Only thirty minutes passed since Fellowship of Darkness' return to Hope's peak academy, still being on the same day. Yet, despite such a short amount of time, the incident with an Elite Boi by the name of Tom has forever left a mark. A sight of a cat in zoot suit will always be a grim one for them.
Soon enough, thanks to information spread through mobile phones, the incident was known to members outside of Hope's peak academy. Members of Future Gadget Lab, those who could come at such dire time, rushed out of their laboratory to check on their friends. They ran as fast as possible, only stopping at crosswalks, since they didn't want to cause more incidents that day. Even though each of them had a different level of stamina, none of them hesitated or even though about stopping.
After an emergency marathon across the city, members of Future Gadget Lab reached the academy, only to find themselves stuck, since they did not know where exactly were their Hope's peak allies. The one who sent the message failed to specify the exact location.
"Where are they now?" asked Rintaro in a rush, trying to waste as little time as possible. All of them searched through out the entire academy, desperately trying to be assured that their Hope's peak friends are in one piece. Due to the rush, they ran around the school aimlessly, but after some time of such activity, one of the doors opened. They knew where were they when they saw Chiaki with her hood on her head, peeking out of the door. Indirectly, she revealed the location to them.
"Over here!" Mayuri, being the one to spot her first, pointed at her as they all started rushing towards her. In quick time, they arrived to the entrance of the school's own hospital, intergrated as a part of the whole complex.
"Ch...Chiaki! What...what happened to you guys?" Rintaro started giving out questions to her, with anxiety ramping up in his heart. Every other Future Gadget Lab member present there felt the same kind of fear for them, considering what happened. Chiaki, with a pitiful frown on her face, just quietly opened the door, letting them in to see what happened after the day's incident.
And then they did. Nearly half of those who have participated in the battle against the warrior of Daft Capo himself were now bedridden, all laying unconscious. While most of them did had bumps on their heads, maybe scars and other wounds in some places, Mondo was the sole exception of being completely in cast. Having to go through the ceiling at such high force meant a not so good time for his bones. The Future Gadget Lab members couldn't believe what were they seeing with their own eyes. For a moment, silence prevailed.
"...Oh god….who...who's responsible for this?" Rintaro quietly stammered, shaken by such sight. Others couldn't utter a response. The one who saw the whole event unfold in front of her eyes gulped, realizing that all of that was caused by a cat in a zoot suit would be rather difficult to believe.
"….It's gonna be hard to explain." stammered Chiaki, trying her best to at the very least give a summary for them. Just like her, Future Gadget Lab tried hard to comprehend what happened.
"To think….that mafia would go out of the way to do this to you…" Kurisu put her hand on her mouth, still in shock from seeing all of students, her friends even, beaten up. Suddenly, much to surprise of everyone, another student entered the hospital room.
"That mafia is no longer just that mafia." announced Gundham in an oddly quiet and stern tone. Even his expression, usually of theatrical proportions, was one of seriousness. Everyone conscious there flinched upon hearing his voice.
"H-huh? W-where did you come from, Gundham?" Kurisu, just like rest of them, turned towards him with shrunken irises. In a sort of way, the moment Gundham spoke seriously had the same impact as Rintaro dropping his Hououin Kyouma persona.
"The Fellowship has taken a temporal break after we transported the fallen to this facility. Chiaki was the only one who insisted staying here. As for those who have fallen, the flame of their lives still burns, but their consciousness has been put on the rest. I can sense it." Gundham elaborated as he crossed his arms, looking at those who have fallen in battle. Yet, it was not just Tom's actions that remained in his mind. It was another oddity as well: the shadowy figure, which was looking for him. He couldn't talk to anyone about it, since they would think that he was just making up. However, that figure still gave him shivers. In his speech, a faint of hope was felt when he said that they're all alive.
"That's...relieving to hear, I think….I just hope that they'll recover soon…" sighed Chiaki as a faint, but forced smile appeared on her face, trying to supress her own emotions, since others mattered more, at least for her. Although that single gesture was not unnoticed. Mayuri immediately picked it up, thanks to her friend still looking down the floor, and approached Chiaki, giving her a slow yet reassuring pat on the back. It was gentle enough that it didn't startle her, but a slight blush did appear on her cheeks.
"It's okay to worry, Chi-chan, but they'll come back pretty soon. Mayushii feels it. Don't stress yourself too much about it, right?" Mayuri started reassuring her, being willing to carry anything burdening her. Even though Chiaki's response was a quiet smile, she still kept looking at the floor. Knowing her, Mayuri expected such answer from her, but she also had faith in her that one day, she will be open. That day might be soon or very far away.
"So...uh, Gundham...you seem like you would have an easier time explaining this. What happened here?" asked Rintaro, having a gut feeling that his wizard colleague would be the one who would have least amount of trouble explaining what happened to them. His instinct proved to be correct the moment he saw a special look on Gundham's eyes. The look of caution.
"Hmmm….recalling history is not a difficult task indeed. I shall leave the details, since certain things must be seen by oneself, but I shall begin: it appears that our adversary has sent an individual of mass prowess against us. Not a single student, not even Sakura, could go head on with that Daft Capo member. I have it admit, sheer luck spared us from undesirable fate." Gundham narrated the whole ordeal between the Fellowship of Darkness and a certain feline menace.
"Hold on…..one guy did this?! One guy?!" Rintaro felt chills down his spine the moment he heard that all of that, all of those wounded, was the responsibility of a single person. Other Future Gadget Lab members felt the similar feeling of dread, now knowing that just one member can take down half of their group, if not capable of taking down the entire group alone.
"Correct, one warrior." Gundham warned with a raised finger, demanding that their enemy must be respected. To underestimate the closest thing they had to an existential threat as of that moment would have marked their downfall. Luckily, the event gave them wisdom and fear not to do anymore.
"...I'm starting to think we might have severely underestimated our foe. If one member is capable of this...then I don't want to image a coordinated strike from them." admitted Kurisu, horrified at the prospect of teamwork among Daft Capo. Given that only few of them had actual combat experience with them, some of them being recent, the chances of their victories seemed slimmer by the each passing moment.
"I haven't mentioned all of unfortunate events that happened to us. It seems like our enemy has found our hideout earlier than we did." Gundham brought up an update of their situation, making them realize how truly hosed they were from his attack. Everything had to be changed from that point, since the enemy knew where were they hiding.
"...How exactly did that guy find out? Did they send out spies or something?" asked Rintaro with great concern, with his own tone sounding rather shaky.
"I would assume by pure accident. Even though there were spies, I doubt that they would be capable enough to track down our every step. We should make haste in finding a new hideout." Gundham calmly admitted that he wasn't entirely sure about how exactly was their headquarters exposed so easily. Rintaro looked back, seeing his unconscious friends once again. Among them, he saw Mayuri still comforting Chiaki, who was still looking down and hiding her true feelings regarding the situation. It was made clear what was the right thing to do.
"...After everyone returns. Lets just focus on that." said Rintaro, noting his wizard friend that it would be best that their planes would be discussed after everyone is confirmed to be okay.
"Yeah...it's better if everyone knows about it…" murmured Chiaki, agreeing with her scientist friend regarding that idea. Response of others was quiet, but they agreed to wait for others. And so they did, waiting in the unsettling silence of the unconscious.
Minutes latter, all of those who saw the battle with their own eyes and remained conscious entered the hospital room, not a single one of them remaining unphased by the whole ordeal. Even usually unflippant as Byakuya Togami was shaken by the event, although for him it already began by the presence of the feline.
"Speaking of everyone, here they are. Our allies have paid us a visit as well." Gundham welcomed their presence as they took a look at the fallen again, since they had to carry them all the way from the warehouse to the school. They also noticed that their Future Gadget Lab allies, their only ones, were present there. Slight relief was felt upon their presence.
"It is a good thing you have arrived, fellow Future Gadget Lab members, especially in times like….this." Sonia greeted them, although it was obvious from her expression that worries were dominant. Others felt similar feelings of anxiety, dread, perhaps even questioning if they even had a chance.
"Yeah...times like this….I wonder, how are you all? Everyone back in one piece?" asked Rintaro, just being sure that at the very least no one was gravely injured. Brief silence followed, with anxious atmosphere making the air harder to breathe.
"…Alive is the only optimistic thing I can say." Hajime was the first one to speak about their situation. Even more optimistic of students couldn't deny that Daft Capo currently had a significant advantage over them and such thought was not enjoyed at all.
"...Still hard to believe that one person could do...so much to them." Kurisu put her hand on her forehead, with challenge of even imagining the situation still boggling her mind.
"Yeah, that cat was really strong too. Unnaturally so. I mean cats are predators, but this was just something else." Akane added her comment, which revealed a fact that made the entire Future Gadget Lab metaphorically spit out their drinks. All of that damage, done by a single cat.
"All of this was done by a what?!" Kurisu's voice became significantly higher the moment she said "what", barely being able to imagine that a cat out of all things was able to inflict that upon Fellowship of Darkness.
"Excuse me, what?!" Rintaro joined in utter confusion as well.
"I mean, we do know that our enemy has an octopus, but…" Itaru attempted to rationalize what Akane just said, but little did he know the truth. Even though the octopus fella defied common sense, he had boundaries. He still functioned by some respect for natural laws of physics. The cat defied all of it.
"The octopus was comprehensible in hindsight! This thing was another level!" Yasuhiro gave a panicked although not too far off argument that the trying to understand what happened to them was an anomaly of biblical proportions. The question whether that would be a norm remained.
"It...it defied everything known to nature!" Byakuya remained in his state of utter shock even before the dreaded clothing of different times was out on. The thing was, no one had a proper answer. Not even Daft Capo members themselves would know of his power, although no one asked there.
"Maybe it wasn't just a cat. It could have been like a cat from cartoons that can lift anvils as it wishes." Mayuri let out a blind but good in faith guess on how could this cat be capable of knocking out more than the half of the Fellowship. Stunned silence followed, realizing that even though she wasn't even there, she managed to hit the bullseye. She was literally pulling out ideas out of thin air, yet she managed to do it.
"...It...it was that...exactly that…" Makoto, just like others being baffled about it, confirmed with hesitation that they essentially got their butts kicked by a real life equivalent of a cartoon character.
"I-I wonder….what are our lives turning into? Some shitty anime or something?" Toko raised a question that would generally never be asked under normal circumstances.
"Shitpost, I'd say." Itaru gave out an answer that would never be given under normal circumstances.
"...That is….somehow, the worst yet most appropriate comparison of what our lives are turning into." Toko hesitantly admitted that despite the crass wording, he was ultimately right about it.
"Well, the silver lining is that we did beat him up!" Nekomaru tried his best to bring at least one positive thing about the whole ordeal. Even though he had a point, negatives vastly outweighed any positives.
"Yeah! Not only that, but there were a bunch of gangsters too...and we all fought! Man, finally got to punch a gangster in the face!" Akane agreed with his point, sharing just slight bit of her personal satisfaction that she had a chance to throw fists against their enemies. Others were still too shocked by the whole event, to which the team manager student noticed.
"If it weren't for casualties though...they're thankfully still alive, just knocked out. It will take a few hours for their consciousness to return." Nekomaru pointed out that at the very least their friends will be back relatively soon. At least there was still hope for them.
"Is it possible for them to return today?" quietly asked Chiaki, not out of impatience, but out of dealing with ever increasing concerns she had in her head. It was visible from her eyes and her little frown that anxiety was beating on her heart big time.
"Hmmm….I am not sure….though they'll likely be all up tomorrow." Nekomaru expressed his sentiment regarding their return, for he wished the same as Chiaki. The nervous girl let out a little sigh of relief, but still clenched her fist as she held her hands close to herself. She was still trying to hide it all from others.
"...Oh dear…please...return as quickly as possible..." Chiaki thought to herself, desperately hoping that she'd see her friends conscious and happy once again. However, due circumstances, worries flooded her mind. What if someone exploits the situation, was among them. A lot of remaining people had the same worries as her.
"Congratulations on your victory, it must have been one hell of a fight." Rintaro said something to at the very least acknowledge that they have ultimately won the battle, despite the cost.
"It sure was...it sure was…" Nekomaru crossed his arms, knowing the cost of their battle. They all looked towards their fallen ones, thinking about what approach should they take. The time for them to be on defensive was running out quicker than they knew, but considerations of striking back were considered. The question was how to even start against them.
"...How can even we stand a chance if one cat can do this? Let alone...an entire mafia…" Hajime was the one to start their talk about dealing with Daft Capo.
"We...have to reconsider everything about it. Strategy and tactics….all of it. We can't afford a situation like that or worse anymore." added Sonia, thinking about possible ways to subvert mafia's efforts, using her knowledge from experience.
"We must make haste too. The domino has fallen and it led us to a perilous direction." Gundham pointed out that they must be quick about it, their time was running out.
"It is a fortunate that they were only knocked out…Fortune may not smile upon us in the future…" said Sakura, sensing the feeling of dread among the group as she warned them that it is only fate that could change its alignment.
"Indeed…" nodded Gundham in agreement, joining in brainstorming something to at the very least put a thorn in Daft Capo's side. Then, one idea did pop up, One that the one who came up with it wasn't looking forward to.
"Say...I've been thinking about it…" Fuyuhiko began talking about his idea with great amount of hesitation in his voice. Some of the folk already figured out what was on his mind.
"Hey, uh….I think I know what's going on...are you sure about it, Fuyuhiko?" Hajime spoke out, letting his gangster friend to think about if it's a good idea to bring his own clan to the conflict.
"Hajime...do you really think a single school has a chance against a fucking mafia?" Fuyuhiko raised his own point, still blunt as ever, but their encounter with the latest enemy proved that he was thinking in a right direction. Since the actual number of Daft Capo members were unknown to them, they couldn't afford to be reckless. As much as some feared that it would escalate the conflict, Fuyuhiko's suggestion would likely make things easier for them, even if its only marginal.
"...I mean...no…not at all." Hajime, as much as he was filled with concerns regarding actual yakuza being involved in their conflict, had to agree, even if he hesitated. It would finally give them another ally, that time an actual organization.
"Besides, only external help that we got were penguins and Future Gadget Lab. Far from enough to even tackle a small syndicate." added Peko to support Fuyuhiko's decision of bringing his clan in the conflict. At that point, there was little room for argument if it was a moral thing to do: they were so utterly outmatched by numbers that desperate measures were taken.
"...Yeah, she's right about it. External help would be of most importance, regardless of what it is." approved Rintaro, remember that sometimes even he had to rely on organizations to achieve his goals….but when was that exactly?
However, even though he suggested it, Fuyuhiko still had some reservations about it.
"...Only if shit hits the fan, got it? Only then I'll do it." clarified Fuyuhiko that only if Daft Capo crosses a line so unforgivable that no one at Hope's peak would hesitate to attack. Not even someone like Chihiro.
"I am afraid that "if" is already "when", Heir of Kuzuryu." Gundham reminded him that at that point he shouldn't even bother hesitating regarding with his decision. Upon rethinking about it, Fuyuhiko realized how much weight did such decision carry.
"….Fuck." gulped Fuyuhiko, secretly hoping that even if Kuzuryu clan gets involved, the conflict would be left at low scale. If it meant to bring in an actual criminal syndicate on their side against another criminal syndicate, so be it.
However, one certain individual managed to not only change the entire topic of discussion, but also the entire atmosphere was shifted when he pointed out that a certain someone, despite being conscious before. A certain avian, no less, the only one who managed to leave the battle with conscience.
It was Rico, pretending to be unconscious just so he could be there with his comrades.
"Hey, wait a sec….Does it feel like someone's missing from our group, even though he was perfectly fine, relatively speaking, before?" Kazuichi pointed at the pretender by the name of Rico.
"Hey, penguin buddy! What are you doing here?" Nekomaru called out for him to join them, since there was no need for him to be there. The mad penguin did not respond.
"C'mon, you are perfectly fine! Come with us!" Kazuichi nudged him more, to convince
"Nuh uh!" Rico sprung out of his faked unconsciousness before the spat out the same wrench that he used to strike down the enemy's private area to strike his own head. It was enough of an impact to actually make him unconscious, making him extend his tongue out of his beak, making a silly face in the process. Rest of the peeps were utterly confused by his action.
"...What was the point of that?" questioned Hajime, baffled as ever.
"I am just as mystified as you are." Rintaro couldn't give out an answer regarding inner machinations of Rico's mind. No one really could.
After the penguin induced distraction, few worker like men appeared outside of school, to which they only now noticed. Those men were putting pieces of glass on the places where actual windows were supposed to be. Future Gadget Lab members only then managed to realize that entire school had no windows.
"Huh, windows? What happened to them?" asked Rintaro out of confusion, pointing at newly placed windows.
"They shattered when the cat yelled." elaborated Sakura, with a straight face somehow. Considering that the same cat managed to knock out more than a half of entire Fellowship of Darkness, it was relatively less ridiculous to imagine.
"How can one cat...no, nevermind. It's pointless to ask at this point." Kurisu attempted one last time to question how could one cat be able to do that, but she gave up on it. Through odd times, they lived.
Unfortunately for them, their visit came to an end when the doctor arrived.
"I have come to inform you that doctors and nurses will take care of them from this point onward. You must leave this place….including you." requested the doctor, giving a squint to Chiaki for staying inside earlier. Out of shame, Chiaki stared at the floor.
"….Okay…." quietly whimpered Chiaki as all of those who remained conscious left the hospital. However as they were all going home, Chiaki chose to just sit next to the door, intending to stay there until she is one hundred percent sure that they're all safe and sound. On their way, Mayuri noticed that Chiaki stalled back. It gave her an idea to help her: Mayuri slightly tapped Hajime's shoulder to gain his attention. Once the ahoge boy turned towards her, she pointed at lonesome Chiaki. Without even saying a word, Hajime knew what to do when it came to her. In sort of a way, Mayuri gave him a chance to get to know her better. Then he slowly approached her, in order to not scare her off.
"Hey...you wouldn't mind if I accompany you, right?" Hajime asked her once he arrived if he could sit next to her.
"Mmm….it's okay…" Chiaki, although still looking at the floor, allowed him to join her. If anything, she really wanted someone to be on her side during it, but if anyone asked her directly about it, she would have denied it, that everything is fine. However, Hajime knew that she had to open up, even just a little.
"You're...really worried about them, aren't you?" Hajime initiated the conversation with her, letting her speak as much as possible. He was looking at her, but her eyes were locked on the floor.
"I know that they'll….be fine, I think...but….but….it just refuses to leave my head. Like what if something happens to them?" Chiaki, even though she was still hiding her true self, admitted that concerns were beating her mind into submission.
"I getcha, I'm worried about them too...so is everyone….but you won't ever be by yourself. Ever." Hajime promised her that even during the darkest times, she will always have someone to support her. She wouldn't need to carry her own burden all by herself. He even gave her a slow, gentle pat on the back. His reassurance startled Chiaki as a strongly noticeable blush appeared on her already rosy cheeks.
"R-really? E-erm…" Chiaki's mind started to fumble, genuinely startled that not only was a boy telling her that he will be by her side, but the fact that he could (and would) back it up as well was something she could only afford recently. She wondered if she even earned it. Such reaction gave Hajime an entirely different image of her: not of a kind yet incredibly ridiculous friend, but of a lonely, scared girl who all ever wanted was affection and safety.
"Oh...I'm starting to understand you more…." Hajime thought to himself as an instinct that was already within him only got reinforced. Chiaki desperately needed someone on her side, since for most of her life, she had no one. "Not only will they return, but you who still stand supporting you. You'll always have someone on your side, including me."
"Do I….no, nevermind…" Chiaki wanted to ask, but quickly took her words back. Even though she hasn't even finished her sentence, Hajime knew exactly what was she going to say: that she didn't deserve any of them. Despite wanting these things, she felt like others deserved more, even if she was sidelined through out her life.
"Of course you do deserve it, Chiaki. Don't doubt yourself about that. Why wouldn't a person like you deserve support?" Hajime reassured her by giving her a pat. With a gentle rustle of her hair, she succumbed to the pat. It was the first time someone opposite of her gender (as far as she knew) gave her a sign of affection like that. Concerns inside her head were curbed by the soft touch on her round head.
"...T….T-thanks…" stammered Chiaki as she looked in his eyes, with her shocked expression disappearing. Instead, an expression of complete relaxation appeared. Just seeing her so content made Hajime much more relaxed around her.
"No problem, Chiaki….Say...how long do you intend to stay here?" Hajime retracted his hand from her head, even though she secretly wanted more but was too embarrassed to ask, before he gave out a question for her.
"...Until they're back…" murmured Chiaki, now keeping an eye on him instead of the floor. Even when slightly relaxed, she felt like going away could endanger her friends.
"That means...entire day….do you have any games with you, just so we don't just sit there and stare at the ceiling?" Hajime asked once again, wondering what they could play during their time of having an "unofficial" sleepover at Hope's peak academy.
"Hm….I should probably have it-" Chiaki checked her bag to see if there's any game they could play. She always brings consoles to school, since life without games would be a boring one. Unfortunately, consoles and games in her bag got a first hand experience with sea water. None than less, she still tried to turn at least one console on.
The console was busted.
"Aw….bummer….they got soaked. They're ruined now." grumbled Chiaki, with a small frown resurfacing once again. Luckily, she had more at home, but loss of a console and a game was not something she was really happy for.
"How about we quickly go to your house and pick up some games? Time will go quicker and we won't have to worry so much?" suggested Hajime to just take a brief visit to her house and pick up functioning games instead. Since the working hours of school were around the middle, there was no rush.
"Ah...that's a good idea, I think. We should probably hurry before they close the school though." Chiaki agreed with the idea, looking forward to spend time with Hajime and games.
"Alrighty then, for games we come." Hajime stood up as did Chiaki and walked out of the academy. About an hour of a stroll in the city, they arrived to her house. Chiaki unlocked the door and let her friend in. Together they decided what games should they pick. Since the times were not the best, they aimed for more optimistic, happier games.
"Hey, should we go for this one?" asked Hajime as he pulled out a copy of a game that seemed to revolve around collecting monsters, from purple rats to giant space destroying reality ruling dragons. The keychain monster was the most dominant one though.
"Anything you want, Hajime." Chiaki gave him freedom to decide any game he wanted. They were going to spend a long time at academy after all. Once he was allowed, he put the game in Chiaki's backpack.
Upon picking the games, they walked towards school once again, taking about an hour to arrive. Luckily, the school wasn't closed, so they returned to their spot without any issues. Thus, they played games all day, focusing most on that monster collecting one.
As they played for hours, at one moment, a certain ever present thought appeared again. An ever present insecurity he had, only increased further by words of a certain former classmate. He hid it from others, but he knew that he couldn't hide it anymore. At the very least, he had a person to open up near him.
"Hey...can I ask you something? It's been on my mind as late." Hajime began talking about it, speaking in a much more vulnerable tone than he would usually.
"Hm?" Chiaki immediately picked on that he wanted to talk about something that was bothering him. Something that he has already confessed before.
"It's about talent...I'm sorry if I'm overbearing you with this, but...there's one question that's been bothering me….did talent matter at all?" Hajime gave out a point for discussion, just wanting to make sure whether or not was talent really that important, especially in a fight against Daft Capo.
"No...not really. Talent is certainly not helping us in this fight. Like, what use is of me being good at games when...you have to constantly fight for real?" Chiaki spoke about her view on it, confirming that hyperspecialization on one skill only does not lead to anywhere good. Certainly didn't help them against their latest enemy.
"I thought so….it's all a big sham, isn't it? All of our talents combined….yet half of us get defeated by...that….uh…fu...effing cat." sighed Hajime, sounding like his entire view on the world was shaken, by a zoot suit wearing cat out of all things. Even someone like Sakura, for which she was known that no sane man would ever try to provoke her in a fight, ran away from the feline gangster.
"I wonder why does this school seem to focus so much on talent anyway? Those with talents have already a predetermined future...it's really lucky that our class has Miss Yukizome...when is she...ah, I mean, she feels like only one that doesn't really care about talent. It's more about making our school lives as good as possible...well, about that…..yeah" Chiaki further added her opinion on the matter. As he listened, he was starting to believe her more. All those times Hope's peak or even Japan as a whole presented talent as the ultimate goal, something everyone should strive for, was for disproven by the most unlikely of sources.
"Yeah, I'm h-honestly really glad that I got in this class….it's a bit relaxing knowing that…" stammered Hajime, forcing a smile on himself, but deep down, he was still shaken by the whole ordeal. But it wasn't just that, as his friend noticed.
"You're...still hurt from before, aren't you?" asked Chiaki with a much more serious tone than he is normally used to. Considering how much did he trust her, he didn't bother to hide it at all.
"….If I have to be honest...yeah. Imagine if he found out that I have no talent….I'd be just "trash" to him, wouldn't I?" confessed Hajime all he could, expressing what he felt that day. Upon hearing it, Chiaki's expression turned quite stern, not like her at all.
"...I...I won't let anyone degrade you this much anymore. No one should call you such things...ever. To think that someone had….audacity...to say things like this, even indirectly..." Chiaki promised him that no one will hurt him ever again, even if it meant that she would put herself in danger again.
"Well….what would you say that I am? Am I...really just someone mundane? Someone forgettable?" Hajime piqued her what were her thoughts on him. He wasn't sure what to expect. Hajime trusted her well enough that she won't think differently of him.
However, the response he got was much more different than he expected.
"No. Far from it." Chiaki suddenly fired back with a quiet, yet extremely sharp voice. A rather intense glare he received from her. It was less about her being angry at him, but rather making sure that he degrade himself. When she said anyone, that included him.
"H-huh?" Hajime nearly sprung from being startled by such reaction from hers. However, she continued in a much more relaxed tone, but it was also different. It was softer than usual, and she was pretty known for being soft spoken.
"Once our time at Hope's peak is done, you'll be one of the first people to remember. You will always have a place in...here." Chiaki started giving reasons on why he is a lot more than he thinks, even pointing at her place where her heart is just to emphasize how much he means to her. Hajime couldn't respond, he was too floored by it. Yet, she continued.
I still remember the first day, when we went to the class together….that was just one of many wonderful memories you've created. There are so many you've created, that I could go on for a long time...but another one that is still in my mind is when you went out to play games with me after….that happened….it was….ehe...really kind of you...in fact…" Chiaki reassured him on a much more personal level than before, confessing how many of his actions impacted her. She was really grateful for what her friends brought to her life and she wanted to do anything to show gratitude. Out of her volition, she suddenly grabbed his hand, which flustered him a lot.
"Even after this battle is over….even after our time at Hope's peak is over….we could still find a way to go around places, right?" Chiaki looked at him directly in his eyes, showing off how much she trusts him. Her eyes were just full of innocence when examined. After getting his composure back, Hajime felt ease in his heart. It's like she had an effect on him when she was around him.
"Y-yeah...of course." Hajime, even though still flustered, let out a smile.
A smile that he hasn't really given before. A smile showing utter relaxation on his end.
"Oh my goodness...that smile…" Chiaki's already red cheeks turned even redder upon seeing it. An experience like that was something she could only dream of before. Every time she made someone sincerely happy, it was a magical event for her...yet she felt something inside her too. Something that she couldn't put her finger on.
"Thank you, Chiaki...I feel...much calmer now, knowing this…" Hajime responded not only with that, but with another pat on her head. At that point, the compliment made her really embarrassed, even when she did make him happy, she still felt like she doesn't deserve any praise whatsoever.
"It...wasn't really much…" Chiaki tilted with her head as she downplayed herself, like she usually does.
"No, it was...more than you think. You are doing a lot, but you'll always have us on our side." Hajime countered with another reassurance. That time, Chiaki was too flustered saying anything.
"Ehe...he…" giggled Chiaki, still having cherry red cheeks. Although, their talk of talent was not too unfamiliar with what she had on her mind, especially what recent experience has given her. "Say...this reminds me of something…".
"Hm? What's bothering you, Chiaki?" Hajime asked her about what's on her mind.
"Well….it gave me a rather...crude wake up call so to say. It's not just him, it's others too...like that gangster that attacked Kazuichi...why do so many people lash out their anger at others for superficial stuff? Why do so many people refuse to look beneath the surface?" confided Chiaki about how much it bothered her that seemingly so many people attacked others for things they couldn't control. Not only just the former classmate, but the gangster too, especially how he called her certain insults which would have given a massive reaction if it was heard in public.
"If I have to guess...either because deep down, they have a grudge against some people due to past trauma, or that they're just really shallow...some people are unfortunately not gonna be friends, but you shouldn't burden yourself with that. You should instead focus on people who are friends to you, who do look deeply into people. There's a lot of people like that, but so are good people around. Just take a look at the group who's on your side." Hajime tried his best to explain to her on why people tend to be like that. He advised her to focus on those that matter to her, not so much on her enemies.
"Yeah...you're right. We should focus instead on what we have...on who we can rest on...I think." nodded Chiaki as she rested her head on his shoulder. Considering his experience with her, he just let her do it without any issues. And thus, they continued playing games together.
It was finally the end of that day, signified by the sight of night. They were still playing games, but they lowered down the volume of their consoles, so that no one could hear them and kick them out of the academy. They were surrounded with silence, a comforting one. Chiaki still had her head on his shoulder through out of it.
Suddenly, a person spotted them without those two dorks even realizing.
"Oh hello there, youngsters!" the old janitor politely greeted them as if they were his friends. Hajime got startled from his voice where as Chiaki just calmly listened to what would happen next, since she was focused on game. Perhaps she made herself less visible in a way with that.
"A-ah, good evening, Mr….excuse us, but what is your name?" Hajime responded with formality.
"Hahaha, no need to be formal with me. I'm just a simple janitor. Don't worry, I will not kick you out of the school...I understand both of you...however, I do have to address one thing." chuckled the old janitor before he had the need to point out something.
"What would that be, ?" asked Hajime, grateful that the janitor let them be there. Chiaki was also thankful for him.
"You two do not intend to sleep on the floor, right?" janitor pointed at the floor, knowing way too well how bad the solid surface of it is for anyone's back. Perhaps it was due to Hope's peak being his literal home.
"U-uh, we don't have other options, do we?" stammered Hajime, not knowing what exactly to do.
"Ohoho, let me bring you something. No one likes sleeping on the hard surface anyway." janitor walked off to bring something that would ease their sleepover. It didn't take much time for him to bring two sleeping bags. He gently put them down, letting them take their present. "There you go. I won't bother you two much, I know you youngsters love privacy. Cheers!".
Then he walked away once again, leaving them be.
"He...he wasn't a bother. He seemed pretty nice, I think." Chiaki admitted that he didn't seem like a bad person at all and that she would like to hear what kind of stories he had.
"Well, I just wanted for him to say thanks. Really considerate of him, for real...but now, I think…" said Hajime before he noticed that he was starting to feel tired. He went inside his sleeping bag and prepared himself for slumber."...it's time for us to dream about something. Something nice, hopefully."
However, as she went inside the bag, her face was steamy red from embarrassment.
"Is there something wrong, Chiaki?" asked Hajime upon noticing how red in the face she was.
"U-um….erm….I've...I've...never slept so close to a boy before." admitted Chiaki that sleeping near a person of the opposite gender was the source of the great fluster of hers. Normally, Hajime would be just as flustered had it not been for past events.
"What? You already did!" Hajime countered while being baffled by her embarrassment. The confirmation only made her more flustered.
"H-huh?! W-when?" Chiaki blushed so hard that if it were physically possible for a human, she'd be steaming.
"Past weekend, when you were literally sleepwalking in order to throw yourself right onto me." Hajime answered her with an event he would never forget, for the better. As weird as it was, at least it was a soothing one.
"O-oh….sorry…" Chiaki felt ashamed of herself for not controlling herself that day while still being red in the face.
"It's fine, Chiaki. Sure, you looked absolutely ridiculous during it, but it wasn't anything bad. I promise you that nothing bad will happen." reassured Hajime that he doesn't hold ill will against her. Suddenly, Chiaki in her sleeping bag rolled over to Hajime, just wanting to be close to him. Now that she knew that he is okay with her being close, she looked at him in the eyes, giving him sort of a really vulnerable look, another not really often seen side of Chiaki.
"Hey...Hajime….promise you won't do….anything unexpected during this, right?" Chiaki whispered to him about a certain fear she had. The suddenness of it threw Hajime's guard off the wall.
"W-wha-I mean, I promise. I promise you'll be safe here.. Nothing bad will happen." Hajime promised her that there will be no nasty surprises. Chiaki smiled upon being trusted that, but her tiredness kicked in.
"...Sleepy….thank you...Hajime…" Chiaki let out a yawn before she slowly, but surely closed her eyes, entering the dreamland, her comfort zone, once and for all.
"No problem, Chiaki...you won't ever be alone." Hajime smiled upon knowing that she was now feeling content. In a way, just observing her like that made life easier than it seemed.
"It's actually...really calming to see her sleeping….wait, am I being a weirdo now?!" Hajime thought to himself, concerned that he would act weird to her, but he would keep his promise regardless. Then, he shut his eyes and joined the land of dreams as well, comfortable sleeping in the middle of the school.
Little did they know that they were watched within the academy.
Hidden with his camouflage, certain someone secretly sneaked outside of Hope's peak academy as he began returning to his base. It was none other than Herman.
"Fuck! 's plan is sort of beanboozled by those two horny fucks! We can't sneak in and grab her if anyone notices! I must tell my boi!" thought Herman to himself as he strolled down the city, returning to his normal golden colors. He even shook his tentacles like a fist.
Then, as if fate decided so, he met a person that he did not expect.
"What are you doing here, Kraken of The Land?" asked Gundham as the octopus received a glare from him. He was just taking a night stroll, to ease off his mind. Only known to him, he usually enjoys lonesome nights as he often takes one of his animal companions out. However, the stroll of that day served more of calming down his mind.
"You didn't see anything…." Herman quickly changed colors to be "invisible" to him and ran away. Gundham didn't bother chasing him down, as it would leave him vulnerable to being ganged up.
"Hm...such easy denial of truth. I shall report to my minions afterwards...but now, even taking this walk hasn't calmed down my nerves from what I saw….I must discuss it with him." Gundham thought to himself as he walked all the way to the nearest train station to get home.
Far away from the city, there was the Temple of The Supreme Overlord of Ice, where the most terrifying demons were being trained for the conquest of the world. No one dared to cross such land, for they feared the wrath of Tanaka.
In other words, a run down barn. There was no other house nearby, that was his home. It's where he lived through out most of his life. Although he had enough to supply himself, he still lacked many things that a normal inhabitant of Japan would have, such as electricity. However, he seemed to be content to live there, as he was not alone. Animals of many species accompanied him, such as his Devas, his own personal goshawk and more so. Be it a herbivore, carnivore or omnivore, animals respected Gundham to the great degree. As for human contact, there was one, sort of. A hooded man, much taller than Gundham himself (no slouch in that department) awaited his arrival. His face was completely obscured by darkness of the hood. Not only that, but he wore such clothing that not a single piece of him could be identified
Once the tamer of animals arrived, they both sat down on around a petrol powered lantern and began discussing.
"Share your wisdom with me, The Ancestor." Gundham inquired him of advice as he pointed at him.
"What is on your mind, my son? You seem quite troubled. Not usual of you to be like that." asked The Ancestor as he noticed that Gundham seemed more distressed than usual. Unlike others, the chunni facade was an excellent disguise of his true feelings. Yet the only one who knew was his father.
"The tide of the war has shifted, The Ancestor. We have won a battle, but a victory is still out of our reach, especially after witnessing who our opponent was….He was….different from others. The Kraken of The Land was just a jester in the grand scheme of things, the one that relied on that person who was on our side yet was working against us was a small fry, the lackey who infiltrated was no threat….yet….he….he was different." calmly elaborated Gundham, recalling all events he has seen with his own eyes and heard.
"May I hear more about this adversary, if it's not too dangerous to discuss?" piqued The Ancestor, wondering what kind of enemy it was. He was one of the few aware that even mentioning some names might put one in mortal danger.
"He...had the appearance of an unusual house feline, yet his powers were comparable to the ancient vampire warriors. Such as him knowing the Divine Sandstorm, an ancient technique. How could a feline out of all beings learn the power of the ancients...is beyond me…" Gundham told him about the feline menace. Nothing was unusual for The Ancestor, but the mention of that
"Divine Sandstorm…" The Ancestor suddenly had flashes of past, a connection that transcended time. It was a memory of a person not of his family, but out of another. The one that he used to be colleagues with.
"Correct, my eyes were not deceiving me." confidently confirmed Gundham.
"Does that mean….you have also seen...it?" The Ancestor brought up a certain topic that might be known only to them. Suddenly, Gundham remembered the musketeer figure that was observing him from distance. Chills were felt down his spine.
"I'm afraid...I know exactly what you are referring to, The Ancestor." Gundham nodded, still calm despite the dread he felt. However, that was nothing but bad news for the Ancestor. The very situation he wanted to prevent was coming in full force.
"My son….my only wish for you was to have life free of peril...a life which was deemed normal….yet I'm afraid those times are running out quicker than before." The Ancestor spoke in a somber tone, worrying that his child might face the same as he did.
"I am afraid so too, The Ancestor….for a while, I thought this was just a mere challenge. Life without challenges to overcome is not natural, however….the domino of Fate has decided differently. What must I do, The Ancestor?" Gundham did not hide from reality, yet he knew that that he cannot continue the fight without any help.
"Do you have anyone close to you in your school?" asked The Ancestor.
"….Yes, I suppose." Gundham, although completely embarrassed to say, admitted that there were people he was fond of, especially a certain blonde royalty, since she always seemed to accept him no matter what. In fact, she found his persona to be awe-spiring.
"Heh, you have grown a lot more, my son." chuckled The Ancestor, proud that his son was able to connect with people.
"For a longest time, I thought solitude was the way of life….perhaps certain events have...changed that." confided Gundham.
"Well, I suppose I can give you my advice: make sure that those close to you are safe. Few things in life are as valuable as a friend on your side." The Ancestor gave him an advice taken from his own experience. The Ancestor's life was a writer of many stories, to which Gundham always took inspiration from.
"...If you say so, I shall follow." nodded Gundham out of respect, deciding that he will do his best to keep his close ones safe, although deep down, he wouldn't let them interfere with his ambitions.
"Now then, I think you should take a rest. All of such events have exhausted you, haven't they?" requested The Ancestor for him to finally get some shut eye, since even though it didn't seem like it even to himself, Gundham was feeling tired.
"Hmm….I wouldn't say exhausted, but it is a good idea to store energy for incoming events. I must suspend my consciousness for some time. I wish you a night of blessings, The Ancestor." Gundham decided to lay down on hay and enter the land of dreams once and for all.
"Peace be upon you, my son." The Ancestor blessed him as he walked to his own pile of hay to lay down and rest. After a day forever marked by cataclysm, it seemed like the situation was finally cooling down…..
….or was it?