Chapter 12:

Hopes, and Dreams: Part I

Second Chances

“Ok, so what are we doing here again?” I asked, as we stood in front of a park nearby Hideki’s apartment.Bookmark here

“To play soccer with children,” Hideki said. “One of them is my neighbor’s kid, and I promised him.”Bookmark here

He pointed at a boy with an inverted cap. “See that? That’s him.”Bookmark here

“Oi!” Hideki called out. A bunch of children then ran to him, led by the boy with the cap.Bookmark here

“Are you here to play with us again?” the boy with the cap asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah, and this time,” he crouched down and whispered to them face-to-face. “I bought some new friends to play with you all.”Bookmark here

The children looked at me, Yui, and Chiaki in awe.Bookmark here

“Really?” they whispered back to Hideki.Bookmark here

“I’ve never lied before, have I?”Bookmark here

The children then giggled, and the girls team took Chiaki and Yui away. Yui only smiled as one of the girls held her hand and led her to their sand castle. The rest of the girls, however, stared at Chiaki in fear as if she’s going to scold them.Bookmark here

“Oi Chiaki,” Hideki called out. “Be nice!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, be nice!” the boys repeated after him.Bookmark here

Chiaki’s eyes suddenly brimmed with fury, and the boys quickly took cover behind Hideki.Bookmark here

I elbowed Chiaki, and pointed at a girl holding a sunflower, with a sunflower hair clip herself.Bookmark here

She took a quick look at me before looking at the girl.Bookmark here

“I like your hair clip,” the girl said.Bookmark here

“Oh,” Chiaki replied, a bit flustered.Bookmark here

She crouched down and patted the girl’s head, “I like yours too.”Bookmark here

The rest of the girls mimicked her action and patted Chiaki’s head.Bookmark here

She chuckled.Bookmark here

They then also lead her to where Yui was, introducing their sandcastle to both of them.Bookmark here

“Oi Shin!” Hideki called out to me; he had already divided the team into two: 4 vs 4. I’m on the opposite team. The ‘Red Vampire’ team.Bookmark here

“Do you know how to play soccer, Shin?” the child with spiky hair in my team asked, casually addressing me.Bookmark here

“No,” I said.Bookmark here

He shook his head. “Hideki! Your friend doesn’t know how to play soccer!”Bookmark here

“Shin? Ha! Today is the day you bow down to me, Shin!” Hideki shouted.Bookmark here

“Shut up, Blue Stone.” I said.Bookmark here

“It’s Blue Knights!” he yelled back, kicking the ball from the center of the field.Bookmark here

I blocked the ball with my knee, and dribbled it past them. Then when the ‘goalkeeper’ attempted to block me, I lightly tapped on the ball with my hindfoot making the ball roll past the keeper’s legs.Bookmark here

“Damn it Shin!” Hideki yelled at me. “You’re supposed to play as a team!”Bookmark here

I looked back at the boys in my team, they were both shocked and frustrated.Bookmark here

“Liar!” the boy with spiky hair shouted.Bookmark here

“Ok, ok,” I said, trying to comfort them. “Rematch. The first team that got three points, I’ll buy ice cream for them.”Bookmark here

“Bring it on!” Hideki yelled.Bookmark here

Then, we had a rematch. A few rematches, actually.Bookmark here

And eventually, Hideki and I had to take them to a convenience store and we bought all of them their ice creams. Because the losing team looked like they were about to cry when the winning team boasted about it. However, the winning team can choose the more expensive ones. So, either way, Hideki and I ended up sharing the bills.Bookmark here

The boy with spiky hair held my hand as we walked back to the playground.Bookmark here

“Thank you, Shin,” he said.Bookmark here

“For the ice cream?” I asked.Bookmark here

“No, for willing to play with us,” he said. “Hideki’s the only adult in this neighborhood who is willing to play soccer with us. The rest of the adults are always busy.”Bookmark here

“And also,” he added. “I forgive you for lying earlier.”Bookmark here

“Well, thank you.” I said.Bookmark here

“You’re welcome,” he replied.Bookmark here

“Also,” he pointed at Chiaki once we returned to the playground. “Is she your girlfriend?”Bookmark here

“Do you think she is?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I don’t know,” he looked at her. “She seemed to trust you, and she looked at you the way my mom looked at my dad whenever they were flirting. And she’s nice too, for playing with my sister.”Bookmark here

I wanted to ask him how he learned that word but I decided to hold back. “Your sister? The girl with the sunflower hair clip?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, she’s my sister. She also likes flowers. She has a scrapbook recording every type of flower she’d ever seen. But her drawing is bad, so I had to draw for her every time she described them.”Bookmark here

“That’s very mature of you, as a big brother. She’s lucky to have you.”Bookmark here

“Thanks,” he said, looking at his sister, and Chiaki. “She’s lucky to have you too.”Bookmark here

He then pointed between Hideki and Yui, “Are they two a couple?”Bookmark here

I smiled. “Why don’t you ask them?”Bookmark here

So, he ran to them, and asked them out loud.Bookmark here

Yui immediately got embarrassed, while Hideki crouched down, asking him some questions.Bookmark here

That boy pointed at me.Bookmark here

“SHIN!”Bookmark here

I chuckled. But before I got to say anything, my surroundings suddenly dimmed into pure darkness.Bookmark here

Then came the whistle.Bookmark here

But this time, Reaper didn’t greet me or anything. He just stood in front of me in silence, with his hood covering his face, and one of his hands holding his scythe.Bookmark here

“Reaper?” I called out.Bookmark here

Still no movement. No sound.Bookmark here

I wasn’t able to see anyone, anywhere but Reaper standing in front of me, with a spotlight shining on him.Bookmark here

“Reaper?” I called out, trying to grab his shoulder.Bookmark here

But before I did, a child tugged my shirt. 9, 8 years old?Bookmark here

“Hey, who are you?” the child asked, wearing a school uniform with his bag strap over his shoulder.Bookmark here

“I’m Shin,” I said, as I kneeled in front of him. “Why are you here?”Bookmark here

“He,” the child pointed to Reaper. “He brought us here.”Bookmark here

“Us?”Bookmark here

Then more spotlights shined and showed the children behind him. All wearing the same school uniform, holding the same bag. They have some confused looks, looking around, almost as if they do not know where they are or how they got here.Bookmark here

“Hey Shin,” the child tugged my shirt again. “Can you bring me back home? I want to see Papa and Mama.”Bookmark here

He started to sob. “We promised to go to the theme park tomorrow.”Bookmark here

I looked at the rest of the children.Bookmark here

I counted them.Bookmark here

10.Bookmark here

A deep realization sunk into me.Bookmark here

10 school children.Bookmark here

I looked at Reaper.Bookmark here

Still not moving. Still not saying anything.Bookmark here

The rest of the 9 children started to approach me, all on the verge of breaking down into tears, asking me to take them out of here.Bookmark here

I took a deep breath, and I clapped my hand once. “Hai!”Bookmark here

“Calm down everyone, let’s all take a deep breath.” I said.Bookmark here

They started crying louder.Bookmark here

Oh, gods.Bookmark here

I checked my pockets. A rubber band. Ok, I can work with this.Bookmark here

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I started to make a ‘rabbit’ with the rubber band. “Behold… a rabbit!”Bookmark here

A few of them stopped crying, and stared at me in surprise.Bookmark here

I changed the pattern again. “Behold… a wolf!”Bookmark here

And, again. “A PIG!”Bookmark here

Almost all of them had stopped crying, paying their attention to me.Bookmark here

“A LION. ROARRR.”Bookmark here

Some giggled.Bookmark here

“A SHEEP. MEEEH.”Bookmark here

More giggled.Bookmark here

“A GIRAFFE. I don’t know how giraffe sounds like.”Bookmark here

They chuckled.Bookmark here

For my final act, the most evil, strongest animal of them all… I untangled the rubber band.Bookmark here

“A rubber band!”Bookmark here

“Booo!” some of the children yelled, while some boys laughed like they were trying to gather their breath.Bookmark here

“Ok, sit down, everyone. Let me tell you a story.” I said, sitting myself down in front of them.Bookmark here

They did the same.Bookmark here

I took a quick peep at Reaper. He’s still in the same position. Hadn’t moved since then.Bookmark here

“Before I tell a story, do you all have stories to share with me?” I asked, trying to engage in some interaction with them before analyzing this situation. Or, at least until Reaper move again.
Bookmark here

“Our teacher told us to do homework on our ambition,” the kid who tugged my shirt said. He has a rectangle pin on the chest area of his shirt, he’s the class representative, I think.Bookmark here

“Then do you mind sharing with me, one by one, your dreams?” I asked.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.