Chapter 4:

The Grim Reaper

Second Chances

“Shin.”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“The professor is here.”Bookmark 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.Bookmark here

“Good morning,” I said to Chiaki.Bookmark here

She frowned at me. “Sit properly.”Bookmark here

I stretched my arms back, as I sat myself straight.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Why are you looking at me?” Chiaki asked.Bookmark here

“Because you’re more attractive,” I said. “And I couldn’t help but to be attracted to beautiful things.”Bookmark here

She stopped her pen, as she turned away from me.Bookmark here

“Is something wrong, Chiaki?” Yui said, as she extended her palm on Chiaki’s forehead. “Your face is so red.”Bookmark here

The next second, Chiaki grabbed her notebook and slapped me.Bookmark here

“Nothing’s wrong,” she said, regaining her composure. “An idiot just happened to speak to me.”Bookmark here

Yui chuckled, as she looked at me.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Do you need a pen, Shin?” Yui asked, as only now I noticed I’m still looking in her direction.Bookmark here

“Nope,” I replied. “Thank you.”Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

“Oh?” Yui said, actually surprised. “Do you have any tips, Shin?”Bookmark here

“Umm… no?” I replied. “I just do them as usual.”Bookmark here

Yui then nodded her head, like she had understood something.Bookmark here

“Umm…” I said. “I don’t think you should take in my advice though. Everyone has a different learning style.”Bookmark here

“Yes,” Chiaki added. “And Shin’s expertise is lazing around. Somehow, he’d always get the correct answer in the end.”Bookmark here

“That’s amazing,” Yui said.Bookmark here

“That’s rude,” I said to Chiaki.Bookmark here

“You know him so well, Chiaki!” Yui added.Bookmark here

Chiaki stopped her pen again. “It’s because we are childhood friends, that’s all.”Bookmark here

“Really? You guys looked like a couple to me,” Yui said.Bookmark here

“...Toilet.” Chiaki stood up and then excused herself.Bookmark here

Yui and I exchanged a look.Bookmark here

“Do you think I should—” Yui said, before stopping herself, and looked at me.Bookmark here

I nodded. Then she hurried to the toilet with Chiaki.Bookmark here

I looked at my watch.Bookmark here

11:30AM.Bookmark here

Chiaki and Yui are still in the lecture hall; Chiaki wanted to ask some questions.Bookmark here

Hideki is nowhere to be seen. He must be running late from whatever he was doing.Bookmark here

I sat alone in our cafeteria, right before I heard his whistle.Bookmark here

The Reaper’s call.Bookmark here

“Yo, Shin,” he materialized in front of me. “30 minutes.”Bookmark here

I set my watch alarm to 12:00AM.Bookmark here

“Get out of my face,” I said, with one hand covering my mouth, trying to not draw attention to me speaking to the air.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

He adjusted his hair beneath his hood. “So, do you want to give up now and offer me your soul?”Bookmark here

“Shut up,” I said.Bookmark here

He then tried to touch the other students passing by him, but his hands went right through them.Bookmark here

“Don’t touch them,” I said. “You’ll bring them bad luck.”Bookmark here

He pouted at me. “But I just want to have some fun.”Bookmark here

“Playing with people’s lives?”Bookmark here

“No, of course not,” he coughed. “LEADING people.”Bookmark here

“To death.”Bookmark here

“To death, yes.”Bookmark here

“I don’t know why we are having this conversation.”Bookmark here

“Because you’re the only human who can see me. And, it’s EXTREMELY boring down there. I’m lonely.”Bookmark here

“So, you came to play with my life.”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

He attempted to pat my shoulder. “If it’s time to let go, then you should let go.”Bookmark here

“If there’s a slight chance that I can save them, I’d repeat it no matter how many times it takes.”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

I chuckled.Bookmark here

“What’s so funny?”Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

Reaper stopped talking to me.Bookmark here

Then, followed by a heavy sigh, “I know I couldn’t convince you. But it’s worth a try anyway.”Bookmark here

He snapped his finger.Bookmark here

My surroundings instantly became draped with black. Pitch black. Empty, but me.Bookmark here

“This is my power, Shin.” Reaper’s words echoed around me. “When people die, they see this.”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

He paused. “Does it… scare you?”Bookmark here

I snapped my finger. Everything then returned to where I was.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“We’ll see about that,” Reaper said.Bookmark here

I looked at my watch.Bookmark here

11:45AM.Bookmark here

“Stop talking,” I said. “They will be here soon.”Bookmark here

“As you wish, Shin.”Bookmark here

He then disappeared like a cloud of smoke, leaving no trace behind, just the same as he appeared the first time.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Then came the Reaper.Bookmark here

“Hello Shin,” he said. “It’s me. The Grim Reaper.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Nothing will go wrong again.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.