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Which Way?

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Houaku watched as the rain dripped on the windshield of the bus. His father had wanted to sit at the very front of the vehicle and denied him both the window seat and the privilege to sit somewhere else. They sat in silence on the way there, neither wishing to say anything. He knew they were going to visit his grandfather, but he didn’t know why. His father hated the man and never wanted to see him unless he needed to dump Houaku there for a month or there was a family gathering. 

He didn’t like his father very much. All he ever did was gamble and when he wasn’t doing that he would just shout or hit him. He always looked forward to his father’s bankruptcy breaks when they would take this very same bus out to a quaint little farm in a village off the coast of the Gem Sea. Despite the fact that his father never gave warning to when this would happen, his grandfather would always welcome him with open arms. During the short periods of time he was there, he was sure to make the most of it. 

But this time, his father hadn’t gone broke, he’d actually been on a winning streak. Maybe this finally meant that he would get to live full time with his grandfather! At least, he hoped. He was curious, but knew better than to ask his father questions. With no time left to think, the bus screeched to a halt. Houaku and his father quickly rose from their seats and made their way off the bus. A middle aged man with a mustache and a large umbrella stood waiting for them. 

“Mr. Lewis!” Houaku rushed towards the man who pulled him into a tight hug. His father glared, but joined them under the umbrella. “What’s going on?” The seven year old asked. Lewis looked up at the boy’s father, shocked, before looking back to Houaku and pulling him into another tight hug. He softly whispered, “I’m sorry,” a few times before lifting the boy up in his arms. The three began the trek to the farmhouse from the bus stop. 

His father tore open to door to his grandpa’s small cottage, surprising the doctor sitting inside. “S-sir!” She stammered, her forehead wrinkling in her anger. “Please try to be more quiet. Your father is-” 

“We’re here old man. Now what do you want?” He coldly told his father. 

“Sir!” The doctor spoke angrily, her curly hair bobbing with her. “I’m going to have to ask you sit down!” She pointed to a chair in the corner. “You can cause serious stress in the patient which might damage his condition. 

“And what does that matter?” He asked, sitting in the chair as he was told. “The bastard’s gonna die soon anyway,” the doctor’s face turned as red as a christmas light, but before she could retort, a voice cut her off. 

“Pop-pop’s gonna die?” Houaku asked, now standing in the doorway in front of Lewis. “B-but why?!” He sobbed, the tears beginning to run down his cheeks. “Pop-pop’s the best person in the whole world!” The woman’s gaze softened at the boy’s words. 

“Houaku,” everyone in the room turned towards the bed where his grandfather lay. 

“Mr. Fernsby, please don’t talk. You need to conserve your strength!” 

“Now, now Dr. Reigan. I’m not that old and feeble. Plus, I know when my time is up,” He looked back to his grandchild. “Houaku,” he began. “Please take this sealed sealed envelope.” With tears still coming, he took the letter from his grandfather’s hands. He looked at it for a moment before going to open it. “No,” his grandfather commanded. “Don’t open yet. Now listen to me. There will come a day when you will feel crushed by the weight of modern day society and your bright spirit will fade before a growing emptiness. When that happens, my boy, then you’ll be ready for this gift,” Houaku nodded vigorously, pounding his grandpa’s words into his head. “That’s a good boy,” he let out a dry chuckle. “Now, please, pop-pop… needs some rest…” His grandfather eyes closed for the last time and left the world with a smile on his face. Everyone in the cottage became perfectly quiet for a short moment, with Dr. Reigan and Lewis bowing their heads out of respect. Houaku broke the silence for the first time in his life. 

“Pop-pop?” It came out as barely a whisper. “Pop-pop!” This time it was louder. The boy lightly shook his grandfather’s body as if it would wake up. “Please! Please don’t leave alone!” He cried. His father stood up and made his way towards the boy, his hand on his belt. A warning sign to stop. 

“Be quiet boy!” He shouted. 

“No!” He shouted back before getting quiet. His father stood shocked for a second before turning to that of anger. 

“Houaku!” With that, the boy stood up straight before making a bolt for the door. He pushed passed Lewis and ran out into the pouring rain, three figures chasing after him. The rain clouded his vision and branches and bushes cut his arms. All the same, he kept running and running. If his father were to catch him, well, let’s not discuss what unspeakable acts would be committed. So he kept at it. 

After what felt like hours, Houaku finally stopped to catch his breath. His lungs felt like they were about to burst and his body what cold. Taking into consideration that he’d run a long ways from his grandfather’s house and that he’d stopped hearing his father’s angry voice a while back, he decided that he’d be good to rest there for a while. He curled up next to the trunk of a large oak tree and tried his hardest to stay warm. 

He never meant to fall asleep, but exhaustion was hard to fight when you have no energy. He looked to the cloudy sky, eyes sagging and threatening to close. The mist swirled in front of him, forming the rough figure of a man. He blinked sadly at the figure. Was it his father? It didn’t matter, he was too tired and cold to fight back. And with that he closed his eyes.