Chapter 21:

The Sweet Lies

Second Chances

“Finally,” Reaper said. “Finally!”Bookmark here

“I’m guessing your presence was masked from me, as well as my ability to have visions,” I said.Bookmark here

“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—”Bookmark here

“Enough,” I said. “Get to the point already.”Bookmark here

“Ok, Shin. Listen. But first, I want you to calm down no matter what I say. Can you promise me that?”Bookmark here

“What? No.”Bookmark here

“Oh, come on! Aren’t you even going to try?”Bookmark here

“Just explain first. I’ll decide what to do.”Bookmark here

“Ok, fine,” he took a deep breath. “ourcontractiscancelled.”Bookmark here

“… What did you just say?” I attempted to grab his hood but my hands passed through it. “WHY?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“Changed?”Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

“… Yeah.”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

I sensed a ‘however’.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“There are people like me?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“Because I signed a contract with you.”Bookmark here

“Precisely, you signed a contract with a Grim Reaper. See how ridiculous it sounds when I say it out loud.”Bookmark here

“So, we are busted. Can’t I just go on like nothing’s happened?”Bookmark here

“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that w—”Bookmark here

He paused himself, and made a universal ‘shut up’ sign to his lip.Bookmark here

He then knocked his scythe on the ground and we got teleported to a different place.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“This was the same place in my dream,” I said.Bookmark here

But yet again, when I checked around me, Reaper is nowhere to be seen.Bookmark here

“reaper!” I softly yelled. “come on out! what is this place?”Bookmark here

No response.Bookmark here

“reaper!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Wait.Bookmark here

Wait, wait, wait.Bookmark here

Oh gods.Bookmark here

“Shin, I’m hungry,” he said, tugging my shirt for the second time.Bookmark here

I looked at my body. Did I just shrink?Bookmark here

“Who are you?” I asked the boy, squirting my eyebrows.Bookmark here

He tugged my shirt again, but didn’t say anything.Bookmark here

I slapped his hand off.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

I looked around, but I couldn’t see anything because the sunflowers are about as tall as me.Bookmark here

The boy gripped my shirt again as he continued to cry.Bookmark here

What’s going on here?Bookmark here

“Oi!” a little girl screamed at me as she made her way through the sunflowers in front of me.Bookmark here

As she got closer, I was stunned at her face.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Why did you make him cry? You bad guy!”Bookmark here

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?”Bookmark here

The boy nodded with tears in his eyes.Bookmark here

“Come on, my brother left me some sweet potato, you can have half of it.”Bookmark here

“Really?” the boy asked.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

The boy walked to me, “You can have it, Shin. I’m not that hungry.”Bookmark here

I refused him but he insisted and stuffed it into my mouth.Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

The boy realized the girl was pouting at him, so he split his sweet potato into a smaller portion and offered it to her.Bookmark here

“No, you eat it,” the girl said, pushing it away from her.Bookmark here

“Then why are you angry?” the boy asked.Bookmark here

She glared at me.Bookmark here

The boy noticed.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry,” he said. “Shin already has his food. I already gave him mine.”Bookmark here

“That’s not what I meant!”Bookmark here

She then started to complain to the boy.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

The boy peered inside the bucket. “Wow!”Bookmark here

He then urged the girl to come. “See, see. Do you see this? Kumiko? Shin is so reliable!”Bookmark here

The girl “Hmmph” at me.Bookmark here

“Shin,” the boy called me. “Can you teach me how to fish too?”Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

“We got a lot of fishes today, right, Shin?” the boy said, walking behind me.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” I said.Bookmark here

“Then we can eat a lot of salted grilled fish!” he continued.Bookmark here

Then, I heard a stomach grumble sound.Bookmark here

“Are you hungry too, Kumiko?” the boy asked the girl behind him.Bookmark here

“No!” she yelled.Bookmark here

Then her stomach grumbled again.Bookmark here

“You are sure a bad liar, Kumiko,” the boy said as he chuckled.Bookmark here

I also chuckled.Bookmark here

“Hey, stop laughing, you two!”Bookmark here

Her stomach grumbled again. This time, louder.Bookmark here

The boy and I burst out in laughter.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Shin,” the boy tugged my shirt. “Can we go faster?”Bookmark here

He automatically held my hand, as I walked faster, leading the two of them.Bookmark here

Back to ‘home’.Bookmark here

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