Chapter 22: To Believe And To Not (Chronicles of Time)
Natsumi snapped out of her dreams, following that bright white line that showed itself in the darkness. She knew it was leading her to the exit. When she opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was someone beside her.
Snow-white hair and a red mark on his forehead. It wasn’t Yuu. She couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Mustering up her strength, she glanced around the room and her eyes finally landed on her desired target.
But then, some rando interrupted their conversation. It was yet another beautiful boy, but this time, he claimed to be a god. Just how many times has she seen this scene play out? First, she finds Yuu packed away in a safe who bursted out of the space he occupied for years and boldly says that he’s her fiancee and an almighty wizard. Then she finds out that Koru was actually an Okami (which she happily accepted) who’s in charge of her protection. Now there’s this short boy who claims to be her grandfather? And a god?
Outrageous! Just how many people in their lives can meet such a divine individual?! Who’s next? Satan?
As if things weren’t crazy enough the boy suddenly blurts out, “Don’t you want to get revenge on this man who killed your parents?!”
Shocked, but confused, she felt something slip out of her hands and crash onto the ground. “...What are you talking about?”
Yuu…killed her parents?
“What nonsense are you spewing?” Her voice rose higher and higher as she spoke in disbelief, firmly defending him. “Yuu wouldn’t do that! Besides, my parents were killed in an accident!”
“Ha!” the boy spat viciously. “Is that what they’ve told you? Humans and their wonderful concoction ability! They’ve weaved a miserable–but believable–story to pull wool over your eyes! If you don’t believe me, why don’t you ask him yourself?”
In a fit of fury, she turned to him. “Yuu–”
Deadpanned, he opened his mouth to speak. “Natsumi….Let me ask you, would you like to hear the truth or a beautifully embellished lie?”
Her hands scrunched up the bedsheets underneath her. “What? What are you saying? Of course I want to hear the truth!”
The truth behind her parents death? Wasn’t it obvious that they died in a car accident? It couldn’t be a lie. Everyone told her that was how their lives ended, so how could it be a lie? Yuu killing her parents? That was more like a lie! It couldn’t be! In her heart, she firmly believed that he would never do such a thing. He couldn’t do such a thing.
However, his emotionless expression forebode an answer that didn’t please her beliefs.
“That’s right.” He said calmly. “I killed them.”
There was no way that this was the same person she knew. Her whole body began to shake, her hands clenching onto the sheets, about to tear it off. “You’re…you’re joking…aren’t you? Ha…haha…ha….”
He stayed silent, his eyes locked onto hers. They were hollow, like those of a dead man’s. As if the situation couldn’t get any worse, he just had to repeat himself, “I killed them.”
Natsumi held her gaze on him, her breathing slow. “You…killed them?”
It was brief, but it seemed as though Yuu hesitated. He reiterated, “I killed them.”
Her breath shuddered, “So…why…why did you…ha..haha…why would you… What about all the times we shared…? Was it…was it just a joke to you? Why…why…?”
“What do you want me to say?” He said. “‘I’m sorry’?”
Unable to help herself, she scoffed in disbelief, “Are you…are you serious? You..? You really..?”
“I would never lie to you,” he said. If she heard this from him before this entire mess, she would’ve been elated. But now–
She felt something snap inside of her, and something else shattering. Before she even knew it, she was shouting at the top of her lungs. “You’re lying! You’re lying! LYING! LYING! YOU LIAR! I DON’T BELIEVE YOU! I WON’T BELIEVE YOU! I WON’T! WON’T! WON’T!”
She covered her ears as she continued to shout. She couldn’t believe it. She won’t believe it. Yuu whom she trusted; Yuu who messed around with her; Yuu who she thought of as her best friend! Just why did he approach her with bloodstained hands?! The same hands that had killed her parents, the same hands that had cooked for her, the same ones that she had held.
JUST WHAT WAS HIS PURPOSE?!
Why did he save her then?! Why did he save the child of the two people that he murdered?? Why did he stay with her? Why did he appear before her? And–and–just why?!!
Akira swallowed with difficulty. It should’ve been a happy time now that his master had woken up, but why did the situation do a complete one-eighty? Just a few words from his elder agitated the joyful mood from earlier. To bring such an old case into light and point out the real culprit who turned out to be next to the victim’s side all along–just what sort of sickly proposition was this?
But his elder was also stunned. Natsumi’s shouts of stubbornness from opening her eyes to the truth in front of her were out of nowhere. If he had known that bringing up the subject would result in this capricious reaction, he would’ve just chosen to quietly get rid of the magician later on.
He took a step back.
Just what did he start?
Yuu’s words had driven her to a spate of screams. “YOU’RE LYING! LYING!”
After a while of madness her throat finally gave away. The sudden burst of energy from before, died. She dragged herself up, her head leaned back slightly to face him. Her eyes were as dead as his. Dark and sullen, with a small flame growing in her iris.
He stared at her with that cold gaze. A gaze of a person who had already prepared for the worst.
“Why?” She struggled to say. Thick heat crawled up her throat, like a heavy block of hot metal melting in her throat and refusing to move down. It burned and hurted, just as much as her heart. “Why? Why?! …Can’t you tell me the reason…at least? Can’t you say…that you didn’t do it? Any—any excuse…any reason…just anything!”
From her childhood memories, her parents were kind people. They were well-liked, and she had never heard anyone complain about them. Not once. They were truly parents to be proud of and brag about. Showers of affection and words filled with warmth were given to her everyday. Natsumi was never mistreated in any way…so what did they do that made them deserve to be killed?
Yuu lowered his head so his eyes were no longer visible. His nails dug into his palms but she didn’t see it.
“...you can’t even tell me that?” She laughed a little in disbelief. “YOU CAN’T EVEN TELL ME THE REASON WHY MY PARENTS WERE KILLED BY YOU?! HA…HA HA…DID YOU JUST KILL THEM BECAUSE YOU WERE BORED OR SOMETHING, AND SO YOU MADE UP A BUNCH OF–A BUNCH OF LIES OUT OF GUILT A-AND APPROACHED ME KNOWING THAT YOU WERE THE CAUSE OF MY PARENT’S DEATH?!”
She could still remember the pain she suffered when the mental blow came. The way her grandma, the only living relative she had left, walked to her with her steps unsteady. The way she bent down and pushed her face into her shoulders, and told her in a bare whisper:
“Your parents…are gone.”
The moment that she refused to believe her words and smiled innocently like the child she was and replied simply, “What are you saying, grandma? Mom and dad promised me that they’ll cook curry tonight.” And the moment when she saw their caskets being carried up the platform covered in flowers. The sound of close acquaintances weeping and the looks of pity that bore into her skin. That bitter slap of reality that told her, “You’re alone now”.
She remembered them all!
“WHO ARE YOU TO BEFRIEND ME?!” She threw the nearest object to her at him. What aggravated her even more was that he didn’t dodge and accepted the blow. “WHY DID YOU SAVE ME?!! WHO WERE YOU…no…who are you…?”
She let out an indignant scoff.
“Alright… Don’t reply...I…I see how it is.” Natsumi nodded slowly, letting out an irritated huff. Then she poured all her anger into her last shout. “GET OUT! GET OUT!! I DON’T…I DON’T EVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN!”
For a split moment there was a pained expression on his face. But it vanished quickly.
“..as you wish.”
Her eyes shook as she stared at the empty place where his figure once stood. Just as fast as he had left, she regretted telling him to leave.
‘He…really left.’ She wanted to cry. Like a piece of her heart was ripped out, her whole body was sobbing. Her lips trembled. “No…I didn’t mean it…come back…”
Would it have been better if she had just never woken up at all?
How long has it been since he had heard her yell? How long has it been since he last saw her in such a deranged state?
Then, little by little, his hands became increasingly unsteady. No matter how many times he experienced this he couldn’t get used to it. Inside, he laughed at himself. Why did he keep doing this to himself? Was he a masochist? Did he like getting stabbed in the heart repeatedly?
Instead of defending himself, he handed her the knife and provoked her to stab him. It was alright if he got lashed at if that meant she could vent her anger and anguish on him. Every. Single. Time. But that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. He was also human. Every time he saw her breakdown, every time he saw her cry–cry over his mistakes. But this time–
It was too painful. More heart-wrenching than he thought it’d be. All the weight from the times before collapsed onto him. It was too much. Too much. Too many emotions that were hard to control.
“What did I expect?” He mumbled. “Once again…I couldn’t protect her…and only brought harm.”
No matter how cold and distant he acted, his heart was gentle. He fell to his knees and laughed and laughed crazily. Midway, choking sobs started to mix with his laughs. “Just…how…useless am I? I couldn’t…even do…one thing...one thing…right…ha! Haha! Ha!”
No one could hear him. He was all alone, just as he wished. His hands dug through his scalp as he pulled and scratched as he cried. Cried about how powerless he was; how stupid he was; how utterly incapable he was. He had thought that as long as she was safe, all would be well. But now? Everything fell apart again. Were his methods wrong? Was he not supposed to save her? How could he not?
Then what was the mistake? Approaching her? Talking to her? Drinking in her smile?
Or maybe…was he…was he…the mistake?
The sky was darkened and filled with twinkling dots by the time he raised his head with a wisp of clarity. His voice had become hoarse from restraining his cries, and the rim of his eyes were worn out.
He swayed as he started to walk. With each step, his mind was drowned in the ocean of tears he held back. And then–
‘But I did it…to protect you.’