Chapter 30:

Chapter 30 - What does it mean to be a hero?

Vehemence 激烈

I had an unexpected individual asking for my help. He had called me on my mobile phone. I opened the door and stepped out of my room. It was the weekend. From the beginning of next week my detention would be over. It had been two weeks already. He adjusted his glasses and smiled at me as he was waiting by his car. We greeted each other and silently went on our way. The drive was supposed to be a bit long. I pressed the button firmly and the window slid down. The strong wind felt nice. We were on the highway. The weather had gotten colder. I wasn’t wearing our uniform. Just some normal ordinary clothes. Bookmark here

“Ogawa, can you please stop crying?”Bookmark here

I handed him a tissue and he blew his nose. His eyes were glistening.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry. It’s just, I feel so bad.”Bookmark here

“It’s fine. I’m fine.”Bookmark here

My voice was low. I looked outside the window and leaned my head against my seat.Bookmark here

“It’s not just me who felt bad. Your friends are worried about you. They defended you at our meeting too. They were adamant that you were a good girl. Some higher-ups argued that you should be expulsed, but they fought for you. Toshiko and Fujinomiya got especially angry. I was surprised to see the mysterious Himura and the devil Kawaguchi as well. The first incident with Dimitri was uncovered at that meeting too. Uehara even said that expulsion was unnecessary and reprimanding you was what was most important at the moment. Fujinomiya directly blamed the higher-ups. They knew that you were being targeted but still insisted on sending you for the Kyoto mission. When I spoke with Fujinomiya on the phone, he had declined immediately. Refusing to take you with him. But they pressured him. I have a feeling he blames himself for what happened in Kyoto.”Bookmark here

I quietly listened to him and came to the conclusion that I had to properly apologise to them. Or my wrongdoings would never go away. My troubles should not bother anyone else. I would visit Noah’s grave every day. The DNPI payed for his funeral and he was buried next to his parents. Some disagreed with that decision. Saying that a murderer did not deserve a proper burial. And should especially not be laid to rest next to his victims. I disagreed. Because, in the end, he was just a lost child. Trying to find a place where he belonged. It hurt. I would never forget Kanna or Noah. Nor what had happened to Charlotte or to Toshiko’s family. I’ll have to carry it with me for the rest of my life. My incapability of rescuing someone.Bookmark here

The car came to a halt. We were standing in front of an abandoned school building. I found it odd. Ogawa told me that we were going to re-recruit an Outliner. The building was old and looked rundown. Windows were shattered and graffiti was painted all over the walls. It was going to rain later on in the day. The wind was slowly carrying the grey clouds towards our direction. Bookmark here

“Does he really live here?”Bookmark here

My voice echoed through the empty building.Bookmark here

“Yes, he does. I hope we can finish this quickly.”Bookmark here

He shivered and zipped up his jacket.Bookmark here

“Is someone waiting for you at home?”Bookmark here

Why was I asking him that question? But he did seem like the person who would have a loving family.Bookmark here

“Yes, my lovely fiancée.”Bookmark here

He had a big smile on his face.Bookmark here

“Well then, I hope we can change this ex-Outliner’s mind as quickly as possible.”Bookmark here

“You’re so kind, Moriuchi.”Bookmark here

His nose started running and so did his eyes. I gave him another tissue and told him to stop crying again. Bookmark here

“What kind of Paroxys do you have?” Bookmark here

We were going up some dodgy looking stairs. I thought that they might break under our weights. Moss was growing on various spots throughout the building. It felt like nature was trying to reclaim this place. But as we were getting closer to our goal, I could hear the constant sound of either water droplets or water bubbles. It hadn’t started raining yet, but it did get darker outside.Bookmark here

“I can die and come back to life. I know, it sounds pretty useless, doesn’t it? I have a golden pin but am the only one who doesn’t know how to fight. My job is mostly about infiltration or information gathering. I can stop my heart and other vital organs at will and pretend that I’m dead. Any damage, to a certain extent taken after I die just gets reset after I come back to life. It’s prefect for sneaky missions because I can pretend to be caught by the enemy, die and move around as a corpse.”Bookmark here

“That’s pretty useful. I think that’s enough of an ability to earn a golden pin.” Bookmark here

To no one’s surprise, he started sniffling again. I had run out of tissues too. We stopped in front of a classroom. Its doors were still intact. Bookmark here

“Here we are. Now, Moriuchi. Listen closely. I want you to go in there and convince him to come back to the DNPI.”Bookmark here

He held his index finger up.Bookmark here

“What about you? What are you going to do?” Bookmark here

“I’ll watch. I want you to try first. I have a feeling that he might connect to you more than to me. Oh, and don’t use your Paroxys.”Bookmark here

I placed my hand on the door and slid it open.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry. I can’t.”Bookmark here

I whispered and entered the shabby classroom. A slender figure was sitting on the floor in one of the corners. He was wearing a dark blue bucket hat and some heavy looking clothes. They were pretty oversized. As I was walking closer to him, I noticed that his hair was white. He was holding something in his hands. It looked like an instrument. His turquoise-coloured eyes opened. Even his eyebrows and eyelashes were white as the snow. A long scar ran down his throat. He opened his mouth but decided to close it again. I sat down in front of him.Bookmark here

“Hi. I’m Moriuchi Ayumi but you can call me Ayumi.”Bookmark here

“Ayumi. My name is Shimizu Takumi. Nice to meet you.” Bookmark here

His voice was brittle. His body was shivering. Was he cold besides wearing multiple layers of clothing? I took off my knitted scarf and wrapped it around him.Bookmark here

“I know this will sound strange, coming from a complete stranger but we need you back at the DNPI.”Bookmark here

He kept quiet.Bookmark here

“I heard that you are kind of special. The only person who received the golden pin on the first day as an Outliner. That’s amazing.” Bookmark here

I tried to smile but it was too forced. Bookmark here

“Are you okay?” Bookmark here

His hand reached out to me and touched my cheek. It was cold. I was surprised. His eyes were brimming with kindness. It made me want to cry.Bookmark here

“Yeah. Something scary happened and now I don’t know what to do.”Bookmark here

“Mhm. I know that feeling.”Bookmark here

I could tell that he was telling the truth. Bookmark here

“Won’t you come back?” Bookmark here

“I can’t. I’m scared too. Even though I want to be a hero. I promised.”Bookmark here

I looked up to the sky. The raindrops were hitting against the windows. The wind was howling. The trees were shaking, and the leaves were being torn off. It was a fierce storm that had arrived.Bookmark here

“That is an admirable dream to have. To be a hero. One that is certainly within our reach. One that someone with a Paroxys can grasp and hold on to. But it comes with consequences. It is not an equal exchange. Wanting to save someone’s life and actually doing it.”Bookmark here

There was a short silence between us.Bookmark here

“Do you know what an Inliner is?”Bookmark here

I felt a lump in my throat after hearing his question for me. My eyes got blurry. I felt the heaviness behind that word. It shook my entire body. I knew exactly how his story that he was about to tell me would end. My voice refused to come out.Bookmark here

“A person has to endure intense force on the mind and body when a Paroxys is born and activated for the very first time. The pressure is immeasurable and can split the person in half if the Paroxys gets out of control. I heard that it is extremely painful. In the end, there is a high chance that the host is killed by it. But I have never experienced such force nor pressure until this day. The doctors thoroughly examined me. Their findings showed that there was nothing out of the place or irregular with me. They concluded that I was just hundred percent compatible with my Paroxys.”Bookmark here

He retracted his body and buried his face in my scarf.Bookmark here

“I shared my dream with my best friend. We both wanted to be heroes. We promised each other. Wanting to save the ones who were in trouble. I got my Paroxys at a young age. He never did but his dream never died. People like him don’t know about the world that we live in as Outliners. That this world exists. They are unaware of what is happening around them every single day. Like you said, I was rewarded the golden pin by the principle on my first day as an Outliner and received my first mission too. I felt confident and was sure that I could save people.”Bookmark here

He stopped and took a deep breath before he continued.Bookmark here

“Someone with a Paroxys was going crazy and we made sure to lure him away from the civilians and into a desolate area. Our goal was to restrain him but in the midst of fighting him, I got injured. Well, at least that was how it looked like. My body was pierced with a metal rod. I was fine thanks to my Paroxys but a normal person would not think the same thing while looking at that scene. And someone did see it. Someone happened to pass by. It was my best friend. In that moment, I could see in his petrified eyes that something inside of him was born. He must have thought that I was going to die. That he needed to save me. I called out to him. Telling him that I was fine. I reached out to him. My hands managed to grab hold of him. But it was too late. He was in my arms. He was right there. But there was nothing I could do.” Bookmark here

He loosened the scarf and showed me his scar again.Bookmark here

“I am not a hero. There is now way I can be a hero.”Bookmark here

Without a thought, I held his face in my hands. My forehead was touching his. I couldn’t hold back my tears anymore. My heart was weeping. I finally realised it.Bookmark here

“I know how it feels like. I know how scary it is. That’s why I can say with confidence that you were a hero. You are a hero. For trying to help. For doing everything in your power. And for surviving.”Bookmark here

The fierce storm continued. The constant sounds of water droplets and water bubbles were still present. They were not getting drowned out by the rain and wind. That’s when I realised that they were coming from inside of him.Bookmark here

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