Chapter 20:

Hello, Again

Second Chances

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.Bookmark here

After having arrived at the station, I stunned.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

“You’d be crazy to still wear this when it’s almost winter,” I said, pointing at his kimono.Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

“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?Bookmark here

“Did…” Hideki wrapped his right arm around my shoulder. “… you guys do it? And get caught?"Bookmark here

I looked at him, stunned again.Bookmark here

He widened his eyes and gasped at me. “Shin. Don’t tell me. You and Chiaki really did—"Bookmark here

I covered his mouth. “Shut up. It’s not as simple as that.”Bookmark here

“mph mph mumppph”Bookmark here

I released my hand. “What?”Bookmark here

“Tell us everything!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“I will tell you all about it, but not now.” I said.Bookmark here

I looked at my watch. “It’s already 8:05PM. Chiaki should have arrived.”Bookmark here

I looked at the things that they were bringing with them: canned drinks and biscuits. My house had already run out of tea.Bookmark here

“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—”Bookmark here

“We’ll come with you, then,” Yui said.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Hideki said. “It’s only a few minutes, right?”Bookmark here

“No. I’m worried about Chiaki.”Bookmark here

“Worried?” Hideki asked. “Why? She’s almost an adult already, Shin. I’m sure she can—”Bookmark here

“You don’t understand! She—”Bookmark here

I froze.
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She… she died because of me?Bookmark here

“Shin, you ok?” Hideki asked.Bookmark here

"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.”Bookmark here

“I—Sorry. Yeah, that’d be great. Thanks.” I said.
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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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Something’s wrong.
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Terribly wrong.Bookmark here

The advertising segment on the TV then changed to a news broadcast.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

Shin? 10 children?Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

“shin”Bookmark here

Someone called my name, and I felt my heart being stirred.Bookmark here

“But I did some magic shows with a rubber band and slowly, they started to open up to me.”Bookmark here

My mind started to spiral on itself, as my blood pounded in my ears.Bookmark here

“shin, can you hear me?”Bookmark here

I took a deep breath, trying to balance myself.
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“They shared me their ambitions, their hopes, and their dreams when we chatted.”Bookmark here

My hands began to tremble by their own.
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“shin, focus, focus.”Bookmark here

My vision began to disfigure, wrapping everything that I see, twisting them in circles.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

I can't. I—Bookmark here

“shin, get it out.”Bookmark here

My stomach began churning, and my throat tightened, my tongue tasted bitter.Bookmark here

“… his name was Kubota Yoshi. He wanted to be a teacher—"Bookmark here

“shin!”Bookmark here

I landed a hard punch on my chest, and puked. As much as I can, as much as I want to.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

I took a quick, deep breath.Bookmark here

I looked at my trembling hands, trying to calm them down.Bookmark here

“Shin.”Bookmark here

I heard a whistle behind me.Bookmark here

Then, accompanied by his whistle, the hooded figure walked to my front.Bookmark here

I elevated my eyes up to look at him.
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So, this is what I’ve forgotten, “Reaper.”Bookmark here

“Yo.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.