindi makabubuti sa kondisyon niya ang makita si Hideo na ganito. Idagdag pa ang lumalalang tensyon sa pagitan ng Senshins at Shinigamis. Halos hindi na kami makatulog nang maayos dahil baka bigla silang umatake lalo na’t pagkatapos nang nangyari kay Akemi.
Isa-isa na ring inihatid ang mga batang estudyante sa kani-kanilang sariling pamilya, lalo na iyong mga hindi pa kayang lumaban at hindi kayang kontrolin ang sixth sense nila. Students who could use them stayed, as well as the teachers and staffs. Some clans also arrived and given respective tasks by the administration. I don’t know if the Heren’s already arrived since I was busy running errands but I was hoping they would really help us.
Makalipas ang ilang araw ay nagising si Hideo. His thoughts immediately flowed out and I had to close my mind and get out of the room because of trauma. I was scared that his memories would replace mine, just like what happened in Shima.
Tinawag ko kaagad si Dr. Miwako para tignan ang kalagayan niya at pagkatapos ng isang oras ay lumabas siya mula sa kwarto.
“He’s now fine but he needs rest,” she said and I could see the tinge of guilt in her eyes. “You should rest, too.”
Sumang-ayon naman ako sa kanya at dumiretso ako sa kwarto ko. Naabutan ko sina Nathan at Vince na nagtititigan at napangiti ako dahil do’n. They both looked at me and Vince seemed flustered.
“It suits you,” I said and he gave me a confused look, “being a father, I mean.”
Natahimik naman siya at lumakad ako papunta sa kanila. Contrary to his words, he’s actually trying his best to get close to his son.
“Why?” tanong ko dahil seryoso siyang nakatitig sa akin. I tried to reach his mind but he was getting better in blocking his thoughts from outsiders. Bigla naman niyang hinawakan ang kamay ko at nagulat ako sa sumunod niyang ginawa.
“After all of this, let’s be together,” he said and I teared up after seeing the ring on my finger. “I’m not really good at this but—” Napatigil siya nang bigla ko siyang niyakap at natumba kaming pareho dahil sa ginawa ko.
“Stupid,” I muttered while trying hard not to cry. “That was the best thing I’ve heard these past few weeks.”
Inalalayan niya naman ako at pareho kaming napaupo sa sahig. Hindi ko alam kung bakit pero bigla kong naalala ang unang beses na nakita ko siya. Ang laki na ng ipinagbago niya pero mas gusto ko kung sino siya ngayon. He has changed for the better.
For a second, I was tempted to stop the time just to look at my family—the two guys who changed my world.
The tension in the air was suffocating and my skin tingled to every sound I hear. Being assigned to the boundaries of Latens forest was kind of thrilling in this situation. The barrier against Black Dimension would not reach this area because of the distance so Senshins with appropriate sixth sense were entrusted with monitoring and protecting this part.
Nanginig ako dahil sa malakas na hangin. December na rin kasi kaya malamig na pero nakakalungkot dahil ngayon pa nangyayari ang ganito. Instead of preparing for Christmas, we’re preparing for war.
All of a sudden, I felt a change in the atmosphere and I saw a portion of Black Dimension opening in front of me. I was about to stop everything but when I saw a familiar face, I hesitated for a second.
It was Haruka.
“I’m not here to fight you,” she said while getting out. “I’m here to negotiate.”
I stayed alert after she said that since our last encounter didn’t go well.
“Where is Akemi?” tanong ko habang nakatutok sa kanya ang pamaypay ko at nakita ko ang galit sa mukha niya.
“I’ll bring her to you,” sagot niya naman at pagkatapos no’n ay agad niyang binuksan ang Black Dimension.
“Wait! What do you mean? She’s coming back?”
“No. It’s because we don’t have a choice,” she said and I could feel the grief in her voice.
“What happened to h—” Naputol naman ang pagsasalita ko nang bigla siyang tumingin nang masama.
“We’re enemies so why would I tell that to you?” She turned around to face me with her bitter expression. “If there are other ways, I wouldn’t bother to go here but our backs are against the wall this time.”
There was an uncomfortable silence between us after that. Hindi ko alam kung bakit pero parang naisantabi ko ang galit ko sa kanya pansamantala dahil sa sitwasyon. Hindi ko akalain na magagawa niya ang ganitong desisyon.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked. “You’ll be in trouble.”
“I’m just doing my duties as her Elite,” sabi naman niya at tuluyan na siyang nawala.
As a friend, I thought, but maybe that rarely use that word. They really treasure her and if she had those people around her, I think there’s no need to worry . . . for now.
Naririnig ko ang usapan ng ilang estudyante na ngayon pa lang makakaalis sa campus. Several vehicles were parked in front of Midori Building and the students were slowly filling them up. We decided to let Nathan go with Reina and her friends since this place wouldn’t be safe for him.
We were in the middle of assisting them when we suddenly heard an explosion from the forest. Almost all of us stopped on our tracks but it was followed by panic. The children started crying and we had to prevent them from running away. After a few seconds, the alarms blazed and the barriers were activated. Bigla ko namang naalala ang sinabi ni Haruka noong nakaraang araw.
“Vince,” I called. “Stay here with Nathan and the kids. Help them.”
“Where are you going?” Nginitian ko naman siya kaya napatigil siya.
“I need to meet someone.”
Kinilabutan ako sa bilis ng mga pangyayari. Few minutes ago, everything was still in order but right now, several explosions and commotions could be heard from different places. We were preparing for this war for months but now that it’s here, it felt unreal and terrifying.
Nagmadali ako papunta sa timog na bahagi ng gubat kung saan ko nakita si Haruka. Ilang beses din akong napatigil para tulungan ang ilang estudyante at nahirapan din ako dahil biglang umulan nang malakas. I had to use my sixth sense a couple of times when I was outside the barrier because several Shinigamis started to appear.
Two Shinigamis made their way towards the southern part of the forest. I immediately stopped the time within my perimeter and took them down. Halos kilabutan naman ako nang marinig ko ang mas malakas na sigawan sa silangang banda ng gubat. Kahit hindi ko nakikita ay ramdam kong nag-iba ang simoy ng hangin.
The Shinigamis are already here.
Tumakbo ako hanggang sa malampasan ko ang grassland at mapunta sa mapunong banda. It was still raining hard and it would definitely affect the fight.
Napatigil naman ako nang may naramdaman akong kakaiba sa paligid. I could hear the rain and the battles behind me but there was something else—something alive. A heavy breathing.
Hinanap ko kung saan nanggagaling ‘yon at dahan-dahan akong naglakad papunta sa isang parang kwebang gawa sa lupa. I readied my fan in case someone decided to jump on me. With careful steps, I approached the opening but before I could get inside, someone attacked me. My body reacted and I deflected the weapon using my fan. It landed on my foot and when I saw what it was, I gasped.
“N-Naomi . . .”
Nang marinig ko ang boses na ‘yon ay napatingin agad ako sa loob. Napanganga na lang ako nang makita ko si Akemi kasama ang anak niya at si Demi.
“Oh God. You’re really here, Akemi.”
Lumabas siya agad habang hawak ang anak niya at sumunod naman si Demi. Inalalayan ko siya dahil mukha na siyang nanghihina.
“I need to thank Haruka for this,” sabi ko nang makalabas siya. Tinanong niya naman kung ano ang ibig kong sabihin pero hindi ko na ipinaliwanag pa dahil sa sitwasyon.
“How’s your son?” tanong niya bigla at ako naman ang nagulat.
“How did you . . .”
“I just know.”
Tinignan ko siya at sinubukan kong basahin ang isip niya. I saw myself when I was pregnant and I didn’t know how she had that memory.
“He’s fine. He’s turning one in two months,” sabi ko at naalala ko ang nangyari kanina. He’s fine. Maybe I was telling that to myself.
Inalalayan ko si Akemi at naaawa ako sa bata dahil nauulanan siya. Nag-aalala rin ako dahil hindi siya umiiyak o umiimik man lang.
“What’s her name?” tanong ko.
“Rainie,” she said with a smile. “How about your son?”
“Nathan. And you know what? Si Vince ang nagbigay ng pangalan niya.”
“I mean, si Mitsuo. Sorry, nasanay na akong tawagin ang totoo niyang pangalan.”
Pagkasabi ko no’n ay nabasa ko ang iniisip niya. It seemed like she didn’t bother to close her mind anymore.
‘I want to know their names.’
“Nathalie,” sabi ko, “if that’s what you want to ask.”
“Rielle,” sabi naman niya. “So kaya ba Nathan ang ipinangalan niya para nakasunod sa pangalan mo?”
“I think so. That guy is sentimental even though he doesn’t look like one.”
Napangiti naman ako nang maalala ko ang araw na sinabi niya ‘yon pero agad din ‘yong nawala nang biglang bumagsak si Akemi. Tinulungan ko siyang tumayo pero nagulat ako nang makita ko ang kamay ko na nabahiran na ng dugo. I told her that we should rest but she looked at me with those determined eyes.
“Naomi, please. I need to see him. I want to see him. Please.”
After saying that, she completely opened her mind and her thoughts flowed into my head. Her memories were kind of hazy but I could feel her despair and pain. My tears automatically fell after seeing her mind and I felt bad for not being there for her.
Tinulungan ko siyang maglakad at sinabi kong kapag nalampasan namin ang grassland ay malapit na kami sa campus. That made her smile.
‘Kaunti na lang. Makikita ko na siya.’
Parang lumubog ang puso ko nang marinig ko ‘yon mula sa kanya. Kahit anong mangyari, tutulungan ko siya. I will do everything to let them meet. They had suffered enough pain and I don’t want to see them like this.
Hindi ko alam kung anong nangyari pero biglang may ibang alaalang pumasok sa isip ko. The trauma from what happened in Shima kicked in and I had to keep myself from screaming. I tried to breathe slowly, telling myself that this wasn’t the same as before. These memories seemed familiar and I realized they were from them.
‘Akemi?’ I heard Akira’s voice in my head, as well as the voices of every person near her.
‘Why am I hearing a lot of voices?!’ tanong naman ni Michiko.
‘Akira, isn’t this your sixth sense?’ Mayu added.
Kinilabutan ako nang makita ko ang buong paligid ko at naaalala ko ang bawat punong nadaanan namin.
‘Seventh sense,’ I muttered.
Napatingin ako kay Akemi at sa tingin ko ay siya ang dahilan nito. She must’ve activated it while trying to reach our thoughts. But what scared me was the fact that we could read each other’s mind without any restriction. Sharing your deepest and darkest thoughts to someone, even if they’re your friends, would take a lot of courage and trust because you would expose your raw and vulnerable self. I was scared because I once lost my own memories but in order to help her, we need each other’s abilities.
Nagulat naman ako nang bumagsak na naman si Akemi at hindi ko na magawang pigilan ang luha ko dahil sa kalagayan niya. I was about to help her but I felt some presence around us. Several Shinigamis appeared and they started approaching us. They called Akemi a traitor and even said that she deserves to die.
“Who are you to decide what she deserves?” tanong ko at pinatigil ko ang oras nila. I attacked them using my fan and two of them fell down. “But I can say that you deserve to die because you said those things. Talk bad about her and you’ll die by my hands.”
I will protect her until Hideo comes. I will protect her because she’s my friend.
Sunud-sunod na lumabas ang mga Shinigami at ginawa ko naman ang makakaya ko para pigilan sila. Demi helped me, too, and that was enough for me. However, with the help of Hideo’s sixth sense, I saw something terrible. A portion of the Black Dimension opened near the dorm where the children are . . . where they are.
Without a second thought, I started to run but Vince’s voice stopped me.
‘Don’t,’ he said. ‘Stay with her, Nathalie.’
The Shinigamis who appeared, according to Akemi’s memories, were her parents’ Elites. He was the only adult there and the children were still evacuating. Nanginig ang buong katawan ko dahil doon at para bang tumigil ang mundo ko.
‘I’ll protect him with my life so don’t worry,’ dagdag niya at agad na tumulo ang luha ko.
‘Idiot. Don’t say that.’
He warned me about the Shinigamis around us and I responded with my own attacks. Hindi na ako makahinga nang maayos pero wala akong magawa dahil kailangan kong protektahan si Akemi.
‘Naomi, you don’t have to do this,’ Akemi said. ‘You have your own family to protect, so please . . .’
Hindi ko siya sinagot dahil sa ilang Shinigami na nakapaligid sa amin. I was busy protecting the both of us when I saw a sword pointed at Akemi. Almost all of us shouted her name and I was about to use my sixth sense but Demi managed to save her. She tried to stand up while holding Rainie even though she couldn’t support herself anymore.
‘Akemi! What are you doing?! I can’t protect you keep on moving!’ sigaw ko.
‘I’m going to the campus,’ sabi niya kaya napatigil ako.
‘You can’t even walk properly—!’
‘I don’t care!’ sigaw niya. ‘You said you’ll protect me, right? Then keep moving! Pupunta ako sa campus sa ayaw at sa gusto mo.’
Iyon ang sinabi niya pero iba ang nasa isip niya.
‘Wala na akong pakialam kung magalit siya sa akin. Gusto ko lang na makasama niya sina Mitsuo at Nathan ngayon at ayaw kong maging hadlang sa kanila. I’ll walk even if my legs fall off or even crawl if that’s the only way to reach them.’
Nagtuluy-tuloy na ang luha ko nang marinig ko ‘yon at hindi ko alam kung ano ang dapat kong maramdaman. I don’t even have the time to be thankful or sorry because of these Shinigamis. Nagpatuloy siyang maglakad at ako naman ay nasa likuran niya habang pinipigilan ang mga Shinigami sa pagsugod.
Halos mapatigil naman ako nang makita ko si Dr. Miwako na dumating at kahit papaano ay napanatag ang loob ko. The other doctors escorted the children but Vince couldn’t give Nathan because he was already facing an Elite.
“Are you going to fight me while holding that child?” tanong niya kay Vince at lumipat ang tingin niya kay Dr. Miwako. “And are you going to protect those children inside that building?”
The two of them didn’t respond but I could feel Vince’s rage and worry. Gusto kong pumunta sa kanila para makatulong pero masyado pa kaming malayo.
“This is why getting rid of one’s emotion is the key to a war. Protecting someone is just a hindrance. You’re being held back because some people can’t fight for themselves,” the Elite said.
“And this is why Shinigamis are unsympathetic. War isn’t just about strength, strategies and victory. People survive war because they are being protected or they have something or someone to protect. You’re just a bunch of wild animals who kill for your own satisfaction, or maybe you’re lower than them since they are more compassionate,” sabi naman ni Dr. Miwako.
“I’d rather be a beast than having those inessential feelings and diminish my efficiency. Now let’s see if you can really protect everything.”
It happened so fast that I wasn’t able to process it at first. It felt like everything around me has stopped moving, as if I used my sixth sense. The next thing I knew, I was already screaming his name and running towards them but Akemi pulled me. I knew there was a Shinigami in front of us but I didn’t care. All I wanted was to save him, to protect him, but my hope quickly disappeared when I saw how the spear pierced his chest.
“No! No! Let me go!” I was desperate to run to him but Akemi’s grip was too tight. “Please let me go!”
Vince collapsed on his knees while trying to cover Nathan. My heart sank after seeing that. It was meant for our son but he received the blow. He pulled the spear out of his chest and blood gushed down his body. Sinubukan kong tumayo pero narinig ko ang boses niya.
‘Stay there, Nathalie,’ he calmly said, breaking my heart even more.
‘Hideo! Please help him. Please—’
Napatingin naman ako kay Akemi nang sabihin niya ‘yon. Hideo was already on his way to us but I saw him running towards Vince’s direction. I was about to ask Akemi but she just smiled at me and it made me feel guilty.
Nalipat muli ang tingin ko kina Vince dahil patuloy nilang inaatake si Nathan. Vince managed to inflict an injury to the Elite but his condition was worsening.
“Don’t touch them!” I yelled.
It was too much.
Kahit nanghihina na ang katawan ko ay kinuha ko ang pana mula sa Shinigami. I aimed it at the Elite using Hideo’s sixth sense and Akemi repelled it to travel faster. Within a few seconds, it hit the Elite’s shoulder. Nakita ko naman ang pagbagsak niya at ng isa pa dahil sa putok ng baril. Pagtingin namin sa itaas ng building ay nakita ko si Sir Tora.
“S-Sir Tora . . .”
“Don’t talk, Mitsuo. Miwako, treat him imm—”
“I-I’m b-beyond treatment—”
I collapsed when I saw Mitsuo vomited blood. I was hoping Dr. Miwako would say otherwise but her expression looked crestfallen. I called his name but it felt like a whisper and I couldn’t even hear my voice anymore.
“So you’re finally here,” he suddenly said and I saw Hideo looking at him.
“You . . .”
“I know you need to go to Akemi, but I have a favor to ask.” Nathan started crying and he was holding onto his father’s clothes. “Sorry Nathan. Take care of your mother for me.”
“No . . . Vince . . . don’t say that . . .”
Hindi na ako makahinga nang maayos at hindi ko na alam ang gagawin ko. I had fallen into the world of misery after hearing those words from him. I wasn’t ready for this. I wasn’t ready to lose him.
He gave our son to Hideo and started running away. I wanted to stop the time but it also meant stopping Hideo. I was torn but in the end, I chose to save him.
‘Don’t do it, Nathalie,’ bigla naman niyang sabi.
All of a sudden, he hit the spear with another one. Then he did it twice. Thrice. Bigla kong naalala ang sinabi niya noong nasa Shima kami.
‘I’m here. You should calm down and think carefully. You’re safe so you do not need to worry.’ Those were the meanings of his knocks. ‘But I’m sorry, Nathalie, I don’t think I can save you from now on.’
“You said I couldn’t protect anyone. Maybe you’re right. After all, I am not trained to protect someone. But I can kill everyone who gets in my way. I’m going to drag you to hell with me.”
He was already covered with his blood yet he could still wield those weapons with no difficulties. Seeing him like that felt like I was back in Shima. I was on the verge of being demented once again. Wala na akong pakialam kung ano ang mangyari sa akin basta’t nasa tabi niya lang ako ngayon. Tumingin ako kay Akemi at alam kong naiintindihan niya ang sitwasyon ko kaya hindi na niya ako pinigilan. Nagsimula na akong maglakad pero bigla namang hinawakan ni Akemi ang braso ko. I was about to shout at her but I was surprised when she handed me her daughter.
“W-what are you—”
“Get out of here. She’s coming,”
Ilang sandali pa at bumukas ang Black Dimension at lumabas mula roon ang isang babae na kamukha niya.
“Naomi, go,” she ordered and gave me a locket. Hindi na ako nagreklamo pa at agad na tumakbo palayo.
Kahit nanghihina na ang mga paa ko ay patuloy pa rin akong tumakbo papunta sa direksyon ni Vince. I was chanting his name, hoping that I could be by his side even though he said I shouldn’t. I was focused on reaching him that I wasn’t aware on what was happening on Akemi until Hideo shouted her name. When I looked at her, two arrows were already pierced on her chest. However, I didn’t have the time to grieve for her because of what happened to Vince.
Napaupo na ako nang makita ko kung paano niya pinugutan ng ulo ang Elite na kalaban niya . . . at kung paano siya sinaksak sa puso ng Elite na ‘yon. The spear fell down from his hands and he collapsed on his knees.
‘Sorry . . . Nathan . . . Nathalie . . .’
‘No. No. This isn’t right. This isn’t happening. W-wait for me okay?’ Pinilit kong tumayo pero nanghihina na ang mga binti ko. Please, don’t give up on me right now. I need to be with him.
‘Don’t say that! Please, don’t say that.’
Halos sabay na kaming umiiyak ni Rainie at kahit anong pilit ko ay lalo lang nanghihina ang katawan ko. Lalo ring lumakas ang ulan na para bang pinipigilan din ako sa pagtayo. Nakaluhod lang siya ro’n at halos pula na ang buo niyang katawan dahil sa dami ng dugo na nawala sa kanya. I already knew it was hopeless but I was still hoping.
‘Please, just forget me,’ he weakly said. ‘Use my sixth sense, Nathalie.’
‘What are you saying?’
‘I don’t want to cause you more pain.’
‘Are you stupid? I’d rather live in pain than forget you.’
How could he say those words to me? How could he say that I should forget him?
‘But I . . . but I can’t live with you anymore and I’ll hurt you even more.’
‘I don’t care. If you can't live with me, then I'll let you live in my memories.’
Hearing those words from my own mouth shattered my soul but that guy . . . he still managed to smile at me.
‘Tell Nathan that he should fulfill my wish,’ sabi niya habang nakangiti at nagtuluy-tuloy ang agos ng luha ko. ‘I’m sorry for saying that earlier. The truth is, I am scared that you will forget me.’
‘How can I forget someone like you?’ I retorted and he smiled again.
‘Maybe it’s because I was used to forget people every now and then that I thought everyone would also be like that. But you know what? If I could live another life, I'd still choose to remember you. Even if my own memories were erased, as long as you're still inside my head, it would be enough.’
‘Vince . . .’
‘You are enough.’
How could this guy make my heart flutter and shatter it at the same time? I wanted to hear his voice more but it was becoming weaker and weaker. Blood was also gushing out of his head and my heart momentarily stopped when he closed his eyes.
‘I will always remember you, Nathalie.’
And those were the last words I heard from the guy who could forget everything.