“So, it’s settled, then,” I said, looking at the group. Most of them agreed with me, but some of them were a bit wary. Losing our powers was something neither one wanted to go through before we turned 18 and I was practically volunteering to do just that. Pooh looked the worst – he looked at me and I almost couldn’t hold his stare. “I’ll go back one more time and we’ll solve this once and for all, okay? No need to look so sad, we’ll see each other again.” I tried to lift the mood a little bit, but it was so use. I sighed and scratched the back of my head. I didn’t want to leave like this. It had never been like this. I’d have to go through a couple of weeks with this as my last memory, I didn’t want this to be what I carried with me. Not to mention this would be the last time I would actually see him, so I wanted to make it count. “I’m…I’m gonna go outside for a bit. Take one last breath before I go back,” I said and left the room.
Man, this was hard. It had never been like this. I sat on the ground and looked up the sky as soon as I was outside. I removed my glasses and put them back on a couple of times. I was sure gonna miss being able to see, to be honest. Not having powers, I could live without that – it wasn’t like I could use them on a daily basis, anyway. But missing out on seeing the sky and the clouds and the grass, that…may be a little harder to get used to.
“Getting cold feet?” I turned around as I heard his voice. Screw the sky and the grass, not being able to see him was gonna be the hardest thing of all.
“No, not really.” I pat the grass next to me and waited for him to sit. “It’s just…I don’t know.”
“Well, if you don’t know how you feel about this, there’s not much I can do to help you, you know?”
“Yeah, I know.”
We stayed in silence for a while after that. After a couple of minutes, I realized I had somehow laid my head on his shoulder. There was no need for words with him, and that’s what I loved the most about him – he knew when to speak and when all I needed was for him to be with me in silence. I closed my eyes and tried to feel everything that was around me: the feeling of the wind against my skin, the grass under my feet, the distant sound of cars passing by the high-way far away from us…the slow rhythm of Pooh’s breathing…so this is what I was gonna go through 24/7 in a matter of minutes…it wasn’t bad, it’s just that…it would be weird.
We had been silent for a couple of minutes when he sighed and broke the silence.
“I’ll fall for you again, I promise.”
“Have you developed telepathy or something?” I tried joking about it, but, truth be told, I was worried out of my mind that he wouldn’t like me in the other timeline and there was no re-doing it. This would be the last time I could ever go back – if he didn’t fall for me, I’d have to go around pretending I didn’t love him for the rest of our lives.
“I think I would’ve been the first to know if I had. I just know you too well.” There was a pause. “That itself might be a special ability, though.” He laughed at that and I couldn’t help but following his lead.
“I’ll wait for you…I promise.” I didn’t want to open my eyes. I knew that if I did and looked at him, I wouldn’t be able to hold the tears back. This wasn’t supposed to be sad. I was gonna see him again – I’d have to wait a couple of weeks, but we’d meet again.
“As long as you don’t greet me the way you say you did the first time, I think we’ll be fine.”
I felt his arm go around my waist and his head rest on mine.
I took a deep breath and opened my eyes.
I lifted my head from his shoulder and looked in his eyes.
“I’ll do my best, Pooh.” He leaned in and pressed his forehead to mine. “I’m sure gonna miss you, though.”
“We’ll meet again. Give me…two weeks, was it?”
“Two weeks and a half…I think I can handle that one last time.”
“Don’t miss me too much, okay?” He smiled, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“Sorry, can’t promise that,” I smiled back. “See you in two weeks,” was the last thing I said before my vision went white.
It was all a blur before I realized I was back in my bedroom. I opened my eyes before closing them and opening them faster once again. I put my hand in front of me and turned it around. There was no use to it – I couldn’t see anything at all. I sighed and closed my eyes. I pulled my arm over my eyes and tried to hold back the tears as much as I could. This was it, the last chance we had to make it right had already started. I cleared my thoughts and tried to think of everything that had to be done to do it right: first, I had to wait for Pooh to come find me. Then, I’d have to explain everything to him…well, almost everything. I sighed again. It was gonna be way harder than I had thought it would. I couldn’t tell him anything about us...that meant no calling him “Pooh” either, right? Damn it, that meant no more holding hands or kissing or hugging him either. I had to be honest with myself: this had all sounded a lot easier when I had him beside me telling me it was gonna be fine.
Back to the topic: I had to wait for him to come find me, explain what had happened and tell the gang what we had to do and hope it all turned out fine. I sighed and sat up.
“This is all for the best. You need to protect Yuu and Ayumi and every other person like us out there.” I tried to comfort myself by telling myself that a couple of times, but it was no use.
I tried to think back to the last couple of days I had in the future. I tried to remember how everything was planned so that there was no way we could fail. I tried to remember the looks of hope in the gang’s eyes. I tried to remember Pooh’s smile…and his steady breath against my shoulder…this wasn’t helping much…
I got up and tried to find the way out my bedroom – might as well have some breakfast if I couldn’t do anything about the things that were worrying me, after all. I opened the door and tripped with something and fell to the floor.
“Ouch! Big brother, look where you’re walking!” I could almost hear the pout in his voice.
“Oh, sorry, Yuu, I didn’t see you.” I tried to sound as normal as I could – I really didn’t want him or Ayumi to realize I had gone blind overnight. I may have been able to explain the sudden need for glasses before, but I would never be able to find a reasonable enough excuse for this.
“It’s okay. Anyway, breakfast is already served. Ayumi told me to come wake you up or we would eat your serving.” I stretched my hand in the direction of his voice and pated his head.
“Well, I’m already up, so how about we go eat?”
He got up in record time and dashed to the kitchen. I sighed and got up with a little help of the wall before heading for the kitchen myself.
Breakfast was thankfully uneventful, as was lunch and dinner.
It wasn’t until I was back in my bed that I realized how exhausting simply going about my daily life as a blind man who tries to hide his blindness from his little brother and sister was.
Before I realized, I was already asleep, and, just as easily, the days started passing by until it was time to be discovered.
I got up faster than I had ever done since I came back. I changed my clothes and went to have breakfast. I had learned pretty fast how to move around the house without drawing attention to my lack of sight. I tried to look as natural as I could, but I must’ve failed at that since Ayumi asked me what was so special about that day. I tried to laugh it off, but even without seeing her face I could tell that she hadn’t bought it at all. I finished eating, picked up my plates, left them in the sink, brushed my teeth and left.
It wasn’t until I was out the door that I realized that was probably the last time I’d talk to them in a very, very long time. I stopped dead in my tracks thinking about that. My last moments with my little siblings and they hadn’t been anything special because I was so excited about meeting up with Pooh once again. I sighed. “I’d better make it up to them when we reunite.”
I arrived at the riverbank we had always met at. I sat down and closed my eyes and felt the wind. I laughed at how ridiculous it was. I was blind, for God’s sake! It didn’t matter if I had my eyes opened or closed.
Still, it felt a little bit more like that last moment we had shared before I went back in time. I could still feel it – his heartbeat, I mean – if I concentrated enough. I could feel his arms around me and how everything had felt at that time. It was calming in a way, but thinking about it was only making me more anxious by the second. What if he didn’t come? What if he couldn’t feel my ability now that I had lost it? We had planned this whole thing considering that my losing the power to use it didn’t affect him finding me, but what if we were wrong? What if I had lost all signs of me having an ability and so he couldn’t feel my presence at all right now?
“Er…are you…Shunsuke?” I heard his voice for the first time since I had come back.
“Yeah, that would be me.” I tried to hold back my smile, but I simply couldn’t do it, so I decided not to turn to him. “You’re Kumagami, right?” It felt so weird to call him by his name.
“Yeah, that’s my name.” There was an awkward moment after that. I’d never gone through this. Normally, I’d have told him everything by now, no need for an awkward silence, but I was too afraid to freak him out to do anything.
“So…yeah, so I kinda know that you can travel through time, and…yeah, I’m forming a group of people with special abilities and…you know, if you wanna join us, we’ll welcome you.”
“Could.” I corrected him.
“I could travel through time.” I smiled at the confused face that I pictured he was making. “I used them all. Can’t go back anymore.”
“Oh.” There it was – that awkward silence again. Damn it, how I wished I could somehow do something without fearing he’d run away from me.
“Don’t worry, it was all planned out. You actually agreed with it…sorta.”
“What do you mean ‘sorta’?” And that was my cue to move on.
“Anyway, we should go meet up with Maedomori, Shichino and Medoki.”
I got up and started walking before realizing I had been sitting for so long that now I had no idea which way was right and left anymore. I started walking anyway and bumped into him.
“Hey, what are you…” he pushed me a little bit and stopped talking for a second. “Oh, I didn’t realize that you were…”
“What? Tall? Rugged? Handsome?” I tried posing as well as I could.
“…Blind.” He whispered.
“You know, I always forget that one,” I tried joking, but he didn’t laugh one bit.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Didn’t think it was that important,” I said as I shrugged my shoulders. “Though I will need you to guide me. I know where you’re gonna take me, I just…can’t see the way very well.”
“You know you’re not very good at jokes, right?” He said as he grabbed my arm and started guiding me.
“You’ve told me that once…twice…maybe every time we met…”
He sighed. “And we were friends even though you made shitty jokes like that?” Now, that was a trick question.
“…Yeah, we were friends…sorta.”
“Why do you keep saying ‘sorta’ after every question I make?”
“I promised I wouldn’t scare you with too much information from the future, so I have to play it safe with my answers.”
He sighed again. “This is gonna be difficult, won’t it?”
“It’s probably gonna be harder for me, so don’t worry, and I’ll explain everything I can when we meet the others”
We walked in silence the rest of the way. It wasn’t until we got inside that I started hearing the voices of the others and I realized how much I missed them as well.
“So, he accepted?” Shichino said.
“Yeah, he said he has something to tell us.”
“Hey, guys! It’s so great to see you again…well…sorta…”
“Blind, yeah.” Pooh, interrupted. I think he was afraid I’d make a joke of it again. I coughed a laugh before continuing.
“Yeah, well, you see, my ability was kinda limited: every time I went back, I lost some of my sight until I got blind. I…don’t think I can go back anymore, so you have to listen to what I have to say because this is the last chance I had to come back and re-do everything, so we have to do it right.”
“And you expect us to believe this?” I looked in the direction of his voice and sighed. Here we go again.
“You can go through walls but it tires you too much. Next, Medoki can make somebody fall asleep but it makes you fall asleep as well. Next, Maedomori can erase any memory from a person’s brain but it takes him a while to find it.” I could recite this speech in my sleep for the amount of times I had said it already. “Did I pass?”
“I guess so…” he mumbled.
“Well, here’s what I have to tell you…” I tried to tell them everything that had happened every time I went back and what we had to do this time to finally make it right. “But, first, I need you to make me a favor. I can’t have my little brother and sister remember who I am. I…need to get out of their lives until the time is right.”
“You want to leave a boy and a girl who aren’t even 10 years old to live on their own without any sort of guidance?” I heard Medoki question me.
“They’ll be better off without me. I know it.” I sighed. “I may not look like it, but I’m on my 20’s if you count all the time I’ve lived only to come back, so I think I know what I’m doing.” I sighed once again and looked at the floor. “Plus…it’s not like I haven’t thought it through and tried to find a better way to do it, but…I know this is the best thing I can do to them. If I consider myself a good older brother to them, I’ll leave them and come back when they’re in their teens…This is the best thing to do…”
“Sounds to me like you’re trying to convince yourself more than you’re trying to convince us,” Pooh said beside me. I jumped a little bit – I had almost forgotten he was even there.
“Well, it’s not easy to make your little siblings forget you just hoping everything will turn out fine and I’ll be able to meet them in the future…”
There was silence for a minute or two after that. There was no need to ask them if they were gonna help me, the question was already implied and I understood that they needed time to think this through.
“Well, I’m in,” I heard Pooh say beside me and I like to think he raised his hand. “Who’s in with me?”
There was another minute of silence until I heard an “I’m in, too” from Maedomoni and next from Medoki.
“Well, now I can’t say no, can I?” I couldn’t help but smile at that. We were on our way. They trusted me and, for now, that was more than perfect.
We went to my apartment and there was no need for them to tell me anything – I knew they were all waiting for me to knock on the door or tell them to go away and that I had changed my mind. I couldn’t do that, though. I had made a promise. I had told them I’d make it right this time, and making it right implied this.
I knocked on the door and waited for Ayumi to answer. I barely moved after that, but there was no need for me to do so – everybody did what they had to do.
Once their memories of me had been erased I asked them to give me a couple of minutes to say goodbye and they left me alone in the room with Yuu and Ayumi. I sat on the floor above their heads and started petting their hair. This was all for the better, I had to remember that. In some 5 years, we’d reunite and it would be a happy reunion – just like our lives should’ve been. If only we hadn’t been born with these stupid abilities…if only we had never been captured…if only those stupid scientists weren’t so greedy that they’d take children’s youth away from them just so that they can understand something that doesn’t need to be understood…if only…if only things were normal…
I felt a hand on my shoulder and I tensed on instinct.
“Relax, it’s me,” Pooh’s voice was like a natural tranquilizer. I only needed to hear those three words from him and I automatically relaxed. “They’ll be fine, you said so yourself. You’re not being a bad brother or anything.” I felt his hand moving up and down my back and felt my muscles relax more and more to the touch.
“Thanks, Pooh.” The hand suddenly stopped moving.
“Pooh?” Oh, shit.
“Yeah, well…that’s how I called you back then.” I scratched the back of my head and turned my head in the direction of his voice. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say it, I know it can be a shock or something to hear it, but…I mean, it’s weird to say your name and…why are you laughing?” Not that I was complaining, I had missed that sound more than anything in the world, but this was not how it was supposed to go.
“I’m sorry, it’s just that…you looked so scared that I…I’m sorry, I can’t…” he tried to speak between laugh and laugh, but it didn’t result in anything much. “Don’t make that face, it’s not like I meant to laugh at you or anything.” I had no idea what kind of face I was making, but it seemed to be bad enough to make him stop laughing, and I couldn’t hate my facial expressions more if I tried. I wanted to hear that laugh for longer, but I knew that I’d have to make do with what I had gotten so far.
“Sorry…so…you don’t mind me calling you Pooh?” Please say no, please say no.
“I don’t really like it, it sounds stupid.” Well, I didn’t lose anything for asking. “But, if you say that’s how you always called me, then I guess I don’t mind.”
I couldn’t have been happier than I was at that moment. I jumped in his direction and wrapped my arms around him.
“You’re the best, Pooh! I knew you wouldn’t mind, but I was scared I’d freak you out like I did a couple of time-leaps ago and so I tried calling you by your name, but it was so weird!”
“Hey, come outside, you two. You’ll wake them up and everything we did would be useless. You can go on with your talk once we’re out.” No matter how many times I went back, I’d never get used to Shichino not liking me for the first couple of months.
“I’m sorry, we’ll be right out,” Pooh said and I heard a huff and some footsteps before there was silence once again. He stood up first and then helped me get up. “You might wanna tell them goodbye.”
“Yeah, of course.” I let him move me around so that I was facing them. “I’m sorry for doing this, guys. But…I know we’ll meet again. See you in a couple of years.”
We left the apartment right after that and I released a breath I hadn’t even realized I had been holding. The hardest part was done, so I could start to relax.
You’d be surprised at how fast time went by after that. We went on and got the money just like we had done before, only this time we actually did something good with it. Getting the school wasn’t nearly as hard as we had thought. Acting normal near Pooh got easier with time. It wasn’t like I didn’t love him anymore, but I didn’t want to put any pressure on him. I didn’t want him to think I saw him like the other universe’s Pooh or anything. The fact that there was no way to go back and fix anything if I screwed up was always on my mind. I mean, how could I see beyond that when I couldn’t see anything at all?
There were some things I couldn’t get used to and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to get used to. Little by little, I started to forget how things looked like. I had some vague memory of some stuff and seeing the shape of stuff with my eyes helped, but I couldn’t see the smile Pooh gave when he was genuinely happy about something or how he rolled his eyes when I made some stupid pun or joke, and those were the types of things I was sure I’d miss for the rest of my life.
“Are you listening to me?”
“Huh? What?” I suddenly came back to reality.
I heard I sigh. “You know, we can always go on another time if you’re tired.”
“No, no, I promise I’m fine. Just…zoomed out for a little bit. What were you saying?” There was a pause after that and I was praying that he had bought my excuse.
“Fine. What I said was, what are we gonna do now? If we’re gonna go around looking for people with special abilities…wouldn’t that put me in risk of being discovered?”
“Hm…yeah…” I thought about it for a minute. He was right. At the end of the day, it didn’t make sense to make this whole thing to save people if we couldn’t save ourselves. “Well, how about you hide your face with that hair of yours?” I said moving my hands in front of my face.
“I see…If I poured water on myself on top of that, it would be perfect.”
There was a minute of silence after that. Then I heard a big splash in front of me. He couldn’t have…? Not really. I mean…right? I turned my head left and right before I looked in his direction once again.
“You really drenched yourself?”
“Yeah.” There was another pause before we both started laughing once again.
“Oh, God. I really didn’t see that one coming,” I said once the laughter started to die down a little bit.
“Will you ever stop making stupid jokes about you seeing things?”
“I don’t see that happening in the near future, Pooh. Sorry to disappoint.” I stood up after that. I went around the table and he caught my arm so that I could find him. I reached up my hand and looked for his face. Once I felt his hair against my fingers, I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. It had been so long since I had been able to do something remotely close to what I wanted to do that this was the best thing I could’ve asked for. I started moving my fingers down his hair until I felt it was good enough to pull out of his face. I felt him take a deep breath and stay still as stone, but I couldn’t have cared less about that. I was finally close to him. I could finally see the shape of his face again. Well, not really, but as I started to move my fingers along his face, I could make a good enough mental picture of it. I tried to remember everything – I had no idea when I’d be able to do this again, so it’d have to last me for a while. I moved my fingers across his forehead and then down to his eyelids. I tried to remember what his eyes looked like, but that was tricky. I couldn’t picture colors as well as I used to, but I remembered how calm they made me feel, and, for now, that would have to be enough. I kept moving my hands down until I let them rest on his shoulders.
We were silent for a while. Pooh was hardly breathing and I was still in a state of bliss for having been able to do this much. I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to do anything that would wake me up from this awesome dream I was having.
After a while, he broke the silence.
“I never asked, did I? How many times have you come back in time?” I smiled a little bit.
“I didn’t keep a record, you know?”
We were silent for a while after that. Was there anything to think about with an answer like that? Apparently, he thought so.
“And how many times have I confessed to you?” Well, now I couldn’t hold back a smile if my life depended on it.
“This would be the first one.” I leaned a bit until my forehead was on his shoulder. “I’m usually the one making a fool of himself.”
He hugged me impossibly tighter after that and I lifted my head. Oh, how I wished I could see right now. What kind of expression was he making? Was he smiling? Was he crying? What did his eyes look like?
As if he could read my mind, he grabbed my hand and placed in on his lips. He was smiling just as much as I was – that was awesome.
I moved my hand from the corner of his mouth and replaced it with my lips. I felt the arms around my back tighten and the lips in front of mine smile wider.
You were never one to break your promises, Pooh. I have no idea why I doubted you on this one.