Chapter 5:

The First Death

Second Chances

“There,” Hideki suddenly put a plate of grilled pork ribs in front of me.
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There are at least seven ribs on it. There are also some small leaves on his head. Just where did he go after he decided to skip classes?Bookmark here

“Grilled Pork Ribs with Honey Sauce,” he said.Bookmark here

I stared at this high-class dish, “You… you really went and got these?”Bookmark here

“Of course,” he sat in front of me. “I promised you, didn’t I?”Bookmark here

Then he started to grab one with his hand, and munched on it.Bookmark here

“Hey Shin… hi HIDEKI,” Chiaki greeted us as she sat beside me. There’s always an emphasis on her tone when she calls Hideki, maybe because she thinks that Hideki always dragged me into his troubles.Bookmark here

“mum humm” Hideki greeted her.Bookmark here

Chiaki looked at the plate of ribs in front of us but she decided not to ask us about it. I think she’s grown accustomed to Hideki’s quirks by now.Bookmark here

“Your bento,” she said, as she slid me a box of lunchbox.
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“There were some vegetables left uncooked yesterday,” she explained. “So, don’t waste it.”Bookmark here

Hideki grinned at me, as I slapped away his attempt to pinch my face with greasy fingers.Bookmark here

“Thanks,” I said to Chiaki. “Where’s Yui?”Bookmark here

“Library,” Chiaki said. “She had to return some books before New Year’s.”Bookmark here

I nodded, after which I took my first bite of the bento. A mouthful of meatballs was stuffed into my mouth, as I ate it together with a spoon of rice and broccoli.Bookmark here

Chiaki has also started to eat hers, while Hideki is continuing on his next rib.Bookmark here

“So, Shin,” Hideki called out. “What did our professor teach in the class?”Bookmark here

“Umm… the heroic tale of Perseus, I think.”Bookmark here

“muuum.”Bookmark here

“He’s the one who beheaded Medusa,” Chiaki added.Bookmark here

“Hwooom the girl with snakes as her hair?” Hideki asked, in the middle of biting into the rib.Bookmark here

“Yes. He’s also the son of Zeus, and is said to be the greatest monster slayer in Greek,” Chiaki continued. When we are in these topics, Chiaki often could not hold herself back, and will keep continuing until someone stops her.Bookmark here

I looked at the clock hanging at the cafeteria.Bookmark here

Then, I looked at my watch.Bookmark here

11:57AM.Bookmark here

I excused myself and went to the toilet.
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As I washed my hands in the basin, my watch updated.Bookmark here

11:58AM.Bookmark here

Two more minutes, then the first death happened. Hideki’s death.Bookmark here

I took a deep breath. The reason pork ribs are never ordered in our cafeteria is because the ribs are too big, with some bone fragments on it that were not properly processed. These ribs, if accidentally stuck at the throat, would choke people to death in mere minutes.Bookmark here

I let the water run in the basin, as I watch the water rinsing over my hands.Bookmark here

My watch beeped at this moment.Bookmark here

Beep.Bookmark here

Beep.Bookmark here

12:00PM.Bookmark here

I gripped my hands and punched them on the basin.Bookmark here

There are some ruckuses starting to form outside the toilet. I can hear people starting to panic, and even some yelling for help. And Chiaki… I can hear her yelling my name.Bookmark here

I punched the basin again.Bookmark here

Only Chiaki can save him. One minute.Bookmark here

I stared at myself in the mirror. I looked anxious, somewhat miserable. If I rush out now, then it’d all be for nothing. I calmed my fists down, as the sound of running water got louder and louder.Bookmark here

I turned my attention back to my watch.Bookmark here

12:01PM.Bookmark here

A strong dizziness suddenly hit me as I kneel on the ground, trying to recollect my breath. I felt myself being warped into the grey shrine gate, in the middle of nowhere, again.
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This time, my body jolted. I held my breath in. I started to see Hideki in his apartment, it’s midnight, and he’s cooking some noodles. He gulps at the smell. Suddenly, he puts his hands on his throat, scratching it like he’s trying to get something out. He starts to vigorously punch his chest, and attempts to cough. He runs to the door, trying to unlock it, but a few seconds later, he collapses.Bookmark here

The vision then stopped. I felt myself back in the toilet.Bookmark here

I took a deep breath, before rushing out from the toilet to where Hideki was.Bookmark here

Chiaki had already done the ‘Heimlich maneuver’ on him, dislodging one of the bone fragments out of his throat. One of the girls surrounding them was covering her mouth like she’s about to cry. I believe she accidentally elbowed Hideki while walking past him, that’s why Hideki choked on the ribs. At least, that’s what it looked like.Bookmark here

“I’m fine, I’m fine…” Hideki said.Bookmark here

But I didn’t care.Bookmark here

I went behind him and did the ‘Heimlich maneuver’ again, and again until he vomited out every single bone fragment from his throat.Bookmark here

"EURGHHHH... AURGHH..."Bookmark here

It was a... frightful scene; I think he puked out his breakfast as well.
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Everyone around us stared in disgust. I couldn't blame them. I almost puked myself, looking at Hideki’s vomit. But if I hadn’t done that, he would have died tonight, suffocated due to his throat tightening because of one small piece of bone.Bookmark here

No one will be able to save him, because he lived alone. He chose to live alone. And only until the next day’s afternoon, when Chiaki and I visited him out of worry, his body would have been found. That was my third attempt at saving him.Bookmark here

“Shin… what… what have you done,” Hideki said to me, with his weak breath.Bookmark here

“I just saved your life,” I said, as I smacked his back again to make sure he spit everything out.Bookmark here

We both sat on the floor, in front of his pile of puke.Bookmark here

“Was… was that… really necessary?” he asked.Bookmark here

“Yes, it was.” I said.Bookmark here

He then laid his back on the floor, trying to slow his breath down.Bookmark here

“Th—Thanks for embarrassing me,” he said.Bookmark here

“Anytime,” I replied as I laid beside him. “Anytime.”Bookmark here

“I’ll get a janitor, and then we’ll send you to the infirmary for a check,” Chiaki said to Hideki.Bookmark here

“Thanks,” Hideki replied, covering his eyes with his right arm.Bookmark here

I chuckled.Bookmark here

Hideki also started chuckling.Bookmark here

“I’ll never forget this moment,” he said.Bookmark here

“That you almost died?”Bookmark here

“That you two saved me.”Bookmark here

I smiled. “You’re welcome.”Bookmark here

This is now officially my second ‘top embarrassing moment’ in my university’s life. And, the first out of five deaths evaded. The first death. The first beep.
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