Chapter 23:

The Prince, and the Princess

Second Chances

I sat in front of Reaper, crossing eyes with him, trying to think of how to deal with this awkward situation.
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He said that when he intended to teleport me here from the convenience store because he sensed something odd back there, but somehow, I ended up sent back to a trip down my long-lost memories, and he was there, experiencing it with me as the boy with no name. He couldn’t have revealed himself, so he had to do exactly according to his memory, and mine.Bookmark here

“So, did you meet Kumiko?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” he said. “I didn’t realize it at first, but she reincarnated as a farmer’s daughter in the last century, then the female manager of an automobile factory, and in this century. Well, you met her.”Bookmark here

He paused. “The daughter of a Japanese father, and a British mother.”Bookmark here

I paused at him. “You mean…”Bookmark here

He nodded. Bookmark here

“So, ummm,” he continued. “You should get back. Though, time flew differently here, so it might have only been one minute passed in your world.”Bookmark here

He stood up. “Can’t keep your loved ones waiting, can you?”Bookmark here

I slowly made my stand. “Sure can’t. Any tips for my last trial against the devil?”Bookmark here

“Against Moira? Well… there’s only one thing I could tell you: don’t falter. You need to believe in yourself, in them, in what you have experienced.”Bookmark here

“If I don’t?”Bookmark here

“You die. That’s the price of messing with your destiny.”Bookmark here

“I see. Then I’ll slap destiny in her face first.”Bookmark here

“What? No. Don’t you do that. Do you have a death wish?”Bookmark here

“I don’t need Grim Reaper to tell me about death wishes. I will tread carefully, don’t worry.”Bookmark here

I coughed. “So, this is it, huh?”Bookmark here

“This is it. Your last trial at 12:00AM.”Bookmark here

“Will I see you again?”Bookmark here

He paused at me. “… No. Hopefully no. Humans coming in contact with Grim Reapers will only shorten their life. Plus, I’ve got what I wanted. Since your contract with me has also been tampered with, this will be the last time you see me.”Bookmark here

“I see…”Bookmark here

“There’s something I should—No. You know what, no. It’ll only make you sadder. Remember, Shin, I’ll be watching you from here as a Grim Reaper.”Bookmark here

He walked to me and gave me a final hug. “I don’t want to see you here so soon, Shin. Live your life properly until we meet again.”Bookmark here

I patted his back. “I will. Thank you.”Bookmark here

I took a deep breath. “I’m ready to go now. Send me back.”Bookmark here

He stepped back from me, and got ready with his scythe.Bookmark here

He smiled. “As you wish, brother Shin.”Bookmark here

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As I opened my eyes, I realized I’m back in front of the convenience store. The TV special broadcast is still continuing, moving on to Emilia’s story. I picked up the tea box, and threw the can into the dustbin, as I started to walk back home.Bookmark here

As I walked through the streets with closed shops, I felt especially cold, and lonely.Bookmark here

It was already 8:30PM when I reached home. I greeted my father watching the TV special live shows, and my mother in the kitchen. She brewed the tea that I bought, and told me to bring it along with the biscuits back to my room.Bookmark here

“Is that girl with Chiaki her friend?” she asked. I think she meant Yui.Bookmark here

“Yeah, she met her in university.” I said.Bookmark here

“She seemed to get along with your friend as well.”Bookmark here

“Hideki?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, so I think your friend, Hideki won’t make a move on Chiaki. You’re safe to go.”Bookmark here

“Mom.”Bookmark here

“Fine, fine,” she pushed me out of the kitchen with me holding the tray of tea and biscuits. “Get upstairs. They sounded like they were already having fun.”Bookmark here

I went upstairs to my room, and knocked on the door with my foot.Bookmark here

No response.Bookmark here

I put the tray down and opened the door.Bookmark here

“Shinnnnn!” Chiaki lunged at me and hugged me with both her hands and legs, like a koala bear hugging a tree.Bookmark here

“You’re finally hereee,” she said, as she pulled me closer to her. I stepped my right foot in front of me to prevent me from losing my balance.Bookmark here

I immediately looked at Hideki and Yui. “What did you do to her?”Bookmark here

Hideki held a canned drink up in protest. “Shin. This only has 5% alcohol content.”Bookmark here

Yui nodded. “Chiaki sipped once, then she suddenly dunked it all in one go.”Bookmark here

“You always make me wait, Shinnnn,” Chiaki wrapped her arms around my neck, and rested her head on my shoulder.Bookmark here

“I’ve waited for soooo long,” she raised one of her hands.Bookmark here

She then pushed me back while still gripping my waist with her legs.Bookmark here

She poked my nose, her face all red, “Don’t make me wait again, ok?”Bookmark here

“…Ok.”Bookmark here

She then resumed hugging me. “Good boy.”Bookmark here

“Still,” Hideki said, “I bet now you’re happy Chiaki took that drink.”Bookmark here

“Shut up,” I said.Bookmark here

Yui chuckled.Bookmark here

I then carried Chiaki to my bed, and put my blanket on her for her to take a small nap. Given the low amount of alcohol, she might need to puke in an hour or two, but afterwards, she should remain sober.Bookmark here

Hideki slowly grabbed the tray and put it on top of the small round wooden table beside my bed. He kept darting his eyes between the biscuits and the tea, having no intention of hiding it from me.Bookmark here

“Help yourself to it,” I said.Bookmark here

It’s as if his eyes sparkled as he grabbed the first biscuit and with “Thanks for the meal” he started munching on it.Bookmark here

“Do you like them?” Yui asked, seeing Hideki’s reaction.Bookmark here

“Yes,” he said. “These are… muah! Delicious.”Bookmark here

Yui chuckled again.Bookmark here

“Have some too, Yui,” I said as I took a cup of tea and sipped it. I then sat in between Yui and Hideki because there was a space there.Bookmark here

He frowned at me but I ignored him.Bookmark here

“So, what now?” I asked.Bookmark here

I looked at my watch: it’s almost 9:00PM. Three hours left.Bookmark here

“Your room is filled with these boring books only, Shin. Not even cards are around.” Hideki said. “We couldn’t find those ero-magazines when we searched earlier either. You must have hidden them very well.”Bookmark here

“You search—"Bookmark here

“Or did you hide them in your parent’s room? OH you naughty boy!”Bookmark here

I wrapped my arm around his neck, trying to choke him into silence.Bookmark here

He tapped my arm, “Give. Give. It’s only a joke.”Bookmark here

I released my arms.Bookmark here

“I doubt you’ll leave those lying around, you’d probably store them elsewhere before we came,” Hideki said.Bookmark here

“Oh?” I said. “You didn’t know?”Bookmark here

“What do you mean ‘oh’?”Bookmark here

I approached Yui and whispered “let him panic” in her ear.Bookmark here

Yui gasped, and covered her mouth as she nodded at me.Bookmark here

“SHIN!” Hideki called. “Did you seriously tell Yui about the location?”Bookmark here

I shrugged.Bookmark here

“Yui, did he? Did he taint your ear with those words?” Hideki asked.Bookmark here

Yui looked at the ceiling and turned her head around, pretending not to hear him.Bookmark here

Surprisingly, looking at Yui’s reaction, Hideki chuckled before laughing out loud.Bookmark here

I laughed with him, and now Yui got embarrassed.Bookmark here

“Stop laughing at me,” she said as she took a sip out of her tea.Bookmark here

“Sorry, sorry,” I said. I only noticed now that she’d tied up her long-braided hair into a bun shape and had a silver rabbit-shaped pin on it.Bookmark here

I looked at Hideki, he also cut his hair and made a quaff hairstyle out of his short, a bit grayish hair.Bookmark here

I looked at Chiaki, she has an extra hair clip of purple rose pattern on her hair.Bookmark here

I was so filled with the thoughts of trying to save them, without realizing these details that they have. Details, that made them, them.Bookmark here

“So Yui,” I said. “Do you like rabbits?”Bookmark here

She held a biscuit in front of her mouth and looked at me. “Yeah, how did you know?”Bookmark here

Hideki also looked at me, with a surprise and curious mix on his face.Bookmark here

“Your hairpin,” I said. “It’s beautiful.”Bookmark here

“Oh,” she smiled, as she bit a small portion of the biscuit. “Thanks. Hideki bought it for me.”Bookmark here

Right, they went to the zoo this morning. I elbowed Hideki to indicate a ‘well done’ because his face is slowly flushed with red.Bookmark here

“Do you have rabbits in your hometown?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Yes. Our family has a small farm, inherited from my grandparents. We moved there from the city when I was a child, and I learnt a lot of things about farming, raising chicken, taking care of horses, and squeezing cow’s milk.”Bookmark here

Hideki choked on his tea. “Sorry,” he said.Bookmark here

“You thought of something naughty just now, didn’t you?” I whispered to him.Bookmark here

He cleared his throat. “So Yui, how was your life on the farm compared to in the city? I’ve never been to a farm before, but I can only imagine it being refreshing and relaxing.”Bookmark here

“Farm chores have their own challenges,” Yui said. “Better to not dismiss them as ‘easy’. The life in the city was… endearing when I was small.”Bookmark here

“It’s ok,” Hideki said. “You don’t need to tell us if you don’t want to.”Bookmark here

She ate the rest of her biscuit and gulped down her tea. “Can I have another?” she asked.Bookmark here

I poured her another cup of tea.Bookmark here

She raised her eyes a little and looked at us before continuing, “I’ve only told Chiaki about this because I still feel guilty then. But she made me feel better, which was surprising for me. She always seemed so cold, but her words were warm and comforting at that moment. And, I think it’s time for me to move on.”Bookmark here

“So,” she gulped down the tea again, as I poured her another.Bookmark here

“When I was small, there was this boy that I looked up to,” she said. “He’s popular, good in sports, good in academics and you can always find people flocking to him wherever he is. I didn’t manage to make any friends back then because I was shy, and I didn’t make any attempt to make friends either.”Bookmark here

“But one day,” she continued. “I was packing up my bag, ready to go home when I accidentally bumped into the boy. He lent his hand to me without another word, and I accepted it. He noticed some chalk marks on my hand and asked me about it. Most of the students already went home at the time, and I was always the one appointed to finish the class chores alone.”Bookmark here

“He only nodded,” she added. “Then he offered to wait for me to finish the class chores every day. He said he wanted someone to talk to, so I listened to him every day. His small jokes always made me laugh, his daily adventure always enlightened me. But what I liked about those moments were that I got to see another side of him, the fragile side of not wanting to be left alone, and the worrying side of not wanting to lose to others.”Bookmark here

“He was always talking,” she chuckled. “On, and on, with millions of thoughts and stories. But I realized that it’s his nature, to provide comfort, to prove that he can be trusted with his actions and words. It’s like he wore a mask, a perfect mask to cover and shelter his weaknesses. So that, no one can see me but me, at those moments. I fell in love in how strong, dependable he was, and wished that I could be like him.”Bookmark here

“We were the same age,” she swirled her cup of tea. “But he seems more mature, more reliable than I ever will be. Then, one night, my father told us that we will be selling our house to pay debts, and move away in a few days. So, I wanted to take a chance to at least tell him this. But I could never muster the courage to cut him when he’s talking so lively. I felt small, and pressured. So, until the very end, I didn’t get to say anything.”Bookmark here

“We moved away eventually, and I didn’t even leave a letter for him. I don’t think he knew my name either. Slowly, I also forgot his name. But he inspired me, and changed me. If only I could meet him again—”Bookmark here

Hideki suddenly knocked down his tea on his kimono. He quickly stood up and headed out of my room, “Toilet,” he said, on the outside.Bookmark here

“At the end of the hallway,” I replied.Bookmark here

I then heard his footsteps fade away.Bookmark here

“Is he ok?” Yui asked.Bookmark here

The girl that he felt guilty on for all these years was right in front of her. She changed him, just like he changed her. They were supporting each other all this time, without either of them realizing it.Bookmark here

So, this is what they called fate. Fate of love that untangle and intertwines together at the end.Bookmark here

“I’ll go check on him,” I said, then I went and stood in front of the toilet’s door.Bookmark here

I knocked on it. “Are you ok?”Bookmark here

“… Yeah,” Hideki replied. “Yeah. Just give me one more minute.”Bookmark here

“So the prince finally knows the girl’s name; what is he going to do next?”Bookmark here

“Nothing,” he said. “The girl has already let the prince go. Anything the prince do… won’t matter now.”Bookmark here

“Hideki…”Bookmark here

He swung the door open, I evaded it just in time.Bookmark here

“Now, a new boy has entered into the girl’s life. This new boy will try to make her happy, and wash over that stupid boy’s guilt. This new boy will make the girl a princess.”Bookmark here

I patted his back. “Then let’s go back, shall we?”Bookmark here

He wrapped his arm around my shoulder. “We shall, to our princesses.”Bookmark here

“You ok?” Yui asked Hideki as soon as she saw us entering.Bookmark here

Her eyes shifted to the tea stain on his shirt. “Was it painful?”Bookmark here

Hideki let go of me and kneeled in front of her. “It was… a little bit painful, but I’ll be ok.”Bookmark here

“Ok…?” Yui replied to his sudden approach. “Eat biscuits then,” she shoved one into his mouth.Bookmark here

“Mumm hmmumm”Bookmark here

“Tasty?”Bookmark here

Hideki nodded.Bookmark here

Yui smiled.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.