“Then … Mahiro … Dad will go now. Rest well, okay?” Dad said when the sun began to set, its rays casting an orange glow around my hospital room. It was only a few hours but spending time with him made me really happy. We did a lot of things like tell a story, tell another story, and then, tell another one.
Wait … we actually didn’t do much, did we? I thought to myself, surprised at the realization. But … That doesn’t really matter – I still enjoyed it.
“Thanks for coming.”
“Next time, I’ll bring back a lot of souvenirs.”
“Yes, Dad. I – I’ll wait for it.” I replied, my words coated with a slight sheen of bitterness that went unnoticed by my father’s ears.
Dad … Mom … I wonder … How will I get the courage to tell both of you that there probably will be no next time?
The sudden thought made me feel nauseous.
However, despite my worries, I made no move to stop my father from leaving.
I didn’t say anything when my dad said, “I’ll see you next time.”
I didn’t say anything when he looked away and started walking to the door.
I didn’t say anything when he opened it.
I didn’t say anything when he gave me one final look before leaving.
I didn’t say anything when the door finally closed, its silent thud resonating through my room and into my ears like the crack of thunder.
I didn’t say anything and now, I’m all alone.
That was all it took for the tears to start flowing from the corner of my eyes, with each drop feeling as though they were forming into small transparent needles that rammed themselves into my heart.
It took me a while to calm down – to endure the confusing maelstrom of feelings inside my stomach and heart.
I found myself lying in bed after the whole ordeal, exhausted in many ways.
It was when I was pondering over whether or not to sleep, that someone’s voice cut through the uncomfortable silence.
I rolled my eyes in response and reluctantly pushed myself to a sitting position, a scowl forming on my lips. Of course that someone would be him. No, maybe I should start calling him the ‘only one’? After all, he’s the only one who comes into my room without knocking. God, it’s such a shame that I can’t kill this idiot.
“What?!” I snapped at the cloaked figure that languidly sat on the sofa across the room, acting as if he hadn’t barged in without asking for permission.
“Are you free now?” The cloaked figure asked, innocently.
“Why? Whatever it is – can’t it be delayed until tomorrow?”
“I only need a little bit of your time. I need to show you something.”
I looked at the figure of Reaper-san illuminated by the sunset. Wow, his looks are a very clear contrast to the beauty of the sun.
“What is it?”
“I want you to come with me for a moment.”
“But it’s dinner time —”
I protested vehemently, half-tempted to throw a pillow at the cloaked man’s figure.
I don’t want to be around anyone right now. Mr. Reaper is no exception. That was what hazily floated into my mind. If we stay together while I feel like this, I’d probably end up saying something I shouldn’t say. That’d be too troublesome.
However, without listening, he took my hand and said, “This will be quick. Trust me.”
Before I knew it, I had found myself being led outside of the hospital by Mr. Reaper, his hand gripping mine in a vice-like grip. With a frown, I stared at our connected palms. Recently, Mr. Reaper has been acting strange. I feel like he’s more aggressive than before and has come to express his audacious opinion. What kind of change of mind is it? Maybe this is his way of consoling a dead girl – well, in this case, a soon-to-be-dead girl. Thinking like this, I idly felt that I could forgive him for painfully dragging me outside by my hand.
However, my thoughts were blown away the moment I saw a tree in the place I was familiar with. Unlike the cherry blossoms around it, it was a small tree with no flowers and only foliage.
“This is the cherry tree you were talking about.” He said as if he was answering the questions in my mind.
That tree was the cherry tree that I planted with Ren, six years ago.
“Hmm, I should have never told you the story.”
I tried to wave my hand out of his cold grip. However, when I squeezed my hand to free it, he suddenly placed it on the trunk of the cherry tree so that it overlapped with his hand.
My cheeks burned red when met with the answer. Then, I felt a mysterious vibration on the palm of my hand.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
I felt it pulsing, like a heartbeat, weak and almost silent.
“Is this —”
I looked up at him, but I couldn’t see his expression through the hood.
I once again touched the trunk of the cherry tree.
But this time I can’t hear anything. What exactly does that mean? I wonder what it was just before.
As I was bending my neck, Mr. Reaper laid his palm on my hand, hugging me from behind.
I was surprised and almost let go of his’, but I placed my hand back on the trunk of the cherry tree so that our hands would be pressed tightly.
Then, once again, I heard a powerful, pulsing sound.
“If it’s pulsing so well, the flowers will surely bloom next spring.”
In my ear, he said in a gentle voice.
As I was walking next to him, he said, “I’ll walk you to the hospital room.”
I instinctively asked. “Why did you do such a thing? If the sound of the weak and seemingly stopping heartbeat that I first felt was that of a cherry tree, then what’s that heartbeat that I felt that was powerful and full of vigor?”
After all, it was as if he brought the cherry tree back to life …
However, to my question, he simply said, “It’s better to have fewer regrets.”, and turned away.
“You didn’t make the cherry blossoms bloom, so I wouldn’t complain.”
“Hmm … Then?”
It’s hard to understand, but this may have been an apology from him, even if he didn’t say it directly. The conversation ended just like that, but the god of death was so nice to show me the heartbeat of the cherry blossom trees …
“This is also for work.”
He said in a deliberately cold tone. However, his clumsy kindness warmed my heart. In fact, it made me let out a small laugh.
He added, “What are you laughing at?” But the tone was so gentle that I laughed again.
“Can I ask?”
“Was that your power?”
‘What an odd power for the harbinger of death.’
When I arrived in the hospital room, I asked Reaper-san, who looked out at the sunset, and he easily admitted.
Did the weakened cherry tree come back to life with his help? I thought it was the job of the god of death to take the soul of a person, but is it possible to do the exact opposite? The god of death is strange.
“The child who planted the cherry blossoms with me.”
“He was my first love.”
Next to him, I saw a cherry tree that was almost invisible in the darkness.
However, he doesn’t seem to be interested in my story, so he gives a sloppy reaction.
But, that was good.
Thanks to him, the cherry tree will bloom after I die.
“I won’t see it. But, one day, that boy will see the cherry blossoms bloom for me.”
I want to live until that time. And I want to see the cherry blossoms side by side with him – with Ren. But …
“I agree.” He replied and placed his hand on the back of his neck.
Instinctively, I gasped, the sudden action reminding me of my recent dreams.
Ren-kun … That’s his signature move when he’s lying.
I also found it absurd to myself that I’m seeing him everywhere. Everything reminds me of my silly first love and it’s kind of bothering me.
“What are you doing?”
I unconsciously held his hand. It was already too late when I noticed it.
“Oh, that …”
I fidgeted slightly and asked him, my trembling hands overlapping with his.
“Is that a habit?”
“Putting your hand on your neck”
“Ah… I wonder.”
He didn’t seem to realize that he was doing that, and while making his hand go away from his neck, he muttered, “Maybe it’s a habit,” as if he remembered something.
“Every time my boss hits me, it’s always from behind the neck.”
“The good thing is that I don’t die. Every time I was hit … Well, it doesn’t hurt. I guess it just became a habit to hold my neck like this.”
“That’s a harsh boss.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or get angry at his domineering boss, but since he talks about it plainly, it just sounded like he doesn’t mind a few laughs from yours truly.
I may or may not be getting paranoid from the thought that’s been bothering me.
Stop thinking about it then, idiot. I chastised myself, upset at my silly thoughts. But, a small part of my mind whispered to itself, yearning for answers. Was it because of the dream that I had? Or was it because I touched our cherry tree? Even such a small gesture reminded me of him. Why?
The one next to me should be Reaper-san, but his appearance made me think of another guy.
It pained me.
I must have made a face because Mr. Reaper quickly asked if I was alright.
Still lost in thought, I replied with a dull and short “Yes.”, causing him to sigh.
“Sorry, I forced you to come outside. I’ll leave now, so take a rest.”
With that said, I watched as he walked towards the window and suddenly disappeared, like the ghost he actually was.
And for that night, I found myself tossing and turning while shooting the occasional glance out of said window, unconsciously looking for the reaper who melted into the night sky.