The training got rougher. But I was taking it seriously. I meant it when I said that I wanted to become stronger. Yu believed me and helped me as much as he could. I already owed him so much. He seemed to be an asshole on the outside, but he was actually a pretty good guy on the inside. I wish I could have seen him fight that bulky man. He was the one who saved us all. It was not only me who got serious. The others were doing their parts as well. Sayuri realised why she wasn’t able to heal Ohta. According to Toshiko, the state of mind was an important role on how well our Paroxys would function in a battle. If it was weakened or in a confused state, then it would be harder for us to control our Paroxys. Emotions should not fluctuate too much. They should stay balanced and if possible, constant. The mind needed to remain calm in any given situation.
We got a day off. I was strolling through the nearby streets of our academy to get some fresh air. It was a nice, sunny day. The weather had gotten pretty warm lately. I wasn’t wearing my uniform but instead a simple, grey t-shirt and some jeans. Quite a few students were out and about, doing their shopping or going out for lunch. I was walking through a park when I saw a familiar head popping out of a bush. I stopped in my tracks and blinked several times. More heads started to pop out one after the other. There were four in total. And I knew all of them. I was considering if I should acknowledge them or not but before I could run away, they saw me. Their hand gestures told me to walk over to them. Sayuri and Nina grabbed me by my arms and pulled me into the bush with them.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“We’re following someone.”
Sayrui whispered in my ear. She seemed strangely serious. Nina slapped Haruto across the face who had fallen asleep. Ohta’s head was peeking through the leaves. Did he not realise that he was too tall to actually hide in a bush? I sighed out loud and knew I would regret what I was about to ask.
“Who are you stalking?”
This time, it was Nina who whispered into my ear.
“So, you’re admitting that you’re stalking him?”
“Well, he is behaving really suspicious.”
“What do you mean by suspicious?”
“He’s buying dubious items.”
Why was Nina taking a break after every sentence she was saying? To make it more suspenseful? Ohta was eating a pack of gummy bears. And Haruto had dozed off again.
“He went into a toy shop and bought a doll.”
“Okay, I agree that is a bit weird.”
“And then. Guess what? He just went into a bookstore and bought children’s books.”
Nina was too close for comfort. Her face was only centimetres away from my face. I gently pushed her away and nodded my head.
“We think that he might be your everyday creep and just likes dolls and to read children’s books, or he might have actually kidnapped children.”
That quickly took a turn to the worst. The two options were on the other ends of a spectrum. I was surprised to see Ohta saying that.
“Sayuri and Nina came to that conclusion, of course.”
I let out a laugh after Ohta clarified that he had nothing to do with this situation. They forced me to stick with them and stalk Himura Jun. His last stop was at a bakery to buy some muffins. He then walked back to the campus. We followed all the way, trying our best to stay out of his view. Our campus was quite big, and I had never fully seen it to its extent. We ended up in front of a cute, wooden greenhouse. It was full of flowers and plants. We were watching from a window. Himura placed his shopping on to a wooden garden table and went to the far end of the greenhouse. A wall of bamboo was blocking our view. My eyes widened. He came back and was holding something in his arms. Or rather I should say someone. It was a little girl. Probably around Yuuma’s age. She was wearing a light blue dress with frills on the end.
“I knew it.”
Nina looked triumphant.
“Ayumi, go and rescue that girl.”
I looked at her baffled and shook my head.
“Didn’t you say that you met him twice before?”
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean anything.”
My rebuttal was ignored. The door to the greenhouse was flung open and several hands pushed me inside. I swallowed hard. Himura’s red eyes were directly looking at me. He didn’t say anything and put down the girl. She seemed scared and hid behind Himura. I couldn’t stop looking at her eyes. They were beautiful. One eye was light blue and the other one was light brown. Her tiny hands were firmly holding on to Himura’s leg.
My voice was quiet, and I crouched down. I tilted my head a little to see her better. She was trying really hard to hide from me. Clearly, she was more scared of me then of Himura. I was the stranger here.
“Sorry about the sudden entrance.”
I looked up at him.
“It’s fine as long as it’s you.”
“As long as it’s me?”
I was surprised by what he said and stood up.
“Yeah, you remind me of Rin.”
He looked down to the girl and caressed her head. Why was this scene reminding me of my mom? Wait, a second. The girl’s hair colour was the same as Himura’s. The only difference was that she had some rose highlights. They even looked alike. Could it be?
“She likes to hold on to my leg quite often.”
My thought was interrupted by him. I froze up. My face was getting hot. I remembered. I had met him twice and both times, I ended up holding on to his leg. It was really embarrassing that he actually remembered too. He gestured with his hand to sit down at the garden table.
“Rin, can you make us some tea?”
The little girl nodded her head and walked over to what seemed like the kitchen area. It was covered with plants as well. I quietly sat down on a chair. Himura sat down opposite of me.
“Oh, I should call in the others as well.”
“Don’t worry. Your so-called friends have already run away.”
My mouth dropped open and to check myself, I ran to the window and looked outside. No one was there. I clenched my fist. They would pay for this. I sighed out loud and sat down again. I looked over to the girl and saw how she meticulously was preparing the tea.
“I should help her.”
“No need. She can do it on her own.”
I was seeing a side of Himura I would have never thought existed. He was smiling as his eyes were following the girl.
“You look like a proud father.”
It was meant as a joke.
“Because I am.”
His eyes were sparkling. He looked so soft. I was in shock.
“So, Rin-chan is your daughter.”
He nodded his head. I couldn’t believe it. He looked young. Was he a teenage father?
“How old are you? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Oh, I see. How old is Rin-chan then?”
I was right. He had Rin when he was seventeen years old. What was I getting embarrassed about? Was he really a murderer? Where was his wife?
“I heard about your first mission.”
I was caught off guard by his question and slammed my knee against the table.
“Ah, yeah. It didn’t go so well. I understand now about what you told me before.”
I lowered my head.
“Did you try your best?”
“Then there should be no regrets.”
Rin came back with a cup of tea and placed it in front of me. I thanked her and noticed that her curly hair was coming loose.
“Rin-chan can you turn around for me for a second?”
She hesitated but after getting a nod by Himura, she listened. I opened up her cute strawberry pin and gathered some hair strands to clip them together again. Her ear got exposed and I saw a white hearing aid. She turned around to face me and bowed slightly.
How could I have noticed? Her speech was a little shaky.
I gave her a big smile. She was a cute and shy girl. Himura opened up the bag from the bakery and handed me a muffin. Rin gave us plates and a cup of tea to Himura as well. She sat down next to him and started playing with her new doll.
“I want to try and save at least one life.”
“Trying is not good enough. You either save a life or you don’t. It’s simple.”
He never sugar-coats things. Whatever comes out of his mouth were facts and the truth. He was too damn straightforward, but I didn’t hate that. It grounded me.
“You told me that for every person I killed, I should save ten. But I have to get stronger to actually do it. I realised that.”
“I borrowed those words from the principal.”
“The principal? He said that to you?”
“It was slightly different to what I said to you.”
I took a sip from my tea. It was tasty.
“How was it different?”
“For every person I have killed, I have to save a hundred.”
I placed my muffin back on to my plate.
“How many do you have to save?”
I didn’t want to ask the other question.
“In total, I have to save sixteen-thousand-eight-hundred.”
My heart was beating faster. I was sweating. Was I scared of him?
“He hasn’t hurt anyone in the last five years. And he has saved a lot of people.”
I flinched. It was Rin’s voice. She looked angry.
“Why are you apologising? It’s normal to be scared of a murderer.”
His smile felt earnest but lonely.
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