SCP-8105 “Time Crossing”

Entry Writchal #1

Theme: Droplets of Time


SCP-8105 “Time Crossing”

Item #: SCP-8105

Object Class: Euclid

Special Containment Procedures: The Foundation’s Indonesian branch is currently unable to completely block the location of SCP-8105, due to a combination of political reasons and the difficulty of diverting traffic flow around the area. In place, the following measures have been applied:

  • The non-anomalous traffic lights originally marking SCP-8105 have been dismantled and currently stored in Storage Site-21.
  • The white stripes originally marking SCP-8105 have been removed.
  • A traffic sign forbidding crossing at the location of SCP-8105 has been erected.
    • A pedestrian bridge to facilitate the crossing of █████████ Street has been erected, 50 ft. (15 m) west of SCP-8105’s location.
  • The area surrounding SCP-8105 is under 24 hour Foundation surveillance. Any civilian found trying to cross SCP-8105 should be escorted away from the area by Foundation personnel posing as the local police force.
    • Any resistance should be met with the appropriate force up to the administering of amnestics if deemed necessary.

The implementation of the current containment procedures in February of 202█ has been fully successful in preventing unauthorized SCP-8105 Events from occurring.

Additionally, the Foundation is closely monitoring the news, social media, and the populace for potential cases of SCP-8105-1 instances.

Confirmed cases of civilian SCP-8105-1 must be taken to the Foundation’s custody and held in a Standard Humanoid Containment Cell for a protocol of examinations and interviews as outlined in Document-8105-8A. Upon the successful conclusion of the protocol and the approval of a Level-2 Researcher or above, the SCP-8105-1 instance should be amnesticized and reintegrated into society. 

Description:

SCP-8105 is a stretch of road (including the adjacent sidewalk), previously used as a pedestrian crossing, going across the █████████ Street in the city of B██████, Indonesia. The original pedestrian crossing spanned 39 ft. (12 m) in length and 13 ft. (4 m) in width.

The anomalous effect of SCP-8105 (“SCP-8105 Event”) triggers under the following condition:

  • A person intends to cross SCP-8105
  • The person has previously crossed SCP-8105 at least once
  • The person is reminiscing about about the first time they crossed SCP-8105
  • It is currently raining above SCP-8105
  • A raindrop drops on the person, on exposed skin or otherwise

The moment the raindrop makes contact with the person, the person undergoes a temporal displacement event that transports their consciousness back to the first moment they crossed the street.  Persons experiencing an SCP-8105 Event are then assigned SCP-8105-1. To outside observers, SCP-8105-1 instances appear to vanish at the moment of SCP-8105’s activation. 

Upon arriving in the past, the existence of an SCP-8105-1 instance invariably alters that timeline, branching it from our base timeline. Accordingly, the Foundation can no longer observe SCP-8105-1 instances originating from this timeline, as there is currently no Foundation equipment capable of transmitting information over different timelines.

All agents and D-Class personnel assigned to SCP-8105 experiments should be equipped with the proper identification, standard Foundation tracking device, and instructions to make contact with the Foundation in that timeline posthaste.

Additionally, all agents and D-Class personnel on active SCP-8105 experiments are strictly forbidden from contacting people they know outside of the Foundation unless otherwise required for the specific experiment.

SCP-8105 first came into the Foundation’s knowledge in November of 20██, when an SCP-8105-1 instance (now designated SCP-8105-1-Zero) made contact with local Foundation agents. After verifying SCP-8105-1-Zero’s identification, Researcher Arisaputra tested and confirmed the existence of SCP-8105.

In SCP-8105-1-Zero’s original timeline, SCP-8105 was only discovered by the Foundation in July of 20██, when an SCP-8105-1 underwent an SCP-8105 Event and “disappeared” during peak traffic hours in front of many civilians, requiring a wide scale operation to amnesticize all civilians involved.

To see the possibility of preventing the event from occurring, SCP-8105-1 was sent to our timeline. Upon implementing the containment protocols recommended by the Foundation from SCP-8105-Zero’s timeline, the said event was successfully averted.

As SCP-8105 can serve as a warning system, Foundation branches located around SCP-8105 should closely monitor any SCP-8105-1 instances coming from a version of the Foundation in the future and report them to the appropriate authorities. The Indonesian Foundation is also to monitor for potential recruits living around the location of SCP-8105 to use in SCP-8105 experiments.

Addendum:

Note from Head Researcher Dr. Arisaputra: 

From SCP-8105-1-Lambda, we received several narratives written by civilians undergoing  SCP-8105 Events (it seems the Foundation in timeline Lambda has a much more freewheeling approach to their research methodology). I’ve attached those narratives to this document.

Although they may vary in structure and do not contain much technical information, I advise other researchers to read through those to gain a better understanding of SCP-8105 and the potential it holds to change one’s past and future beyond our scientific approach. I believe we can gain valuable insights that can help us maximize the potential application of SCP-8105.


Writer: Rheine

Crimson Everywhere

Entry Writchal #1

Theme: Droplets of Time


Crimson Everywhere

By P.C.

 

“It’s cloudy again. Soon the roads will be filled with red.”

I stand beside a junction, watching cars rush past me. I look up, waiting for the traffic light to turn red so I can cross. Standing here made me realise, this is the second time I’ve been to this junction. The first time, it was….

“No. I don’t want to remember that,” I said to myself. “Not again.”

The cloud grows darker and people start to put up their umbrellas.

I hold back the tears in my eyes. “I really don’t want to, but I’m cursed to relive it, every day.”

Holding the pain of the past, I put my hand on my chest. The sky starts to cry. I look up and a droplet touches my eye. My sight fades to white as memories flow back to me.

***

We’re a family, but not the normal kind.

“Graham, can you come here?” asked Mother Shaista.

“Coming Mother,” said the oldest child, running to the mother’s room. “How can I help you?”

“Heal my neck pain. I must’ve slept wrong last night.”

“Okay, Mother.”

He climbed to the bed and put her palm on mother’s neck. A faint yellow light glowed underneath. As power drained out of his body, he looked across the newly changed room. There’s a brown wallpaper, mixing with the wood furniture. A crimson carpet was placed between the bed and a table.

“I feel much better now. Now go to your room and take care of the plants,” said Mother Shaista, shushing him away.

Graham fled the room and closed the door. He went back to his room like usual. Mother Shaista stood up and looked at the mirror. She plucked out a single strand of white hair, put lipstick on, and fixed her make up until everything was perfect to her.

She went out of her room, looking disappointed. She stared at something in the middle of the room.  There’s a huge flower wreath decoration that seems to appear overnight.

“Troy! Go here quickly,” called her to the room across her bedroom.

A silent boy walked out of his room.  “What is it, Mother?” said the middle child.

“What’s this ugly thing doing in my house?” belittle Mother Shaista. “I don’t want flowers rotting in my house.”

The ever so small smile vanished from his face. “It’s a decoration I made. I thought it fit here.”

“Change it to something better. It ruins the atmosphere.”

The boy looked down. “Okay, Mother.”

He raised his hands. Red light shined brightly from inside the flowers. Smoke bloomed inside out like a slow explosion, covering the whole decoration with its crimson glow. The organic matter turned to marble and hardened in the shape of Mother Shaista. He fell to his feet, sweating like rain after using a lot of his power.

“That’s much better,” said the mother. “Now, change the wallpaper too so it fits better.”

“Yes, Mother,” said the boy, still catching his breath.

Mother Shaista left for the kitchen and boiled some water. Red light dimly glows behind the wall. She stared blankly at the wall, smoking a cigar she picked from her pocket. Puffs of smoke flew up. Blue wallpaper crawled out of the old one as the water boiled. After finishing her cigar, she poured the water to make tea.

She drank the steaming Chamomile tea. “Finally, a good wallpaper.”

Mother Shaista turned her back and looked at the steel covered window. The youngest child peeked from behind the kitchen door. When she finished her tea, she went back to the main room, ignoring the child.

The youngest child followed by her side. “Mother, can I help you today?”

“Get away Fatiha, your power is as useful as that trash over there. I don’t want to be near your cursed power. Why don’t you be helpful and pick that up.”

Fatiha stopped. “Okay, Mother.”

The Mother entered back her room and slammed it closed. Fatiha walked slowly to the trash, keeping her head low. 

“Why am I cursed with this power? Why did mother hated it so much?” thought Fatiha to herself.

Graham saw everything. He went to her side. “Are you okay, Fatiha?”

“I’m fine. Just got to do some cleaning again,” sighed her, picking up trash with spite.

He caressed her hand. “Hey, seeing the future is not useless nor cursed, okay? No power is useless. You have to remember that.”

“I know, it’s just…,” she stopped. “Why does Mother act like this?”

Graham was about to speak when they heard something. From the other side, there’s sobbing from behind the walls. Exactly in Troy’s room. Fatiha and graham looked there, then to Mother’s room. She still hadn’t come out yet.

“What’s she doing in there?” pondered Fatiha to herself.

“That’s Troy crying. I’ll take care of him. We’ll continue this talk later.”

Graham ran over to Troy’s room.

Fatiha went back to her room, right next to Troy’s. “I shouldn’t help him; I can’t help with anything. I’ll even be a hassle for them.”

She sat in the room, listening to everything. Graham opened the door. Troy’s crawled up on the bed. Tears fell off his chin like rain, creating a flood inside.

The oldest sibling swiftly moved to his side and hugged him. “Troy, are you okay? Talk to me.” 

He’s still sobbing. The water rose yet it didn’t leave his room. Crimson glow flows around the room, slowly changing the wallpaper and shelves. Everything in the room is turning into a chaotic blob of mess. Nothing is differentiable anymore.

Graham pulled Troy’s hand. It’s bruised and bleeding. “It’s okay, I’m here,” told him while healing Troy’s wound. He used his powers while looking at Troy. “You need to control your power. Just take a deep breath and let the air flow out.”

Troy took a deep breath and breathed out slowly. He did that a few more times while holding back his tears.

Graham caressed the now healed hand. “That’s it. Breath slowly. I’m here to help.”

All the crimson smoke and chaotic mess turned back into its original form. The flood subsided into the floor. Troy was still sobbing, but had relaxed his body.

Worry filled Graham’s face. “Tell me, what’s wrong?”

Troy released Graham’s hug. “I just used too much of my power and lost control. That’s all.”

“Are you sure? Where did you get that wound?”

Troy backed away. “I accidentally cut my arm with my own power when I sleepwalked last night. Nothing to worry about.”

“Okay then. If you need any help, you could call me. I will always help everyone,” said Graham. He patted Troy’s back. “I’ll be in my room if you need me.”

Fatiha listened through all of Troy’s suffering. She knew something wasn’t right and it needed to be solved. She pondered about using her power, but that will invoke the wrath of Mother Shaista.

All of that chaos made the siblings forget about time. Soon it was night. Everyone had dinner and it’s time to sleep. All of the siblings were in their room. Graham had slept deeply as his snoring could be heard throughout the house. Troy is just being silent inside, like usual. Fatiha on the other hand couldn’t sleep after what happened to Troy earlier. She wanted to see what happened, but Mother Shaista will blame her again if anything went wrong in the future.

“I have to see what will happen, no matter the cost. I want to help for once in my life.”

Fatiha picked a bowl of water and imbued it with a blue glow. The water stirred around, turning the water to a glowing blue liquid. She looked up and dropped a drop of liquid to her eye.

Her sight faded and turned to a new scenery, something she had never seen before. The sky is filled with blue and blotches of white. A huge black line stretching from one horizon to the other, patterned with a few white lines. Another of that black line crosses it right next to her. Huge mirror-like blocks stand tall one next to the other. Lamps glow from a tall metal pole nest to the black lines, few have red, yellow, and green lights. Then she sees Troy running. Soon after, her vision is gone and she’s back to her bedroom.

“What did I just see?”

Fatiha’s mind is cluttered, trying to remember every detail of her future sighting. “I’ve never seen a place that big before. I don’t even understand anything I see except for Troy. What is my brother doing in my future vision? Argh.”  This is the first time Fatiha couldn’t understand the future. “My vision couldn’t make up something false. Then, where did my future sighting take place?”

She was awake all night, staring at the metal covered window. “There’s a possibility that there’s something beyond these walls and windows. Is that where my future vision takes place?” 

Her wandering thoughts were disturbed by something behind her door. There’s a crimson light just under the door slit.

“Troy must’ve been sleepwalking again. I’ll wake him up.”

Fatiha stepped down from the bed and peek through the keyhole. Troy is walking to Mother’s room. She held the door handle tightly that it creaked. Troy instantly turned his head and looked directly to Fatiha’s room.  She backed away from the door, turning her back against it.

“He’s not sleepwalking. Then what is he doing?”

As soon as she looked back, he’s already gone. Troy is not sleepwalking and a vision that doesn’t make sense. All of that made Fatiha’s mind tired. She climbed back to her bed and rested until the next day came.

***

The day started as usual, with the shouting of Mother Shaista about her neck pain. Graham healed her and went back to his room. Mother took a stroll to the kitchen, judging every corner of the room. Troy is standing at his door frame, waiting if Mother will call him to change anything.

Fatiha walked to the kitchen door. “Mother, do you need any help from me?”

“Get away child. I’m not in the mood for your useless power blocking my path,” said Mother Shaista, pushing her away while holding her tea. She fell to the ground. “You’d better stay in your room than make trouble for everyone else. Why do I even waste food for you?”

Fatiha tried to hold back her tears. Mother Shaista didn’t look back at her and entered her room as usual. As soon as the door was closed, Fatiha ran barging to her room and cried on her bed. 

Graham ran to the room and sat next to her. “Fatiha, are you okay? Why are you crying?”

“I’m just very tired of Mother calling me useless, a waste of space and food. I just wish she would appreciate my power just once.”

He patted her shoulder. “I understand, but no one can change Mother’s mind. She’s too dense. I’m sorry.”

Fatiha cried louder. “You can heal anything, right?”

“Yes. Are you hurt? Where’s the wound you want me to heal?”

She looked at him and pointed at her heart. “I don’t want my heart to hurt again. It’s been too long that my heart is left dusting, hurt, bleeding from Mother’s sharp tongue that keeps hurting me every single day.”

Graham sighed. “You know I can’t heal that.”

Fatiha calmed down, still filled with tears. “I don’t even want to be liked. I just want her to think of me as her child.”

“Fatiha, I know these are hard times and I’m always ready to help.”

“Then why don’t you help me when Mother pushes me away? Why don’t you stand up for me as the oldest sibling?” asked her.

Graham looked down. His heart stirred with regret and sadness. “You’re right. I should’ve been there for you, for all three of us. I just stay passive and help when asked, not when I know other people need my help.”

Graham hugged Fatiha tightly.

He released her. “The only way to stop your pain is to end the source itself.”

Fatiha stared seriously. “You didn’t meant murder, right?”

“Well, I meant it, as if it would do anything. Mother can literally revive from the dead. Killing her will only make her hurt all of us.”

She was at a loss for words. Her tears stopped in shock. “You’re the one with healing powers, why are you so okay with murder?”

“You get used to demented stuffs when you’ve seen a lot of bad things.”

Fatiha just kept watching in awe. She shook her head and remembered something. “Let’s just not talk about that again. Also, I think something is wrong with Troy.”

“Why is that?” asked him.

“You remember always seeing a red light pass the main room and Troy always said that he was sleepwalking?”

“Yep. Apparently, he always accidentally activates his power when he sleepwalked.”

“Well, what I saw last night isn’t it. He was fully awake.”

Graham looked at her. “That’s it?”

“No of course. He was heading to Mother’s room. I can feel something is wrong and my feeling is proven by my future vision.”

“You used your power yesterday? But Mother will be angry if she knew about this.”

“Yes. Can we just check up on him?”

“You used your power because you wanted to help Troy. I should’ve done the same,” said Graham in regret. “We have to tell him your vision.”

Graham opened the door and peeked at Mother’s room. She hadn’t come out again. Fatiha followed right behind. He knocked Troy’s door.

He came out looking more tired than ever. “Graham, Fatiha, what are you all doing here?”

“Can we talk for a bit?” asked Graham.

Troy sluggishly opened the door fully. “Sure.”

All three of them sat on the bed, closing the door shut.

“What were you doing last night, Troy? Walking in the main room,” asked Fatiha.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I must’ve sleepwalked again.”

“Really? Then why did you look at my room when I made a sound? Your sight is completely normal.”

“Fine, you caught me. I was taking food from the kitchen.”

Graham moved forward. “You’re lying again. You’re heading to Mother’s room. What are you doing there?”

Troy stayed silent.

Graham touched Troy’s shoulder. “We’re here to help you. You can say anything to us and we will do anything for you.”

“We want to help you, but we can’t do it if you stay silent,” said Fatiha.

Troy looked back. Slowly water was rising from the floors. Red smoke started to spew out of Troy.

Graham hugged Troy. “Troy, hold your powers. Calm down, we’re here for you.”

Fatiha moved forward and hugged him too. “Troy, we care about you. Please take a deep breath.”

“I’m trying,” said Troy, still crying. “I must control my power.”

Troy’s hand is gripped tightly. He took several deep breaths while holding back the tears in his eyes. Soon the crimson power vanished and the waters subsided. They released their hug.

“Troy, please tell us what’s bothering you. We want to help.”

Troy shook his head. “I would be punished if I tell you anything.”

Graham placed his hand on Troy’s shoulder “We will protect you. You won’t be hurt.”

“Okay, I trust you,” said Troy. “If you want to know, you have to see it for yourself, tonight.”

“It’s in Mother’s room, isn’t it?” asked Fatiha.

“Yes, see you tonight. Don’t be seen by Mother.”

***

It was night. The three siblings walked out of their room. Troy walked first, opening Mother’s room. Fatiha and Graham watched from behind, holding the door so as to not make any sound. Troy rolled the red rug beneath, unravelling a trapdoor with wooden stairs. Fatiha and Graham raised their eyebrows, but couldn’t speak about it. They must stay silent.

Stepping down the creaking stairs, they found an opening. There’s light from the inside. Troy nodded and went in first. Fatiha and Graham peeked inside. Mother Shaista was here, standing in a small room filled with candles and an altar. Clotted blood filled the top of it. 

“There you are, Troy. What takes you so long?” asked Mother Shaista.

“I’m sorry.”

She sighed. “Whatever, just do your job.”

Crimson light swirled around Troy. It poured down on the altar, forming something solid. His body was shaking. Slowly the light turned into flesh, creating something that looks like a goat. Its scream filled the room. Troy fell, exhausting his power. Mother Shaista picked up a knife and slit the goat’s neck.

Fatiha and Graham watched in horror. Fresh blood flew down the altar, filling the cracks on the floor.

“With this, the ritual to renew our power is completed,” said Mother Shaista.

Graham thought to himself. “I can’t believe Mother has been using Troy to sustain our power. But why?”

“She must’ve used Troy’s power so that she can keep using her power forever. Is that why she doesn’t care about me? Because I’m useless for her,” thought Fatiha.

Fatiha stepped back, moving away from the ritual room. She stepped once more, accidentally stepping on the creaking stairs. Mother Shaista turned her head instantly, glaring at the entrance. Graham’s eyes widened.

Mother Shaista held up her knife. “Why are you two here? I will kill you for knowing this secret!”

Fatiha and Graham ran away in panic, stumbling a few times up the stairs.

Troy with his weakened state screamed. “Mother, stop!”

Fatiha and Graham ran past the doorway, into the main room, but Mother Shaista was quicker. She stabbed them multiple times. Graham tried to fight her back while healing both of their wounds. Troy walked up while still recovering his strength.

Troy stood at the doorway. “Mother! Stop hurting my siblings.”

Mother Shaista stepped away from Fatiha and Graham. “They already know my secret. Besides, what are you going to do about it?”

Troy frowned. “I’m going to end you.”

“Go ahead and try. You know I’ll be revived over and over again. You can’t do anything about it,” bragged Mother Shaista.

Troy stood still, thinking what to do next.

“See, you’re nothing. You have no power over me.”

“Maybe I don’t. But what if I end the source of our power?”

Mother Shaista looked to her room. “I’m not letting you touch that altar.”

“Who said I’m talking about the altar?”

Mother Shaista looked back. “No, you won’t get past me.”

Troy shot out a red light, pushing away Mother Shaista. He ran to the steel-covered window and poured out his power. Mother Shaista stood up quickly and chased after him. Fatiha and Graham followed not far behind, trying to stop her. The steel was slowly melting. Light shone from behind it, brighter than Troy has ever seen.

“Stop there,” screamed Mother Shaista, trying to grab him.

It was too late. Troy blasted the steel, blowing away everyone else. Blinding light shone on Troy, making him just a silhouette.

Fatiha was stunned. “How is there a bright light? This is night time.”

“Finally, freedom,” said Troy, smiling.

He ran past the light. Mother Shaista woke up and chased him again. Fatiha and Graham watched the blinding light in awe, following behind Mother. They looked at the long black line with white lines on the side, it crosses right next to them. Tall glass blocks stood tall beside the black line. Lamps with red, yellow, and green light stood on where the black lines crossed.

Mother Shaista won’t give up. “I will catch you. You’ve ruined this family.”

Blinded by light, Troy kept running from Mother Shaista. “Freedom at last.”

Loud sound roared from Tory’s side and soon he saw darkness. A huge metal box crashed into him, splitting his body in two. Troy screamed in pain as he tried to hold the pain. Mother Shaista was petrified as she watched her only power source was losing a lot of blood quickly. Graham sprinted to Troy’s side, shining yellow light on him.

“Troy please hold in there. I’m trying to heal you,” cried graham

He spent all of his power but the wound wouldn’t close. Fatiha stepped forward in fear.

“I’m the one who sees this in my vision. I’m the one to be blamed again. I knew I shouldn’t have used my power again.”

Troy kept screaming, blasting away every single power he had in his body. Graham tried to stop him from using his power, but nothing worked. Crimson blood spew out like rain, spreading across the black line. Nothing can stop this from happening.

Crimson light blasted out of Troy’s scream, filling the air in fear. It stroked Graham and Fatiha, slowly draining them of their life. Mother Shaista backed away and she watched in horror. Graham and Fatiha grew pale and not long after, they are already skeletons. Troy was still in pain. He cried out loud before his own power killed him. 

All of the sudden, everything is silent. Mother Shaista’s body is silent, not a single muscle moved. The sky suddenly turned grey and it started raining crimson everywhere.

***

My sight fades back and I’m back to my reality. I couldn’t hold back my tears. My body weakened and I fell to the sidewalk, right in front of the crossroad where all of that horror happened. That all was my mistake.

I was too evil to all of my children. I was too prideful to think that they couldn’t do anything without me. Thinking that as the one who gives power to the whole family, I get to do anything I want. I was sorely mistaken. I was the one who ruined my family.

Now, I’m cursed to relive that moment every day of my life. Reliving the nightmare I was being a long time ago. Ever since that moment, it has rained red every day. Every drop of it is filled with power from my children, making me see the past, healing every wound I have, charging up my own power so I can’t die even if I want to. I’ve tried to do it many times, but all failed. I was left hopeless in a powerless world.

I get a hold of myself and walk forward. Across the road, there’s a destroyed building. I could still see the wallpaper that I used to complain about. Broken beds sit under heavy steel. The trapdoor to the basement is destroyed, buried forever in stone and dust.

Dust sweeps away as I walk to a piece of a wall that’s still standing. “Oh, how I had wronged you all. How bad of a mother I was.”

My arm caresses the dusty wall with torn wallpaper. A Graham-like figure appeared from behind it. His body is transparent and skinny, almost skeleton-like.

“Oh Graham, is that really you?”

He doesn’t respond. His sight is soulless, as if he’s not here.

“I understand that you don’t want to talk to me. I was wrong. I put too much pressure on you as an older brother, putting too much work on healing everyone. I shouldn’t have been that demanding of you.”

His body floats away from me, walking towards someone who looks just like him. Fatiha flies apart from me. She’s looking down, holding her hands together. I walk closer but she moves away, hiding behind the only piece of wall.

“Poor Fatiha. I treated you very badly. I always thought your power was useless and wasting energy out of the altar. But now I know, you’re the one who can warn me of the bad things that could happen. I ignore you and here I am, living miserably in the world that’s moving forward. I’m so sorry.”

She’s mute like Graham. Her soulless body just floats away. Soon Troy appears, walking from the crossroad he was killed at.

“Troy, the one who I treated the worst. I used your power just to infinitely power the altar. I’m just using you as a tool, not as a son. I was too scared of losing my powers, now I have to live with it forever because of my greed. I deserved to be punished like this. You deserved a better life from me. I’m so sorry.”

Not even a movement from him. I understand that. Being abused your whole life, it’ll be very difficult to forgive them, or even face them. I was the evil one and I understand why none of my children will talk to me.

Even though nothing can change the past, I’ve finally had the courage to say sorry to all of my wrongdoings to my children. Even though they’re no longer here, I can feel a slight weight has been lifted off me. All of the things I did in the past, have changed the present. And with that, I must learn to live in the moment, facing the future with hope.

I walk away from the crumbled building, facing the crosswalk again. The crimson rain subsided. Clouds go away, revealing glimmering crimson sky everywhere with golden sun setting on the horizon.


Writer: P. C.

Hexachronigrid

Entry Writchal #1

Theme: Droplets of Time


Hexachronigrid

Rahven shambled away from the park. It had once been a place of comfort in the only city he had ever known, away from the anxieties of his childhood house just a few blocks away. But it hadn’t been. Not in these past few years. Not since- … that day. Or perhaps even long before that. Why was he here anyway? In this accursed town he had spent too long and too short of his life in, when he now knew of other towns? One of which even has a house with his name in its deeds, unlike this one.

Why, indeed? Rahven looked up to the sky, even if sunlight was sparse in this part of the year, it’d feel good on his face all the same. Perhaps it’d help his mood and mind even now.

Rahven turned his head back down and stretched, a big smile on his not-so-big-head. The rays of sunlight warmed his face and body nicely while the winds of spring filled his lungs with fresh air. He didn’t know why his father had decided to move to this part of town from their previous one. Something about money and time? gas? and… work? In any case, it was something he was too young and stupid to make any sense of. At least, that’s what his dad had told him.

Anyway, it didn’t matter why they had moved! There’s a huge park just a few blocks away from his new house! This park had fountains and ponds and swings and food stands and seesaws and kids! Kids! Like him! The nearest park to his old home barely had any kids. Sure, sure, it wasn’t deserted… but it had teens! Meanie teens! Which was definitely worse than if the park had been deserted! … and creepy.

Rahven had been so stoked when he had seen the park on the way to his new house that he had immediately begged his mom to go to the park with him. But she had refused. Too busy. New house needed decorating. Why wasn’t he useful? Stop being annoying. But it didn’t matter, his dad had come to the rescue and he was in the park! … alone. But, eh, what’s the worse that could happen? He’s had a blast so far meeting the other kids and playing in the park, committing all its gorgeus wonderful details to his memories.

He hadn’t really wanted to leave yet. But the other kids had told him there were cool shops this way! Shops with snacks and sweets from floor to ceiling, shops with ice creams all over the floor, shops with awesome trinkets at every corner! He just had to see them!

Still, he wanted to commit as much of the park to memory so turned his head back to the park.

“Rahven!”

Rahven blinked and– blinked. He turned his head to his girlfriend of… three years? He definitely needed to check the notes on his phone again, wouldn’t want to accidentally write the wrong number on their anniversary gift.

… was their anniversary coming soon? It’s almost fall now …right? … when did they start their relationship again?

“… are you okay?” Sarene asked, brows furrowed and head tilted.

“Yeah, I- I’m… fine?” Rahven… answered? Questioned? Said. Rahven said, trying to regain some focus. “Sorry, what were we talking about again?”

“Well, just some plans for the homecoming at our high school,” she answered slowly. “I asked if you wanted me to help plan your outfit and then you… froze,” the girl looked over her shoulder. “Did you see something?”

“Yes! … no?” Rahven answered, making Sarene even more concerned. “Sorry, I- yeah, I thought I saw…” Sarene was definitely getting more concerned… and alarmed. “It’s nothing! I’m sure what I saw was nothing! Let’s just get to the snacks store and then the ice cream parlor!” Rahven tried to grin with enthusiasm when mentioning the two places that had been the staple for a lot of their dates.

“Are you sure? We could just go home if you-” Sarene reached for the boy’s shoulders.

“No! No! Nonono-” Rahven flinched, taking a step away. “I-” he raised his hands up, palms facing his concerned girlfriend. “I’m sorry, I’m ruining our date like this. Pleaseletsjustgototheshop?” the boy pleaded, wishing to be somewhere less open, wishing to just blend into the busy store full of sweets and snacks not far from here.

Sarene reached out towards her boyfriend and gripped his hand.

Rahven looked at the hand held inside the girl’s own. She was looking away, but he could see the corners of her lips curling upwards. The boy, however, couldn’t look away from the amazing scene in front of him. Sarene was holding his hand.

SARENE. WAS. HOLDING. HIS. HAND.

He couldn’t belive his luck. First, his crush since the start of middle school had asked to hang out with him—sure, they would talk in class sometimes and get group projects together, but this was different! She’d asked to hang out with him, just him! And he could pick the place! So of course he’d picked this park just a few blocks away from his house with all these amazing stores for their, hopefully, first date. Especialy since he’s currently not allowed to go far from his house—and now she’s actually holding hands with him.

Rahven could practically feel his heart trying to burst out of his chest while his chest itself gets more deflated because he kept failing to take any proper breaths. Rahven tried to slow his breathing, making sure they were deeper and got enough oxygen. Rahven could feel that-

Oh no, when was it? Spring? Early spring? Valentine’s week of spring?! Had this been a date this whole time?! Was he just-

“Rahven?” the voice that called him was soft and sweet, just like how it always was in their school.

Rahven couldn’t trust his voice but tried anyway, “y-yeah?”.

“Are you okay? You’re kind of breathing really shallow,” the girl tilted her head.

“Of course, I just-” the boy raised his free hand to rub at the back of his head but just ended up flailing its attached arm. That, and he coughed. “Spring’s really started huh? I hope I won’t get pollen allergy.”

“Oh, I never realized you were allergic to pollen,” Sarene furrowed her brows.

“Well, I’m not,” he answered with a smile. “But, in case I am, we should get out of this pollen invested air and into that snacks and sweets shop over there,” Rahven raised a finger to point at a shop not too far from the park they’d just gotten out of.

“Wha- Rahven!” Sarene yelled, sounding as if he’d just offended her great grand ancestors or something. However, Rahven could see her lips twitching into a badly hidden smile. Sarene decided to show her frustration with him by squeezing the hand trapped in her own.

Rahven flinced and snapped his head towards his son his boy Dihev. The younger man scowled.

“I can’t believe that worked,” Dihev scoffed and turned his eyes away.

“What?” Rahven asked, not comprehending.

“Dad told me to squeeze your hand if you ever zoned out,” the young adult answered brusquely. “Never thought I’d ever need or want to use it, though,” Dihev muttered under his breath.

“‘Dad’?” Rahven felt even more lost, he’s never written something like that to his son. That felt like such a weird thing to write about yourself.

… not that he’s ever written much to his son anyway. Moreover Dihev hasn’t called him dad for quite some time so it couldn’t have been him. Then suddenly Rahven felt understanding fill him, as well as more confusion.

“But he’s-“

“What? Surprised a dead man is trying to forge more of a relationship with me than you have been, ‘father’?” Dihev cut off the older man’s words and crossed his arms. “I don’t know how he did it but I’ve been getting these letters twice a year since his death,” he eyed his father’s expression. “And from your expression, I take it he hasn’t done the same for you?” Dihev sneered.

What? Dihev has been getting- but- is there even a service to do something like that?

Why… why hasn’t he been getting any?

“Maybe he knew you’d be a loser and decided to not waste his time with you?”

No, no, no. Stop.

“Maybe he’s not even really dead and just decided to run away from you!”

No, he’s dead. He’s- he’s- dead. Rahven had seen his body, all those falls ago. A fall just like this one. Cold and almost dead. Just like his body. But his body was not almost dead. It was dead dead. Besides he would never-

“And he’s sending me letters because he feels bad for leaving me with you as a father!”

No! NO! He’s been trying! He has! It’s just- He didn’t want to be- and he was afraid that-

“And he hasn’t been sending any to you because he hates you!”

Nononono, he would never- he’d never hate him! Right, he’d never hate him. Right? Right. He’d never hate him. Never! Nevernevernevernever-

Rahven felt two big hands slapped on top of his shoulders and jumped. Or… he would have if the hands hadn’t prevented him from actually jumping.

“Whoa, there, tiger!”

Rahven looked up to see Ver’id’s furry face. The bigger man’s beard seemed to glitter in the light of the almost-summer sun. However, that same sun seemed to cast the eyes in shadow.

“You seemed like you were about to panic so I-” Ver’id slipped his hands away to scratch at one of his sideburns. “Yeah, that might’ve been a bad thing to do to someone about to have a panic attack now that I think about it. Sorry,” the man gave a sheepish grin, one that was almost hidden behind his prosperous beard and moustache.

Rahven could still feel his heart beating hard, but felt calmed down enough to humor his friend. “Maybe, but it worked on me,” he smiled. “Well, this time, at least.”

Ver’id barked out a laugh. Barked? That’s a weird thing to say, Ver’id wasn’t a dog. Although… he’d probably have made a good malamute. If malamutes were lazy. Were malamutes lazy?

“Well, I guess I should research on how to actually help someone about to have a panic attack once I get back to the dorms,” he huffed with a small smile on his face.

“If you do that, send me the links, too, will you?” Rahven asked the bigger man.

“What for? I don’t get panic attacks,” Ver’id grumbled and folded his arms before looking away.

Rahven just glared at him for a good long while before Ver’id huffed and rubbed at the top of his own head.

“Actually,” Rahven withered his glare in favor of looking away. “Now I feel guilty for not researching that the first time you had one.”

“Well, it’s not like I’ve had any more in front of you, anyway,” Ver’id tried to reassure the smaller man, but Rahven just seemed to furrow his brows further. “o- or, much more in general, really! So what you did back then must have definitely helped!”

“What if I’d actually made it worse though?”

“Well you hadn’t!” Ver’id placed his hands on Rahven’s shoulders again. “And if you had, then so did I just now! So now we’re worse-panice-attack buddies!” he said firmly, looking at Rahven’s eyes with a goofy grin on his face.

“Alright, alright, my worse-panic-attack buddy,” Rahven finally smiled back at Ver’id. “Let’s make sure we’re recovering-from-panic-attack buddies from now on, though.”

“Of course!” Ver’id jumped back and held his chest high and out. Which probably would’ve looked more impressive if he had more of a superhero built instead of a strongman one. “Isn’t it kind of why we’re here though, after all?”

“Well… would that even actually help?”

Ver’id deflated and scrached his cheek again. “Well, again, I haven’t researched that but,” he dropped his hand, stood straighter, and looked down to Rahven’s face. “This place holds bad memories for you, right? I’m sure we could help reduce your panic and anxieties if we…” he prompted.

“… make some good memories,” Rahven said to himself. There was nobody around, after all. Why would they? Most folks weren’t stupid like him. They’d huddled in their homes for winter. Especially this weirdly hot day in winter. Everything’s drab and drippy and most likely possibly slippery from all the water on the ice and snow.

Still, he couldn’t be thinking that way. He was there to make some good memories, after all. Well, his therapist had called it something else, but it had basically meant the same thing, he was sure.

Rahven took his hand off the bear-shaped trinket of his necklace with a smile. He had bought it for Ver’id years ago, long before they’d settled in another town, before Dihev. However, it wasn’t that first time they went there to “make some good memories” either. That had been… both a good and terrible day. Rahven sometimes wondered what happened to that kid they’d saved that day, hopefully the police had actually done something for the boy. He wouldn’t want to think what that kid would have had to endure otherwise.

Rahven looked at the watch on his wrist, its band adorned with a tiger-shaped trinket he had bought when he had been a very young child. He felt the shape of the trinket for a bit before actually looking at the time. It was late morning. Or was early noon more appropriate? In any case, the shops should be more than ready to have customers.

It was rather nostalgic to see that most of the shops around hadn’t changed that much. They had all gotten redecorated one way or another but they still looked and felt the same for the most part. Except for that trinket store across the road, it had apparently been closed a few years ago. However, seeing as he had no one to buy any trinkets for, it didn’t matter much.

Before going to the snacks and sweets shop, however, he took out his phone. The crocodile, or maybe alligator, shaped trinket that he had bought for Dihev when his son had been a child dangling from it. He tried to ignore the scraped trinket with its broken tail-end. Sometimes he wondered if Sarene still owned the lioness-shaped trinket he had given her. Rahven got himself out of his reverie and turned on his phone’s screen.

There were no new texts visible on his lock screen. Rahven felt like he needed to be sure, however, and quickly unlocked it to open the messaging app. Opening Dihev’s conversation revealed… nothing new. The conversation was bare. There was nothing prior to this day. Moreover, all of the messages had been sent from him. A bunch of apologies and excuses attempts at explanations, all of which he had discussed with his therapist first, and then the final message. A question from him, one that he was fully sure would never be answered, and even if it were answered would never be answered possitively. However, he still hoped Dihev would agree to it.

I understand that you can’t just forgive me. But, could we still talk? I’m in town for a few days so you could think it over first. How does that old park sound? I know we have bad memories there but maybe we could make some good memories from now on?

Rahven tore his eyes away from that message and stuffed his phone back into his pocket. With a brisk walk he stepped up on to the door of the snacks and sweets store and, ignoring the fact that it was actually rather crowded inside, walked in.

Rahven walked around the store, hand still, STILL!, amazingly held in Sarene’s own. The store was basically his home away from his house, other than his old school maybe, and he knew every nook and crany of it. He expertly weaved through the other customers to bring her to the best snacks and sweets he knew.

Rahven didn’t know Sarene’s palette but he’d brought snacks and sweets from here to a few of their group project meetings. He knew that she’d enjoy an sour apple candy and some hot ‘savanna’ styled chips.

“Oh, aren’t these-?” Sarene sighed at the view of the snacks before her and looked at Rahven.

“Yep, the snacks you liked most when we get group projects!” he exclaimed proudly. “I even have some extra pocket money so I can buy you some of these if you wanted,” he grinned, heart fluttering at being able to buy his not-yet-girlfriend on their not-really-first-date some of her favorite foods.

“I also have pocket money, Rahven,” Sarene protested, somewhat offended at the implication that she couldn’t buy herself some snacks. She was no longer an elementary school kid, thank you very much!

“Well, then maybe you want to try buying something else? There are lots of kinds of snacks and sweets here, maybe you’ll find something you love more than these two?” Rahven suggested. “I’ll still buy these, anyway, I also like them,” he didn’t like them, he just wanted to buy them just in case Sarene couldn’t find anything else.

Sarene looked around, there were lots of snacks and sweets around. “How do I know which one I’ll like?” the girl questioned.

“Oh, the small plates next to them are samples. You can take a piece from there to try the snacks and sweets,” Rahven answered while he grabbed some of the candies and chips into his shopping basket.

Sarene, meanwhile, started to try the snacks near them. When she was done, and Rahven was no longer filling his basket with the sour apple candies and savanna style chips, she walked away to sample the other snacks while Rahven trailed behind.

Sarene grabbed a bunch of smoked meats and some sea salt candies into their shopping basket. Satisfied with having her favorites ready to be paid, she turned to Rahven.

“You look really uncomfortable, Rahven,” she said softly, a somewhat unnecessary attempt at keeping people from listening in. “Are you sure you don’t want to just go home?”

“No, Sarene, it’s fine,” Rahven tried to smile genuinely, but his eyes kept darting around the store as if he was a prey waiting for a predator to leap out.

“Well, if there’s anything bothering you… you know that you can tell me, right? I mostly planned this to cheer you up anyway, you seemed really down lately,” Sarene grabbed Rahven’s wrists and pulled him into another part of the store.

“You noticed?” Rahven winced, uncomfortable that he couldn’t hide his fallen mood from his girlfriend.

“Of course I did,” Sarene sighed before gesturing towards the stack of sweets in front of them. “If you don’t want to tell me what’s been bothering you then at least tell me how many of these you want?”

Rahven looked up at the stack of sweets in front of him. He tried to read its name but he wasn’t that good at reading yet. It said… something-something rolls? Yeah, that must be it! It was pretty pretty name for a pretty pretty sweet! It looks like a bunch of colorful thick tapes with glitter on them!

The young boy slowly walked towards a small plate near the stack with smaller pieces of the sweet. He’d seen the other customers walk up to similar plates and just eat from them. He knew you weren’t supposed to just eat stuffs in store and needed to pay for them. But… everyone else was doing it so it must be fine, right? He grabbed a piece and slowly began nibling on it.

When the sweet touched his mouth he felt its chewy texture mixed with sour and sweet tastes fill his mouth. It was the best thing he’d ever tasted! It’s a not-only-sweet sweet! It was great!

Rahven grabbed a handful, thankful that he has some pocket money. He just hoped it was actually enough to buy these.

Rahven placed the twelfth big handful of his favorite sweet into his shopping basket. He was glad there were still lots of it even if the store was rather crowded that day. However, crowded places didn’t always mean bad things. For a recent example, he’d just saw a young boy light up after trying his favorite sweet. It reminded him of his own first time trying the thing.

“Ah, it’s that chewy thing you really like, huh?” Ver’id’s rough voice suddenly came from behind him. The big man had spent the last few minutes walking around the store trying to see if anything would catch his eyes. However, he seemed to have came up empty handed.

“‘Berry Sour Rolls'”, Rahven automatically explained. “You didn’t find anything you like?”

“Nah, I’m not sure what to get? There’s, like, so many things here!” Ver’id seemed to have started making a wide gesture but stopped midway, thankfully not hitting anyone.

“Then why not try these?” Rahven picked up a piece of berry sour roll from the sample plate and offered it to his college friend.

“Nah, I don’t wanna become an addict like you and the other five folks I’d just seen grab a bunch of ’em,” Ver’id grinned at his own teasing. Rahven shrugged and ate the sample piece himself.

“No, but seriously, how much did you get?!” Ver’id said almost too loudly when he took a peek at Rahven’s basket.

“Well, definitely less than how much you’ll be getting,” Rahven teased back, patting Ver’id’s big belly.

Ver’id grumbled and brushed Rahven’s hand away. “I don’t even know what to buy.”

Rahven looked around the store. There were a lot of snacks and sweets around, but he wasn’t really sure if he’d seen Ver’id eat anything similar to any of them. So he wasn’t sure what the man would like, either. As he scanned his eyes over to one side of the store, however…

“I think I know what you’ll like,” Rahven grinned and grabbed Ver’id’s hand, dragging his friend around while the bigger man just let him.

They walked through several crowds of folks gathering around the more popular snacks and sweets. Well, it was more that they made way for the tall muscular man that was Ver’id but it worked out the same way. After a few seconds they ended up to an area filled with piles of golden and red-purple sweets as well as dark pink snacks.

“‘Honey Cake Candy’, ‘Berry Ball’, and ‘Dried Salmon Jerky’,” Ver’id read the names of the foods directly in front of them. “Really? Stereotypical, much?”

Dihev sighed at the corner of the store they’d found themselves in. “Really? Aren’t these just Dad’s favorites?”

Rahven froze, his arm outstretched towards the snacks and sweets. The younger man beside him had just given him a panic attack outside the store and was now being a jerk inside it. Rahven almost wished he’d just ran away before. If the boy felt himself old enough to want to move away, why even try to have a good relationship with him?

“I remember you eating a lot of them when you were young,” Rahven argued as he grabbed some of each food and put them into their basket.

“Yeah! Because they’re what Dad had always kept around the house!”

“So you don’t want them?”

“No! I’m not Dad, Rahven!”

Rahven bristled at just being called his name by his own son. He wasn’t sure being mockingly called ‘father’ earlier was any better but at leat Dihev was still calling him something familial. However, it seems Dihev wanted to not even call him family anymore.

Rahven sighed and began to walk towards the cashier. He knew he wasn’t being a good father, not for the last few years at least. Not since Ver’id died. But he was sure he was doing the right thing. He didn’t want to turn out like his own father or Ver’id’s so he’d kept his distance. Piled work upon himself to no think about his grief or any other negative emotions that might come up, making sure he was never home long enough to do anything other than sleep, and gave Dihev more than enough pocket money to buy pretty much whatever he wanted at school.

Rahven was sure he had been doing remarkably better than his own father. His adopted son did not reach adulthood with a body full of scars. However, the father he’d ended up becoming had apparently not been good either. And, unfortunately, he’d only realized that recently, when his own son had just graduated and ready to move away.

Rahven winced a bit when he heard a relatively young man’s voice yell in the store. Worse still, it sounded like there was an older man with that young man. It brought back bad memories of his last day with his own son. He hoped that whoever they were, their day would end up better than his own that accursed day.

The old man paid for his sweets and snacks and left the store. He didn’t really buy much, less than what he used to and definitely way less than Ver’id’s hoard whenever they’d come here. Still, he’d bought enough. His favorite snacks and sweets, Ver’id’s favorites, Dihev’s favorites, and, heck, he’d even bought Sarene’s favorites for old times’ sake.

Rahven began to nibble on some of his purchase as he made his way to the ice cream parlor. The parlor had always allowed the customers to bring snacks and sweets from the store he’d just left for as long as he could remember. A good idea, too, as some of the sweets mix really well with the ice creams. It was such a popular thing to do, in fact, that it’s weird to see anyone not doing that.

The abandoned building of the old trinket shop were some distance away from Rehvan. It didn’t look too bad, definitely only somewhat recently abandoned. He was sure the shop had closed years ago, though. Maybe there were a few other stores that tried to take hold there but couldn’t? He felt it was a bit sad to see that place look so dead.

Looking down from the building Rahven saw the instersection. The snacks and sweets store and the ice cream parlor were on his side, while the trinkets store and a few residentials were on other. It was a normal intersection for a normal city, all things considered. However, Rahven didn’t really like it, too many bad memories. With a swallow of his snacks a hasty rhythm in his steps, Rahven faced the ice cream parlor’s door and opened it.

Rahven walked out of the door and froze. His eyes, which had been going all over the place that day, finally locked on something for a good long while. There, in front of him, was a tiger tigress. Not just any tigress, either, it was-

“Mom?!” Rahven exclaimed just as he felt Sarene walk out of the snacks and sweets store into his back. Studying his mother’s features, he was in a big trouble. Not just any normal big troube, either, but one that would-

“Rahven?” Sarene asked, almost in a whisper to his right. Shoot, this was the thing that he had been dreading all week. It was bad enough that he’d let slip to his father that he’s had a girlfriend for some time during one accursed dinner. In his defence, he was trying to convince his father that he was not one of those guys. It was only later that night that he realized how stupid it was to say that he’s had a girlfriend to prove that. Especially since his girlfriend was not a tiger like his family.

“Rahven, who is that?” his mother oh so lovely said oh so slowly, dripping venom with every syllabel just like the mad drool threatening to fall from her jaws.

Rahven slowly, mechanically, turned his head around to look at Sarene. He was going to say something, he had to say something. However, all he could do was look pleadingly at Sarene to not say anything yet so he could talk their way out. He wished she got the mes-

“I’m… Rahven’s girlfriend.”

Rahven snapped his head back to look at his mother who was fuming at the sentence that had just left the lioness’s mouth. The boy began to walk forwards, arms raised with his palms open in front of him. He had to deescalate somehow, he had to. Rahven began to open his mouth to say that-

However, before he could get any words out there was a loud noise right beside him. With a quick reflex he hadn’t really realized he owned, Rahven caught Sarene in his arms. The girl was limp. Breathing, sure, but limp. It seemed that his mother’s slap on the young lion was enough to make her freeze just like him these last few moments.

Rahven tried to squeeze her a bit, because hugging her for reassurance was definitely not on the table right now, and began to frantically whisper. “Sarene, run. You have to run. Let me handle this, please.”

Out of the corner of his eyes he saw his mother rearing up for another terrible slap. Thinking quickly, he shoved his girlfriend away and received the slap himself. It was fine, though, he’s always had a thicker skin. The slap didn’t sting that bad. What did sting however was the view of Sarene getting further away from him, the lioness-shaped-trinket of her necklace blowing in the air.

The boy slowly raised a shaky hand to feel his cheeks. He was wide-eyed, unbelieving of what had just happened. After a few seconds, he felt the fur of his own cheeks on his fingers. There weren’t really anything different from the outside but-

“So, want to make this a date?” the young girl asked with a grin. God damn her! First, she kissed him and then asked to turn this random hang out in the week of valentine’s day into a date?! He was sure it was against the rules or something!

They had been walking to the ice cream parlor when she had suddenly surprised him with that accursedly amazing kiss. It was not the fully romantic two lips locking kind of kiss—he wasn’t sure he’d even want something like that, it looks disgusting!—but it was definitely amazing and a very nice surprise. Although, perhaps getting it in the middle of a busy pedestrian path was not… ideal.

“Of course,” answered Rahven wholeheartedly with a big grin on his small face.

Slowly the boy inched his hand closer to Sarene’s in an attempt at reestablishing their hold that had been broken when they were trying sweets and snacks back in the store. Sarene noticed it and gripped the boy’s hand tight in her own. The two young feline’s hands intertwined once more, they began to walk again towards the ice cream parlor as a resounding smack sounded behind them.

Rahven felt has hand squeezed by a bigger one. Ver’id’s brows were furrowed as he watched the tiger man pay for their snacks. The sound had sounded almost exactly like a smack and brought back terrible memories for both of them. Rahven was rather sure he was more affected, however, as he had been part of a very similar experience in front of this very shop only a few years prior.

With their snacks paid for, Rahven and Ver’id began to walk outside. They crossed through the shop’s doors with bated breath, readying themselves to see whatever horrible scene was outside. However, they’d found nothing out of the ordinary under that almost summer sun. There were a few to-be-rain clouds and people mingling about under them. A few of them seemed to be looking around as if trying to find some source of some sound, but none of them seemed concerned enough.

“I guess it wasn’t what I thought it was?” Ver’id sighed a breath of relief and squeezed the tiger’s hand again.

Rahven slowly nodded, still looking around to find where anything that might’ve made the previous sound could’ve gone off to. “Yeah… I guess it’s a good thing it wasn’t. I’m not sure if I can handle something like that.”

Ver’id turned around to put his hands on Rahven’s shoulders. “If she did come for you, I’ll protect you,” the bigger man said seriously, almost threateningly. “I’ll even take your father if it came down to it!”

Rahven just looked at the beary bear’s face and furrowed his brows. “That’s not fair, I don’t think I can do the same for you if your parents came here to seek you out.”

Ver’id held his gaze for a few seconds longer before sighing heavily. “Let’s just hope it never comes to that. But if it did-“

“Call the police,” Rahven nodded. It had been their plan should something terrible happen to them, especially to Ver’id. However, Rahven wasn’t so sure about that plan. “I’m still saying I’ve had bad experiences of involving the police in this sort of thing.”

The bigger man let go of Rahven’s shoulders and frowned before walking again. “Well, it’s the best choice we have. And at least I’m not actually living with them anymore,” the bear said in a faux cheery tone while doing jazzhands. “Speaking of that-“

“No, Ver’id,” the tiger cut off the bear before the sentence could have any hope of getting finished. “I still don’t have any money to do that.”

“Failing getting your own…” Ver’id sighed and rubbed the top of his head. “My dorm room is always open for you, remember that,” the bear patted Rahven’s shoulder a few times. “And my room’s big enough to house you, too, so if you ever want to move in-“

“Thanks, but then they’ll just target you, too, Ver’id.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s true,” Ver’id stopped walking again before turning around to face the smaller man. “But once we graduate…”

“I haven’t changed my mind about that, don’t worry.”

Ver’id grinned and grabbed their shopping bag to take a great handful of his sweets and snacks—the stereotypical honey cakes, berry balls, and salmon jerkys. “Man, it’d be great to have a roommate,” the bear said while chewing through his hoard.

“That’s what people who don’t have roommates say before realizing what having a roommate feels like,” Rahven walked away while grabbing one of his own berry roll to chew.

Ver’id quickly caught up—not a hard thing to do since he’s taller than Rahven—and draped himself over the smaller man’s shoulders. His chin rested neatly between the tiger’s ears and his arms falling from the smaller man’s torso like some kind of old regal clothing. “Nah, that’s just ’cause they don’t get a roommate that knows good food,” the bear rumbled while his hands dipped back into their shopping bag and fed more of his newly acquired snacks into his mouth.

Rahven ignored the bear eating on top of him and kept walking towards the trinkets shop across the road. He stopped before he reached it, however, and tapped on the bear nose on top of his head. Ver’id replied the gesture with a grunt.

“You know,” Rahven began slowly as he waited for the bigger man to swallow. “I never told anyone this but on that day a bear helped me out.”

Ver’id gulped the glob of food in his mouth loudly before answering. “Rahven, just because I kept telling you about my parents doesn’t mean bears are bad folks,” the friendly bear huffed at his friend’s statement.

“That’s not what I meant, Ver’id,” the probably friendly tiger elaborated, causing Ver’id to stop midway through gobbling another handful of snacks. “That bear could’ve honestly been you.”

Ver’id barked out a laugh. Again, perhaps barked was not a good word to describe that, Ver’id was not a dog. Were bears close to dogs? Rahven was just glad the bigger man didn’t have anything in his mouth at that moment.

“Rahven, I’ve never even left my town until I started going to our university,” the bear rumbled with some sort of amusement in his throat. “We bears tend to look pretty alike, honestly. I’m sure there was just some good samaritan bear walking by back then. And since I’m the friendliest bear you know, your brain just figured we’d be the same ultimate kind bear of very beary kindness,” Ver’id grinned.

Rahven simply booped the bear nose on top of his head again, receiving another grunt from the threat encompassing the back of his head and neck.

“Fine, Mr. Very Beary Kindness Bear, let’s go buy you some beary bear trinkets,” the tiger began walking again to cross the road. However, before he could take even a single step, he was swung around to face the ice cream parlor.

“Ice cream?” the warm fat bear behind him asked innocently.

“I promised you that I’ll buy some trinkets for you today,” the not fat but warmed from the back tiger grumbled. “Besides, you’ve been eating snacks since we’ve left the store, damnit. Aren’t you full already?” Rahven tried to walk to the trinkets shop again but was stopped by the strong muscular bear arms around him.

“Well, today doesn’t have to mean ‘right now’, does it?” the bear grinned. “Besides, those are snacks so of course I still have room, ice cream goes to its own stomach! And it’s almost summer so we just have to get ice cream when passing through an ice cream parlor.”

“You’re a glutton, Ver’id,” Rahven grumbled and tried to cross his arms but was stopped by the thick arms in front of his own arms.

“Maybe,” Ver’id conceded. “But I’m your glutton,” the bear then began to rub his prodigiously bearded chin on top of the tiger’s head. “Also, if you buy me ice cream, I’ll pay for any trinkets you buy in there afterwards.”

Rahven sighed, knowing that he wouldn’t win without a significant amount of efforts on his part. “Fine, fine,” the tiger grumbled as he began walking towards the ice cream parlor’s doors with the bear trailing behind him.

The tiger stopped in his tracks and frowned. His hearing might not be that sharp anymore, but he was sure he couldn’t hear the footsteps of the man that was supposed to follow behind him. Rahven sighed tiredly and turned back to face his son.

Dihev was just standing there with a scowl on his face and crossed arms on his chest. The crocodile seemed to have planted his feet on the stonework, crinkling the fallen amber leaves underfoot and refusing to move. An immovable object in the middle of the path. So much so that other people seemed to be actively avoiding him.

“Why are we here?” the reptile asked with a clipped tone, glaring daggers towards his father.

Rahven didn’t answer and tilted his head.

Why are we here?” Dihev tried again, stressing his words more than he had.

Rahven took a deep breath and looked away towards the amber-leafed trees. “To make some good memories.”

Dihev scoffed at the tiger’s response. “That’s just what Dad used to say to get you to be fun.”

The older man looked back at the younger with a tilted head, “but that is why we’re here, son.”

“Don’t ‘son’ me, old man,” the crocodile uncrossed his arms and made fists instead. “You want something out this. So just spit it out and end this whole charade, won’t you?” Dihev bared his fangs and knitted his eyebrows.

The old man turned his body to fully face his son. “I’d just told you what I want out of this,” he answered simply.

“That’s just crap and you know it!”

The tiger frowned. “No, I don’t. I’d just told you that all I wanted was to make some good memories with you and you don’t believe me?”

“Heck no I don’t!” the crocodile stomped his feet and his thick long tail onto the stonepath. “You hadn’t wanted to make any memories with me since his death and now you suddenly want to make some? When I’d just graduated? When I’m planning to move away? When I’m being offered a prestigious job position?! Heck yeah you want something!”

Rahven took a deep, deep, deep breath before he even began to answer. “I know this has been hard for you but-“

“No, you don’t know! You haven’t even talked to me in years! And ‘but’ what? But you were afraid to be a lousy father?!” Dihev jeered. “Well, news flash! You’re a lousy father!” crocodile did jazzhands before glaring at the tiger again.

“I was afraid of hurting you, god damn it!” Rahven panted, unable to really hold himself anymore. “Do you know what Ver’id’s parents and my parents were like?! Do you know how much I don’t want that to happen to you?! I don’t want to be near you and hurt if I lose it because he’s gone!”

“Oh, wow! Look at you! So volatile and unstable that he’s about to maim his child when he has a bad day because his partner’s been dead for years!” taunted Dihev, causing Rahven to tighten his fists and growl. “He was as much my Dad as he was your partner! And when he’s gone you decided to just be gone, too?!”

“I was still around! I came to your schools and university to fill the paperworks! I came to watch your plays or games or whatever! I gave you more than enough money to buy whatever you wanted!”

Anyone could claim to be my ‘legal guardian’ and sign those paperworks! And those ‘plays or games or whatever’? You’d always come at the last minute and you don’t even remember any of them do you?! And while I appreciated all the money left in the house, you’re never around to even give that to me! It could’ve been replaced by some charity government program and I never would’ve noticed!”

“I told you I don’t want to hurt you if I ever-“

“Then go to therapy or something, damn it! If the answer to not being the same terrible parent one’s parents were to keep distance, then what am I suppose to do if I become a father? Keep even more distance?! How? Move to another city? Another country?” the crocodile raised his arms and panted.

When Dihev lowered his arms again, it was to grab at the crocodile-shaped trinket on his necklace. The crocodile grinned before speaking again. “Or maybe just do something simpler, like send my kids to the orphanage? Or maybe even send them back?!”

Dihev yanked his necklace free, breaking it. He then slowly raised his hand as high as he could with a manic grin still on his face. Then suddenly he shot the crocodile-shaped trinket and its attached necklace as hard as he could towards Rahven’s feet.

“I wish you had by the way,” Dihev began to turn around. “At least then I might find somebody who would love me like a father should!” the crocodile shouted as he ran as fast as he could.

Rahven had been frozen since he saw Dihev grab hold of the necklace and his eyes tracked it as it flew towards the ground in front of him, laying in a broken and battered heap. However, as he heard his son’s quickly receding footsteps, he broke out of his trance. Quickly grabbing the crocodile-shaped trinket off the ground, he began to run.

The tiger ran. The tiger ran and ran and ran, not caring much if he’d run into anyone. Nor did he care that it had begun to rain that terrible late summer rain. He had to run and then- and then… what? The sounds around him were rather frantic, probably because he’d been running into people. There were shouts, lots and lots of shouts, but thankfully none of them sounded like him mother.

He was panting, taking many shallow breaths in short burst. He didn’t know what he was going to do, but he knew he was going to be sore later. There were definitely brushes and red spots around his body, but they were mostly hidden by his fur and clothes. He didn’t know whether to be thankful that they were not so visible, or hoping that they were and that someone would be kind enough to help him.

He looked around and saw that he was near the ice cream parlor. The tiger frowned at remembering that he was supposed to be in there right then, completing their usual date ‘rituals’ ever since that day. He was supposed to be eating ice cream with his girlfriend while devouring the snacks they’d just bought. He didn’t even know where the snacks he’d bough were.

Rahven’s ears twitched as he heard a horrifyingly familiar footsteps and began to run. He felt his shoulder ache as he had apparently run into something—most likely an edge of a wall or a door—but he ignored it and kept on running.

The boy kept on running. Which was… probably not a good idea since he was crossing traffic. But! He made sure to look left and right! And none of he cars seemed to be even moving! Like they were approving him to cross the road!

Rahven hadn’t really wanted to cross the road yet. He’d wanted to go into the ice cream shop and buy some ice cream! But his parents would be mad mad if he ate sweets and ate ice cream! And he wasn’t sure he even had enough money to buy anything there! And couldn’t really read what any of the ice creams were and they didn’t look like the ones he’d usually get! And there were some big men that he didn’t want to interact with! And! And! It was beginning to rain even with the sun still out!

So, the boy kept on running until he got across the road. He may have not gotten any ice cream but he was definitely going to get some trinkets from the trinkets store! Finally reaching the other side of the road, the young tiger excitedly passed through the doors to the shop and out of the sun shower.

It was… not at all like he’d imagined it to be. But it was still awesome! There were lots of things in there, and some of those things were big! He was sure some of the things in there were at least three meters tall! Weren’t trinkets supposed to be small? Bah! Whatever!

The tiger walked around the store, looking at all the baubles and knick-knacks abound. It was a rather cozy store, smaller and much less crowded than the snacks store but felt much more decorated. As decorated as it was… there weren’t really anything for a tiger boy like him. Still, he looked at every nook and cranny there for quite some time, trying to find something that’d actually catch his eyes.

Rahven was about to just go out of the shop and dejectedly go home when he saw it. Well, them, it was a bunch of identical trinkets. They were… small. But, they were pretty. Orange-ish with some black lines around, almost like stripes! They were shaped like a tiger too! Rahven walked closer, and took one of them. The tiger began to feel the shape and texture of the tiger-shaped trinket in his hands.

“You seem to really like that thing.”

Rahven looked at his, newly-appointed, girlfriend and smiled. He’d always worn that tiger-shaped trinket on his wrist—be it as part of some bracelet or a watch band or whatever—ever since he’d bought it. So, naturally, he does really like that thing.

“The shopkeeper said the same thing when I went to buy it,” the young tiger grinned. “I wandered around the store for some time before I saw it and probably spent a good few minutes just feeling it in my hands before the owner walked over. He said that and asked how much money I have. I only had like three dollars with me at the time? Anyway, he just took one dollar and gave me a small bracelet before telling me to keep it safe.”

“Really? That’s really cheap,” the young lion girl exclaimed, eating more of her sundae.

“No! It actually costs like five dollars! The guy was just taking pity on me, I guess,” Rahven laughed and quickly shoveled the last of his ice cream into his mouth. “I went back a few years later to pay my debt, of course! And I also kinda got addicted to buying these small things.”

“That’s very kind of him. And very good of you to pay back your debt,” the girl approved with a nod as she finished her ice cream.

“Want me to buy you one? It’d be a great reminder of today!” Rahven offered excitedly, almost bouncing on his seat.

“Sure,” Sarene replied with just as much excitement and standing up.

The tiger grinning and began to stand up, too. But then he heard it. Rain. Their perfect valentine week spring day had seemingly taken a downer. The boy frowned.

The girl noticed her boyfriend’s expression. “I brought a big umbrella, it’s okay. Besides, the store’s just right across the street, right?”

Rahven, meanwhile just stared at her for a bit, not replying. Finally, he took a deep breath and sighed. “It’s not that, I just- I almost got hit by a car when it rained during spring on this intersection, so…”

“That doesn’t mean that something bad’s gonna happen, tho!”

“It also doesn’t mean nothing bad’s gonna happen!” he argued. “I think I just have bad luck whenever I want buy someone gifts.”

“Come on, it’s just rain, damn it. I brought that big ole raincoat! You could hide in it while I wear it,” Ver’id grinned, imagining how ridiculous their walk back would be. “And I got some umbrellas in my room, you could use one of ’em to go home.”

“What if you got into a car crash because I’m hiding in your rain coat, though?” Rahven began to worry himself. “I mean, rain and me and this road and spring don’t mix well!”

“First of all, it’s almost not spring anymore,” the bear tried to reassure his buddy while finishing off his third helping of ice creams. “Second of all, the car’ll just stop against my brick hard muscles!” he grinned while flexing his now free arms.

Rahven simply looked at the impressive pair of arms unimpressed. Ver’id kept up the act before finally deflating. “And bounce off of my fat,” the bear added.

“I think you need to take another Physics 101 class,” the smaller man grumbled. “But, fine, let’s just go now before the rain gets worse,” he said, standing up before looking at the bigger man’s direction and stopping. “If you’re done with the ice cream?” he asked with a raised brow.

“Well, I wouldn’t say no to another helping!” the bear grinned excitedly, making the tiger sigh. “But, it is raining so ice creams aren’t that enticing right now. Let’s go.”

Rahven nodded and began to walk out of the store.

However, before he could take even a single step, the door was slammed on his face. He screamed and fall backwards onto the floor. His jaws and nose were smarming hard, almost to the point of being numb. Makes sense, he supposed, the ice cream store’s door had always been one of those big heavy kind which he’d always assumed was meant to keep the store cool for the ice cream.

“Are you okay?” Sarene asked as she helped him stand back up.

“Myeh,” Rahven tried to answer but found his face too sore to make proper words. The tiger’s ear flicked as he heard footsteps coming their way.

“You okay, kiddo?” Rahven looked up to see a big fat but strong bear frowning at him, a smaller man trailing behind.

“Yresz, shirv,” the tiger replied with clipped words. The bear didn’t look dangerous but bigger older men noticing him because of any injuries had never led to anything good. He wished he had made proper word sounds that time to hide the fact it his face felt terrible. But looking at Sarene’s expression, he supposed to definitely hadn’t.

“How about I buy you some ice cream?” the bear offered with a friendly smile. “I’m sure it’ll feel great for that sore face.”

The boy slowly nodded and let the bear walk him back into store and towards a table.

Rahven watched as the bear went up towards the counter to order a rather big helping of ice cream. He smiled fondly as the bear paid for it and brought back the two-person sized bowl—are those ice cubes surrounding the ice cream? He supposed it’d help with the soreness—back to the young couple. The lion girl just watched Ver’id with a friendly smile, even as the boy seemingly felt uncomfortable with the bear’s kindness.

He supposed he could’ve gone there to help cheer the boy up. But Ver’id had always been better with people, even children, and seeing how the boy wasn’t comfortable with even the cuddly bear…

Ver’id patted the boy’s shoulder, hoping it’d get the point across that it’d be okay after a while, and walked away.

“Well, aren’t you a kind bear?” teased the college student as his classmate left the recovering couple.

“What can I say?” the bear grinned as he gestured his arms widely. “I’m the kindest bear you know!”

“And the most gluttonous,” the tiger replied with a smirk. “Moreover, I’m pretty sure actually kind people don’t brag about being kind.”

“You wound me,” Ver’id played along, clutching his chest with one of his big hands. “Never thought a small-time such as yourself could hurt me so.”

The smaller man huffed in amusement and shook the great-bear-sized raincoat in his hands, looking expectantly at Ver’id. The bear complied and put on the bottom piece of the raincoat over his legs, stumbling a bit as his center of mass swayed about. Finally, he put on the big long top piece over himself and waited.

The tiger walked over to his partner and opened the front flap of the raincoat before walking under it. He then felt the bear drape thick furry arms over his shoulders and tried to fit his head under the bear’s chin. After some more fumbling he finally got his head through the hole that’s meant to be buttoned over. Feeling that they were ready, they walked outside.

The rain wasn’t actually that bad. But it was still kind of a terrible mix between the spring and summer rain, so it was not fun in any way. There were even thunders and lightning from time to time. People seem to agree, too, as a few could be seen running around in the rain, presumable towards their preferred shelters.

Rahven’s ears flicked—or, tried to, anyway. They were trapped under Ver’id’s jaw—when he heard something that was definitely neither rain nor thunder nor people running away from the earlier two things. It was coming from an alleyway some ways away, across the street from where they were.

The tiger shuddered, having bad memories of alleys and rains. The bear noticed—though he wasn’t sure about the cause of the tiger’s distress—and pressed the tiger tighter into his belly and chest in an attempt to comfort the smaller man. The tiger appreciated the gesture.

However, he needed to know if it was what he had feared it was. He could not just ignore it if it was so. He had been helped by strangers back then, so he felt it was time to be the helpful stranger. If it was, indeed what he thought it was. Surely, he and Ver’id could do something, right?

“Rahven?” the heavy bear rumbled from behind and on top of him.

“I-,” the tiger tried to reply but stopped. He took a deep breath and gave it a long exhale before continuing. “There’s something over there,” the tiger tried to gesture towards one of the alleys with his raincoat covered arms.

Ver’id was silent for a few moments before he nodded.

With a readying sigh, Rahven began to walk further into the rain.

The tiger felt the rain on his face. At least, he hoped it was just rain and not blood. Futilely wiping away at the liquid on his head, he tried to stand back again. However, he was definitely not thinking straight and was tired and so almost fell back down. Thankfully he had managed to grab onto one of the exposed bricks next to him.

“You’ve been with her for how long?” the venomous words reached his ears again, seemingly more threatening than the last.

He wasn’t sure how any threats could be worse than what he was experiencing, however. Was his mother going to actually try to kill him? That’d be nice, he supposed. He turned his head to look at the road blocked by the bigger tiger. His eyes watered. Perhaps it’d have been better if that old man hadn’t saved him that day all those years ago, because it seemed he was going to die in these very same streets anyway.

Rahven turned his face away, not answering the question.

“Answer me!” his mother shouted as she slashed at him. Causing him to crumple to the ground again. “Your father was so happy to hear that you had a girlfriend! What will he say he finds out that she’s a lion?!”

The younger tiger decided to not think about what his father would say—or do—when he finds out, let alone answer her question.

“It’s not like there aren’t any tiger girls in your class, is it?!” his mother continued.

Rahven heard his mother say more things but decided to tune it out instead. He looked around the alley he’d somehow found himself in after being caught by his mother again. The alley was pretty normal with some trash and rusted junks about. It wasn’t even that far the the ice cream parlor either, so it had been a pitiful run. Still, he had to run again. He needed to run again. And then- and then- he’d figure something out, he had to. He saw an opening just as his mom was about to grab him again and booked it.

The tiger ran as quick as he could. But he was not fast enough. He had never been a quick runner. Heck, he was sure he was even worse than the average tiger at running. But he tried to will his aching legs to move faster in the rain of the fall. He could not afford to slow down.

There was a yelp, then a grunt, then a scream, then a lot of other loud noises in front of him. He took a cursory glance at where he thought the sounds where coming from and could make out what seemed to be two figures sprawled out on the ground. He quickly realized that his son had run into someone, again. Worse still, the folks he’d run into seemed to be more hurt than all the other ones.

Rahven felt some more energy pumped into his legs and began to kick at the ground faster. “Dihev!” he yelled as he reached out one of his hands to grab his son and keep him still.

He lowered his hand dejectedly. The text he had received had been from a coworker, and he was not in the mood to reply right then. Swiping back out of he conversation, he lingered his gaze at the conversations list. Specifically, he was staring at Dihev’s name, as if doing so would magically make a reply appear out of nowhere. Alas, the world didn’t work like that.

Stuffing his phone back in his pocket, Rahven decided to end his ice cream eating escapade. He deposited his ice cream container to the trash bin and made his way through the store.

The tiger gave a quick glance at the lion girl and her boyfriend a few tables over. He had been surprised when the young boy had screamed and was about to help. But a very beary kind bear had beaten him to it. Perhaps he could’ve helped out, too, but the boy already looked embarassed enough with a single adult fussing over him like that.

Well, he figured, it was nice to know that there are kind people in the world, still. He wished he had made that thought a few years ago, however. He shook his head, it was not the right thing to think. He was there to make some good memories.

Rahven watched from the door frame as the rain poured even in winter. It was not really a usual sight, but he figured the air was just warm up there in the air. He was thankful he had the foresight to wear thick and covering winter clothes and packed an umbrella.

The tiger huffed and took a step into the cold rain. He was not sure where he’d go, seeing as the trinkets shop had closed down years ago. However, he was determined to help someone just like the bear did a few minutes ago, even if it was just some reassurances and an bowl of ice cream. Failing that, he supposed, he could just make some good memories in this rain.

Rahven just stood there in the rain. He had been expecting a number of things when he’d made his way there. But they didn’t really include the scene in front of him. So he was still unbelieving at what he was seeing.

In front of him was a tiger woman and a teenage boy, crumpled to the ground and the wall of a building. They were both bleeding, but seemingly from different causes. The woman’s seemed easy enough to guess, there was a rather sharp rusty junk not far from here that was looking rather off colored. The boy’s was… harder to guess, and he really wished whatever scenarios he had come up to explain the bleeding were false.

For some time the tiger man wondered if was actually watching the aftermath of a murder and if he should start dialing for the police. However, he could discern the two people in front of him breathing under the sounds of the rain if he focused enough. Moreover, the teen seemed to be regaining consciousness.

The younger man seemed to be dazed and didn’t notice the tiger and bear standing not far from him. When he did, it was with a jolt, a yelp, and a smack onto the back from a wall. Rahven winced at seeing the reaction, it seemed they were scaring him.

The tiger then realized he had a big bear draped over him and sighed. Quickly walking out of the rain coat, he took out his—thankfully waterproof—phone. “I’ll call for medical services,” he explained to Ver’id who was looking at him questioningly.

Truthfully, he was not sure if that was necessary. However, the two people were unconscious and bleeding so he figured it was better to have them checked for concussions and blood loss or infection, at least. With a sigh, he opened his phone to use the dialer and gestured for Ver’id, who was still looking at him, to do his magic and at least calm the now conscious boy down.

Rahven stared as bear began to walk forwards, his arms outstretched. The addition of the dark raincoat really didn’t help make the bear look less like he was trying to kidnap someone. The tiger simply scrambled as far away as he could, wrapping his limbs around himself. He was tired. He was not sure he could fight a bear anyway, especially one that big. The act seemed to have made the bear stop moving.

“Hey, are you okay, kid?” the bear asked. Rahven could hear some worry in the deep voice, but he was not sure if it was fake or genuine. “Sorry, we found you two like this and figured you might need some help.”

The tiger decided to not reply, it was not a question anyway. Well, the first one was, but he didn’t know how to reply to that one.

“What happened to you?” the bear tried again. The tiger decided to not answer again. The teen was even more unsure how to answer that question than the previous one. Was he supposed to answer from the beginning? Or what had happened that day? Or just why he was unconscious?

He tried to remember what had happened before he passed out. He had been so so close to getting out of the alleyway when his mother caught him and threw him back. He couldn’t remember what happened afterwards, however. He was sure there were a lot of voices and sounds of people running though. He had kind of assumed it was his mother running away, or his father coming to join in. But it seemed he had been wrong.

The bear sighed when no reply was given. Rahven stiffened, would the bear have had enough of him and take out some frustrations on him? He really, really wished the answer was no.

The big man then moved towards his mother and poked her. “Is this your mother?”

Rahven looked at the unmoving figure for a while, scowling. The tiger answered with a short nod of his head.

“Want me to try to wake her up?”

Rahven answered that one with a very long and fast shake of his head.

“I see,” said the bear with a frown. The big adult male then called his smaller friend—the one that had been under his raincoat with him—and made some gesture he could not even begin to decipher the meaning of. It must’ve had some meaning however, because the other adult frowned very deeply and went back to talking on his phone.

The tiger was watching the smaller of the two adult men when he heard a ripping sound, startling him. The bear had his claws out in his direction and he really wished he was strong enough to stand up and run. Instead, he decided to just try scrambling further away.

The bear stopped what he was doing and looked at him sheepishly. “Sorry, kid,” the bear said with a sigh. Oh no, isn’t that what people say before they kill other people?!

“I don’t really have anything useful with me tight now so I’m cutting some of my t-shirt,” the bear explained as he revealed a few long ribbons from under his raincoat. “We need to stop your bleeding, after all. And your mom, too, but you seem to have it worse, so.”

Rahven was pretty sure it was a lie. But he didn’t feel like the bear was trying to deceive him. It was as if the bear was making little white lies to help make him feel better. He didn’t know if it was a good thing, but he figured he’d let the older man try to patch him up.

The bear walked towards him slowly, as if he was trying to run away—he had been, but not really anymore. “Sorry, if it smells beary, but it’s cleaner than any other clothing I have with me,” the adult man said as he began inspecting the teen’s wounds. “My buddy there’s getting some medics so this should be a very short temporary fix anyway.”

The tiger nodded, not really sure what to say other thank a weak “thanks”. It had seemed like the right thing, however, as the bear’s face lit up with a soft grin that made his beard look even bigger.

Rahven let the bear work on him as he stared at the street in front of him. Cars and bikes going to and fro in the late summer rain. It was very peaceful compared to what had happened to him that day, even if the traffic was rather loud. However, that relative peace would not last long as suddenly car horns started blaring up.

The man watched the traffic in horror. He had been dodging them since his son had decided oh so stupidly to start crossing the road. Not just once or twice, but over and over and over. He was definitely going to have to talk even more things with his son once this was over.

The crocodile was still running away from him, and crossing the road yet again no less. However, the young adult had decided to look back at him for some reason.

… and failing to notice the car coming up from his other side. The boy must’ve noticed, however, because his face suddenly contorted in horror. Unfortunately, the boy also decided to twist his body around for some reason—to face the car, perhaps—which caused him to lose speed and make himself more likely to get hit.

With as much strength as he could muster Rahven leapt from his place as hard and as fast as he could, as if he was some non sapient tiger about to pounce on his prey. With a lot of tumbling and rolling later, he’d successfully brought the two of them to the other side. With some stroke of luck, he’d managed to get on top of his own son from that stupid act. He almost wished he’d tried to pounce on the boy sooner that day.

“Let go!” Dihev protested over the sounds of blaring car horns and rolling wheels. “You’re not satisfied with just being a terrible neglectful father that you’ve decided to assault me?!”

Rahven growled in anger and began to grab tight holds of the younger man’s shoulders.

“Listen here, you-” the tiger began to shout but was quickly cut off by loud sounds coming from further down the road.

The old tiger didn’t really find anything interesting or fun to do under the winter rain. Much less anyone to help. Therefore he’d decided to just stand on the side of the road, with his no-new-message-received phone in his hand, watching as the world go by.

Well, that and he was waiting for the bus.

The park and its stores had been an important part of his life when he was younger. He had been enjoying his nostalgic trip there today, but perhaps it was time to move on for now. There were other parts of town that he knew of, in any case. Perhaps they’d help him make some good memories.

He was just checking his unreplied messages to Dihev again for the twelfth dozen time that day when he heard the street suddenly exploding in sound. Cars were blaring their horns everywhere and there were even sounds of wheels going the wrong way.

Rahven quickly realized the cars were moving erratically, trying to make sure they don’t crash into each other or anything else. The tiger was just going to simply step back so that he would not get caught up in the chaos. However, he then saw a horrifying view of a very very young boy crossing the road. Straight into the path of a car that was swerving this way and that in an attempt to not hit the other cars on the road.

Without much though, Rahven quickly began to run faster than he had in the last decade or so. With only a few centimeters between the car and them, he hurriedly push the young tiger boy onto the sidewalk. Unfortunately, he was not as lucky.

The older tiger felt the car hit him and even carried him some distance before it stopped, flinging him even further. He tried to get up but every part of him was sore. He tried to take a deep breath but felt that his chest was in pain. So coughed instead and began to laugh.

Was this how he was going to go? He supposed he had wanted to help someone and with this act, he did.

… but, did he? What if he’d accidentally harmed the one he’d tried to save, instead? He felt that he had pushed too hard, after all, and the boy was so young it was probably even more painful to be shoved like that.

With as much strength as he could muster, he lifted his head to try to find the boy he had tried to save. He quickly saw that the kid was crying on the sidewalk a few meters away, clutching what appeared to be some orange-ish toy with black lines all over it and a strap on its sides. There were people hovering around and checking on the boy who seemed to not have any visible injuries.

Rahven sighed in relative relief. He supposed, he’d at least done something good after being terrible for the last few decades of his life. He supposed it was fine if this was how he went. He had felt like he was about to die on this street a few times, after all. And through all of that a stranger had helped him again and again. He supposed it was only fair that it was his time to be the helping hand.

He’d often wondered if the old man that had saved him the first time he’d come to this park even survived. He’d always hoped to find him again and thank him or something, but he supposed he won’t get the chance now. Not that the guy was probably still alive when he’d grown so old already, nor that he even knew what the guy looked like.

The tiger was trying to be content with waiting for his death when he heard it. His phone’s notification sound blaring clearly over the sounds of the rain and what he supposed were emergency vehicles—good, the kid could get properly checked for injuries soon—in the background.

He looked around and found his phone barely even a meter away from him. The man had just began crawling, more like sliding, towards it when it sounded a couple more times. He knew it was hopeless, but he couldn’t stop hoping that it was Dihev replying him, and so he had to move and reach the phone. Unfortunately, his vision was going darker and darker the more he moved. The sounds of the street around him were getting further away the closer he got to the phone.

Rahven finally closed his eyes when his fingers were barely close enough to touch the phone. A soft smile was on the old tiger’s face.

Less than ten centimeters from the tiger, his phone’s screen was lit up. On it was a conversation screen with Dihev, four new messages had just come in.

Sure, I guess. I also have a few things to say. Maybe. And probably a few apologies.

The old park is fine. I could be there about eleven in the morning tomorrow. Unless you want to do it sometime else.

See you then.

Father.


Writer: anonymous

Ashen Grounds

Entry Writchal #1

Theme: Droplets of Time, Radiant Winter


Theme: Radiant Winter 

Ashen Grounds 

By PrimDom 

Murky skies engulf the plains. Their frozen tears fell upon the remains of a once great civilization. The terrain ahead is a graveyard of buildings. The hollowness sings as shivering winds cut through them. 

“Looks dead, not sure if anything is even here.” Microv yells. 

“Oh come on.” Derrick grunts. “Everything is pretty much dead by now.” “I just don’t feel like wasting my energy for nothing.” 

Derrick chuckles. “A military Android like you?” 

Their voice echoes throughout the ruins. It’s so quiet that their footsteps on the tender, snow-covered streets dominates the scene. Microv and Derrick continues to debate over each other, eventually falling behind the other man who leads them. He suddenly falls silent, his body is like it’s petrifying. The two notices. 

“Sir?” Microv asks. 

Their gaze now fell upon him. They wonder what came to him this time. 

“Hush.” The man says. “Did you catch that?” 

Derrick’s sight scour the whole district, not even missing the skies above. Microv only gazes at Derrick. Just as the two about to say that nothing is going on, they caught something. It’s like a heavy breathing, and a hint of shivering. Judging by the sound, it should not be far away. 

“Someone is around here isn’t it?” Derrick asks. 

The man then sprints, trying to locate the source. The two catches up. He stops before what seems to be a small remains of a bungalow. The heavy breathing is even more evident. He digs through the debris. What he found drops his jaw. 

“My goodness!” The man cries, gently. 

A girl in a uniform, covered with her deep cobalt blue blazer is cowering in the corner. Her dark gray skirt is of knee length, and her leggings are torn. Some centimeters ahead of her is a darkened concrete, probably the burn mark of her campfire. She raises her head and looks at the man in the eyes. Her laminar peanut hair is of shoulder length. A glittering golden pin is clipped to them. Her brown eyes are frail. The man feels that she keeps wishing for death. 

The man approaches the girl. 

She raises her head higher, perceiving the entire height of the man weighing down on her. She straightens her legs and raises one hand as high as her chin.

The man drops to his knee. 

“I am a father of no daughter, and you seem to be a daughter of no father. A victim of the mass razing of cities. I offer you to play our role properly. What say you?” 

The girl hesitates. She jerks herself back and leers at Microv and Derrick. 

“He’ll take good care of you kid, I promise.” Micorv barks. 

Derrick looks at Microv. “You mean we?” 

“I don’t know, I’m satisfied with my responsibilities.” 

“This week will be your most arduous one this month, if she refuses.” 

The man gives his hand. 

“What say you?” He grins. 

The girl stares at his face. His grin is innocent, and his eyes are sharp with determination. Refusal comes first to her mind. A kind and, perhaps, resilient man doesn’t deserve her. She would probably be a thorn on his side, especially during these dark times. Moreover, she couldn’t come up with anything to repay him. 

However, she has nothing left. She even hadn’t had a proper meal for the past two days. Even if she refuses, the man would insist. So her choice is pretty much absent. 

The girl takes the man’s hand and nods. 

** 

That was a year ago. Her name is Katrina, a stray third year high-school student. How she survives the annihilation is beyond me. The thing now is, I’m grateful to have her around. I can be a father at last, though she is not of my blood. If only Sofiana isn’t sterile. 

Her hesitation is still largely immeasurable. Especially toward me. But that is not the case for everyone. She speaks like flipping a hand when it’s Microv or Derrick, but that becomes like solving second order partial differential equations when it’s me. Perhaps something to do with their social prominence? I don’t know, I envy them for that still. I am the one who adopt her, but they are the one who got along well. 

“Oi, sir!” I hear Microv yelling from the distance. “You planning to skip your meal? Sofiana doesn’t like that, you know?” 

I stand up from my seat. “Heading over.” I say, while putting down my bamboo sword. 

That’s Microv Edward, my first subordinate, an Android with an Australian accent. He’s an ex-military officer turned scientist and a tech expert. 

He then moves inside, but he seems to be pulled by someone. Then my wife emerges out of the farmhouse’s door.

“Pratama, double time! You might want to see this.” She is in her blouse and a long skirt. A denim cloth is wrapped around her head and covers as much as her breast and her back. Under that cloth is a chocolate wool scarf wrapped around her neck that I bought for her birthday, years ago when I was in the academy. 

I reach the door. “Spoil me.” I say. 

“No. You have to see it for yourself.” She responds. 

The strong, delicate smell reaches as far as the backyard. I don’t think I have been practicing for that long but my stomach feels like they are staging a coup d’etat. 

Derrick is already in the dining room, talking with Katrina. He sits beside her with his bowl of soup on the table. He is my second subordinate. A British computer scientist, and a prominent hacker. I was his supervisor when he’s working on his doctoral thesis. 

Katrina and Derrick seems to be having a great topic before Sofiana grips her shoulders. She bends over, leveling her face with her while fixing her sight on me. 

“Guess who made the soup for lunch?” Her eyebrows flinch, and she gives a smooch on her cheek. 

She should have given me that prior to my presence in the dining room, but oh well. 

“Eh,” Katrina cries when she looks at me. Whatever conversation she has with Derrick fell apart. “B-but you taught me how.” She says to Sofiana. 

“Fair enough,” She responds. “But when you do the cooking, it’s basically yours.” 

“You definitely want this, sir.” Derrick points his spoon at me. “This, your daughter’s aptitude.” 

I roll my eyes and nods, before sitting down across him. Sofiana then puts a bowl of soup before me and another one on her table. She sits beside me. 

I spoon a portion of the soup to my mouth. The warm broth melts my dry and freezing jaw. Its savory taste drives my saliva wild, making me crave for more. 

This is really something. 

I take another piece before opening my mouth to speak. 

“Katrina.” It is as if I has an important announcement, Derrick and Sofiana also has their eyes on me. “No doubt. You’ll make an excellent cook.” Then I turn to Sofiana and squints. “Or probably an exceptional wife.” 

“Thank you.” She says, stuttering. “I’m glad you like it.” 

That makes me curious to what else she has in store. But before that, I should focus on her interest first.

“Now, what are you interested in, sweetheart?” That last part is exhausting. Katrina shakes her head. “Forgive me, father. I’m still confused.” 

I just nods while grabbing a mug of hot chocolates that belongs to my wife and puts it to my lips. She just leers at me without saying anything. 

“That means it’s fine, take your time.” Derrick says to her while pointing at me. 

She tilts her head and giggles. She covers a small portion of her mouth with her hand. “I never knew you are so good at body languages.” 

“I’m not.” Derrick says while putting a piece in his mouth. “Just him in particular.” He jerks his head at me. 

Yeah, right. Whatever. 

I put the mug down and takes a deep breath. I silently wonder where’s Microv in all this. Sure he’s an Android that doesn’t feast upon what we feast, but he’s the one that pulls me here in the first place. 

Suddenly… 

“Kid!” He burst out of the corner of the next room, not failing to catch all of our attention. He heads straight for Katrina and places his gadget next to her. “Look at this.” He says. 

“What is it?” Katrina asks, peering at the gadget’s screen. 

“It says we can use electron’s spin polarization to characterize the topology of materials. What do you think?” 

“Ah, that’s intriguing.” She responds. “How about a little help for digging on its overview someday?” 

“Just tell me when you’re ready. I don’t have anything to do but to look after your father.” He turns his sight at me and flinch his eyebrows. 

“I don’t remember you don’t have anything to do but to look after me.” I blurt out. “What, you’re getting old? You’re like thirty now, do humans degrade this fast over time?” 

There are times when I wanted to shut his mouth so bad. But fortunately for him, this is not one of them. His words burst everyone to laughter. So I just roll my eyes, suppressing my irritation. 

“Ah, stop it you two.” Katrina says, reluctantly. 

Microv turns at me again. “Don’t worry, I’ll get your bloody job done.” 

Thanks sweetheart. That’s one way to repay me and I’m grateful for that.

It’s our regular afternoon. Quite trivial, but powerful enough to linger in my mind. After finishing the lunch we head back to our desks and continue our work. 

** 

The world is left barren after the annihilation. Not much is going around these days. Time becomes an illusion. It sweeps past my consciousness, bringing me to the next day, of the next week. 

Katrina fell ill. 

We first dismissed it as being a common seasonal fever. Things suddenly grow out of hand when every cure I could get in this settlement couldn’t drag her out of her sickness. 

What comes next is an exhausting month, as Microv, Derrick, and I scour any sources we can find for a cure, day and night, but to no avail. I keep losing sleep as Katrina’s condition worsens day by day. Her skin blanches, and her breath is stagnating. She is already unable to support her own weight, so she has to stay in bed most of the time. My wife is taking care of her. 

Today, a medical expert comes for a visit per my invitation. 

“Her breathing rate today collapses even worse than the last time.” He says. “If the disease linger to the fourth day, her breath will be so low that it won’t be recognizable anymore.” 

A news that even fools could predict. 

I turn away for a moment. My heart feels heavy. I raise my palm to cover my mouth. That makes me realize that my palm is shaking. The sentiment that befall upon me once have returned. I can’t lose her like this. I don’t want to. I just start caressing her and nature is going to take her away from me? 

Suddenly I feel the doctor’s pat on my right shoulder. I turn around. 

“There’s a solution however.” He says. 

That sparks something within me. I take a step closer to him. My sight is now so fixed on him, that it probably makes him uneasy, judging by how he takes a little step back. 

“Tell me,” I say. “Everything.” I will do anything the doctor speaks. 

“Have you ever heard of the Radiant Winter?” 

I squint my eyes. I think I have heard that somewhere before. 

“Is that the flower that only blooms during the winter?” 

“Correct, usually found in the northern Baltic. Thought to be pieces from heaven, no disease known to have stood their ground against their pollen. If brewed properly, they could save your daughter.”

It can do that? It sounds a bit odd, because they should have made their way to commercial medicines. Maybe I was too occupied that I didn’t hear about it. 

“Our apothecary used to have those brewed herbs, until the mass bombardments.” He says, nodding. “That is the only cure that you haven’t tried from our store.” 

“If I can get the apothecary a stalk or two, will they make me another brew?” “I can’t guarantee you. You should speak to them about that.” 

My mind doesn’t think when suddenly my arm reaches for my coat and scarf hanging on the door. My body feels like it’s surging on its own, striding beyond our farmhouse’s door. When I realize it, I’m already marching on the snow-covered street, heading toward the apothecary once more. 

I burst through the entrance. The unusually loud crash between the door and the wall it is latching to sends everyone’s sight on the room toward me. I used to hate being the center of attention in a situation like this, but there are greater concerns. I head straight to the receptionist, not even releasing my eye from her. There’s a customer that she is currently serving, whom I briefly turn to. 

“Pardon me, are you done?” I ask him. 

I can tell he’s wavering and even wishing to get out of here as soon as possible. “I-I was about to leave.” He points toward the entrance. 

He eventually snatches the two small glass bottles on the table, putting it in his mantle’s pocket and trot away. 

“What can I do for you, sir?” The receptionist asks. 

“You never told me about the Radiant Winter.” 

“Oh, I am sorry sir. It’s because we don’t receive them anymore.” 

“How much do you need for the brew?” 

“The brewing process would take a toll on our resources. My employees just flew off to their own quarter for the leave, three days ago. It’s not like they’re going anywhere. It’s just some gears require greasing if they have to work overtime.” 

That doesn’t sound good. Time is ticking Katrina away. Even if I snatch a stalk and bring it here, the apothecary is still unwilling to hand the brew devoid of cost. All my reserves had blazed away to delay Katrina’s passing. There has to be another way. 

“Is there anything I can do, so that you would give me a brew of Radiant Winter?” The receptionist rubs her chin and leers upward, slightly to her left. 

“How about we make a de-”

“I’m listening.” I am grateful that she provides me a chance. 

“Okay.” The woman jerks her head. “You know, the brew is remarkable. We made a huge profit out of them. But since we don’t receive supplies of the Radiant Winter anymore, our figures are basically not like they used to be. As a result, I have to lower my employees’ wages.” 

“I have to restore the market for those herbs?” 

“I’m not saying you have to re-establish the market, just this place in particular.” The woman tilts her head. “If you guarantee a steady supply of the Radiant Winters, we’ll guarantee you the brew.” 

Sounds like a simple task, but I knew too much for that to be true. There has to be something there, waiting for me. I wonder if she could fill me in more. 

“Anything I should know?” 

“Well, the mass bombardments shouldn’t bother the production of the crops, since the village that cultivates and puts them to commerce survived. The fact that they aren’t obtainable anymore tells me that something’s amiss. It’s like they’re now isolated, and protected.” 

“Protected? By who?” 

“All I heard is a group of people, and they’re fanatics. I don’t know, some sort of a cult maybe?” She leans closer, “It is said that they worship the flowers.” She whispers. 

Fanatics!? The annihilation should have wiped them all. 

But whatever, this is for Katrina. Even if I have to chop some heads, I will. “Thank you.” I nod, before rushing back home. 

I hang my scarf and coat before bursting to Microv’s room. Papers are scattered all over the floor. I found him sitting there, leaning against his bed while Derrick is lying on it, his arms are holding papers above him. 

“Found something?” Derrick asks, rising up slightly, his right elbow is supporting his weight. 

“A village in the northern Baltic, we’re going there.” I say, panting. 

“You think we’ll find a much more able apothecary there?” Microv asks. 

“There are powerful herbs cultivated there, the Radiant Winter. Our apothecary would brew us a cure if we could re-establish trade for the flower between the village and us.” 

“Why can’t we just snatch a stalk or two and give them to the apothecary?” “That’s not the deal, Microv.” 

“Ah, bloody hell.” He grunts. “You should have sent me there instead.”

I sigh. Maybe he’s right. 

Derrick then stands up. “We’re packing now, I guess?” He asks. 

“We’re packing now.” I reply. 

“Oh, so this is like that fairy tale quest where you-” 

“Just shut up and get going.” Derrick says, patting Microv’s shoulder. 

Microv stands up. “I was going to say impressive, but whatever.” He then storms past me, stepping right in the gaps amidst the scattered papers. “Come on!” He says. 

“Go, I’ll catch up.” I say to Derrick. 

He just nods. 

Then I head to Katrina’s room. There my wife is sitting on a stool beside her bed. She frowns while staring at Katrina. Her sight is weary, probably after those days of losing sleep. Her right hand is on Katrina’s cheek, her thumb gently runs across it over and over. 

“Oh,” She says after turning to me. Perhaps Katrina’s care has deprived a huge chunk of her energy. It takes her seconds before noticing my presence. “Hey. Please tell me you’ve found something.” She strikes a grin that I knew is fake. I can tell she’s on the verge of tears. She is like a diamond, glimmering and tough to crack. But once cracked, she shatters. Our situation is perhaps one of the mighty hammers which has managed to do that. 

I sit on the edge of the bed, just beside Katrina’s leg. 

“There’s a flower, the Radiant Winter. I will have to travel to another village, one day away from here with my jeep.” 

“Then you’ll come with the cure?” She asks. 

“The apothecary will make us one.” I nod. 

She turn down for a moment, closing her eyes. Then she holds my face and leans forward. Her mouth goes straight for mine. Time suddenly stops. Our tongue crosses each other. Her saliva spreads all over my mine. Her sweet lip is warm and fluffy. She may be sterile, but she is still my wife. I could not give my affection to other women anymore. I knew she requited my affection. But there are times and events that cause them to waver. This rallies them once more. 

Just when I feel like I have to go… 

“Father…” A gentle groan comes from my side. I let go of Sofiana’s graceful mouth. 

Katrina looks astonished. It might be because this is the first time she sees us kiss. She then strikes a smile. 

I lean toward her face. “Everything will be fine.” I say. “I’ll get you a cure, and you’ll be in shape soon.”

Katrina nods. “Father…” 

It seems like she wants to ask for something. “What is it, dear?” 

“It’s fine if you don’t bring the cure.” She says. “Just promise that you’ll be here if I won’t make it.” 

Tch, no. My teeth are crushing each other. I don’t like what she’s saying. I will bring you the cure, darling. I promise. I’m not losing another daughter. Fullstop. 

What I give her is just a nod. It is what she asked, and I hope she is relieved that I approve it. I then kisses her forehead. 

“Be careful, father.” 

“I will.” 

“She’s right,” Sofiana chimes in. “Be careful.” 

I kiss her on her right cheek before rising up, heading to my room. 

I grab my backpack and set up my gears, putting in equipment and supplies that I might need for the journey. Then I strap my utilizer to my left wrist. I figured out that I might clash with those cult members, so I better be prepared. I scour around my room, trying to find the thing. 

It seems like the boys are ready. They even has the jeep started up. I’m glad that they share my ambition. Microv leans against the jeep, talking to Derrick. I seem to disrupt their conversation. 

“Sir, we are in need of combat apparatuses in the case of unavoidable hostilities.” Derrick says. 

“I got my bayonet.” Microv says, raising it in front of us. 

“Yeah, and there’s your taser too.” Derrick says to him. 

“I got it settled.” I say, raising a military-grade shovel on my left hand. 

“The shovel!” Microv exclaims. He seems to be excited as he snatches the shovel from me. “I’m not sure if we’re able to commit some trench warfare.” Derrick says. 

“Nonsense!” Microv yells. “You see this sharp edge here?” He runs his finger across one of the shovel’s edge. “Now with thermal amplification, you can send someone else bleeding to death.” 

“It’s military grade, Derrick. The Fritz used them centuries ago in close quarter combat. There’s no reason for discarding it when we need it.” I say. 

“Very well.” 

“I’m driving.” Microv says while rushing toward the driver seat. 

“Take the front Derrick.”

“Aye aye, sir.” 

Derrick goes to the other side of the jeep. 

When I open the jeep’s hatch, I see my wife standing on the terrace, gazing at us. I nod and waves my right hand while smiling back. She responds with the same gesture. 

“Are you planning to freeze us inside?” Microv blurts out. 

“I’m heading in.” I say as I put myself on the back seat. 

I then slam the hatch closed. 

As soon as the locks activate, Microv steps on the gas. We’re cutting through the hail of freezing droplets from above. 

When I look outside, the village I’m living in has shrunk in the distance. It is now clear. The die is cast. 

I have to succeed. 

** 

It is an enchanting evening in spring. The grass plains near my home is blooming. The fragrance fills the air. One thing missing from the scene is my daughter dancing to and fro amidst the vibrant blossoms. 

That aside, the field is pretty much owned by no one. So whenever it blooms, the folks would gather round and pick a flower or two, and bring them home to their care. 

I don’t feel like missing the fun too. Sofiana and I take a stroll there, hoping to catch one that sparks our sense. Microv and Derrick are probably going to mess around. 

We then found one that does so. We take care of it as soon as we brought it home. A Hyacinth, magnificent, and could send one’s imagination wild with its scent. After days of watering and fertilizing, we watch it grows even more mesmerizing. Then suddenly, the fragrance turns to sting my smell. What’s weird is that I’m the only one who smell it. I ask the others, but they don’t, only me. 

Day by day, the smell keeps amplifying. The thrusting odor gets into my nerve as it reaches even the darkest corner of my house. I check the flower again. The main stalk has shriveled, stunning me as I wonder what went wrong with my care. It however, left three offspring on the same pot. It seems that the three, despite their size and age, could make my sense go on a rampage. 

I have no choice, I can’t live like this. So I cut them down. 

As soon as the last petals fell to the soil, something falls upon my nose. But when I realize it, it is rather my nose that hits something, the side screen of the jeep. It is dark outside, I can barely see a thing. The only thing visible are those illuminated by the jeep’s front torch.

Microv is still on the wheel. I mean it would be weird if he switches with Derrick since he’s an Android. I can see Derrick has submitted his body to the seat. 

I yawn. Microv catches on that. 

“You awake?” 

“Kind of.” I say, still stuck on the dream that I just had. 

“Well, we aren’t there yet. You might want to retreat back to your dream.” Good job Microv, now I’m not doing it. 

“I don’t think I will. That was a weird one.” 

“Pardon?” He asks, leering slightly at me through the rear mirror. 

“I got a stalk of flower in a pot, which then grew its offspring. Until it starts to smell so bad, that I had to cut them all.” 

“Did you yoink them from the grass field when it’s spring?” 

“Don’t remember, maybe.” 

The thing about it is that it’s the strangest one I had so far and I can’t seem to comprehend it. 

“Do you think it means something?” 

Microv hums. “Not sure. Probably one day in the future.” 

I look back outside. “Eh? Will I live long enough to see that meaning?” 

“Would be fortunate of you, if that’s the case. But don’t worry, I’ll send a letter up there in case you don’t.” 

I chuckle. “I’d like to see you try.” 

I close my eyes for a moment, enjoying the silence that now permeates the interior. The humming of the engine makes a perfect lull. But I don’t think I will submit to it anymore. Especially when the face of my previous daughter glimpses past me. My eyes open wide, and I find myself peering over my shoulder, thinking that we just went past her. 

“Microv.” 

“Yea?” 

“Do you think I deserve an offspring?” 

“Well it’s your right to reproduce.” 

Her name is Genesis, an Android of my handcraft. She hasn’t even see the world, which back then was a stunning utopia, before the annihilation occurred. Until now, I still couldn’t put her up without dragging my mind to the religious fanatics who took her away. The annihilation too was their doing. Wherever they go, troubles always follow. There will be no tolerance for them. They have to be suppressed. 

“This is the third time nature says otherwise.” 

“Dropping your loyalty might help.” 

And crush the very thing that uphold my ambition so far? Her oath remains to this day, ever since I put the ring on her finger. She had casted her dreams aside to put me on the top. She hasn’t met her parents for over a decade, and now there’s no way she could do it. I couldn’t just throw that like it is something disposable. So I kick the base of his seat, hard. 

“Ow,” He grunts. “Alright, alright, that sounds wrong.” 

I sigh. 

If nature really prohibits me from bearing children of my own, then do I really have to do this? What if it would be in vain? What if I still lost her, even after her disease is cured? What if nature does allow me, and it’s just that I’m not in the right moment? 

“Damn those thralls, they got me discharged.” 

What did he say? Thralls? 

** 

My thoughts kept me awake. 

The road we’re going through is relatively planar. To the left is a desolate land as far as the eye can see. Nothing is between them and the pale blue sky in the infinity. My feet is shaking. Something eerie is whispering to me. Something about the vast amount of corpses lying beneath the winter’s soft terrain, victims of the annihilation. Or it’s just my lack of experience in a huge chunk of nature with not even a hint of human presence. It makes me reconsider my place in this world. I think I could be a philosopher if I dwell here long enough, maybe. 

To the right is something even more shivering. Arrays of majestic, yet abandoned skyscrapers that’s no longer in one piece. Their hollow interiors turn them into pipe instruments, chanting silent requiem day and night. Just as I thought it couldn’t go any worse, a large piece of the structure decides that it is somehow a good time to de-attach from the structure’s frame. Dust fills the air. The crash is so loud that Microv turns for a brief second to the right. The annihilation really does resets the whole world. Perhaps this is how living in dark ages feels. 

I think I should take a stroll to these solitary landscapes once in a while. Perhaps Katrina would love it. 

Two hours later, the village come to our sight. The name is Tuhkapohja. Before we reach the ridge where the village is settled, we have to go through the outpost on the right side of the road. It is manned by two people. One is stepping out to greet us. He seems to be wearing his uniform behind that mantle, judging by his black trousers. Microv stops by and rolls down the window. 

“Travelers, looking for a stay.” He tells them. 

The man then allows our pass. 

“Any teenage girls with you?” 

Microv turns to Derrick and raises an eyebrow. 

“I’ll slap that face of yours back to him.” Derrick grunts. 

He then turns again to the man. “What’s the problem?” He asks. 

“They’re vanishing here, still investigating. Just keep an eye on yours, if you have one.” 

Great, other than a cult, there’s also kidnapping going around this place. I wish not to come across them during our quest, but that’s too good to be true. 

“Can I bring one home, if I found them?” 

The man giggles. His head flinches. “Well if she is willing, who am I to forbid?” “Just ease off when one is missing again.” Microv chuckles while stepping on the gas. 

“Safe stay!” The man shouts. He keeps waving his hand until we reach the village’s perimeter. 

We are fortunate to find a modest inn while checking in, I notice a huge map behind the inkeeper. The title on the top says ‘Tuhkapohja’. There’s a solitary structure to the north. I wonder what that structure is. Beyond that is a cliff. And it says that the cliff is one of the tourist destinations in this place. 

I tell Microv to stay with the innkeeper for more information while Derrick and I settle the provisions. We then collapse to the delicate bed in our room. Microv would probably be jealous but he barely need sleep. 

He returns fifteen minutes later. 

“White Stripes.” 

Derrick and I rise up. 

“The cult with the Radiant Winter.” Microv continues. 

Derrick turns to me. 

“Do you think we can convince them?” He asks. 

“Well, those thralls lack their reasoning.” I cross my arms. 

“Thralls?” Derrick asks.

“Fanatics, but more of a mock.” Microv says. 

Derrick’s head flinches. “Relatable.” 

“The innkeeper says that they’re praying right now.” 

“Why do you still insist that words could still turn their heart? You saw with your own eyes that our last encounter with them didn’t end well.” I grumble. 

Microv shrugs. “Maybe that’s just you. You haven’t tried us.” 

Derrick turns to me. “At least we know what we’re up against, sir.” 

“Correct, intel. Know your foe, to make them woe.” Microv exclaims. 

That’s one I couldn’t reject. I gather my strength and stand up, exhaling a piece of air, before nodding firmly. 

“Fine.” 

Derrick follows. “Where are we heading?” 

“Atop the ridge,” Microv jerks his head upward. “Their altar is there.” 

“Excellent! Another hiking session it is.” Derrick exclaims. 

I frown. Hiking is cool. Just not on winter. 

But whatever, this is for Katrina. I walk pass them toward the door, only to open it and tell Microv to take the lead by jerking my head. 

“Here we go.” He exclaims. 

Now I know what that solitary structure is. 

We follow the footpath that keeps getting steeper. The sight of the village makes this trek less arduous. It is quiet, but unlike the ruins, there are still folks roaming around. We encounter some passerby and a pair of boys, one chasing the other. We don’t see any female of below adult age. Everyone must have kept them under their own roof, thanks to the kidnapping. If we could get rid of those two, the kidnapping and the thralls, I might decide to move here. 

The path lead us to a stairs, which goes straight for the altar. The altar appears to be an organized pile of limestone and marble. It has a large circular structure, and is the only lavish building in Tuhkapohja. There is a curved line of spaced pillars that seemingly forms an entrance to the circular hall inside, which is open to the outsider. Inside the hall is an amphitheater, enough to hold a hundred people. But the people sitting there is less than that, judging by the vast empty seat. 

At the gate we are halted by two men, both wearing dark brown robe with white outlines. We ask them that we want to meet their leader.

“The prayer is still ongoing. You will have the chance honorable guests, once it is done.” The man’s gentle voice relief the tension inside me. He called us honorable guests. I guess not all thralls are hostile. That gives me hope. Maybe we really can talk this out. 

Microv leers briefly to Derrick and I behind him. 

“How long?” 

“This is the last phase, it should be done in less than five minutes.” 

“We’ll wait.” I say. 

“We are grateful for your understanding,” The man says. “We shall pass this news to our leader, soon.” 

While waiting, Microv and Derrick further their conversation with the two men. I stand behind them, looking around. Our flanks are filled with nothing but arrays of trees, covered in snow. I wonder if this gate is the only way into the hall. 

Eventually the prayer is done. One of the men goes into the hall, the other keeps us occupied. From here I can see him speak with someone else, presumably the leader. I can see him turn his sight on us. He then marches toward us with his hand hidden under his sleeve. 

“We wish the Winter bring wealth upon you, gentlemen.” He says as soon as he arrives. “Let us discuss the affairs in our tavern.” 

“Very well.” Microv says. 

The man then turns back and walk away followed by Microv. Derrick takes a step forward. “He is not that bad, sir.” 

“Or,” I object. “He doesn’t seem yet.” 

We then follow their steps toward the tavern. 

It’s warm inside. What he refer to as tavern is actually a place where he meets his guests. We are the only ones here. He allows us to sit on the teak-framed sofa. 

“I am Victus, the archpriest of the White Stripes. What brings you here, O honorable strangers?” 

I turn to Microv and Derrick, who do the same. I hope this goes well. 

“We would like to ask you to return the Radiant Winters on commerce.” I say. 

Victus shakes his head gently. “My apology. But only our brethren are allowed to have the herbs. And they too, are prohibited in sharing it to those not of our member.” 

“Why?”

“The ability to relieve any known diseases are comparable to what the divines are able. They are the manifestation of divine powers. And to use such power, you have to be dedicated to them.” 

“You mean something bad will happen if plenty of non-believers are using it?” “Correct. The last time this healing power is overused, the mass bombardment took place.” 

His words stunned me, not because those two events sound somewhat related, but because I know those two events are unrelated at all. I shouldn’t have raised my expectation. These thralls still rationalize any major event as being a divine intervention. Microv and Derrick strikes me a frown. Perhaps they’re as astonished as me, since they also knew too well about the event. 

“I see, that’s intriguing.” Derrick chimes in. “However, I wonder what if this village is in need of the herbs?” 

“For each roof, there is at least one of their member with us. We may forbid usage for strangers, but relatives are still eligible for a treatment, should they fall to need.” 

“Good, sir.” Microv clears his throat. “Imagine the prosper that would come if you trade those flowers again. Imagine seeing this village as a superpower of this continent, with you at the top.” 

Victus then gazes the floor. He seems to be contemplating. That makes me wanting to give Microv a pat on the back. Because that seems to have persua- 

“No.” Victus says. 

Damn. 

“Pardon?” Microv asks. 

Victus lifts his gaze back to us. “We’ve seen superpowers rise and fall. Their statesmen, starving for power, would do anything to gain them, even as further as breaking or rewriting the divine code. I will not allow my brethren to violate the testament brought by the divines.” 

This isn’t something that’s usually came from me, but I have no choice. 

“How do I become a member then?” I ask. 

Microv and Derrick spontaneously turns at me, although I don’t see them directly. 

“After the paperwork, you will be put into an entire season of ritual practice and spiritual training while under our supervision. Then the judges decide, whether or not you are worthy of our ties.” 

An entire season? There’s not even a week left, let alone an entire season.

** 

It’s getting dark. We retrun the inn.

My chest fell to a cavernous depth. My limbs, it’s like they’re swallowed by the abyss. I collapse to my bed. My heart grows so heavy that I think the bed couldn’t handle it. 

I’m going to lose another daughter. This journey is over. I couldn’t deliver what I have promised. 

I pull the blanket and curl myself. My eyes are welling, I really am cursed to have no offspring. I think Microv and Derrick are looking at me right now, it’s the first time they see me like this. 

“Sir.” Derrick calls. 

It doesn’t feel right to leave him hanging. But it’s better that I don’t speak to anyone right now. So, I cower even harder. There’s no more word coming from them. I assume they left me alone. It’s the best that they can do right now. ‘Forgive me, darling’ becomes the only phrase that comes to my mind. I begin to lost count. My eyelids are getting heavy too, so I let them go. 

It was a brief rest. My thirst wakes me up. Derrick and Microv is sitting by the window, gazing upon the darkness beyond while exchanging words. I grab a glass of water and sit back on my bed. The two is quick to notice. 

“Better, sir?” Derrick asks. 

I don’t know if I could answer that. The pain is still there. Losing another daughter to another thrall. And the idea that this might be my fate. I could not live up to that. 

“I don’t know.” 

It’s all that made it out. All while my mind reach out for Katrina, who’s health is draining over time. Guess it will remain that way, until she loses her breath. Then I remember what she said to me before I left. If she won’t make it, at least I’d be there beside her. 

Derrick comes and sit down on his bed, which is beside mine. 

“Sir, Microv and I found something.” 

I don’t turn to him, my sight remains fixed to the floor. No matter what’s coming, if that doesn’t help my situation, I’m not listening. 

“This may help our situation.” He says. 

Since he’s brave enough to claim that way, my attention is suddenly all his. “Speak.” 

“We were down there in the inn’s café, when we overheard from two folks that they heard strange noises in the woods, northwest of this village.” 

I don’t think I understand how does it helps. “Then?” 

“We think that’s where they keep the girls.”

“The kidnapping?” 

“Correct.” 

“How could you be so certain?” 

Derrick exhales and lean away from me, his hands lay on the bed, supporting his weight. “The innkeeper says that some girls are last seen heading toward that woods.” “Then how come everyone overlooked that?” 

“They did a search, but found nothing. Seems like the responsible party is excellent in covering their tracks.” 

“These fellas,” Microv exclaims. I was surprised that he’s suddenly before me with his right hand raised. “They don’t have the proper equipment.” 

“You mean we’d definitely find the girls?” 

“If we do,” Derrick says. “The village will be grateful. They might symphatize with you and persuade Victus to provide the herbs.” 

I’m not sure whether this will work or not, but there’s a chance that it will, so I’m taking it. Besides, it might casts billions that lost their lives away from me. 

“Pack our gears then, we head there.” I say. 

The village has already went asleep. An excellent timing. Our operation would go unnoticed. We head for the woods with electric torches on my hand and Derrick’s. Microv takes the lead. 

He’s a military android, hence he has every standard utility that a professional field army have as a feature. That involves a night-vision sight and an EM transmitter. The plan is to let him scour the woods’ underground structure for a ‘well-structured’ anomaly. That is, an underground chamber. Besides, Derrick’s utilizer is able to connect to any terminal and operate it unnoticed. There has to be at least one terminal in that underground chamber, so Derrick would confirm if Microv really finds the chamber. 

This freezing woods already seem eerie in the daylight, let alone now. But it’s not like some dark creatures would fall upon us. Fortunately, we only spent an hour before stumbling upon something. 

“The chambers. I think we got them.” Microv says with a smirk in his face. “I’d agree.” Derrick says. “My utilizer picked up a computer terminal in the vicinity.” “Do you see an entrance?” I ask. 

Microv then points ahead of him. “There is an auxiliary hatch over there.” “What do you mean auxiliary?” Derrick asks.

“That means the gang don’t use the hatch often.” 

Derrick and I share a look before heading toward the direction Microv has pointed. It is a huge boulder covered in moss. 

“Crack it open!” Microv says to Derrick. 

I then turn to derrick, who is now vigorously running his fingers back and forth on his utilizer. He catches me gazing at him. 

“Don’t worry, I’m doing it.” He smirks too. 

At times like this, I would usually feel bad for not contributing to the task. But there are greater concerns. 

Not long after, a piece of the boulder shifts. It then slides open, revealing a large hollow crack that hosts a chamber with small orange illumination. 

“There we go gentlemen.” Derrick exclaims. 

“Are you aware of how pathetic it would be if you couldn’t hack through?” Microv chuckles. 

“He obviously do.” I say. “Let’s go.” I jerk my head. 

We tip-toe downstairs. I am astonished that there’s a base lying beneath the village and none notices. Microv and Derrick seems incredibly quiet. This place is something they usually comment upon. I leer at them behind me. They only leer back and nod. I believe that their astonishment is there. I appreciate them for not commenting anything as to not giving away our presence. 

We proceeds from one dark hallway to the other, following Derrick’s guidance toward the terminal that he accessed through his utilizer. If that terminal could open the auxiliary hatch, then it has to be somewhat a central terminal. The lack of personnel here encourages our gratitude. Seems like the sleep time applies to these men as well. We eventually arrive before the room that hosts the terminal without any hindrance. I try to open the door, but it’s locked. I shouldn’t be surprised. Microv then grabs my shoulder. 

“Let me.” He says. 

He pulls out a thin stick and insert it into the door’s lock. It opens the door. “They built a computerized entrance but they don’t apply it to this one?” Derrick whispers. “Perhaps none but them could get this far.” 

“Fair enough.” 

Derrick trots inside and sits before the terminal. Microv and I followed. After closing the door, we look around the room which is mostly filled by metal drawers. Microv finds tagged 

folders in one of them. I gaze down upon him, who then peers at me for a moment. He decides to pull the tag that says ‘Feature Analysis’. 

Microv places the folder on a nearby table and opens it. I place my torch beside the folder. “Research papers.” Microv says. 

“What’s it about?” I ask. 

Just when that question left my mouth, we stumble upon a page that shows a sketch of a female face. The sketch comes with series of divergent lines pointing at a specific point in the sketch. At the other end of those lines are writings that I couldn’t read. It’s not because they’re in foreign language that I don’t understand, it’s because I don’t have a background of pharmacy. 

“Who’s face is this?” I ask again. 

“Was that rhetorical?” Microv responds. 

“Can you read those writings?” 

Microv turns to me, “Not a pharmacist either.” 

But something hints me that anyone here is working to optimize feminine beauty. That suspicion of mine is justified when suddenly we stumble upon a sketch of a naked teenage girl. I turn away for a moment, before recalling that I’m old enough for this. Microv seems to have caught me turning away, so I clear my throat to dismiss it. 

“Still underaged?” He says. 

“Move along.” I respond. 

The sketch also has those lines and writings too. But this time there are mathematical formulations on it. 

“Gentlemen, have a look.” Derrick suddenly calls. 

Microv and I come over to him, who have made an astounding discovery. Microv leans closer toward the screen. It shows footages of girls sleeping in rooms, perhaps separated ones. 

“We found them, I guess.” Derrick says. 

“Is this recorded?” Microv asks. 

“No, this is live. You can access any device here using this terminal it appears.” “I don’t think we can return them now.” I say. 

“We need reinforcements.” Microv exclaims, leaning away from the screen. “We have to turn this over to the authority.” I exclaim. 

“But we still don’t know the party behind this mess.” Derrick responds.

“The terminal doesn’t say anything?” 

“More like doesn’t have anything to say. It is either devices access program or other miscellaneous files unrelated to anyone that are stored here. No personal logs, or recording of some sort.” 

This close, and the culprit is nowhere to be found. At least we now know of this place. The authority would run it over and end the kidnapping. 

But something tells me the White Stripes is responsible for this. 

We decided that we had enough. Derrick takes shots of the footage and this room, downloading it to his utilizer before we return to the surface. He reopens the entrance hatch and close it once we got through. Derrick and I march toward local officers as soon as possible. It took us several seconds before we notice that Microv fell behind. I turn around and find him peering at the void behind him. 

“Microv, let’s go.” 

He turns to me and nod. “Right behind you.” 

Microv approaches us, his sight sometimes wandering to his flanks once every few seconds. 

Did he notice something? 

** 

“Closed? What security force on earth decides that they should all have a shut eye?” I ask gently. 

“We are, sir.” The officer guarding the building says. “I mean it’s winter, our service only lasts for twenty hours. Please be patient.” 

I nod and walks back to Microv and Derrick. 

“What a bunch of unprofessionals.” Derrick blurts out. 

“Want me to spark them?” Microv grunts. 

“And lose the chance of the folks’ sympathy?” Derrick grumbles. 

I sigh. “We’ll return here in a few hours. Let’s rest for now.” 

Nobody says anything. We cleave through the silence of the village’s street back to the inn. I think I heard a conversation between Microv and Derrick, but I’m too tired to listen. 

Inside, I place my gear down before collapsing to the bed. I keep reminding myself to be patient. Few more hours before we turn this over. Once that happens, this kidnapping business will end. Hoping that this place would trade us the Radiant Winter as a reward feels too much, but I’m still clinging to that. I can still save Katrina. She will be fine soon.

I can already picture us strolling across the blooming field back home during spring. She is there, stopping by every flower that has her mesmerized. Their features however, still leagues below her. Her smile brightens the field. I feel ten times more comfortable here than I used to be. I pick a flower and approaches her. Acknowledging my presence, she rises up and meet my eyes. I nudge her hair slightly and tuck a flower in her right ear. 

She then gazes briefly down at my feet, her face turns red as berries. When she raise her face, she has her eyes closed and tilts her head. What comes after is a wide smile that melt my heart. 

“Thank you.” She says before running off deeper to the field. 

I stride behind her. 

Then I realize. The flower that I tucked on her right ear is a Hyacinth, the one that struck my smell like no tomorrow. 

“Oi, sir.” I hear someone calls my name. Sounds like Microv. But he’s nowhere to be found. 

Then someone grabs and shakes my shoulder. 

“Sir, sir!” 

The dream shatters, I return to the inn. Seems like my thoughts had lulled me again. I found Microv shaking my shoulder. I shove my blanket away and rise up. Before I ask him any question of what’s going on, something in front of my bed amplifies that question further. 

“Microv, what happened!?” 

“My instinct just got justified.” 

Before my bed are four men, all tied up and unconscious. What’s more stunning is that the men are wearing dark brown robes with white outlines, the White Stripes. 

“They snuck upon us. Fortunately, I smell them coming.” Microv exclaims. “They were about to wrap you up. But are fool enough to fall to my trap.” 

“My goodness.” 

I turn to Derrick who appears to be as stunned as me. 

“Does this mean…” 

“There’s a high chance that they are, sir.” Derrick says, nodding. 

So it is true. It feels satisfying to see that this people turns out to be responsible for the kidnapping. We now have a reason to bring them to the ground. 

I stand up and approaches the men. One of them raises his head, the youngest one, turning his sight to me.

“You, trespassers.” He says. 

“What have you been doing with those girls?” 

“For the divines’ continuous blessing, they have to be pleased.” 

Pleasing the divines with those girls? That doesn’t sound good. But if that’s the case… “Then why do you have research papers on female features?” 

His eyes met mine, his lips is straight. Seems like he’s not going to answer that. Very well. “Ugh!” He grunts as I struck his face with my fist. 

“Tell me!” I say, my tone goes slightly over the top. 

“We study them, to create a female with the most captivating feature ever known to man.” “Then what? You’re going to sacrifice them?” 

“Once the divines agreed, she will be sent to the garden where the Radiant Winter blooms and…” 

That’s enough. I give him another blow, hard enough that it turns him unconscious again. These thralls, they’re as troublesome as ever. If not because of them, the annihilation wouldn’t have occurred. Our civilization would’ve reach upon unimaginable height right now. 

Microv and I look at each other. 

“They’re coming.” He says. 

“No, Microv.” I say, approaching him. “We’re coming.” 

Five hours has passed since we returned from our search in the woods. We found something, and that seems to have gotten us into trouble. But we are one step closer to bring these peoples to justice. I am one step closer to purge this village of this thralls. And I’m not going to stop. Time to put my swordsmanship to use. 

Microv and I grab our gears, including the shovels. 

“Derrick, grab the jeep and turn this over to those officers. Lead them to extract those girls at the underground chambers we found.” 

“Wilco.” Derrick nods. 

“Time to confront them, the hard way!” I exclaim. 

“At last.” Microv says. 

We leave through the window in our room. Hopefully none sees us coming. It’s early in the morning and their ritual is about to begin again. This’ll be their last. 

**

After marching to the vicinity of the altar’s gate where the two guards are standing, I rest for a while, gathering my stamina after the hike. We are in the bushes, beyond the sight of those two guards. I take a deep breath and calm myself down. 

“Are we ready?” Microv asks. 

“Go.” I say, my voice firm, my hand is itching to shovel their face flat. 

Microv and I leap out from the hiding and charge into the guards. They notices us and pull out something from their waist. Sticks, probably strong enough to cause bruises. By the time they’re ready, it was too late. Microv shoves his entire weight toward one of the guards. I struck the other’s stomach with my shovel’s butt and swing it against his face. The two guards collapsed. 

The crash of my shovel is probably loud enough to alert anyone on the altar. We march through the gate. Everyone stands up on our presence. Surprisingly enough Victus come to meet us, followed by four guards. 

“Gentlemen what have you done!?” His tone remains gentle even in this predicament. 

“You are responsible for the disappearance of the girls in this village. We’re taking you down.” 

“Let us not partake in this sort of vigilante. Let us all settle this before the legal authority.” He says. 

Microv and I share a look. We know that our response to that is obvious. Besides, it is him who commits vigilante first. 

“Denied.” Microv responds. A second later he has his shovel heading to Victus’s face. 

But he is repelled by one of the guard. The other struck Microv’s stomach and shove him back. 

“Very well then.” Victus says, retreating behind his guards. “Acolytes, to arms!” He yells. 

That man hurries back to the altar and orders all the worshippers to leave through the back door, before doing it himself. All the while the guards, or Acolytes perhaps, are covering their leave. We have to take on this four before us first. 

I go for one of the acolytes’ leg. When he moves to parry, I jerk my shovel back and slam its edge against his face. It was swift and in a second, he collapses to my right. The other goes for my head, his stick fell straight from above. My shovel met the stick. Then I thrust my right knee against his stomach as soon as possible. I shove the stick away and swing my shovel back, crashing against his face. The loud bang brings satisfaction. I find Microv standing with one of his feet on the acolyte’s back. He slam his shovel to the back of his head. 

“Clear!” Microv says. 

We proceeds toward the altar, where another six guards fell upon us. Microv’s back and mine met for a moment. We peer to each other and nod.

I charge the guard to my left. He times his stick and struck at the right moment. But at that moment, I twist to his right and successfully hit the back of his head with my shovel. Once he fall to his knee, I swing the sharp edge of my shovel against his back. His blood splatters out, sticking to my shovel. An excellent opportunity. I put the shovel to my lip and lick the blood, enduring its bitter taste on my shovel as my saliva runs over it. 

That hesitates the other two to attack me. I can see it in their face, which just seconds ago was firm and ready. Now there’s nothing in there but doubt. 

One of them yells and charges against me. The other follows suit. I march to meet them, taking a deep breath. One swings his stick for my head, but I duck at the right time. I hold my shovel with both hands and goes for the man’s waist. He screams in pain while the other is hustling toward me. With another hit, I shove the man away and brace for impact. Along with the stick is his body weight, which is now held by my shovel. He slams his stick many times against my shovel, giving me no openings. 

When I thought I see one, I raise my shovel. But his foot meet my face first, hard. My back hits the floor. I raise my shovel, bracing for impact again. But before his stick hits me, Microv shoves him away and drops him with three successive hits, two to his torso and the last one to his head. I see beyond him and find guards lying on the floor, hoping that they’re dead. 

“Such a takedown you gave there.” 

He gives his hand, which I take, pulling me up. 

“Grind with me for a week and you’ll be able to do that, guaranteed.” He says. 

We give no more thoughts nor words and head straight toward the back door where Victus made his leave. Behind it is a cobblestone pathway that we follow. Since Victus is heading this way, he must be on the other side. On our flanks are glass structures that hosts my purpose here, the Radiant Winter. Their numbers are overwhelming yet they are kept here by the White Stripes. 

They belong to this village now, not only them. 

The path leads us to a circular limestone paving, where it ends. Beyond is more woods, covered in freezing snow. And beyond the woods, is a cliff. Microv looks around while I catch my breath. 

Then Victus appears behind us, from the way we came. 

“You have trespassed our domains. You shall be punished.” He says, still in his gentle tone. But now it’s topped with anger, I can sense it. 

Now he is wrapped in a combat gear from head to toe. He looks way more intimidating than before. That gear seems heavy, and I think this shovel can only scratch those machinery. I have to find another way. But before that… 

“Why do you keep the flowers for yourself?” I ask. “You know you could have been on the top of the world, should you trade them.”

Victus meet my eyes. Those sharp determined eyes, I think that’s one I can admire from him. 

“Whatever that is, if the price is my daughter, then I won’t budge.” 

Am I hearing this correctly? His daughter? 

“How ill your daughter is, that you need this much of the Radiant Winter? I thought a stalk is enough for any sickness.” 

“My daughter is dead!” Victus yells, for the first time in front of me. “The mass bombardment didn’t just took place, they also took her from me!” 

Microv and I share a look. 

“They are the last beautiful thing that we enjoyed together, before those damned missiles struck. They are my lifeblood as I strive day and night to recreate her, so that I can see her again. I will not let anyone take them away from me!” 

This is the first time I relate to a thrall. Losing a daughter is the hardest burden any father could bear. It’s their next purpose after caring for their spouse. Sure they can make another. But the first loss would guarantee a wound that lasts through their lifetime. Like him. Like me. But now I have a new daughter. And although my love isn’t as great as it is toward Genesis, it will be once this is over. 

I take a step forward. 

“I will.” I say. 

I think that snaps him. He pulls out his stick with his right hand and charges toward me. His charge is quick, perhaps owing to the gear he’s wearing, and I haven’t brace myself for the impact. Fortunately Microv jumps in the way just in time. 

“Over my corpse!” He grunts. 

The gentle and calm thrall that I respected the first time we met, has turn into a bursting ball of anger. I twists to his left and aims for his waist. But he pulls out a tonfa with his left hand, which then met my shovel. We are then tossed back a few meters by a shockwave, perhaps coming from his gear too. This will be a trouble. 

Victus swings his stick upward in my direction. I nudge back to avoid it. Then he thrusts his tonfa toward me. I managed to shift to my left, but that barely hits me. He goes for my head with his stick, so I raise my shovel. But it hits so hard that it pushes me back. I parry more strikes from him. He manages to strike my stomach, shoving me away and turns around to meet Microv who is charging toward him. My back hits the snow covered limestone. 

Microv aims for the left of his head, but his shovel meet Victus’ tonfa. He then thrusts his stick, but Microv quickly pulls out his bayonet just in time to parry that. In their standoff, I notice something on his back. A polygonal bulge on his armor. It glows crimson, faintly illuminating the premises behind him. That got me wondering, so I charge toward his back.

He leers behind him and notices me. But as soon as he does, Microv shove his head against Victus’. That might not hurt him, but the temporary shock is enough for him to shove his stick away and swipes his bayonet across his chest. From my side, I don’t think that does anything. The opening however, allows me to aim the sharp edge of my shovel toward the bulge. My shovel then sticks on the small crack that it just made. Electricity buzzes out and the crimson light flickers. 

Microv and I seems to be fortunate. Perhaps this gear is still a prototype and the bulge is the weak point. A power source or something? Was that the one that enhances his speed and strength? 

I hit the crack for the second time, attempting to cleave through. But Victus sends another shockwave that tosses us back. The three of us recover our ground, I catch our breath. Victus leers behind him. He doesn’t seem to be injured much, but he does seem irritated. Especially when I broke that bulge on his back. 

I circle around him, toward Microv’s position. 

“That helmet is nut. Not sure if I can manage another one without any fracture.” Microv says. 

Victus marches toward us. 

“I have a plan.” I say, while we both retreat. 

So I tell him his plan. 

“Are you sure? You seem to be overwhelmed by him seconds ago.” Microv says. I nod. “Just give me your bayonet.” 

“Very well.” 

He hands me his thermal bayonet and run off towards the woods beyond us. All the while I position myself in front of a track that goes along the cliff. Now it’s just he and I. 

“You got something up your sleeve.” Victus says. 

“What? You’re scared?” 

“I might as well wait here, starving you out.” 

I chuckle at that notion. “I don’t think so. You are the one racing against time here Victus.” He frowns in silence. It seems like he doesn’t understand. 

“You see, there are only two of us confronting you here. What do you think happened to the other one?” 

It takes several more seconds before he gasps. He turns back. “No!” 

Suddenly my utilizer flickers, indicating of an incoming message. I play them out loud with the speakers. A message from Derrick.

“All White Stripes scientists have been rounded up and locked in one place, sir. Local authority reinforcement is on their way to secure the chambers.” 

His face turns again to me. His sight is firm and fixed. His grip grows tighter. And I can see his teeth pushing against each other. 

“You take my daughter away from me!” He points to me, his hand trembling from how tight his grip is. 

I take his daughter away!? 

Something is scalding within, perhaps incited by his words. Thralls like this… I decide to release it. Guess what… 

“Painful isn’t it!?” My voice went over the top. “That’s how I felt when I learned that thralls like you took my daughter away!” I think this is as far as I can go. I don’t remember bursting like this before. Even in my adolescent times, it never went this terrible. “Now I have a second one, and I will not let you take her from me again. I will not sacrifice mine for your petty, irrelevant, harlot, you refer to as your daughter.” 

He screams. 

I scream. 

We both snap and charge each other. 

Two men, bursting like no tomorrow, on a collision course. Showing no remorse, wishing for the other’s downfall. Their sheer will boils them to the core, melting any chunk of snow they traverse on. Their hands thirst to spill the blood of the other. The terrible fate that befall upon their daughter has brought them here. And here will it be decided. 

No, it has been decided. Katrina will survive. 

Victus’ blow is weaker than it was before. Perhaps that bulge supports the weight of his armor. Now that it is damaged, that weight fell upon him. Even still, my weapons are barely doing any harm to him. And that he can still parry my attacks, landing counters that deals several blunt damage, mostly to my torso. My shovel is my best hope of parrying his attack. So I decided to keep parrying until further down the track. 

The contest starts to take a toll on my muscles, as I keep falling back. I think the same goes for Victus as his attacks are declining and his speed wavering. I’m able to land some hits toward his stomach and head, provoking him. Perhaps he doesn’t have a fighter background as I do. I take another chance when his breath wear him down. But he managed to counter attack and shove me to the ground. 

I quickly rise up to prepare for any strikes he has for me. But it turns out he remains in place, catching his breath. I do the same. 

We stare at each other. It has been a tough fight. But there will be no draw.

“I’ll shove you down this cliff.” He says, panting, jerking his head to the left. “I’ll take you with me.” I respond, also panting. 

“At least you don’t get to see your daughter anymore.” 

I nod, turning away for a brief moment. 

I’m finally here. There’s another track to Victus’ right, traversable by ground vehicle. It plays a part in my plan. Now that he’s right in the middle of the track, it’s over. 

“Good news, you’ll see your daughter soon.” I say. 

Victus raises an eyebrow, before turning to his right, toward the noise of an incoming vehicle. I shovel a chunk of snow and toss it to his face. As he’s distracted by the snow, Microv springs from the tree behind him, unleashing his taser feature on his fingers upon the bulge on Victus’ back. 

“Aaagghhh!” Electric sparks run amok across his body. 

As he is twitching in place the vehicle keeps getting closer. Microv and I leap back. Eventually it clears through the snow and crash into him before stopping, sending Victus down the cliff to my right. His scream echoes as he fell toward the freezing depth below. His armor shatters piece by piece as he comes crashing with the stones sticking out of the ledge throughout his fall. 

Eventually he hits a hard surface, thinly covered in snow. And there, he stops moving. Derrick comes out of the jeep. 

Microv raises his arms to the sky. “Haha! Scientia, victrix!” He yells. 

“Scientia, victrix?” Derrick asks. 

“Come on, this is our bloody cry now.” 

Derrick then turns to me. “What do you think, sir?” 

Microv follows. 

I turn to them. “Scientia, victrix.” 

** 

It’s over. 

Tuhkapohja’s authority decides to disband the White Stripes and charge the members with community service. The village looks even brighter since then, with the folks strolling around, chanting songs with the Radiant Winter tucked in their ear. 

Too bad I can’t join them, but it still bring me joy thinking about their excitement for the return of the girls. Or should I say daughters. 

I gaze at the ashen sky that sheds their frozen tears upon the world.

Victus became a thrall because he lost his daughter. He worships the Radiant Winters because they are the only witness to the best memory he had with her. I don’t know how many people like Victus are out there. One thing for sure, the annihilation may have wiped those thralls away. But more seems to have sprout from the ashes. I couldn’t remain idle. Let Genesis be their last victim. 

“Dad!” A loud voice that reminds me that I’m not alone here. It snaps my thoughts and has me falling back. 

“Katrina, please. You don’t have to yell like that.” I beg. Although it is probably my mistake that she has to yell like that. 

She sighs. A temporary gust flutters her peanut hair. “You are really into your daydreams, aren’t you?” She tilts her head. 

Uh, not really. The one I just had is important for our well-being. 

She then smiles. “I think I want to be an Android specialist like you dad.” 

“Oh,” I raise an eyebrow, before leering to my right. “It’s hard to believe that I’m this charismatic.” 

I don’t know if it’s just my feeling, but I think she strikes me a brief pout there. 

She places her hand on her waist and leans toward me. “Dad, come on. Isn’t it natural for a daughter to follow the steps of her father?” She grumbles. 

That definitely sounds amazing, an offspring who will continue my legacy. It provides me a relief, a brief respite from the turmoil of my worries. At least I am a father for once, though she is not of my blood. I turn back to her and nod without any further thought. 

She smiles again, before turning back and takes several steps ahead. 

“You know,” She says. “I even have a name for my first Android.” 

“Spoil me.” I say. 

She turns to me again and lifts her chin high. “Sylvana.” 

I cross my arm. “Sylvana…” 

“Correct. Then there’s my family’s name.” 

“Sylvana, Tribhuwana.” I say. “What a lovely name.” 

She just nods.


Writer: PrimDom

Traitor’s Betrayals ( A Failed Holy War)

Entri Writchal #1

Tema: Hujan


Rumah sakit kesatria di Pulau Rhode dipenuhi oleh pasukan dan kesatria yang terluka setelah serangan ke Levanṭīnīye, atau disini lebih sering disebut sebagai Levantinopel. Jeritan dan erangan orang-orang malang di bangsal rumah sakit memenuhi seisi ruangan. Stok perban, pereda rasa sakit dan perlengkapan medis lain di rumah sakit sudah kritis, sehingga beberapa prajurit yang tidak tertolong lagi terpaksa diracuni sehingga penderitaan mereka segera berakhir. 

 

“Ahhhh” kelegaan dari prajurit yang sedari tadi mengerang kesakitan.

 

Seorang suster baru saja memberikan prajurit malang itu racun dengan dosis tinggi untuk mengakhiri penderitaannya

 

“Tenanglah, Pejuang Dewa yang Pemberani. Penderitaanmu akan segera berakhir. Sekarang , Anda bisa beristirahat dengan tenang.” Ucap suster tersebut dengan penuh kelembutan

 

“Kaaammmuu, apakah Anda itu …….Bunda ? Apakah ……anda datang …untuk ….langsung menjemputku,….. Bunda ?” Balas prajurit sekarat itu dengan lemah.

 

Awalnya suster tersebut cukup terkejut karena disamakan dengan salah satu dewi tertinggi. Namun dengan tenang suster tersebut memainkan perannya dan berusaha membimbing akhir hidup prajurit sekarat tersebut. 

 

“Ya, anakku! Aku di sini! Perjuangan dan keberanianmu untuk menegakkan ajaran dewa tiada tandingannya! Sekarang kamu telah membuktikan pengabdianmu kepada dewa, jadi beristirahatlah anakku! Genggam tanganku, dan aku akan menuntunmu, melalui kegelapan dihadapanmu!”

 

Suster itu menggenggam tangan prajurit sekarat itu. Kehangatan yang dimiliki prajurit itu perlahan menjadi dingin. Dan tubuhnya menjadi kaku. 

 

“Kerja bagus, suster muda! Kamu telah membantu membimbingnya menghadapi kematian dengan sangat baik!” Kata seorang suster lain yang lebih senior.

 

Suster senior itu menutup kedua mata prajurit tersebut, dan kemudian menaikkan selimut prajurit tersebut hingga kepala dan menutupi seluruh tubuh prajurit tersebut. Kemudian dia menginstruksikan penjaga di bangsal untuk memindahkan mayat prajurit tersebut ke ruang mayat. 

 

Ketika membimbing prajurit tersebut menjemput ajal, suster muda itu melupakan suasana hiruk-pikuk dan keramaiannya yang ada di bangsal rumah sakit. Meskipun demikian, kini suster tersebut telah sadar dengan lingkungan sekitarnya, setelah sebelumnya tenggelam dalam ketenangan mengantarkan seseorang menjemput ajalnya.

 

“Terima kasih, Suster Maria! Saya bisa melakukannya dengan baik karena bimbinganmu!” Jawab suster muda itu.

 

“Suster muda, sekarang beristirahatlah. Kamu sudah cukup banyak hal itu untuk pemula. Sekarang serahkan semuanya pada kami.”

 

Suster muda itu kemudian mengundurkan diri dari bangsal rumah sakit. Langit kembali mendung siang ini. Tebalnya awan yang bergelayut rendah menyembunyikan cerahnya Sang Mentari. Perlahan rintik-rintik  hujan mulai berjatuhan. Saya menatap langit yang suram tanpa matahari. Meskipun suasana suram menyelimuti kastil Pulau Rhode, dan rintik hujan mulai turun dari langit, hiruk-pikuk dan semangat para kesatria yang berkumpul di sekitar podium sama sekali tidak terpengaruh.  

 

Hiruk-pikuk yang bukan diakibatkan oleh jeritan dan erangan pilu dari para prajurit yang terluka, tapi dari prajurit dan ksatria bersenjata lengkap, dengan penuh semangat, menyuarakan teriak-teriakan perang, perang dan keagamaan, serta semangat untuk terus bertarung demi dewa mencapai kesyahidan.  

 

Pemandangan yang sangat kontras dengan apa yang suster itu dapat ketika masih di dalam rumah sakit ksatria, dimana orang-orang meraung kesakitan memohon pertolongan dewa untuk hidup mereka. sedangkan di sisi lainnya, orang-orang di sini berteriak-teriak kepada dewa untuk menganugerahi mereka kesyahidan. 

 

Mereka, prajurit dan ksatria yang terlihat berani dan taat kepada dewa itu, mengelilingi podium orasi, dengan beberapa beberapa orang beberapa orang, atau mayat berseragam pasukan Kesultanan Salajakiyah tergantung di dekat podium. Namun pusat perhatian di podium tentu saja sosok berzirah hitam lengkap dengan lambang palang putih besar di dadanya. Grandmaster Ksatria Rumah Sakit, Rémi Lagrange Artrois.

 

“Saudaraku, kawanku, inilah kesempatan, yang sudah lama kita nantikan!” 

 

Ucapnya di atas podium, yang disambut dengan hiruk-pikuk di sekitar podium. Setelah masa kembali cukup tenang, Grandmaster Rémi kembali melanjutkan orasirnya. 

 

“Kemenangan kita di Levantinopel, hanyalah awal dari dari rentetan kemenangan yang menanti kita dimasa depan. Kemenangan…. yang menunjukkan….KELEMAHAN…. yang dimiliki oleh MUSUH-MUSUH KITA!”

 

“Kita telah menghancurkan Armada Kesultanan Salajakiyah, yang selama ini mengurung kita di pulau yang menyedihkan ini. Dengan bantuan sekutu-sekutu kita, Crissibiria, Vins, Ligurian, orang-orang Turk itu tidak akan mampu lagi menentang dominasi kita di laut!”

 

Masa kembali bergemuruh. Suara umpatan, teriakan perang, pujian terhadap dewa, seruan keberanian, semua bercampur dalam hiruk-pikuk lautan manusia berzirah perang di dekat podium. Orasi Rémi berlanjut ketika gemuruh sedikit melemah. 

 

“Kesultanan Mamalik, telah melemah dari tahun-ketahun. Meskipun terlihat bersatu, mereka sebenarnya terpecah… dan saling berseteru satu sama lain. Lihat! Dan ingat kembali…..bagaimana mereka gagal……melindungi sekutu mereka…….di Dulkadir! Sultan lemah, yang bahkan tidak mampu menyatukan kekuatannya setelah satu kekalahan kecil. Negeri lemah, dan terpecah seperti itu, tentu saja, TIDAK PANTAS MEMIMPIN TANAH SUCI!”

 

Gemuruh masa semakin ramai. Dari gemuruh itu, teriakan ‘Deus lo vult’ terselip namun semakin terdengar jelas ketika Tanah Suci disebut dalam orasi. Meskipun hujan turun semakin deras, semangat para kesatria tidak menunjukkan tanda-tanda padam.

 

“Kini saatnya, dengan bantuan para kesatria dan Raja-Raja Sholeh dari Kontinental yang akan tiba musim panas ini, Sekali lagi Tanah Suci, Akan berada di tangan Tuhan yang benar! Deus Vult

 

DEUS VULT!!!!” 

 

Dengan demikian, Grand Master Kesatria Rumah Sakit mengakhiri orasi. Rémi secara tidak sengaja menengok ke arah saya. tidak lama setelah turun dari podium, Rémi menghampiri saya yang berteduh tidak jauh dari podium. 

 

“Charlotte!! ”

 

Saat ia melihat saya mengenakan seragam suster, Rémi, agak terdiam sejenak, sebelum kembali membuka pembicaraan.

 

“Ini mungkin kali pertama saya melihat anda mengenakan pakaian selain baju zirah”

 

“Apakah saya terlihat aneh dengan pakaian ini, Tuan ?”

 

“Sama sekali tidak, itu cocok denganmu, kok! Saudari mudaku tersayang, Charlotte Miorine Artrois!”

 

Tidak lama kemudian, Rémi, menghampiri dan merangkulku dengan lembut.

 

“Saya berpikir sejak serangan bajak laut itu, saya tidak akan bertemu denganmu lagi, Charlotte!. Namun, Tuhan mengabulkan doa saya selama bertahun-tahun, dan mengizinkan saya untuk bertemu denganmu.”

 

Ingatan saya tentang masa lalu yang saya alami berkabut dan samar-samar, sehingga saya tidak ingat pernah memiliki saudara. Namun melihat ketulusan dan kasih sayang yang dia berikan pada saya, mungkin memang saya merupakan saudarinya di masa lalu. 

 

Setelah, melepaskan kerinduannya kepada saudarinya, Grandmaster kemudian mengajak saya untuk berbicara ringan. Beliau menanyakan banyak hal, mulai dari kemampuan saya dalam bertarung yang hampir menyamai seorang kesatria, pengetahuan saya yang luas terkait kondisi militer Kesultanan Salajakiyah, hingga kehidupan selama diperbudak orang-orang Turk. 

 

“Jadi, akibat pengaruhmu terhadap pangeran, mereka mengasingkanmu ke barak tentara?”

 

“Benar, Grandmaster!”

Sembari berdiri dari kursinya, Grandmaster Rémi menunjukkan kekesalannya terhadap perlakuan yang saya terima selama diperbudak di Salajakiyah.

 

“Barbar! Benar-benar bangsa barbar! Semoga Tuhan akan membalas perbuatan mereka!”

 

“……”

 

Karena saya tidak memberikan tanggapan apapun, tiba-tiba Rémi mendekati dan memegang pundak saya.

 

“Maaf, kalau saya mengingatkanmu akan hari-hari buruk itu! Kamu tidak perlu takut lagi sekarang !”

 

Rémi kemudian bergerak menjauh dan membelakangi saya. Kemudian mengepalkan tangannya di depan dada

 

“Kamu merupakan perempuan yang kuat! Yang bahkan bisa mengimbangi kesatria veteran di sini! Dan dengan pengetahuan tentang musuh yang Anda punya, anda dapat membalaskan perlakukan yang anda terima dari orang-orang Turk selama Anda diperbudak!”

 

“……”

 

“Lihatlah, berkatmu, kita berhasil meraih kemenangan di Levantiopel!”

 

Rémi kembali menatap kearah saya sembari menghampiri saya kembali. Kemudian menunjuk ke arah saya. 

 

“Charlotte, dengan adanya anda di sisi kami, maka merebut kembali Tanah Suci dari orang-orang kafir itu bukan lagi mimpi!”

 

“…..”

 

“Oleh karena, itu pinjamkan kekuatan dan kemampuan yang Anda punya kepada saya, Saudariku tersayang, Charlotte Miorine Artois! ”

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

Derasnya hujan  pada hari ini tidak menyurutkan semangat bertempur para kesatria yang baru saja tiba di pantai Santa Alya. Pertempuran untuk merebut Kastil Antarahisari baru saja dimulai. Menguasai kastil ini akan memuluskan rencana pasukan palang suci untuk merebut Ibukota Kesultanan Salajakiyah, Levanṭīnīye

 

Berdasarkan rencana, pasukan palang suci Raja dan Pangeran Kontinental akan mengepung Levanṭīnīye, atau Levantinopel menurut para kesatria melalui jalur darat, dan angkatan laut Orde-Orde Kesatria, Vins, Ligurian, dan pelaut Crissibiria, akan menyerang dan mengepung dari tahun laut. Dengan Levantinopel kembali di tangan palang suci, merebut kembali tanah suci dan mendirikan kembali Kerajaan Surga di Tanah Suci, bukanlah mimpi yang tidak mampu dicapai.

 

Kesatria Rumah Sakit beserta pasukan kesatria palang suci lainnya bertugas untuk  merebut Kastil Antarahisari, di seberang laut Levantinopel. Serangan ini dipimpin langsung oleh Grandmaster Rémi. Sedangkan saya ditugaskan untuk memimpin regu pengintai. 

 

Pengepungan berlangsung selama seminggu, dan telah menguras habis kekuatan dan persedian laskar Salajakiyah yang membelah Antarahisari. Namun, mereka tetap menolak untuk menyerah, meskipun lapar dan haus dan mereka rasakan sudah sangat mencekik. 

 

Grandmaster Rémi, ragu untuk melakukan serbuan untuk merebut kastil secara paksa akibat jumlah pasukan yang punya tidak cukup banyak dan harus menunggu pasukan palang suci yang bergerak melalui jalur darat cukup dekat untuk memberikan bala bantuan.  Namun beliau akhirnya menyerah terhadap desakan dari atasan dan bawahan yang menganggapnya pengecut, pada akhirnya.

 

Serangan terhadap dinding kastil dimulai di hari ke-10 pengepungan. Saya turut bertarung di garis depan sebagai pelopor untuk kesatria lainnya yang berusaha untuk menembus tembok pertahanan kastil.  Semua berlangsung lancar, dengan regu saya berhasil menghabisi puluhan pembela Antarahisari yang melemah akibat kelaparan. Meskipun sudah hampir mencapai batasnya ketahanan fisiknya, pasukan pembela Antarahisari diluar dugaan mampu memberikan perlawan yang tangguh, meskipun kekuatan mereka terkuras habis akibat lebih dari seminggu tidak terkepung dalam kastil, tanpa bantuan logistik. 

 

Pada akhirnya kastil tangguh ini jatuh ketangan kesatria. Namun korban di pihak kesatria sangat besar dan pembela Antara hisari seluruhnya terbantai dalam pertempuran. Hal ini sepertinya sebelumnya diperkirakan oleh Grandmaster Rémi selama pengepungan sebelum serbuan ke dinding kastil. 

 

Kekuatan laskar kesatria suci yang ada di bawah komandannya berkurang signifikan setelah serbuan, akibatnya kini angkatan laut palang suci tidak memiliki tenaga manusia yang cukup melakukan serbuan lebih dalam ke pedalaman Kesultanan. 

 

Dengan tercapainya tujuan angkatan laut palang suci untuk merebut Antarahisari, maka blokade terhadap Levantiopel menjadi semakin sempurna. Hal ini sejauh ini sesuai dengan rencana pengepungan yang dirancang oleh Grandmaster Remi berdasarkan pengetahuan dan informasi yang sama punya terkait Levantinopel, termasuk jalur suplai, pintu rahasia dan titik lemah yang dalam pertahanannya, yang saya dapatkan pelatihan militer paksa yang dilakukan orang-orang Kesultanan. Informasi dan pengetahuan, yang akan saya gunakan untuk membalaskan dendam terhadap perlakuannya yang saya terima selama diperbudak di sana. 

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

Pagi ini, saya mendapatkan informasi dari penjaga pos tentang gerak-gerik laskar Salajakiyah di sekitar Antarahisari. Dengan absennya kakakku yang pergi menemui pasukan palang suci yang bergerak melalui jalur darat,beliau mempercayakan pertahanan Antarahisari yang belum lama direbut dari Salajakiyah kepada salah satu bawahan terpercaya dan paling cakap di bawah komandonya. 

 

Orang tersebut memerintahkan saya memimpin regu pelopor untuk mengintai mencari tahu kekuatan Laskar Salajakiyah di sekitar Antarahisari. Hal itu termasuk memetakan kemungkinan pasukan kesatria suci untuk melakukan penetrasi lebih jauh ke dalam teritori musuh. 

 

Kami berangkat menjelang siang dan mengintai dataran terbuka di sekitar Antarahisari. Hasilnya, nihil, tidak ditemukan adanya tanda gerak-gerik dan tanda-tanda keberadaan laskar musuh di sini. Saya memutuskan untuk memimpin regu pengintai untuk menyisir wilayah hutan di sekitar kastil. 

 

Namun hingga matahari hendak terbenam, tidak ada satupun gerak gerik musuh yang terdeteksi. Saya memutuskan untuk mundur ke kastil sebelum matahari kembali keperaduannya. Sebagian dari anggota regu protes saya berkata saya terlalu serius mencari keberadaan musuh yang sebenarnya mungkin saja tidak ada, hingga kami lupa beristirahat. Mereka meminta saya untuk memberi mereka sedikit waktu istirahat. 

 

Dengan mempertimbangankan masih tersisa waktu sebelum matahari terbenam, saya memutuskan untuk mengistirahatkan sejenak regu pengintai di sebuah pondokan penebang kayu yang seperti sedang ditinggalkan. Untuk beberapa alasan, tempat yang saya pilih untuk beristirahat ini,membuat saya merasakan deja vu. Saya pernah kesini sebelumnya. 

 

Meskipun dengan kekhawatiran yang saya rasakan, terlambat rasanya untuk membatalkan keputusan saya untuk beristirahat di sini. Setidaknya, tanpa membuat bawahan saya di regu pengintai makin berang. 

 

Setelah menyandarkan kuda saya pada sebatang pohon, saya memutuskan untuk memakan bekal yang sudah saya bawa sebelum keluar dari kastil untuk misi pengintaian. Sedangkan anggota regu lain saat ini sedang terpencar dan menjalankan kepentingannya masing-masing. Ada yang menikmati bekal sama seperti saya, menunaikan hajat yang sudah lama ditahan sejak siang tadi, atau hanya sekedar duduk, bercengkrama dan melepas lelah setelah seharian berkuda mencari lokasi musuh yang masih meragukan rimbanya.

 

Tanpa saya sadari, sebenarnya saya melakukan kesalahan fatal karena membiarkan pasukan yang saya bawahi menurunkan kewaspadaan, padahal kami sedang berada di wilayah musuh. Sebuah kesalahan yang akan kami bayar mahal. 

 

Salah satu kesatria bawahanku menghampiriku, untuk memberikan kabar rekannya yang tidak kunjung kembali setelah pergi buang hajat. Dia juga melaporkan bahwa beberapa anggota regu ada yang tiba-tiba menghilang tanpa jejak. Kabar ini membuat saya cemas, karena masih ada indikasi keberadaan laskar Salajakiyah yang bersembunyi di hutan ini.  Meskipun kami tidak dapat mendeteksi keberadaan mereka selama pengintaian. Atau mungkin lebih buruk lagi, sebenarnya kita telah diincar oleh mereka sejak kami memasuki hutan ini. 

 

Ketika berusaha untuk mengkonsolidasikan kembali regu pengintai yang sedang terpencar, saya mendapati seorang kesatria, anggota regu pengintai, yang telah bersimbah darah, dan tergantung di dahan pohon tidak jauh dari tempat saya memarkir kuda. Hal ini membuat saya memberikan perintah kepada anggota regu yang tersisa untuk melarikan diri dari hutan secepat mungkin menuju area terbuka. 

 

Regu pengintai yang tersisah melarikan diri secara sporadis dari hutan. Keadaan semakin kacau bagi regu pengintai karena kemunculan laskar-laskar Salajakiyah, yang muncul dan menyerang hampir dari segala arah. Kabar baiknya, musuh yang muncul bukanlah tandingan kesatria-kesatria veteran dan tangguh dari Kesatria Rumah Sakit.

 

Kabar buruknya, pertarungan ini terjadi di tempat yang kurang menguntungkan. Kami kesulitan untuk berkoordinasi dan tidak bisa memanfaatkan keunggulan yang kami punya sebagai pasukan berkuda. Sedangkan, musuh bertarung di wilayahnya sendiri dan tentunya sudah familiar dengan area ini. Oleh karena itu, kami harus segera melarikan diri ke area terbuka.Tapi, sepertinya musuh juga menyadari hal tersebut. Mereka sama sekali tidak memberikan kesempatan bagi para kesatria untuk mencapai area terbuka. 

 

Pertempuran yang sangat sanget ini mengakibatkan saya kehilangan kontak dengan kesatria lainnya. Saya bahkan dipaksa untuk ikut memikirkan keselamatan diri sendiri karena laskar-laskar Salajakiyah yang saya hadapi cukup tangguh dan terampil. Namun pada akhirnya, saya mempunyai kemampuan yang lebih bertarung dan keunggulan karena mengunggang kuda. Saya mengalahkan 3 orang laskar yang menantang saya, melumpuhkan 2 orang dan membunuh salah satunya. Ini memberikan saya kesempatan untuk melarikan diri dari kepungan pasukan Salajakiyah dan memungkinkan saya untuk melarikan diri serta mencari kontak dengan regu pengintai yang tersisa guna segera keluar dari wilayah hutan penuh musuh ini.

 

Namun sepertinya keberuntungan saya habis di sini. Saya tidak berhasil menemukan kesatria lainnya.  Dan disaat yang tidak menentu itu, kuda yang saya tunggangi terjerembab akibat lubang jebakan. Saya terlempar cukup jauh dari punggung kuda dan dengan keras menghantam bumi. 

 

Akibat efek benturan yang cukup keras, saya kesulitan untuk bangkit setelah terlempar dari kuda. Dan setelah berhasil bangkit, saya menyadari laskar-laskar Salajakiyah telah mengepung saya. Saya kembali bertarung melawan mereka,tentu saja dalam kondisi kalah jumlah.  

 

Hujan yang turun membatasi jarak pandang, sehingga saya tidak bisa memikirkan hal lain selain memenangkan pertempuran ini. Namun perlahan keunggulan saya dalam kemampuan dan perlengkapan perlahan membuahkan hasil. Seorang terbunuh dan dua lainnya telah dilumpuhkan. Namun masih jauh dari cukup.

 

“Seperti dugaan saya, kamu memang terlalu tangguh bahkan dengan untuk sekelas pasukan Yeniceri, Charlotte Hanim”

Setelah mengamati dengan lebih detail musuh yang saya hadapi, saya menyadari bahwa memang mereka lebih tangguh dari  laskar yang saya hadapi sebelumnya.

 

“Hehhh, benar juga! Kalian bertarung setangguh kesatria dengan mengenakan pakaian aneh ya? Selain itu? Kalian bukan tandingan Saya !”

 

“Besar kepala juga Anda ini. Sepertinya, Anda melupakan hal paling penting!”

 

Sosok yang bertukar kata dengan saya terasa semakin dekat. Karena sepertinya orang itu adalah pemimpin musuh, saya memutuskan untuk menjatuhkannya dahulu.

 

Saya bergerak dengan tiba-tiba, mendekati sumber suara dan melancarkan serangan ke arah leher silhouette dihadapan saya. Namun, serangan tersebut ditangkis pengawal Yeniceri di dekatnya. Pengawal lainnya melancarkan serangan dari belakang, berusaha menebas punggung saya yang terbuka lebar. 

 

Peralatan yang saya kenakan menunjukkan keunggulannya. Serangan itu tidak mampu menembus tebalnya zirah yang saya kenakan. Saya menyerang balik dan menjatuh pengawal tersebut dengan menyerang titik lemah pada baju zirah yang mereka gunakan. Disini, pengetahuan saya yang mendalam terkait musuh memberikan saya keunggulan yang sangat saya butuhkan.

 

“Sepertinya gadis nakal ini harus diberikan pelajaran.”

 

Gadis !!!! Bagaimana orang itu mengetahui saya seorang gadis? Pada saya mengenakan baju zirah tertutup dan helm besi tertutup. Bagaimana mereka mengetahui identitas saya?

 

“Arrrrggggghhhhh”

 

Tidak lama kemudian, setelah serangan saya berhasil ditahan, saya merasakan benturan yang sangat di bagian dada. Dada saya langsung merasa sesak dan sangat nyeri. Saya juga kesulitan bernapas. Saya kembali menerima benturan di punggung, dan saya hampir kehilangan keseimbangan. Berturut-turut, saya merasakan benturan di pipi, lengan kanan, paha kiri, perut dan leher serta pelipis kanan. 

 

Dengan rasa sakit terima, saya masih sempat melancarkan serangan balik dan berhasil menjatuhkan musuh, lagi-lagi setelah menyerang titik lemahnya. Saya sadar musuh masih menyerang saya dengan pedang, namun mereka menggenggam bilahnya dan menggunakan gagang pedang yang keras sebagai senjata tumpul. Taktik yang sangat efektif untuk menghadapi kesatria berbaju zirah tebal, jika senjata tumpul atau senjata kejut lainnya seperti gada tidak tersedia. 

 

Keunggulan perlengkapan saya menjadi tidak relevan. Pasukan musuh menyerang saya tanpa henti dan hanya sedikit yang mampu saya tangkis. Baju zirah ini cukup membatasi mobilitas saya, sehingga menghindari serangan tersebut juga tidak memungkinkan. Kepala, dada, perut, tangan, lengan, kaki, paha dan bagian lain tubuh saya terus dihujani serangan tanpa akhir. 

 

Saya masih mampu menjatuhkan mereka satu demi satu, namun, musuh seakan tidak ada habisnya. Pukulan gagang pedang terus mendarat di tubuh saya. Nyeri akibat luka lebam terasa sangat menyakitkan, namun saya memaksakan diri untuk terus berdiri dan bertarung.  Kekuatan saya semakin melemah pada akhirnya. Namun mereka tidak henti-hentinya menghujani tubuh saya yang penuh luka dengan pukulan gagang pedang yang menyakitkan.

 

Setelah menerima pukulan terus-menerus, saya tidak mampu bertarung lagi. Saya menjatuhkan pedang, dan tidak mampu berdiri lagi, dan menyadarkan diri pada seonggok batang pohon. Seseorang mendekati saya dan memukul saya sangat keras hingga helm besi yang saya gunakan terlepas dan menunjukkan identitas saya yang sebenarnya, sebagai perempuan. 

 

“Anda terlihat menyedihkan Hanim!”

 

“Habi….si….sa…….ya… ”

 

Orang yang menjadi pemimpin pasukan musuh mendekati data. Namun, saya sudah terlalu lemah untuk melawan dan menjatuhkannya. Saya kini hanya mempasrahkan takdir kepada Dewa. 

 

“Sudah waktu mengingat siapa diri Anda yang sesungguhnya“

 

Orang itu berlutut dan membisikkan sesuatu di telinga saya.

 

“Arrrrggggghhhhh!!!!!, Hentikan hentikan HENTIKAAAANN!!!!!! Kepalaku! TIDAKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!! Saya mohon hentikan !! Kasihani saya! Biarkan saya bahagia!! ”

 

Saya terus berteriak dan memohon ampun setelah saya dibisiki oleh orang itu. Tidak hanya rasa sakit fisik, namun, juga bisikan itu memberikan saya rasa sakit dari dalam secara psikis.

 

“Apa salah saya……..Kenapa……Jahat……Tolong……Kakak!”

 

Kapan, kapan siksaan ini berakhir ?

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

“Hidup Şehzade !”

 

“Panjang Umur Şehzade !”

 

“Dewa Maha Besar!!”

 

“Hidup Şehzade !! Hidup Padishah!!”

 

Hiruk-pikuk dan gemuruh kegembiraan semakin keras ketika Şehzade Altaïr melalui pasukan Salajakiyah. Pada hari ini, Pasukan Salajakiyah berhasil memenangkan pertempuran di Dienub. Mereka berhasil menahan kekuatan utama pasukan palang suci yang hendak merebut kembali Levanṭīnīye dari Salajakiyah. 

 

Akibat kekalahan ini, pasukan palang suci tidak hanya kehilangan banyak pasukan, tetapi juga banyak Raja, pangeran, dan bangsawan penting yang terbunuh atau tertahan oleh Salajakiyah.   

 

Kemenangan ini menyelamatkan Kesultanan Salajakiyah, dari ancaman keruntuhan akibat serangan kesatria palang suci, seperti halnya pendahulu mereka 4 abad silam. Dan karena kepemimpinannya selama pertempuran, Şehzade Altaïr dibaiat pasukan sebagai Padishah, tepat ketika berita kemenangan telah menjadi kepastian. 

 

Disisi lain, Wazir Ismail Hajj Pasha yang baru saja diangkat bergerak untuk merebut kembali Antarahisari dan membongkar blokade terhadap Levantiniyye, dengan angkatan laut Salajakiyah yang belum lama ini berhasil dibangun kembali dalam waktu yang luar biasa singkat. 

 

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Ketika Ismail Pasha bergerak semakin dekat dengan Kastil Antarahisari, tekanan yang dirasakan Angkatan laut palang suci semakin hebat. Kecuali sebagian kecil, armada dan laskar dari Vins,Ligurian, dan Crissibiria serta negeri sekutu lainnya satu-persatu meninggalkan Antarahisari, dan kembali ke negeri mereka masing-masing setelah mempelajari kekalahan pasukan utama palang suci di Dienub. 

 

Meskipun keadaan memburuk, Namun Grandmaster Rémi, pemimpin angkatan laut palang suci bersikeras untuk mempertahankan Antarahisari, meskipun logikanya kastil ini sudah tidak lagi memiliki nilai  strategis. Kehancuran armada Salajakiyah di Levantinopel dan besarnya korban yang harus diderita kesatria suci untuk merebutnya. 

 

Pikiran Remi juga sangat kacau akibat adiknya Charlotte yang menghilang bersama regu pengintainya setelah sebuah diluar kastil. Insiden ini membuatnya menjadi sangat emosional dan tidak lagi mengambil keputusan sesuai logika. Grandmaster langsung mengeksekusi bawahannya yang bertugas memimpin Antarahisari sekembalinya kesana, karena menganggapnya menjadi penyebab Charlotte dan regu pengintainya lenyap dan dihabisi. Ini, dan keputusan irasional lain yang Rémi ambil sekembalinya ke Antarahisari menjadi penyebab sekutunya meninggalkan Antarahisari dan kehilangan loyalitas dan kepercayaan bawahannya. Hal ini berakibat fatal dalam usahanya mempertahankan kastil dari pasukan Ismail Pasha. 

 

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Sekali lagi, serbuan laskar Salajakiyah kembali dipukul mundur oleh kesatria suci, dengan korban besar di pihak Salajakiyah. Meskipun mempunyai sumber daya yang memadai, termasuk 10 meriam pengepung, Ismail Pasha dan pasukannya tidak mampu menembus kedisiplinan dan ketangguhan kesatria suci dalam pertempuran jarak dekat. 

Perkembangan ini membuatnya cemas. Dia harus merebut Antarahisari sebelum Padishah tiba,sehingga bisa mengklaim kemenangan di Antarahisari untuk dirinya sendiri. Ismail juga mengerahkan angkatan laut Salajakiyah untuk menyerang dari sisi lainnya Kastil. Namun, hasilnya sama saja. Kesatria Suci yang tersisah di Antarahisari bertarung dengan gigih dan penuh motivasi. 

 

Dengan pasukan Padishah yang akan tiba di Antarahisari dalam waktu 3-4 hari kedepan, tidak banyak waktu tersisah untuk wazir baru ini. Dia mengerahkan senjata pamungkas yang selama ini disimpan sebagai cadangan, yaitu pengkhianatan.

 

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Hari ini hujan turun dengan derasnya. Sesuai perintah saya ditugaskan untuk meyusup dan membobol pertahanan di Antarahisari dari dalam. Saya sangat terkejut mengapa penyusupan ini berjalan sangat mulus, bahkan tidak sekalipun menimbulkan kecurigaan dari kesatria pembela Antarahisari. Bahkan pemimpin mereka meperlakukan saya seperti adiknya sendiri. 

 

Kedekatan saya dengan para pembela Antarahisari ini, membatasi pergerakan saya selama penyusupan, namun juga memberikan keleluasaan bagi saya karena mereka sama sekali tidak mencurigai tindakan dan gerak-gerik yang saya lakukan. 

 

Saya berhasil melemahkan pertahanan Antarahisari dari dalam. Sehingga ketika serangan ke Antarahisar kembali dilanjutkan, Kesatria Suci yang sebelumnya sangat tangguh menjadi tidak berdaya dan menyedihkan, meskipun mereka telah bertarung sekeras mungkin.

 

Setelah bertarung singkat melawan beberapa laskar Salajakiyah, dan melumpuhkan salah satunya, saya menyelinap untuk kembali ke barisan Salajakiyah. Namun pergerakan saya terbaca, dan saya dicegat langsung oleh Grandmaster Rémi dan dua orang kesatria pengawalnya. Salah satunya berteriak dengan lantang. 

 

“BUKA HELMMU,PENGKHIANAT LAKNAT!”

 

Dengan demikian penyamaran saya telah terbongkar. Namun saya menolak untuk membuka helm besi yang saya kenakan, dan malah memasang kuda-kuda untuk bertarung. Namun saya pada akhirnya membuka helm besi ini setelah Grandmaster sendiri yang memintanya secara halus.

 

“Charlotte, ini kakakmu Rémi . Jika itu benar kamu, mohon buka helmmu…”

 

Mendengar permintaan yang sedikit memelas tersebut, saya secara reflek membuka membuka helm yang saya kenakan. Grandmaster Rémi tertegun, menyadari bahwa pengkhianat selama ini memang benar merupakan adik kandungnya sendiri. Disaat yang bersamaan kilat menyambar dan hujan turun dengan deras tidak lama kemudian. Sedangkan, Remi jatuh berlutut menghadapi kenyataan yang ada di depan matanya. 

 

Dengan amarah yang mendidih, dua kesatria yang mengawal Grandmaster secara inisiatif menyerang saya secara membabi-buta, disaat tuan mereka masih mematung dibawah guyuran hujan. 

Pertempuran ini berlangsung sengit. Kesatria yang saya melindungi titik lemahnya dengan sangat baik. Karena mereka menyerang saya dengan koordinasi yang sangat baik, saya menjadi terdesak. Salah satu serangan mereka menembuh lengan kanan saya. Rasa sakit yang ditimbulkan mengakibatkan saya tanpa sadar memekikkan ‘kakak’. Seketika Rémi berhenti membatu dan bangkit berdiri. 

 

“Cukup! Hentikan serangan kalian berdua!”

 

Perintah yang datang dari atasan mereka membuat konstreasi kedua pengawal ini buyar dan terpecah. Mereka berhenti menyerang dan mendesak saya. Saya menggunakan kesempatan ini untuk menyerang balik. meskipun tangan kanan saya terluka dan terpaksa menggunakan tangan kiri, kesatria suci itu tidak lagi memberikan perlawanan sebaik sebelumnya, Hal ini memungkinkan saya menghabisi mereka satu-persatu.

 

Dengan tumbangnya dua kesatria suci, kini tersisah saya dan Grandmaster, berdiri berhadapan dengan pedang terhunus dibawah guyuran hujan. Dan dibawah guyuran hujan yang deras ini juga, saya akan memutus tali kasih sayang dan persaudaraan yang selalu menghantui mimpi buruk saya di malam hari.

 

Guyuran hujan yang deras membuat suara desingan pedang yang saling berada hampir tenggelam. Hanya kami berdua yang bertarung di sini tidak ada orang yang akan datang untuk mengganggu. Jalan takdir, mengharuskan kami untuk memutuskan solusi terbaik untuk masa depan hubungan saya dan Rémi. Bagi saya, ini waktunya untuk mengubur masa lalu. 

 

Bertarung dengan luka di tangan kanan membuat saya tidak mampu mengimbangi kemampuan bertarung Grandmaster yang lebih baik dari saya. Beliau tidak menggantungkan teknik bertarungnya terhadap kemampuan berpedangnya. Dengan efektif, perlahan tapi pasti, Grandmaster berhasil mendesak saya dalam pertarungan. Puncaknya, Beliau berhasil melempar pedang yang saya gunakan serta membuka semua tidak lebih yang tidak bisa lagi saya lindungi. 

 

Namun bukannya memanfaatkan keunggulannya untuk menghabisi saya, beliau justru berusaha menangkap dan menolong saya yang terluka. Meskipun sudah mencapai batas dan tidak mampu bertarung lagi, saya memanfaatkan kesempatan ini sebaik mungkin. Saya menarik kijil pemberian Şehzade yang selama ini saya sembunyikan di belahan dada saya, dan menikam Rémi di bagian vital, guna menghabisi nyawanya. 

 

Meskipun saya kembali mengkhianati kepercayaannya, Grandmaster Rémi tidak melawan balik. Beliau hanya meminta untuk memberikan kesempatan berbaring dipangkuan saya untuk kali terakhir sebelum menjemput ajal. 

 

Hujan deras yang sebelumnya mengguyur Antarahisari, mereda. Awan kelabu yang sejak awal menyembunyikan terang mentari, bergerak menempi, dan memberikan kesempatan matahari melepaskan berkas cahaya hangat yang menerangi bumi. Dalam pangkuan saya, Remi mengungkapkan betapa dia menyayangi saya sebagai saudari kecilnya. Dunianya hancur ketika saya menghilang dari hidup. Hanya balas dendam dan kebencian yang memberikan kehangatan dalam hidupnya. Meskipun semuanya berakhir seperti ini, setidaknya beliau dapat menghabiskan sisa hidupnya bersama dengan saudari yang selama bertahun-tahun sangat beliau rindukan. 

 

“Apapun yang terjadi, saya tetap menyayangimu, saudariku Charlotte”

 

Dengan demikian, Grandmaster Kesatria Rumah Sakit, Rémi Lagrange Artrois, menghembuskan nafas terakhirnya. Untuk alasan yang saya tidak dapat mengerti, saya meneteskan air dan nyeri yang sangat menyesakkan di dada. Seakan-akan, memaksa saya untuk turut tenggelam dalam kesedihan yang sangat mendalam akibat ditinggal orang terkasih. 

 

Namun, saya tidak merasakan kesedihan atau kehilangan tersebut. Mengapa saya harus bersedih dan menangis karena orang yang terbaring bersimbah darah dalam pangkuan saya telah tiada? Apa penyebabnya ? Perasaan bingung, yang justru membuat saya semakin tidak mampu membendung derasnya air mata yang menetes dan perasaan sesak dan sakit di dada. Qalbu saya berteriak, dan meraung dalam kesedihan, namun akal saya merasa ganjil mengapa saya harus berbuat demikian.

 

Dengan akal dan qalbu yang saling bertentangan, siapa orang jahat yang membuat saya menjadi begini?

 

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“Hamzah Pasha, apakah kita tidak bisa bergerak lebih cepat? Kita harus segera mencapai Antarahisari sebelum Ismail keparat itu bertindak!”

 

“Maafkan hamba, Padishah! Pasukan utama mungkin mampu bergerak lebih cepat, namun kereta persediaan dan persenjataan berat sudah mencapai batasnya! Ismail Pasha menguasai lautan, sehingga…..”

 

Penjelasan Hamzah Pasha seakan tenggelam dalam pikiran saya yang kacau. Meskipun telinga saya mampu mendengarnya saya tidak mampu mencerna informasi tersebut. Hanya ada Charlotte yang ada di benak saya. 

 

Begitu mempelajari keberadaan gadis itu di Antarahisari, saya bergerak secepat kilat menuju kesana. Saya hampir melupakan fakta bahwa saya baru saja memenangkan pertempuran yang sangat penting di Dienub. 

 

Bertahanlah Charlotte! Saya sangat mengetahui penderitaan dan siksaan yang telah kamu terima selama ini. Kamu sudah cukup merasakan kesedihan. Kini bergembiralah, saya akan segera di kesana menjemputmu.

 

Saya akan melepaskan rantai yang selama ini membelenggumu dan menghancurkan siapapun yang mencoba menyakitimu dan membuatmu kembali bersedih. Mengapa saya bisa seberani ini sekarang ? Itu karena sekarang, saya sekarang yang berkuasa.

 

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Penulis: Narusaka

Parallelogram β

Entri Writchal #1

Tema: Kakak Adik


Parallelogram β

Ketika itu, hujan turun. Di bawah payung hitam adalah sepasang saudara kandung, tertunduk menatap nisan yang basah akibat rintik hujan. Tertulis nama dari ibu dan ayah saudara tersebut. Kini keluarga yang tadinya empat menjadi dua. Muda, tidak berpengalaman dan tanpa ada seorang pun untuk bersandar—bahkan Tuhan. Seumur hidup tidak ada yang memperingati mereka untuk bersiap mengalami kejadian ini. Mereka hanya dapat menelan mentah kenyataan, tapi kala itu hanya sang Kakak yang menitikkan air mata.

Di sampingnya, berdiri tegak dengan kepala tertunduk juga, sang Adik. Tatapannya kosong, seolah menatap sesuatu yang berada di balik sisi dunia ini. Hatinya hampa, sebuah bukti dari pribadi yang naif dan polos. Hidup sang Adik belum cukup panjang untuk mengolah rasa dan emosi yang ‘sesuai’, seperti yang sering diucapkan—”pengalaman adalah guru terbaik”, dan kini dia diberi ujian tanpa guru untuk membimbingnya.  

Apa yang seharusnya kurasakan saat ini? Tampang apa yang seharusnya aku tunjukkan? Aku tidak tahu.

Memutuskan bahwa siapapun yang ditatap mata kosongnya tidak akan menjawab, sang Adik menorehkan pandangannya ke satu-satunya manusia yang tersisa di dunia saat itu—dunia sempit di bawah payung hitam yang sedikit bergemetar. Jarak sepanjang lima tahun bukanlah sesuatu yang singkat, lagipula itu adalah setengah dari umur hidupnya. Sang Adik tahu itu adalah sesuatu yang tidak akan pernah direbut seumur hidupnya, kenyataan yang sudah terbentuk jauh sebelum kelahiran dirinya. Ia berharap jarak lima tahun tersebut dapat membantu sang Kakak untuk memberikannya jawaban.

Suaranya tersedu, air mata mengalir deras seolah membutakan pandangannya. Ketimbang kematian orangtuanya yang mendadak, hatinya lebih tergerak ketika melihat sosok Kakak yang ia kagumi selama ini seketika berubah menjadi tumpukan emosi yang tidak terkontrol. Senyum lembut dan tatapan penuh sayang yang dimilikinya tak lagi tampak. Ia tahu bahwa kakaknya tidak selamanya tersenyum. Namun ia juga tahu bahwa kakaknya selalu berusaha untuk tersenyum di hadapannya, tidak memandang kesulitan apapun yang sedang dialami. Itulah awal kelahiran dari kagum sang Adik, dan mengapa dirinya merasa emosional melihat akar dari kagum itu tercabut seketika.

Seakan sebuah program otomatis berjalan, air mata mulai terkumpul tanpa sepengetahuan sang Adik.

Seberapa kuat luapan emosi yang tertumpuk di hatinya untuk menghapus senyum tersebut? Mengapa aku merasa kasihan yang mendalam ketika melihat Kakak? Rasanya seperti ada yang menggenggam hatiku dengan erat. Seakan Kakak akan pergi karena tidak nyaman ditinggal sendiri. 

Oh, apakah aku merasa bersedih? 

Tak terbendung, air mata menetes. Di pikirannya, sang Adik tidak ingin melihat Kakaknya berada dalam kondisi seperti ini. Dalam hatinya, ia meyakinkan diri untuk selalu berada di samping sang Kakak. Seolah berusaha untuk mewujudkan keinginan tersebut menjadi nyata, sang Adik menggenggam pakaian Kakaknya dengan erat.

~***~

“Pagi, dek!” 

Sinar matahari menembus jendela setelah sang Kakak menarik gorden tipis dari kamar kecil dan sempit yang ditinggali kedua saudara kandung. Kehidupan seketika menjadi sulit bagi sepasang kakak-beradik setelah kehilangan dua pilar utama yang menyokong hidup mereka. Sang Adik kini hanya dapat bersandar pada satu orang—Kakak.

“Sarapan sudah ada di meja. Favoritmu, telor dadar.”

Hari ini adalah hari Selasa. Sang Kakak bangun lebih pagi dari biasanya demi kerja sambilan—satu dari sekian banyak yang digarapnya. “Hnn, terimakasih, Kakak,” balas Adik dengan nada datar, mata setengah terbuka.

Hari ini kita tidak sarapan bareng, lagi.

Ujar sang Adik dalam hati. Seakan mendengar sautan gaib, sang Kakak meringkuk dan mengelus kepala adiknya dengan penuh rasa sayang. Gerakannya sangat lembut dan perlahan, seakan mengundang penerimanya untuk kembali ke dunia mimpi.

“Maafkan Kakak, ya. Kamu jadi harus bersiap-siap sendiri lagi,” ucap sang Kakak dengan senyum manis. Walaupun tersenyum, sang Adik menyadari terdapat sesuatu yang berbeda dari senyum tersebut. Semenjak hari dimana sang Adik melihat sosok Kakaknya menangis dibawah payung hitam dan hujan, sesuatu berubah dari pribadi Kakak yang ia tadinya kagumi. Kala itu, tidak hanya sang Adik yang meyakinkan diri—lebih dari itu, sang Kakak berjanji untuk memberi kasih sayang dan perhatian bagi adiknya yang tidak mungkin lagi didapatkan dari kedua orangtua mereka.

Dia tersenyum,

Dia lemah lembut,

Dia penuh perhatian.

Tidak ada yang berubah dari perilakunya, tapi sang Adik menyadari perubahan yang sangat kecil dibalik semua tingkahnya. Seakan ada lubang kecil di hati. Ruang hampa dibalik lubang tersebut. Kekosongan yang selama ini sang Adik berusaha untuk isi, namun tidak pernah berhasil.

—dan kali ini, entah untuk yang keberapa kalinya, hari yang sama akan terulang tanpa dirinya berhasil mengisi kekosongan tersebut—pikir sang Adik sebelum terhenti bersamaan dengan elusan kakaknya. Walau ia belum melepaskan tangan dari kepala adiknya, tatapan sang Kakak seperti terpusat ke sesuatu yang tidak ada disitu. Lima detik terlewat dalam diam hening.

Tatapannya lebih kosong dari biasanya.

“Kakak ga berangkat? Nanti telat, loh,” ujar sang Adik, nada masih datar namun matanya terpaku pada saat ini serta kakak yang ada di hadapannya. Terbawa kembali ke kenyataan, sang Kakak terperanjat dan berdiri seketika. Sang Adik sedikit kecewa, namun tidak memperlihatkan itu di raut mukanya.

“Kalau begitu Kakak pergi kerja dulu. Jangan lupa sekolah, dek!”

Cklik. Suara pintu tertutup, meninggalkan sang Adik seorang diri di kamar kontrakan mereka berdua. Jam masih menunjukkan pukul 5, sekolah dimulai dua jam lagi. Setelah terdiam sesaat, sang Adik memutuskan untuk memejamkan matanya kembali. Pikirannya tidak tenang, begitu pula hatinya. Alih-alih kembali tertidur, ia merenung dibawah sungkupan bantal yang cukup keras.

Jam 4 pagi. Kakak terbangun, ia menyetrika hasil cucian kemarin yang sudah kering.

Setengah 5. Ia bersiap untuk kerja pagi sekaligus sekolah kemudian memasak sarapan untukku, bekal untuknya.

Jam 5.  Kakak membangunkanku lalu berangkat menuju kerja pagi, mengantar surat kabar dengan sepeda.

Jam 7. Kakak menuju sekolah.

Jam 10. Istirahat pertama. Kakak menyelesaikan tugas yang baru saja diberi bila ada, atau membereskan yang belum selesai.

Jam 12. Istirahat kedua. Kakak membantu pekerjaan karyawan sekolah demi upah yang tidak seberapa.

Jam 4 sore. Kakak pulang sekolah dan menuju ke tempat kerja berikutnya. Di hari Senin, Rabu, Kamis—ia menuju restoran lokal sebagai pelayan. Hari Selasa, Jumat—ia pergi ke pasar, membantu mengangkut barang dari dan ke dalam.

Jam 5 sore. Kakak belanja untuk kebutuhan malam ini dan besok. Secukupnya.

Jam 6 sore. Kakak sampai rumah dalam keadaan letih dan lesu, namun tidak pernah mengeluh dan melepas senyumnya.

Jam 7…

Sang Adik merenungi kehidupan yang dijalani kakaknya selama ini. Waktunya habis, tiada kesempatan untuk bermain maupun bercengkrama dengan teman sebaya. Tenaganya terkuras hanya untuk memenuhi kebutuhan hidup dirinya dan adiknya.

Sampai kapan hari-hari seperti ini akan berlanjut? Suatu saat semuanya akan berakhir. Tapi kapan?

Perasaan kasihan dan putus asa senantiasa mengawani hati dan pikiran sang Adik semenjak hari dimana kedua dari mereka harus menelan kenyataan pahit setahun yang lalu. Keinginannya untuk selalu berada di samping kakaknya tidak pernah terwujud. Jarak usia mereka terlalu jauh untuk bersekolah satu sama lain. Senyum lama kakaknya tidak akan pernah kembali, dan ia tidak pernah berhasil mengisi kekosongan hati orang terpenting dalam hidupnya. Tiap kali sang Kakak tersenyum dan mengelus kepalanya, hatinya bergejolak dan menahan rasa perih bagai digenggam dengan erat untuk sesaat. Kini semua perasaan tersebut tercampur, ditambah dengan perasaan ingin meringankan beban hidup kakaknya.

“Andai aku bisa mandiri dan tidak merepotkan Kakak.”

Kalimat yang ditujukan pada diri sendiri. Sang Adik bukanlah orang yang cerdik, namun pintar. Ia paham jika dirinya bertindak di luar ekspektasi, ada kemungkinan sesuatu yang buruk akan terjadi—tetapi tiap kali ia menawarkan bantuan, sang Kakak selalu berucap ‘Gapapa, kakak aja.’ Dalam lubuk haitnya, sang Adik juga paham bahwa dirinya adalah alasan utama kakaknya masih berusaha untuk hidup. Ketergantungan seorang kakak yang bekerja keras adalah seorang adik yang tak berdaya. Ia khawatir jika dirinya berubah, kakaknya akan kehilangan alasan hidup dan menjadi hampa.

Sama seperti hari-hari lainnya, sang Adik mengakhiri renungan pagi harinya dengan—

Hari ini akan kujalani saja seadanya.

~***~

Matahari pagi cerah, hangat, dengan sedikit semilir angin tersisa dari dinginnya malam. Sesampainya di sekolah, langkah sang Adik terhenti di tengah lapangan depan. Degup jantungnya berdetak kencang, nafasnya terengah-engah. Punggung sang Adik terasa seperti ditusuk oleh pisau dingin, sementara suhu sekujur tubuhnya seakan terbakar. Sensasi di pangkal tangan, kaki, dan leher sang Adik bak terputus—ia bisa menggerakkan bagian tubuhnya namun tidak merasakan apapun.

Tidak. Mungkin, sensasi ini lebih tepat dibilang sebagai terkoyak. Disorientasi? Entah, bahkan bernafas aja menjadi sulit, dan tiap tarikan nafas justru mengeluarkan suara serak bagai tenggorokan yang bolong. Secara refleks, sang Adik menggenggam lehernya hanya untuk menyadari bahwa sepanjang lehernya utuh.

Adek?!

Sang Adik mendengar sautan yang tidak asing dari belakang dirinya. Lehernya dengan gesit menengok ke belakang meskipun rasanya sakit—hanya untuk disambut oleh muka-muka murid lain yang keheranan.

Itu jelas suara Kakak, tapi di saat yang bersamaan…terasa berbeda. Suaranya seakan Kakak penuh dengan kecemasan dan putus asa. Ia tidak pernah sekalipun menunjukkan rasa gugup dan panik seperti itu…Kakak selalu tenang dalam keadaan apapun. 

…Beberapa detik kemudian, sensasi tangan dan kakinya kembali. Detak jantungnya melambat. Rasa lega tersebar seiring darah kembali mengalir ke sekujur tubuhnya.

Hanya perasaan buruk, pikirnya.

Sang Adik kembali berjalan menuju kelas, sedikit gemetar di tiap langkah kakinya.

Lagipula, sekolah Kakak jauh dari sini.

~***~

“Oh, selamat datang, Dek!”

Terkejut, sang Adik hanya dapat menatap dengan mata terbelalak melihat kejadian di depan matanya. Perasaan buruk yang menyelimuti ketika menyadari bahwa pintu rumah tidak terkunci seketika lenyap, dan tergantikan dengan kenyataan yang seperti tidak nyata.

“Haha, rasanya Kakak tidak pernah pulang duluan sebelum Adek, jadi rada canggung ngucapin selamat datang.”

Masih tercengang, sang Adik kebingungan apa yang harus dicerna dari pemandangan yang ia lihat. Entah itu sang Kakak yang pulang lebih cepat darinya, gerakan tangannya yang mencurigakan karena bergegas menyembunyikan sesuatu, atau senyum palsu yang tidak dapat disanggah lagi merupakan kebohongan.

Kakak ngapain? —sang Adik tahu lebih baik tidak untuk mengusung pertanyaan itu.

“Tumben pulang cepet.”

“Ya…hari ini mau pakai jatah libur.”

Tapi kerja sambilan tidak memberikan jatah libur. Lagipula kakak pasti akan selalu memilih upah tambahan jika diizinkan.

Ia yakin semua ucapan kakaknya saat ini adalah kebohongan—namun pasti beralasan. Sang Adik berpikir selagi masih terdiam, berusaha mencari cara untuk meringankan suasana yang sedikit tegang di dalam ruangan ini.

Kalau begitu, ayo kita makan keluar saja. Mumpung masih sempat.

“Kala-”

“Adek, Kakak boleh minta tolong sesuatu ga?”

Sang Adik terpotong, kehabisan kata. Untuk kesekian kalinya, ia terkaget atas kejanggalan yang beruntun dalam waktu singkat. Kali ini, kakaknya memohon bantuan darinya, sesuatu yang ia selalu harap kakaknya akan ucapkan dari dulu. Walaupun sang Adik tahu sepenuhnya permohonan ini tidak mungkin terjadi tanpa alasan—tapi di samping itu, sang Adik lebih gembira atas berita tersebut. 

“Ya!”

Tanpa berpikir panjang, mulut sang Adik tersenyum lebar, kepalanya mengangguk dengan antusias. Seakan-akan semua kejanggalan tadi tidak penting dan terlepas dari pikirannya.

~***~

Sore itu, langit cerah terbakar oleh jingga matahari terbenam. Sang Adik berjalan dengan langkah lebar dan senyum lebar. Bagaikan tugas rumah pertama seumur hidupnya, ia menjalani permohonan kakaknya dengan tekun dan berhati-hati. Dengan secarik kertas di genggamannya, ia diminta untuk pergi belanja kebutuhan hidup untuk besok—sesuatu yang selalu dilakukan oleh kakaknya.

 Langkah kakinya terhenti ketika ia mendengar sirene dari penyeberangan rel kereta berbunyi. Palang rel kereta turun, menghentikan seluruh elemen yang akan menyeberang jalan ini. Hembusan angin sore lenyap, memberikan impresi seakan waktu terhenti. Sang adik berdiri tepat di balik palang kereta, namun bising sirenenya terdengar seperti semakin menjauh di tiap siklus. Seakan mendorong dirinya keluar dari euforia secara paksa, suatu firasat menyadarkan sang Adik.

Entah kenapa, ia merasakan firasat buruk dari keganjilan yang dialaminya saat itu. Tangannya secara perlahan mengangkat, secarik kertas muncul ke dalam pandangan.  Sang adik mencoba untuk membaca apa yang tertulis dalam daftar belanjaan yang diserahkan oleh kakaknya. Ia berusaha sekeras mungkin untuk membaca tulisan kakaknya, namun tidak ada yang mampu diterima oleh ingatannya. Hurufnya jelas, tulisannya rapih, namun seuatu perasaan buruk menghalangi sang Adik untuk memahami makna tiap kata

Telur.

Susu.

Tali.

Tambang.

Kertas.

Setiap barang dilafalkan sekeras mungkin dalam pikirannya. Bagaimanapun caranya, ia harus kembali ke kenyataan sesegera mungkin. Seakan didesak oleh waktu, keringat dingin terasa di belakang lehernya. Kemudian—

Klakson kereta membangunkannya. Pandangannya sekejap berubah dengan cepatnya gerbong melaju. Matanya tak dapat mengikuti laju                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 perubahan yang sangat cepat.

Aku harus pergi…

Langit kala itu jingga dan sedikit lebih redup dari biasanya. Sang Adik melangkah, menyeberangi rel kereta setelah sirene terhenti dan palang terangkat. Raut wajah serta langkahnya lebih tenang ketimbang sebelum ia menyeberang.

~***~

Sang adik pulang membawa belanjaan. Selama perjalanan, ia merasa janggal dan teringat akan kejadian saat hendak menyeberangi rel kereta. Keganjilan tersebut terasa sangat nyata, namun di waktu bersamaan tida, seakan ada yang memenuhi pikiran dan hatinya saat itu. Alasan dirinya berusaha untuk membaca daftar belanjaan adalah perintah intuisi yang mengikat dia ke kenyataan di dunia. Sang adik khawatir ia akan tereret ke dunia asing diluar nalar yang dapat ia pahami—untungnya saja, tidak terjadi.

“Kakak, adek pulang.”

Cklik. Pintu tertutup, suasana hening. Siulan teko air rebusan bergaung memenuhi gendang telinga.

Kakak gak matiin air matang, jarang-jarang.

Secara refleks, sang Adik langsung menuju dapur untuk mematikan kompor yang masih menyala. Perlahan siulan teko mengecil dan heningnya kembali.

“Hm?”

Sang Adik menyadari keberadaan dapur sedikit lebih bersih dari biasanya. Di samping kompor terdapat sepiring nasi dan telor dadar, di sampingnya cangkir kosong dengan sebuah teh celup kering.

Pikiran sang Adik mulai meronta ke segala arah. Segala macam skenario muncul dalam kepalanya yang bahkan ia tidak berani pikirkan dengan sengaja. Satu kata terhentikan di ujung lidahnya, sebuah bukti tak terbantahkan yang dapat berarti akhir dari kecemasan dirinya ataupun akhir dari dunia.

“Kakak?”

Hatinya berdegup kencang, keringat dingin mengucur seketika. Kakinya melangkah keluar dapur, satu langkah terasa sangat lamban dan berat. Ia berusaha keras untuk tidak bergerak namun sesuatu tetap mendorong dirinya untuk melangkah. Ruang utama kosong, barang-barang sedikit terserakan dan terdapat kantung kresek berisi belanjaan. Ia mempunyai firasat bahwa isinya tidak berbeda dengan apa yang dipegangnya saat itu. Mengabaikan firasat tersebut, sang Adik melanjutkan langkah beratnya. 

Tidak sampai lima langkah, ia sampai ke depan kamar kakaknya. 

Meskipun nafasnya tidak terkontrol, sang Adik mengetuk pintu kamar kakaknya seperti biasanya. Tidak ada respon.

“Adek masuk, ya?”

Tangannya yang gemetar berusaha untuk memegang gagang pintu tersebut namun kesulitan. Gagang besi tersebut terasa sangat dingin dan licin, entah hanya bayangan dirinya atau karena keringat sang Adik yang daritadi mengucur.

Cklik. Pintu dibuka dengan sangat perlahan, seakan tidak ingin membangunkan siapapun yang sedang ada di dalam kamar. Kamarnya sedikit redup, hanya cahaya matahari sore dari jendela menyinari langsung ke dalam. Cercah sinar tersebut terhalangi oleh sesuatu, membentuk bayangan yang memanjang dan sedikit pudar di lantai. Gerakannya tidak alami, seolah-olah ada benda mati yang tergantung, menghalangi cahaya yang menembus jendela..

Seluruh bagian tubuh sang Adik gemetar. Bulu kuduk berdiri di tiap tubuh. Ujung jari tangan dan kakinya kedinginan hingga mati rasa. Tak terkontrol, pikirannya sudah penuh dengan skenario berisi keniscayaan, sementara perutnya mual bagai memaksa keluar apapun yang ada di dalamnya. Ketika sudah terasa di mulut, tangan sang Adik refleks menutup mulutnya. Matanya terbelalak, namun kepalanya masih tertunduk.

Aku harus kuat.

Ia tidak ingat siapa yang menanamkan kalimat tersebut dalam dirinya. Mungkin itu merupakan respon natural dari alam bawah sadar dirinya sendiri. Orang tuanya sudah tiada, dan kakaknya tidak pernah menyuruh dirinya untuk menjadi kuat. Lantas siapa yang mendorong selain dirinya sendiri?

Apapun hal tersebut, sang Adik memutuskan untuk menengok ke atas ruang utama. Terpampang di depan matanya adalah sesosok kakak yang ia pernah kagumi, tak bernyawa. Kulitnya pucat dan kehilangan pendar jiwa raga orang yang masih berada di dunia ini. Raut wajahnya memiliki tatapan kosong tanpa senyum, seakan-akan tidak rela hidupnya berakhir saat itu juga.

Frustrasi. Putus asa. Tak berdaya.

Sang Adik tak bisa melepas pandangannya dari apa yang dia lihat. Matanya berkaca-kaca dan merah, entah karena menahan isak tangis akibat badai emosi atau karena tidak berkedip semenjak dari firasat buruknya di dapur. Yang jelas, ia menolak untuk melepas figur sang Kakak dari pandangannya, berusaha untuk membakar seluruh detail yang terlihat ke dalam memori. Namun semakin lama ia melihat, semakin kacau isi pikiran dan hatinya. Rasa mual yang tak tertahan mengakibatkan sang Adik memuntahkan kekosongan, kata-kata yang dirangkai di mulutnya tidak bisa terucap, kaki yang gemetar tak lagi kuat untuk mengambil satu langkah pun. Teringat ia akan renungannya di pagi hari.

Semuanya pasti akan berakhir suatu saat, dan suatu saat itu adalah hari ini.

~***~

Hening, tapi mencekam. Suatu kesepian yang ditemani oleh rintik hujan yang tidak ramah. Keesokan harinya, pemakaman sang Kakak hanya dikabungi oleh satu orang. Kali ini tak ada sosok yang memegangi payung untuknya, ia hanya menerima dingin tetes hujan di sore hari yang gelap itu tanpa perlawanan. Lagi-lagi, pikirannya berputar ke segala macam arah, tatapannya kosong tidak terpaku pada dunia ini.

Kini aku sepenuhnya sendiri.

Perasaan sakit seperti mencengkeram hatinya, tiap tarikan nafas terasa berat dan melelahkan. Entah karena yang berada di balik liang lahat tersebut adalah sang Kakak, atau karena sang Adik sudah lebih dewasa kali ini. Meskipun diselimuti rasa sedih, tetap air mata sang Adik tidak mengalir, hanya sebatas merefleksikan matanya menjadi berkaca-kaca. Lebih dari itu, ia merasa kebingungan.

Tentang kemarin.

Tentang hari ini.

Tentang masa depan.

Apa yang…harus kulakukan.

Memejamkan matanya, ia mencoba untuk mengubur seluruh gundahnya saat itu. Jika kakaknya masih ada di sampingnya…tidak, bahkan dirinya saat ini tidak lagi yakin apa yang kakaknya akan ucapkan di saat seperti ini. Ia tidak lagi yakin apa yang takdir akan bawa ke dalam hidupnya lagi. Namun, jika ada satu hal yang ia yakini, sang Adik dengan percaya diri akan menjawab.

Aku harus kuat.

Sang Adik memalingkan dirinya. Ia menarik nafas dalam,, mengembalikan kehangatan ke tubuh dan rasionalitas ke kepalanya. Tatapannya tajam, terfokus pada kenyataan. Ia melangkah pergi, menuju masa depan. Sekilas, ia melihat sesosok figur yang juga berpaling di pohon dekat makam kakaknya, namun ia tidak menghiraukan siapapun sosok itu. Derasnya hujan dan gelapnya langit tidak membantu penglihatannya pula.

~***~

Semenjak kematian kakaknya, sang Adik tinggal di kediaman kerabat jauhnya di luar kota. Sejujurnya, ia merasa asing dan tidak diterima dalam keluarganya, baik dirinya maupun keluarga mereka merasakan bahwa kehadirannya hanya membebani hidup. Rasa tidak nyaman tersebut terakumulasi dan pada hari kesepuluh, ia memutuskan untuk kabur dari kediaman tersebut. Sang Adik hanya meninggalkan secarik kertas dan sejumlah uang yang tadinya ia pinjam dari kerabat jauhnya.

Uang bukan menjadi masalah baginya saat ini. Sisa tabungan kakak, warisan orang tua, jika ia menginginkannya, pergi ke luar negeri adalah pilihan. Namun, ia tahu itu hanya akan mempercepat kemunculan masalah di masa depan. Sang Adik hanya berjalan tanpa tujuan menjelang Maghrib. Meskipun tak bertujuan, langkahnya secara tidak sadar membawanya ke arah stasiun, perantara yang menghubungkan kota ini dengan kota asalnya.

Sang Adik tidak tahu sejak kapan ia menganggap kota yang ia tempati bersama kakaknya sebagai kota asalnya. Orangtuanya berasal dari luar pulau, dan tidak pernah bercerita banyak tentang asal muasal mereka—bahkan menginjak tanah asal orangtua saja ia tidak pernah.

Aku…tidak siap kembali ke rumah.

Memutuskan bahwa kembali merupakan ide yang buruk, sang Adik menyeberang rel dan menunggu di peron yang tujuan keretanya menjauh dari kota asalnya. Bepergian dengan kereta memudahkannya untuk kembali jika ia sudah siap, lagipula sang Adik juga memiliki suatu ketertarikan terhadap kereta. Semenjak kejadian di penyeberangan rel di hari itu, ia merasakan hubungan yang tidak dapat dijelaskan setiap kali ia berangkat dan pulang sekolah menaiki kereta.

Aku sudah memutuskan untuk pergi…tapi tidak siap untuk kembali juga.

Selagi sang Adik memikirkan hal tersebut, jam menunjukkan pukul 19.00 dan kereta melintas di hadapannya, perlahan berhenti. Pintunya terbuka, semilir angin AC dari dalam gerbong sedikit mengangkat rambutnya. Satu langkah, ia mendekati pintu tersebut. Langkah kedua, lebih dekat. Langkah ketiga membawa dia menembus celah peron ke dalam gerbong. Ketika ia melintasi pintu kereta, sesuatu mencegat langkahnya. Perasaan tidak asing, suatu firasat yang membawanya ke masa lalu. Ia menengok ke samping, namun hanya ada penumpang lain yang sibuk dengan perhatiannya masing-masing.

Dejavu? Tidak…perasaan ini sama seperti tiap kali Kakak datang menjemputku ke sekolah.

Meskipun perasaan ini mengingatkannya terhadap sang Kakak, ia hanya dapat merengus. Seakan-akan dirinya paham ini hanya trik yang dimainkan oleh hatinya yang kosong dan pikirannya yang tidak bisa diam. Ketika menengok ke belakang, ia disambut oleh pintu kereta yang menutup. Firasat tersebut hilang, dan ia kembali sadar bahwa kereta mulai bergerak. Entah membawa dirinya ke mana.

~***~

Lima tahun berlalu.

Sang Adik masih hidup seorang diri, menempati tempat yang tadinya ditinggali bersama kakaknya. Pemilik bangunan tersebut sempat khawatir dan mempertanyakan niatnya untuk pindah kembali ke tempat tersebut, namun sang Adik hanya menggelengkan kepala dan tersenyum ikhlas. Walaupun benar, minggu pertamanya penuh dengan rasa tidak nyaman dan malam yang tidak nyenyak—ia pun cukup terkejut betapa mudah dirinya terbiasa dengan kehidupan sendiri di rumah lamanya.

Hari-hari berlanjut, dan yang tersisa hanya kenangan indah. Sedikit demi sedikit, bukti hidup kakaknya terkikis dan tergantikan oleh barang-barang miliknya. Setelah lima tahun, kini ruangan tersebut lebih mencerminkan tempat tinggal perempuan seorang diri. Meskipun begitu, sang Adik tidak pernah sekalipun melangkah ke dalam kamar tempat kakaknya gantung diri. Sejauh ini, ia hanya berani sampai memegang gagang pintunya. Dinginnya masih sama seperti lima tahun lalu, begitu pula gemetar dari telapak tangannya.

Kak, aku berangkat.

Sang Adik bukanlah seseorang yang begitu percaya terhadap kejadian supernatural, tetapi dalam dirinya masih tersimpan keyakinan bahwa fragmen dari kehidupan kakaknya  masih tersisa di dalam ruangan itu—terjebak oleh waktu. Ia mengetuk, menyapa, dan terus memanggil kakaknya tanpa balasan. Kini yang ia lakukan hanya sebatas gumam dalam hati, namun ia tidak ingin melepaskan diri dari kebiasaan tersebut. Ia khawatir jika ia memberanikan diri untuk membuka kamar tersebut, maka ia dengan segera akan merelakan kehilangan eksistensi dari sosok yang tadinya ia kagumi.

Hari ini adalah yang terakhir kalinya, semoga.

Sang Adik melangkah keluar rumah.

Klik. Suara pintu menutup. Pagi hari yang cerah menyambut kehadirannya. Sembari berjalan, sang Adik memikirkan kehidupan dirinya selama lima tahun ke belakang.

Setelah lima tahun, sang Adik menduduki bangku SMA kelas 2. Berbeda dengan kakaknya, ia memasuki SMA negeri yang cukup ternama. Atas dasar kondisi keluarga, ia diberikan perlakuan khusus oleh sekolahnya—salah satunya adalah dibebaskan dari iuran wajib. Semester pertama, kehidupan sekolah sang Adik dipenuhi oleh tatapan kasihan dan dendam, namun kini ia memiliki sahabat yang senantiasa menemaninya. Meskipun ia tidak begitu aktif dalam segi organisasi, dirinya banyak memenangkan lomba, lebih tepatnya lomba menulis. Sebagian besar murid sebayanya banyak mengenal dirinya sebagai “Gadis Penulis Tragis”. Guru sekolahnya menganggapnya sebagai murid teladan yang ditimpa oleh takdir yang lebih kejam.

Mungkin ini kehidupan yang kakak akan jalani jika saja aku tidak ada.

Gumam sang Adik, dengan muka tersenyum.

Ironis, mungkin saja hidup ini dapat kujalani karena kehilangan kakak.

Mengandaikan skenario kini menjadi kebiasaan bagi dirinya. Terkadang, skenario-skenario tersebut menjadi inspirasi baginya untuk menulis karya baru. Seiring waktu berjalan, ia semakin terbiasa menyunting pengalaman dalam hidupnya menjadi sebuah tulisan yang dapat menyentuh hati orang. Di satu sisi, dirinya merasa bersalah tiap kali memori buruknya dijadikan sebuah karya fiksi yang menghasilkan uang, namun sisi lainnya bersyukur ia pernah mengalami hal tersebut. Dua tahun yang lalu, hati nuraninya harus menghadapi konflik tersebut, namun kini ia menganggap bahwa hal tersebut merupakan dua sisi dari kepingan yang sama.

Menjadi manusia, adalah untuk menyukuri sekaligus menyesali hidup.

Tap. Tap. Langkah kakinya lebih ringan dan rileks dibandingkan lima tahun lalu. Kali ini bertujuan, dan tatapannya terpaku pada kenyataan sembari memandang ke depan. Hari ini adalah hari Selasa, hari yang sama seperti kejadian itu.

Sesampainya di makam sang Kakak, ia terdiam sejenak. Kunjungannya sudah menjadi rutinitas tahunan, dan hari ini adalah kunjungannya yang kelima. 

Kunjungan pertama, ia masih murung dan kebingungan dengan hidup.

Kunjungan kedua, tekad muncul dalam tatapan mata dan kepalan tangannya.

Kunjungan ketiga, ia meninggalkan carikan kertas berisi coretan selama episode depresinya.

Kunjungan keempat, ia meletakkan novel yang berhasil dipublikasi atas namanya.

Kunjungan kelima, ia membawa novel kedua, senyuman, dan sebuah surat yang ditulis tangan.

Kakak. Kini kita seumuran. Aku tidak tahu apakah aku sudah bisa disebut dewasa atau tidak. Dibandingkan jerih payah yang harus kau lakukan selama setahun itu, aku rasa lima tahun ini jauh lebih ringan. Seakan-akan kau membawa seluruh kesengsaraan dalam hidupku bersamamu.

Tahun ini menandai diterbitkannya novel keduaku, “Dibalik Kereta yang Melintas”. Premisnya simpel. Suatu saat terpikirkan olehku jika yang meninggalkan dunia saat itu adalah diriku, dan Kakak yang harus bertahan hidup sendiri. Dalam cerita tersebut, Kakak adalah sosok yang pandai melakukan segalanya. Pintar, atletis, berani, dan tangguh. Seluruh orang mencintaimu, dan meskipun kehilangan orangtua, kita tidak pernah sendiri. Andai…andai saja saat itu aku menyadari gelap kelam yang menghantui hatimu. Mungkin aku dapat membantu lebih banyak dan meringankan beban yang kau putuskan untuk pikul sendiri.

Kalau tentang kereta…kurasa itu karena aku sekarang menjadi seorang penggemar kereta, hehe. Entah kenapa tiap kali kereta melintas, aku teringat akan dirimu, dan kuharap—walaupun hanya sebuah harapan kosong—suatu saat aku dapat melihatmu kembali setelah kereta melintas.

Terkait kelanjutan ceritanya, jujur saja, aku terbawa suasana. Aku mencoba untuk menjamah gaya tulis yang berbeda. Kalau ending-nya, hehe, tidak akan kuberi tahu. Aku masih ingin berbicara denganmu, dan itu tujuanku membawa satu salin dari novel ini. Tentu sudah kutandatangani. Bukti valid seorang penulis, loh.

Jika kau tidak mampu mendengar suara hati ini, tenang saja. Aku menulis hal yang sama di kertas surat ini. Semalam suntuk aku memikirkan apa yang harus kuucapkan, jadi aku hapal semua isinya.

Kalau begitu, sampai jumpa di lain waktu.

Sang Adik berpaling, mukanya masih tersenyum dengan lembut.

Ini bukan perpisahan, melainkan janij untuk bertemu lagi. Dan ketika kita bertemu lagi, aku akan memandang masa depan sembari tersenyum, seperti dirimu yang selalu kukagumi.

Tanpa ia sadari, langit terbakar dalam lembayung senja. Ia memutuskan untuk berjalan kaki, sama seperti ketika berangkat. Meskipun jaraknya yang jauh, ia tidak merasa lelah sama sekali. Jika dibandingkan dengan frustrasi memikirkan kelanjutan cerita dari novel yang ia tulis, ini bukan seberapa. Seperti biasa, pikirannya masih terbawa kemana-mana, mengandaikan berbagai hal.

Indahnya sore hari ini jika ia berjalan bersama kakaknya.

Waktu yang tepat untuk menikmati sebatang es krim setelah mereka berbelanja kebutuhan sehari-hari.

Jika mereka beristirahat sejenak di kursi dan berbincang tentang kejadian di sekolah.

Alas, semua hanya andai. Namun sang Adik paham pikiran seperti itu hanya akan menghambat karirnya sebagai penulis. Segenap permohonan maaf ia ucapkan dalam hati, mungkin bertindak sebagai pemaling rasa bersalah atas segala hal yang ia tidak pernah lakukan ketika kakaknya masih hidup.

Langkah kakinya terhenti ketika ia mendengar sirene dari penyeberangan rel kereta berbunyi. Palang rel kereta turun, menghentikan seluruh elemen yang akan menyeberang jalan ini. Hembusan angin sore lenyap, memberikan impresi seakan waktu terhenti. Sang adik berdiri tepat di balik palang kereta, namun bising sirenenya terdengar seperti semakin menjauh di tiap siklus.

Suatu firasat…menghampiri sang Adik dan mendorongnya keluar dari dunia imajinasi.

Kembali ke realita.

Ia mengangkat pandangannya dan menghadap ke seberang rel kereta. Sesosok pria yang bertampang rapih dan berpakaian serba hitam berdiri rileks. Mukanya pasrah, seakan-akan sudah letih menghadapi takdir yang menyulitkan hidupnya. Jika dilihat sekilas, figur orang tersebut bagaikan orang yang rela melepas kehidupannya di dunia ini. Sesuatu dalam hati sang Adik merasa terpanggil. Bukan firasat buruk seperti lima tahun lalu, lebih tepatnya rindu lima tahun yang terbayarkan.

Tampangnya mirip kakak jika ia sekarang masih hidup.

Langit mendung seketika, rintik hujan turun perlahan. Sang Adik tidak menghiraukan bajunya yang mulai basah, melainkan pandangannya terfokus pada orang yang ada di hadapannya. Sirene masih berbunyi kencang, disertai gemuruh hujan yang semakin deras. Namun seluruh suara tersebut terasa sangat jauh, seakan terpendam karena seluruh indera sang Adik dikerahkan untuk memandang orang di hadapannya. 

Tindakan manusia sangatlah mudah dipengaruhi firasat. Contohnya firasat ketika Anda sedang diperhatikan seseorang dengan seksama. Mungkin itulah yang mendorong orang di hadapan sang Adik untuk melihat dirinya.

…Tidak, bukan mirip.

Dan ketika keduanya saling bertukar pandang–

“Kakak?”

Di saat yang bersamaan, klakson kereta berbunyi. Pandangan sang Adik dipenuhi oleh gerbong kereta yang melintas dengan cepat. Ia merasa suaranya tidak berhasil mencapai orang tersebut dan ingin memanggilnya sekali lagi. Namun, entah kenapa, kalimat berikutnya tertahan di tenggorokan, seakan-akan mencoba untuk mencegah suatu hal buruk terjadi.

Secara refleks dirinya melangkah, tangannya terkepal dan mulutnya menganga. Matanya berkaca-kaca meskipun semalam ia berjanji tidak akan menangis hari ini.

Tuhan, jika itu memang kakak. Kumohon. Hanya untuk kali ini saja. Setelah kereta ini melintas, berikan aku satu kesempatan lagi!

Sang Adik memejamkan mata. Matinya indera penglihatan menajamkan pendengarannya. Gemuruh hujan, bising sirene, deram gerbong kereta yang melintas menciptakan simfoni kekacauan—kakofoni. Degup hatinya sangat kencang. Nafasnya terengah-engah.

Dan dalam sekejap, semua suara tersebut hilang.

Ia memberanikan diri untuk membuka matanya yang terpejam. Langit senja yang terbakar oleh jinggamatahari terbenam. Angin sore berhembus, menyebabkan rambut pendek dan rok yang masih kering menari mengikuti alunannya. Secara refleks, ia mengangkat tangannya untuk menyingsingkan rambut yang menghalangi mukanya. Gerakannya terhenti ketika ia menyadari tangannya menggenggam secarik kertas. Kertas tersebut sedikit kusut dan penuh coretan yang tidak asing.

Telur.

Susu.

Tali.

Tambang.

Kertas.

…Kata-kata tersebut seakan-akan menjadi sebuah ritual yang mempertahankan dirinya di dunia ini. Sebuah panggilan untuk menerima kenyataan. Seketika, semua hal yang terjadi menjadi masuk akal bagi sang Adik. Seperti potongan terakhir dari puzzle yang akhirnya terselesaikan.

 Sang Adik melangkah—berlari, menjauhi rel kereta dan kembali ke arah rumah. Raut wajahnya merupakan gabungan dari cemas, rindu, lega, dan muram. Langkahnya tidak pernah lebih cepat seumur hidupnya.

Aku harus pergi.

SELESAI


Penulis: AJIBEH

Parallelogram α

Entri Writchal #1

Tema: Kakak Adik


Parallelogram α

Kehidupan yang tenang, sebagai seseorang yang memiliki keluarga bahagia. Sang adik yang selalu menempel dengan kakaknya. Ayah yang selalu bermain bersama dan ibu yang selalu mendukung seluruh kegiatan dan mimpiku.

Sang kakak hanya memiliki satu ambisi, yaitu untuk selalu berada di samping adiknya. Rintangan, tembok setebal apa pun, akan ia terjang demi adiknya.

“Kak, tetaplah jaga adikmu, ya.” Sang ibu mengusap-usap kepala sang kakak. “Ibu, ayah, selalu mendoakan yang terbaik untuk kalian.”

Di tengah malam yang dipenuhi suara-suara hewan nokturnal dan cahaya bulan yang menyelimuti dinginnya udara, sang ibu menitikkan air matanya.

Air mata kesedihan yang bahkan tak bisa dimengerti apa maksudnya.

Dengan kecupan terakhir di dahinya, sang ibu pergi meninggalkan sang kakak.

Sang ibu pergi meninggalkan sang kakak. Sang ayah pergi meninggalkan sang adik. Keduanya meninggalkan sepasang kakak beradik.

Di hadapan tumpukan tanah dan nisan dari kayu yang bertuliskan nama dari sang ibu dan ayah. Hujan benar-benar menutupi tangisan kedua anak itu.

Dengan kondisinya yang dikotori lumpur tanah dan wajah runyamnya menangis tersedu-sedu.

“Ibu … Ayah ….” Sang kakak sulit untuk menerima segala pahitnya itu.

Sang adik pun menangis, tetapi … ia menangis karena untuk pertama kalinya melihat sang kakak menangis.

Keduanya benar-benar melepaskan seluruh emosinya. Tak ada yang bisa mendengarnya. Tak ada yang bisa menolong mereka.

Hanya diri mereka sendiri yang bisa menolongnya.

Kekuatan.

Rasa saling membantu.

Kepercayaan.

Sang kakak dan adik benar-benar sudah berubah selama satu tahun ke belakang. Mereka sudah mampu menerima seluruh kenyataan.

Bahkan dengan kemampuan dan bakatnya sekarang, sang kakak mendapatkan sebuah pekerjaan dengan penghasilan yang cukup besar saat dirinya menduduki bangku SMA. Sedangkan, sang adik mendapatkan penghargaan sebagai siswi terbaik di sekolahnya dan beasiswa penuh.

“Dek, bukannya hari ini kamu ada ujian tengah semester? Kamu bisa terlambat, loh,” teriak sang kakak dari depan pintu kamar adiknya.

Saat ini, mereka berdua hidup dengan damai di sebuah rumah yang dibeli oleh sang kakak dari gaji kerjanya.

Sang kakak mencoba untuk mengetuk-ngetuk kamar adiknya, “Jangan salahkan kakak, ya. Jika kamu terlambat pergi ke sekolah.”

Inilah awal kehidupan sang kakak, seorang siswa yang sudah menduduki bangku kelas 3 SMA. 

~***~

“Kenapa kakak tidak membangunkanku!” sang adik panik karena terlambat untuk mengikuti ujian di sekolahnya.

Kakaknya sedang berada di dapur menyiapkan makanan untuk dirinya, “Apa maksudmu,” — sang kakak menghampiri adiknya dan menjitaknya dengan lembut — “kakak sudah membangunkanmu, tapi kau tidur seperti sedang hibernasi saja.”

“Maafkan dedek,” ucap adiknya sembari pipinya dicubit oleh kakaknya itu. Sang adik merapikan buku-bukunya ke dalam tas dan juga merapikan pakaiannya.

Sang kakak membatunya, “Semangat ujiannya, ya.”

“Terima kasih, kak.” Sang adik tersenyum senang karena baru saja disemangati oleh kakaknya.

“Maksud kakak, semangat menjalani ujian dengan waktu yang tersisa sedikit.”

“Kakak! Sekarang kakak antarkan aku ke sekolah,” menarik pakaian kakaknya dan keluar rumah.

“Baiklah, baiklah.”

Dengan sepedanya yang ada di halaman depan, sang kakak mengantarkan adiknya pergi bersekolah di kursi kelas satu SMP.

Sepanjang perjalanan, sang adik hanya diam melamun. 

Di tengah perjalanan, ban depan sepeda bocor. Terpaksa untuk mereka berdua untuk berjalan sembari sang kakak mendorong sepedanya.

Sang adik seketika mengucapkan sesuatu saat sedang berhenti di depan palang kereta, “Kakak, apakah kita selamanya akan selalu berdua? Dan apakah kita bisa untuk selalu seperti ini saja?”

Sesaat keduanya terdiam akibat pertanyaan itu. Hanya terdengar hembusan angin yang semakin kencang melewati telinga. 

Kereta pun lewat dengan cepat dan suara kencangnya yang menutupi suara rintihan adiknya. 

Sang kakak fokus melihat jalan di depannya, memandangi kereta yang lewat. Bahkan tak ada perubahan raut wajah di mukanya.

“Sepertinya adek menanyakan hal yang aneh, ya? Maaf,” genggaman sang adik pada pakaian kakaknya semakin erat. Wajahnya menjadi sedikit murung. Ia juga menutupi wajahnya pada punggung kakaknya.

Apapun yang terjadi, kakak akan selalu berada di sampingmu — pikir sang kakak.

Berlalu lah waktu di jalan, mereka berdua sampai di sekolah. “Terima kasih, kak.” Sang adik menarik tangan kakaknya untuk salam. Menundukkan kepalanya menghampiri tangan sang kakak.

Setelah salamnya, sang kakak mengusap-usap kepala adiknya, “Semangat, ya.”

Wajah kakaknya tersenyum. Senyuman yang terlihat sangat tulus. Karena senyumannya itu, sang adik semakin semangat lagi untuk mengikuti ujiannya.

“Baik!”

Punggung adiknya sembari membawa tasnya, berlari dengan semangat ke dalam sekolah. Pemandangan itu selalu tertanam dalam pikiran sang kakak.

“Baiklah, mungkin aku akan pergi ke pasar terlebih dahulu.”

Dari sekolah, sang kakak melanjutkan perjalanannya ke pasar.

Tak jauh jaraknya, hanya memakan waktu sekitar 15 menit saja. Sang kakak memarkirkan sepedanya di salah satu toko yang sering ia kunjungi.

“Ibu kue, saya nitip sepeda saya seperti biasa, ya.”

“Ok, nak.”

“Oh ya, seperti biasa saya pesan yang ‘itu’.”

“Mungkin nanti akan ibu titipkan pada anak ibu.”

“Ok, bu.” Sang kakak berlari ke dalam pasar. Mencari seluruh keperluan yang dibutuhkan.

Sang kakak mencari-cari toko yang kemarin disarankan oleh adiknya, “Sayur … Daging … Toko Ikan Segar. Ah, di situ.” Sang kakak berjalan sembari menyebut toko-toko yang dilewatinya.

“Halo kakak pahlawan, kemari! Kami baru saja mendapatkan ikan segar kesukaan adikmu.” Sang penjual ikan di toko bernamakan “Toko Ikan Segar” itu memanggil sang kakak.

“Jangan panggil seperti itu. Aku malu.”

“Hahaha! Tidak apa-apa. Karena sampean, pasar ini menjadi lebih sejahtera setelah para preman itu pergi.”

“Ya sudah. Saya pesan ikan patinnya, umm … mungkin 1.5 kilo saja?”

“Tidak perlu ribet-ribet jika dengan saya. Nih!” sang pemilik toko itu memberikan 4 ekor ikan patin di dalam bungkusnya. “Harganya seperti biasa saja.” Dia memberikan senyuman ramahnya kepada seluruh pembeli di sana.”

“Baiklah,” sang kakak memberikan uangnya. Lalu menerima kembalian. “Terima kasih,” pergi meninggalkan dan mencari toko lain.

“Terima kasih kembali juga. Ayo! Dibeli-beli ikan segarnya ….”

Saat berkeliling pasar, mencari, serta membeli seluruh kebutuhannya, ia selalu disambut dengan baik oleh para pedagang. Semuanya juga berterima kasih kepadanya. Memang benar, jasanya itu telah membuat senang banyak orang di sana.

Hanya saja, aku malu jika selalu seperti ini ….

Karena semua kebutuhannya sudah terpenuhi, sang kakak kembali ke toko kue tempat ia memarkirkan sepedanya. “Halo, bu. Saya ingin mengambil pesanan saya.”

“Kakak! Ini ibu tadi menitipkan pesanannya ke Talia,” seorang anak kecil yang sedang bermain dengan mainannya.

“Oh, Talia. Ibumu sudah pergi?” mengambil pesanannya dan memberikan uangnya pada Talia.

Talia menyimpan uangnya dalam laci, “Ya, ibu sudah pergi.”

“Nih, kakak punya permen enak,” — memberikan permen tersebut dan mulai membisikkan sesuatu — “tapi jangan bilang pada siapapun, ya? Psttt ….”

Talia mengangguk-anggukkan kepalanya seperti seolah-olah paham, “Baiklah, psttt …. Hehe.” Ia tersenyum manis dengan posisi jari telunjuk pada bibirnya.

“Kalau begitu, kakak pergi duluan. Dadah, Talia.” Sang kakak mengambil sepedanya.

“Dadah, kakak!” melambai-lambaikan tangannya.

~***~

Sang adik datang ke dalam kelas dengan kondisi terlambat. Ia diperbolehkan untuk mengerjakan ujian, hanya saja tidak mendapatkan perpanjangan waktu.

Menurutnya, perpanjangan waktu itu tidaklah terlalu penting. Karena ia tetap bisa mengerjakannya dengan cepat dan tepat.

“Saya sudah selesai, bu. Apakah saya boleh untuk pergi ke kantin untuk istirahat lebih dulu?” ucap dan tanya sang adik. Ia melakukannya dengan cepat, karena ia sadar. Bahwa ia belum sarapan dan perlu untuk sarapan, secepatnya.

Guru pengawas dan siswa di sana terkejut dengan ucapannya, “Ba—baiklah, kamu boleh duluan.” 

Apa yang ingin saya makan, ya? — pikir sang adik.

Tetapi sesampainya di kantin, “Ramai sekali … Aku sudah tidak tahan lagi.”

Dengan seluruh kemampuannya, sang adik berhasil menyelip-nyelip di antara kerumunan dan berhasil mendapatkan tiga potong roti isi.

“Aku mendapatkan isi daging mayo, jagung manis, dan abon. Tidak masalah, yang penting aku masih bisa makan.”

Melihat tempat duduk di sekitar kantin, seluruhnya dipenuhi oleh para murid yang sedang mempelajari materi ujian.

Mungkin aku harus mencari tempat sepi.

Sang adik berkeliling sekolah, mencari tempat yang tenang untuk dirinya makan. Sedikit sulit mencarinya. Di hari itu, seluruh murid datang ke sekolah. Sehingga sekolah terasa sangat padat.

“Di mana, ya …?” bingung mencari tempat yang dapat dinikmati dan menghindari orang banyak.

Dan saat berjalan-jalan hingga ke bagian belakang sekolah, ia melihat adanya seorang lelaki sedang membawa jeriken. Jeriken yang kemungkinan berisikan minyak tanah.

Siapa pria itu? — pikir sang adik.

Sang adik penasaran dan berujung mengikuti lelaki tersebut.

Dia masuk ke dalam sebuah gedung kosong … sebentar, itu gudang, kan?

“Sepertinya, aku tidak bisa untuk mengikutinya lebih jauh lagi. Lebih baik aku kembali ke kelas dan mungkin bertanya ke guru-guru.”

Seperti ada hal yang ganjal.

Tetapi, pada saat ia membalikkan tubuhnya. Ia bertemu dengan seseorang. Seseorang yang kesannya mencurigakan.

~***~

Kembali pada sang kakak yang baru saja sampai di rumahnya.

“Aku pulang! … Mungkin begitu, tidak ada siapa-siapa di rumah.”

Sang kakak menyimpan seluruh belajaannya di dapur. Sebelum merapikannya, ia mengambil minum dari dispenser di sampingnya.

“Bosan juga, ya.”

Alasan dirinya itu tidak pergi ke sekolah, karena ia baru saja menyelesaikan seluruh pembelajaran di semester tersebut hanya dalam waktu dua bulan. Sehingga ia bisa memanfaatkan waktu luangnya untuk bekerja dan juga merawat adiknya.

Benar juga, tahun depan aku sudah harus pergi berkuliah.

Ia minum sembari duduk di kursi ruang tengah, “Tapi, aku kan sudah mendapatkan beasiswa.”

“….”

Hening, karena tidak tahu apa yang harus dilakukannya lagi.

Sang kakak masuk ke dalam kamarnya, mengambil laptop untuk mengecek apakah ada pekerjaan baru atau tidak. Ia baru saja menyelesaikan bagiannya yang seharusnya dikerjakan dalam satu bulan. Tetapi, dia menyelesaikannya dalam tiga hari saja.

Tidak heran jika dirinya itu mendapatkan pemasukan yang luar biasa banyaknya dari tempat ia bekerja.

“Tidak ada kerjaan baru lagi.” Menutup laptopnya. Berdiri dan meregangkan tubuhnya.

Seketika ia seperti mendapatkan ide bagus. Alisnya naik.

“Mungkin pergi berolahraga akan bagus.” Ia melihat ke arah jam, “Yosh, masih menunjukkan pukul 7.30.”

Saat salah satu kakinya baru saja melewati pintu rumah, ia teringat sesuatu.

“Benar juga, tadi pagi aku sudah berolahraga. Lagipula, ban sepedanya belum kuperbaiki.” Ia baru saja mengingatnya.

“Mungkin lebih baik, aku tidur saja.”

Saat membalikkan badannya ke dalam rumah, sensor saraf pada leher belakangnya merasakan sesuatu.

Apa itu?! — sang kakak melihat ke arah halaman depan rumah.

Ia juga memegangi punuk lehernya itu, “Mungkin perasaanku saja.”

Dengan perasaan tidak mengenakkan itu, ia masuk ke dalam kamarnya.

Merebahkan tubuhnya. Mencoba untuk menutup mata dan tidur. Tetapi, perasaan tadi terus menghantui pikirannya.

Yang tadi itu, apa? ….

Tak terasa, sang kakak sudah terlelap saja dalam tidurnya.

Tidur dengan baluran cahaya matahari dari jendela kamarnya.

Sangat nyaman.

~***~

Tempat yang sangat hening, tak ada apa-apa di sana.

Kosong.

Hampa.

Sang kakak terbangun di tempat seperti itu.

Ia sadar bahwa itu adalah mimpi. Hanya saja, ia tak bisa menggerakkan tubuhnya sebagaimana dirinya inginkan.

Mimpi? Sepertinya. 

“Entah kenapa, tubuhku terasa sangat ringan.”

Aku bisa berbicara, hanya saja tubuhku terasa terikat oleh sesuatu.

“Tubuh ringan ini, seperti yang orang-orang katakan jika roh seseorang baru saja meninggalkan tubuhnya.”

Jadi … apakah aku mati?

Ia melihat sekitarnya. Semuanya hanyalah putih tak berujung. Tempat yang sangat polos tanpa ada noda sedikitpun.

Sepertinya bukan, mungkin.

Dan entah apa yang terjadi, tiba-tiba tubuhnya mampu ia gerakan sendiri.

Ia melihat tubuhnya sendiri. Memang terasa seperti ada yang mengekang, tapi tidak terlihat di mana-mana.

“Apa tidak ada jalan keluar dari sini?”

Sang kakak berjalan lurus entah tidak tahu ke mana akan membawanya.

Saat dirinya mencoba mengulurkan tangan kanannya, ada sesuatu yang menarik-narik lengan kirinya.

Wajah sang kakak berubah dengan begitu terkejut. Rautannya berubah, dari yang tenang menjadi sangat tidak karuan.

Dengan tersentak, ia terbangun dari tidurnya.

Tubuhnya gemetar luar biasa. Keringat membanjiri tubuhnya. Detak jantungnya berdegup dengan begitu kencang. Rasa pusing yang luar biasa terasa sangat membebani pikirannya.

Apa-apaan mimpi tadi itu?! — pikirnya sembari mengatur napasnya.

Karena ia baru saja tersadar, ia melihat ke arah jam. “Sudah pukul empat sore, apakah adikku belum pulang?!?”

Sang kakak bergegas menuju ruang tengah, “Adek!” Dengan terengah-engah ia memanggil adiknya.

“Ya, kak?” sang adik terkejut dengan sikap kakaknya. “Kenapa, kak? Apa kamu baik-baik saja?” Beranjak dari kursi di ruang tengah, menghampiri kakaknya.

Dia ada di sini. Syukurlah …. — napas lega sang kakak.

Adiknya itu memegangi tangan kakaknya, “Tidak, kakak tidak apa-apa.”

Syukurlah ….

“Lebih baik kakak duduk dan minum terlebih dahulu.” Sang adik menuntun kakaknya ke kursi

“Terima kasih,” jawab kakaknya.

Mimpi tadi itu sangat mengerikan.

“Ini, kak. Minumnya,” suara sang adik memberikan minuman itu kepada kakaknya.

Dan entah kenapa cahaya di luar jendela menjadi berwarna merah pekat.

“Adek ….” Panggil kakaknya sembari melihat jendela. “Adek!”

“Kenapa, kak? Adek di sini.”

Lagi-lagi wajah dan tubuh mengerikan itu terlihat lagi. Sang kakak terkejut untuk kedua kalinya dan juga memasang wajah yang serupa.

Terkejut tanpa mengeluarkan suara sama sekali.

Kedua kalinya, ia terbangun lagi dari tidur dengan kondisi yang buruk. Kelelahan, berkeringat, dan gemetar luar biasa.

Hanya saja, kali ini berbeda.

“Kakak, adek pulang.” Teriak adiknya yang baru saja pulang.

Itu suara adek!

Adiknya itu mengetuk-ngetuk pintu kamar kakaknya. “Adek masuk, ya.”

Dan saat pintu itu terbuka, terlihat adiknya sedang membawa makanan dengan pakaian bebasnya.

“Adek! … Kenapa kamu menggunakan baju bebas? Bagaimana dengan uji—annya …? Adek?” ucapannya terpotong karena bingung.

Entah apa yang terjadi, sang adik memasang wajah ketakutan. Ia berjalan mundur perlahan-lahan dan tersandung jatuh. “Ka-kakak ….” Ia menutup mulutnya. Seakan-akan ingin berteriak, tetapi ia tak sanggup untuk melakukannya.

Semua itu terlihat jelas oleh sang kakak. Seolah-olah sang adik, baru saja melihat hantu atau hal mengerikan lainnya.

Kakaknya mencoba menghampiri adiknya. Dan saat ia mencoba untuk menyentuh adiknya. Lengannya itu menembus tubuh adiknya.

Menembus?!

“Adek! Apa kau mendengarkanku?!” teriak sang kakak.

Apa yang terjadi … dia tidak bisa mendengarku.

Mencoba untuk melihat, apa yang dilihat oleh adiknya. Dan saat melihatnya, sang kakak merasakan mual yang luar biasa. Ia baru saja melihat pemandangan mengerikan. Dengan reflek menutup matanya karena tak kuat untuk melihatnya.

Apa-apaan lagi itu!

Saat sang kakak membuka matanya kembali, seluruhnya menjadi hitam.

Lalu, terdengar suara kereta yang entah dari mana asalnya.

Depan?

Belakang?

Samping?

Tidak, kereta itu berasal dari bawah. Menabrak tubuh sang kakak dengan begitu keras. Seolah-olah terdengar suara balon pecah dengan begitu kencang. Dan rasa dingin darah yang melumuri sekujur tubuh.

Dan mungkin, untuk terakhir kalinya … Sang kakak terbangun dari tidurnya.

Ia langsung memegangi lehernya, melihat seluruh tubuhnya. “A-aku … tidak apa-apa.”

Napasnya itu menjadi sangat tidak teratur.

Mimpi yang luar biasa mengerikan!

“Apa-apaan mimpi tadi itu … Kepalaku menjadi sangat pusing.” Mencoba untuk menenangkan dulu kondisinya.

Tak lama dari sana, ia teringat harus menjemput adiknya.

Benar juga, aku harus menjemput adikku.

Sang kakak langsung pergi menuju sekolah adiknya menggunakan motor yang disimpan dalam garasi. “Aku sudah terlambat.”

Adikku pasti sudah menungguku.

Ia pergi begitu saja, seolah-olah sebelumnya tidak terjadi apa-apa. 

Sepanjang perjalanan, udara menjadi terasa semakin dingin. Langit-langit pun menggelap. Seolah-olah hal buruk akan segera terjadi.

Apakah aku masih di dalam mimpi? Sepertinya tidak. Kali ini semuanya terasa sangat nyata.

Benar, nyata.

Sesampainya di sekolah sang adik, ia melihat banyak sekali orang berdiam diri di depan gerbang.

Kakak!” terdengar suara samar-samar memanggil sang kakak.

Melihat ke segala arah, “Adek?!”

Tanpa pikir panjang, sang kakak langsung memarkirkan motornya di depan gerbang sekolah.

“Permisi!” ia menerjang masuk ke dalam sekolah.

“Katanya ada seorang murid yang terbunuh akibat mengagalkan rencana pembakaran sekolah.” Terdengar bisikan yang memasuki telinga sang kakak.

Sang kakak, saat tiba di tempat kejadian. Dia benar-benar bingung, ekspresi apa yang harus dipasang. Dia melihat tubuh adiknya sudah berlumuran darah di tanah. Seolah-olah baru saja terjatuh dari lantai atas.

Bentuk tubuhnya sudah tidak karuan.

Kedua kaki sang kakak melemas. Kepalanya merasakan pusing yang luar biasa. Rasa mual pun membuat dirinya muntah.

Rasanya ingin berteriak. Tetapi, mulutnya itu terasa seperti tidak bisa terbuka.

Dan untuk seketika, dia melihat bayangan adiknya dalam mimpi. Dia mengingat semua mimpinya tersebut.

“Murid ini terjatuh karena ada yang mendorongnya —”

“Awalnya murid ini dikejar-kejar oleh pelaku hingga lantai atas.”

Bisikan-bisikan tersebut membuat darah sang kakak mendidih dan mengalir cepat. Rasanya seperti kepala ingin meledak begitu saja.

“Pelakunya itu adalah seorang mantan guru.”

“Benarkah?”

“Mengerikan.”

“Dan katanya ia berhasil melarikan diri sebelum polisi datang kemari.”

Seorang mantan guru di sekolah ini, ya … — sang kakak sudah tidak bisa berpikir dengan jernih lagi.

Perlahan ia maju, mendekati mayat adiknya itu. Para polisi yang berada di lokasi mencoba untuk menahan orang-orang untuk tidak mendokumentasikannya.

Sedikit demi sedikit, memori adiknya itu muncul dalam pikiran sang kakak. Air mata sudah tak kuasa terbendung. Semua emosi mengalir begitu saja.

Polisi di sana mencoba untuk menahan sang kakak agar tidak mendekati adiknya itu.

“Tenanglah, nak!” para polisi menahan tubuhnya sang kakak.

Dengan tubuhnya yang sudah di luar kendali, sang kakak memukul dan membanting para polisi dengan begitu mudahnya.

“Hei, nak!”

“Hentikan.” Seorang komandan meminta para polisi untuk berhenti. Dia paham dengan apa yang terjadi.

Sang kakak berhasil mendekati mayat adiknya. Ia memandang ke bawah, bertekuk. Tangisannya itu membersihkan wajah sang adik dari simbah darah.

“Adek ….”

Ia mengepalkan tangannya. Memukulkan tangan itu dengan keras ke tanah. Bahkan, hingga tangannya itu mengalami luka sobek yang cukup serius.

Dia berteriak dengan begitu kencang.

“Arghh! Sialan! Aaaa!! Sialan! Sialan! Sialan!!! Aku benci semua ini!”

Dengan pukulan terakhirnya ia terjatuh tepat di samping adiknya.

Orang-orang berhenti ribut setelah melihat sang kakak, berteriak begitu kencang sembari memukulkan tangannya ke tanah.

Aku benci diri sendiri yang tidak mampu melindungi adikku.

Kesedihan dan kemarahan sang kakak terlukis pada langit yang semakin gelap. Tidak ada cahaya matahari yang menembus. Gemuruh pun semakin kencang.

Ia mencoba bangun, duduk di samping adiknya. Meraih tangannya yang bahkan sudah tidak terhubung dengan tubuhnya.

Hujan turun dengan begitu deras. Menyapu habis darah yang ada di tanah dan juga tubuh sang adik. Air yang jatuh juga menutupi kesedihan dan gemuruh menghalangi jeritan sang kakak.

Komandan yang tadi menghampiri sang kakak, “Nak.” Dirinya itu terkejut melihat pemuda itu memiliki tatapan kosong.

“Sadarlah,” ucap komandan tersebut.

Sang kakak menghempaskan tangan komandan tersebut. “Minggirlah.”

Tunggu saja, dek. Aku akan membalaskan dendammu.

~***~

Pemakaman berlangsung dengan dihadiri banyak orang, termasuk juga para pedagang. Pasar dibuat tutup sementara hanya untuk mendatangi acara ini. Semua orang memasang wajah sedih. Mereka kehilangan sosok yang membuat tempat mereka menjadi lebih bahagia.

Sang kakak hanya melihatnya dari kejauhan.

Tepat setelah sang adik dimasukkan kedalam liang lahat, sang kakak pergi dari makam tersebut. Pergi mencari jejak dari pembunuh adiknya tersebut.

Sudah tak ada kehidupan dalam tatapan sang kakak.

Setiap dia diganggu oleh preman. Dia memukulinya hingga para preman itu tidak sadarkan diri.

Pasar, bawah jembatan, hingga gang sempit, semua tempat itu dia lewati tiap malamnya. Mencari bukti dan seluruh informasi mengenai pembunuh adiknya.

“Majulah.” Sang Kakak meremehkan seluruh preman yang menghalangi jalannya.

Para preman merasa kesal karena telah diremehkan. Mereka semua maju bersama menerjang sang kakak.

“Hiyaa!” seorang preman mencoba untuk menusuk.

Tapi serangan lurus seperti itu sangat mudah untuk dihindari dengan cara menggerakkan tubuh ke samping. Sang kakak jongkok menghindari tendangan menuju kepalanya. Ia juga melompat, menghindari serangan sapuan.

Tiga orang preman itu gagal menyerang sang kakak.

Bukan menangkisnya atau membalasnya, sang kakak hanya menghindarinya dengan santai bahkan tanpa menggerakkan tangannya. Tanpa reaksi sama sekali.

“Kali ini, biar aku yang maju.”

Dengan pose seperti ingin menendang ke arah atas, si preman mencoba untuk menghindari tendangannya. Alhasil terjatuh ke belakang. Hanya saja, itu bukanlah bentuk tendangan ke arah atas. Tetapi, tipuan untuk menyapu kakinya.

Tepat sebelum preman itu jatuh. Temannya datang untuk menangkap dan menghentikan pergerakkan sang kakak. Ia memeluknya dengan begitu keras. Preman satunya lagi mencoba untuk memukul sang kakak yang ditangkap.

Pukulannya itu tidak akan pernah sampai, karena ditangkis menggunakan kakinya. Terhempas dengan keras ke atas. Dilanjutkan dengan menginjak kaki preman yang memeganginya.

Injakkannya itu terasa sangat keras. Terdengar suara retakan atau dislokasi seperti plastic warp yang diremas begitu keras. “Aaaaa!!! Sakit!” Preman itu berteriak.

“Aku tak ingin membuang waktuku lagi. Katakan di mana bajingan pembunuh itu?!” sembari menginjak tangannya.

“Aaa! Sialan! Mana aku tahu!” preman itu berteriak dengan sangat keras.

“Tidak berguna.” Menendang kepalanya hingga terpingsan.

Sial, kemana lagi aku harus mencarinya!

Pakaian dan wajahnya sudah lusuh seperti orang yang tidak pernah merawat dirinya sendiri. Dirinya terlalu sibuk untuk mengejar dendamnya itu.

Saat di rumah pun, dia hanya melakukan pekerjaannya demi mendapatkan uang. Dan uangnya tersebut digunakan untuk mencari keberadaan pembunuh tersebut. Ia membayar mata-mata, polisi, bahkan pembunuh bayaran demi mendapatkannya.

Sudah sekitar 10 hari berlalu pencarian jejak pembunuh tersebut.

Selesai dirinya merekap seluruh informasi yang dia dapat. Akhirnya tujuan yang diincar sudah terlihat jelas.

Tepat pada pukul 19.00, dirinya itu pergi menuju kota sebelah. Kereta mengantarkan keberadaannya itu pada tujuan akhirnya.

Entah apa yang terjadi, saat dirinya keluar melewati pintu kereta. Kenangan? Nostalgia? Rasa rindu? Semuanya itu terasa pada dadanya. Seakan-akan ombak itu membasahi hatinya yang mengering.

Perasaan ini?! Adek? — sang kakak menoleh ke segala arah. Mencari rasa ketidakjelasan tersebut.

Hanya bayangan saja? Mungkin.

Sang kakak melanjutkan perjalanannya di bawah sinar rembulan. Berjalan di tempat yang bahkan tidak ia ketahui medannya.

Penginapan, ya … sepertinya aku tidak memiliki waktu untuk itu.

Di sepanjang perjalanan menuju tempat tujuannya. Rasa tadi terpikirkan oleh sang kakak hingga sekarang.

Yang tadi itu … apa? Entah kenapa aku merasakan kehadiran adikku. Tapi secara bersamaan, aku tidak merasakannya juga.

Sang kakak akhirnya tiba di tempat yang dia tuju.

“Sebuah bar. Di sini, ya.” Sang kakak masuk ke dalam tempat yang penuh dengan warna neon dan suara musik yang sangat keras.

Aku benci tempat ini.

Sang kakak berjalan ke tempat bartender berada.

“Ada yang bisa saya bantu, Pengunjung Baru?”

Dia bisa menyadarinya.

“Kalau begitu …” Sang kakak berpikir minuman yang sekiranya tidak akan membuat dirinya mabuk.

Mungkin sedikit alkohol tidak masalah.

“… Mai Tai saja kalau begitu.”

Bartender itu seolah-olah terkejut, “Tuan Muda ini memiliki selera yang lumayan berbeda, ya. Mohon tunggu sebentar.”

Selagi menunggu bartender membuat minumannya, sang kakak memerhatikan sekitarnya. Dia mencoba untuk memahami medan yang ada di sana.

Aku belum melihatnya sama sekali. Seharusnya dia di sini pukul 12 malam — melihat ke arah jam tangan yang menunjukkan pukul tepat jam 12 malam.

“Silahkan dinikmati, Tuan Muda.”

“Terima kasih.”

Tanpa basa-basi lagi, bartender tadi menanyakan sesuatu kepada sang kakak. “Apakah Tuan Muda ini sedang mencari sesuatu?”

“Ah, tidak. Hanya saja saya takjub dengan tempat ini.” Sang kakak hanya basa-basi karena tidak ingin ketahuan kedoknya.

“Tenang saja, jika Tuan Muda ingin melakukan kerusuhan di sini.”

Sang kakak langsung fokus melihat bartender tadi, “Kakek bartender ini sepertinya ahli membaca pikiran, ya.”

“Wajahmu—tidak, sorot matamu itu benar-benar kosong. Seolah-olah bukan sedang menatap yang ada dihadapanmu. Sepertinya Tuan Muda sedang mengalami masalah,” ucap bartender sembari mengelap gelas-gelas.

“Tidak, aku tidak apa-apa. Terima ka—” ucapannya terpotong.

Seorang pria tua tiba-tiba berteriak di samping sang kakak. “Pak Tua! Saya ingin Vodka yang seperti biasa.”

“Baiklah,” jawab bartender sembari melihat ekspresi sang kakak yang tiba-tiba terkejut mendengar suaranya.

Tiba-tiba suasananya menjadi sangat canggung. Sang kakak benar-benar bertemu dengan targetnya — lebih tepatnya, targetnya menghampiri dirinya.

“Lama tidak bertemu.” Pria di sampingnya itu memulai pembicaraan lebih dulu.

Sang kakak mendengarnya, tapi tidak mengacuhkan apa yang dikatakan pria tersebut.

“Seperti yang sudah ketahui dan sadari, aku adalah pembunuh dari adikmu.”

Menahan amarahnya dengan begitu keras.

“Aku sudah mengetahui bahwa kau akan kemari. Dan mungkin ini akan menjadi kesempatan terakhirku untuk meminta maaf.” Pria itu menghadap ke arah sang kakak dan mengucapkan permohonan maaf, “Maafkan aku …”

“… Jujur saja, aku tidak menduga hal tersebut akan terjadi. Karena niat awalku hanyalah ingin membakar gudang tersebut.”

“Selain itu, aku tahu bahwa kau datang kemari dengan bermaksud untuk balas dendam dan membunuhku.”

“Tapi, seperti yang seharusnya sudah kau ketahui juga. Aku tidak akan berdiam diri jika kau berniat seperti itu.” Pria itu mengangkat kepalanya.

Seketika para pengunjung di dalam bar berdiri dan menghadap ke arah sang kakak.

Kepalannya itu melemas, lalu ia mengambil minumannya. Ia meminumnya seteguk.

“Seharusnya kau sudah mengetahuinya juga, bahwa aku tidak akan memaafkanmu. Dan sepertinya, kau salah mengartikan,” ucap sang kakak. Ia berdiri dan mengatakan sesuatu, “Aku tidak hanya akan membunuhmu, tapi aku akan membunuh semuanya.”

Orang-orang di sana tertawa mendengar apa yang dikatakannya. Terkesan melawak saat dirinya mengucapkan demikian. Tapi tidak ada bentuk bercanda dalam setiap ucapannya.

Yang tidak tertawa hanyalah bartender dan pria tersebut.

Seorang pria dengan badan kekar memegang bahu sang kakak, “Hahaha! Nak, lebih baik kam—” Namun, ucapannya terpotong.

Sang kakak memegang lalu mengunci tangannya. Dan mematahkannya menggunakan sikut. Seperti sedang mematahkan kayu atau batu bata. Suaranya terdengar sangat jelas. Suara itu membuat seisi bar itu terdiam.

Pria kekar tersebut menjerit-jerit karena lengannya baru saja patah.

“Seperti bayi,” ucap sang kakak sembari menendang wajah pria kekar itu untuk membungkam mulutnya.

Sang kakak menarik rambutnya lalu memukuli kepalanya hingga benar-benar tak sadarkan diri.

“Hei, pembunuh! Lebih baik kau minum minumanmu. Karena mungkin, minuman itu akan menjadi kenikmatan terakhirmu,” remeh sang kakak.

Seisi bar merasa kesal dengan ucapannya tersebut. Hal itu membuat semuanya menyerang bersamaan ke arah sang kakak.

Satu … Lima … Dua belas, ya? — mencoba untuk menghitung orang yang maju.

Ia menghindari dan menangkis semua serangan yang datang. “Orang dewasa benar-benar lemah.”

Semakin lama waktu berjalan, sang kakak semakin meremehkan orang-orang. Perbedaannya, ucapan yang dia sebutnya itu bukanlah bualan semata.

Karena ….

“Satu,” ucap sang kakak.

… dari apa yang dilihat pun, dia memang benar-benar dapat mengalahkan semuanya seorang diri.

Satu orang telah tumbang. Hanya cukup dengan satu pukulan, ia mengalahkan satu orang di saat semua orang menyerangnya.

“Sialan!” Tak tahu sebabnya, tapi mereka merasa sulit untuk mengalahkan anak tersebut.

Tanpa kata-kata dan reaksi sedikitpun, sang kakak mulai menyerang lagi. Menerjang dengan begitu cepat. Melayangkan hantaman keras pada orang di sampingnya.

“Dua,” menghitung orang yang sudah ditumbangkannya. “Aku sarankan, kalian mengeluarkan senjata kalian. Mustahil untuk mengalahkanku dengan tangan kosong.”

Dari sana, mereka mulai mengeluarkan baton, pisau lipat, senjata tajam lainnya.

Hanya saja, semua itu sia-sia. Sang kakak berhasil mengalahkan keduabelas pria tersebut dengan tangan kosong. 

Melelahkan.

Napas sang kakak menjadi kurang teratur, “Haah … hah ….”

Terdengar suara tepuk tangan yang sangat elegan, “Luar biasa,” ujar sang bartender. “Kau adalah pertama kalinya yang selamat di dalam barku ini.”

“Apa maksudmu?” tanya sang kakak.

Bartender itu menggeleng-gelengkan kepalanya, “Tidak penting pertanyaanmu. Saat ini, semua yang kau inginkan berada di atas kediaman ini.”

Benar sekali! Aku mencari pembunuh adikku!

Dengan reflek, sang kakak berlari ke atas melalui tangga darurat.

Semua pilihan tergantung pada tekadmu, Nak — pikir sang bartender.

Sesampainya di atap, sang kakak melihat pembunuh itu menodongkan senjata kepadanya. “Berhenti di sana.”

Udara malam terasa sangat dingin di atas sana. Berbanding terbalik dengan suasananya. Cahaya bulan tertutup awan-awan yang lewat. Hanya ada pencahayaan dari lampu.

“Apa kau berpikir untuk mengakhiri hidupku juga?” tanya sang kakak.

“Aku … tidak peduli dengan orang lain.”

“Apakah kau berpikir bahwa peluru itu dapat mengenaiku?” tanya kembali.

Sang pembunuh menembakkan tembakannya tepat di samping kaki kakak. Tembakan dengan niat untuk membuat sang kakak gemetar ketakutan.

Nyatanya, bergeming saja tidak. Sang kakak berdiam membatu. Seolah-olah sudah mengetahui, bahwa pelurunya memang tidak akan mengenainya.

Berjalan mendekati sang penjahat.

Lagaknya seperti seseorang yang sudah memenangi pertarungannya.

Penjahat itu terus menodongkan senjata ke arah kakak.

Dengan tak acuh, kakak terus berjalan. Hingga senjata apinya itu menempel pada dahinya.

“Sekarang, bunuhlah aku.”

Keadaan itu membuat detak jantung sang penjahat berdegup begitu kencang. Ia melihat tatapan sang kakak yang begitu mengerikan. Tatapan yang begitu dalam, seperti jurang yang tidak berdasar.

Tangannya gemetar. Ia tidak bisa memegang senjatanya dengan benar.

“Kenapa? Bukankah kau tinggal menembaknya?”

Semuanya hening begitu saja.

“Jika kau tidak mau, maka … biarkan aku saja.” Sang kakak menyiapkan kuda-kuda. Lalu menendang sang penjahat dengan begitu keras ke arah depan. Senjata apinya pun terlempar.

Tendangan itu tidak menghasilkan rasa sakit. Tetapi dorongannya sangat kuat. Penjahat itu terpental hingga hampir jatuh dari bangunan. Ia berhasil selamat. Menggantung pada sisi-sisi gedung.

Penjahat itu merasa kesulitan.

“Bagaimana rasanya menggantung dari ketinggian ini? Menyenangkan bukan?”

Sang kakak menginjak penjahat tersebut, berharap untuk penjahat itu jatuh.

Tetapi, ia terpikirkan ide yang menarik. Sang kakak mengambil senjata api yang terlempar sebelumnya. Dan ia menyodorkannya pada mulut penjahat tersebut.

“Kalau begini,” ujar sang kakak mendorong senjata api itu ke dalam mulut penjahat.

Mulut penjahat yang tertutup senjata api itu terus bersuara.

Sang kakak tidak peduli dan tak ingin membuang waktu lagi, “Baiklah, selamat tinggal.”

Dor!

Terdengar suara tembakan yang cukup keras di tengah-tengah malam yang hening.

Sang penjahat jatuh. Tubuhnya berserakkan. Darah, organ dalam, dan segala isinya keluar, mengotori jalanan di sana. Suara tulang yang patah, kepala yang pecah serasa menggema di sekitar jalan tersebut.

Tidak ada siapa-siapa di sana.

“Akhirnya … selesai. Dendam terpenuhi.”

Semuanya berakhir begitu saja.

Sang kakak kembali ke rumahnya.

~***~

Sepanjang perjalanan pulang, sang kakak sudah membulatkan niatnya untuk terus berdiam diri di dalam kamar. Khawatir akan pihak berwajib akan mencarinya.

Ia pulang menggunakan kereta yang serupa pada pagi harinya. Sebelum pulang, ia meninggalkan sedikit uang untuk bar yang sebelumnya ia rusak saat pertarungan semalam.

Dan sesampainya di rumah. Ia benar-benar termenung melihat rumahnya.

Sangat ingin dia mengatakan, “Kakak pulang, dek.” Tapi, semua itu sudah tidak bisa dia lakukan kembali.

Saat ini, semuanya hanyalah kenangan.

Dia berjalan masuk ke dalam rumah. Tetapi saat dia melewati pintu rumahnya, dia merasakan perasaan yang serupa saat dirinya turun dari kereta. Ia merasakan perasaan yang membasahi kedua bola matanya. Air mata mengalir begitu saja.

Entah kenapa aku merasakan adikku lagi di sini — sang kakak mengusap-ngusap matanya.

Sialan kau Tuhan.

~***~

Lima tahun berlalu.

Waktu selama itu hanya dihabiskan untuk menghilangkan kesedihan sang kakak.

Sang kakak mencoba untuk keluar dari rumah tersebut.

Ia menarik napas begitu panjang. Tersenyum dengan begitu lebar, seakan-akan kejadian lima tahun lalu itu hanyalah sebuah karangan fiksi belaka.

Dengan keadaan mentalnya saat ini, mungkin dia sudah bisa mendatangi makam adiknya.

Sebelum itu, dia pergi ke sebuah barbershop untuk merapikan rambut panjangnya yang tidak pernah dicukur. Seluruh kesedihan yang dia rasakan selama ini, terlepas begitu saja bersamaan dengan rambut-rambutnya.

Ia menggunakan pakaian serba hitam dengan keranjang bunga di tangan kanannya.

“Halo, adek! Lama tidak berjumpa.”

Sang kakak merapikan makam adiknya. Ia mencabut rumput-rumput yang tumbuh di sana. Menyiraminya dengan air dan menaburkan bunga yang ia bawa sebelumnya.

Untuk pertama kalinya, ia mencium nisan yang bertuliskan nama adiknya.

Seluruh perasaan rindu, ia lampiaskan tepat di atas makam adiknya.

Dan lagi-lagi, ia tiba-tiba merasakan kehadiran adiknya. Tidak hanya merasakannya. Tetapi hanya untuk sesaat, ia melihat sang adik di hadapannya sedang menatap nisan yang sama.

Bayangan itu hilang kembali.

Perasaan rindu dalam diri sang kakak terpancing keluar. Dan perasaan rindu itu terwujudkan pada senyum sang kakak yang tulus.

Setelah dari pemakaman, ia berjalan ke arah sekolah adiknya.

Ia berbicara dengan satpam yang ada di sana. Dan satpam mengizinkan dia masuk.

Saat itu, lokasi di mana nyawa sang adik direnggut menjadi tempat orang-orang mendoakan adiknya. Sang kakak merasa senang, bahwa kejadian itu tidak menjadikan sebuah trauma bagi orang dan murid lainnya.

Sang kakak pun bertemu dengan para guru dan kepala sekolah di sana. Ia mengucapkan terima kasih atas semua yang telah mereka lakukan untuk adiknya.

Dari sekolah itu, sang kakak berniat untuk berjalan pulang.

Hanya saja, untuk ke sekian kalinya. Ia merasakan kehadiran adiknya kembali.

Berbeda dengan sebelumnya. Perasaannya tergoncangkan begitu kencang, seakan-akan sang adik benar-benar berada di sisinya. Tangannya merasa menyentuh sesuatu. Saat memperhatikan sekitarnya, ia tidak melihat siapapun.

Perjalanan pulang.

Ia melewati jalan di mana kereta harus melewati jalur tersebut.

Palang kereta turun menutupi jalan. Dan suara sirinenya memperingati agar orang-orang tidak melewati palang tersebut.

Langit tertutupi dengan awan-awan gelap. Dan rintikan hujan mulai turun.

Seandainya orang tahu. Saat ini, sebenarnya sang kakak berusaha untuk menegarkan hatinya. Membendung seluruh air mata yang hampir membludak.

Hujan deras pun turun setelah gemuruh keras terdengar.

Kereta pun masih melaju di hadapan sang kakak.

Seluruh suara itu mengingatkan saat dia mengantarkan adiknya menuju sekolah. Dan saat ini, dia berharap bahwa saat itu ia menjemput dan pulang bersama adiknya.

Perasaan yang ia tahan tak sengaja membludak begitu saja. Tangisan mengalir deras bersamaan dengan hujan yang membasahi tubuhnya. Teriakannya tertutupi oleh kerasnya gemuruh dan kereta yang lewat.

Apakah lebih baik aku mengakhiri hidupku di sini?

Aku sudah tidak memiliki tujuan lain.

Bahkan, aku sudah tidak tahu lagi apa yang harus kulakukan.

Ia melihat ke depan, kereta melaju dengan begitu cepat. Sang kakak membayangkan dirinya akan tertabrak pada kereta tersebut. Ia mengulurkan tangannya ke depan. Berharap kematian menjemput dirinya.

Mungkin lebih baik aku menutup mataku.

“Kak ….” Terdengar suara samar.

“Kakak!”

Sang kakak membuka matanya. Hujan di sana tiba-tiba berhenti. Tetapi, kereta tetap melaju dengan cepat di hadapannya. Langit terlihat begitu cerah.

Berbeda pada saat awal. Sang kakak menoleh ke arah samping saat bajunya digenggam erat oleh seseorang.

Air mata menitik ke tanah. Sang kakak terdiam membatu saat melihat adiknya berada di sampingnya. Tidak serupa dengan yang lain. Air mata ini bukanlah air mata kesedihan, melainkan air mata kebahagiaan.

“Kakak? Kenapa, kak?”

Aaahhh … perasaan apa ini. Aku tidak pernah merasa sebahagia ini sepanjang hidupku.

“Adek.”

“Ya, kak?”

“Apapun yang terjadi, kakak akan selalu berada di sampingmu.” Sang kakak mengucapkan apa yang sebelumnya hanya ia katakan dalam hatinya.


Penulis: Garpit

From that Rainy Day, let’s Live.

Entri Writchal #1

Tema: Drama, Tragedy, Time Travel, Romance


Gruuuk. Gruuk. 

Langit mendung seperti biasanya. Musim hujan seperti sekarang ini membuat keseharianku jadi muram. Matahari yang bersembunyi di balik awan membuat udara dan angin yang berembus berasa menusuk sampai tulang. Aku bersedekap dengan erat, berusaha mencari kehangatan dalam jaket tebal yang sedang kupakai. 

Aku sedang menunggu bus umum yang sering kunaiki sepulang kerja. Entah mengapa, sepertinya jadwal untuk hari ini terlambat—aku sudah menunggu di halte ini setengah jam lebih lama dari jadwal kedatangan bus itu. Smartphone milikku juga habis baterainya, jadi aku hanya bisa duduk melamun menatapi langit yang kelabu. 

Lamunanku baru terpecah ketika tetes pertama air hujan jatuh mengenai atap halte, membuat bunyi yang cukup nyaring. Setelah itu diikuti jutaan tetes selanjutnya yang membasahi semuanya. Hujan langsung turun dengan derasnya, dan aku pun kembali terhanyut dalam lamunanku seiring indra pendengaranku sedang penuh oleh riuh hujan. 

Pikiranku melayang ke mana-mana. Dalam satu kesempatan, aku mulai mengingat hal hal di masa lalu. 

Benar. Dulu, saat itu kondisinya juga seperti ini. Hujan deras sedang mengguyur tanpa ampun di halte ini. Saat itu… apa yang sedang kulakukan, ya? 

Ah, itu. Saat pertama kali aku berada di halte ini. Sudah berapa tahun yang lalu, ya? Aku sudah lupa banyak detailnya. Saat itu, aku bertemu dengannya. Kalau sekarang mengingatnya, bagaimana aku menyebutnya, ya… 

Itu adalah cinta pertamaku, sekaligus terakhirku. 

Sembari hujan yang terus mengguyur, aku terus membayangkan soal hari itu. Aku masih tidak tahu harus merasa seperti apa soal yang terjadi di hari itu. 

Saat itu, aku bersama kedua orang tuaku sedang belanja bersama ke sebuah swalayan yang tak terlalu jauh dari rumah. Tapi sialnya, hari cepat berubah mendung ketika kami pulang dan kami semua lupa membawa payung. Begitu hujan turun deras dengan cepat, kami segera berteduh di halte bus terdekat. Saat itu, tidak ada orang lain selain kami bertiga di sana. 

Deru hujan yang memenuhi telinga membuatku hampir tidak bisa mendengar apa-apa saat itu—bahkan aku dan kedua orang tuaku harus berteriak untuk bisa berbicara satu sama lain. Karena situasi menjadi seperti ini, aku memutuskan untuk tidur sejenak saat itu—orang tuaku yang akan menjaga barang bawaan kami. 

Namun begitu aku bangun, ternyata kedua orang tuaku malah sudah terlelap di tempatnya masing-masing. Begitu kupikir sekarang, perbuatan itu sebenarnya cukup lalai juga, ya. Setelah itu, barulah itu terjadi. Pertemuan yang ditakdirkan, yang masih kuingat sampai sekarang. 

Yah, sebenarnya itu bukan sebuah pertemuan juga. Lebih ke, aku hanya seenaknya mencuri pandang dari kejauhan. Seorang gadis yang sedang berjalan perlahan menembus hujan tanpa menggunakan payung di trotoar. Saat itu, aku baru saja bangun dari tidurku di halte itu dan sejak tatapanku menangkap sosoknya, seluruh rasa kantukku langsung hilang. Seperti aku terbiuskan oleh parasnya saat itu. 

Ia mengenakan hoodie yang tudungnya dinaikkan, dengan kedua tangannya dimasukkan ke dalam saku hoodie tersebut. Ia berjalan sambil sedikit menundukkan kepalanya, rambut hitam panjangnya yang terurai basah kuyup. Ia hanya menatap trotoar di depannya dengan lesu. Namun, justru itu yang sangat menarik perhatianku di saat itu. Parasnya yang memesona nan misterius saat itu bak sihir yang langsung membuatku jatuh hati seketika. 

Pada saat itu, aku hanya melamun dan memerhatikan sosoknya dari tempat dudukku tanpa bergerak sedikitpun. Namun, yang terjadi setelah itu masih belum pernah kulupakan hingga hari ini. 

Di saat aku masih melamun memandangi gadis itu, aku sama sekali tidak menyadari banyak hal di sekitar. Lampu lalu lintas masih dalam keadaan hijau, meskipun kendaraan yang lewat cenderung sepi. Gadis itu menyeberang jalan begitu saja tanpa menoleh ke kanan-kiri terlebih dahulu ataupun memerhatikan lampu lalu-lintas. Lalu… 

Ah. Aku benar-benar tidak ingin mengingatnya. Tapi apapun yang kulakukan, ingatan ini tak pernah bisa hilang dari dalam kepalaku. 

Begitulah kisah cinta pertamaku berakhir tragis begitu saja. Setelah itu, aku terus tumbuh besar tanpa pernah beruntung dalam kisah cintaku. Semua hubungan yang kujalani maupun itu di sekolah, kuliah, ataupun di kantor tempatku bekerja tak pernah ada yang berhasil. Hingga saat ini, aku terus berharap agar bisa tahu bagaimana rasanya untuk berada di dalam sebuah hubungan romantis. 

Keadaan keluargaku juga tidak membantu. Memang saat aku masih kecil, kedua orang tuaku masih seperti orang tua pada biasanya yang sayang kepada anaknya. Namun, semuanya berubah ketika aku mulai memasuki jenjang sekolah yang semakin tinggi. Dengan nilai pelajaranku yang cukup bagus, kedua orang tuaku jadi semakin memasang ekspektasi kepadaku. Kamu harus jadi ini, kamu harus jadi itu. Aku sampai bosan mendengarnya. Mereka jadi sering memarahiku hampir setiap hari, bahkan terkadang sampai menggunakan kekerasan. Aku bukannya menyalahkan mereka, tapi keluargaku memang dulunya kurang berkecukupan. Maksudku, siapa yang tidak ingin anaknya yang pintar dapat bekerja dengan gaji besar yang dapat membantu keuangan keluarganya yang hanya pas-pasan? 

Hingga sekarang, hubunganku dengan kedua orang tuaku masih tidak akur dan sudah tidak bertemu selama bertahun-tahun. Aku tidak berhasil memenuhi ekspektasi mereka dan hanya bisa menjadi pegawai kantoran. Setiap kali aku mengirim uang bulanan kepada mereka, aku selalu mengirimnya dengan berat hati. Aku mungkin anak yang tidak baik di pandangan orang lain, tapi aku sendiri juga jujur tidak tahu harus bagaimana. Aku tidak bisa melawan balik, dan aku juga tetaplah selamanya seorang anak. Aku hanya melakukan apa yang harus kulakukan. 

Huaaaah. 

Aku menghela napas panjang. Lumayan lama juga aku bernostalgia soal masa lalu. Tiap kali aku duduk di halte ini dan hujan mulai mengguyur, aku selalu seperti ini. Hanya bisa melihat kembali ke masa lalu sembari tersenyum takzim soal semuanya yang sudah terjadi. Sekarang pun sama saja. Sekarang tinggal menunggu kedatangan bus yang sudah terlambat hampir sejam untuk sekarang. 

“Hei, kamu.”

Aku terkejut. Tiba-tiba ada suara seseorang di telingaku. Aku refleks menoleh ke kanan-kiriku. Tidak ada siapa-siapa. 

“Iya, kamu.” 

Aku refleks bergeser dari tempatku duduk. Aku juga langsung melihat ke kanan dan kiri. Tidak ada siapa-siapa? 

“Kamu lihat ke mana?” 

Sekarang, aku hanya bisa mematung di tempatku duduk. Keringat dingin mulai mengucur deras di sekujur tubuhku. Aku benar-benar tidak tahu asal suara ini datang dari mana, namun jelas-jelas tidak ada satu orangpun di sekitarku sekarang dan suara misterius ini terdengar sangat jelas di tengah deru hujan ini. 

“Tak perlu untuk panik. Aku bukan di sini untuk menakutimu.” 

Aku mulai memberanikan diri. “S-siapa Anda?” tanyaku dengan lirih. 

“Siapa? Aku hanyalah suara dalam kepalamu. Kamu tak perlu tahu apapun soal diriku. Aku hanya mampir untuk bertanya padamu satu hal.” 

Aku semakin bingung dengan suara misterius ini. Rasanya sulit untuk memahami apa yang terjadi pada diriku sekarang, namun lebih baik aku tidak mengambil langkah gegabah— ikuti saja alur pembicaraannya untuk sekarang. Aku menangkupkan kedua tangan di daguku. 

“Baiklah, apa yang ingin Anda tanyakan?” 

“Katakan, wahai manusia. Andaikan waktu bisa diputar kembali, apa yang ingin kamu lakukan dengan itu?” 

Oke, sekarang aku benar-benar bingung. Namun aku tetap berusaha untuk menjaga napasku agar tetap normal dan tidak panik. “Andai waktu bisa kembali, ya. Kurasa tidak ada,” jawabku sekenanya. 

“Oh? Tidak ada? Mengapa begitu?” 

“Yah, lagipula aku yang sekarang dibentuk dari aku yang berasal dari masa lalu. Aku sudah merasa cukup dengan kehidupanku yang sekarang. Apabila masa lalu itu berubah, justru aku tidak akan menjadi aku yang sekarang, kan?” 

“Hm, menarik. Akan tetapi, apakah kamu yakin dengan itu?” 

“Ya, aku cukup yakin.” 

“Kamu yakin tidak memiliki penyesalan? Atau apapun itu di masa lalu?” 

Setelah suara itu menyinggung soal ‘penyesalan’, aku langsung teringat oleh sesuatu. “Yah, kalau penyesalan, mungkin ada.” 

“Kalau begitu, kembali lagi. Andai waktu bisa diputar kembali, apakah kamu ingin memperbaiki semuanya? Penyesalan yang kamu miliki sekarang ini?” 

Aku tak habis pikir. Perkataan suara misterius ini dari tadi tidak masuk akal, namun entah mengapa rasanya aku tidak bisa mengabaikannya. 

“Maksudmu, aku akan kembali ke masa lalu, begitu? Bukannya itu tidak mungkin?” “Hm? Tidak mungkin? Mungkin, kok.” 

Aku jadi semakin tidak percaya. Perasaanku semakin gelisah. 

“Aku bisa membuktikannya. Coba kamu pejamkan matamu sekarang.” 

Aku semakin takut, tapi aku sepertinya tak punya pilihan lain untuk saat ini. Kupejamkan mataku. 

“Sekarang, buka matamu.” 

Sebelum kubuka mataku, aku merasakan sesuatu yang sangat ganjil. Suara hujan deras yang dari tadi memenuhi telingaku tiba-tiba menghilang begitu saja. Perlahan kubuka mataku. 

Untuk sekilas, aku tidak bisa memercayainya. Hujan deras yang mengguyur sudah hilang, digantikan dengan matahari yang sudah bersinar dengan seketika. Hanya tersisa beberapa butir air yang menetes dari atap halte. Trotoar di sekitarku juga sudah hampir kering. Apa yang sebenarnya barusan terjadi? 

“Barusan, kamu melompat ke masa depan.” 

Aku terdiam sesaat setelah mendengar kalimat itu. “Eh?” 

“Sekarang, dunia sudah berjalan satu jam setelah kamu memejamkan mata tadi. Hujan sudah berhenti setengah jam yang lalu.” 

“Tunggu, tunggu dulu!” Aku memerlukan waktu sejenak untuk mencerna seluruh informasi ini di dalam kepalaku. Yang benar saja? Aku baru saja melakukan perjalanan waktu? 

“Tidak, itu tidak mungkin! Perjalanan waktu itu tidak mungkin terjadi. Itu mustahil.” “Lantas, kenapa? Kamu masih tidak percaya?” 

“Tentu saja tidak!” Apa maksudmu aku percaya—” 

Aku menghentikan perkataanku begitu melihat seseorang di trotoar yang sedang lewat menatapku dengan tatapan heran. Aku langsung memasang senyum canggung. Ah, benar juga, ya. Aku jadi terlihat seperti orang gila, tidak ada orang lain di sekitarku sekarang untuk diajak bicara. 

Setelah orang tadi lewat, aku melihat jam tanganku. Untuk sesaat, aku tidak bisa memercayai apa yang sedang kulihat. Barusan aku benar-benar melompati waktu. 

“Sudahlah. Kembali lagi pada pertanyaan awalku. Penawaran yang terakhir. Apakah kamu ingin kembali ke masa lalu?” 

Aku mendadak bimbang. Aku beranjak duduk dengan gelisah, menangkupkan kedua tangan di bawah daguku. 

“Hei.” 

“Bagaimana?”

“Katakan padaku. Mengapa kau tiba-tiba datang kepadaku di saat seperti ini dan melakukan semua ini?” 

“Aku tidak akan menjawabnya. Aku datang hanya untuk memberimu tawaran ini saja.” 

Aku mendecak kesal dalam hati. Sial, aku tetap tidak bisa menggali informasi darinya sama sekali. 

“Apabila aku kembali ke masa lalu, lalu apa yang akan terjadi? Apakah aku akan kembali ke masa sekarang ini? Atau—” 

“Sederhana. Kamu akan menjalani kehidupan baru setelah kamu kembali ke masa lalu.” 

“Berarti, aku takkan bisa kembali lagi dan harus meninggalkan semua kehidupanku sekarang ini?” 

“Benar. Yang akan berpindah ke masa lalu hanyalah jiwamu semata.” 

Aku mulai menimbang-nimbang. Apabila aku harus meninggalkan kehidupanku yang sekarang, maka… 

Tidak, tunggu. Ini pilihan yang mudah bagiku. Bahkan, aku sebenarnya tidak perlu memikirkannya sama sekali. 

Kau tahu? Persetan dengan kehidupanku yang sekarang. Aku yang tidak pernah beruntung dalam percintaan, hubungan dengan orang tuaku yang tak kunjung membaik, dan kehidupan yang membosankan. Siapa yang menginginkan semua itu? Yang jelas tidak denganku. 

Apabila memang benar ada kesempatan untuk mengulang dan memperbaiki semuanya kembali, mengapa tidak? 

Demi keluargaku. Demi gadis itu. Juga tentunya, demi diriku sendiri. 

“Hei.” 

“Jadi, bagaimana?” 

“Baiklah. Aku akan terima tawaranmu. Berarti, kau tahu harus membawaku ke mana, kan?” 

“Tak perlu cemas. Penyesalanmu, isi hatimu. Aku mengetahui semuanya.” Aku tersenyum canggung. “Berarti, kau sudah tahu jawabanku dari awal, ya.” “Sekarang, pejamkan matamu.” 

Aku menghela napas. Aku sebenarnya tidak perlu banyak persiapan, toh aku juga akan meninggalkan semuanya yang ada di sini. 

Aku pun memejamkan mataku. “Baiklah, sekarang aku siap.” 

“Mulai sekarang, jalanilah hidupmu dengan sepenuh hati. Takkan ada lagi kesempatan ketiga. Jangan biarkan ada penyesalan lagi di antaramu, wahai manusia.”

Dalam seketika, aku merasakan perubahan pada tubuhku. Suara hujan deras langsung kembali memenuhi telingaku. Aku pun membuka mataku. 

Suasana ini. Semuanya persis seperti dalam ingatanku. Aku sedang duduk menunggu hujan reda di halte ini bersama kedua orang tuaku, dua puluh tahun yang lalu. Aku sekarang berada dalam tubuh kecilku yang masih berusia lima belas tahun. Kedua orang tuaku sedang terlelap di sebelahku, dengan kantong belanjaan di sebelah mereka. Aku menepuk dahi sembari tersenyum canggung. Aku terus memandangi wajah tidur mereka berdua sambil senyum-senyum sendiri. Ya ampun, sungguh aku rindu kedua orang tuaku yang seperti ini. 

Mendadak aku teringat sesuatu. Aku langsung menggeleng-gelengkan kepala. Tidak, prioritasku yang sekarang bukanlah ini. Ada hal penting lain yang harus kulakukan. Salah satu alasan terpentingku untuk datang ke masa ini. 

Demi mencegah sebuah tragedi yang akan terjadi tepat di depan mataku sendiri. 

Aku pun duduk dengan gelisah sambil memerhatikan trotoar tempat gadis itu akan lewat. Aku tidak tahu tepatnya kapan gadis itu akan lewat, tapi aku tak boleh melewatkannya. Hanya inilah satu-satunya kesempatanku, seperti yang suara misterius itu katakan kepadaku. 

Lima belas menit menunggu, akhirnya aku bisa melihat gadis itu di kejauhan. Ia sedang mengenakan hoodie, persis seperti dalam ingatanku. Ketika aku bisa melihat sekelebatan wajahnya di bawah derasnya hujan, aku tak bisa memalingkan wajahku darinya. 

Misterius dan menawan. Hanya itu kata yang bisa terpikirkan dalam kepalaku dalam momen sesaat itu. 

Namun kembali lagi, aku tidak bisa berlarut-larut dalam nostalgia sekarang. Aku harus mencegah gadis itu dari melintasi persimpangan jalan dalam waktu dekat. 

Ketika gadis itu sudah berada cukup dekat dengan halte, aku pun berdiri dan berjalan keluar dari naungan halte, membiarkan berjuta tetes air hujan yang dingin mengguyurku begitu saja. Aku berdiri di hadapan gadis itu, membuat langkah gadis itu terhenti. 

Agar tidak kalah oleh derasnya hujan, aku mengeraskan nada bicaraku. “Kakak, apakah kakak tidak ingin berteduh di halte dulu? Nanti kakak bisa sakit, lho.” 

Untuk beberapa detik yang canggung, gadis itu hanya diam saja. Kemudian, ia lanjut berjalan melewatiku begitu saja tanpa berkata apapun. Aku pun berbalik, meraih tangannya. 

“Ayo Kak, sebaiknya kita berteduh di halte dulu—” 

Sebelum aku sempat menyelesaikan kalimatku, gadis itu langsung melepaskan tanganku dan langsung berlari. Ini di luar dugaanku, dan aku langsung panik. 

“Hei! Kak! Tunggu! Hei! Tolong, berhenti! Berhenti!” 

Aku terus berteriak menyuruhnya untuk menghentikan langkahnya sembari mengejarnya. Sialnya, trotoar yang tergenang air dan licin sama sekali tidak membantuku dan gadis itu masih bisa berlari dengan cepat. Begitu ia sampai ke persimpangan jalan, ia berbelok untuk menyeberang jalan. Dalam sepersekian detik, ini membuat panikku bertambah seratus kali lipat.

Sesuai dengan ingatanku, hari ini suasana jalanan dan trotoar memang cukup sepi tanpa banyak kendaraan dan orang yang berlalu-lalang di tengah hujan deras ini. Namun entah mengapa oleh suatu benang takdir, saat itu ada sebuah mobil yang sedang melaju dengan kecepatan tinggi tepat di saat gadis itu sedang menyeberang jalan. Yah, tapi apa boleh buat— 

lampu lalu lintas memang sedang berwarna hijau saat itu. 

Sialnya, itu juga sama sekali tidak berubah untuk kali ini. 

Tepat ketika aku melihat kilauan lampu mobil di depan yang samar-samar di tengah guyuran hujan mendekat dengan kecepatan tinggi, kami berdua masih berada di tengah jalan. Apabila gadis itu tak menghentikan langkahnya, mobil itu pasti akan menabraknya dengan telak, sama seperti dulu. Akhirnya, aku pun tak punya pilihan lain dalam sepersekian detik yang tersisa ini. 

“BERHENTI!!!” 

Dengan usaha terakhir, aku pun melompat ke depan sejauh yang kubisa, mendorong gadis itu dengan paksa ke seberang jalan. Untuk sekelebatan juga, aku bisa melihat cahaya lampu mobil yang melaju kencang itu hanya beberapa senti dari wajahku. 

Kalau ini memang takdir yang harus kuambil, maka biarlah. Aku sudah merelakannya. Salah satu tujuanku bisa tercapai—menyelamatkan gadis itu. Di sisi lain, aku juga sebenarnya menyesal karena tidak bisa menghabiskan waktu lebih lama dengan kedua orang tuaku di masa ini. Tapi biarlah, toh juga hubunganku dengan mereka di masa ini masih baik-baik saja. Mereka tak perlu untuk berubah jadi membenciku di masa depan kelak. 

Selamat tinggal, dunia. 

… 

Aku membuka mataku. 

Tunggu dulu, ini bukan alam baka atau apapun itu. Ini… rumah sakit? 

Aku mengerjap-ngerjap, menoleh ke arah sekelilingku. Dinding putih, bau yang khas dan peralatan medis di sekelilingku yang berdesing dan mengeluarkan bunyi-bunyi kecil. Tidak salah lagi, ini memang rumah sakit. Aku memasang senyum tipis. Berarti, aku memang belum mati, ya. Syukurlah. 

Sembari memerhatikan sekitar, aku tak melihat keberadaan orang. Hanya peralatan medis yang berdenyut dengan beberapa selang yang tersambung ke tubuhku. 

Tubuhku masih terasa lemah, namun aku langsung mencoba untuk berubah ke posisi duduk. Barulah pada saat itu, aku merasakan ada sesuatu yang aneh. 

Aku sama sekali tidak bisa merasakan tubuh bagian bawahku. 

Mau bagaimanapun kugerakkan, kedua kakiku enggan merespon. Dalam benakku, sempat tebersit sebuah pemikiran yang tidak mengenakkan soal ini. Aku buru-buru menggelengkan kepala, berusaha untuk menyingkirkan pemikiran itu. Pertama, aku harus mencoba untuk—

Brak! 

Aku mengaduh kesakitan. Begitu aku memaksakan diri untuk duduk, kedua kakiku tetap enggan untuk merespons dan hasilnya aku pun terjatuh dari kasur, selang-selang yang menempel padaku juga lepas. Darah mulai mengucur dari luka tusukan selang infusku. 

Baru beberapa saat kemudian, pintu dibuka dan beberapa orang berjalan masuk dengan terburu-buru. Di antara mereka ada beberapa orang perawat dan seorang dokter. Mereka semua menatapku untuk beberapa detik, baru kemudian mereka semua tersenyum dan sigap membantuku berbaring di tempat tidur dan memasang infusku kembali. Aku masih tidak bisa merasakan kakiku. Ah, sial. Sepertinya memang… 

“Permisi… sebenarnya apa yang terjadi pada saya, ya?” tanyaku. 

“Oh iya, maaf saya belum memberitahumu soal ini dari tadi.” Pak Dokter mengambil tempat duduk di sebelah tempat tidurku. “Namamu… Poe, ya?” 

“I-iya…?” jawabku dengan ragu-ragu. 

“Jadi Dik Poe, kamu sudah tak sadarkan diri selama seminggu lebih. Kamu terlibat dalam kecelakaan mobil. Untuk kondisi tubuhmu… kamu menderita gegar otak ringan dan patah tulang yang parah pada kedua kakimu. Kami sudah mencoba melakukan operasi secepatnya untuk mencegah skenario terburuk, tapi sangat disayangkan…” 

Seketika, rasanya seperti sebuah petir menyambar sekujur tubuhku dalam sekejap. Aku mulai berkeringat dingin, namun aku tetap berusaha menenangkan diri. Jadi, sepertinya firasatku memang benar. Aku sudah merelakan apabila aku memang akan mati saat itu. Tapi untuk sekarang, ketika aku harus terus hidup dengan kondisi seperti ini, rasanya jadi agak… 

“B-begitu, ya,” jawabku lirih. 

“Maafkan kami… Kerusakan pada tulang kakimu sepertinya juga merusak sistem saraf keseluruhan pada kakimu juga, sehingga bisa dibilang bahwa kedua kakimu sekarang sudah tidak bisa digerakkan lagi. Sebenarnya, kami hendak mempertimbangkan tentang amputasi kepada kedua orang tuamu, tapi…” 

Setelah Pak Dokter mengatakan itu, semuanya di dalam ruangan langsung terdiam dan memasang wajah yang semakin muram dari sebelumnya. Firasatku jadi semakin tidak enak. 

“Eh… eh? M-memangnya… ada apa dengan kedua orang tuaku?” tanyaku dengan penuh keraguan. 

Pak Dokter berlutut, menatapku lurus. Ia menghela napas panjang. “Tolong dengarkan, ya, Dik. Saya tahu kamu baru saja bangun. Tapi saya pikir, lebih baik untuk tidak memberitahumu soal itu sekarang—” 

“Tidak apa-apa, Dok,” potongku. 

Semuanya di dalam ruangan terdiam seketika. Aku menelan ludah. Aku ini bukanlah anak kecil. Aku kurang lebih sudah tahu apa yang terjadi dari gelagat mereka yang seperti ini. 

Pastinya bukanlah sesuatu yang menyenangkan untuk didengar seorang bocah lima belas tahun di hadapan mereka sekarang ini. 

“Sesuatu pasti terjadi kepada kedua orang tuaku, kan? Beritahu saja kepadaku, sekarang.” 

“E-eh? Tapi…” 

“Tidak apa. Beritahu saja,” kataku sambil meyakinkan Pak Dokter. 

Pak Dokter pun menghela napas. Ia menoleh ke arah para perawat yang mendampinginya di ruangan ini, dan mereka semua saling mengangguk kecil satu sama lain. 

“Kedua orang tuamu… meninggal dalam kecelakaan yang sama menimpamu di hari itu.” 

Aku menelan ludah, sekujur tubuhku merinding. Tidak, kau tidak harus seperti ini, Poe. Aku seharusnya sudah menduganya, tapi tetap saja… 

“Pengemudi mobil jadi hilang kendali setelah menabrakmu, lalu… kedua orang tuamu…” 

Pak Dokter berhenti di tengah kalimatnya untuk sejenak. “Dan yang sangat disayangkan, kami tidak bisa menyelamatkan keduanya.” 

Aku menghela napas panjang. Meskipun aku sudah tahu dari gelagatnya, tapi mendengarnya langsung seperti ini tetap membuatku sedih. Dadaku terasa sakit. Sangat sakit. Aku meremas dadaku dengan segenap kekuatan di tanganku yang masih lemas. 

Tanpa sadar, aku langsung meneteskan air mata. Aku seharusnya tak perlu menjadi sesedih ini apabila mereka berdua menghilang dari hadapanku, tapi kenapa? Apakah karena aku berada dalam tubuh remaja ini? Apakah karena aku ini anak mereka? Atau… 

Apakah aku sebenarnya masih sayang kepada mereka berdua selama ini? 

Apapun itu, yang terjadi sudah terjadi. Suara misterius itu juga mengatakan, ini adalah kesempatanku yang kedua untuk memperbaiki masa laluku—takkan ada lagi lebih dari ini. Semua ini adalah konsekuensi dari pilihan yang sudah kuambil. 

Jadi, sekarang apa? Tak lama setelah aku pergi ke masa ini, aku sudah kehilangan kedua orang tua dan kedua kakiku. Sekarang, apa lagi? 

Ah. Aku langsung teringat hal lain yang tak kalah pentingnya. 

“Gadis itu! Anu… kalau tidak salah, seharusnya ada seorang gadis di sana pada saat itu. Apakah Anda tahu sesuatu tentangnya?!” tanyaku dengan terburu-buru. 

“Eh, gadis? Oh ya, gadis itu. Ah, soal dia, ya… uh…” 

“Ada apa, Pak?” 

“Dia… ada di ruangan lain. Kami di sini juga sedang merawatnya.” 

Tunggu. Jadi, gadis itu masih hidup? 

“Apakah dia sedang dirawat? Apakah dia juga terluka sepertiku?” 

Pak Dokter menggaruk kepalanya sedikit, memalingkan tatapannya. “Bukan, dia sebenarnya tidak terluka parah dari kecelakaan itu. Hanya saja…”

“Hanya saja?” 

“Dia jadi punya masalah dengan kondisi mentalnya, dan kami sedang berusaha untuk memberinya dukungan…” 

“Kondisi mental? Ada apa memangnya?” 

“Uh… begini.” Pak Dokter mendekatkan kepalanya, dan para perawat yang lain sedikit mundur. Ia berbisik ke telingaku. 

“Sebenarnya, ia sudah mencoba untuk bunuh diri beberapa kali. Beruntungnya kami bisa mencegahnya untuk sejauh ini, dan kami sekarang sedang memberinya perawatan dan terapi.” 

Seketika, aku tidak bisa bernapas untuk beberapa detik. “B-bunuh diri?” 

Pak Dokter kembali ke posisinya, berdeham. “Begitulah. Kalau ada kabar lebih lanjut, kami juga akan mengabarimu—” 

“Tolong bawa aku bertemu dengannya!” potongku cepat. Semua orang di dalam ruangan langsung memasang wajah terkejut. 

“Bertemu? Memang seharusnya boleh-boleh saja, tapi saya sangat tidak menyarankan untuk bertemu dengannya sekarang,” jelas Pak Dokter. 

“Kenapa?!” 

“Begini, Dik Poe. Masalah pada kondisi mental seseorang itu masalah yang cukup serius. Tidak seperti sakit biasa di mana kamu bisa menjenguknya kapanpun—” 

“Tidak ada hubungannya!” potongku lagi, kini dengan nada bicara yang lebih tinggi. Iya, aku sudah tahu. Aku ini tidak semuda yang Anda lihat, Dok. 

Pak Dokter menghela napas sejenak. “Begini, Dik. Saya beritahu kamu saja untuk sekarang.” 

Kemudian Pak Dokter kembali mendekatkan kepalanya kepadaku, berbisik. “Kedua orang tua gadis itu… mereka bunuh diri setelah kecelakaan itu menimpa putri mereka.” 

Begitu mendengarnya, aku membeku seketika. Aku menelan ludah. 

Sungguh… apa saja yang terjadi selama aku tertidur di sini? 

“Tapi, tetap saja, Dok.” Aku meremas permukaan kasur. “Tolong, biarkan saya melihat gadis itu sekarang. Saya mohon.” 

“… Kamu dari tadi bersikeras untuk bertemu gadis itu. Apakah kamu mengenalnya?” “Tidak, tapi hanya saja…” 

Aku tidak bisa bilang soal suara misterius dan segala hal tentang melompati waktu yang aku lakukan. Ini sangat penting bagiku sekarang. 

Kalau sampai terjadi apa-apa pada gadis itu, maka lenyaplah segala alasan aku harus kembali ke masa ini dalam hidupku.

Tanpa sadar, aku sudah menundukkan kepala dan suaraku mulai bergetar. “Saya mohon, Dok. Saya hanya butuh untuk melihatnya sekarang. Hanya melihat wajahnya saja, itu sudah cukup.” 

Suasana di dalam ruangan berubah hening untuk beberapa saat. 

“Huft, baiklah. Kami bisa mengantarmu ke depan ruang kamarnya untuk sekarang. Tapi, hanya untuk melihatnya saja, ya. Dari jendela kamarnya seharusnya sudah cukup. Bagaimana?” 

“…. Baiklah.” 

Akhirnya, para perawat dan Pak Dokter mulai membantuku ke posisi duduk, kemudian memindahkanku ke sebuah kursi roda. Tubuhku masih lemas setelah tidur berhari hari, jadi aku masih tidak bisa banyak bergerak. Salah seorang perawat mendorong kursi rodaku untuk keluar dari ruangan. 

Setelah menyusuri beberapa lorong rumah sakit yang cukup ramai, aku pun sampai di depan pintu kamar rawat gadis itu. Dari jendela pintunya, aku bisa mengintip ke dalam ruangan. Tidak banyak yang bisa kulihat, namun aku bisa melihatnya dari sini. 

Sosok gadis itu. Ia sekarang sedang terduduk di kasurnya dengan mata terpejam. Ekspresi wajahnya tenang—sepertinya ia sedang tidur. Terdapat balutan perban di kepala dan lengannya. 

Wajah sayu itulah hal yang tak pernah kulupa darinya sampai sekarang. Begitu melihatnya untuk sekelebat, rasanya seperti sebagian besar beban dari pundakku lepas begitu saja. Tanpa sadar, aku sudah tersenyum lebar. 

Begitu, ya. Gadis itu benar-benar masih hidup. 

Pengorbananku tidak sia-sia. Masih ada harapan. 

Aku masih bisa memperbaiki masa laluku. 

… 

Dua minggu telah berlalu sejak hari itu. Aku mulai menjalani beberapa program rehabilitasi di rumah sakit untuk mulai membiasakan diri beraktivitas dengan kursi roda. Aku bisa berlatih untuk beberapa aktivitas seperti makan, menggerakkan kursi roda dan yang lainnya. Namun, kegiatan-kegiatan yang tidak bisa kulakukan sendiri seperti membersihkan diri, 

buang air, dan sebagainya masih harus memerlukan bantuan perawat. Sejujurnya, aku masih malu saat pertama kali harus diurus seperti anak kecil, namun lama-kelamaan aku juga sudah mulai terbiasa—toh aku juga nantinya harus membiasakan ini untuk seterusnya. 

“Selamat pagi, Dik Poe.” 

“Oh, selamat pagi juga, Pak Dokter.” 

Aku sedang menikmati suasana pagi hari dari kamarku. Pak Dokter datang dengan membawa beberapa dokumen di tangannya.

“Jadi, saya punya kabar baik untukmu.” 

Aku menaikkan sebelah alis. “Hm?” 

“Berhubung proses pemulihan dan terapinya berjalan dengan cukup lancar, kondisi gadis itu sudah mulai membaik. Kamu sudah bisa bertemu dengannya sekarang. Dia masih ada di kamarnya.” 

Seketika, mataku menjadi berbinar-binar setelah mendengarnya. “Sungguh? Sekarang?” Pak Dokter mengangguk. “Mau saya antar?” 

“Ya!” jawabku dengan cepat. 

Akhirnya, hari yang ditunggu telah tiba. 

Kami berdua menyusuri lorong-lorong rumah sakit seperti dulu. Aku sudah mulai cukup terbiasa dengan kursi roda ini, meskipun untuk berpindah ke tempat yang lebih tinggi ataupun rendah membutuhkan usaha lebih dan harus ekstra hati-hati. 

Pada akhirnya, kami berdua sampai di depan pintu kamar gadis itu. Sebelum membuka pintu, Pak Dokter mengingatkanku. 

“Tolong, sebisa mungkin hindari topik pembicaraan yang bisa memantik trauma miliknya. Mengerti, Dik?” 

Aku mengangguk dengan yakin. “Tentu saja.” 

Tanganku memutar knop pintu. Aku mulai masuk ke dalam dengan perlahan. 

Aku akhirnya bisa melihat gadis itu dari dekat. Ia sepertinya sedang melamun, tatapannya yang sayu menerawang ke luar jendela. Sepertinya dia belum menyadari keberadaanku di sini. 

“Permisi… maaf mengganggu.” 

Gadis itu menoleh ke arahku. Kedua mata kami saling bertemu untuk beberapa detik. Aku hanya mengulas senyum simpul. 

Dia… terlihat baik-baik saja. Akan tetapi, mungkin saja… 

Aku tertawa kecil. “Ada apa? Kenapa kamu melihatiku terus dari tadi?” 

Gadis itu masih menatapku seolah tidak percaya apa yang sedang ia lihat. “Kamu… kamu…” 

“Ah, iya. Kamu masih ingat wajahku? Lalu… eh?” 

Sebelum aku menyelesaikan kalimatku, gadis itu sudah bercucuran air mata. Ia masih menatapku seolah tidak percaya, namun air matanya mengalir deras dari kedua kelopak matanya. Kemudian, ia menundukkan kepalanya. 

“Syukurlah…”gumam gadis itu lirih.

Gadis itu terus terisak di kasurnya. Aku mendorong kursi rodaku mendekat, hendak mengelus punggungnya. Namun ujung-ujungnya aku mengurungkan niatanku—suasananya masih sangat canggung dengan keberadaan Pak Dokter di belakangku. 

Aku menoleh ke arah Pak Dokter di belakangku. “Maaf, Pak Dokter. Apakah aku boleh mengobrol empat mata saja dengannya?” 

“Eh? Tapi…” 

Aku mengedipkan sebelah mata, tersenyum meyakinkan. “Tak perlu cemas. Serahkan saja kepadaku, Dok.” 

Pak Dokter menghela napas. “Kamu ini… baiklah. Kali ini, saya serahkan kepadamu. Tapi, tolong jangan lupa apa yang saya peringatkan tadi. Silakan gunakan waktumu sesukamu.” Pak Dokter pun kemudian meninggalkan ruangan, menyisakan kami berdua di dalam. 

Gadis di sebelahku ini masih belum berhenti menangis. Setelah Pak Dokter meninggalkan ruangan, aku pun memberanikan diri untuk mengelus punggung gadis itu. Setelah aku mengelus-elus punggungnya untuk sekitar lima menit, ia baru mulai berhenti terisak. Firasatku benar. Dia mungkin terlihat baik-baik saja dari luar, namun trauma seperti yang sedang ia alami seharusnya tidak bisa sembuh secepat itu. 

“Sudah merasa baikan?” tanyaku. 

Gadis itu mengangguk perlahan sambil mengusap wajahnya. 

“Bagaimana kalau kita mengobrol dulu? Mulai dari perkenalan. Namaku Poe. Kalau kamu?” 

Gadis itu masih menundukkan kepalanya, enggan menatapku secara langsung. 

“Tak apa. Aku takkan menggigit, kok. Mari kita mengobrol dulu. Mumpung Pak Dokter sudah membolehkanku berkunjung ke sini.” 

Ia masih enggan menjawab. Aku harus tetap bersabar. 

“Uhm, halo?” 

“M-maaf…” 

Oh? Akhirnya gadis itu mengeluarkan suara. 

“Iya?” 

“Maafkan… aku…” 

Aku menghela napas. “Aku bertanya namamu, bukan menyuruhmu untuk meminta maaf.” 

Setelah aku berkata seperti itu, gadis itu menjadi salah tingkah. “Eh… maafkan ak— maksudku, anu…” 

“Namamu,” potongku cepat. 

“Eh… ya! N-nama, ya… anu… saya… namaku… V-Vaye…”

Melihat gelagatnya secara singkat, aku jadi kurang lebih paham beberapa hal. Aku mulai memikirkan cara berbicara yang cocok untuknya sekarang. 

“Vaye. Sebenarnya apa yang membuatmu ketakutan seperti ini? Apakah kamu takut denganku?” 

“S-soal itu… anu…” 

“Atau… kamu masih sering kepikiran soal hari itu?” 

Seketika, Vaye langsung mematung. Ekspresi wajahnya langsung berubah muram. 

Maaf, Pak Dokter. Gadis ini mungkin terlihat stabil dan baik-baik saja dari luar, namun sebenarnya ia jelas masih memiliki trauma soal hari itu. Begitu aku menyinggungnya, ia langsung menjadi seperti ini. 

Aku mengepalkan tanganku. Kalau ada seseorang yang ia butuhkan untuk memberinya motivasi, itu adalah aku. Aku harus membicarakan ini dengannya. 

“Pastinya, ya. Memang, apa yang terjadi hari itu bisa jadi sangat sulit dilupakan bagimu. Kamu pasti melihat pemandangan yang sangat mengerikan pada hari itu.” 

Vaye menjadi gemetaran, kedua tangannya mencengkeram kepalanya sendiri dengan erat. Ia mulai terpatah-patah dalam suaranya. Aku juga langsung mengambil tindakan. Dengan payah, aku berpindah dari kursi rodaku ke atas kasur dengan menggunakan kedua tanganku, dan sekarang aku berhadapan dengan gadis itu. Aku langsung mencengkeram kedua pundaknya. 

“Vaye. Maafkan aku. Aku seharusnya tidak mengejarmu pada hari itu dan menyebabkan semua ini—” 

“T-tidak! Semua ini adalah salahku! Salahku…” potong Vaye dengan suara bergetar, sepertinya ia hendak menangis lagi. Aku menguatkan cengkeramanku pada pundak Vaye. 

“Dengar, Vaye. Aku ingin kamu camkan satu hal ini dalam hatimu. Kamu tidak bersalah. Jangan salahkan dirimu. Mengerti?” 

“Tapi… Tapi… orang tuamu… dan orang tuaku… mereka semua…” 

“Itu kecelakaan, Vaye. Kecelakaan! Semuanya ikut andil. Pengemudi itu juga, aku sendiri juga. Bukan hanya kamu saja.” 

“Tapi… aku… tapi…” 

Aku terus berusaha menenangkan Vaye, namun gadis itu terus menyanggah semua perkataanku. Ia sepenuhnya percaya bahwa semua ini adalah kesalahannya sendiri. Pada akhirnya, aku mulai sedikit kehilangan kesabaran juga. 

“VAYE!” 

Vaye pun terdiam seketika. Aku melepaskan cengkeraman tanganku. Suasana langsung berubah menjadi hening seketika.

“Aku tahu. Kita berdua baru saja ditimpa kejadian yang mengerikan seperti ini. Aku juga dengar, kamu baru saja kehilangan kedua orang tuamu karena… bunuh diri. Aku… juga turut berduka atas itu. Tapi! Tapi…” Aku berhenti sejenak. 

“Tapi… kamu juga jangan ikuti apa yang mereka lakukan. Jangan, sekalipun, berpikir, untuk melakukan bunuh diri. Tolonglah.” Tanpa sadar, aku menjadi semakin emosional. Aku mulai mengecilkan suaraku. “Tolong, hentikan itu semua…” 

Suasana menjadi hening sejenak. Bahkan aku sendiri mulai terbawa suasana. “S-saat hari itu…” 

Aku mengangkat kepala. Dia mengatakan sesuatu? 

“Mengapa… mengapa kamu menyelamatkanku?”’ 

Aku terdiam sejenak setelah mendengar pertanyaan itu. Tentu saja aku tidak bisa berkata apapun soal perjalanan waktu atau apapun itu. 

“Aku… tidak tahu. Mungkin tubuhku bergerak dengan sendirinya saat itu… aku juga tidak tahu.” 

Vaye kembali menundukkan kepalanya. “Padahal, aku sebenarnya tidak perlu diselamatkan. Andai saja hari itu aku ma—” 

“Cukup!” potongku cepat. “Sudah kubilang, tolong jangan pernah berpikiran seperti itu lagi. Kumohon…” 

Suasana kembali jadi hening. 

“Kamu… tidak mengerti. Aku menderita setiap hari karena kedua orang tuaku. Setiap hari, rasanya ingin mati saja. Namun, sekarang setelah mereka tiada, aku malah…” 

Tubuh Vaye mulai gemetaran. Kali ini, aku kurang lebih paham perasaannya tentang orang tuanya. Seharusnya aku membencinya, namun ketika hal seperti ini terjadi, aku juga malah… 

Aku juga tidak bisa membantah perkataan Vaye barusan. Aku juga tidak tahu apa-apa soal kehidupan macam apa yang ia jalani sampai sekarang. Mungkin aku sudah menarik kesimpulan terlalu awal. 

“Apakah hidup memang seberat itu bagimu?” tanyaku. 

Vaye hanya bungkam, mengangguk lemah. 

“Apabila kamu mati, bagaimana dengan orang lain yang dekat denganmu? Kerabatmu yang lain? Atau… mungkin orang yang peduli denganmu? Seperti temanmu, mungkin?” 

Vaye menggeleng lemah. 

“Tidak ada? Benar-benar tidak ada?” 

Vaye masih tidak mengeluarkan suara. 

“… Satu pun?”

Hening. Aku mulai mengepalkan kedua tanganku. 

“Kamu… kamu pasti bisa bermanfaat kepada orang lain asalkan kamu terus melanjutkan hidup juga, kan? Bukankah kamu juga berpikir begitu?” 

Lagi-lagi, aku hanya berbicara sendiri. Gadis itu hanya bungkam seribu bahasa. 

Aku mulai kehabisan ide. Permasalahan gadis ini lebih dalam dari yang kuperkirakan. Aku memang menyelamatkannya di hari itu, namun semua itu menjadi tidak berarti apabila ia memang sudah tidak mempunyai keinginan untuk terus hidup. Perkataan-perkataan motivasi seperti apapun takkan berguna kalau sudah begini. 

Kalau begini ceritanya, malah aku seperti jadi orang yang salah, dong? Sudah sok menasihatinya padahal belum tahu apapun soal apa yang sebenarnya terjadi? 

Apakah semua usahaku untuk menyelamatkannya pada hari itu sia-sia seperti ini? 

“Hei. Setelah semua yang aku katakan tadi, apakah kamu masih memiliki keinginan untuk… uh… mati?” tanyaku dengan penuh keraguan. 

Masih tak ada jawaban dari gadis itu. Ia hanya terus menundukkan kepalanya sambil memasang wajah muram. 

Aku mulai muak kepada diriku sendiri. Aaah! Apakah semuanya akan berakhir seperti ini?! Begitu saja?! 

Dokter, maafkan aku. Sepertinya aku memang sepayah itu dalam menasihati orang lain. Kalau tahu akan begini, seharusnya aku tak perlu susah payah ikut campur dari awal. 

Rasanya, semua yang kulakukan tak pernah ada yang berjalan dengan benar. Baik itu di masa depan, ataupun masa sekarang ini. 

Semuanya hanya berujung pada kesia-siaan. 

“… Hei, Vaye. Apabila kamu memang ingin mati, silakan saja. Silakan saja sana. Aku tidak akan melarangmu. Ya… aku tidak akan melarangmu. Tapi… tapi… apabila itu terjadi… apabila kamu mati… 

“… aku… akan merasa sangat sedih apabila itu terjadi. Aku… aku…” 

Tes. Tes. Tes. 

Eh? 

Kenapa… aku menangis? 

Di saat aku menyadarinya, seprai kasur di bawah wajahku sudah basah oleh tetesan air mataku sendiri. Aku langsung panik. 

“Ah! Ah… maafkan aku. Aku hanya…” perkataanku terputus-putus karena sesenggukan. Aku buru-buru mengelap wajahku yang sembab dengan kedua tanganku. 

Dengan perasaan malu yang luar biasa, aku langsung refleks berpindah tempat. Namun, sekarang aku lupa dengan kondisi kedua kakiku yang lumpuh total. Aku langsung terjatuh di sebelah kasur dengan telak. Aku menyumpah-nyumpah dalam hati. 

“A-anu…” 

“Jangan lihat! Jangan hiraukan aku.” potongku galak sambil membelakangi Vaye. 

Dengan susah payah, aku akhirnya kembali duduk di kursi rodaku. Aku buru-buru mendorong pelek kursi rodaku untuk meninggalkan ruangan. 

Beberapa perawat di lorong-lorong rumah sakit sempat kebingungan melihatku yang terburu-buru, namun aku tidak peduli. Yang aku inginkan sekarang hanya kembali ke kamarku. 

Sesampainya di kamarku, aku baru bisa mengatur napasku dengan normal. Baru pertama kalinya aku ‘berlari’ pakai tangan dalam hidupku—rasanya cukup aneh. 

Aku menutup wajahku dengan kedua tanganku. Aku tidak bisa becermin sekarang, namun aku sangat yakin bahwa wajahku sedang semerah tomat sekarang. 

Ya ampun, apa yang baru saja kukatakan tadi?! 

Aku tak henti-hentinya menggelengkan kepala. Aku benar-benar sudah terbawa suasana tadi. Aku bahkan tidak sadar saat aku mengatakannya—semuanya seolah terjadi secara instingtif. Di saat aku menyadarinya, kedua pipiku sudah basah oleh lantunan air mata. 

Yah. Sebenarnya, yang kukatakan itu juga bukan kebohongan juga, sih. 

Semua itu sepertinya memang isi dari lubuk hatiku yang terdalam yang tak pernah bisa kuutarakan selama ini. 

Ya. Pada awalnya, rencanaku adalah untuk menyelamatkan gadis itu dan mencoba untuk berkenalan dan memulai hubungan baik dengannya—bagaimanapun, dia adalah cinta pertamaku dahulunya dan aku ingin memperbaiki semuanya dari awal. Namun, obrolan tadi sedikit-banyak sudah mengubah cara pandangku terhadapnya. 

Ia memiliki hubungan yang buruk dengan keluarganya, sepertinya dengan orang lain juga. Dari apa yang ia katakan, ia memang benar-benar sudah menyerah dalam hidupnya— bahkan sebelum kecelakaan itu terjadi. Aku mulai berpikir—apakah aku di sini adalah pihak yang salah untuk ‘menyeret’-nya kembali untuk terus melanjutkan kehidupan? Aku bukanlah seorang motivator yang dapat mendorong niatan baik pada seseorang, pun aku juga tak ingin menjual janji-janji manis soal kehidupan untuknya—berkaca dari pengalaman hidupku sendiri yang menyedihkan dan sudah merasakan getirnya kehidupan orang dewasa. 

Pada akhirnya, aku memang tak bisa menyelesaikan apa-apa, ya. 

“Permisi…” 

Aku menoleh kebelakang. Ternyata seorang perawat yang berada di ambang pintu. “Ada apa, Dik? Kamu tadi melaju cepat seperti itu di koridor…” 

“Maaf, tapi tolong tinggalkan aku sendiri untuk kali ini. Kumohon.” Aku kembali memalingkan wajah. 

“Uhm… baiklah kalau begitu. Kalau ada masalah, langsung katakan saja, ya. Kami akan segera membantumu.” 

Dan dengan begitu saja, perawat itu menutup pintu dari luar. Aku mendekat ke arah kasur, berusaha untuk berpindah ke atas kasur dengan usahaku sendiri—aku masih kepayahan dalam urusan ini. Saat aku akhirnya bisa tiduran di atas kasur, aku menghela napas panjang. 

Sekarang, apa yang harus kulakukan, ya? 

Kepalaku pusing. Entah mengapa, obrolan tadi banyak menguras pikiranku. Aku benar-benar jadi tanpa arah sekarang. 

Tapi, itu semua bisa kupikirkan untuk nanti. Untuk sekarang, aku hanya ingin tidur sejenak. 

Persetan dengan semua ini. Apapun itu, aku akan melanjutkan kehidupanku yang payah ini. Meskipun semua yang kujalani akan berakhir sia-sia dan tak bermakna. Akulah telah memilih jalan ini. 

Aku akan terus hidup. 

Aku harus tetap hidup. 

… 

Hari-hari berikutnya, aku mulai bersiap dengan segala urusan administrasi yang kubutuhkan untuk meneruskan kehidupan. Warisan dari kedua orang tuaku, di mana aku akan tinggal seterusnya, dan lain sebagainya. Semua ini juga berjalan seiring proses rehabilitasi yang juga sedang kujalani. Pihak rumah sakit banyak membantu juga, jadi aku merasa sangat bersyukur atas itu. 

Semua perihal tetek bengek itu akhirnya bisa kuselesaikan dalam satu bulan. Sebagian besar warisan orang tuaku—yang memang tidak banyak—habis untuk membayar biaya rumah sakit. Sisanya harus kugunakan dengan sehemat mungkin agar aku bisa tetap bertahan untuk sekarang. 

Lalu, agar bisa tetap bertahan, tentu saja aku harus bekerja. Dengan kondisiku yang sekarang, tentunya aku tidak bisa sembarang memilih jenis pekerjaan—pekerjaan kantor yang kulakukan sebelumnya juga tentu takkan membantu untuk situasiku yang sekarang. Tapi, yah, itu bisa diurus nanti. Bukan prioritas utama untuk sekarang. 

Untuk tempat tinggal, aku tidak punya banyak pilihan selain untuk tinggal di panti asuhan. Aku juga sudah menentukan pilihanku—sebuah panti yang terletak cukup jauh dari pusat kota. Pertimbangannya yang paling penting, tentunya biaya hidup di sana relatif lebih murah daripada di pusat kota. Memang tidak akan ada perawat yang bisa membantuku menjalani rutinitas sehari-hari seperti sekarang, tapi aku tidak terlalu mempedulikannya. Toh, nanti lama-lama aku juga akan terbiasa dengan sendirinya. 

Lagipula, aku juga ingin melupakan segala macam kenangan buruk yang aku miliki di kota ini sampai sekarang. 

Akhirnya tiba hari terakhir aku menginap di rumah sakit ini. Sebenarnya aku sudah diperbolehkan pulang sejak seminggu yang lalu, tapi aku memilih untuk tinggal di sini lebih 

lama sampai semua urusan administrasi yang kubutuhkan selesai kuurus. Dan yah, semuanya baru bisa kuselesaikan kemarin siang. 

Malam hari ini lebih banyak kuhabiskan dengan berbaring di kasur. Masih memikirkan banyak hal untuk kedepannya. 

Mulai besok, aku akan memulai hidup baru. Ya, beginilah hidupku sekarang. Aku tidak punya pilihan selain menjalaninya dengan sepenuh hati. Meskipun kedua tujuan awalku kandas di tengah jalan dengan cepat, namun aku tetap tidak akan menyerah begitu saja. Kalaupun ada hal yang masih sangat aku sesali, tentu saja itu perihal Vaye. 

Apapun itu, aku hanya bisa berharap yang terbaik untuk gadis itu kedepannya. Apapun yang akan ia lakukan, jalan seperti apa yang dia pilih. 

Tapi, ya, aku hanya bisa berharap. Tak lebih dari itu. 

Tunggu dulu, untuk apa aku berharap? Bukannya harapanku tak pernah terwujud? Ah, sudahlah. 

Isi pikiranku kemana-mana. Aku menguap lebar—mungkin sudah saatnya aku harus tidur. Aku perlahan mulai memejamkan mataku. 

Tok tok. 

“Permisi?” 

Aku langsung membuka mataku kembali. “Oh, iya masuk saja.” 

Pintu kamarku pun dibuka. Ada dua orang yang masuk. Salah satunya adalah perawat, dan… 

Hm? Apa aku tidak salah lihat? Vaye? 

Mereka berdua sekarang berdiri di sebelah kasurku. Vaye hanya berdiri canggung sambil memalingkan wajah. “Maaf mengganggu di malam hari, namun ada sesuatu yang harus saya sampaikan kepadamu sekarang,” kata perawat. 

Aku menaikkan sebelah alis. “Hm? Ada apa?” 

“Uh, begini. Kamu kenal dengan gadis ini, bukan? Namanya Vaye. Dia selalu saja bertanya soal keadaanmu setiap hari. Saat kami memberitahunya bahwa hari ini kamu akan pulang, dia langsung berubah cemas.” 

Wajah Vaye seketika berubah merah. 

“Yah, pokoknya seperti itu. Kamu akan melanjutkan ke panti asuhan di pinggiran kota setelah ini, kan?” 

“I-iya?” 

“Nah! Kalau begitu, Vaye akan pergi bersamamu. Dia akan menjadi pengurusmu selama berada di sana.” 

Aku hanya diam mendengarnya. Butuh beberapa saat bagiku untuk mencerna perkataan perawat barusan.

“E-eh? Vaye… akan pergi bersamaku? Ke panti asuhan itu?” 

“Benar. Ya, kan, Vaye?” 

Gadis itu hanya mengangguk kecil, menundukkan kepalanya. 

Aku masih diam dalam ketidakepercayaan. Eh? Benarkah? 

“Yah, sebenarnya hanya itu informasi yang ingin saya sampaikan sekarang. Maaf informasinya cukup mendadak, kami dari pihak rumah sakit baru menginformasikan soal kepulanganmu kepada Vaye hari ini. Rencana kami awalnya adalah untuk memulangkan Vaye ke rumah pamannya dalam waktu dekat, namun ia selalu menolaknya. Siapa sangka, ternyata Vaye justru memutuskan untuk ikut denganmu dan menjadi pengurusmu,” jelas perawat. 

“Kalau begitu, saya permisi dulu. Mungkin kalian berdua bisa saling mengobrol terlebih dahulu untuk rencana ke depannya.” 

Perawat pun meninggalkan kamarku, menyisakanku dengan Vaye di dalam. Suasana menjadi canggung untuk beberapa saat. Pada akhirnya, aku yang mencoba untuk memulai pembicaraan. 

“H-hei… kenapa kamu berdiri di situ terus? Ada kursi itu lho, duduklah.” Aku menunjuk ke arah kursi di dekat dinding. Vaye pun mengikuti perkataanku tanpa menjawab. 

Ah, ya. Berbasa-basi dengannya hanya akan membuang-buang waktu. 

“Aku akan langsung ke intinya saja. Jadi, kenapa kamu memutuskan untuk ikut denganku?” 

Hening. Dia sepertinya masih malu untuk berbicara. Seperti biasanya, huh. “Kamu ini, ya. Kalau kamu memang hanya ingin diam, kamu bisa keluar dari sini, kok.” “A-aku…” 

Ugh. Akhirnya, dasar. 

“Tolong keraskan suaramu.” 

“Aku… aku… ingin tetap hidup.” 

Aku menaikkan sebelah alis. “Huh?” 

“Aku sudah tidak ingin mati lagi sekarang. Aku ingin terus hidup.” 

Butuh berapa detik bagiku untuk mencerna perkataannya barusan. “… hidup? Maksudmu…?” 

“Karena perkataanmu saat itu, aku memutuskan untuk tetap hidup. Aku sangat berterima kasih untuk itu.” Gadis itu mulai tersenyum tipis. 

Akhirnya aku baru paham apa yang Vaye katakan. Aku jadi salah tingkah. “O-oh…? Begitukah? Kalau begitu syukurlah…” 

“Ya.”

Situasi menjadi hening untuk beberapa saat. Hei! Kenapa aku justru jadi malu-malu sekarang? Aku ini sudah dewasa. Lagipula, jangan malah besar kepala dulu. Memangnya apa yang kukatakan hari itu? Seingatku, aku sama sekali gagal dalam memotivasinya saat itu… 

Tidak, tunggu dulu. Jangan bilang… 

“Saat kamu berkata kamu akan sedih apabila aku mati, aku… sangat senang mendengarnya.” Vaye akhirnya mulai bisa menatapku secara langsung. Ia tersenyum lebar, membuatku sedikit terkesima. 

Sial. Dugaanku benar. 

Sekarang aku benar-benar jadi malu sendiri. Yang kukatakan pada saat itu hanyalah sebuah naluri impulsif dariku, tak lebih dari itu. 

Tapi, yah, apa boleh buat. Aku mulai tersenyum sendiri. 

Kalau itu memang berhasil membuatnya berubah pikiran dan ingin melanjutkan hidup, maka aku justru bersyukur sudah mengatakan hal itu kepadanya. 

“Aku tidak tahu apa alasanmu menyelamatkanku pada hari itu, dan aku juga tidak tahu mengapa kamu begitu peduli denganku. Namun, hanya dengan itu saja, itu sudah cukup untuk membuatku bahagia dan memberiku harapan. 

“Lagipula, aku juga mulai paham perkataanmu saat itu. Itu memang kecelakaan, tapi itu semua tidak akan terjadi apabila aku tidak memutuskan untuk menyeberang jalan saat itu. Apapun itu, aku tetaplah pihak yang paling bersalah dalam kecelakaan ini. Dan akibatnya, kamu jadi seperti ini. Justru aku yang sekarang masih baik-baik saja. Aku juga akhirnya jadi lebih mengerti maksud perkataanmu yang ingin aku untuk terus melanjutkan hidup.” 

Aku terdiam. Ternyata Vaye bisa berbicara sebanyak ini. 

“Oleh karena itu, aku juga ingin membalas budi. Kamu yang sudah menyelamatkanku sampai sekarang, maka sekarang adalah giliranku untuk membantumu. Biarkan aku yang mendorong kursi rodamu itu. Aku masih bisa berjalan dengan baik, jadi aku yakin aku pasti bisa melakukannya.” 

Lagi-lagi, aku kehabisan kata-kata. Sungguh, sudah seberapa banyak dia berubah sejak obrolan kita berdua pada hari itu? 

“Kamu memang orang yang baik, ya,” ucapku lirih. 

“Apa?” 

“Ah, tidak. Aku hanya berpikir, kamu tidak perlu melakukan itu juga untukku. Soal menjadi pengurusku, atau apapun itu yang tadi.” 

“Eh? Kenapa?” 

“Yang seperti itu merepotkan, lho. Aku tidak ingin banyak merepotkanmu. Maksudku, selama kamu sudah semangat untuk hidup lagi, itu sudah cukup membuatku senang…” 

“Tidak. Ini adalah caraku untuk membalas budi. Tolong biarkan aku melakukannya,” tegas Vaye sambil menatapku secara langsung. 

Aku bungkam untuk sesaat. Dia… sepertinya memang serius soal ini. 

“Tapi aku memang sudah tidak perlu banyak bantuan lagi, kok. Aku sudah mulai terbiasa menjalankan keseharianku dengan kursi roda ini, jadi—” 

“Meskipun begitu, tapi tetap ada hal yang tidak bisa kamu lakukan sendiri di kursi roda itu, kan?” potong Vaye cepat. 

“Apa memangnya?” 

Vaye memalingkan wajah, pipinya memerah. “Y-ya… seperti… urusan hajat… atau…” 

“Tidak!” potongku cepat. “Urusan itu… aku juga kurang lebih sudah bisa melakukannya sendiri. Kamu tak perlu mempermasalahkan soal itu…” 

Sial, aku juga ikut malu kalau begini jadinya. Aku bahkan harus spontan berbohong sedikit—sebenarnya aku juga masih kesusahan melakukan hal seperti itu sendiri. 

“T-tapi, tetap saja… kalau ada orang lain yang membantu, semuanya akan jadi lebih mudah, kan?” 

Aku masih malu-malu sendiri. Sial. Dia benar-benar serius. 

Akhirnya, setelah beberapa detik hening, aku menghela napas panjang—menenangkan diri. “Baiklah, aku mengerti. Terserah kamu saja. Aku tidak akan mempermasalahkannya.” 

Vaye pun mengulas senyum lebar. “Terima kasih banyak!” 

Aku juga hanya bisa tersenyum takzim melihat Vaye yang sekarang. Sejak awal aku bertemu dengannya, aku selalu terkesan dengan parasnya yang sedikit muram dan misterius. Namun sekarang… 

Wajahnya yang ceria dan penuh dengan senyuman seperti ini… 

Membuatku seperti jatuh hati untuk kedua kalinya. 

“Hm? Ada apa?” Tiba-tiba wajah Vaye tepat berada di hadapanku. 

“Ah! Uh…” 

Aku terkejut seketika. Sial, sepertinya tadi aku malah melamun dan senyum-senyum sendiri. 

Kalau sudah jadi seperti ini, maka hanya ada satu hal yang sekarang harus kulakukan. 

Aku berdeham. “Baiklah kalau kamu memang bersikeras dengan itu. Tapi, aku juga punya syarat untuk itu.” 

“Syarat?” 

“Ya. Syaratnya, kamu tidak boleh menjadi pengurusku.” 

Vaye langsung menatapku kebingungan. “Apa…? Maksudnya…?” 

“Ya, tidak perlu memasang wajah bingung seperti itu. Maksudku, aku tidak mau hubungan kita menjadi seperti itu. ‘Pengurus dan pasiennya’, itu tidak terdengar bagus, bukan?”

“Hm… ya…” Vaye mengangguk pelan. 

“Kalau begitu, aku ingin mulai dari berteman. ‘Kamu adalah temanku, dan aku adalah temanmu’. Bagaimana? Terdengar lebih baik, kan?” 

Vaye kembali tersenyum. “… Aku setuju.” 

“Bagaimana? Maukah kamu berteman denganku?” 

Vaye mengangguk dengan antusias. “Tentu saja!” 

“Baiklah. Kalau begitu, kuperkenalkan lagi. Namaku Poe. Kamu?” Aku menyodorkan tanganku. 

“Namaku Vaye,” jawabnya sambil menjabat tanganku. 

Kami berdua pun tertawa bersama. 

Rasanya seperti mimpi. Setelah aku pikir semuanya sudah berakhir dengan kegagalan, gadis ini tiba-tiba muncul di hadapanku dengan penuh harapan dan senyuman. Seperti aku melihat dua orang yang benar-benar berbeda dari sejak aku pertama kali bertemu dengannya di hari hujan deras itu, sampai sekarang. 

Atau, apakah gadis ini memang sebenarnya ceria seperti ini dari awal? Kalau begitu, ia pasti mengalami banyak sekali hal buruk yang sampai membuatnya seperti itu. Yah, ini hanya semata-mata tebakanku. Aku juga sebenarnya tidak tahu. 

Ya. Mulai dulu dari berteman. Sekarang, aku masih punya kesempatan untuk memulai hubungan baik dengannya. Aku sudah tidak kehilangan arah dan tujuan lagi. 

Aku masih bisa memperbaiki masa laluku ini. 

<<< TO BE CONTINUED (hopefully, yes.) >>>


Penulis: Mystyros

Komorebi in Petrichor

Entry Writchal #1

Theme: Droplets of Time


KOMOREBI in PETRICHOR 

By PrimDom & Von Grenadus 

On the other side of the window pane are skies hued with gray as far as the eye can see. Thunders are rumbling with each passing minute. The downpour doesn’t seem to concede anytime soon. Hundreds if not thousands of droplets are racing against the structure, together sufficient for one to envision an army marching across their roofs. 

–**– 

 “I appreciate your courtesy, sir.” Pratama says to the man holding the door, who immediately shuts it before he turns around. 

 It is the fourth residence that he comes across, and the fourth to shut its door. Darkness is already well upon him. As far as he knew, he was confident of the tokens in his pockets for the owners in turn for a stay. But none seems willing to have a touch with them. 

 “Another tent it is.” He says after some distance from the residence. 

 It is not that he minds or anything. He was once forced to live off the land in the aftermath of a cataclysmic event that devastates the world. His current condition is just that moment revisited. As long as he has his equipment with him, everything will be fine. 

 He just feels something off with this world. It’s been three days since the first time he treks along a particular path. So far, it doesn’t take him anywhere. No major cities in sight. Only a bunch of houses and residences which are far apart most of the time. And he often comes across small settlements in shambles. On top of it is a rain with fluctuating intensity, but never stops. If it isn’t due to his reservoir barrier, he has to make peace with the heavenly tears sticking on his clothing. 

 Pratama turns his gaze overhead, toward the darkness that keeps on wetting the lands with their tears, as he digs deep into his memory. He was in his office somewhere behind the frontlines, personally overseeing an operation while administering his realm. Then he took a stroll under a gloomy day to provide a much-needed respite. It’s all of a sudden that he finds himself here, all alone. 

 Despite all that, he doesn’t find himself concerned about his men and the operation. His mind didn’t even come up about them once during his trek. He couldn’t decide, whether it is due to the serene atmosphere embracing him at the moment, or how reliable his co-ruler is. 

 After a laborious march to reach a hill’s crest, he finds himself before a heavily wooded area. He heard stories of beasts and vile creatures, of witches and the wretched lurking deep within the dark woods. But pictures of them that his mind comes up with doesn’t even inhibit his pace by a bit. He still has his powers intact so even if they exist and are waiting for him in the woods, it would be them who is trapped there with him. 

 The woods too are silent. The noises of the critters in the dark, he doesn’t catch any as he walks past one tree and another. He turns the torch on his right shoulder off and on again within a second. The clicks still sound authentic in his ears.

 Not long after he comes across a patch of concave ground with no thicket. What catches his eyes is how the area that protrudes deeper to the ground houses tens if not a hundred of flowers with blooming, glowing, golden petals. 

 Thinking that it’s too convenient for him, he looks around while stomping on the flower clump multiple times. Turns out it’s a solid ground. And given that there’s no one seemingly in ownership of this patch of ground, he decides to drop his backpack and his other equipment, including a military-grade shovel, on the mass of flowers. As soon as his loads are off of him, he decides to collapse and sink into the flowers. 

 He takes a deep breath. 

 Their fragrance is stimulating enough for him to think of retracting his mask so that they could reach his olfactory sense directly. He thought of deploying his foldable mattress. But with his exhaustion and the presence of an obvious facility to comfort him, he couldn’t resist the temptation of crawling deep into his dreams. That is if he still has any. 

 Pratama opens his eyes a few hours later, and finds himself able to see some distance away without his torch. The sun should be up. But since the skies remain in gloom, no hint of warmth is coming to reach him. As soon as he rises up… 

 “Good morning, mister.” He hears a voice seemingly calling for him. 

 He turns to the source of the voice, and finds a girl with a petite figure standing on a higher ground, looking down on him. She has waist-length chestnut brown hair, a roundish doll-like face, and gleaming red eyes. Her clothing seems like it comes from the medieval period, or from some fantasy stories he is familiar with. He couldn’t really tell. 

 The girl tilts her head. “I believe last night was a cozy one for you, wasn’t it?” She utters that sentence with a patch of smile on her face. 

 However, even fools can see what’s taking place. He knew he should have waited longer, or perhaps rest on the rim of the concave ground. But unrested men could never come with the best decision. 

–**– 

“How bout I give you something in turn for the damage I did?” Pratama says to the girl. 

 “I don’t think something would suffice.” She says, her eyes closed, her face raised and frowning. She doesn’t even glance back at Pratama. “It took me an eternity to nurture those flowers, you know? Especially when there’s no sun around to feed them.” 

 “You should have placed a sign or anything that warns any approaching folks of your possession.” Pratama replies. 

 “What kind of people wanders off to a solitary place by themselves in a world where it rains without end?” The girl exclaims. 

 “Sorry I have to give it to you, miss. But I don’t think I am a native inhabitant of this place.” 

 “What?”

 “Fine, anything.” He says to her. 

 “Eh, anything?” The girl tilts her head and puts a finger on her chin. A smirk forming in her face. 

 Pratama nods, confident that he could bring anything that she’d wish for. After all, what sorts of complicated things children like her could come up with? She’d probably wish for all the sweets in a candy store, or perhaps some fluffy plushies to hug given the size of her figure and the looks of her face. 

 “How about a three-legged flying rabbit!” She exclaimed, her face shining all the glee in the world. 

 What? 

 Silence struck as soon as she uttered her words. Remaining in power for more than half a century has brought him various odd twists and turns. Whatever the world throws at him, he’ll know he’ll be on top of it eventually. 

 But this… 

 There is something about her request that sow doubts in him. 

 The girl leans toward him. “What’s wrong?” She asks. “Didn’t you promise to atone for the damage you did?” 

 “Perhaps you are aware that some requests are just beyond comprehension that they have to be turned down.” Pratama replies. For a moment he feels fortunate that his mask remains with him. That is so that this little girl couldn’t see how bewildered he is. Sure, she can tell. But at least she doesn’t see his face. 

 “But they do exist, you know?” 

 If there’s anything that didn’t come to his consideration is that children are still living their fantasy-world. They could pull out magical creatures with obvious otherworldly anatomy or tank designs with turrets placed for every meter across its chassis on a whim as far as their imagination is concerned. 

 But since this world is different, at least it seems to be thanks to the rain that never ends, he might have a shot at finding the sort of eldritch creature that she asked. Like she said, it is possible that they really exist in this world. Besides, chasing after what the little girl desires could fill the vacancy in him. One that he labored for decades to fill with success remaining beyond sight. 

“Can I at least request a lead that could speed up the search process?” Pratama asks her. 

“I don’t have any,” She replies indifferently. “I have been asking people around here and they don’t seem fond of me.” 

Pratama turns away. “Then I don’t think there’s a stroke of luck for us to find it since they share similar sentiments toward me.” 

And that is indeed the concern that has been binding his brain as he trek across this strange land. The local folks don’t seem to be welcoming anyone. Perhaps that explains why their houses 

tend to be so far apart. But that doesn’t say anything about the reason they settled with such behavior. 

“Yours is a lost cause.” He continues, shrugging as he utters his words. 

Pratama glances back at the girl. He now finds her leaning at him with a pout, her eyes wide and glimmering, her hands tight on her chest. It’s that gesture when a child of her age is denied an ice-cream she picks up at a convenience store. He takes a deep breath, his shoulder relaxes. 

“Fine. I’ll see what I can do.” 

“Yay!” The girl cheered in a manner contrasting the atmosphere around. “I shall trek along with you as you proceed with your quest.” The girl chuckles, a short burst of laughter forcing her to cover her mouth with a hand. 

“And I shall identify you as…” Pratama waves his hand to her direction. 

“Neja.” 

“Neja, I see.” He nods. “For a girl of your age, you speak like someone of mine.” Neja tilts her head. “Oh, I’ll assure you that I am older than I look.” She winks. “Very well.” 

“And you are…” 

“Refer to me as Pratama, without Mr.” 

“Sure thing.” 

Pratama begins to stride away from the tiny flower field, tracing back the path that he trekked along for days. Beside him now is a newfound companion, which follows his every step seemingly with all the glee and joy that this land is lacking. Her head sways from one side to another, in accordance with the tune that she is still humming since they begin to walk together. 

For a moment, Pratama is grateful. He turns his sight above. Even though she claimed to be older than she is supposed to be, he couldn’t turn his view into submission with that claim. He couldn’t help but to keep perceiving her as some ten to twelve year old girl in her blooming period. Someone that an adult like him should protect. 

But is she really worthy of his protection? 

Because so far, she has only brought him inconvenience. Second, she seems to be able to handle anything by herself. The fact that she could keep walking without the care in the world implies that. He recalls the three latest girls that he took as his own daughter. Their figure is way more mature than her. Yet they still, to some degree, have this gloom over their face that his presence in their life could never lift. 

Maybe he shouldn’t think about that now. Maybe he should just focus on getting over this and continue on his own business.

After some time, they find a lone walker ahead of them walking against their direction. Strapped on his back is what appears to be a hunting rifle. If that’s the case, then that is excellent news. 

“Stay here.” Pratama says to Neja. “Excuse me, sir.” He waves his hand toward the walker which seems like a man in his thirties. 

“I don’t have time to meddle with you.” He replies back, denying him already. “I request no favor, sir. I merely request answers.” 

“I don’t care.” His tone grows louder. He doesn’t even glance back to Pratama. 

Pratama then leers at Neja who remains still behind him. She just shrugs at the event. He can’t keep doing this. He couldn’t let these people just toss him like he is some eccentric human being that one should remain away from. At least, he no longer could. Because if this trend keeps waltzing, he won’t be done with his atonement to Neja anytime soon. So he clasps his right hand and marches onto the walker with his utmost vigor. 

And pin him into a nearby tree trunk with his clone. 

The impact is enough to shake the trunk to its roots. From the corner of his eye, he finds an astonished Neja with her mouth slightly open. Perhaps she didn’t expect him to go this far just to make these people speak. Or she is just astonished at how he could spawn a clone of him out of thin air. 

“And I don’t either, sir.” Pratama says gently to the walker, who has his hands raised up. He takes a split-second to appreciate how his mask still lingers on his face, the same mask that sees countless people tremble to their knees before him. 

“W-what!?” The walker yelps nervously. Pratama can see his legs slightly trembling. 

“You will provide me with answers, like it or not.” Pratama says to him while pulling his shovel. “Let’s say,” He then places the sharp thermal edge of his shovel against the walker’s neck. “The consequences won’t be on your side should you refuse.” 

“F-f-fine…, wh-what do you want?” 

“You’re a hunter aren’t you? You seem like one with that hunting rifle.” 

“Y-yes, yes, yes. I am one.” He says, stuttering. “But I haven’t caught anything.” “Perhaps you are familiar with a three-legged flying rabbit around here?” 

“What?” The man suddenly stops shaking. 

“I meant what I said.” 

“To be fair, I don’t know about such a thing. In fact this is the first time I hear something like that.”

Pratama lowers his shovel before turning to Neja. This time she’s directing her sight somewhere else, cycling it left and right periodically. But he’s sure that she’s just avoiding eye contact with him for some reason. 

“Where then, can I obtain further lead upon this ethereal creature.” 

“I don’t know.” The man raises his tone. “Try the library or something.” The man then points a thumb behind him. “I think there’s one on top of a hill past these woods.” 

The clone despawns, Pratama despawns them, allowing the man a space that has been briefly deprived from him. 

“I appreciate your cooperation.” 

The man straps his rifle tighter and begins to run away from him. 

Neja approaches Pratama, her attention fixed to the hunter that has just taken a thousand steps ahead of them. 

“Wow, you really went that far to make him talk.” 

Pratama takes a deep breath. “My resentment for these people was at its peak. He’s just unfortunate to be on the way when that happens.” 

Unlike anyone back home that he considered to be unfortunate, these people deserved it. They are all detached from each other, seemingly care only of their own business. And they don’t seem to hesitate to use a hint of force to keep everyone at bay. Another force would then be the only option to make them talk. 

“Ah…” The girl tilts her head to one side, her right index is pressing on her right cheek. “Anyway, I’m heading to that library.” 

“Sure thing.” 

–**– 

Pratama and Neja proceeded to continue on their journey. All along the road, they were accompanied with nothing but rain, rain, and more rain. 

“Hey, hey, Mister.” Neja said, adding to the cacophony of sound surrounding them “I told you, haven’t I? And you didn’t even refer to my name.” 

“Oops, sorry, force of habit, hehe.” She giggles, before continuing. “Say… you look different from everyone around here, mister Pratama.” 

Pratama takes a deep breath. 

“You seemed rather… mmm, clueless.” 

He then looks at the figure of the girl, beaming at him with curious eyes. Well it is true that he did not come from this world, but who would believe that story if he said it that way? He had 

come across countless fictional accounts of similar situations. Besides, she doesn’t need to know anyway. So he decides to settle in with a vague answer. 

“Indeed, I am.” 

“Ohooo, that you are.” She replied. Something tells him that she’s already aware of that from the way she intoned the answer. 

On a second glance, she too doesn’t resemble the inhabitant of this world either. And there’s something about those red eyes of hers that seem unsettling. But of course, she got the headstart before he could even ask her. 

 “So what’s up with that mask anyway?” 

 “Hm?” 

 “That mask of yours, it’s kind of creepy.” 

He has his reason, not that she has to know. 

 “I have allergies.” 

 “Allergies? Oh no! Did you fall ill easily? We shouldn’t be standing in the rain then, you could get sick, mister!” Neja said with concern on her face 

 “I don’t see any spot where the rain decays anytime soon.” 

 “Um, um, we could find a shelter… or, or… 

But why? Why is she the one concerned? Shouldn’t it be far worse for a kid like her to be standing in the rain all the time then? 

Then comes the memory of his second daughter, who had a frail physique when she was about Neja’s age. He even had to make a perilous journey to save her life once. And to think now that a little girl no older than his daughter is concerned for his well-being. Add to the fact that his daughter’s visage keeps taking Neja’s place, making the sight all the more… peculiar. 

 “Neja.” 

 “Hmmm?” 

 “I’m fine.” 

 “Are you sure? You won’t get ill, will you?” 

Pratama was almost baffled now, it is as if he was being treated like a kid. 

 “Certainly not. I believe the concerns should weigh heavier on you. How you tend to favor the rain? Your underdeveloped physique would greet illness with open arms.” 

The gleeful face of the girl was temporarily replaced with a wide eye and a solemn face, a completely different emotion from her childish facade from before. It was a face that reminded him of his three daughters; a face with all their glooms combined.

But for some reason, Neja bounced out of it immediately and wore that childlike demeanor again. 

 “Hehehehe!” she giggles “I’m fine mister, I may not look like it, but I’m pretty strong you know!” she said as she flexed her nonexistent biceps at him. 

 Oh well… 

 “That’s not convincing enough.” 

 “Eeh? But I’m plenty strong, you know!” 

“Then keep up the pace. I will not turn back.” Of course, that’s a lie. How could he abandon a little girl like her if such a situation arises. Regardless of that, he thought she could have some discipline. 

 But of course, how could he abandon a little girl like her should an illness really bog her down? Especially when he has to get her something before he could proceed on his own. His recent statement was just a show of force, the one that should bring discipline to children of her age. 

 “Eeeeh, that’s mean! Hmph, but that’s fine, I won’t get ill anyway.” 

Eventually they found themselves amidst a grass plain with nothing of significance to block their sight. The grasses are moist, the path is soaked and a bit muddy. The two have to put a bit more effort in lifting their feet. But that is something they could steamroll over. Mountains stand majestic in the background; their peak is obstructed by the seemingly everlasting gray. Amidst the grandeur is a solitary speck of manmade structure barely seen from within their distance. What makes it less of a labor to spot is its surrounding fields that appear to be brighter than the rest of the plains and the mountains. 

 Pratama looks above the structure. The cloud formation looks thinner compared to the ones above him at the moment. The result is lesser opacity, which allows higher intensity of light, as well as reduced rain intensity. 

 “But how is that possible?” Pratama spits a question while maintaining his stride toward the structure. 

 “What’s possible?” Neja asks, turning her attention to him. 

 Pratama points at the patch of clouds that let more light come through. “The clouds over there. They are rather less stacked up compared to the others.” 

 Neja’s gaze now turned to the direction Pratama is pointing. “Ah you’re right.” Neja nods. “It looks warmer over there.” 

“And the way they agreed to clump within a boundary in a uniform density which is in contrast with those beyond makes it even more unsettling.” Pratama continues. 

Neja gives a smirk at Pratama’s direction. “Eh, what are you talking about?” Pratama returns her gaze. “It’s just weird that nature does that.”

“Well, I thought the endless rain already gave it away for you.” Neja waves her right hand. “I think it’s in our nature to be unsettled at every odd event taking place before us.” 

“Fufu,” Neja chuckled. “When you’ve been around for long enough, you’re bound to witness something peculiar once in a while.” She shrugs. 

“Anyway, I believe that’s the library that the hunter told us about.” 

“Double time it then?” Neja leers to Pratama with one eye. 

Pratama shakes his head. “I am comfortable with my velocity.” 

Neja sighs. “Gee, old men are boring. Fine, whatever.” 

If his mask isn’t sticking around, this little girl would definitely see a smirk forming on his face. 

As they near the structure, the path turns from wet grasses and muddy soils into a solid limestone path seemingly made to be timeless. Now that the ground no longer absorbs a portion of their footwear, their pace grows significantly better. Pratama is relieved that he is finally exposed to a warm ambience for once ever since he steps into this otherworldly land. Although not as warm as he expected it to be, he has learned to be grateful for all the small things granted to him. 

There’s a gate enclosing the structure’s garden, and it’s left open. On top of it is a sign engraved with writing, ‘Warm Hide Library’. The two walk past an ebony arc overgrown with blooming flowers. Before them is a large fountain that makes Pratama reminiscent of the ones in his mansion. The path circling the fountain is flanked by rectangular bushes. And there are garden torches installed, evenly spaced alongside the path. 

Pratama comes knocking at the entrance. 

“I find it quite ridiculous that you have to knock for entry to a public place such as the library.” He says, turning her attention to Neja. 

“Well, things like these vary from culture to culture you know?” 

Pratama sighs. “And maybe they’ll deny us entry.” 

“Yeah… I admit that the diversity is sometimes quite inconvenient.” Neja said 

The door creaks open not long after, revealing a middle-aged man in a dashing tuxedo and a necktie. His height is about the same as Pratama, only a bit higher. 

“Are we allowed to scour one or two of all the texts this place has to offer?” 

The man looks at them for a while. Pratama was expecting his request to be dismissed right away. Just like his previous ones toward various people that he had encountered along the way. If that happens, he is prepared to lift his fist and break through this meager entrance. 

“Why, yes. Absolutely.” The middle-aged man nods. 

An answer in contrast to what Pratama was thinking. He takes a moment to glance at Neja.

“Finally.” 

“Waha! So not all of them are inconvenient after all.” Neja replies. 

“Please, come inside.” The man gestures toward the room he is in. He then shuts the door gently as soon as Pratama and Neja make it in. 

The two steps into a heavily brown-shaded room. The walls, the floors, and the pillars possess a wood shade with intricate wooden textures. The shelves, tables, and the chairs have a lighter shade, probably due to the nature of being made out of teak. The turbulent carvings on their frames are a sight to behold. The carpet has a hint of red hue on their evenly-spaced rectangular patterns. Even the books have brown leather hard-covers, at least most of them. In its complement is the orangish hue that fills the entire room, emanating from candles throughout the place. On the pillars, the candles are put inside a glass casing. While those on the tables are tucked on candle-holders. 

“I assume you’re the librarian of this place.” 

“Yes, I do possess the role that you’ve mentioned.” The man bows. “My name is Connor Wissenstein, pleased to meet you sir…” He gives out his hand. 

Pratama shakes it. “Pleased to meet you too. For your convenience, you shall refer to me as Pratama as well.” 

“Very well.” 

“Oh,” Pratama continues, pointing at his companion with his right thumb. “And this here, her name is Neja. We just happen to stumble upon each other.” 

Neja pouts at Pratama and slams her right feet to the floor. “Hmu, let me introduce myself.” 

Wissenstein chuckles. “Go ahead miss, you are very welcome.” He continues after, giving out his hand to her. 

Neja’s attention turns to Wissenstein. “Oh, thank you sir.” She then shakes his hand. “My name is Neja, and I’m here to make sure this man beside me atone for the violation of my property.” 

Pratama takes a deep breath. 

“Such desire is what brought you all here then?” Wissenstein asks. 

“Correct.” 

“How do you think this place could help?” 

“I just need information concerning where a certain creature can be found, or would most likely present themselves before us.” 

“Their living space perhaps?” 

“Precisely.”

Wissenstein then extends his arm in a certain direction behind him. “Follow along this hall and take the first turn right. We have a complete archive on zoology and ecology over there, supplemented by various visuals that we have collected so far.” 

Pratama remains still, gazing at the way pointed by Wissenstein in silence. 

“That’ll be much appreciated, sir.” Neja exclaims. “Now come on,” She says, pulling on Pratama’s sleeve. “Let’s get that creature.” 

“Wait a second.” Pratama says, gripping at Neja’s clothing while turning his head toward Wissenstein. 

Skimming an entire shelf worth of books and codices for a piece of information is too laborious. Even for a person with a strong academic background like Pratama. In fact, he knows too well how painful and time-consuming it would be. It is therefore suggestive that one first has to have a hint that the information he’s looking for is really there. At least, narrow it down to some keywords. And one simplest and most straightforward way of doing it… 

“Mr. Wissenstein.” Pratama politely addresses him. 

“Yes?” The librarian nods. 

“Perhaps, you have the slightest idea about a three-legged flying rabbit?” 

Wissenstein remains silent, only raising an eyebrow. It takes another second for him to utter a word. 

“Pardon?” 

“A three-legged flying rabbit.” Pratama says each word with an even pause between them. “My apology, but I have never heard of such a thing.” 

“Heyy,” Neja yells at the two adults, trying to get their attention. “They do exist okay?” 

“I’d like to argue that our archives on that topic are always up to date, since I myself have a great colleague or two working on the field.” Wissenstein gently nods. “So far, they have never come up with such a bizarre creature.” 

Pratama’s gaze turns on Neja. He finds the girl looking up at Wissenstein as he provides an explanation. It doesn’t take long for the gaze to turn into a stare. 

“And given that our foremost ancestor is a four-limbed reptilian, it is highly unlikely that nature would just leave us with an asymmetrical motoric design and call it a day.” 

And the stare turns into a glare. 

Neja proceeds to put both hands on her waist and puffs out her chest. 

A clock hanging on one side of the wall ticks. The three suddenly fall silent, allowing the ticking to fill the place. “Well, I’d like to argue that, for one to be acknowledged as ‘existing’, one does not have to exist… say, at one certain point. Be it in space or time.”

A clock hanging on one side of the wall ticks. The three suddenly fall silent, allowing the ticking to fill the place. 

“Your point?” Pratama said, maintaining his glare 

“A conjecture, if you will… For instance, one could exist on a certain plane of existence, but not on others.” 

“A certain plane of existence…” Pratama reiterates the last part of her statement. “Which means…” 

“Well, the three-legged rabbits do exist, but…not on this world!” Neja puts a wide smile at Pratama’s direction. “Ah, but I believe this argument could be applied to you too, mister. Because you’re not from this world, aren’t you?” 

“So you knew…” 

A giggle started bursting out of her. “Fufufu, I like how you literally pin a person against a tree for a patch of flowers that is not even mine…” 

“Not yours…” 

As her laughter fills the entire room, Pratama’s shadow looms even closer to her. And that carefree giggle of her suddenly ends when two hands pats her shoulders simultaneously. Two hands that don’t seem to belong to either Pratama or Wissenstein. Two hands that suddenly appear out of thin air. 

“Ehh…?” Neja reopens her eyes to a view of an azure visor glaring down to her at less than an inch. 

–**– 

“Kyaaaa~” The little girl’s shriek vibrates all the window panes in the library as her cheeks are being pinched and stretched as far as it supposedly could, her hands flailing around her in the process. “Ow, ow, ow, ow! What aye yu doi- tha hu’t!” She whines, as words escape her contorted mouth. 

Wissenstein watches in silence with a worried grin as Pratama secures his own honor to defile Neja’s roundish doll-like face; his clones, three of them, holding her in place. 

“You have such a lithe face, don’t you?” Pratama says. 

“Nyooo- stohp pinching mye chyeek!” Neja said as she struggled to break free from the three doppelgangers that pinned her in place. her hands punching the clone’s arms harmlessly. 

“Why? You were all giggly and gleeful just moments ago. You seem to enjoy getting on people’s nerve don’t you” Pratama said, his tone cold and unforgiving. 

“Bechaus- bechaus its bworing being all alwone hwere yhou know!” Neja shouted, still unable to break free from the stunlock she’s trapped in. 

Pratama was silent. He could understand the reason behind Neja’s mischievous behavior towards him. One would attempt to do anything to escape the suffocating abyss that is loneliness. 

It seems that being an annoyance to someone is her way to cope with it. Unfortunately for her, she picked the wrong person to pull a prank on. 

And besides, she could’ve just asked him nicely to accompany her without pulling this fake mythical beast conundrum and lying about the flower bed. He would’ve helped her anyway. But how things go now, as per his childhood teaching, the naughty kid had to be punished 

“Dear kind sir, say, don’t you think you’re exerting more force than necessary to teach her a lesson.” Wissenstein, who had been watching the charade from the sideways all this time, finally said. most likely pitying the sight of the little girl being punished in front of him 

“Discipline is of paramount importance. In a slightly different situation, I’d say this is far less than sufficient.” Pratama replies, his tone adamant. 

“If you say so.” 

 But still, it’s not that he particularly enjoys doing this. Perhaps after this, He’ll try to reconcile with Neja. It was also quite intriguing nonetheless that she could calmly deduce that he’s not from this world. Her tone suggests that she is already aware of that fact from the beginning, perhaps that’s the reason why she decided to pull a prank on him. She’s bound to know a thing or two, and Pratama intends to ask her some questions. She’ll probably throw a tantrum or two after this, but more often than not, they’ll quickly fade away. 

“Pwease stop it.” Neja exclaims, but then her voice suddenly reverberated an uncharacteristically crystal-clear tone, despite her cheek still being pinched “Or else.” 

“Or else what?” 

In a split second, Neja’s eyes flashes; Her whimpering face turns into a solid one, as if she’s suddenly filled with bloodlust. She brings her hands to meet the ones stretching her cheek and pulls them off, seemingly with no effort. She then shoves them aside; along with it is a force enough to throw the clones into the bookshelves on her flanks, toppling them. 

Pratama and Wissenstein watch the event in silence while remaining in place with barely any movement. 

Neja proceeds to grab the hands of the third clone and swing it overhead with one hand like a piece of cloth, sending it crashing down before her. Pratama sees his doppelganger’s legs dashing toward his face from above, so he despawns it immediately. An azure flash followed by a harmless jet of particles occurs as the clone returns to thin air. 

She dusts off her hands before crossing her arms, her chest puffing out. 

“Or else that.” She said, her voice returned to the soft and meek one from before. 

Pratama turns his gaze to her left and right, at the toppled bookshelves with books scattered all around them. 

Now that’s convincing

It turns out she really is stronger than she looks. His clones weigh pretty much the same as him. To pull that action requires the strength of more than just a human; the strength of an Android boosted with Reservoir is still insufficient as far as he is aware of. Perhaps he could pull 

a similar move. But that’s rather redundant. If he wants his victim lifeless, he could just pierce their chest with an electric saber or a shockwave gauntlet. If he wants his victim intimidated, he could apply a method similar to the one he did on the hunter. 

What’s more unsettling is how her eyes flash. She is definitely not a random kid. She is something else, something that still lies far beyond the boundaries of his knowledge. 

“Well, I guess a bit more tidying work won’t hurt.” Wissenstein says, clapping his hands. “Don’t worry, I’ll do it.” Pratama says to Wissenstein. 

He spawns his clones again, now six of them in a pair of three for each toppled bookshelves. They erect the bookshelves back and return the books to their initial positions. For more convenience, Pratama bolsters their speed with the module of his first subordinate. Hence, an approximately ten minute task is done in less than a minute. 

“Woaah.” Neja gapes in the sight of six other Pratama dashing here and there at ridiculous speed. 

“It seems like I’m the only one without superhuman abilities here.” Wissenstein comments. 

“There’s no need I suppose.” Pratama says, turning to Wissenstein. “I just happened to have them and brought them here with me.” 

Pratama takes a deep breath as soon as his clones finish their work. They return to thin air not long after. 

“Anyway, about that statement of yours saying you are all alone here…” 

“That one is true, I didn’t make that up.” She raises her right index to her eye level. 

Pratama raises an eyebrow. She mentioned a certain plane of existence; and how one could exist within a plane and not the others, but still be considered existing. Given that she is confident that the creature does exist somewhere, she must have an intimate knowledge of that somewhere, wherever it is. And since she acknowledges the creature to be on a different world, she has to be a native settler there. Thereby making her an alien just as he is to this world. 

“So, not only you are aware that I have been brought here for some reason by some unknown divine mechanics, but you have suffered the same fate as well?” 

“Ah, took you long enough to realize that. Though I’m not in control of that decision, okay? I too wish to return home.” 

“I’ve told you already. I mean look at your clothes, and your mask.” Her index is now pointing at Pratama. “I’ve wandered this place quite far and wide, you know? No one has the same clothing style as yours.” 

“To be fair,” Wissenstein adds. “His coat found its way to several locals here, but they can still be considered uncommon. His mask however, I’m sure no one around has the manufacturing capability to forge it.” 

As he thought. His mask is an engineering feat accomplished only by his subordinate. A retractable metallic mask with filters and attached visor. Not only does it provide convenience on 

the battlefields, the fear factor that comes with it has proven to be invaluable. The design worn by his soldiers, the Proxies, are derived from his. But they are manufactured with different materials to allow mass-produce, and never felt the touch of the original designer. 

 So far, this world has been an odd place. The endless rain, the non-uniformity of the clouds, as well as the lack of hospitality in its inhabitants. For a moment, he thought of adding the three-legged flying rabbit to the list. Even if it’s not happening, that still doesn’t nudge his conviction that this world works on a different set of physical laws. Perhaps, the rules are just the same as the ones back home. Only there is something manipulating it. 

 But he is not acquainted with any sort of magic. It is merely a work of fiction. The superhuman abilities he possessed is not one of them. It is rather more of a technological feat, accomplished through science and engineering. 

 He then takes a glance at Neja, recalling how her clothing is similar to those in fictional fantasies he had come across. Maybe she has better knowledge on that matter than him. Specifically, the art of casting one to return them home. 

“Perhaps, you are aware of a method to return us home.” Pratama says to Neja. Neja puts a finger on her chin and looks to the ceilings. “Hmm.” 

On second thought, asking her is probably a thing that he shouldn’t do. She has just pulled a prank on him. And that should have pummeled her credibility, academically speaking. Therefore, he proceeds with his course. 

“You know what, nevermind that.” He says to her before turning to Wissenstein again. “Hey!” Neja’s voice fills the place to its corners. “I’m thinking for real here.” “How about you, Mr. Wissenstein?” 

“Pardon, sir?” 

“This endless rain hints that there’s something ‘magical’ about this world.” Pratama gestures his hand. “Perhaps there is a way to manipulate their essence so that we may return to our respective homeworlds.” 

“Hmm.” Wissenstein’s sight turns to his feet. “An interdimensional portal, then?” Interdimensional portal… 

The phrase struck Pratama’s nerves. He suddenly turns motionless, as if his temperature suddenly reaches absolute zero. A huge blast that wipes an entire city glimpses in his sight, followed by a mass of resentful crowds. Then the world burns. And from the ashes, comes forth his mighty army; bringing pointless suffering and death as a deep malicious laughter plays at the back of his head. It takes another second for all that rustling to end. 

A silence with the ticking of the clock. Pratama shakes his head, dismissing the vision he just had. 

“I’m surprised that we share the same diction.” He says to Wissenstein.

“I think I’ve read that somewhere, but that was long ago. I remember that the codex is still available here. I just need to rediscover it.” 

Pratama squints at that. He is about to ask him to cover that part of his trip home, when guilt suddenly halts it. In this world, he does not have the power over everyone. He couldn’t just ask someone else to do a favor for him without himself committing an effort toward that favor. 

“I’ll volunteer to assist you in that, if you are willing to assist me in going home.” “I will help you, but you are not obliged to help me in that.” 

“I insist.” 

Wissenstein takes a deep breath. “Very well, sir.” He accepts the deal, probably urged by the image of what Pratama is capable of inside his head; trying to save himself from the inconvenience if he willfully opposes what the man is trying to accomplish. 

“Hey, I want to help too.” Neja exclaims while raising her hand. 

“Not to be disrespectful but,” Pratama says to Neja. “You don’t seem to have sufficient literacy to catch up with what the scripts here are saying.” 

“Mmu…, that’s disrespectful you know?” Neja strikes a pout at Pratama. 

She might indeed appear to be a ten to twelve years old child. But that doesn’t shut the possibility of a skill to read complex narratives of his level. Who knows? She might actually be gifted and turns out capable of understanding them better than him. His recent statement to her is just a remainder of his irritation toward the girl. He personally wishes that there would be no more after. 

“I think we should just let the little lady here come with us.” 

Pratama shrugs. “Fine.” 

“Yay!” Neja shouts, throwing her hands overhead. “Thank you, Mr. Wissenstein.” “Your welcome.” 

Pratama takes a glance outside the window. The dark has begun to creep its way upon the world again. And thus, that time comes again. 

“Mr. Wissenstein, may I ask you another favor?” 

“State your words, sir.” 

“Do you have a space here for both of us to stay for the night or two perhaps? I can handle the fee.” 

Wissenstein stares at the two in silence. Pratama senses it. He’s going to deny him a stay regardless of the fee he is willing to pay, just like anyone else. 

However…

“I think there’s more than enough for both of you on the third floor.” Wissenstein grins. “And fee…” Wissenstein rubs his finger while looking at them. “It’s rather a later and simpler affair. Make sure you’re first comfortable with the space.” 

If Pratama doesn’t have his mask on, Wissenstein could see his pupil widen. At long last, a person kind enough to allow him to stay. Of course, there has to be a token for his kindness. What matters is that he is willing to offer them in the first place. Unlike all the others who have denied him one. 

“I can’t properly string a sentence well enough to describe how I am grateful for your hospitality.” 

Wissenstein shrugs. “You don’t have to.” 

**** 

 Hours of fruitless scouring through shelves and piles of archives passed by. Pratama’s utilizer indicates that it is two in the morning. Waters dripping on the roofs, slowly sliding their way to the ground. He takes a glance through the windows as he marches into the space he rented. It’s dark outside. The time ticks in accordance with his world. 

 Neja went ahead of him; she returned to the living-quarters about three hours prior. She should have been entrenched deep in her dreams right now. It’s even surprising that she could last until midnight, with all that reading. A kid of her age could at best last until ten at night. 

 But as he is nearing his quarter, he could hear something besides the crackling embers of the fireplace. A voice, an ethereal chanting in a language he is quite familiar with. He hurries on his final steps toward the quarter. There he finds Neja sitting on a crimson pillow before the fireplace, singing ever so gently with her petite figure swaying left and right like grasses when a gust blows through them. 

The rhythm is mellow. The mournful tone indicates a soul swallowed by exhaustion. But there is an odd feeling of peace. Like it is reminiscent of the past. And that allows one to rest assured even when sorrow is upon them. The memories; everything that one had went through, all gather round and caress the spirit so that they could move on the next day. 

 Normally, he’d just dismiss it like it’s just a breeze. But now there is something bothering him. Something that urges him to tell her to go to bed for her well-being; since her physique shouldn’t be fit for late night activities. Especially when a figure of a solitary maid who has gone through hell so that he could have a proper meal glimpses into his view. 

And then the song ceased. Pratama could see her figure slowly turning towards him, revealing a pair of blood red eyes that shone brightly under the strong contrast conjured by the flame under the darkness of the night. 

 “Is something the matter, dad?” A soft voice spoke from the ember’s orange glow. 

Pratama raises an eyebrow. It has to be another play she has up her sleeve. But even if she manages to tackle him once or twice more, he doesn’t feel like it’s a big deal anymore. A kid like her deserved all the laughs that she could get before adolescence and reality slaps her hard in the face. 

 “Gehehehehe,” A giggling laughter brought him back from his thoughts. “Even with that mask of yours, I still enjoy doing that.” Neja said as she flashes a mischievous smile at him. 

He sighs as a reply. Pratama admits that her teasing can be annoying sometimes. Now that there’s another concern clouding his head, in addition to his lack of energy after all the scouring, he’ll just let that one pass. Besides, he also set his sights to reconcile with this girl. 

“So, have we found something yet?” she asked again 

Pratama rubs his fingers for a moment before glancing at her. “There is this interesting encyclopedia about some sea cockroaches.” 

“Eeee, gross.” 

“After the flying three-legged rabbit shenanigans, I find it hard to believe that you’d be startled that such a thing exists here.” 

Neja looks away from him. “It’s uh…, more of a…” 

Pratama proceeds to an armchair by the fireplace. 

 “Anyway, that was an excellent performance. An admirable talent.” He said, in a similar manner to that of a parent praising their children. 

 “Hehe, thankyou, it’s an old lullaby from where I am from.” 

It sounds somewhat gloomy, and poignant. He doubts that it is suitable to lull children, even if they sound soothing. Between the mellow and sad tone of the song, and her gleeful and outward demeanor, Pratama senses a mismatch between those two. 

“It’s my favorite song. I used to sing it to my little sister every day. She really loved it, you know!” She continues. 

“You have a little sister?” Pratama asked whilst inspecting her from head to toe once again. “How young is she, compared to you?” 

“Oh, um, well…” 

A long silence followed, Neja cast her sights down. Her eyes were blank, longing for something. Her face is still smiling, but Pratama could tell a forced smile if he sees one, and her’s is a painful one to witness. This is the second time he sees her like this, but this time, it’s far more vivid and clear. It seems that he had just inquired of something that should not have been asked in the first place, he could easily guess at the rough image. 

It’s probably the equivalent of anyone asking him about his daughters. 

She really is alone after all, huh

Feeling bad, he decides to apologize. 

 “I’m sorry, forget I ever asked that.” 

 “It’s fine.” She said, as she stood up and walked towards the door.

Suddenly, a jolt went through Pratama’s head as he recalled his original intention coming in here. 

 “Wait, where are you going?” 

 “Outside, I want to get some fresh air.” She said, without turning to look at him. 

That’s a single line that Pratama did not want to hear at all. He stands up in turn and conjures his clones to block the door. Though after what had happened earlier at noon, the purpose of the clones was merely to buy some time. 

And it works, as Neja halted her step where she stood. 

 “Now what do you think you’re doing?” She said, still in her soft and meek voice. But now, Pratama couldn’t help but to feel an overwhelming aura of malice radiating from her. The built-in barometer on his visor shows a fluctuating rise of pressure in and around the room, and the temperature in the immediate vicinity suddenly dropped. 

 “I’m not in the mood right now…” she said again. Her voice is significantly less soft now. 

He considered seceding and letting her wander off into the rain alone. But the memory of how one particular girl went through hell and back for the sake of his well-being steeled his resolve. Giving up on Neja right now would only taint his memory of that girl, and he’s not having any of that. 

 “I can’t let you go outside now, I’m putting you to sleep.” 

That was a bad choice of words. He could see Neja turning back towards him, the readings on his visor got even more wilder, and the blood red eyes of her were gleaming with bloodlust. 

 “You need to have a good night’s sleep. It’s late now, your body is not built for late night activity, it could hinder your growth. Besides, it’s cold and it’s raining outside, you could get sick if you go out now.” 

Silence. 

A minute passes. The muffled sound of endless rain from the outside perpetually playing in the background. Under the pitch-black night and what meager light the fireplace could provide them, Pratama could see Neja’s face, her eyes were wide and she looked at him with her mouth agape. 

The readings on his visor slowly stabilized, and the temperature is relatively back to normal. And most importantly, that overwhelming malice of hers has vanished. 

 “Hmph! You reminded me of a certain old man I used to know. I don’t want to!” she said, turning away from him whilst puffing her chest and crossing her arms as she pouts. In that signature soft voice of hers. 

Sensing that things had calmed down, Pratama despawns his clones. 

 “It’s for your own good.”

Neja did not reply. She stalwartly maintained that pose and gave him the silent treatment. Having been a father himself, this was an expected reaction for him. Even though all of his daughters were far less troublesome than Neja, when they were under his care. 

What’s worse is the fact that Pratama has started to see that most of the things she did are deliberate and on purpose. And that she just wanted to see how he would react to it. 

 “Mr. Wissenstein had been kind enough to lend us a room with a bed in it.” No reply. 

 “You could take the bed, I’ll sleep on the floor.” 

Still no reply. 

He has encountered similar situations many times before. But they tend to result in the other side conceding, mostly because he is in control of them. Unfortunately, this is not one of those cases. There are still unknowns in the girl before him right now, those that he can’t be sure of ruling out with ease. And given the looks of her, she doesn’t seem to be concerned about his powers. 

So Pratama takes a deep breath. 

“Okay… what would it take for me to convince you to get some sleep?” 

She lowered her arms and looked at him with a smile. 

 “Hmm, I always love reading and listening to stories. Could you read a bedtime story for me, please?” she said, putting an emphasis on the ‘please’ as she looked at him with renewed puppy eyes. 

That was a much simpler request than Pratama had anticipated. 

Perhaps that’s one of her plays again… 

He nodded to her and gestured to her to go to the bed. All the while, he moved the armchair from the fireplace near the bed so that he could sit beside her. He caught a glimpse of Neja crawling inside the blanket. He was expecting her to jump into it with glee and excitement that a child of her age would exhume. But what he saw right now looked more like the motion of a tired old woman, slowly reaching out to her blanket. 

 “Dear me… feels like years since I last lie down.” She muttered. 

Pratama takes a seat beside Neja, he raises his sight to the ceilings, recalling anything he has in mind worthy to lead this petite girl to her dreams. 

He takes a deep breath… 

Once lived a maid. 

Not the most popular, 

But one of the most gorgeous, and obedient.

The hardest labor she tamed, 

To restore what she had lost in flames. And her master, a cruel and ruthless man, Who annihilates all oppositions at hand, Towers way above. 

A shining beacon she grew to love. 

One day, she sees through the beacon’s light, An unholy form of blight, 

Unworthy of everyone’s sight. 

And inside her, something occurred 

Something that has her urged, 

To discipline the most powerful man in the world. When she begins her climb, 

Her world starts to decline, 

With comrades ditching her line, 

A higher-up that shivers her spine 

As well as a pincering hefty fine. 

Nevertheless, she persisted. 

With the voice of a boy 

Who kept her uplifted 

And filling her joy. 

Until the beacon shakes the earth, 

And her back returns to dirt. 

Her master steps down. 

A new guilt he found. 

A maiden crippled to keep him sound. So he keeps her around,

Attending her wound, 

While caring his own lawn, 

Until she’s ready to hold her own. 

Even against a force in deep red. 

Led by her former comrade. 

Supported by a harlot with a golden head. 

And as the beacon’s ground left tainted, 

A private property, just got violated. 

But her master gave her a chance, 

A vast land for her to nurture, 

To fuel his thrall-thirsty lance, 

In the upcoming future. 

And the beacon’s light turns, 

Away from her everlasting glory, 

With newfound properties, 

That was once a history, 

Never to return.” 

And with that, Pratama ends his story in silence. 

 “Eeeh… I was expecting a regular story, not a long poem.” 

 “Was that not to your liking?” 

Neja stared at the ceiling blankly before pulling her blanket and rolls to the opposite side of Pratama. 

 “I like it, it’s pretty…” she paused for a short while, before continuing “Vivid.” “Glad you liked it, now, as promised, you must go to-” 

 “So, why didn’t you see her again?” 

 “… What?” 

She giggles. “‘A beacon that she loves’ huh, your self-confidence is pretty high, I must say.” “So, why didn’t you see her again?”

 “You’re a really perceptive one, aren’t you?” 

Neja said nothing upon that remark, but he could feel her grinning on the other side of the bed. 

 “So, why didn’t you see her again?” she repeats. 

 Why didn’t I visit her again? 

 A question that shot him in the head. And for a second, his senses are dead. 

The simplest answer would be that he was ‘busy’. But is that reason enough to leave a girl that you thought of as your own daughter for the rest of her life? 

He couldn’t think of a rationale reason no matter how hard he tried. Truth be told, deep in the back of his mind, the real reason lies dormant and unspoken. Him not daring to even voice the reason in his thought. 

He was afraid of meeting her. He was afraid of what she would say if she met him again. After everything he had done ever since their last meeting. 

As he was lost deep in thought, he could hear the giggling sound of a girl. He looked up to find Neja stealing glances at him. 

“Eheheheh, for all your outside demeanor, you’re still a bit childish inside, you know?” She said, looking at him with a smile 

“You’re the last person I want to hear that from” 

Neja immediately turned away from him and, in a quick gesture, hid her face behind her blanket like a child that was just got caught sneaking to steal a candybar by her parents. 

“Hmuu, there’s nothing wrong with being childish you know.” 

Pratama sighs. 

“Yes, yes. Now go to sleep. I think i’ll also need to take some shut-eyes. Talking to you have been quite tiresome.” 

Neja didn’t say anything in return. 

Pratama wasted no second to head towards his appointed slumbering place upon negotiation with Neja, a sad looking, brown coloured sleeping bag. 

Oh well, he had it worse before. 

Just as he was about to lie down on said sack of bag, he heard the voice of Neja mumbling under her breath. 

“Well… being childish is okay, if it doesn’t involve people’s life that is.” 

It was very low. But his enhanced binaural sensor caught her saying that. 

“What did you just say?”

“H-Heeh?? You heard me? N-Nothiing! I’m going to sleep, see you tomorrow!” What a brat… 

But that’s normal for a child of her age. 

He finally shuts his eyes and drowns himself in his dreams, if he has any. 

–**– 

Pratama wakes up early. He is used to living under low sleeping hours. His Reservoir imbued body makes him more fit than how he should be given his age. He finds it convenient that he brings it into this strange world. His watch tells him that it’s four in the morning. 

The little girl is still crumpled within her blanket. The room is cold. He revels in it because it gives him solitude. He stretches himself for a minute before striding downstairs. His maids should be serving him coffee and breakfast by now. But for some reason he doesn’t feel hungry nor thirsty. If there is one thing he is thirsting for, it’s the sight of his servants. 

“Awake already?” Wissenstein asks as soon as he sees him. The man is sitting on a couch with a book in hand. In front of him is a small table with a gorgeous bloom. There is a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits beside it. 

“You as well.” Pratama replies. 

Wissenstein smiles. “These are the hours where I begin my activities.” 

“They’re mine as well.” Pratama says, glancing out the window. The skies are still dark. But he can make up some views in the distance without his night-vision filter. “Perhaps we both are great worshippers of dawns. I know I do.” 

“You have a fascinating choice of deity.” 

“That was a figure of speech.” Pratama says, sitting down beside Wissenstein. 

“I mean, you can really worship anything here.” Wissenstein chuckles. “Just be ready to defend yourself.” 

“What do you mean anything?” 

“An emperor, a lady, a tree, some stones, a guy wearing thorns across his body, the sun, the moon…anything.” 

What a terrible world he thought. He is already struggling to repress a faith back home. Yet, here there could be hundreds if not thousands of them. 

“Are there any of them who are so triggered that they water this place day and night?” 

Wissenstein sips his tea. “Not really. We don’t know where this rain comes from. It’s just there for some reason.” 

“Was there any attempt to stop it?”

“People just go along with it as far as I know. Or maybe I am too isolated. Regardless, none succeed if there is any.” 

Pratama takes his glance around the room. The torch fire crackles. They are the only thing moving in the place. The way Wissenstein flips every page is done so well as to not create plenty of movement. If it isn’t raining outside, he would probably be listening to the beat of his heart and the ringing in his ears. He wonders why there isn’t anyone in this library. 

There is a painting to his right. The width of its rectangular frame is probably half his height. Its vintage hue caught his attention. It shows a prairie on a clear day. Huge masses of clouds are cruising over, but one can see that sunlight still kisses the grasses. Amidst the prairie stands a structure. The humanoid figures drawn around it give away its massive scale. Even with all the arcane contraptions making it up, Pratama feels oddly familiar with the thing. 

“Isn’t that a 3d print-” Pratama pauses as he realizes that this is not his world. “I mean, what is that?” He points his right thumb at the painting. 

Wissenstein glances at the painting. “Oh,” He exclaims. “We call it The Great Spawner of Things.” 

“The Great Spawner of Things.” Pratama reiterates the label slowly, as if he is astounded at what the locals came up to name it. He rubs the metallic part of his face-mask that covers his chin. “I expect it to have great significance around here.” 

“You bet.” Wissenstein puts down his cup. “Would you like to know?” 

“Please proceed.” 

“It’s a relic from ancient times. Times where crises are coupled with each other. It solves many problems of its creators, just as they intended it to. Until it doesn’t. Its unsustainability hastens the collapse of the ancients. As of this moment, we still lack the arcane knowledge to get that thing running.” 

“Does it solve the problem by ‘spawning’ things?” 

“Correct.” 

“And how do you know that it actually spawns things?” 

“Surviving records by the people who built them.” 

“Do you actually believe them without testing it or something?” 

“The scholars are still debating over it, for your information. There are many suggestions. But the structure being a spawner is the most popular narrative.” 

Pratama gazes at the painting again. No doubt it’s the most popular. The structure is literally a 3d printer in his world. It just looks different thanks to the gemstones stuck on it for every inch. Perhaps they have greater purposes than making the printer pleasant to the eyes. 

Three hours passed and the day grew brighter. It is still gloomy overhead with droplets trickling on the windows. That’s when Pratama smells a distinct aroma in the air. Being a man that 

hailed from a land rich in spices, he is well familiar with these types of aroma. It somehow brings him comfort. 

“You have a cook in this library?” He nodded to Wissenstein 

“No, but this library is equipped with a kitchen and a dining room on the third floor.” “Then who could be…” 

Pratama instinctively walked back to the room he leased from Wissenstein and found that his suspicion was correct, the little girl in red was nowhere to be seen. Upon entering the third floor, he was greeted by a set of humble furniture. A regular wooden table sat in the middle of the room, paired with several chairs, there were six of them. He wondered whether Wissenstein received guests often that would necessitate this number of chairs. Just in front of the table was the kitchen, separated from the dining table by several wooden counters. The figure of a little girl in a pink apron could be seen, standing in front of a stove with a cast iron pot boiling over it. She could be heard humming a song in that previous unknown language, but stopped as soon as she noticed Pratama entering the premises. 

“Oya? It seems I have attracted a hungry wolf.” 

“I see you are awake.” 

“It’s a bit weird though.” 

“What’s weird?” 

“For the first time in the longest time, I dreamed.” 

“With one whose imagination is as active as yours, I would expect dreams to be a common occurrence for you.” 

“Ah, I suppose. But it usually doesn’t happen for me…” She said, continuing to mix the broth in the pot. “Maybe because in this world, I don’t have the obligation to watch over anybody…” 

“What?” 

“Ahh, nothing. Anyway, I noticed that it was really cold. So, I figured that a bowl of curry wouldn’t be too bad right now.” 

“Curry huh, no wonder the strong spices aroma. But have you…asked Wissenstein for permission?” 

“Nyo- Uh, I mean… I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if I cooked for us…right?” “Neja… you…” 

“Ahaha, it is okay, Mr Pratama. I wouldn’t mind lending our little chef here my kitchen.” Wissenstein said, emerging from behind the stairs. “But I have to ask… Where did you get all the ingredients to make such a delectable cuisine from? I don’t remember stockpiling anything that could produce something like this.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that, I brought my own” 

“You brought… your own?” Pratama asked. “Where did you put them?” 

“In my storage!” 

“In your… storage?” 

“Ah, that’s not important right now. Look, the curry is ready.” 

She brought the hot pot off the stove, and poured it over a plate of rice with a ladle. The strong smell of spices dominated the room. She approaches the two men with the plate of curry in hand. And served it on the table. 

“Here you go, please enjoy it,” She said with a smile. 

“It looks delicious, little miss. You’re really good at cooking.” Wissenstein said. “Very well then, I’ll help myself to it, you should come to, Mr. Pratama. Our little chef here has gone through the trouble of making breakfast for us.” 

“Okay.” 

Pratama follows Wissenstein, and takes a seat beside him. He stared at his plate, the curry does smell good, and it doesn’t look suspicious at all. Despite his reservation towards the trickster Neja, he supposed it wouldn’t hurt to try a scoop or two. He started with the curry… 

“Mm, it’s good.” 

In his peripheral vision, he could see Neja smiling widely. The smile was different from the usual smug smile she sports. It was a genuine happy smile. 

“Is that so? I’m glad you liked it, ehehe.” 

The two men then busy themselves with their respective plate. Emptying it scoop by scoop. However, the warm eyes both Neja and Pratama directed towards each other gradually degraded into that of… perplexity. 

“Hey, Neja-” “Mister-” they said at the same time. 

“No, me first.” Neja insisted. 

Wow, the first time a female ever did that. Pratama thought. 

“I noticed that you haven’t touched your vegetables at all… Why is that?” “Oh no, Not this again…” Pratama sighs. A sudden headache emerges in his head. “Hmm?” 

“Look, I promise you that I regularly eat vegetables now, every day, strictly following the 4-healthy -5 perfect principle. But for now, I just want to enjoy some meat. Can a man not enjoy some meat once in a while?”

“No! That’s not good, mister. You need to eat veggies, they’re healthy, especially for you, you’re old! 

“Allow me to make a retort. Where’s your plate? Why didn’t you eat with us?” 

“Hya- Ah, That, that’s, uh, I can’t… I don’t really need to… I mean, I’m, I’m not hungry! Not hungry at all!” 

“You’re still a kid, you have a small body. You should eat more so that you can grow more.” Pratama raised a hand and pointed at her. “That’s an order, grab a plate and eat.” 

“Wah! Order? I’m not your daughter, why should I obey you?” Neja said, puffing her cheeks 

“Okay, how about this, I will eat my vegetables only if you grab your portion and eat with us.” 

“M-muu… Okay fine but… I only cook two portions…” 

“I’ll share my portion with you.” 

Neja stares blankly at Pratama for a moment. Before walking towards his chair without grabbing any plate. 

“Where’s your plate?” 

“You said you’d share your portion with me.” 

She then proceeds to climb the chair Pratama was sitting at. And made herself at home on his lap. Pratama was quite bewildered at this development. Her petite frame meant that there’s plenty of room for her on his lap, he just never thought she’d opted for this option. 

“Since you’d be sharing your plate, this is more convenient for me. Humph.” “You…” Pratama sighs again. “What next, you want me to spoon feed you?” “What? No! I told you I’m not a kid. Give me your spoon.” 

Upon witnessing this event unfolding. Wissenstein couldn’t help but to crack up a laugh. “Are you sure you two are not related?” 

“We’re not!” Both of them answered simultaneously. 

“I see, I see, no need to get so worked up. Well then, why don’t we continue to enjoy this food for now?” 

Both Pratama and Neja did not object to his suggestion, and they continued eating the curry that Neja cooked. Throughout it all, Pratama could be seen momentarily pausing every time he scooped some vegetables, while Neja gagged everytime she put the curry in her mouth, struggling to swallow every bite. After what felt like a long hour, their plates were finally empty.

“Thank you for the meal, that was delicious.” Wissenstein said, as he wiped his mouth with a handkerchief. 

“Hmm? Neja, are you okay?” 

“I’m… I’m fine…” Neja’s face, meanwhile, was rather pale. It looked as if she had been poisoned. 

“That’s weird. I found your curry to be delicious, what’s wrong?” 

“Ah, ahaha, ahahahahah… it’s okay, it’s okay. I’m fine… It’s been… a while since I last ate human food. I – uhh, excuse me for a moment. I need to go… to the restroom…” She said as she scurried away from his lap. 

“What?” 

“Ah, it seems the young lady is not suited to spicy food.” Wissenstein suggests. 

“I see.” Being a man that originates from a land where spicy food is eaten on a daily basis with little regard, Pratama had always looked down on people that couldn’t stomach them. But how come she’s able to prepare this dish in the first place if she’s unable to stomach some spices? 

The clock ticks. Water continues to drip on the roof. Those that sticks on the windows trickle down to the ground. The three enjoy their meal. The warm cooking heat their insides; sparking fervour amidst the delicate atmosphere that tends to drive people to their bed. Pratama is grateful that he could have one of this meal sessions after a while. Moreover, it’s free of charge. His cooks back in his headquarter can copy the meal down to its taste. He wouldn’t spot the difference. But for some reason he is certain that what he is having right now is better compared to when his cooks brew them. Was it because of the girl that made it? 

The girl walks back from the restroom. He looks up to her once he is done. She is gazing outside the window. It doesn’t take long until she turns her attention to him again. 

“By the way, how about we stop the rain? I’m tired of it.” She smiles. A pleasing expression that feels natural to him. Natural and warm. 

Pratama and Wissenstein share a glance. 

“No.” Pratama says once his attention returns to her. 

“Why not?” Neja puts a finger on her chin as she leans closer. “You wish it was bright too, don’t you?” 

Pratama looks away. “Probably.” 

“Then let’s do something about it.” Neja exclaims. 

“No.” Pratama strikes an indifferent face toward her. It doesn’t matter anyway since it always hides behind a mask. 

“Come on.” 

“No.”

“Pleeaasseeee.” 

Their eyes meet. Pratama catches a glimpse of something on her face. It’s something that he always longs for. 

“Ok fine.” He says, taking a deep breath. He has nothing better to do anyway. Neja shouts in excitement. 

Wissenstein shuts his book upon learning his words. “Are you…really willing to end this rain?” He shrugs. “Pardon me, but you don’t seem to have the resources nor manpower to do so.” 

“Don’t worry.” Pratama turns to him. “We’re more capable than we look. All we need is a guide.” 

“Do you have a plan already?” Neja asks. 

Pratama raises an eyebrow. “I think I’ve read somewhere that we could launch…water absorbing grains to the sky. These grains will absorb the water molecules accumulating in the clouds, which then reduces the intensity of the rain.” 

Neja and Wissenstein gazes at Pratama in astonishment. 

“Now I’m hungry.” Neja says. 

“Nevermind what I said.” Pratama continues. He then stands up. “What’s important now is to acquire those water absorbing grains that I mentioned.” 

“Water…absorbing…grains…” Wissenstein rubs his chin. He gently snaps his finger seconds later. “There’s a mine that produces sand which does exactly that. People used to buy sand from there to collect the water ever since this rain doesn’t end.” 

“We shall head there then.” Pratama gestures to Wissenstein. “Come with us. Take us there.” 

Wissenstein puts a bookmark before shutting the book. He places it on the table. “Ok.” 

The three prepare to leave the library. Wissenstein puts on a cloak that extends to his ankle. He locks the library before departing with Pratama and Neja. 

By Wissenstein guide they reach the mine. There’s no one there. Not even a single hint of activity. Wind sweeps the area. The cave’s hollowness sings to them. 

“Where’s everyone?” Neja asks. Her sight sweeps from one side to the other as if she is looking for a friend in a playground. 

“I don’t remember this place being this empty.” Wissenstein says. 

Neja walks to the mouth of the quarry. “Hello!” She shouts into the cave. 

“Means we can get that sand without anyone bugging us.” Pratama states, taking the lead into the cave.

Neja and Wissenstein follow. 

The cave is damp. The path inclines gradually as it should be if there are people extracting loads of rocks from the tunnels below. Putrid scent fills the air. The whole place reeks of rats. However, it’s not as bad as the pungent smell of synthetic flesh intermixed with blood, circuits and endoskeleton. 

Although it’s an unauthorized entry, Pratama walks leisurely as if he owns the place. He is no stranger to that. His goal is the only thing he has in mind. If he is willing to raid an underground camp for them in absence of his power, what’s stopping him now? Deeper into the quarry, they see shadows of rats the size of a man. They walk with their hind feet while the other two are being used as hands. Its fingers move just as well as humans’ when observed closely. 

“What are those?” Neja tilts her head. 

“Hey!” A shrill voice shrieks from the darkness. One of those rat-man falls before them and raises their serrated sword to the party. “Man things,” He stutters as his nose sniffs. “Allow permit here, we-we do not!” 

“Woah…” Neja sounds astonished. 

“Fascinating.” Pratama comments. 

“Rat-men,” Wissenstein says. “I suggest beware. They are not known to be friendly or negotiable to any of us.” 

More comes not long after. They are all armored and armed with a serrated sword and a spiny wooden shield with a metallic outline. 

“That man-man…ghh!” The same rat-man grunts. “To him, hear-listen!” 

“We can’t turn back now, can we?” Pratama says. He then approaches the rat-man. “I’d like to have a portion of the sand produced by this mine.” 

The rat-man sniffs. “S-sand…litter-dust! Belong-owned by the Ancient Whiskers they are are!” 

“How about I pay for them? Just once.” 

“Mmm…mineshaft, Warlock Frikz own-own! Buy-get with gold, man-things can’t can’t!” “We shall do this another way then.” 

Pratama nimbly grabs the least sharp part of the rat-man’s sword. Electric-arcs swirl around the arm that grabbed the sword. 

“GhAAAAA…!” The rat-man screams as high-voltage electricity flows through him. He then collapses. His body twitches as electric sparks emanate from it. 

Seeing their dead friend on the stone-floor, the other rat-men then raises their sword. 

“Man-man things danger-threat!” One of them exclaims. He turns to his comrade on his right. “To master…warn-tell him him!”

That particular rat-man instantly disengages; running deeper into the mine while banging his sword against his shield repeatedly. 

“Oh boy.” Wissenstein comments. 

“Heads down, Wissenstein.” Pratama tells him. Arrays of orange rings appear and envelop Pratama’s arms. They glow and revolve around his arms at a distance. Pratama doesn’t raise his hands. He just gestures with his fingers. 

The serrated swords of the rat-men are freed of their grip. They float in mid-air for a second before turning their sharp end to their original user. Pratama clasps his right fist and the swords thrust toward the rat-men chests. The rat-men cry as they collapse. 

Neja looks in awe. “That’s amazing.” She says to Pratama with glee. 

Then masses of similar armed rat-men emerge from the tunnels below and above the three. They scurry like a horde of beasts who just met a prey after not eating for days; yelling and shrieking battle cries in their hustle. 

“Oh…oh…” Neja raises her hand excitedly. “My turn.” 

The girl extends her hands forward. Dark purple circles form on both of them. Similar circles immediately appear below the rat-men’s feet. They pull the rat-men in as if the ground suddenly vanishes. Neja then clasps her hands. The portal closes, severing their bodies in half. Red liquids pour from above as the bottom-half of the rat-men bodies fall from the ceiling. 

“Yay.” Neja exclaims. “I got more than you.” She points at Pratama. 

Pratama claps gently. “Ura.” He says in an indifferent tone that definitely doesn’t sound like someone who is cheering. 

The remainder of the armed rat-men watches in terror as the severed bodies of their kin drop one by one in front of them. 

“MMM!” One of them hums while sniffing. “Win-beat them, we can’t-can’t!” He yells. “Call-bring m-master…we must-must!” 

They quickly retreat back to the tunnels. Then a slightly bigger rat-man emerges from the main tunnel ahead of the three. He takes gentle steps toward Pratama and Neja; meanwhile the talisman on his chest gradually glows brighter. He hisses as soon as he clears the dark side of the tunnels. His apparels become evident to the eyes. 

On his right hand is the same serrated sword carried by the other armed rat-men. On his left is a worn timber staff with a glowing greenish stone on its top. His eyes are concealed by the hood of his robe which goes all the way towards his feet. 

“Interrupt-bug mine quarry…who dares-dares!?” He yells. 

One of the armed rat-men kneels before him. “M-mmaster…” He sniffs. “Man-thing, there…” He points at Pratama. “Killed-slaughtered us with his offspring he did-did.” 

“Looks like it’s Warlock Frikz.” Wissenstein says.

“Please take care of him.” Pratama tells Neja, slightly glancing at her. 

“Hmmu…no.” Neja puts her left hand at her waist and another on her chest while puffing it. “As your humble companion, I shall hand this moment to you; a moment where you could once again flex your muscle.” She says proudly. 

Pratama sighs and facepalms. “Fine.” 

Frikz sniffs. “Pay-responsible you will-will!” He then shrieks while raising his staff to the air. The greenish stone glows brighter. 

Pratama spawns a clone of himself. It strides forward in an eerily manner. Wine clouds whiz around its bottom arms. In a second, it glitches into a figure with legs straight and arms extended outward. Then it launches forward at a breakneck speed, crashing into the big rat-man. 

“AAgh!” A short grunt as the warlock is tossed fifty feet behind. He quickly collapses. 

The other rat-men watches; the terrified looks on their faces are evident as they repeatedly glance at each other as if they could depend on them to save their whiskers. 

“Wow, he instantly dies.” Neja exclaims. 

“He isn’t human personnel. Hence, safeties are off.” Pratama comments. 

The rat-men approach their master’s body. They poke it as it lies there. Nothing they could do to bring him back. One of the armed rat-men runs before Pratama. He tosses his weapons away while dropping on his knees. 

“V-vanquished us…” The rat-man sniffs and stutters. “You have-have. S-spare-mercy me, I beg-beg you!” He bows. 

The other rats follow his example. 

“No-no-no! Spare me-me!” 

“Live…l-let-allow me please-please!” 

“Me-me! Die-killed, I want-will not…please!” 

Pratama is fascinated by the sight of these vermin pledging their life to him. How he wished the Vindicators back home to do the same. Pratama claps his hands two times. “Listen, listen.” He says. “Since all of you are collectively asking, I shall spare all of you.” 

“Yes-yes-yes!” 

“Thank-grateful…I am-am.” 

The rat-men rejoice. 

“But on one condition.” Pratama raises a finger and the crowds go silent again. “You will work for this man, right here.” Pratama steps aside to present Wissenstein before them. 

“Me?” Weissenstein grabs his chest.

“If you disobey him…” Pratama addresses the rat-men crowd. “There is no telling what will happen to you. But it will be terrible.” He says. 

“Yes-yes! Obey-abide, I will-will.” 

“Hail Lord Wissenstein! Hail-hail!” 

“Heed-answer your words words I will, Lord Wissenstein…” 

Pratama turns to Wissenstein. “Now, tell them to return to their job.” 

“Why are you doing this.” 

“I am not a member of this society.” Pratama says. “Every gain I make will be irrelevant. It’s better to hand it out to someone else.” 

Wissenstein sighs. “Okay.” He grins while stepping forward. “Alright people, get back to work.” He extends his right arm. 

“L-lord Wissenstein has spoken-spoken! Work-labor we must-must!” 

The rat-men crowd then disperses. Everything quickly went back to normal, except for some of the rat-men who had to dispose of the warlock’s body. 

“By the way, you!” Wissenstein points at a rat-man. 

He quickly approaches him. “Yes-yes, my Lord?” 

“Could you get this man the water-absorbing sands, please?” Wissenstein asks him. “Sand…litter-dust! Yes-yes…bring them-them, I will!” The rat quickly hustles off. 

Wissenstein glances at Pratama and Neja before shrugging. Not long after, the rat-man returns with a mine-cart full of said sand. 

“Here-here, my Lord.” 

Pratama walks to the minecart. He scoops a handful of the sand before walking outside. He extends his hand so that the rain droplets fall on the sand. He pulls it back and finds the sand expands on some part where the droplets landed. 

“Yes, this is what I need.” 

“Oooh-” Pratama catches Neja staring at something in a corner. She turns around with a gray stone inscribed with red-lines across its face. “What is this?” 

“C-care!” The rat-man shrieks. “Flow-permeate…magic should-should, boom-boom it would!” 

“Oh…” 

Neja is about to put it back when Pratama exclaims. “Wait.” 

“Huh?”

“We’re going to need that as well.” He says reaching for the stone. 

Neja lets him have it. “What’s your plan, anyway?” She puts both hands on her waist. 

“I’m going to launch these,” Pratama raises the hand with the sand. “Into the eye of the storm. They will absorb the water and the rain will stop.” 

“So that’s what you meant by reducing the rain intensity.” Neja crosses her arms. Pratama nods. “Once the device is ready, we’re going to have to mass-produce it.” 

Neja squints at the two entities in Pratama’s hands. “Nuh, no need.” She says puffing her chest while closing both eyes. “You just have to find a way to assemble the device from those two.” 

“Hm?” Pratama tilts his head. 

“Trust me.” She gazes with one of her eyes closed. 

“Ok, I guess.” 

Wissenstein steps in, his right hand raised in the air. “Pardon me, you’d still need help in creating your McGuffin, right?” 

“I already have a plan for that.” Pratama says to Wissenstein. “Take us to where that print- ” Pratama shakes his head. “That great spawner of things is.” 

“Sure thing.” Wissenstein nods. “Come.” 

Pratama pulls out a cylindrical package out of his backpack and fills it with the sand. He then proceeds to put it alongside the red-lined stones he placed in his backpack. 

The three then journeys to the great spawner of things, which Pratama is still convinced that the structure is one big 3d printer. Its real size is even more imposing up close. He never thought that he would see a 3d printer the size of a university complex. Pratama observes the all sorts of shapes forming around. It must have been its contraptions during its prime. He couldn’t know how long the device had been forsaken. Probably within millennia of timespan. 

“This thing has been dead for ages.” Wissenstein says while having his attention fixed to the contraptions around him. “How do you plan to use it?” 

“Simple.” Pratama says, cracking his knuckles and neck. He aims his palms toward the structure. Azure particles are forming around his arms. They swirl around like a flock of bugs herded by their meals; eventually gathering at his right foot. Pratama then kicks the structure gently. “Wake up.” He exclaims. 

Azure lines streaks across the printer as well as its massive contraptions. Electricity sparks across the complex. Power up noise sings across the premises. The contraptions whirr in the next second. The printer’s mechanical parts are turning at an increasing rate. 

“What did you do, mister?” Neja asks. 

“I politely ask him to wake up.” He answers.

“I am fascinated by your definition of polite.” Neja comments, leaning toward him. “Don’t be, nothing to gain over that.” Pratama then flicks his right index. “Now, let’s see.” 

“Did you just…” Wissenstein says, looking astonished at the complex machinery that has been dead for millenia now operating like nothing is wrong. “…turn it on? I mean, just like that?” 

Pratama gestures. “You shouldn’t be surprised after everything we’ve been through.” 

“No, no I meant…” Wissenstein rubs his head. “Uh…this thing is like a force of nature itself. How could you…” 

“It just works.” Pratama says. “As long as it does, no need to question it. Unless you’re working in pure science fields.” 

Wissenstein takes a deep breath. “Fair enough.” 

Pratama then flicks his right index. “Now, let’s see.” 

The printer opens a slot; one sizable enough to contain a handful of palm-sized materials. Pratama deploys his backpack and reaches for the sand container and the red-lined stones. He places them gently side-by-side in the slot. Another flick of his right index and the slot closes. 

“One Cireng X missile please.” He says while carrying his backpack again. 

The printer’s beams displace. They grow in height, adjusting to the size of the product they are about to print. The gears accelerate as if they’re about to bring the sun down. Its emitters project the holographic view of the missile. A certain propeller which is held by the connectors of the beams extends its rotor length. It then spins above the product deck. Gust spews outward while it works. The clamor sounds like thousands of rockets being fired consecutively. The propeller gradually rises along the vertical beams as the missile is taking form; solid white materials fill up the frame projected by the printer. 

The machine proceeds with its labor. Pratama personally hopes that it doesn’t attract any curious eyes as it progresses. Once it’s done with the tip of its warhead, the missile shatters into azure particles that disappear into thin air. The propeller restores its rotor length and returns to its original position above the product deck. The beams follow. 

Pratama walks closer and observes the deck. There he sees a cube with round edges of black color and white outlines. He strides up the ramp towards it. The cube is as tall as his knees. 

“I assume…” Pratama tilts his head. “The missile is in here.” He says slowly. 

“Yes, yes.” Wissenstein quickly approaches him. “It is in fact how this great spawner of things works. The spawned products came in packages such as this in order to ease its transport.” He then points at something on the cube. A line of azure light that seems to be part of the cube. “If you run your finger across this line, the package will unpack and the spawned product will emerge from within.” 

Pratama doesn’t utter a single word as he carries the cube into a flat-open space somewhere within the printer complex. He then swipes the gleaming azure line on the cube with his right fingers. The light emitted by the line flickers. Aware of the size of the product that he asked the 

printer to print, Pratama steps back. The cube’s edges detach themselves. And sure enough, the missile emerges to its intended size as the cube cracks open. 

“Ah, fascinating.” Pratama comments. “Wait a minute…” He then remembers how he has to carry the missile into the eye of the storm. He believes that it is possible to do so given his powers. But the inconvenience still stands. “Damn, I shouldn’t have done that.” 

Neja then walks in, clapping her hands. “Well…well…well, looks like this is the part where I took over.” 

She raises her left hand. The same portal she used to sever the rat-men appears and engulf the missile. 

“Where’s that thing taking it to?” Pratama asks. 

“My storage.” Neja says proudly with a hand on her chest. 

“You’ve said that before, but I don’t think I understand what that is.” Pratama comments. “Well…no need.” Neja glances at Pratama with one eye. “Nothing to gain over that.” Silence as Pratama raises an eyebrow. 

“Look,” Neja sighs. “The point is…I promised I’d take care of the mass-producing right? The thing is, I can use everything in my storage repeatedly. So yeah, I took care of it.” She crosses her arms. 

Pratama shrugs. “Fine.” He said carelessly. 

He just hopes that she is still aware that all of this is for her sake. She might be a child figure. But he believes that she realizes it would be to her inconvenience as well if she were to screw this up. Hence why he just goes along. 

“Now, to the eye of the storm.” Pratama says while turning his gaze above him. “And unfortunately…that is a matter I am not an expert of. Wissenstein?” 

Wissenstein puts a hand on his chin. “Maybe we could visit a weather specialist. They would have the necessary spells to locate the eye of the storm.” 

Neja glances in a certain direction. 

“No need.” She says gleefully to the two. “Let’s head this way.” She points to the direction she glanced at. 

Pratama tilts his head while staring at her. “Do you really expect to find the eye of the storm just by walking in a random direction?” 

Neja nods confidently. 

“Alright.”

The three then proceed; Neja leads the way. They eventually see what they’re looking for. The part of the world where the rain is the least powerful. A place where huge masses of clouds twirl in a fashion where they would never fall to the center. 

“See I told you, the eye of the storm.” Neja exclaims while pointing at it 

“Impressive. We actually found it.” Pratama claps his hands gently. 

“Of course!” Neja puts her arms on her waist again. “I have godlike luck.” “That you are…” Pratama says, gazing at the eye of the storm. 

Hail of sharp downpour rain down upon the three with intermittent lighting striking the near vicinity, as if announcing that they are not welcome. Pratama deployed a cyclonic barrier to block the rain, extending the courtesy to Wissenstein, while Neja… She just takes the rain head on. 

“May I congratulate both of you as the individuals who is the first to gaze upon the eye of the vortex ever since it’s creation?” Wissenstein clapped his hand, though the sound was drowned by the thunderstorm. 

“Now, only the launch remains.” 

“How would you plan to launch the projectiles?” Wissenstain asked. Gazing upon the roaring vortex. “The storm is quite big. It’d be difficult to find a stable launching pad.” 

Pratama gazes to Neja. She proudly puffed her chest. 

“Leave it to me.” 

“You are just one box full of convenience, aren’t you?” Pratama said. 

“Hehe, not used to it?” 

“It just feels odd.” Pratama shrugs. “For the first time, a divine hand is on my side. One that keeps my goals within arm’s reach.” 

“Divine hand huh. Well… there’s a sliver of truth in there. But you’ve led a tough life huh, mister.” 

“I wouldn’t say a tough life. Just one that happens to be tough.” 

“I see. Well, things weren’t always easy for me too, you know! I just happen to have overcome the hardest challenge, looong ago.” 

“I believe you. There’s no way power such as yours are gained without great effort.” 

Neja smiled proudly at that statement. “I usually used them at a moderation, it wouldn’t make for a fun story if everything is easily solved otherwise.” 

“Fun, huh…” What Neja said irked Pratama quite a bit. Reminiscing about the tragedies that happened to him in the past due to factors that were beyond his control. It could have been solved through power and power alone. Power he did not posses at the time. Power he wished he 

had. And yet Neja dismisses having too much power as ‘not fun.’ As if this world was one big blank novel for her. 

“If one possesses sufficient power to overcome a certain problem, one is obliged to utilize such potential to its full extent to solve said problems, that’s what I believed.” 

“Uh huh.” 

“So, I found your idea of limiting your potential for the sake of spectacle to be quite distasteful.” 

It doesn’t matter whether it’ll make for an interesting tale or not, the universe doesn’t care, the universe is cruel. He would prefer to have an overwhelming power to solve a problem, rather than being powerless for meaningless spectacle. 

“Ahaha, I see. Well then, let me make an exception this time, and show you one more convenience trick I have up my sleeve.” 

Within a second after she finishes that sentence, a pair of feathered wings emerges from her back. She immediately blasts into the sky, toward the eye of the storm in what appears to be positive multiplication of the speed of sound. Pratama watches as she quickly becomes a dot in the sky. In his bewilderment, he thought to himself. 

“She can fly?” 

“Now that is convenient, alright” Wissenstein adds. 

The petite girl stops mid-air. She stretches her limbs wide. Hundreds of dark purple portals spawn around her. The missiles slowly emerge from those circular gates. They are all pointed toward the eye. The scene seems uncanny for Pratama, he was sure he had seen this kind of spectacle before in his world, a memory from a distant past… 

Pratama catches a flash from one of them. A trail of smoke left behind. An explosion follows shortly after. It burst the sand outward. They fall at a gradual but increasing rate. 

The rain doesn’t show any sign of stopping. 

“Ahahaha! I see, this must be the work of some other gods of this world huh. How nostalgic, well, have at it then!” 

So, the girl proceeds with another missile. 

And another. 

And another.

Pratama observes in silence as the firework show begins. From the ground, he could only see blinding flashes that occurred repeatedly at a blistering pace. The explosions of the missiles fill the sky with a bright red hue. The thundering noises overlap. As if hundreds of giant drums are being beat haphazardly. They were at first unbearable, but slowly they go overhead as more missiles saturate the heavens. At one moment he thinks he catches the girl laughing. But he dismisses it considering how improbable it is to hear it from here given all the commotions. 

Eventually the rain concedes. And not only that. The cloud formation starts to withdraw. Slowly but surely. The sun leaks through. 

“Huh… That was easy…” Pratama thought to himself. 

“Is it… really over? The vortex that had plagued our world for the longest of time… gone that easily…” Wissenstein adds, his voice full of disbelief. 

The noise ends. Pratama finds Neja descending on the field before him in an angelic fashion, those depicted by mankind at least. 

“So, are you done?” He asks. 

The girl gleefully turns around. “I don’t know. Am I?” 

“You’re the one who wanted all this. It doesn’t make sense if you doubt that.” 

“Oh…right…” Neja looks upward while putting an index on her chin. She then shrugs. “Well, the rain stops. So there’s that.” 

“Most impressive… you two actually stopped the rain.” Wissenstein said, clapping as he approached the two. 

“Though it’s only within this vicinity of our spectacle.” 

“Well, let us find a more agreeable place to converse. I know of a place that was said to be beautiful before the rain started.” 

“Oh! Sounds good to me.” Neja adds. 

Pratama gazes went upwards again. The gap in the clouds grows wider. In seconds, the whole premises find themselves bathed in the sun. The leaves above him sway in the advent of the missiles’ shockwave. The sunlight that comes through dances alongside them. Or rather, those leaves make them seem to be shifting in an elegant manner. The smell of the soil as they walked drove his mind wild. It feels like he is living in his dream world. For the first time, ignoring the noises, he is at peace. Though he hasn’t ruled out the return of the rain; though he knows that it doesn’t clear the skies for the entire world, it doesn’t matter for him. 

“Right, so about your speech on power before…” Neja turns to Pratama. “How do you feel about the story ending just like this?” 

Pratama shrugs. “I’m satisfied with it. I would rather it end as quickly as possible, who, on their right mind, would want to be subjected to extra inconvenience?” 

“I see… So, what if, hypothetically speaking, you were me, and, hypothetically speaking again, you could end this storm right after we met, what would you do?”

“I would end it as soon as I have a reason to.” 

“You wouldn’t mind?” 

“I stood by my statement.” 

“Gee, what if, hypothetically speaking, someone is keeping a record of our journey, and when they published the record, the readers found its resolution to be underwhelming? 

“Screw them I’ll take an easy life any day, any time if I could.” 

“You’re not fun mister!” 

“Well, what about you? You kept insinuating that you held such great power. Why held back?” 

“Well… there’s actually more to it than fun. If every possible problem is fixed without batting an eye, if the world would be free from all trouble, where you don’t have to worry anymore, what do you think would happen? Everyone will be happy? Utopia? No more suffering? No more pain?” Neja’s tone changes as quickly as the scenery changes after the rain stopped. “No, mister, it would be the end of the world.” 

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.” 

“Ah, you don’t have to. But the most important thing is, if I had solved everything in the beginning, we wouldn’t get to meet each other, and we wouldn’t have this journey. Hehe!” 

“I wouldn’t mind. No, in fact, that would be preferable.” 

“Ah muu!” Neja pouted as her face redden in annoyance. 

“Now now, please calm down. We have arrived.” The group stopped as Wissenstein proudly introduced them to a vista of rolling hills and luscious forest. All around them, sceneries of green surrounded them, it is as if the forest had suddenly sprung back to life as soon as the rain stopped. Indeed, the entire thing felt like a scene out of a fairy tale. 

Pratama eyed an old bench beneath one of the trees. It was wet, but he paid little mind to it. He places his backpack on his feet and lets himself collapse on the bench Neja followed and made herself comfortable besides him. 

“Say… Are you not satisfied with how everything turned out?” It’s not often for him to start up a conversation. But he can’t help to ask after what she had said before. 

“Oh, no no, I’m satisfied alright.” She extends her arms upward. “The sun is shining on us once more.” She places her hands on the bench and dangle her legs. “Though I’m not sure the same can be said for…” 

“For who?” 

“Ah, nevermind.” 

She gazes up on the skies, welcoming the warm embrace of the sun. “I wish Neia is here…” She sighs.

“Who?” 

“Guess.” 

It didn’t take seconds for him to arrive at a conclusion. “Neja… Neia, so that’s your sister’s name.” “Hehe, wasn’t that hard, right?” 

“Right.” 

Pratama looks up again. It’s over. He helped her fulfill her wish. Now that she is satisfied, he could think of something else that he should look forward to. 

“By the way…” Neja speaks up again. “I appreciate what you are doing.” 

“Hm?” Pratama leers at her. 

“Thank you for helping me bring the sun back.” 

Pratama nods gently. He doesn’t help people often ever since he declared war on his rival faction. If he helps anyone at all. 

“Take it as my gratitude for the breakfast you made us.” He says. 

“Oh oh oh…” Neja exclaims. 

Pratama strikes a curious gaze at her. 

“I’ll give you something for that.” 

“Really? I was practicing my kindness once in a while so I don’t think it’s necessary.” 

“I insist, mister.” Neja says, leaning closer. Her smile is now a hand-length away from Pratama’s face. 

Considering how she is more powerful than him, he decides that it would be better to concede. “Alright.” Pratama sighs. He just wishes that it won’t bring him any more inconveniences. “Close your eyes…it would be a surprise.” 

Pratama does what she says. 

“There, you can open your eyes now.” 

“What happened?” 

Neja gestures toward the puddle just before him. Pratama bends himself to gaze at his reflection on the puddle. His mask now has new markings. Two circles on the cheeks and a double-u at the mouth position. 

Neja chuckles. “Look at you!” She pauses to continue her little laughter. “Now you don’t look creepy anymore.”

Pratama takes a deep breath. For some reason it doesn’t bother him. Either he is too tired to consider it a problem, or he is relieved that he could appear friendly once more. He prefers the latter. And that drives a smile on his face. But pity that the girl couldn’t see that. 

“Thank you.” He says to Neja. 

“Wait, you like it?” 

“I’ll grow in love with it.” Pratama replies. “But if that’s too hard for you to grasp, yes I like it.” 

“Heeehhh…” Neja strikes that smug again at Pratama, like she always did. “By the way mister, are you from Sol 3? Are you from Terra?” 

“By Terra you mean a planet.” 

“Are there any other Terra?” She tilts her head asking the question. 

“My archenemy has Terra in their name, for your information.” 

“Oh…” 

“But I’ll assume you meant the planet. Yes, I do.” 

“Waah, how is it over there? I for the longest of time really want to visit it.” 

“Well it’s your average terran world. Mountains, they come in lush, barren, and freezing. Desert, some are only sands, some are populated by dry grasses. Plains, forests, jungles, snowy wastelands, and many more biomes. I haven’t even scratched the waters yet.” Pratama shrugs. “I really can’t describe them all without turning it into a lecture. The details are too staggering. It’s just a wonderful place to live in sometimes.” 

“Heeh, you mean there are times where it’s a horrible place to live in?” 

“When you’re around people, for example.” 

“Fufufu,” Neja laughs. “You’re still grumpy!” She points at him. 

Pratama shrugs. He doesn’t really mean those words. Some people annoy him. But that doesn’t happen all the time. He even mostly finds good companions around strangers these days. He just feels like cracking a joke for her to laugh at. 

“Well, you see, Sol 3 used to exist in my world. But it’s long gone.” 

For the first time since meeting her, she actually said something that piqued his interest. Sol 3 was, after all, the planet Earth that he called home. Theories about the existence of multiverse had crossed his ears multiple times, of which he dismissed every single one of them. But there’s a merit in that theory now that he’s experiencing it for himself. And when Neja reveals that mother Earth does exist on her world, and of the fate that befallen her, a slight concern crosses his mind. 

“How did that happen? How did Earth- I mean Terra, get destroyed?” 

Neja was silent for a second before glaring at him. It was an unusually serious face for her.

“I’m sorry, but I cannot tell you that.” 

“I see.” 

His younger, more scholarly self would’ve pressed for more answers from her. But with age comes wisdom, and he’s aware that this is one of the things he shouldn’t pry off of her. Besides, he’s well aware of the powergap between them. Questions upon questions crosses his mind, did she come from the same universe as him, only in the distant future? If yes, is there a way to avert the impending doom? If not, would his Earth suffer the same fate? There’s too little information, too little data, for all he knows, she could be born billions of years in the future, long after the sun had turned into a red giant and swallowed everything. Countless whats, whys, whens, whos, and how’s ran amok like a rush hour traffic on a Terran metropolis. In the end, all he could do was just that, speculate. 

Still, it was quite a shame, for should the same fate befall his Earth, that would mean everything he had worked for so far would be undone. 

He shrugs. “But that’s nature I guess. You can never be strong enough against them.” “Ahahahaha” Neja gave out a dry laugh. “I suppose you’re right.” 

And then out of nowhere, she bounced out of the bench, and turned towards him in the usual Neja manners. 

“So! Because Sol 3 is long gone in my world, and it’s still around in yours, can I go visit your world?” 

“No.” 

His answer was immediate, there was no input delay between the end of her query and the beginning of his reply. 

“Ehh? Outright rejection! But why?” 

“Do I need to tell you why? Your presence alone would pose an existential threat for the universe” 

“Aww, come on, I promise that I’ll help you out with any problems you have! You seem to be the type of person that has many problems, mister.” 

Pratama flinched for a fraction of a second. He entertained the idea of employing Neja to exterminate his arch nemesis, life would definitely be much easier for him. 

While the potential was there, as of now, there’s no guarantee that he would return to his world. So, in an effort to quiet Neja down as one would of a pleading child, he nonchalantly obliged 

“Suit yourself.” 

“Yaaay” 

“So…” Wissenstein walks in. “What are you two planning to do now?” He smiles at them. “I think I’m going to take a nap.” Pratama says. “Wake me up in an hour, yes?”

“Fufufu,” Neja laughs again. “Old man is going to sleep.” 

“Shut up.” Pratama ignores her laughter as he sinks into the bench. He relaxes himself and lets his head loose. His drowsiness kicks in. In a moment he is already in deep sleep. 

Meanwhile, Neja’s face reverted back to the serious face from before. She inches closer to the bench, and takes a seat on what little space is left available.. “Geez, you really have a tendency to sleep wherever you please, don’t you.” She said. 

“Mister. Do you really wish to go home? Do you love your world? Even if it causes you so much pain? Even if it has taken so much from you? Even if… it’s going to take you away soon… ” No replies were given, but still she continues. “Ah, knowing you, it would probably be some vague answer like ‘oo, I don’t know whether I love my world or not, but I must go back because there’s something I have to do, some unfinished business I have to attend, mu mu mu, na na na..’” She said, attempting to mimic his tone for the quotation. 

Despite having no need to draw any breath, she let out a long sigh, and stood up. Her offer to help him was only half a joke, she had grown quite fond of him. But alas, it was not meant to be after all. 

“Ehehe, this has been an interesting journey. I haven’t had this much fun in centuries.” She turned back to look at Pratama for one last time, placing the golden flowers that made their encounter possible in the first place beside him. “Goodbye, mister grumpy face. May you find peace in the end.” 

She turns to the other men in the area, who so far had only been watching. “Wissenstein.” 

“What’s the matter, young lady?” 

“Thanks for bringing me here.” 

“Oh? And what makes you think it was my doing? Young lady?” 

“Hmm? Was it not obvious? You led us to this nice picnic spot after the rain stopped.” Wissenstein was silent. 

“Ahhh wait, were you, perchance, referring to something else? Something like… bringing me and Mister grumpy face here into this world?” She turns back, grinning towards him. 

A moment of silence followed between the two. And then Wissenstein let out a chuckle. “Oh my, what they said was true after all. Appearance can be deceiving indeed.” 

“Ehehe, I’ll take that as a compliment.” 

“So? What will you do?” 

“What will I do? Why, that’s obvious isn’t it?” She said, crossing her arms proudly. “I’m going home.”

–**– 

Pratama wakes up on a bed. A blanket is covering him. He reaches for his neck. It’s hot, boiling hot. Something is pounding on his head and he doesn’t feel like getting out of his bed. Though he feels languid, he decides to sit up and look around. It’s his usual bedroom where he rests every night. He reaches for his head. 

“What a weird dream…” He thought to himself. 

There’s a trolley on his left with two water bottles and a bell. He takes one and guzzles half of its content. He then rings the bell. 

A young woman with a maid outfit comes inside and bows. “Yes, sir?” 

“Antibiotics, please.” He says to her. 

“Right away, sir.” 

“Oh, and get Sir Edward on my line.” He adds just as the maid is about to leave, which prompts her to halt her step. 

She bows again before leaving. The maid returns a minute later with strips of antibiotics. “Sir Edward is now on the line, sir.” She bows. 

“Thank you. Please leave me.” 

“Sir.” She complies. 

His utilizer then blips. A voice comes from the other side. “What’s up? Feeling better?” “Not really.” He replies. “Any interesting developments?” 

“We just encountered a new Telvee toy at the Vlizimo axis.” 

“What’s with that?” 

“It shook our men due to how terrifying they claim it to be. Heck, even the girl that got to greet them first passes out. And she is an Android.” 

Hearing his statement, he takes a deep breath. The Vindicators are at it again. These thralls have once again demonstrated their willingness to keep their faith alive. A faith to a divine that they couldn’t prove existed. Looks like it’s going to take some time again before his armies could push forward again. Either a new tactic is needed, or a new tech. Or perhaps something else. He couldn’t decide that now due to his condition. 

“Get down there and sort them out, would you?” 

“As soon as I can.” 

“Good.” 

“Anything else?”

“That’s it. Just keep me updated.” 

“Speaking of which, she is with the girl that passed out too you know?” 

She. The daughter of his creation. His own offspring. One that returned from the dead. “Thought you’d like to know.” 

“I appreciate that.” 

The comm channel shuts. The Primus collapses to his bed again. He slept day and night yesterday. He probably couldn’t afford to do the same today. But his head still feels like holding a main battle-tank on its own. So he just lies there gazing at the ceilings covered with a tapestry that shows his realm’s insignia. 

“I wonder who that little devil is…” 

Dreams are meant to be filled with things that he had experienced. That’s what he understood. He, however, never once met that petite girl before. It could be one of the unfortunate children he encountered on the field. But he recalled that none of their features match her. 

He puts a hand on his face. His mask isn’t there. It sits on a small circular table to his left. He was about to put it on but his hands were held by an odd occurrence. Besides the mask is a flower with golden petals, a flower that he doesn’t remember bringing in. On top of it is something on his mask that he is certain wasn’t there before. White markings of two circles on the cheeks and a double-u on the mouth.


Writer(s): PrimDom & Von Grenadus

Omen

Entri Writchal# 1

Tema: Omen


Langit sedang mendung, seperti cuaca di Bandung, aku sedang berdiri di persimpangan jalan, menunggu lampu pejalan kaki berwarna hijau. Sembari menunggu, aku teringat saat pertama kali menyeberang jalan ini. Hujan pun mulai turun rintik-rintik. Ketika tetesan air hujan menyentuh rambutku, aku tiba-tiba kembali ke waktu pertama kali aku menyeberangi persimpangan jalan ini.

Waktu itu aku baru saja naik ke kelas X di sebuah sekolah favorit. Baru sehari sekolah, aku dihujani tugas yang sangat banyak sampai aku harus pulang secepatnya untuk mengerjakan tugas. Pada saat ingin menyeberangi persimpangan jalan untuk perjalanan pulang, tiba-tiba hujan mengguyur. Untungnya aku membawa payung untuk mengantisipasi datangnya hujan.

Saat aku menyeberang jalan, aku berpapasan dengan sosok misterius yang menyeberang melawan arah dariku. Dia memakai topi fedora dengan trench coat. Mukanya pun terlihat samar, mungkin karena hujan deras. Namun yang membuat akut terkejut, terdapat ekor besar yang menyerupai ekor seekor reptil di belakang tubuhnya ketika aku menoleh melihat dia dari belakang. Entah apa yang salah dari diriku atau pertanda apakah ini. Mungkin aku sedang banyak pikiran gara-gara banyak tugas jadi bisa melihat sesosok aneh tersebut.

Sesudah aku mengerjakan tugas yang sangat banyak, aku tertidur pulas di meja belajar. Aku memimpikan hal yang sama dengan kejadianku barusan. Namun saat aku menyeberang, tiba-tiba ada sebuah mobil besar melintas kencang dan tidak bisa berhenti karena jalanan licin. Aku dihantam dan terpental jauh. Tetapi sesudah jatuh, aku terbangun di jam 3 pagi. Anehnya, aku tidak bertemu dengan sosok ekor reptil seperti kejadian kemarin.

Karena takut, aku mencoba menghindari penyeberangan jalan kemarin. Aku pun pulang dengan selamat sampai di rumah. Ku menyalakan TV seperti biasanya di waktu senggang untuk menonton sebuah berita. Aku terkejut saat melihat headline news, terjadi tabrakan beruntun di persimpangan jalan tersebut. Tanganku gemetar dan langsung tersungkur saking tidak bisa menahan syok. Ketika dilihat daftar korbannya, ada salah satu teman sekelasku yang meninggal saat itu juga.

Orang tuaku langsung berusaha menenangkan aku dan merasa bersyukur karena aku masih ada di sini. Saat itu aku langsung kepikiran tentang tujuan sesosok makhluk tersebut apa tiba-tiba muncul dan membawa mimpi buruk bagiku.

Hari demi hari kulalui persimpangan jalan seperti saat ku pertama kali menyeberang, sosok misterius tersebut tidak pernah muncul lagi. Waktu pun berlalu sampai aku memiliki mata pencaharian tetap, tetap ku tidak menemui sosok tersebut lagi.

Suatu saat aku akan menemuimu lagi dan berbicara kepadamu arti semua ini.


Penulis: kittyloaf