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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really?” they whispered back to Hideki.

“I’ve never lied before, have I?”

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh,” Chiaki replied, a bit flustered.

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

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

She chuckled.

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

“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.

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

“No,” I said.

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

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

“Shut up, Blue Stone.” I said.

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

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.

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

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

“Liar!” the boy with spiky hair shouted.

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

“Bring it on!” Hideki yelled.

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

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.

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

“Thank you, Shin,” he said.

“For the ice cream?” I asked.

“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.”

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

“Well, thank you.” I said.

“You’re welcome,” he replied.

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

“Do you think she is?” I asked.

“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.”

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?”

“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.”

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

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

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

I smiled. “Why don’t you ask them?”

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

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

That boy pointed at me.


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

Then came the whistle.

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.

“Reaper?” I called out.

Still no movement. No sound.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I looked at the rest of the children.

I counted them.


A deep realization sunk into me.

10 school children.

I looked at Reaper.

Still not moving. Still not saying anything.

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.

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

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

They started crying louder.

Oh, gods.

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

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

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

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

And, again. “A PIG!”

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


Some giggled.


More giggled.

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

They chuckled.

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

“A rubber band!”

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

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

They did the same.

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

“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.

“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.

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

MyAnimeList iconMyAnimeList icon