It was almost 8:00PM when Hideki called me. He said he had reached our local train station, and was already waiting there with Yui, and my gift. So, I wore a scarf around my neck and went to pick them up. Lead them to my house, to be precise.
After having arrived at the station, I stunned.
Both of them were wearing their kimono, which I found courageous because the night is chilling. And, the first snow will fall soon. But then again, their kimono seemed extra padded, like they also wore a thick layer of shirt underneath it.
“Shin!” Hideki waved and ran at me, holding a package of what I assumed was my gift and a plastic bag with some drinks. “What took you so long? It’s freezing out here!”
“You’d be crazy to still wear this when it’s almost winter,” I said, pointing at his kimono.
“Don’t worry,” he said, as he leaned closer to me. “I’ve got extra warm packs stuck underneath it. Plus, we are young, right? We should try these things at least once in our life!”
“Good evening, Shin,” Yui said as she followed behind Hideki, herself holding a plastic bag with two boxes of biscuits. “Is Chiaki not with you?”
“Umm…” I paused myself as I tried to decide whether or not to tell them about what happened earlier this morning. Or maybe I should omit a part of it?
“Did…” Hideki wrapped his right arm around my shoulder. “… you guys do it? And get caught?"
I looked at him, stunned again.
He widened his eyes and gasped at me. “Shin. Don’t tell me. You and Chiaki really did—"
I covered his mouth. “Shut up. It’s not as simple as that.”
“mph mph mumppph”
I released my hand. “What?”
“Tell us everything!”
I made a mistake not consulting Chiaki before sharing these things before, it might feel personal to her and she might not want anyone to know until she’s ready. I don’t want to give her more pressure than she already has.
“I will tell you all about it, but not now.” I said.
I looked at my watch. “It’s already 8:05PM. Chiaki should have arrived.”
I looked at the things that they were bringing with them: canned drinks and biscuits. My house had already run out of tea.
“You guys should head there first; I’ll catch up with you two after I buy something from the convenience store. Just head straight until the int—”
“We’ll come with you, then,” Yui said.
“Yeah,” Hideki said. “It’s only a few minutes, right?”
“No. I’m worried about Chiaki.”
“Worried?” Hideki asked. “Why? She’s almost an adult already, Shin. I’m sure she can—”
“You don’t understand! She—”
She… she died because of me?
“Shin, you ok?” Hideki asked.
"It's ok," Yui tugged Hideki's shirt. “If you’re that worried about her, then Hideki and I can go first. I’ll text you when we arrive and see her.”
“I—Sorry. Yeah, that’d be great. Thanks.” I said.
I then told them about the direction of my house, and with Yui in the lead, Hideki went with her. He kept shooting me a concerned look, but I only waved at him.
Then I went to the convenience store a few minutes away, bought a box of tea leaves, and a warm drink as I stood beside the entrance, looking at the TV display inside the window. I opened and sipped some of the drink to calm myself down.
The advertising segment on the TV then changed to a news broadcast.
“Good evening everyone, this is Studio ABC wishing you all a very warm New Year’s Eve. Today’s broadcast will start a little bit differently, and we will only bring you the main news after this 5 minutes’ special segment. Yesterday night, we received an anonymous email from a journalist known as ‘Shin’, in regards to the tragic accident that took away the lives of 10 children that transpired yesterday afternoon.”
Shin? 10 children?
“After some thorough discussion among the management team, and consideration with our lawyers, as well as all the parents of the victims, we have verified the claim of what was said, and received approval from the victim’s parents to read Shin’s email during this segment. Please note that this might be insensitive to some, and does not represent Studio ABC’s stand in this issue. The email will be read in full, without any change of word in hope of sharing the victim’s hopes and dreams, and to provide closure to those who are affected.”
The female news broadcaster then began to read, “To Studio ABC, my name is Shin, I’m a freelance journalist. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to meet the 10 children who were involved in the tragic accident that happened in the afternoon. They were afraid of me at first, and some of them looked like they were about to cry.”
Someone called my name, and I felt my heart being stirred.
“But I did some magic shows with a rubber band and slowly, they started to open up to me.”
My mind started to spiral on itself, as my blood pounded in my ears.
“shin, can you hear me?”
I took a deep breath, trying to balance myself.
“They shared me their ambitions, their hopes, and their dreams when we chatted.”
My hands began to tremble by their own.
“shin, focus, focus.”
My vision began to disfigure, wrapping everything that I see, twisting them in circles.
“Therefore, I hope to use this chance to convey their thoughts, and if appropriate, provide comforts to their parents, to help them, and everyone who is grieving on the lost of 10 precious, innocent lives.”
I can't. I—
“shin, get it out.”
My stomach began churning, and my throat tightened, my tongue tasted bitter.
“… his name was Kubota Yoshi. He wanted to be a teacher—"
I landed a hard punch on my chest, and puked. As much as I can, as much as I want to.
My legs gave in, as I fell down. I stared at the ground in front of me—there’s nothing there. Not a single pile of vomit. But I felt like my strength was drained away from me in that instant.
I took a quick, deep breath.
I looked at my trembling hands, trying to calm them down.
I heard a whistle behind me.
Then, accompanied by his whistle, the hooded figure walked to my front.
I elevated my eyes up to look at him.
So, this is what I’ve forgotten, “Reaper.”
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