“Do you see him?” tanong ko kay Hayate. “No,” sagot naman niya. “Too many people and things blocking my sight.” Good thing was, there were a lot of trees surrounding this school so staking out wasn’t a problem. The faculty room was about fifty meters away from us but we couldn’t just trespass. Napatingin naman kaming tatlo kay Hiroshi dahil bigla siyang tumalon pababa at buti na lang ay walang nakatingin na mga estudyante sa direksyon namin. ‘What the heck are you doing? Are you out of your mind?’ Kana asked and I was about to say the same thing. ‘Not really,’ he retorted. ‘But hey, no need to worry. This school is actually a chakushoku.’ Chakushoku? So this school is inhabited with Erityians. Someone from our tribe must be monitoring them. Hiroshi showed his KT’s screen and a guy’s face was displayed there. Somehow, he reminded me of someone but I couldn’t pinpoint who. ‘Who’s that?’ tanong ni Hayate. ‘Manuel Salas,’ he said. ‘Principal of St. Joseph Academy and cousin of Akira.’ The mention of her name stirred some unpleasant memories. It was just several years ago when she was killed by those Elites and I still couldn’t forgive myself for not being there. If I was only a minute early, maybe I would be able to save her. Maybe her daughter wouldn’t have to experience that kind of trauma. I tried pushing those thoughts aside as the three of us went down and followed Hiroshi. Pumunta kami sa main gate para magtanong pero may kakaiba akong naramdaman sa lugar na ‘yon. I instinctively reached for my dagger but I realized I only brought a taser and a handcuff. But what surprised me was the guard did the same thing—his hands hovered over his holster, as if he felt some kind of danger. “Excuse me.” Kana approached the guard. He tried to focus on us but I could still see the worry in his expression. “We want to ask if Mr. Sa—” “A Shinigami, right?” tanong ko at napatingin silang lahat sa akin. The three looked at me as if I just did something stupid, which was a bit true, but this guy seemed to know what was going on. Naging seryoso naman lalo ang mukha niya at tiningnan niya kaming apat nang pabalik-balik. He eyed me curiously and I tried to talk to him using my inner voice but it seemed like he couldn’t use it. “Main or branch?” he suddenly asked and and my lips curved because I was right about him. He was also a Shinigami tracker. “Branch, Castro family,” I responded. Tumango naman siya at nginitian ko ang tatlo dahil tama ang hinala ko. They were about to kill me a few seconds ago so I was really relieved when my suspicion was right. Sinabi namin ang concern namin sa kanya at tinuro naman niya kung nasaan ang Principal’s Office para makausap si Mr. Manuel Salas. Naglakad kami sa corridor sa first floor at ang daming estudyanteng nakakalat. Mukhang break time nila kaya naman may ilan kaming nakakasalubong. I could still feel the faint presence of the Black Dimension but I couldn’t determine the direction where it was opened. Kakatok pa lang sana kami pero sakto namang lumabas ang isang middle-aged na lalaki mula sa office. He went out of the room to meet us and the first thing I noticed was how his hair gleamed red like a Custos' eye. A Rua, I thought. Ate Akira and Akane were also from that Senshin clan which was usually depicted as red-haired combatants. Ngumiti siya sa amin na para bang alam na niya kaagad kung ano ang pakay namin dito at pinapasok niya kami sa loob ng office. Umupo kami sa couch sa gitna at sinabi ni Hayate ang sitwasyon namin ngayon. "Ah. So you want to arrest an S-class criminal before he could kill his next victim," sabi niya at tumango kami. "Can you help us?" tanong naman ni Hiroshi. "Of course. Mr. Borja has a class now, I think." In-explain naman niya na pwede niya kaming samahang umakyat para i-introduce as teaching assistants at mabantayan ang kilos ni Luke Borja. Hayate and I volunteered while Hiroshi and Kana stayed around the perimeter of the school to see any movement from the outside. Mr. Salas stopped in front of the room and the teacher came out to greet him. Luke Borja, who was teaching General Science to first year high school students, smiled at us and told us to observe at the back. Upon entering, I immediately felt someone's presence and I scanned the room to see who was giving off that kind of aura. 'Who are you?' I asked using my inner voice and I saw a student who turned her head to our direction with an uneasy expression. 'Found you.' Doon ko naman na-realize kung sino siya. It was the daughter of the main family of Querino Clan. I couldn't remember her name but I knew her face because I saw her once, during the meeting of the main and several branch families, when she was still a toddler. 'W-who are you?' tanong naman niya habang nakatingin kay Luke na nagtuturo sa harapan. 'Reina. A tracker like you. The guy beside me is Hayate. We're from Atama family.' Mula rito sa posisyon ko ay halatang gusto niyang lumingon ulit sa amin pero hindi niya magawa. Young trackers like her were usually sent to humdrum school to sharpen their senses and hone their skills but I didn't expect to see her in this place. 'Did you feel something a while ago?' tanong ko ulit sa kanya. 'Yes,' mahina niyang sagot. 'Lagi kong nararamdaman pero hindi ko masundan. It's like a mixture of presence of several Shinigamis.' I stared at her back, impressed. For an eleven- or twelve-year old tracker, she had already mastered the basics and could even detect trace presence of the Black Dimension. As expected from the daughter of the Querino clan. Natapos naman ang klase ni Luke at agad namin siyang sinundan pababa. Hinatak namin siya sa isang bakanteng room at tiningnan naman niya kami dahil sa ginawa namin. "Bakit?" agad niyang tanong. "Anong meron?" "Let's get straight to the point," sagot ko naman. "You are going to get killed if you leave this school alone." Hindi siya nakapagsalita matapos no'n. He looked at us as if we just said something ridiculous but his eyes couldn't lie; he was afraid because he knew it was true. "Is this related to the news this morning?" seryoso niyang tanong at tumango naman si Hayate. Hayate explained everything to him and he looked rattled from what he had heard. He told us what happened three years ago from his point of view and that gave way to fully understand this case. "The truth is, I was scared to die that time," he started. "Kami na ang inaasikaso ng doktor at nurse pero noong nakita nila ang lalaking may dalang mga bata ay nalipat ang atensyon nila sa kanila. I thought they would just leave me there so I threatened them to get suspended if they didn't prioritize me. Gano'n din ang ginawa ng estudyanteng kasabay ko. May connection ang pamilya ko sa ospital na 'yon kaya malakas ang loob ko na gawin 'yon. I was immature and thoughtless that time and I didn't know that it would lead to this kind of consequence." "Do you know that man? Do you remember his face?" tanong ni Hayate pero umiling lang si Luke. "But I remember feeling something odd when I looked at his daughters," sagot niya. "Their skin were quite bluish." Pagkasabi niya no'n ay parang agad naintindihan ni Hayate ang nangyari. That quick grin proved that he already solved most parts of this case. As expected from this meganerd. Sinabi namin kay Luke ang plano namin at kahit natatakot siya ay tumango na lang siya. He had no choice. An S-class criminal was after his head and one careless move would cost him his life. We informed Kana and Hiroshi about our plan and they both went to their respective positions. I could see the chief's daughter peeking from the corridor above and I seriously wanted to talk to her about those Shinigami's presence but this case should be my priority. Dahil uwian na ay naglakad palabas ng school si Luke at nakasunod naman si Hayate sa kanya habang ako ay nauuna sa kanilang dalawa. Hiroshi stayed inside the campus after placing several demodulators which would emit signals to our KTs when a humdrum's brain waves exhibit an irrational movement similar to a killing intent. He has been working on reducing them to gadgets that could be carried by Senshins but he couldn't put his theory into reality yet. Kana, on the other hand, hid herself on the huge branches of trees to observe any movements from above. The serial murderer must be around the area by now, waiting for the right time to attack. Being an S-class murderer, he must have given the police a hard time, seeing that he hadn't been sighted for the last three years. He might be a humdrum but his heinous acts were worthy of Shima imprisonment. Habang palayo kami nang palayo sa school ay kumokonti rin ang mga estudyante sa paligid. Luke was obviously anxious but he continued walking and both Hayate and I widened our distance from him. I was surveying the surroundings when I felt my KT's vibration and when I looked behind, a guy in student's uniform walked straight toward Luke. 'Hayate!' I yelled and he responded immediately. I saw him holding a syringe and Luke froze right there, aware that this guy was the one after his life. The guy drove his sharp weapon to Luke's body but Hayate shoved him away and I screamed when I saw that thing penetrating his skin. That serial murderer was caught off-guard but he recovered quickly and ran away as if his life depended on it. 'Kana! Don't let him get away!' sigaw ko habang tumatakbo papunta kina Luke at Hayate. 'I'm on it!' Pagdating ko ro'n ay wala nang malay si Luke dahil sa takot habang si Hayate naman ay nanatiling nakahiga. "What happened? Why aren't you moving?" I asked, worried and distraught about his condition. "N-neuromuscular blocker," he said with difficulty. "P-paralyzing agent." Tinulungan ko siyang tumayo at gaya ng sinabi niya ay hindi niya maigalaw ang katawan niya. Hinatak ko rin si Luke papunta sa tabi niya at tinawagan si Hiroshi para tulungan ako. However, something wasn't right. Why didn't he kill him right away? Why did he need to paralyze him? "Assist Kana," mahinang sabi ni Hayate. "He's a dangerous one. He aimed at my limbs, giving me no chance of resisting." "Okay. Wait for Hiroshi. He's coming." Pagkatapos no'n ay agad akong tumakbo sa direskyon kung saan siya tumakas. Around fifty meters from me was Kana, jumping from roof to roof, trying not to lose our target. I followed her on the ground, traversing empty alleys and narrow streets, until I was only a few meters away from them. The guy, who was posing as a student, stopped running and the moment he turned around, Kana and I were already in front of him. However, instead of showing any fear or panic, he grinned menacingly, as if he just won the fight. "Mga pulis ba kayo?" tanong niya. "Mukha lang kayong mga estudyante." Kinilabutan naman ako sa tono niya. Idagdag pa ang hawak niyang scalpel at gunting na para bang may ooperahan siya. He pulled out a tranquilizer gun from his back and pointed it at us. That was when I realized he lured us into this enclosed area where he could maximize his weapons. ‘This man is a nut job,’ Kana remarked while digging her nail on her skin. ‘Agreed. How should we take him down?’ ‘On both sides? But he has an upper hand.’ ‘Hayate said we should be careful. This guy has medical knowledge and can use it to his advantage just like what happened to Hayate.’ ‘How is he?’ ‘Paralyzed.’ The murderer gave us a cunning smile as he pulled the trigger. We dodged the pointed needles that came out of the muzzle and simultaneously summoning our weapons. Kana swung his sickle but he easily avoided it as he threw syringes at her direction. I gripped my twin swords, patiently waiting for an opening, when he suddenly laughed. “Wow. This feels like we’re in a medieval setting with your weapons,” he commented. “Pero sino ba kayo at niligtas n’yo ang halimaw na ‘yon?” Bigla namang nawala ang ngiti sa mga labi niya at napaatras ako dahil doon. Even without the demodulators, I could feel his killing intent radiating from him. “Halimaw? You are the monster here,” sabi ko naman. “You killed several people because they they didn’t let you in.” His shoulder and face tensed after I said that and for a second, I could see the frustration and pain in his expression. “Hinayaan nilang mamatay ang mga anak ko,” he snarled with hatred in his eyes. “If they only prioritized them instead of those privileged and self-entitled brats, this wouldn’t have happened at all!” He lunged at us, scalpel and syringes on his hands, and had it not for the range of our weapons, he could’ve easily administered drugs or poisons into our systems. His physical skills weren't that outstanding but what made him dangerous was his medical wisdom and how he could use it against humanity. "Dahil nakita n'yo ang mukha ko, hindi ko hahayaang makalabas kayo rito ng buhay," he said while watching our every move. "It's been a while since I last dissected a woman." 'Should we kill him? He's a psycho,' Kana suggested but I disagreed. 'No. We should capture him alive and let him suffer the consequences of his actions. Besides, they won't credit that as an arrest and we'd need to catch another one.' 'Damn, this is getting harder. If we only have some sedatives to—' Bigla naman kaming nagkatinginan dahil pareho kami ng naisip at alam naming 'yon ang isang paraan para mahuli siya. I volunteered as a bait since I was faster and more agile than Kana. With the twin swords on my hand, I launched myself to his direction and attacked. He used his scalpel to stop my sword and he must have a strong wrist and arm to thwart my sword with that. I almost tumbled over when he suddenly thrust a huge syringe but Kana managed to take it away from him and I retreated a second after. "Whoa, this is a huge-ass needle," Kana commented while looking at the syringe she was holding. "I might pass out when someone injected this to me." "You . . .!" "What's inside this container?" tanong niya at lalo lang kumunot ang noo ng lalaki. "Maybe some kind of paralyzing agent," sagot ko naman nang maalala ko ang nangyari kay Hayate. "I see." Bigla namang sumugod si Kana papunta sa kanya habang hawak 'yon at umatras siya nang umatras hanggang sa tumama na ang likod niya sa pader. He was cornered but something felt wrong . . . his face . . . "Kana! Don't! He still has one syringe left!" I yelled but Kana could control her momentum anymore. I ran toward their direction but I wouldn't get there in time so I just threw one of my swords at his direction, hoping that it would stop his movement. It did but it was already too late. "Kana!" Hinatak ko si Kana palayo habang pareho silang sumisigaw sa sakit. Kana immediately removed the syringe poking her arm and I was hoping it was just a paralyzing agent but the symptoms weren't the same. She was shivering and she couldn't talk anymore. "Oh God, Kana, come on, don't die on me!" sigaw ko at agad kong pinindot ang emergency button sa KT para humingi ng tulong kina Hiroshi. Sumisigaw pa rin ang lalaki dahil sa ginawa ko. My sword ended up cutting his right hand and he collapsed, clutching it as his blood continuously gushed down the asphalt. My mind was buzzing with too much thoughts but I couldn't decide what to do. Kana was in danger but this guy might escape if I left him. I was on the verge of crumbling down when I heard footsteps behind me and a hologram had already surrounded that murderer. "Hiroshi—!" Nagulat naman ako nang nakita ko kung sino ang kasama niya. "You can move already, Hayate?" Nginitian naman nila ako at masaya akong makita sila pero agad 'yong nawala nang bumalik ang isip ko sa sitwasyon ni Kana. "H-help me! Kana is . . ." Agad silang lumapit sa kanya at chineck ang kalagayan niya. Their expressions darkened and my heart sank upon seeing that. Binuhat siya ni Hiroshi at dinala sa mas ligtas na lugar habang naiwan naman kami ni Hayate sa harapan ng lalaking 'yon. "Mr. Antonio Salazar," Hayate called and he glared at him. Hiroshi's hologram was looped on his severed arm and the bleeding already stopped. "You have committed four murders and one attempted murder." "Manahimik ka! Wala kang alam! Hindi mo alam kung ano ang pinagdaanan—!" "Alam ko," Hayate said, cutting him off. "Luke gave me a critical clue." Inalala ko naman ang mga sinabi ni Luke sa amin kanina pero wala akong maalalang makapagbibigay ng clue tungkol sa murderer. Ni hindi ko nga alam kung paano niya nalaman ang pangalan niya. "Your motive is the death of your daughters but it wasn't really those people's fault," he started. "What you have shown is anger displacement, making them fully responsible for that. However, the truth is, they were already on the verge of death given the symptoms." "No! Kung inuna nila ako, kung inuna nila sila, hindi mangyayari—!" "You already knew it, right?" Hindi siya nakasagot at nakita kong nanunubig na ang mga mata niya. He was raging like a wild beast a while ago but he looked like a fearful sheep after what Hayate said. "You were a medical student but you had to give it up due to expensive tuition fees and your wife was pregnant. You dropped out of medical school and focused on working to provide for your family and because you weren't at home most of the time, you didn't know your children got cholera." Nakatingin lang ako kay Hayate habang nagpapaliwanag at kahit ilang beses na niyang ginagawa 'to ay namamangha pa rin ako kung paano niya nakukuha ang information tulad nito. "You tried treating them on your own but you didn't have the equipment and medicines. Kung dinala mo sila sa ospital sa simula pa lang, malamang ay naagapan pa ng mga doktor ang kalagayan nila. It was your last resort and that cost them their lives. You used the symptoms of cholera to kill those you think robbed the lives of your children. Dehydration, wrinkled, bluish skin and exposed their stomach and intestines where the cholera bacteria thrive. You used them to remind your victims what they have done and you mutilated their bodies to challenge the police. Do you think your daughters would be proud of what you did?" Tears streamed down Antonio Salazar's face after Hayate's last statement. He must be a good father but his love for his daughters consumed him and turned him into a vengeful criminal. We heard the police sirens nearby and it seemed like he already informed inspector Warren about what happened. Maya-maya lang ay isa-isa nang nagsidatingan ang mga pulis kung nasaan kami at nawala ang hologram na inilagay ni Hiroshi kanina. Kinausap ni Hayate si inspector Warren habang napasandal na lang ako sa pader matapos ang lahat ng nangyari ngayong araw. "5:17:29 P.M. Case closed," I whispered as I looked at the sun setting in the blood-red sky.