“Finally,” Reaper said. “Finally!”
“I’m guessing your presence was masked from me, as well as my ability to have visions,” I said.
“Yes. YES! If I didn’t save you those two times, you were already dead, Shin. Dead, you know? Like when you can’t move, or breathe, or move—”
“Enough,” I said. “Get to the point already.”
“Ok, Shin. Listen. But first, I want you to calm down no matter what I say. Can you promise me that?”
“Oh, come on! Aren’t you even going to try?”
“Just explain first. I’ll decide what to do.”
“Ok, fine,” he took a deep breath. “ourcontractiscancelled.”
“… What did you just say?” I attempted to grab his hood but my hands passed through it. “WHY?”
“Let me, let me explain, Shin. It’s not ‘cancelled’ cancelled. But it’s more like the very last trial that you needed to save them all at once had been changed.”
“You see, correct me if I’m wrong, what you planned to do is perhaps to keep your parents home this time, right? Then, you’ll either somehow persuade that boy and those girls not to go to the shrine until after 12:00 AM, or that you’ll risk it and go together in a group. Am I correct?”
“You see, this will almost be a guarantee that you will make it past 12:00AM and get your life reset, so that you can start on this timeline. Now, that’s a good thing, for you. Everything works out in the end, and this timeline continues to flow. There might be accidents awaiting them in the future, but it won’t happen that soon.”
I sensed a ‘however’.
“However… those four timelines that you have skipped, or you said you wanted to reset from, continued to flow and branch as well. And with each reset, you jumping here and there, our little plot got noticed. By God of Fate, or Moirai, or Moira, whichever you prefer. Now, Moira does not treat people like you kindly.”
“There are people like me?”
“People who defied fate, Shin. People who were supposed to board a plane that was supposed to disappear in the ocean. People who were supposed to die in a train crash. Car crash. Ship crash. All the accidents that you could think of, no matter how impossible they might seem. There are always people like you, but you are the extreme case, the miraculous type of case.”
“Because I signed a contract with you.”
“Precisely, you signed a contract with a Grim Reaper. See how ridiculous it sounds when I say it out loud.”
“So, we are busted. Can’t I just go on like nothing’s happened?”
“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that w—”
He paused himself, and made a universal ‘shut up’ sign to his lip.
He then knocked his scythe on the ground and we got teleported to a different place.
No… I paused at the field of sunflowers before me. I touched one of the flowers. I felt its rough disk part in the middle, the slimy surfaces of the leaves, and smelled a vague sweet, floral fragrant.
“This was the same place in my dream,” I said.
But yet again, when I checked around me, Reaper is nowhere to be seen.
“reaper!” I softly yelled. “come on out! what is this place?”
Suddenly someone tugged my shirt. It was a little boy I’ve never seen before, around 7-8 years old, with short, black hair. About the same height as me.
Wait, wait, wait.
“Shin, I’m hungry,” he said, tugging my shirt for the second time.
I looked at my body. Did I just shrink?
“Who are you?” I asked the boy, squirting my eyebrows.
He tugged my shirt again, but didn’t say anything.
I slapped his hand off.
He looked at me in surprise. He sniffled for a few times then started to cry, while trying to wipe his eyes with his hands at the same time.
I looked around, but I couldn’t see anything because the sunflowers are about as tall as me.
The boy gripped my shirt again as he continued to cry.
What’s going on here?
“Oi!” a little girl screamed at me as she made her way through the sunflowers in front of me.
As she got closer, I was stunned at her face.
Not that she’s captivating, but that I’d seen her face many times before. She’s the same girl that the man with the straw hat told me to take care of. The girl with long, curly hair. The little girl in my dream.
“Why did you make him cry? You bad guy!”
She took the boy’s hand away from my shirt, as she tried to comfort him. “It’s ok, it’s ok. Are you hungry?”
The boy nodded with tears in his eyes.
“Come on, my brother left me some sweet potato, you can have half of it.”
“Really?” the boy asked.
Without any warning, the scene in front of me shifted to where the boy is splitting the half of his half sweet potato. I realized I’m now sitting across from them.
The boy walked to me, “You can have it, Shin. I’m not that hungry.”
I refused him but he insisted and stuffed it into my mouth.
What a weird boy. I took the sweet potato out and slowly munched at it. The boy smiled at me as he saw me starting to eat, while the girl pouted at him. Are they siblings? Then, what am I to them?
The boy realized the girl was pouting at him, so he split his sweet potato into a smaller portion and offered it to her.
“No, you eat it,” the girl said, pushing it away from her.
“Then why are you angry?” the boy asked.
She glared at me.
The boy noticed.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “Shin already has his food. I already gave him mine.”
“That’s not what I meant!”
She then started to complain to the boy.
Without any warning again, the scene in front of me shifted. I found myself beside a river, fishing. A bucket beside me was already filled with at least three fishes.
The boy peered inside the bucket. “Wow!”
He then urged the girl to come. “See, see. Do you see this? Kumiko? Shin is so reliable!”
The girl “Hmmph” at me.
“Shin,” the boy called me. “Can you teach me how to fish too?”
“Sure,” I said. But before I got to say another word, I found myself walking down a muddy path, holding the bucket of fishes in my right hand. The sky had already been tinted with a dark orange color. It’s almost night.
“We got a lot of fishes today, right, Shin?” the boy said, walking behind me.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Then we can eat a lot of salted grilled fish!” he continued.
Then, I heard a stomach grumble sound.
“Are you hungry too, Kumiko?” the boy asked the girl behind him.
“No!” she yelled.
Then her stomach grumbled again.
“You are sure a bad liar, Kumiko,” the boy said as he chuckled.
I also chuckled.
“Hey, stop laughing, you two!”
Her stomach grumbled again. This time, louder.
The boy and I burst out in laughter.
The scenes around me then shifted again, to when we passed through a burnt down village where no one live anymore. Only a few children were sitting, scattered, sitting in front of what remained of their straw houses, staring at us when we walked by them. Kumiko walked closer to the boy and held his hand.
I looked at the children, they had obviously not eaten for days but they looked more afraid of us than we are of them. One of them was holding a broken cup, hands trembling uncontrollably. Some were just lying on the ground, not moving a single inch anymore. They were all wearing either rags, or torn shirts, just like we were.
The only thing I could think of that caused this was either war or plague, both of which took the adults and even the elders away from this village, and likely other villages in this area as well. Connecting it to what the man who left Kumiko behind said, it was likely a war that broke out, and he was going to seek revenge, probably on who had taken his and Kumiko’s parents’ lives. So that’d mean I knew him, which is why he can trust me with Kumiko.
“Shin,” the boy tugged my shirt. “Can we go faster?”
He automatically held my hand, as I walked faster, leading the two of them.
Back to ‘home’.