It’s been a tough week. After what had transpired that day, we ended up getting detained in the Intelligence Department’s isolation chambers, except for Kana. Hayate’s summons alerted the Technology and Intelligence Departments of our whereabouts and they immediately dispatched rescue units since we did not log anything in our journal that day. The directors, as well as Sir Eiichi, were furious because of our actions, especially since it involved the subduing of an Elite and the demise of a humdrum. ‘Let’s see if this will work.’ My eyes drifted to the wall when I heard Hayate’s inner voice. ‘Hayate? Wait. How?’ I asked. As far as I know, isolation chambers have similar structures to the special rooms in the Medical department, thus, making them impenetrable by inner voices and brain waves. ‘I saw the guards talking to an administrator. It seems like they have already deactivated the blockers and filters in our rooms,’ he replied. I guess his sixth sense could still function here. ‘Oh. I can hear the both of you.’ This time, it was Hiroshi. Naghintay ako kung maririnig ko rin si Kana pero walang nangyari. I guess she was being handled by the President and the Council since her identity as a Hansen clan member was revealed that night. Several minutes passed and the door this room suddenly came into view. It disappeared the moment I stepped into this place a week ago and seeing it again made me feel hopeful . . . or not. I flinched when I saw Sir Eiichi walking toward me with a stern expression. As the one handling for the Fielding course, he would also share responsibility and would be reprimanded by the administrators. “Your group has achieved something crucial and that will surely boost your grade and standing but I am very disappointed in your action as the leader,” he said and my heart sank upon hearing those words from him. ‘It’s not her fault.’ Nagulat naman ako nang marinig ko ang boses ni Hayate. ‘It’s not just the leader’s fault. We all decided to help our teammate because that’s the right thing to do.’ ‘Is carrying out a mission that could jeopardize our network of intel and endanger the lives of the humdrums the right thing to do? I expected more from you, Hayate. And you, Hiroshi, do you want to tarnish the names of your mother and grandfather? Do you think just because you are from a family of genius, you can do everything you want even if your own department tells you not to? I had high expectations from the three of you but you showed me that you still couldn’t be trusted with this kind of operation.’ The three of us remained silent. Everything that we say would just sound like an excuse. He was right. We did the right thing in a wrong way. ‘I’ll see the three of you in my office tomorrow,’ he mentioned as he turned away. ‘For now, go to the President’s office. They are waiting for you.’ *** Sir Eiichi's words repeatedly echoed inside my head. I knew we should be worried about the consequences of our actions but the guilt overpowered my fear. We had disappointed a lot of people who expected a lot from us and that was more disheartening than the punishments we would receive. Tahimik kaming naglakad papunta sa Office of the President. Sir Hideo would always be lenient to us but this time, it would surely be different. Pabigat naman nang pabigat ang mga hakbang ko habang palapit kami sa office ni Sir Hideo. I could feel the pressure from the presence of several people and it felt like we were entering a lion’s den. Kumatok si Hayate sa pinto ng office niya at saka niya dahan-dahang binuksan. Sir Hideo came into view, his intense gaze looking right through us. But what surprised me was Kana who was sitting on the couch in front of him. “It’s been a while,” he commented. Even though we were close to him when we were still toddlers, his position as the President of the school and the leader of the tribe put him on a higher ground and made him distant and unreachable. Tumabi naman agada ko kay Kana at umupo sa harapan namin sina Hayate at Hiroshi. On the other hand, Sir Hideo sat on the chair between the couches, facing the four of us. “The Council has decided to let Sir Eiichi determine your fate,” he said, breaking the suffocating silence. “The benefits outweigh the drawbacks, and he said it will be unfair if one of the best teams he has handled will be punished for doing something they know they are capable of.” Nagkatinginan kami ni Hayate nang marinig namin ‘yon. Kanina lang, halos hindi na maipinta ang mukha ni Sir Eiichi dahil sa galit niya sa amin. I didn’t know he was supporting our backs when he was talking to the Council and that made me feel grateful and guilty at the same time. Sir Hideo told us the gist of the meeting between the professors and the Council. Pagkatapos no’n ay umalis na rin kami sa office niya pero bago pa kami makalabas ay may inabot siyang notebook. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a journal. “We found that in Ariel Andrada’s hideout,” he remarked. “Maybe you’ll understand his reasons once you read it,” dagdag niya habang nakatingin kay Kana. Paglabas namin mula sa office niya ay dumiretso kami sa dorm. And that night, we learned about Ariel’s tragic life. *** “Still awake?” I asked while staring at the ceiling. “Yeah. Can’t sleep,” Kana replied. Ilang oras pa lang ang nakakaraan nang mabasa namin ang iniwang journal ni Ariel. Kana finally learned about what happened before and after the attack on her village and I’m sure that would keep her awake all night. Ariel was an outstanding chemical engineer and was doing great in an industrial company but he was suddenly scouted by an agent who wanted to know if he wanted to try explosives engineering. He was offered a huge amount of money and his own laboratory and that made him apprehensive. He declined but got curious in that field so he tried formulating and creating different kinds of explosives, and that made them more desperate for him. Takeshi threatened him by using his family so he had no choice but to listen to their demands. He worked for them and provided them weapons. I could still remember the words he had written when they told him where and when they used his explosives. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. To save three people, I killed a hundred. I feel disgusted with myself yet I still feel a little relieved that my family is safe. Maybe I am turning into a monster. Like those green-eyed criminals. I don’t know what to do anymore. I should’ve killed myself the moment they have found me. Now I can’t even decide for my life. Please, somebody, please end my misery. My heart felt heavy. I couldn’t even imagine how disturbing and painful it must be for him to be involved in our world. But what made me sad and mad was when he lost his family one by one. First, his wife, when he didn’t listen to their demands and talked back to his guard; second, his eldest son, when he tried to make the explosives kill the bomber instead; and lastly, his youngest daughter, when he tried to hurt himself. “J, you’re too loud,” Kana suddenly complained. “Sor—” I abruptly stopped when I saw the tears in her eyes. I shifted my gaze to the ceiling and breathed deeply. She must be feeling guilty for what she had said to him and how she had treated him before. Ariel escaped from them after losing everything and lived in vengeance, just like Kana. He had planned his attack for a long time to get back at his enemies. I remembered the look of resignation and tranquility on his face before he passed away because he finally got what he wanted. He finally got his revenge. “He’s with his family now,” I softly said. She stayed silent and my eyes were starting to well up, too. They both lost their loved ones in cruel ways and it was frustrating that I couldn’t even do anything to make her feel better. “Don’t worry too much,” she said while wiping off the tears on her eyes and face. “I will be okay.” “You will,” I remarked. That night, Kana finally let her heart and mind sleep in peace. *** Ilang araw na ang nakakalipas simula nang mapagalitan kami ni Sir Eiichi sa office niya. The rumors about the Hansen clan was already circulating in the campus and Kana hated how she was getting too much attention because of it. Lagi rin siyang pinapatawag sa office ni Sir Hideo kaya nag-aalala ako sa pwedeng mangyari. “You look ten years older.” Sinamaan ko kaagad nang tingin si Hayate nang makita ko siya sa gilid ko. Akala mo naman siya, hindi nadagdagan ng ilang layers ang eyebags. “Ikaw nga parang ka-age mo na teachers natin,” I retorted. “May sinasabi ka ba, Reina?” I almost screamed when Ma’am Michiko appeared behind me. Hayate smirked at me and I seriously want to punch his face. “Hala, wala!” sabi ko na lang. “Bakit pala nandito ka, Ma’am?” She smiled while pointing at the tree behind us. “I have a business there.” “Huh? Wh—” “He’s here.” Napalingon naman ako nang marinig ko ang boses ni Kana at pagtingin ko ay nandoon siya sa tabi ng puno. I heard someone grunting and Hiroshi came out of hiding. “Thanks,” he sarcastically said to Kana. Agad naman siyang kinuha ni Ma’am Michiko dahil iyon ang “punishment” niya. He has to perfect the summoning of the weapons and since the concept was extracted from Ma’am Michiko’s sixth sense, she said she would help him just like how she helped her mother with the prototype of that project before. Natawa na lang ako nang hatakin siya ni Ma’am at hindi na maipinta ang mukha niya. He was looking at Hayate, his eyes pleading for help, but Hayate just ignored him and went back to the Intelligence department to do his own punishment. Hindi mo mapaghihiwalay ang dalawang ‘yon pero pagdating kay Ma’am Michiko, kaya nilang ilaglag ang isa’t isa. They just can’t handle her. My eyes drifted to Kana when I suddenly heard her chuckle. “I wish I can stay here a bit longer,” she mumbled while looking at those two. “You can,” sabi ko naman. She looked at me and smiled. “I can’t. You know that I only stayed here because of my personal matters.” “And you finally settled that.” Napatingin naman siya sa langit at pakiramdam ko ay hindi ko magugustuhan ang susunod na mangyayari. “I’ve been staying here for more than a year, and honestly, I have enjoyed my time here that I almost forgot I have a life outside this campus. I need to get back there.” “Kana . . .” “I’ve already talked to Sir Hideo. I’ll be leaving next week.” *** I was so shocked and angry that I marched into Sir Hideo’s office. Pagdating ko ro’n ay nakita ko ang pusa niya at nang tumingin ‘yon sa akin ay agad siyang tumalon mula sa bintana. “What’s the matter, Reina?” Napatingin ako kay Sir Hideo na ngayon ay nakatanaw lang sa bintana niya. He turned to my direction and stared at me with those intense green eyes. Parang bigla namang umurong ang dila ko nang kaharap ko na siya. His presence was too overwhelming. “Do you consider her as a friend?” bigla niyang tanong. “Of course!” I’ve been with Hayate and Hiroshi since we were young. Kana was the first girl I befriended and I see her as my sister. I don’t want her to leave. “Then let her go. She’s finally free from the vengeance that tied her down for so long. She wants to explore the world and help other people who experienced the same fate as her.” “But . . .” “I know that sending off a friend is hard, even unbearable for some,” he said and I don’t know if my eyes were just playing tricks on me but I could see the sadness on his face. “But there are times that you have to.” His words felt like an enchantment and somehow, it made me calm down and understand her intentions. Maybe that decision would be for the best. *** “Wait! Sure na sure ka na ba talaga?” tanong ko kay Kana. Hayate grabbed my arm and sighed. “There you go again.” Kana replied with a laugh. “My god, J, ang clingy mo. Don’t worry, I’ll contact you later.” Kana would leave today to get back in the FBI. She said her colleagues miss her already and that she’d be transferring to another division that handles high-profile and elusive criminals. Speaking of high-profile criminals, Takeshi was brought to Shima. Iyon ang ibinalita sa amin ni Sir Eiichi. That place would be perfect for him. I’m sure they would extract every information they could but I felt a bit sorry for him. That place is the hell of Erityians. A car stopped right in front of us and Ryuu came into view when he opened the window. “Well, I guess this is goodbye,” she said. “Your name,” biglang sabi ni Hiroshi na kanina pa hindi nagsasalita. “Huh?” Kana asked in confusion. “Your real name. You haven’t told us that yet.” “Oo nga no?” I commented. “I do not have one,” she said and that made me more confused. “Huh? What? How come?” “Didn’t I tell you? Hansen clan members only get their names when they turn thirteen. As a clan responsible for classified information and counterintelligence, they treat kids as a high risk. Names are especially crucial since that can endanger your own family, hence, they only give that when you can finally do things on your own.” Napanganga na lang ako nang marinig ko ‘yon mula sa kanya. So all this time, she has no name of her own? That’s kind of sad. “Well, I’ll be returning the name Kana since it’s only an alternative name, but you can still call me that,” she said. “Eh? But—” “Kaoru.” The three of us looked at Hiroshi when he said that. “That’s your name from now on,” he added. “Hmm. Kaoru, huh?” “Besides fragrance, one of the kanjis means flowing and living,” he explained. “You should live your life and let your time flow from now on.” Muli kaming natahimik nang sabihin niya ‘yon at nagulat ako nang ngumiti si Kana sa kanya. It was the kind of smile that she hasn’t given to Hiroshi yet. “I like that,” she remarked as she extended her hand to him. “I’ll miss our fights.” Hiroshi accepted her hand. “I won’t,” he said. “Be nice to your colleagues, Kaoru.” After that exchange, she boarded the car and bid her goodbye. At exactly 9:30:13 A.M., Kaoru finally left. “Let’s go,” aya ni Hayate pero hindi pa rin ako gumagalaw mula sa pwesto ko. I missed her already. “Ah, those kids are looking at us,” sabi naman ni Hiroshi kaya napalingon ako. “You mean glaring at Reina,” Hayate retorted. Nakita ko naman ang apat na bata at mukhang papunta sila sa Central Plaza at nakakunot ang noo ni Hiro habang nakatingin sa akin kaya tinaasan ko siya ng kilay. “Pagtitripan mo na naman,” sabi ni Hayate kaya napangiti ako. “I won’t be surprised if he resents you when he grows up.” “Wala na si Kana kaya sila na lang ang guguluhin ko. Sawa na ako sa inyong dalawa.” Hiroshi sighed. “Why am I only surrounded by boisterous and rowdy women?” “You should’ve gone with her then,” Hayate teased but he just rolled his eyes. Napailing na lang ako sa kanilang dalawa at tinawag nang malakas ang pangalan ni Hiro kaya lalong sumama ang tingin niya sa akin. Akane waved her hands at me but she accidentally hit Ken’s head so they started arguing, while Reiji silently followed Hiro who was hurriedly getting away. Natawa na lang ako sat nagsimulang maglakad papunta sa kanila. I was already a few steps away but I halted when Hayate called me. “Where will you work?” he asked. “Sir Eiichi said we should tell him our plans before graduation.” I’m sure those two would work in their respective departments. Napangiti naman ako dahil last week pa ako nag-submit ng requirements para sa balak ko. “I’ll be a teacher at a chakushoku,” I revealed and they both looked flabbergasted. “What the hell, Reina?” “Are you serious? Please, don’t be serious.” I ignored them and went to the kids’ direction but they continued following me, still bewildered by my decision. To be honest, I’ve always wanted to teach kids and I picked that school because I felt something bizarre when we went there once for a mission. Besides, the heir of the Querino clan is there. I want to observe her. “Reina, don’t ignore us!” My life has always been at standstill . . . until knowing Kana and doing missions with this team in the world of humdrums. Tick tock. Tick tock. And this time, I’ll make sure the clock won’t stop moving.
Elites were really hard to deal with. We were just fighting him for a few minutes but I already felt exhausted. He could utilize his skill as well as the Black Dimension efficiently even while facing three opponents. 'Behind you!' I alerted as I felt the opening of the Black Dimension near Kana. Takeshi appeared a split second after I warned her, his sword already at her neck, but she maneuvered swiftly and got away from him with just a graze. Meanwhile, Ariel was having a hard time keeping up with us. He was breathing heavily after continuously attacking Takeshi with his explosives. However, he successfully evaded critical injuries by using the Black Dimension as his escape and ambush routes. "This suit is slowing me down," he muttered and I was confused by what he meant. He was just wearing black shirt, jeans and cap, and I wasn't sure if that was the suit he was talking about. “Continue engaging him,” Hayate said. “We’re going to seal his exit routes.” “Got it,” I replied even though I was already breathless. I could feel the presence of the Black Dimension lingering everywhere. It was getting harder to focus but I had to, or else, the three of us would end up dead. The three of us continued attacking him and I also served as their eyes, warning them of his presence and where would he appear. With the night getting deep, it would be beneficial for him to move and incorporate Black Dimension to his ambush and attacks. I let out a sigh, thinking about how we could turn this to our advantage, when I felt a bone-chilling sensation behind me. The next thing I knew, I was already holding my neck that almost got decapitated by him. “Quick reflex,” he muttered as my blood dripped from the edge of his sword. I felt the stinging pain from the cut I received from him and if it hadn’t for my reflex, my head would be rolling on the ground right now. My head was still buzzing but Takeshi’s sudden scream made me alert. Looking at him, a sickle was already protruding on his left arm. “Too slow,” Kana said and Takeshi roared in pain when she pulled it out of him. His blood splattered on the ground as Kana stepped back. I didn’t even detect her presence and it felt like she was keeping herself as small and invisible as possible to maximize her attacks. “Damn brat!” he bellowed but before he could attack, the ground where he was standing blew up. The impact was so strong that I got thrown away from my position even though I was several meters away from it. Kana and Ariel landed harshly beside me and they both groaned as they tried to stand up. “You should’ve told us first if there are any explosives in the vicinity, you humdrum,” Kana growled as she glared at Ariel who was still in his knees. He was slow to get up but what happened next made us silent. “That was the point,” he snickered as his face melted, a puddle of sticky liquid pooling the ground. “H-how . . .” “That’s why . . .” Amidst the chaos from the explosion, Kana and I were silent for a few seconds, just staring at Ariel after what happened. That was why the intelligence agencies couldn’t get a hold of him. He wasn’t just elusive. “I wasn’t planning on revealing this at all, but it will take everything to bring him down,” he muttered as his voice turned thinner while removing a device around his neck. “You have outwitted the CIA and FBI, as well as the Shinigamis,” I remarked. He smiled at me but his eyes reflected misery. “I had to survive.” For the past few years, Ariel Andrada’s image has always been a middle-aged muscular man. He was seen on cameras and recordings a couple of times and those became leads for the intelligence agencies to his current location. They didn’t know it was a carefully planned trick. He had created a façade, an illusion that he was, indeed, still the same person but was too elusive for them to catch even though he left traces. Little did they know, he had already became someone else. And tonight, we saw his real appearance. “Why . . .” Napatingin ako kay Kana. Her eyes were filled with tears yet she was also enraged. Her whole body was trembling and Ariel looked like he just realized something. “This face must have been familiar. You—” “Kana!” Everything went so fast that my instinct just took over me. Kana attacked him and I had no choice but to go against her. My dagger and her sickle clanged against each other as I protected Ariel. “Kana, please calm down,” I pleaded. “How can I?! That face . . . that was my mother’s! How could you use—!” “I see. You’re from that village,” he said as he faced the direction where Takeshi got thrown off. “I’m sorry for using her face. I had to survive. Don’t worry, the end is near. You won’t see this face after this.” Ariel started walking toward Takeshi’s direction but stopped midway. “I got a plan. Will you assist me?” he asked while looking at me. Glancing at Kana, I was quite worried about what could happen but she looked less agitated compared a while ago. She must have been holding back her emotions and trying to be rational as possible. Looking at the both of them, I felt sorry that they had to go through this. “We will,” I replied and he gave me a quick smile in return. “Thank you . . . for lending me your power.” *** I didn’t exactly know the whole plan but Kana and I had only one job: attack and tire Takeshi until we seal his movements. Hayate told me to give my earpiece to Ariel to incorporate their plan to his. With those three, I think we have a chance of capturing an Elite like him. With Kana’s offensive strength and speed, combined with my directions and close-combat attacks, we relentlessly charged at him. The Black Dimension proved to be a pain in the ass but I was getting used to its sensation that it was easier to know where and when he would appear. There were times when he tried to drag us inside it and I almost passed out when my arm went through it but Kana helped me survive. And I did the same thing to her. My whole body hurt and it felt like I couldn’t move anymore but every time he screamed in pain and got wounded, a surge of energy would course through my blood, as if giving me additional strength to continue. As if saying that our attacks were effective, that he was getting tired. “No!” he bellowed as my dagger grazed his cheek. “I’ve had enough of your silly plays!” It was that moment that I was reminded how strong Elites could be. He swung his sword toward my direction as he went out of balance. The blade didn’t even reach me yet I felt a sharp pain on my chest. I collapsed on my knees as a huge cut across my chest drained my remaining energy. “D-damn it . . .” My eyes were spinning and my body felt like burning. Kana was shouting something but I couldn’t hear it well. I tried sharpening my senses even more to see what was happening even though I was close to losing consciousness. Going toe-to-toe with an Elite would be suicide but Kana was doing exactly that. She went directly to him as their weapons clashed against each other. “You have the audacity to fight an Elite?” he mocked and I could feel the pressure from his words and presence even from my position. She wouldn’t stand a chance. “The likes of you will never win! Your head will—!” “Now!” she suddenly yelled. From a tree nearby, Hayate appeared and jumped off it, catching Takeshi off-guard for a second. However, he was not holding any weapon. He continued charging at Takeshi without anything to attack with and the Shinigami knew he could take both of them. “You have to do better than that, brat—!” All of a sudden, Hayate wounded his palm with a sharp rock and a helmet-shaped thing appeared on his hand. Realization hit me and I understood a part of their plan. On the other hand, that move must have confused Takeshi but he was already too late to realize what was happening. Hayate succeeded on putting the headgear on Takeshi’s head but Kana and him weren’t able to escape his last swing. I remembered that headgear. It was the device that almost drove me insane when I was a child. And just as expected, an Elite was as susceptible as us from its effects. He screamed so loud that it felt like my eardrums got shattered. He lost his control over his body and let go of his sword. However, a few seconds later, he was still trying to remove the headgear. His control over his mind was incredible and terrifying at the same time. We were running out of options and the only thing that we could do was attack him while in that state, but Kana, Hayate and I were injured. Just when I was about to tell them I could still fight, Ariel walked toward Takeshi. His expression wasn’t like before. He looked tranquil, as if he already knew the end of this fight. Takeshi was on his knees and somehow, he managed to hold his sword again. I was watching Ariel carefully and I almost yelled his name when he suddenly embraced Takeshi. “It’s okay. Everything will be okay,” he softly said while turning his head to our direction. “Is this your final decision?” Hiroshi asked as he walked toward them. Ariel smiled. “Yes. This is the only way.” ‘What’s happening?’ I asked. ‘Hiroshi!’ Kana was asking the same thing but he remained silent. “Bind us,” Ariel ordered. It took me a while to understand what he meant. Hiroshi’s holographic strings came into view and bound the two. Hayate slowly stood up and once again summoned something—a huge cubic container, large enough to contain both of them . . . and the impact of the explosion. A projection appeared right in front of us and it showed what was happening inside. “Why . . .” My voice faltered as I watched Ariel’s last seconds. “He already made a choice,” Hayate said. “Besides, Takeshi can’t use the Black Dimension with his mind in that state. He won’t be able to escape.” “But . . .” “That was his final wish.” I turned my head, unable to watch the next thing that would happen. “Don’t look away,” Kana suddenly said. I glanced at his direction and she was staring at them with her eyes welling up. “This way, we can honor his fate, his demise.” My heart sank upon hearing that, and even though it was hard, I watched as the explosives on his body blew up. The container wasn’t able to completely contain it and we were also caught by its impact. I was still disoriented when I got up. The smoke was covering the surroundings but I could see the figures in front of me. Kana stood up and walked toward Takeshi, who was with Hayate and Hiroshi. He took most of the damage and his body was burned and tattered. I thought he died but he suddenly tightened his grip on his sword. However, before he could do something, Kana stepped on his hand and targeted his pressure point, making him lose consciousness. “I won’t let you kill yourself,” she muttered. “You need to know the weight of your crimes. You need to pay for them.” “We need to secure him properly and we need to get out of here,” Hayate said. “Shinigamis might show up when they learn about this.” “I agree,” Hiroshi added. Kana’s eyes drifted to the left and I followed. My stomach churned, horrified with what I was seeing. “Ariel!” I shouted as both Kana and I went toward his direction. His left body and left face were burned badly. He has both internal and external bleeding but he was still breathing. Barely. He looked at Kana and weakly smiled at him. “I . . . got my . . . revenge . . .” he said in whispers. “I . . . will . . . finally be . . . with my . . . f-family. S-sorry for what . . . I did . . .” “I can’t forgive you for helping them kill our clan,” Kana said. “But I will honor your death. You have restored your honor.” He smiled again but this time, he already closed his eyes. “If only . . . I have known . . . your clan . . . before those . . . scums . . . if only . . .” “We’re Senshins,” I said. “Erityians aren’t only the Shinigamis. I’m sorry if you’ve been through hell because of them.” “I . . . see . . . t-thank you . . . for telling . . . me . . .” His gaze shifted to Kana again. “And . . . t-thank . . . you . . . for your . . . kindness. Your parents . . . and clan . . . would be so proud . . .” The mention of his parents and clan made the tears that she was trying to hold back, fell. “I know,” she sobbed. “I know.” “It’s . . . okay . . . now,” he mumbled, as if he was convincing himself. “It’s . . . okay . . . now . . . I can . . . rest now . . .” “Yes,” I told him. “You can rest now.” The smile on his face remained as his life withered away. After all the explosions and chaos, the night had gone cold and silent, as if it was mourning for his death, and the wind carried his soul away from hatred, greed and vengeance. Away from this world. His time had finally stopped. And the ticking of her clock had finally come to an end.
Hayate came back after a few hours. He sneaked into the campus to connect the Intelligence department database to our servers so we could find our targets easily.
“Lock the searches to sudden abnormal high-pressure areas near chakushoku schools,” I ordered.
From our last encounter with those Shinigamis, I’m sure they are either hunting down Ariel Andrada or finding Sir Hideo’s daughter.
We started preparing for our mission and thank goodness Kana has finally recovered from her injuries. She seemed calmer now and I guess sharing the burden she was feeling about her clan helped a lot.
I still couldn’t believe how a single humdrum managed to hide from Erityians. We were sure Ariel Andrada is a humdrum but he just seemed too skillful that I’m having doubts.
“But why is Ariel Andrada in your village?” I asked and her shoulders tensed.
“I don’t know his motives or why he had to involve himself in this mess, but one thing is for sure, he shares the same crime of murdering hundreds of innocent people and I will never forgive him for that.”
I see. Kaya pala gano’n ang reaksyon niya noong nakita sa cctv sa una naming case si Ariel. She had been tracking her the moment she got in the FBI but that guy was always one step ahead of everyone chasing him.
“May I remind you again,” biglang sabi ni Hiroshi habang ina-adjust ang salamin niya. “Don’t turn on any of your communication devices. The Technology department might track us and with our limited resources, I won’t be able to hide our location.”
While the search was ongoing, we readied our weapons and started dividing our tasks. Hiroshi would be our brain and backup while Hayate would act as our eyes, fully utilizing his sixth sense. Kana and I would be the frontliners, and somehow, I felt happy that we were finally becoming a real team.
We wore the contact lenses that directly projects the readings on Hayate’s program and headed out. Malalim na ang gabi at paniguradong mas mahihirapan kaming kumilos pero mas magandang ngayon na kami umatake kaysa hintayin pa namin ang umaga.
“So, you can finally fight without holding back,” I commented while we were running through the buildings.
She smiled. “I guess.”
She was holding back her real strength for a long time and I only saw that twice—when she was facing some Shinigamis. Having a dependable partner would definitely give us a boost.
Habang tumatakbo kami papunta sa mga lugar na maaaring magbukas ang Black Dimension ay hindi mawala sa isip ko si Ariel Andrada. He was there during the annihilation of the Hansen Clan. He was with the Shinigamis, and that means they were allies. Yet, a few days ago, he almost revealed the existence of our race that pissed off two Elites. He was also an international criminal due to his terrorist acts, mainly murders by explosives and illegal trades in the black market, yet even the Shinigamis, who are known to eliminate unnecessary people, couldn’t touch him. Why?
‘Your thoughts are leaking out, J,’ Kana suddenly said. ‘Oh. Sorry. I wasn’t—’ ‘But I, too, have the same questions as you.’ ‘I mean, he’s just one middle-aged man and he seems like the type who can’t win a physical confrontation. I wonder how he survived both the FBI and Shinigamis.’ ‘He must be really smart, then,’ Kana paused and turned serious. ‘Or he has been deceiving us with some kind of trick.’
“Be careful, you two,” biglang sabi ni Hayate sa earpiece namin. You’re entering a high-pressure area.”
As if on cue, I felt the stillness of air in the surroundings and eerie silence of the night. Even Kana halted and reached for her weapon.
‘Someone’s here, isn’t it?’ tanong niya.
I nodded. ‘Yeah. I can feel its presence. Be careful. The Black Dimension might open anytime.’
A sharp, prickling sensation crawled onto my skin and my blood felt boiling that I almost passed out. The only time I felt this exhausted while tracking the Black Dimension was when Elites and most probably Royals came out of it.
My body moved on its own and the next thing I knew, Kana’s sickle was already against someone’s sword. I almost cursed when I saw who it was. His menacing smile greeted us as he easily disarmed Kana.
"He's here," I mumbled, alerting Hayate and Hiroshi.
Kana immediately stepped back and went beside me as Takeshi, an Elite, stood in front of us. Truthfully, I didn't expect to see him here. We thought we'd be confronted by Reapers but it turned out the higher ranks of the Shinigami tribe were also starting to move.
"I've been looking for you, Hansen," he said and that made Kana's shoulders tense.
According to Kana, Takeshi was the commander of the attack in their village. Nakita rin namin siya sa memories ni Kana pero noong huli nilang encounter ay hindi siya nakilala ni Takeshi. They were focused on finding the heir and Ariel Andrada, the humdrum who suddenly almost revealed the existence of our race. Kana was also already unconscious when they appeared in front of us.
How did he know about her this time?
"Keep the line open," rinig ko kay Hayate sa earpiece ko. I silently concurred.
"Yutomu," Hiroshi said. "They probably investigated the death of Doreen Doras and saw the same clues."
Kana's rage immediately reflected on her eyes.
"I didn't know there was a survivor. I made sure everyone wasn't breathing anymore when I left that piteous village."
His words were enough to drive Kana into madness. She charged into him but he immediately disappeared in the Black Dimension and a second later, he materialized at her blind spot.
I was about to lunged at their direction but Kana's instinct saved her. His ambush failed and Kana grazed his face as she slashed her sickle into the air. Takeshi winced and Kana's eyes looked more intense under the moonlight.
"I'll make you pay for your crimes, murderer," she growled.
Takeshi brushed the cut he got from Kana and stared at her. "No, kid. You will pay for the crime of your clan. You will tell me about the heir. That's—!"
This time, I was the one who initiated the attack. His words made my blood boil. Kana had to go through a miserable and tragic life because of him. I won't forgive him for mocking the lives of her clan member . . . of our own people.
He chuckled ominously. "I guess I'll present two heads to Lady Rin tonight."
The atmosphere instantly changed when he turned serious. His presence became too overwhelming that it almost suffocated me. He gripped his sword backward and the next thing I knew, he was already right in front of us. Had I not put my twin swords in front of me, my head would probably be rolling on the ground right now.
He retreated to the Black Dimension and I heightened my senses to track his movements. With our backs against each other, Kana and I waited for his attack.
'Sorry for dragging you into this mess,' she suddenly said. 'Well, this mess is actually a graduation prerequisite so we do not have a choice.'
She snickered. 'Right. I don't—' 'He's coming.'
Before I could react to his presence, Kana was already pulling me away from our position.
'What are you—' 'Bomb!'
Pagkarinig ko no'n ay bigla na lang may sumabog malapit sa amin. The explosion caught Takeshi's cloak and it could have damaged his limbs if he hadn't moved back to the Black Dimension. Napatingin ako sa paligid dahil wala naman akong naramdamang Shinigami bukod sa kanya.
"I thought that would end the three of you."
Sinundan ko ang pinanggalingan ng boses at napanganga ako nang makita ko ang isang pamilyar na mukha. However, I didn't expect him to just reveal himself.
"You're Ariel Andrada, aren't you?" tanong ko habang hindi pa rin makapaniwala sa mga nangyayari.
"Keep talking to him," biglang sabi ni Hiroshi.
"We're on our way. Don't let Takeshi and Ariel get out of there," dagdag ni Hayate.
Ariel Andrada still looked like his wanted poster from years ago. As someone who's labeled as an elusive criminal, I couldn't believe he just casually walked into this skirmish.
"You . . ." Kana snarled as she glared at the humdrum. "You were there. You, too, killed everyone!"
It was hard to keep an eye to the three of them, especially Kana, since she was on the verge of getting overtaken by her emotions.
I couldn't quite understand what was going on. Takeshi wanted Kana to tell her about the heir because he learned that she was a Hansen member. Hindi ko rin alam kung may alam ba talaga si Kana at hindi niya lang sinasabi sa amin pero nasa kanya na 'yon kung ano ang magiging desisyon niya. After all, that was her clan's legacy.
Then, Ariel Andrada came into the picture. He was with Takeshi and the Shinigamis when they annihilated the Hansen's village. After that incident, he became an international criminal and got the attention of FBI and CIA. He was chased for how many years yet nobody was able to touch him.
All people involved in that occurrence were all here.
"What do you want?" I asked Ariel while being wary of Takeshi's sudden attacks.
He smiled and I don't know if my eyes were playing tricks on me but I could see sadness and exhaustion in his expression.
"Peace of mind," he said as another explosion set off.
Bigla namang lumabas si Takeshi sa Black Dimension. I thought he would charge at us but the arrival of Ariel made him change his target.
"We're nearby," sabi ni Hayate kaya nakahinga ako nang maluwag.
"Where are you?" I mumbled. "It's getting dangerous here."
"Assist him," Hiroshi said and that made my brows furrowed.
"What the hell are you saying?" Kana grumbled. "Assist who? The person who killed—"
"That humdrum was used by the Shinigamis as scapegoat. I'll explain everything later. We need to bring down that Elite right now."
Napatingin akong muli sa direksyon ni Ariel at nakaramdam ng pagkamangha. He didn't have any sixth sense, yet he was able to keep up with Takeshi's attacks by using his own explosives and set of weapons.
'Kana, calm down,' I said, trying to keep the situation under control. 'Trust those two. They know what they are saying.'
She scoffed. 'What choice do I have? Even though I hate their guts, I know that their plans would always succeed.'
Napangiti naman ako sa narinig ko. 'Yeah. I'm sure they have their reasons.'
I took a deep breath and readied my weapons. Kana did the same. I lurched at Takeshi's direction and confronted him with my swords. When he was about to attack, Kana appeared behind him and grazed his arm with her sickle. By the time he looked at us, the ground where he was standing blew up and the impact propelled him against a tree.
Even Ariel was dumbfounded when he realized we were trying to help him but nobody said a word. We couldn't lose our focus because our enemy is one of the strongest Shinigamis out there.
With the three of us in front and those two as our brain and eyes, I was feeling a little hopeful. Now, it's time for the lone hunter to be hunted.
A week had already past after Kana’s breakdown. Hayate told her to focus on healing while we gathered intel about the Hansen clan and the Shinigamis who attacked their village. On the other hand, Hiroshi was back on tinkering with the wires and devices in his little space at the corner of the living room. Napahiga na lang ako sa tabi sa sobrang pagod. We had been sneaking in and out of the library and campus for the past few days, looking for any information about the Hansen clan, since Kana fell into a deep slumber a week ago. “Hmm, this seems right,” Hiroshi muttered as he checked the helmet he was holding. “Ano ‘yan?” mahina kong tanong habang nakahiga pa rin malapit sa working space niya. “Remember the thing that I made when I was a kid?” I furrowed my bows when I realized what he was making. “The one that can convert brain waves to visual images? Wait, you’re still into that?” Naalala ko ang unang trial ng device na ‘yon a few years ago. Pinagsuot niya kami ni Hayate ng helmet na mas malaki kaysa hawak niya ngayon at sinabi niyang kaya nitong ilabas ang naiisip namin ay visual output. But there was something wrong with his device. The images flashed so quick that nothing made sense and we suffered grave repercurssions from it. Our hippocampus malfunctioned and we would have lost our explicit memories had the Medical departments staffs didn’t intervene. Hiroshi was banned from using or working on any device for three months. “It’s okay now.” “I’m not wearing that ever again,” matigas kong sabi matapos kong maalala ang pinagdaanan namin dahil sa device na ‘yon. “Put that down.” Napalingon naman ako at naglakad palapit sa amin si Hayate. Siguradong naalala niya rin ang mga nangyari dati. I don’t want to be Hiroshi’s guinea pig anymore. “It’s safer now,” he retorted. “I already removed the unnecessary parts.” “But still—” “Fine, I’ll wear it.” Hindi na namin siya napigilan at sinuot niya ang helmet na hawak niya. I flinched as I saw images being projected in front of him, worried that something wrong might happen. A few seconds later, he looked at us with a smirk on his face. “See?” Nakahinga naman ako nang maluwag nang makita kong walang masamang nangyari sa kanya pero na-disappoint din siya dahil around 30 seconds lang na-project ang thoughts niya. “It still needs a lot of modification and improvement,” Hayate commented. “Yeah.” Napatingin si Hiroshi kay Kana na tulog pa rin hanggang ngayon at doon ko lang na-realize kung bakit niya ipinakita sa amin ‘yon. “Wait, don’t tell me you’ll use it to her?” He nodded. “She’s the one who knows Hansen the most.” “Without her consent?” “She already gave it.” May inabot naman siyang papel sa amin at nalaman namin na nakapag-usap na pala sila about that bago pa naging ganito ang kondisyon ni Kana. Bigla tuloy akong napaisip kung paano sila nag-usap nang matino dahil may signed agreement pa sila. Hiroshi carefully put his invention on her head and we waited for her memories to be projected. According to him, there’s a high probability that she’s dreaming about what happened to their village, especially after that encounter with the Reaper and Elites. Few seconds after, her memories began to resurface. She was conversing with her Dad as they walked along the street when a sudden explosion brought everything into chaos. Houses and offices were in ruins. Bodies scattered on the ground. Screams of anguish and bewilderment. They weren’t prepared and were still trying to analyze what was happening when several parts of the Black Dimension opened. Shinigamis came and started fighting and killing the Hansen clan. My body trembled as we saw everything in Kana’s eyes. She was just a child when everything happened and I couldn’t imagine how horrified she must have been that time. Bigla namang naging magulo ang paningin ni Kana at kabi-kabilang sigawan at iyakan ang narinig namin. Her world was turned upside down and everything was just a blur of mayhem, until a voice got her attention. “Survive,” sabi ng lalaking nakatingin sa mga mata niya. His green eyes were already covered with blood but he was more worried with her. “D-Daddy . . .” Kana whimpered. “Survive, child. You have to. I’m sorry.” The guy must have hugged her because he went out of sight. Bigla namang langit na lang ang nakita namin at unti-unting natatabunan ng lupa ang kanyang paningin. That was when I realized her Dad was burying her in the ground to hide and save her from the Shinigamis. “Daddy . . .” she weakly called. Everything turned blurry and dark because of the soil but I could see how the guy smiled after she called him. “It’s okay. Don’t be scared. Everything will be okay. Just close your eyes. I’ll be here.” His gentle voice made her close her eyes and my heart sank when I heard his inner voice echoing inside her head. ‘I won’t be here anymore when you wake up. I’m sorry for leaving you alone. But please, be strong. Continue protecting your life, even if you’re by yourself. I love you.’ The visual came to an end, followed by a long silence. Hiroshi immediately removed the helmet from her head and he, too, seemed disturbed. “Why was he there?” biglang tanong ni Hayate kaya napatingin kami sa kanya. “Who?” “That humdrum.” “Humdrum?” “Yeah. Ariel Andrada was there.” Nagulat ako nang sabihin ‘yon ni Hayate. Hindi ko man lang ‘yon napansin habang pinapanood namin kanina ang isip ni Kana. “Are you sure?” “Yes. That was him.” “Then this makes things easier,” Hiroshi added. “Right,” Hayate agreed. “We still need an S-Class criminal and he’s one. If we captured him, Shinigamis might come for him and we could have an Erityian criminal. We could finish our fielding by then.” “I see.” Napaisip naman ako sa nangyari sa Hansen clan. Why would the Shinigamis attack their village? Did they have something that the Shinigamis wanted? “I’ve been thinking . . .” Hayate said while looking at Kana and the files we copied from the library. “If Ariel hates the Erityians, why was he there with the Shinigamis? Do you think he was forced to do something? Or was it his own decision?” “Hmm, we should check on that,” Hiroshi replied. “The Elites we encountered last time,” I chimed in. “They’ve been talking about the heir. I’m thinking if that’s connected with what happened to Hansen.” “They wanted to know where the Shinigami heir is, as well as the traitors who betrayed them several years ago.” Napatingin kaming tatlo nang marinig namin ang boses ni Kana. She was finally awake but she kept her gaze on the ceiling. “As the clan that holds all the restricted and highly confidential information about the Senshins, they decided to force us to tell everything we know.” She looked at us with a melancholic smile. “I don’t know how they found our village, but our leader—my father—protected those information at the cost of our clan’s life and survival.” Pinilit niyang bumangon kaya agad akong tumakbo papunta sa kanya. “Kana—” “I’ve rested enough,” she muttered. “It’s time to get my revenge.” “Do you have a plan.” She nodded. “I need to find that Elite. He’s the one who killed my father.” “Who?” “Takeshi.” Nagkatinginan naman kaming tatlo nang marinig namin ‘yon. She must not have seen him that night because she had already passed out. “Kana, the Elite of the Reaper you fought that night was Takeshi,” I said and her eyes vehemently reflected rage. “And we know how to find him.”
I spent the whole night in the library’s restricted section. Hayate and I sneaked inside the campus for various reasons, while we left Hiroshi in our lodging to monitor and take care of Kana. It was quite hard to enter the campus at night, especially this time because the tension between Senshins and Shinigamis were heightening, but we managed to sneak inside undetected. I immediately went to the library while Hayate went to the dorm. Information about the Hansen clan were scarce and it took me four hours to collect a few books mentioning them. Hansen was one of the five major clans in the Senshins tribe, along with Shou, Heren, Jikko and Quirino. However, more than a decade ago, their whole village was annihilated by the Shinigamis. According to a journal written by a Hansen member, they had sworn to be a hidden clan to do their duties with utmost efficiency. “It’s rare to see you reading.” I almost yelped when I head a voice coming from behind. Pagtingin ko, si Hayate pala. He smirked at me and I knew he just read my mind. “We’re not allowed here in the campus and especially in the library’s restricted section,” I whispered. “Kaya huwag kang maingay r’yan. Mamaya mahuli tayo.” Nasa pagitan kami ng mga shelf ngayon kung saan nakalagay ang history books tungkol sa Erityians. I didn’t want us to get caught since we just broke several rules at the same time and punishments would surely be severe. “What did you find?” tanong niya at binigay ko sa kanya ang hawak kong journal. “They were wiped out more than a decade ago but the motive and method were not stated.” “Wiped out, huh?” he muttered. “They didn’t know there was a survivor.” Naalala ko bigla si Kana at ang nangyari kanina. She had been keeping her tragic past all by herself and I realized that revenge was the only reason why she wanted to live. “I’m glad we survived, too,” he added. My body trembled upon remembering what happened a while ago. I couldn’t believe we just had an encounter with two Elites and a Reaper. Marami na akong na-encounter na Shinigamis simula nang naging tracker ako pero hindi ko in-expect na makakaharap ko ang Elites nang ganito kaaga. Dad said the only time Elites move as a group is when something big is about to happen. At malakas ang pakiramdam ko na may kinalaman ang hinahanap nilang ‘heir’ dito. “But I’m also worried about that humdrum.” Napatingin ako sa kanya. “Ah. That Ariel Andrada?” He nodded. “We would be dead by now if it wasn’t for him.” “Right. Those Elites immediately shifted their attention to him after that stunt.” “I wonder how he knew about the Erityians.” Ilang sandaling katahimikan ang bumalot sa pagitan namin nang sabihin niya ‘yon. Humdrums capable of acquiring these kinds of information would be dangerous and they could potentially expose our existence to the world. It could ruin the balance we were trying to maintain for centuries. Napatigil naman kami nang makarinig kami ng kaluskos galing sa main area ng library. We carefully reached for our weapons and prepared for the worst-case scenario. “Meow.” I almost cursed out loud when something jumped from the top of the shelves and landed in front of us. Buti na lang at natakpan agad ni Hayate ang bibig ko kung hindi ay baka nahuli na kami ngayon. “It’s just a cat,” he whispered as the white cat stared at us. Wait . . . this one looked familiar. Tinapik ko ang kamay ni Hayate niya para makapagsalita at agad niya rin naman ‘yong inalis. “Isn’t she Demi?” bulong ko pabalik. “Ah. You’re right.” We knew their cat was still alive and roaming around the campus but we hadn’t had the chance to see her again after the funeral. Sabi ni Ma’am Michiko, tanging sa kanilang dalawa na lang ni Sir Hideo nagpapakita si Demi. “Maybe she just sensed our presence,” sabi ni Hayate. “Siguro nga.” Pagkasabi ko no’n ay agad ding umalis si Demi at nakahinga kami nang maluwag. We copied all the data we needed and returned the books properly. Agad din kaming umalis habang wala pang nakaka-detect sa amin pero bago pa man kami makalabas ng campus ay may nakita kaming mga taga-Technology department kaya kinailangan naming magtago sa mga puno. “Their silence is creeping me out,” the older guy said. “The Shinigami tribe is making their move,” the other one replied. “We should be getting ready yet those Elders want to involve the child.” “No wonder the President is pissed. Half of them want her dead so the Shinigamis can’t use her while the other half want her to be of help as a Senshin.” “But they don’t want to acknowledge her as a pureblood. What a cruel fate that child has to go through.” “Sooner or later, they will have to decide because both tribes need an heir to their thrones.” Hearing their conversation sent shivers down my spine. I was right. The heir they were talking about was Sir Hideo’s and Ate Akemi’s daughter. Her existence was kept as a secret and only the older Senshins, as well as members of the Atama family knew about it. I don’t have any idea where she is or how her life is but that would surely turn into a mess once both tribes make their moves. “This is getting dangerous,” Hayate muttered. “Let’s go.” Nang makalayo na ang dalawang lalaki ay mabilis kaming umalis sa campus at bumalik sa lodging. Pagdating namin doon ay saktong nagkamalay na si Kana pero napahinto ako nang makita ko si Hiroshi. “What the hell are you doing?!” He was sitting on Kana’s bed, his face right in front of hers, as he held the hilt of a dagger that was thrust through her pillow. “Asking for information,” he said with an innocent look on his face. “That idiot,” Hayate mumbled. Agad ko siyang hinila palayo kay Kana at sinamaan siya ng tingin. This guy has the highest IQ among our generation yet he sometimes acts as a complete moron. “Pasalamat ka hindi pa ako makagalaw,” Kana said as she threw dirty looks at him. “Oh, thank you,” he mocked. Napabuntong-hininga na lang ako dahil kahit ganito na ang sitwasyon ay nagagawa pa rin nilang inisin ang isa’t isa. Ako ang napapagod para sa kanila. “Are you feeling okay now?” tanong ko sa kanya pero hindi agad siya nakasagot. She just stared at the ceiling and I realized how dumb my question was. Of course, she wouldn’t be. “For someone who wants to avenge her clan, you’re quite reckless,” Hayate suddenly said and that got our attention. Kana glared at her and I was surprised by his choice of words. Why would he say something like that after learning about her past?! “You don’t know—!" “We know,” he said, cutting her off. “We know how hard it is for you to live your life.” Kana’s eyes began to tear up after what he said. “You should have told us,” I chimed in. “You should have told the administration about this matter. They would help you.” She scoffed. “Help me? There’s no way they would help someone who has already lost everything.” “But still—” “Do you think someone from a perished clan is more worthy of their attention than their missing heir?” Nagkatinginan kami ni Hayate nang sabihin iyon ni Kana. May alam siya tungkol doon? “What do you mean?” “I tried asking for help. I went to the Council of Elders to ask for their judgment but before I could go to their office, I overheard some of them. They said the heir is their priority above everything else.” “Kana . . .” “You know, I went in that school because I thought they could help. And I thought I could still belong somewhere. I was wrong.” “How about us?” tanong ko. “Do you think you don’t belong here with us?” Kana remained silent. Even though I knew she was hiding something from us before, I had grown to like her. She was like a sister to me; a dear friend. “If they can’t help you, then depend on us. We’re friends after all.” Tears silently fell from her eyes and I had to breathe deeply to keep myself from crying, too. Tinapik ko ang balikat niya at ngumiti. “You’re not just from Hansen clan anymore. You’re also a part of Atama family. If you need something, just ask us. You don’t have to do all of these by yourself. You’re not alone anymore, Kana. So please, allow us to help you.” She stifled a sob and I could see the vulnerability she had protected all her life this time. ‘If . . . if I’m allowed to voice out my wish . . . then please . . . please help me see the end of this. I . . . I want to avenge my clan,’ she whimpered in her inner voice. ‘I want to be free from this excruciating revenge already. Please . . . help me.’