“The professor is here.”
I shifted my head up from the table, only to see Chiaki is now sitting on my right. Her friend, Yui, a girl with long braided hair is sitting on her right. Right… this is the third lecture. Hideki always skips this lecture. He said it’s too boring.
“Good morning,” I said to Chiaki.
She frowned at me. “Sit properly.”
I stretched my arms back, as I sat myself straight.
The professor had already started his lecture, using a laser pointer at his presentation slides. I looked at Chiaki: she’s jotting down notes in her notebook. Only a few do so since we can just download the slides that our professor had prepared for us. So, it’s just spending double efforts on the same thing.
But Chiaki doesn’t think so. She said it’s always better for memorization this way. Her way. And apparently, she’d influenced her friend as well. Yui is also writing notes, following Chiaki’s pace.
At times like these, I would just put my left arm on the table, rest my face on my left hand as I stare at Chiaki.
“Why are you looking at me?” Chiaki asked.
“Because you’re more attractive,” I said. “And I couldn’t help but to be attracted to beautiful things.”
She stopped her pen, as she turned away from me.
“Is something wrong, Chiaki?” Yui said, as she extended her palm on Chiaki’s forehead. “Your face is so red.”
The next second, Chiaki grabbed her notebook and slapped me.
“Nothing’s wrong,” she said, regaining her composure. “An idiot just happened to speak to me.”
Yui chuckled, as she looked at me.
Yui. Chiaki’s first university friend. Inside our town, only Chiaki and I managed to pass the entrance exam to this university. So, we arrived here one year ago not knowing anyone but ourselves. Plus, Chiaki always had this scary face on her, which made her seem not approachable, at all. So, even in group assignments, most of the time, she had to carry and lead the team, acting as a leader instead of friends that you could joke around with.
If I remember correctly, Chiaki met Yui because of a pen as well. Chiaki was late that day, and forgot to bring any pen with her. But since she had always sat alone, there was no one else around her that she could borrow a pen from. The semester’s final exam was approaching that time, so none paid any attention to her either. They were all immersed in copying down the tips and focus areas given by their professor.
Yui was also late. In a hurry, she sat next to Chiaki and took out her pen. However, Yui realized she didn’t have any notepad to write on. She panicked for a little, and almost decided to write on her palm. Chiaki stopped her.
She gave Yui a page of her notebook, and told Yui what she’s missed out on. Yui then borrowed her pen to copy the notes. Yeah, I think that’s all Chiaki told me about Yui.
“Do you need a pen, Shin?” Yui asked, as only now I noticed I’m still looking in her direction.
“Nope,” I replied. “Thank you.”
“Ignore him, Yui. Shin is the type that gets high scores even though he didn’t study much. He’s always been like this since middle school.” Chiaki said.
“Oh?” Yui said, actually surprised. “Do you have any tips, Shin?”
“Umm… no?” I replied. “I just do them as usual.”
Yui then nodded her head, like she had understood something.
“Umm…” I said. “I don’t think you should take in my advice though. Everyone has a different learning style.”
“Yes,” Chiaki added. “And Shin’s expertise is lazing around. Somehow, he’d always get the correct answer in the end.”
“That’s amazing,” Yui said.
“That’s rude,” I said to Chiaki.
“You know him so well, Chiaki!” Yui added.
Chiaki stopped her pen again. “It’s because we are childhood friends, that’s all.”
“Really? You guys looked like a couple to me,” Yui said.
“...Toilet.” Chiaki stood up and then excused herself.
Yui and I exchanged a look.
“Do you think I should—” Yui said, before stopping herself, and looked at me.
I nodded. Then she hurried to the toilet with Chiaki.
I looked at my watch.
Chiaki and Yui are still in the lecture hall; Chiaki wanted to ask some questions.
Hideki is nowhere to be seen. He must be running late from whatever he was doing.
I sat alone in our cafeteria, right before I heard his whistle.
The Reaper’s call.
“Yo, Shin,” he materialized in front of me. “30 minutes.”
I set my watch alarm to 12:00AM.
“Get out of my face,” I said, with one hand covering my mouth, trying to not draw attention to me speaking to the air.
“Oh, come on,” he said. “You know I rarely appeared before. Since this is your last chance, I just want to see if you can pull it off.”
He adjusted his hair beneath his hood. “So, do you want to give up now and offer me your soul?”
“Shut up,” I said.
He then tried to touch the other students passing by him, but his hands went right through them.
“Don’t touch them,” I said. “You’ll bring them bad luck.”
He pouted at me. “But I just want to have some fun.”
“Playing with people’s lives?”
“No, of course not,” he coughed. “LEADING people.”
“To death, yes.”
“I don’t know why we are having this conversation.”
“Because you’re the only human who can see me. And, it’s EXTREMELY boring down there. I’m lonely.”
“So, you came to play with my life.”
“Oh please, Shin. You of all people should know how sacred lives are. The lives that I took, or will take, cannot be changed. They cannot be tempered with.”
He attempted to pat my shoulder. “If it’s time to let go, then you should let go.”
“If there’s a slight chance that I can save them, I’d repeat it no matter how many times it takes.”
“Shin, shin,” he stood in front of me, and shook his head in denial. “You’re not a hero. You are just a human. Like him. Like her. Like them. Humans die because they are weak. Big deal. You spend your whole life trying to achieve one thing, trying to live every moment but it’s always warning that everything gets taken away from you. Why work so hard, if you’re going to die eventually? Why not be an immortal and live forever? Explore the world, witness centuries of changes, and just don’t care about anything.”
“What’s so funny?”
“It’s because we humans are weak, that we continuously try to seek strength. We aim to be stronger, even if it’s futile, even if we know we all grow old eventually. But, still, we are fools wandering this mortal plane. We are but, each and every one of us, trying to cherish our life, every second that we can, and care for the person that we loved. If we just want to live for these moments, is that too much to ask?”
Reaper stopped talking to me.
Then, followed by a heavy sigh, “I know I couldn’t convince you. But it’s worth a try anyway.”
He snapped his finger.
My surroundings instantly became draped with black. Pitch black. Empty, but me.
“This is my power, Shin.” Reaper’s words echoed around me. “When people die, they see this.”
“Not a flashback of their best moments, or their short, short life. They see black. Most would cry. It gives them a sense of just how lonely they are, when they are alone. This darkness, this emptiness, it scared them. It scared them straight to your heart.”
He paused. “Does it… scare you?”
I snapped my finger. Everything then returned to where I was.
“It does,” I said. “But as long as I have faith in myself, and others around me, you’ll never be able to take me.”
“We’ll see about that,” Reaper said.
I looked at my watch.
“Stop talking,” I said. “They will be here soon.”
“As you wish, Shin.”
He then disappeared like a cloud of smoke, leaving no trace behind, just the same as he appeared the first time.
Four of them were dead. I yelled, as loud as I could, on that snowy day. There was no one else to feel the same sadness but me. And, I cursed my destiny. I cursed my fate. I didn’t even get the chance to kneel in front of my parents’ graves. There was nothing else I could do. I just… can’t think of ways to handle it. I was silly, driven solely by my emotions, unable to make rational decisions.
Then came the Reaper.
“Hello Shin,” he said. “It’s me. The Grim Reaper.”
I didn’t care much at that moment, and I signed a contract with him. If I fail this time, he will have my soul, my entire life, and Chiaki’s, Hideki’s, my parent’s. They were supposed to be dead in the next three days. But I can save them. This time, I had planned things out and I will not hesitate to make sure nothing will go wrong.
Nothing will go wrong again.