As I was holding the boy’s hand, the scene before me then jumped again to us having salted grilled fishes as our dinner. The fish heads were thrown into the pot, boiling under a campfire, to make for a warm soup.
I checked my surroundings, not a single animal, or a single person, or children. We walked at least 15 minutes away from that village to this flower field, with a tattered straw house at the center of it.
“See, Kumiko, I told you Shin is a good cooker!” the boy said.
“He just added salt to this fish, and the soup,” Kumiko replied. “Just how easy are you to be satisfied?”
She glared at me again and mouthed “Bad. Guy.” at me.
“But it’s still really delicious!” the boy continued, as he took a large bite out of the fish. “I would not mind having this for dinner every night, for the rest of my life.”
Kumiko frowned at the boy. “I can make better food than Shin!”
“Sure you can!” the boy patted Kumiko’s head.
She pouted at him.
Then, the scenes shifted again as I found myself lying on the grass, indulging myself on the starry sky. Only the boy was lying next to me, enjoying the same view. We finished our dinner and extinguished the fire.
“Where’s Kumiko?” I asked.
“She went to the forest nearby to get some herbs, she said she wanted to cook tomorrow.”
A breeze blew past us, caressing our faces with its soft touch, and made the sunflowers waved with its gentle push. I took a deep breath.
So many stars spread across the dark sky, stretched until this sky met the end of this flower field. So peaceful, so nostalgic. This is a view that people of the past craved for, the warmth even under the coldest night, the stability in this ever-changing world. It just reminded us of how—
“We are so small,” the boy said, trying to pinch one of the stars.
“… Yeah,” I said. “We are.”
“But as long as we can be together, I wouldn’t mind,” the boy said. “Right, Shin?”
Before I got to answer him, we became alerted to a scream.
A familiar scream.
“It’s Kumiko!” the boy stood up, trying to look past the sunflowers, to the direction of the forest.
From the gaps in between the sunflowers, I noticed a few thugs with samurai swords, holding fire torches near the forest. One of them pointed towards us, and they all started marching towards us. I turned back. The smoke. I took a closer look at the thugs, as I felt intense tugging from the boy. The thugs have Kumiko by her hair, swiping their swords at the sunflowers as they approach us.
“Shin… what do we do… they have Kumiko,” the boy said. “We… we need to help her.”
The thugs started to laugh as they got closer.
My body froze. Every inch of me is telling me to run.
Run, or I’ll die.
There is no ‘fight’ option.
Run, take the boy and run.
Kumiko’s scream became louder.
“Shin, shin, they are coming, what do we do?”
I tried to take a few breaths to calm myself down, but my heart’s beating like there was no tomorrow, and my legs started to tremble. I crouched myself down with one of my knees on the ground and looked at the boy.
He was holding his own hand to try and comfort himself, sobbing, without making a sound.
I… What can I do? What can I do?
I bit my lips. I bit it until they bleed, to calm my shaking hands.
“Listen, listen, I put my hands on his shoulder. You need to go now, go to the river nearby and wait for me. I’ll save Kumiko.”
“But Shin…” more tears started to flow out from his eyes. “I don’t want to leave you…”
“Listen,” I reaffirmed myself. “Go. Or we’ll die together. They don’t know how many of us there are. I’ll stay and distract them.”
I slapped him. “Run. RUN!”
Then I pushed him away.
He covered the red hand mark on his face, and started to run away from me.
I took a deep, sharp breath.
About 10 seconds later, the thugs stood in front of me, holding Kumiko hostage with her hand and a sword touching her throat. They wrapped a cloth around her mouth to keep her from screaming.
“You alone?” one of the thugs asked.
“This your sister?” he pointed at Kumiko.
“…Yes. Let her go.”
The thug slapped me, and I fell to the ground instantly. “Don’t get cheeky with me, kid. We are the ones in charge, you hear me?”
“This your house?” he pointed at the tattered straw house. “Got any money?”
I shook my head.
He spit at me. “Useless kid.”
“What do we do now, boss?” the other thug asked.
“I can help you,” I said. “I know where you can get money, there’s a cave nearby. My parents hid some money there. Let her go and I’ll show you the way.”
The rest of the thugs looked at the boss, who was the one who first spoke to me.
But without any sign, he took his sword out and inserted it into my right palm, through my palm and straight into the ground. I yelled in pain.
“What did I tell you about being cheeky?”
I tried to move my right hand away but the sword was firmly embedded in it. He took out the other thug’s sword, and pointed at me. “I don’t like your eyes. No kids calmly talked like that. You some sort of spy?”
I continued to breathe heavily, rapidly. I tried to speak but my voice broke as soon as I opened my mouth. I shook my head in denial.
He clicked his tongue. “Throw the girl in front of him.”
The thug kicked Kumiko down. She had a terrified expression on her face, crying, as she tried to get closer to me. At that instant, the thug stabbed her back with his sword.
One. Two. Three. Three times as Kumiko jolted in response for each time.
My pupils dilated as I yelled. I tried to struggle my hand out of the sword but he pushed it in deeper. “YOU’LL PAY! YOU MONSTER!”
He stabbed her again. Kumiko was already not moving, as she lied in her pool of blood. Her eyes, staring blankly at me with tears.
“KUMIKO!” the boy came back with a short knife in his hand, yelling as he charged toward the thug. The thug stepped back and evaded the boy. The boy fell down to the ground, but he quickly got himself up and tried to pull the sword on top of my hand away.
“No. No. Run! RUNNN—”
Before I got to finish my sentence, the thug sliced the boy’s back. Blood spurted out from his back, and onto the sunflowers surrounding us. He instantly dropped his knife, and thumped to the ground, as blood gushed out of his back. He started to crawl towards me, “Brother Shin… it’s so dark… I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
The thug raised his sword with both his hands and dove it down to the boy’s back.
The boy’s hand reached out to me, struggled for a moment, before not moving at all.
I yelled in despair.
Both Kumiko and the boy lied there, without any word, without any breath.
We were just having dinner half an hour ago. We fished in the evening. We ate sweet potatoes in the morning. He was looking at the starry night. She wanted to cook tomorrow. Just what did they do to deserve this? To spend their last moment, terrified?
Just what did they do to deserve this kind of fate?
I will never accept this nonsense. If this is their fate, then I’d fight against fate itself. I’d fight against the whole world if I have to.
“How does that feel, cheeky kid?” the thug said, stepping on the boy’s back.
I mustered all my strength left, pulled the sword out, and grabbed the short knife as I charged towards the thug.
He got caught by surprise and as he stepped back, he slipped on the boy’s blood.
I inserted and pushed the knife into his heart.
I pulled it out and then slid it in again.
The blood spurted on the rest of the thug's faces as they stared at me.
One of them raised his sword at me, and at the next moment, I lost my consciousness.
I found myself back in a dark room, which I recognized to be where Reaper had summoned me before.
Then, a spotlight opened as Reaper stood in front of me. His hand, holding the scythe, trembling.
I looked at his face. Tears uncontrollably dropped from his white eyes,
“Reaper.” I called out.
His whole body seemed to be trembling, as he dropped the scythe.
He crouched down, with both his shaking hands covering his mouth.
I lifted his hood up.
“The boy became blind in the end… it was you, wasn’t it?”
He nodded his head.
“You were searching for me all these years. For centuries.”
He nodded his head, again.
I wrapped my arms around him. “I’m sorry. Thank you.”
He only kept nodding without any other word.
“That day at the cafeteria, you said you were all alone. And that, you were lonely,” I took a deep breath. “So, this is what you meant.”
I patted his back, and I can feel a deep scar left on it. “You’ve done well. Thank you.”
He shook his head, as he hugged me tighter. We weren’t supposed to touch each other, no, we were not able to. So, what I’ve been through just now, connected me back to him. Made it, so that he can hug me again. As can I.
“Thank you,” I said again. “Thank you.”
“As you wish… Shin.”