A stream of thoughts woke me up but my senses were still not working.

"We're dangerous, that's why we shouldn't leave this place carelessly," the old guy said while cleaning a bardiche soaked in blood.
"But aren't we the same as them? Why can't we live with the other Senshins?" the boy, maybe around six or a bit older, asked. Then I realized it was Mitsuo when he was younger.
"Because not all of them can understand our existence, our reason for living."
"You're too young to understand everything, little runt," the guy said. "But who knows? You might find someone who can understand us. Now let's go. Time to work."

The memory suddenly vanished and my senses were gradually coming back. I remembered what happened before I lost consciousness and the pain returned together with my senses. It felt like my organs were burning and my limbs were being teared off. I can't open my eyes and my voice won't come out.

"Are you awake?"

I was in the midst of losing myself to pain and panic but when I heard that familiar voice, I felt a sense of security and comfort.

Sinubukan kong buksan ang mga mata ko pero nakaramdam ako ng hapdi at wala rin akong lakas para gumalaw. I managed to squint and saw his nape.

"Don't move. You'll just hurt yourself," Mitsuo said and I realized that he was carrying me on his back.

My body felt sore even if I only stayed in the Black Dimension for a few seconds.

'You look fine,'
 I asked using my inner voice since I can't talk.
"Do I?" he replied with a chuckle.

Ang naaalala ko, nagawa niyang makapasok sa Black Dimension, pero hindi ko alam kung paano.

'How . . .'
 My inner voice faltered. Even my mind was exhausted after exposure to that place.
"You should just rest. Your body won't function normally until several hours," he said.

Nagawa ko namang idilat ang mga mata ko makalipas ang ilang minuto at nakaramdam ako bigla ng takot.

'Where are we?'

It was already dark and it looked like we're inside a forest, but I'm sure this isn't the one I'm familiar with. The trees looked eerie and the wind sounded like whispers.

"In the lair of my next target."

Pagkasabi niya no'n ay parang lalong lumamig ang paligid. Halos wala akong makita dahil sa dilim at sa malalaking puno. Rinig na rinig din ang bawat paghakbang niya dahil sa katahimikan.

Bigla naman akong napaisip sa sinabi niya at sa mga nangyari bago ako mawalan ng malay. Sir Kyo said that he's chasing convicted Erityians and humdrums alone but I really don't understand the whole situation about his clan and the so-called Executioners.

'May I know what happened to the Shinigami?' tanong ko at ilang segundo pa ang nakalipas bago siya sumagot.
"Dead," he said in a cold voice and that made me shiver.
'D-dead? How?'

He remained silent. May naisip akong hindi maganda at dahil sa reaksyon niya ay hindi ko alam kung tama bang itanong ko 'yon. In the end, I chose to ask.

'Did you kill him?'

He answered me again with silence and that confirmed my suspicion. For the first time, he looked and felt unfamiliar. Rather than the Mitsuo from Atama family, his presence right now appeared to be that of an Executioner . . . a killer.

"Are you surprised?" tanong niya at ako naman ang hindi nakasagot. "I told you several times that you shouldn't get close to me and this is the reason why." He suddenly turned his head and our faces were just a few inches apart. "Our own tribe looks at us differently because of our nature and our reason for living."

The intensity of his gaze was enough to make me nauseous but his words stung me like a venom and I remembered the memory I have seen earlier.

"An Executioner . . ." I whispered and his eyes glinted with cruelty.
"So you knew," sabi niya. Nakaramdam naman ako ng takot at gusto kong lumayo sa kanya pansamantala. "And you're afraid."

A mixture of paranoia and guilt washed over me. Hindi ko na alam ang dapat sabihin o gawin kaya naman tuluyan na akong nanahimik.

"Kanino mo nalaman? Was it Hideo? Kyo?"

Magsasalita na sana ako pero pareho kaming napatigil. Both of us felt a bone-chilling presence lurking around us. My senses weren't fully working yet but enough to be conscious of the danger we're about to face.

'I know this isn't the right time to ask, but, are your targets really Erityians?'
 I asked while reaching for the fan strapped on my thigh.
'Yes, and this one is dangerous and unpredictable,' sabi niya at naramdaman ko ang paghigpit ng hawak niya sa akin. 'Hold on tight.'

My heart beat increased its pace and it felt like both of my adrenaline and serotonin levels heightened. Just when I needed a diversion from all of these feelings, he suddenly reached his gun and fired at the left side.

My ears rang and the sound echoed through the dark forest. Out of the blue, I heard someone chuckling and the footsteps seemed to be getting louder.

“As expected from you, young Jikko.”

All of a sudden, a guy appeared before our eyes. His ragged clothes looked like his own shadow dancing around him and I initially thought that he’s a Shinigami. But when the moonlight hit his face, his crystal blue eyes looked like the reflection of the sky and sea.

A Huntres.

Magtatanong pa lang sana ako kay Mitsuo pero nagulat ako nang bigla na lang nawala ang lalaki. Instinct took over me and I chose to part from him. I pushed him and let myself fall to the ground. The pain almost knocked me unconscious but I managed to keep myself alerted.

As if on cue, the Huntres appeared between us and targeted me right away. My hand quickly found my fan and deflected his dagger but all of a sudden, my body can’t move.

“Got you,” he said with a sinister smile but that was replaced by a howl when Mitsuo shot him. May kung ano namang mainit ang tumama sa mukha ko. Hinawakan at tinignan ko ‘yon at nakita ko ang dugo sa kamay ko.
“I’m your opponent,” Mitsuo said and the Huntres faced him as if he didn’t have any wound.

Nanatili akong nakaupo at nanginginig ang buong katawan ko sa takot. The Huntres looked like he’s ready to kill anyone and Mitsuo felt different.

They exchanged attacks and I realized that Mitsuo’s movements were rougher and stronger than what he usually do in our practice and field cases. He must be holding back when he was with us and what I am seeing right now is his real fighting ability.

“Damn you, Jikko guy!” sigaw ng Huntres.

I think he has a Dark attribute based on his attacks and abilities. His dagger seemed intangible and when something comes into contact with it, that something, along with its user, won’t be able to move. Just like what had happened to me earlier.

Naalala ko naman ang sinabi ng Huntres kanina. Jikko . . . what did he mean by that? Why did he call Mitsuo, Jikko? His real name? An alias? Nasa kalagitnaan ako ng pag-iisip nang bigla akong may naramdaman sa paligid ko. Pagtingin ko sa harapan ay wala na ang Huntres na nakikipaglaban kay Mitsuo.

“I shall kill you first.”

The voice behind me sent shivers down my spine and the only thing I could do was using my sixth sense. I managed to stop the time around me but only for three seconds to reposition myself. When the time reached its limit, the Huntres shoved his shadow-like dagger to the place where I was three seconds ago.

He looked confused when he didn’t saw me there and I cursed myself for being so helpless when I need to defend myself. My body hasn’t returned to its normal state yet, rendering me vulnerable. When he saw me, his confusion turned into menace, and he swiftly went in front of me. But before he could even say something, the sound of gunshot silenced the whole forest. The Huntres and I both looked at his chest, blood trickling down his clothes.

‘Don’t move,’
 Mitsuo said inside my mind. His words seemed like an order . . . and a threat.

He shot another bullet, and this time, I saw it hit the Huntres chest, just a few millimeters away from the first one he has fired. And two consecutive shots came toward his eyes.

I shut my eyes even though I already saw how his eyes blew apart. I heard his body collapse in front of me and I scrambled away from him but my back hit something. When I looked up, Mitsuo was already behind me and I flinched when his eyes met mine. I averted his gaze and stayed seated on the ground.

We were surrounded by an uncomfortable silence and that made it harder to breathe.

‘Why did you kill him?’ 
I asked, breaking the silence.
“To protect you,” he said and that made me look at him.

His face was full of scratches and wounds but his eyes, gentle yet intense, looked at me with worry. He bent down and carried me on his back, as if nothing has happened.

‘Do you really need to kill him?’
 tanong ko ulit at tinignan ko ang katawan ng Huntres sa lupa.
“I was born to kill,” he said. “That is the sole reason why I’m alive. I don’t know how to protect someone, but if killing him is a way to protect you, then I’d gladly end his life. That was what I did.”

Nagulat naman ako sa sinabi niya at hindi ko alam kung anong dapat sabihin. His words echoed inside my head and my heart has been changing its pace every time he says things like this.

Bigla ko namang naalala ang sinabi niya sa akin bago siya mawala.

‘Thank you, but I shouldn’t be loved. I might hurt and break you so give your heart to someone who could really protect you. But your feelings toward me, I’ll treasure it.’

Maybe this was what he was talking about. The nature of his work, his reason for living, can only be possible if he’s alone. Now I’m starting to understand him even though I’m still a bit terrified by his actions.

‘Why are saying these words to me?’ 
tanong ko naman. ‘I thought you don’t like me.’

I heard him chuckle and that made me smile a little. I like this side of him more.

“I’ve told you several times that you shouldn’t get yourself involve to me, yet you’re here. You really like pursuing something you can’t understand, don’t you?” sabi niya.
‘My curiosity isn’t something you should underestimate.’
“Being curious about something or someone isn’t bad, but sometimes, it can be dangerous. Just like what you did.” Bigla naman siyang lumingon kaya napatigil ako nang magkaharap na ang mga mukha namin. “You risked your life to find me and when I found you unconscious, for the first time, I felt scared.”

I don’t know if the throbbing in my chest was still due to the effect of Black Dimension or him. My eyes wanted to avoid his but I can’t. Looking through them made his words more sincere.

“That old fart once told me that someday, someone might be able to understand me. Someone might look at me like a normal Senshin. I already pushed that thought at the back of my mind after some incidents but you reminded me again of his words. If you really wish to understand me, then you should know my background, my life,” he said and I was surprised to hear those words from him.
‘A-are you really going to tell that to me?’
“Yes. Maybe I should’ve told you this before. Maybe you wouldn’t get yourself involved with me after this, and maybe your feelings toward me will disappear and turn into something else.”

I don’t know if that was just me but I felt a hint of sorrow in his voice. I wanted to answer ‘no’ but I held myself back.

“As what you’ve heard, I am an Executioner. A member of the Jikko clan, who was exiled by the Shou clan because of their ruthlessness. I grew up in Shima, a place where the most vicious Erityians and humdrums are restrained, and I am one of its guardians.”

After saying those, his thoughts gushed out and nightmares flooded my mind.