Prologue: I was in a Mass Grave
“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” —Woody Allen
PHILIPPINES, 2310 A.E.U.
The firing and the screaming had ended a few days ago. The elders promised them that they’ll arrived to recover them after the raging battle which is a big lie. For truth be ever told, they have left them on their own where they thought that they will be safe; instead of bringing the young with them. But at that time, there’s really nothing that they can do.
The aftermath of the war is clearly of a huge mess that must be cleaned up immediately or else, the vicious predators will have such a huge feast.
Though for the survivors, they won’t have any celebration at all. Food is scarce, water source is limited, and the growing strange smell forces them to leave their secret haven.
What awaits them on the other side of their sanctuary is much more gruesome than they thought it was.
The dark-haired ten-year old boy pushed open the wooden barred door that keeps them from the rage of the past war. Sunlight slowly fills the small compartment he and two other children were with a little of food and a little of space to sleep since the war reached its peak a week ago.
A cloud of dark smoke is still being brewed far away from where they are. Trees of great size have been turned to mere ashes. The bricks that forms different infrastructure were like a child’s play blocks. Fallen bullets were everywhere. And countless lifeless bodies lay on the ground. Contrasting to the loss of hope, there is the vibrant ray of the sunlight, as if nothing had happened.
The boy gritted his teeth and narrowed his eyes in anger on what the battle had cause.
It is very visible that the European Union had won the battle, invading the Philippines is one of their ways to control the Gold Diamonds. He knows about it himself because that’s the very reason why he and his younger sister were brought in the country a year ago, to be part of that trade. He to be exiled is clearly to use him as a pawn. And now that the Union received what they had always wanted, he no longer has any use for them. He is now going to be disposed of.
Along with his younger sister in the compartment is his friend, the son of the family who took them in since the two were exiled. The brown-haired boy that was on the same age as his is certainly a citizen of the country they are in though he is also a half-Japanese through his father’s ancestry.
He moves next to the dark-haired boy and see the scenario that stretches outside for any survivor to see. He can clearly see that no one else from them had survived the attacks, and they will need to move onto the place where anyone could see them before they starve themselves and die as well.
“I’m sorry,” the dark-haired boy immediately blurted out. When the other glanced at him, he won’t even meet his eyes. The other noticed how his friend’s hands were closed together in a tight fist, as if he wanted to kill anyone who had done this if he can do it himself. “What you have said back then on the first day… that all we Europeans wanted is to take over the Philippines. I shouldn’t have defended them.”
The brunette one remember that time that the other is talking about. The first time that they met, it is clearly of shouting and encounter and fist swinging. But then, not until now that he sees how his friend had changed… after seeing the truth that now unfolds in front of them.
The two of them immediately turned behind them, towards the dark-haired boy’s younger sister who sits on her wheelchair. She was blind that causes her the inability to walk ever since she arrived in the country with her older brother. Deep down inside the dark-haired boy, he is thankful that his sister doesn’t get to see what the war had caused.
He immediately moves toward her sister and knelt down in front of her. He holds her hands tightly.
“Is it all over, brother?” asked his sister.
The boy gulped in and said as convincing as he could, “Yes, Marianne. Nothing to worry about. We are safe and so as the other people in the village. We’ll just need to get some help.” He then turned around and guided his sister’s arms to be placed by his shoulders. “Come. Let’s get going then.”
His friend only stood there, watching the other and wondering how easy he could lie like that after everything that had really happened. He only watched the siblings as the younger was being carried by his brother on his back, and started moving close to him.
“Let’s go, Akito,” the dark-haired boy called.
The two boys then started walking. They are careful enough not to slip from their own feet or miss a footing as they walked passed the dead bodies and debris that the war had caused. The old house that the brown-haired boy’s family owned was also destroyed, and they need to go down the hill through the broken stairs to make it to the other town to ask for some help.
It takes them more than thirty minutes just to get down the hill. The steps are already uneven but the two of them are determined enough to make their way down safe. But on their way, they can’t help themselves not to get dirt with ashes and the aftermath of the embers with dark smoke still filling a portion of the sky.
The trek of the road is much worse. More bodies littered the walkway. Trails of truck wheels could be seen on the burned ground. Smaller wheels also appear on the trek. Metals from unknown component also were scattered. Guns without bullets and some full magazines were covered with blood. In short, blood is everywhere.
After an hour probably of walking, the young girl asked behind his older brother, “Are we going to stay in another house?”
Trying to be optimistic as ever, the dark-haired boy replied with such profound enthusiasm for his blind younger sister, “It’s another of the Ryu’s houses. We’re headed for the main family house this time.”
The brown-haired boy is walking next to him, his eyes were downcast and when he gained the courage to look ahead, he immediately stopped walking for his eyes instead wandered onto the figure of a mother whose eyes were open in fear and her baby close to her chest. The bodies lay there, motionless and lifeless— dead.
The dark-haired boy didn’t even bother to stop. He brushed off the thought that the path that the two of them are walking is indeed a mass grave. He is ever thankful that his sister didn’t need to know of this. To remove any doubt from his sister’s mind, he ordered firmly, “Keep walking, Akito.”
“But…” the other one replied. His fist immediately clenched on his side. He lowered his head, gritted his teeth and narrowed his eyes in anger to whoever had caused this to his own countrymen who were innocent and weak, without any power to protect their own.
Irritated on how his friend is acting, the dark-haired boy repeated with much more persuasion, “Keep walking.”
For once, he didn’t even falter from his own walking even if the weight of his younger sister behind him tries to slow him down. As the older brother, he needs to protect her at all cost. Their father had abandoned them during the war, just as how their mother was left defenseless to die a year ago. He clearly doesn’t expect anything else from his father. And he himself knows that whatever his father wishes to have, he will certainly have it.
Just as this one. His father is the most powerful man on the entire world and all he wanted is one thing, to have control of this country’s treasure. In order to do that is to conquer it, forgetting the fact that his very own father exiled them siblings on that country that at the extent of war, the Ryu household didn’t receive an alert from them for their protection.
The thought cause the boy to grit his teeth and narrow his eyes in anger. It makes him wonder and be envious for such vengeance. He knows for himself that if his father isn’t that hungry for power and has a care for the stability of a family, his mother will still be alive, his sister will still be able to see a much peaceful world and play around, and he will not be here carrying such remorse and hatred against his own name.
All of a sudden, his sister asked after sniffing, “What’s that strange smell?”
He stops walking and try to gain up all his strength. He then answered with such encouragement, “We’re near a garbage dump.” He turned to his friend with a question, “Right, Akito?”
But at that time, the brunette is already crying on his own. His shoulders hitching up and down as he sobbed on his own, standing a few meters away filled with such unknown guilt that seems to be resting heavily on his back. There’s some sort of different aura that envelopes him, a certain light of innocence and at the same time, uneasiness. It is the feeling of someone who seems to be guilty with a very heavy crime.
But he is just a boy who is so innocent with all the things that happened. And he must have known himself that he hasn’t done anything. Though even he has a certain secret that he has, the boy should know that crying won’t bring back anything at all.
In the stillness of the place, with only the three of them possibly living and had survived, there is really no sound to be heard at all that anyone at about some meters away will certainly hear that a boy is crying.
That’s how the dark-haired boy’s sister hear it as well.
As his older brother walks back to the brown-haired boy, she immediately asked, curious and sad, “Akito, what’s wrong?”
The brunette answered between sobs, “I…” He trailed off and then stated much louder, “I!”
Unable to continue, he just closed his eyes as he let warm tears to fall down from his cheeks. He really looked defeated, as if he failed to do something that he should have done before.
In truth, all he could feel inside is that he was so defenseless at the time that a lot of people are fleeing for their lives, trying to find a safe place to stay. All he could think is that he didn’t do anything.
He was just a weak child who wasn’t able to help his countrymen when they needed a protector at such time. That’s the very reason why he urges his father some years ago that he wanted to know how to fight. That’s also the very reason why he was trained since then.
But what does a child like him could do? Anyone who will hear his such futile dream to protect his country will just laugh at him. With those small and short arms and legs? With that height of his? The people will certainly laughed at him.
If he could just be stronger…
He suddenly felt a soft and small hand touching his cheek, a finger brushing away his tears. When he opened his eyes, he realize that the young girl is smiling at him and trying to stop the flow of his tears.
“Marianne…” he stated softly.
“My mother taught me that a warm touch is good for tears,” the young girl told him with a smile.
This girl… the brunette thought to himself. Despite everything that happened, she could still smile like nothing happened. Probably because she is blind. But…
The boy tried to smile at her as a thank you, and when he looked at his friend, he realize that there is some sort of longing on his eyes.
Even her brother, his thoughts continue to run wild. How could this boy assure his sister with lies? How could he stay still like this as if nothing happened? Well, is it really sadness that fills his eyes?
They both just didn’t know that years later, fate will play with their lives.