A month before the official enrollment to Hope's peak academy, adolescent folk, minimal age of somewhere between seventeen and eighteen, who were accepted into such esteemed institution were scouted to it, officially handled by Koichi Kizakura. Even though his area of coverage was only in Japan, there were other scouts that handled the rest of the world. No continent was exempt from scouting, although certain countries were much harder to access, various reasons as of why. None than less, most of scouting ended up in success, even with all possible difficulties.
Inside one of the offices within the academy, Chisa Yukizome, a former Hope's peak student, now serving as the teacher of Class 77-B for the first time ever. She wasn't even originally meant for the role, Koichi Kizakura was the supposed teacher, but he was disqualified for the role due to multiple incidents of alcoholism. Thus she was appointed, although not with acclaim within the circles of Hope's peak academy. Considering that they had no other options, they had to accept her as the teacher.
The first task she had was meeting and accepting her future students inside her office. Each of them would come in to introduce themselves. The whole procedure started at 9:00 AM, and by all means most of the to-be students of Class 77-B already went through it very early, including one particular student that wasn't supposed to be there officially. Each of them had a different introduction, although the level of absurdity, loudness and gracefulness (or lack of there of) depended on person. None than less, all went well so far.
It was about 1:00 PM, quite some time passed since most of classmates introduced themselves to her. She was humming to herself, already musing the future she'd have with them. Already at that time, she wanted a photo of the entire class on the table.
"All of my future students look wonderful so far! Everyone was so filled with enthusiasm! Ahh...we're gonna have a great time at school…" thought Chisa to herself, already imagining what sorts of adventures she would have with them through out those three years. So much potential far ahead. Yet, despite the musing, once she looked at the paper, she realized one hasn't appeared yet.
"...Wait, one of them still hasn't showed up. It could possibly be because she lives far away from Hope's peak, like Sonia does….but I can't make assumptions. I have to give everyone a chance, no matter what." wondered Chisa about reasons why the sole remaining person was taking so much to show up. Endless potential assumptions were had, yet that could blind her from truth. Instead, she remained patient, willing enough to wait for entire day.
But soon after, she could hear knocks. Barely audible ones at that. They sounded more like someone was tapping on the floor. Had her office been noisy, she wouldn't have heard it.
"Oh! There she is!" Chisa perked up as she jumped from her seat, quickly preparing herself for another introduction. She made sure that she looked as good as possible, which wasn't much work. All she had to do was to make it not look all wrinkly, so to say. "Come in!"
The door opened very slowly, it barely felt like it was moving at all. The person behind it didn't open it fully, instead just enough that she would be visible enough. Then, out of that gap, a girl peeked through, only revealing her eyes. Rest of her head was covered in her hood. Even though she was looking towards her, she did not maintain eye contact at all. After a moment of silence, the girl spoke with her quiet, timid voice.
The teacher was quite in shock just from looking at her eyes alone. Not a single student, including Mikan Tsumiki, looked as frightened as she was. As much as she hid it, Chisa could see her tremble behind the wall. Her smile faded away, now being concerned about how would approach such person. She could tell that she shouldn't do any sudden movements, that would scare her even more. Instead, she tried to do it as slowly as possible.
"Is...is everything alright?" gently asked Chisa as she began to reach out for her, despite only knowing her name from the list. Chiaki Nanami was her name. Something about that girl kicked an inexplicable instinct in her. Something that Chisa herself at the time didn't entirely understand.
"….It's nothing…." Chiaki's eyes looked towards floor, trying to deflect any concerns about her. Yet, it caused nothing but more concerns for her.
"Please come in, I promise you there's nothing to fear here. I can help you with anything you want." Chisa spoke as softly as she could, gently assuring her that she could be someone who Chiaki could trust.
"...Really?" murmured Chiaki as looked at her again, still unsure if it was even safe to step in. Who knows what she could do to her. However, something about softness in her voice made her believe that she might be different from others. She might be someone who was sincere, after all. Someone who wouldn't try to hurt her.
"Of course! It's all safe here!" confirmed Chisa with a nod, putting up a smile just for her. A radiant, yet sincere smile was enough to reassure Chiaki that it would be safe to step in. Slowly opening the door, Chiaki started walking in, making herself smaller. Her arms were close to her body as she was looking at the floor through out the entire time. Once she sat down, she placed her kitty bag on her lap, keeping it close just in case. She took some breaths, preparing herself to introduce herself. Yet, she had no idea how.
"Now, just relax and make yourself comfortable. Let's start with introduction, shall we?" advised Chisa, trying to calm her down as much as possible. Although she didn't show it to her, Chisa herself felt a bit of anxiety when dealing with her. It would be a failure on a personal level if she scared away the student.
"O-oh, yeah, so….uh…." stammered Chiaki as she tried to mumble any words that would resemble some kind of introduction, yet she could feel her heart beating faster. From instinct, she hugged her kitty bag. At the very least if she held onto something, it would be easier to deal. Almost immediately, Chisa had to intervene.
"No rush, sweetie. Take as much time as you want." Chisa calmly reassured her that she shouldn't stress herself out whether or not she was taking a lot of time. It was partially convenient that everyone else had an introduction before, so no one really had to wait. At the very least, Chiaki's heart slowed down, knowing that Chisa won't really force her to say it as quickly as possible. It surprised her, to say at least.
"...um….I'm Chiaki...Nanami….and I uh…." stammered Chiaki as she began introducing herself, yet didn't know what to say about herself. Too much, and there would be even more concerns, so she tried to come up with something that would be not too revealing. That was taking time. "...Sorry, if this is taking long, I just…".
"No no no, it's okay! Don't worry much about it!" Chisa waved off, making sure that everything was fine. A single reassurance like that was enough to let Chiaki know that no matter what, the teacher will be always patient with her. Patience, a virtue many still have yet to learn.
"….Mmmm...okay...so…..I really like video games….that's about it, really." mumbled Chiaki before she just shrugged off. Even at the surface level, it could be immediately told that Chiaki really didn't wanna talk about herself. For a good reason.
"Hmmm….not exactly convinced that this is only it. There has to be something more, I can feel it. Everyone has a story to tell, after all." Chisa decided to push just a little, so that Chiaki would talk more about herself. She didn't wanna do it too much, she felt like complacency would only hurt the student in the long run. The answer didn't immediately arrive, in fact, it took quite a lot of time. Chiaki tried to hide it as much as possible, but it wasn't long for her to realize that it's better to tell her about it. Chisa wasn't like most of the people Chiaki has dealt with.
"...But what else is there to tell? Only thing I'm really good talking about is games….nothing more…it's probably not even that interesting…." confessed Chiaki, ashamed of herself as she kept looking at the floor. With that being said, Chisa knew that she had to act right on the moment. Not a moment later.
"Hey hey hey, you can't say that to yourself!" Chisa sprung up from the chair as she put her hands on her hips. She attempted to sound stern, but not too angry, but it was too much, since the moment Chisa just stood up, Chiaki instantly made herself smaller, covering her face as if she was about to be attacked. To say that Chisa was shocked would have been an understatement, the reaction of her own student told her much more than it should. She felt like she just accidentally hurt a puppy. "Oh gosh, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry about this, I didn't mean to scare you…".
"...Y-you didn't?" Chiaki's lip trembled as she slowly lowered her guard. If her reaction wasn't enough before, what she uttered made it even worse. As much as Chiaki tried to hide it, Chisa managed to figure out what exactly was happening with her.
"Oh god….what has this poor girl went through? What have people done to her? No wonder why is she so afraid….I think I have to do….my best about this…." Chisa thought about her situation, what was it like before she went to Hope's peak academy. There wasn't a way to make Chiaki talk about details, neither of them were ready for it. At the very least she learned how to approach such person. It was like dealing with a scared moggy.
"Not at all, sweetie. I'd never do that to you." Chisa began to speak softer than before as she slowly approached Chiaki. Once close enough, but not so close that it would make her feel uncomfortable, the teacher started to slowly reach her hand to Chiaki's shoulder. Even though she was reassured before that Chisa wouldn't do anything harmful to her, she couldn't help but to take some breaths. Her heart started to beat faster again as Chisa's hand came closer to her. But, unlike how she expected it, once Miss Yukizome's hand landed on her shoulder, it felt warm. Gentle, even. It was something Chiaki has never experienced at all. For once in her life, she tried to look at her teacher right in her eyes. What she saw was a gentle, reassuring smile on her face. "What I meant to say is that you are capable of much more than you think. There's a lot you can do. It doesn't have to be something world changing, it's more or less small things that matter. Like, video games bring you a lot of joy, right?".
"….They do, but…..I don't really think I can make anything with games…" murmured Chiaki as she started to look at the floor again, that time out of shame. To her, it didn't seem likely she'd have any future.
"Of course you can. Plenty of people love games, they would love to see what you think about them, maybe even ask for your advice in case of them being stuck somewhere." advised Chisa that she should try sharing her passion with others, to try connecting with them. In a way, such people would watch Chiaki's back.
"…..but...that didn't work. It never worked. I can never make friends with video games….I just...can't…." lamented Chiaki, revealing that she did try before, but most of responses she got were either disinterest at best or flat out ostracism at worst. As the years passed by, her feeling of helplessness became stronger.
"Now now, that's just wrong, my dear. There's a lot of friends to make with games. After all, that's their purpose, isn't it? To bring fun to everyone. Now, if you play with someone, it's double the fun, right?" insisted Chisa, still believing that she has potential to make bonds with others, despite her own student thinking otherwise.
"...Is that even possible?" Chiaki expressed doubt on Chisa's words, considering that she was talking about years, if not most of her life dealing with such status quo of perpetual loneliness. Could it truly mean that her life could change, for the better even?
"Yep! I know you'll make a lot of friends at the school, there's no doubt about it. Although, there's one thing that you need to be aware of it. Now, come a bit closer. I promise you, it's nothing scary." Chisa extended her arms, opening herself up to Chiaki. She let her student take the initiative. Chiaki, although still doubtful about it, stood up, holding her own arms together. She slowly got closer to her teacher, yet still hesitated. There was still a thought lingering that Chisa could still unexpectedly hurt her.
"Everything is going to be alright here. There's nothing to be afraid here, you'll be safe. I promise you that and I guarantee you that I'm going to keep the word as long as I live." reassured Chisa once again, letting Chiaki know that there won't be a circumstance where Chisa would ever hurt her. Her calm, soothing voice finally managed to convince Chiaki that there was nothing to fear there. The trembling student stepped close enough as Chisa slowly, yet gently placed her arms around Chiaki. What Chisa intended was nothing more than a simple hug.
Chiaki's irises shrunk from shock, completely overwhelmed by the feeling that felt unlike anything before. It was something truly amazing, something she never thought she would get in her life ever. A feeling of warmth, the one she always wished for, finally became a reality. Chiaki slowly returned the hug as well. So much in one simple gesture, that, as much as she wanted to hide it, couldn't help but tear up.
"It's alright. Don't hold it back. I guess what I'm saying is….if you just do it, things are going to be okay!" Chisa gave her gentle pats on her back, just letting her express herself as much as she wanted. Chiaki was still holding back, but tears were still rolling down her cheeks. Chisa could hear her quiet sniffling as Chiaki's grip on her became tighter. She didn't want to let it go, she wanted it to last as much as it could. But once she could regain her composure again, she looked Chisa right in her eyes. She didn't even want to look away, like she usually did.
"Welcome to Hope's peak academy, Chiaki. How do you feel?" Chisa gave her a first taste of how her new life will be like before wanting to make sure that she was in a good state. She couldn't afford to leave her in low spirits.
"...I...uh...don't know what to say...it's...never been like that before…" Chiaki tried to say anything, but she was too overwhelmed to even think about it. The fact that, even for one day, something like that happened was already a miracle.
"But now it's gonna be like that a lot. This school is going to change your life, for the better!" promised Chisa that there's no other direction than uphill for her new student. In order to further prove that, she thought of a little plan. "...Hey, I have an idea.".
"...Hmm?" Chiaki listened her, waiting for what could that idea of hers be.
"How about we...meet each other by the fountain tomorrow? This first day must have been scary for you, so lets just take it to a more comfortable place, okay?" asked Chisa about another meeting between each other. Perhaps a more informal, but relaxed situation would benefit her student far more than an official one. Chiaki didn't immediately accept her offer with open arms, she started looking around, wondering if they would even meet each other again. Many people in her life, including rare good ones, disappeared from her life after meeting them once. Yet, there was a statement of Chisa that constantly rang in her bell. Perhaps if she just does it, it will be all fine in the end.
"...Mhmm…" Chiaki quietly nodded, accepting her offer. Deep down, she hoped that the word would be kept.
"That's the way to go! I'll be around in the noon, is that good?" approved Chisa with a single clap before she gave out an estimate time when she'll be available.
"...Yeah, that should be fine, I think." Chiaki had nothing to object about it. By all means, she almost had free time for the most part.
"Okay! Then we see each other tomorrow!" promised Chisa that she will be there, no matter what happen. But for that day, their meeting came to an end. They had to conclude it after all.
"...S-see you tomorrow…" Chiaki gave her final words for the day before she slowly opened the door of the office, leaving it in the process. As she walked home, still hiding in her hoodie, she gave a lot of thoughts regarding their future meeting. In a way, her heart felt lighter, yet she couldn't just believe it yet.
"...Tomorrow, huh? Is it going to happen for real? Someone won't just...disappear? No, that can't be real...can't it?" Chiaki thought about it for a long time as she looked at the ground again through out the way. Experience from before indicated that the situation will repeat itself again, the status quo will be same as it is. "What if she doesn't appear? What if it's going to be like it always is? It has happened all the time before…".
Despite all doubts, there was still a statement that kept repeating itself in her head.
"If you just do it, things are going to be okay.".
Amid those doubts, belief began to rise.
"If...if that's true….if things are going to be different from now on….then I guess it's worth a try….She seems like a kind person, I think…." Chiaki reconsidered herself as she promised herself that she will return to Hope's peak academy next day, just to see if Chisa lived up to her words.
"Yeah….I'll see everything tomorrow….I hope that she shows up….if not…." Chiaki held onto belief that the outcome will be a positive one. It might provide a tipping point of her life, that it might go for the better after all, otherwise….
"….nothing will change…."
Thus, she arrived home, laying down as she thought about it the entire day.
Next day, Chiaki did as she was instructed, she returned to Hope's peak. With the hood covering her head, she was still looking towards the ground. Chiaki was getting ever closer to the fountain, not sure what exactly to expect. She hoped that the promise would be fulfilled, but her expectations weren't particularly high.
Well, lets say any more concerns were washed away upon hearing a familiar voice.
The greeting of none other than Chisa Yukizome, the very person who gave her the promise, startled her greatly. She completely froze, not even comprehending that something huge just happened to her: a sign that her old life was about to end. The teacher was waiting for her on the bench, near the ever flowing fountain. One couldn't help but feel relaxed being around there, thanks to the running water adding it to the ambience.
"….Is everything alright, Chiaki?" asked Chisa, concerned about how Chiaki reaction. She was afraid that she scared her out of a sudden.
"...You...you….actually showed up…." stammered Chiaki, still having a tough time comprehending that she was able to see someone again. For the first time ever in her life, someone waited for her. A new kind of feeling she had, one that she didn't quite understand. Yet, it was nothing but joyful, just that she needed to process all of it.
"Just like I promised! I'd be an awful teacher if I didn't live up to my words!" Chisa gave a confident nod to her, confirming that she is, indeed, a woman of her word. The feeling that Chiaki had through out entirety of it culminated into shy, but earnest giggling as her cheeks became rosy. A few times has anyone seen Chiaki smile before and Chisa was among them. She even took off her hood, no longer needing to hide.
"Ehehe….thank you! Thank you so much!" Chiaki couldn't help but to come closer and gave her a hug in return. Perhaps ever since she was hugged, she started craving it more and more. It was also a sign that she already became so comfortable enough her that she didn't feel the need to stay away. In fact, it was the opposite, she wanted to be even closer.
"It wasn't that much, I just felt like it was the right thing to do, heh…" Chisa returned the hug as well, giving her pats on the back. After few moments, Chiaki's embarrassment kicked in for a bit and she ceased it, instead opting to sit right next to her. At the same time, Chisa also got a bit embarrassed when she neglected one of the most important things in establishing a new bond. "Oh, right right! I forgot to introduce myself yesterday. My name is Chisa Yukizome and I'll be your teacher! Formally, you can call me Miss Yukizome, but you don't really have to.".
"Miss Yukizome….That is a name I'll never forget…" Chiaki responded with a smile on her face. Deep down in her heart, she could feel ease. The girl with new life already made a place for Chisa in her heart.
"Aww, I'll never forget your name too, Chiaki." cooed Chisa as she couldn't help herself from really enjoying seeing Chiaki smile. For how she was at the beginning, seeing her like that was not only refreshing, but also relieving. Then, she made a clap, letting Chiaki to talk about herself for a bit. "So, what are you up to this day?"
"Well, um….I'd just stay in my house and play games, but...I remember that you've said that that it's more fun sharing games with others so…." began Chiaki as she opened her kitty bag, bringing out a pink handheld console. Just like Chisa advised her previous day, she gave it a try. "...lets try it out, shall we?"
"Show me what you've got, Chiaki!" Chisa motivated her while also expressing genuine interest in it. Although nowhere near the same extent as Chiaki, Chisa also played games from time to time. Mostly ones that were either cute, casual or both at the same time. Little did she know that their taste in games is a lot more closer than they would think.
For a demonstration, Chiaki chose to demonstrate her very favorite game: Gala Omega. A game from rather earlier time of games, with its premise being shooting down aliens with a spaceship. Nothing more, but it didn't need to be anything more. Technical limitations of the time aside, there was charm in simplicity. It was also the first game Chiaki ever got and forever remained in her heart.
"Oooh, you're a retro type? That is hella cool!" Chisa immediately approved her taste, appreciating that Chiaki gave even older things a chance. Many youngsters often dismiss older stuff as "boring" or "trash", where as there's a lot of goodness to be found there.
"Well, to be honest, I'm a fan of all genres, but yeah, retro games are very cool. There's a certain charm to them, especially for how many memories they brought an entire generation. It's also interesting to see how much games have changed from time to time." Chiaki began talking about her passion more openly than before, expressing that even older games have value, even if its for retrospective reasons.
"Yeah, that applies with a lot of stuff. When you grow older, things that have accompanied you, especially those who have personally impacted you as a child will always make you sentimental. Believe me, sometimes I do have some fond memories of the school…" added Chisa to the conversation, remembering some of the games that she played and some of the shows she used to watch. There was one game that she particularly liked, a game about a certain heroic puffball.
"Oh, you were a student here?" Chiaki turned her head towards her as she got curious of what was it like in her times. She wanted to know what to expect out of Hope's peak academy, hoping to be as optimistic as possible.
"Yep, but now I'm a teacher!...in fact, this is my first time ever! We're on the same boat after all, heh." confirmed Chisa as she chuckled. Her little student could find a connection here, since it was her first time at Hope's peak as ever. She found it surprising, she expected Chisa to be an already experienced teacher.
"...So that's how it is…" Chiaki began to contemplate before she gave a question to her. "Um, this is going to be a weird question, but...since it's your first time here, do you find it...scary?"
"Honestly? A little bit. It's a new territory after all, being teacher that is. I'm more relaxed now that I've seen you guys now. I'm very much looking forward to our school days!" confessed Chisa but after seeing her future students, including Chiaki, she could feel that there's nothing but good times ahead, even if some of them are quite eccentric, like a certain boy who thinks he's a dark lord or a bombastic team manager. Then, she returned with a question for Chiaki. "What about you, though? Yesterday, you were pretty frightened. How do you feel now?"
"...Well….I was a little worried but now, it seems like things are going to be okay, I think. Since you have me as a student, I wonder what is our class gonna look like. Are they gonna be...nice people?" answered Chiaki while wanting to know what to expect out of her peers. She sincerely hoped that they would accept her for who she was.
"I can say they look harmless, but they are pretty colorful! So many different personalities, it's chaos! But I'm very sure you'll make friends with a lot of them!" Chisa promised her that her classmates would be all good people, who would even be friends with her. Even up to that day, Chiaki still couldn't believe that someone had that much faith in her.
"...R-really? I mean, um, I'll give it a try. Might be worth it, I think." blushed Chiaki before promising that she will try to make her own friend group. The whole concept of having friends excited her, since it was something she only saw in video games and never experienced by herself before.
"That's the way to go! Remember what I've said about it!" Chisa cheered for her as she raised her fist in triumph. At that point, Chiaki was getting used to Chisa's energy. In fact, she appreciated it a lot. However, there was still something on her mind. In a sort of way, Chisa's kindness reminded her of someone.
"Hey….one more question…" Chiaki spoke in a quieter tone. She wasn't sure if it was appropriate to ask or if Chisa even knew about her.
"What's up, dear?" Chisa listened to her, making sure that she would get a satisfying answer.
"Umm….there was someone I'm still looking for. She was...a very kind girl with black hair. She showed me something that I thought wasn't possible. Do you perhaps know her?" Chiaki revealed a certain person to her, the one who could have been her first friend if they ever saw again. It was a memory that forever remained ingrained in Chiaki's mind. Chisa placed her finger on her chin, thinking hard about if she ever saw a girl like that. Little did Chiaki know that Chisa herself, contrary to how energetic she seemed to be, was not exactly a social star. The only friends she had were a green haired boxer, a white haired boy who she's in a relationship and the scout himself. She did not have much luck anywhere else.
"Mmmm…..sorry, but I'm not exactly sure on who you mean." answered Chisa in a rather regretful tone. She really wished she had an answer but nothing came on her mind.
"Ah, I see…." Chiaki's smile was replaced with a frown as she started to look at the ground again. As much as she expected her to say "No", it still pained her that the girl that did so much with a simple gesture was just a memory. Or so she thought.
"Don't worry. I'm sure you'll find her one day. The world is a small place after all." Chisa placed her hand on her shoulder as she tried to convince her that she shouldn't give up searching her, even if it might take years. Chiaki started to look at Chisa again, still genuinely surprised about her outlook. Her optimism was starting to become infectious.
"Well...then I hope that I do meet her one day. I'd really like to be her friend...I want to show how much good she did that day…" Chiaki's smile returned, already imagining a day when she would see her again. Chiaki wanted to return the favor back to her, even in a case that the girl forgot about her.
But Mayuri Shiina never gave up on her.
At the same time Chiaki was hanging out with Chisa, Mayuri was still looking for her. At that moment, she was at the same playground when they first met. Even though she never let her hope be extinguished, years took a well-being on Mayuri. By all means, she did intend to see her again, but so many events happened to both of them. Some events that neither of them deserved to go through.
"...Where is she?…" Mayuri thought to herself as she was looking around the playground, at that moment being around a swing. The whole playground was devoid of any person, bar her and the accompanying childhood friend.
"Mayuri? Is everything alright?" asked Rintaro, noticing that every time they would pass the playground, Mayuri would lose her brightness there. Memories of her always brought sentimentality.
"...There's someone Mayushii still wants to see again. Remember her?" Mayuri did not hide what she felt. Thankfully, Rintaro still remembered her.
"...Oh yeah, I do. That's the one that you gave the bunny plushy, right?" answered Rintaro as he imagined the whole memory of how Mayuri gave her an Usami plushie out of good will.
"...Yeah...We haven't seen her ever after that. I hope everything is okay with her…it feels like I just left her…." confessed Mayuri that inability to see her again made her feel guilty about the whole thing, despite the fact it was a more of a matter of that she couldn't rather than deliberate neglect. Right after their meeting, their lives have taken an unpredictable, yet unwelcoming path and Rintaro was more than well aware of it.
"It's not your fault, Mayuri. After everything that...happened, no one can be blamed. I'm sure we'll find her one day, I promise you that." Rintaro reassured her that she will see her friend again. Might not be that day, might take years, but it will happen. At the very least, both of them were still there. Mayuri smiled a little, but her eyes did not hide her sentimentality.
"...Mayushii hopes too…." murmured Mayuri as both of them continued their search for her friend. The day they would see her again was closer than they imagined.
Back at Hope's peak, both Chiaki and Chisa had quite a lot of fun playing Gala Omega together. They even had turns who played the game, which made Chiaki take a note that she should always bring more consoles with her, so that everyone could play it. None than less, they spent majority of the day together, all giggling and laughing, but it was time for them to depart. Not that they won't ever see each other again, since the school year was about to begin.
"Hehe, this was the best! Thank you so much, Miss Yukizome!" Chiaki couldn't stop being giddy about the whole thing. She hasn't ever felt so much joy before with someone else.
"Hehe, no problem! Although, stay like that for a bit…" requested Chisa for Chiaki to keep smiling. For a moment, Chiaki's smile disappeared just a little, mostly due to confusion.
"Huh?" Chiaki tilted her head in curiosity, but it became clear once Chisa pulled out her phone and held it like a camera. The student's cheeks became rosy again, but she felt like it would be rude of her if she declined the offer.
"Smile!" shouted Chisa as the one photographed did as she was told. With a single press on a screen, the phone made a noise, noting that the photograph was taken. Her smile forever became immortalized digitally.
"Just needed to take a photo of your smile! That's all!" Chisa quickly explained herself on why she needed to perform such an action.
"Oh? But for what for?" Chiaki asked once again, not exactly sure what would make her smile so special. She didn't feel like she was anything special at all, aside from the fact that she played games well, but what can you do with that in life?
"Just that it will be forever remembered, that is all! You have a very beautiful smile, more people should see you like that." Chisa gave her a compliment that Chiaki tried to deflect it from instinct, but for some reason, she couldn't help herself but to take it. Her cheeks became red once again as she looked at the ground again, that time out of embarrassment. Yet, it felt good, she couldn't deny it.
"Ehehe…" giggled Chiaki as she placed a hand on her cheek.
"Also, can we exchange our numbers too? Just that we'd always be on contact!" Chisa suddenly got an idea, a very convenient one for Chiaki, so that not only would they never be separated, but they could call each other any time.
"O-oh, sure!" Chiaki pulled out her phone out of the kitty bag as these two ladies exchanged their numbers. Thus, their bond was cemented, but the day was coming to an end. They needed some time for slumber, after all.
"Now, it's best to take a rest. It's kinda late now, so its best to prepare yourself for school!" advised Chisa to be as energized as possible for the incoming school days. Chiaki, already a huge fan of resting and relaxing, immediately approved her advice.
"Will do, Miss Yukizome!" determinedly nodded Chiaki, looking forward towards the future Hope's peak granted her. Thanks to Chisa, her new life officially began. Then, Chiaki started to walk home, but she couldn't let her eyes off of her teacher. She wanted to see her as much as possible.
"Do your best! See ya soon, Chiaki!" Chisa waved at her, noticing that Chiaki didn't put her hood on. It was intentional, too. At that time, Chiaki didn't need to hide anymore.
"See you soon, Miss Yukizome!" Chiaki waved back at her before they fully departed, going their own ways. For the first time in ages, Chiaki walked in public with a smile on her face. She even hummed to herself, musing what sorts of adventures are awaiting her at Hope's peak academy.
"Oh gosh, this is going to be amazing! Finally, there will be a place for me...I think. Maybe! Still, maybe still means there's a chance...I have to tell Usami about it!" Chiaki thought to herself as she was starting to walk faster towards home. The anticipation of telling her imaginary friend was incredibly high and more time passed, stronger the urge was.
By the time she arrived at home, she immediately ran towards her bedroom, right where Usami resided. She even forgot to take off her backpack, her primary thought was informing her imaginary friend about it.
"Usami, Usami! You have to hear about this!" Chiaki gently grabbed the plushie as she began explaining what just happened to her.
"Hm? What happened, Chiaki?" she talked to herself, pretending that Usami was a real person, by making a more mature yet still high pitched sounding voice for her. Chiaki even moved her arms, to mimic what she felt.
"Yesterday, I've met Chisa Yukizome, my teacher! She promised me that we'll meet again today and we did! It's...first time someone waited for me….come to think of it…" Chiaki told her about the very teacher that gave her a new chance in life, someone who could pull her out of the status quo she had for years.
"Woah, really? That's amazing, Chiaki! That's a sign of a new, better life right here!" said Chiaki under the name of Usami. Even that day, she still couldn't truly believe it.
"Hehe, yep. It feels….great….as long as it stays like that...Who knows how long will it take for old life to return…" smiled Chiaki but her worries resurfaced again, since it wasn't impossible that the future she looked forward to would be torn apart. She hoped it wouldn't happen, yet her gut feeling indicated that it was inevitable.
"C'mon, Chiaki! Don't worry about that anymore! That old life will soon be just a bad memory!" in a sense of self critique, "Usami" reassured her that her new life will be certain, nothing will it be like the old status quo.
"Mmmmm…..I hope so….maybe you're right. Miss Yukizome does seem like a person that could make a lot of happy memories…" murmured Chiaki, hesitating in believing it fully, but if she had such a good moment those two days, then maybe, just maybe, the future of hers could be bright.
"Make it the best memories possible! If you just do it, things will be okay!" "Usami" gave out a motivation for her, repeating the very statement that remained stuck in Chiaki's mind.
"...If you just do it….things will be okay….I'll….never forget these words, ever…" Chiaki repeated them as well, always taking a note if the situation ever got bleak, she'd be able to keep moving forward.
"Through out darkest times, always remember those words. Never give up, Chiaki, promise me that." "Usami" gently requested her to keep her head up, not to be stuck in an eternal cycle of low confidence and self doubt.
"….I promise. I'll never give up, especially since now…" confirmed Chiaki before she laid down on her bad, hugging Usami along with it. Her eyes started to close as she was about to enter the land of dreams, yet as she did that, she had a smile on her face. A genuine, hopeful smile.
"...I have a reason to look forward to future...Thank you, Miss Yukizome…Thank you so much…I can't wait until we spend our days together…".
But that was just a distant memory at that point. The present they were living in it was something they never wanted to live through. Chisa Yukizome wasn't there anymore, instead she was at the mercy of a criminal syndicate.
Chiaki was curled up, hiding her tears by covering her face with Usami. At the very least, she wasn't alone. Hajime, Ibuki, Chihiro and Mayuri were all by her side. Rest of Future Gadget Lab members were told about the situation and had to move forward towards Hope's peak academy. Even though her friends were all by her side, they didn't know what exactly to do. They have never seen Chiaki like that before. As much as she tried to hide it, they could all hear her weeping, a sound that kept weighing on their hearts.
Mayuri was the first one to step closer to her, gently placing her hand on her should. She felt incredibly cautious around her, since any wrong move would just make it worse. None than less, she gave a try.
"Hey, Chiaki….just letting you know that we'll always be here for you. You won't ever be alone…" Mayuri spoke to her, knowing that even in such distress, she could at least ease off some of pain. It was true too, at the very least Chiaki had people supporting her in the present. "Miss Yukizome is gonna go back, we'll make sure of it.".
Yet Chiaki was yet to open up to them. Mayuri didn't push further due to her friend's emotional state, yet she could sense none of that was sudden. It was all a culmination of her constantly hiding her true self from others, especially from her own friends. Mayuri could still feel that she's trying to repress herself. It had to stop, she had to stop it by herself, even though the time of discussion of such topic was absolutely worst. Instead, Mayuri knew that Chiaki had to be prepared for a day when it would be addressed. For that moment, she just needed to recover.
"Chiaki will need to recover first, but you guys promise that you'll be by her side, right?" Mayuri asked everyone in the room, just so that Chiaki could hear it. Even if saving Miss Yukizome was of more importance, they couldn't just leave their close friend like that.
"Yeah, we'll always be…" confirmed Hajime, with his voice sounding rather shaken by the whole situation. He wanted to help as well, but just didn't know what to do aside from being for her. Ibuki just quietly nodded. Chihiro tried to do the same, but the weight of the whole situation made him break down. Not only was Miss Yukizome taken as a hostage, but seeing the very close friend who brought him so much happiness through out the time like that pressured him into tears.
"...S-sorry, it's just…." apologized Chihiro, but he couldn't hide what he truly felt about the whole thing. He expected to be judged for it, but everyone in the room understood him. In response, Ibuki gave him a hug, just to give him comfort.
"It's...okay….it's okay to cry, Chihiro…." Ibuki tried to reassure him, but just from her voice alone it could be felt that the weight of the situation was also affecting her. Zero trace of her usual self, instead she prioritized helping others as much as possible. At the very least, she could be a friend in need, if nothing else.
All of that not only pained Hajime himself, but caused him to feel something else as well. The feeling of contempt of their enemies, for causing such disarray to them. A consequence of a demoralization playing right in front of them.
"Goddamnit….what can we even do now? Everything is just so-" Hajime thought to himself as he clenched his fist, preparing himself that if he'd ever saw a member of the adversary organization, he will strike.
However, his thought process was quickly interrupted when he felt his phone ringing. He quickly picked it up without even checking the number. Once he pressed the green button on the screen, the call was initiated. It was a person he did not expect.
"...Hey." greeted Fuyuhiko from the side of Hope's peak. Hajime was startled upon hearing his voice, but he regained his composure quickly. There were a lot more important things going on.
"...Fuyuhiko?" asked Hajime.
"Yeah, it's me. Just wanna ask, is it alright if you keep me updated on what's going on? I'll do the same as well." confirmed Fuyuhiko before he piqued if Hajime is alright with keeping contact with him, since he had to take care of his classmates (and class 78th students, who quickly received the news) back at there.
"It's...no problem, to say at least." approved Hajime without hesitation.
"Alright then. I'll start. How's she doing?" asked Fuyuhiko out of concern for her. Hajime took a while to answer, since seeing Chiaki in such state was tearing him inside. He could barely watch it, he really wanted to do something about it. He really wanted to see her smile back.
"They...they broke her. She'll...need a lot of support from us…." Hajime's lip trembled upon answering him while requesting that others should give a hand too, when needed. Fuyuhiko understood it quite well and he would spread the message across.
"...Fucking hell, man. I never thought I'd see her like that. She was always so...how to say it….cheerful….and understanding….To see her like that…" contemplated Fuyuhiko, expressing disbelief that such situation was even a reality. Despite being a yakuza himself, there was a line to be crossed when his friends or close ones were harmed.
"….Those bastards will pay...for sure…." Hajime clenched his teeth, quietly announcing that there will be revenge for what their adversary has done. There was no way of those criminal being let off scot free. They'll find a way.
"...Yeah...except that….it's utter chaos here. We're struggling to-….Hold on a sec…" Fuyuhiko agreed with the idea, but was soon interrupted by the situation at Hope's peak. For a temporary amount of time, they were all in the gym. From the phone call alone, it could be heard what was Fuyuhiko dealing with.
Panic, confusion, anger were all emotions going through Hope's peak. Mikan completely broke down under pressure, Sayaka had to take deep breaths in order to not have an anxiety attack. Some of them were mortified as well, such as Kiyotaka and Toko. Some students tried their best to remain calm, but the pressure was too much for them. Few of them who kept their composure, such as Peko, Kyoko, Gundham, Nekomaru and Sakura, tried to calm the whole group down, but chaos reigned there.
"Goddamn...keep me updated, will you? I'll talk to you later." Fuyuhiko had to conclude the call just to deal with their situation back there, but he let his classmate have a say, just so that it would be confirmed.
"...Got it." quietly approved Hajime as both of them ended the call, beginning to think about what to do. Nothing was clear anymore, there was no solution in sight. Only few facts were certain: their adversary had an upper hand and their time was running out. With each minute passed, they were closer to saying goodbye to Chisa Yukizome, forever. Not an option they could afford at all.