A/N: FINALLY. My hell semester is over. Dear lord… I'm surprised I made it through alive. And to think that next semester will be even worse… heaven help me.

That's why I look forward to writing fanfiction. It's kind of therapeutic after all that stress from university work. :) So here's the latest installment of Reward. Thank you for still being here; for reading, for criticizing, and for being patient and understanding with a mediocre writer like me. Enjoy!


A Gokusen Fanfiction

by shirotora-san


Blood of the Past

As he yawned and stretched his arms high above his head, Tetsu stepped out into the porch to make his final rounds before closing the Oedo household up for the night. He was able to take a few steps before he stopped and blinked in confusion. He narrowed his eyes and peered at the immobile figure standing in the middle of the garden – a sentinel guarding the dark night. He squinted and cautiously approached the lone statue, and slowly realized it wasn't an inanimate object after all; its shoulders were heaving up and down as it breathed the cool night air. And as he drew nearer, silver-blue light shone upon the gray yukata the figure wore and illuminated the lines in his familiar, worn face.

"Boss?" Tetsu called out hesitantly. "What are you still doing out here? It's late, you should be getting some rest," he said as he walked over towards the older man. He knew he shouldn't be surprised the Kumichou of the Oedo clan was able to cloak his ki so well, even within familiar territory, but Kuroda Ryuuichirou's unmatched skills never fail to awe him still.

The older man turned his head slightly towards him. He didn't speak, and only offered a small smile to his subordinate. Tetsu stopped walking then, struck by the strangeness of that smile. It was gentle and melancholy – an inner happiness veiled in the shadow of longing. But before he had time to mull it over, Tetsu's attention was diverted when his boss tilted his head backwards to stare at the heavens above them.

Tetsu stepped forward and followed the older man's gaze. He smiled when he saw the perfectly round globe floating among the velvet sea of stars and shining with a subtle silver-blue glow. "It's the night of the full moon," he commented.

Kuroda heard his subordinate speak, yet the words did not register. The words he was hearing inside his mind were the words exchanged more than a decade ago on a moonlit night like this – words he now wished he never spoke, words he wished he never heard.

"You will not talk back to me like that, Yuriko!" The words were harsh, the voice monstrous – a voice he barely recognized as his own. "You will do well to listen to your father!"

"I refuse to listen to a traitor!" Words that cut through him like a knife, even now.

"It was the only way!" Words trying to justify a mistake. "There was nothing else I could've done!"

"You could have saved her!" Words that haunted him to this day.

"I warned you about her, but you did not listen!" Words magnified as he stood up in fury. "That is the price she pays – the price you pay for disobeying me!"

"He was right. Kyosuke was right all along." Words of realization – of betrayal. "I didn't believe it – I didn't want to believe it. But I know better now. I know what I have to do."

"Where are you going?" Words spoken as she turned her back on him.

"I'm leaving, Father. And don't even try to stop me, because I am never going to step foot into this prison you call a house ever again!" Words of an oath that became true.

"So you're going to turn your back on your family? On the people who made you who you are? And because of what, a man's feeble promise? A poor man who can barely afford to place a meal on the table?" Words he never wished to speak of a good man.

"Kyosuke loves me! And he loves me more truly and completely than you ever did!" Words that carried the truth he refused to believe.

"You have no right… you don't know…" Words lost in hurt and anger, his voice cracking. "Don't ever forget who you are, Yuriko. You owe that to me. To your family."

"Then I owe you nothing. Because I never wanted to be who I am." Words finally spoken after years of silence.

Words spoken as he turned his back on her. "Leave. Now. And from this day forward, you have no family to return to." Words he wished he could take back.

"I fought for my family for so long, believing that they'd do the same for me. But I guess I was wrong, wasn't I, Father?" Words spoken through tears. "I was wrong to place my faith on a family who makes a living out of lies." Words that shattered him.

"Don't call me 'Father.'" Words that destroyed the one family he had left. "I never had a daughter."

"Then we're even." Words that destroyed the one family she left behind. "Because I never had a family."

"Boss?" A single word, spoken in the present, uttered in concern and worry. Kuroda was pulled back to reality, emerging from his own world that trapped him within memories of a nightmarish event seventeen years past. As Tetsu watched, Kuroda turned his head towards the porch as another memory surfaced from a more recent past, several moonlit nights ago.

"I used to believe in something that felt absolutely right. I trusted in it. And I fought for it."

She had always been similar to her mother in many ways, even her voice and her features. Her eyes were the only ones different. She always had her father's eyes – and her father's way of seeing.

"And now suddenly… I'm starting to doubt my reasons for believing in it. For fighting for it. The strong faith I once had in it is slowly weakening."

"Boss… is something wrong?"

Kuroda turned his gaze back to silver-blue globe watching them serenely from the heavens. "It's beautiful isn't it?" was his response to Tetsu's inquiry. "The full moon."

Tetsu pressed his lips together. The older man didn't answer his question. "Boss, we really should be getting inside now…"

"I don't want my shin to change anymore. I lost track of what I used to believe was my real shin."

"Ah, but look, Tetsu…"

"This shin I'm feeling now… I don't want to lose my faith in this one. I don't want to lose this shin."

"The moon…"

And he smiled as the memory was replaced by a name that suddenly flashed in his mind – one that he once saw on a test paper with a perfect score.

"…is shining its brightest tonight."

It should have been their perfect moment. Everything was as it should be. She was as beautiful as an angel that descended from heaven; fire burned brightly once more in the embers which were his eyes. The lyrics of the first song they danced together to, they realized, were the words that fit exactly what they were feeling, what each longed to say to the other but just couldn't. They were finally in each other's arms, and this time, they knew no one was around to take one away from the other.

It should have been their perfect moment. Yet both Yamaguchi Kumiko and Sawada Shin felt there was something wrong.

Maybe it was because Shin saw from behind Kumiko how Noda and Shizuka, who just a moment ago had something akin to admiration shining in their eyes as they smiled at and danced with each other, now let go of each other and stared at their direction, looking thoroughly worried and confused.

Maybe it was because Kumiko saw from behind Shin how Kuma approached them not with his usual carefree swagger, but with a quick, urgent stride. He didn't even acknowledge the fact that his teacher and his best friend were embracing each other in such a forbidden gesture.

But more than anything, it was because when both Shin and Kumiko turned around, Minami stepped out from behind Kuma and they saw something they did not want to see in his eyes.


Shin and Kumiko looked at each other. Something was terribly wrong.

Teacher and student reluctantly let go of each other as Noda and Shizuka moved to stand beside them. They all watched Minami apprehensively as the crowd around them roared joyously and danced to the bopping rhythm of the club music the DJ put on.

Shin stepped forward and gently laid a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Minami…?"

He looked up and opened his mouth, but no words came out. A sense of foreboding came upon Shin just then, and Kumiko narrowed her eyes when she saw Minami tremble.

Sensing that his friend was too shocked at the moment to speak, Kuma was the one who broke the news. Even the music blaring from the speakers wasn't able to drown out the shattering impact the words brought. With a calmness that was uncharacteristic of him, Kuma spoke gravely.

"Uchi's been kidnapped."

The same full moon that rose above the rooftop of the Oedo compound shone down upon another lone figure that stood amidst the shadows of an abandoned warehouse several miles away. Kuroda didn't know it at the time, but this figure was watching the silver-blue globe unseeingly as well, and it, too, was reliving the past it wasn't able to escape – the past they both unknowingly played a part in. The figure threw the cigarette it was smoking down on the ground and crushed it with the heel of its shoe, as if crushing the bitter, painful memories along with it.

The tell-tale sounds of tires screeching against cement broke the stillness of the night, and the figure turned its head to see a black van rolling around the corner. The figure smiled, and it walked slowly towards the van to welcome their special guest.

The van's doors opened and several men stepped out. After a moment of furious scuffling and wrestling, the men forced a bound and gagged young boy to come out. The dark-haired teenager saw the figure approaching them, and his eyes widened in shock – and recognition.

The figure allowed a satisfied smile to grace its lips for a moment before it motioned the men to take the boy inside with a tilt of its head. Anger flashed in the young boy's eyes, and he struggled more violently against the men holding him, as if he wanted to charge at the figure watching them coolly several feet away. Running out of patience, one of the men withdrew a gun from his belt and used it to deal a hard blow on the boy's head. His struggling ceased, his body went limp and his head lolled forward, struck immediately unconscious. The men dragged his body carelessly inside the warehouse, leaving a dark, ominous trail on the ground as blood dripped from the boy's head.

"Sawada!" Kumiko cried out when the boy broke into a run towards the door. "You idiot, where do you think you're going?!" She pursed her lips and hiked up her dress as she ran after him. The others looked at each other, and after a heartbeat's moment of hesitation, they came to a grim agreement and followed the two out the door.

The main entrance door to the gymnasium nearly broke off its hinges as it slammed violently against the wall when Shin charged through. His eyes quickly scanned the surroundings and he immediately noticed that something was amiss. It was then that a thought suddenly occurred to him, and he ran down the steps to confirm his suspicions.

Kumiko burst through the door just in time to see Shin disappear round the corner of the gymnasium. She turned to follow him before she slowed to a stop when she saw a strange dark trail marring the grass beneath her feet, leading towards the back of the gym. She crouched down to look at it more closely, and her eyes widened when she realized it was blood.

Fear seized her heart. "Shin!" She sprinted towards the back of the gym and saw him standing motionlessly and staring at the thick cluster of bushes lined near the wall. "Shin…?" Kumiko tentatively approached him, before she saw with narrowed eyes what caught his attention. Her heart jumped to her throat. A hand, still and deathly-white, was poking through the cluster of leaves.

She quickly brushed past her student's still form towards the bushes just as the others appeared behind them. She pushed the thorny branches aside, and the leaves parted to reveal a shocking sight. The pounding music coming from inside the gym drowned out the bloodcurdling scream Shizuka let out.

Two bodies littered the ground, lying in a small pool of fresh blood that dripped from the wounds on their heads.

Noda held Shizuka's trembling form in his arms as Kumiko quickly kneeled down and felt the men's pulse. She let out the deep breath she didn't realize she was holding. "They're all right," she announced to the others as she stood up. "They're just unconscious." She turned to Kuma. "Get Kawashima-sensei. And hurry." Her portly student nodded and quickly went back the way he came.

Shizuka looked up from Noda's shoulder as he stroked her back comfortingly. "W-Who are they?" she spoke, her voice cracking as she tried to hold back frightened tears. "What happened?"

It was Shin who answered. "They're the undercover police officers that Kyoto hired." He stepped forward as he eyed the men's immobile bodies. "These two were assigned to guard the main entrance. I recognize them from when we first entered the gym."

Kumiko looked up at him as he reached her side, and she finally understood what made him run here. "If Uchi had been kidnapped, they should have been the first ones to witness the abduction," continued Kumiko. "They should have been able to respond quickly to the situation."

"They were the first people I looked for when I ran out," said Shin. "When they were nowhere to be found, I realized that something must have happened to them."

Shizuka's eyes widened. "Then whoever took Uchiyama knew that they had to get rid of the officers patrolling the area first before they can carry out the abduction!"

"Exactly," said Kumiko. "This was a planned kidnapping. They knew the circumstances that surrounded Uchi when they decided to take him."

"But Uchi wouldn't be that stupid to wander out on his own!" Noda protested. "Especially since he knew—"

Noda broke off. Shin's eyes widened. And Minami looked away.

Kumiko's eyes narrowed. "Are you guys hiding something?"

She met Shin's gaze and saw the look of silent apology in his eyes. He turned to Minami. "Was it them?"

With great difficulty, Minami turned to look at them. "Yes. They came to get back at him." He looked utterly forlorn… and terribly guilty.

Shizuka blinked, looking thoroughly confused. "Them who?"

"The people Uchi was working for," Noda answered.

"Uchi had a job?" Kumiko exclaimed.

"Yeah," said Noda. "But he broke the contract he had with them and escaped. Now these people are out to get him."

"That's crazy," Shizuka interrupted before Kumiko could ask what exactly Uchi's job was. "Even if that were true, why would they go to the trouble of kidnapping him? If it was a legitimate business, they could have just simply sued him."

"That's exactly the problem." Everyone turned to look at Shin, who spoke grimly. "It wasn't a legitimate business. The people Uchi was working for… they were involved in illegal matters. They're from the underground."

Kumiko's eyes widened.

"Uchi was kidnapped," Minami said, and every word seemed to tear him apart. "Because they want to silence him."

The dreadful implications of that statement hung deathly-silent in the air.

"What's going on?" Kikuno's voice broke the silence choking each one of them. She arrived at the scene, with Kuma following closely behind. "Why are you all here? And why are you all so quiet?"

Shin and Kumiko turned to look at her. Both of them stepped back to reveal the ghastly sight to the wide-eyed nurse.

"What the hell happened here?!" Kikuno cried out as she rushed forward and kneeled before the men's bodies. She checked their pulse much in the same way that Kumiko did before she demanded, "Who are these people? What are they doing here?"

"They're police officers," Shin answered. "They were knocked out before Uchi was kidnapped."

"Uchiyama was what?" Kikuno shrieked.

"We'll explain later," said Kumiko tiredly. "The important thing right now is to make sure these men's injuries are attended to. And we also have to figure out where the kidnappers might have taken Uchi."

"I should have known bringing a first-aid kit to a school dance was a terrible omen," Kikuno muttered as she opened the kit she brought along with her and started tending the men's wounds.

"Well, it was a good thing you did," said Noda. "You'll be able to save these men's lives."

"Tell me about it. These men received some pretty hard blows. Had these been dealt a little harder, it would have been fatal," said Kikuno as she worked quickly on the men's injuries. "The reason why these men are able to survive is because they put up quite a struggle. It's apparent with the other injuries they have. The kidnappers must have had a hard time with them, that's why they didn't bother to kill them. The abduction had to be efficient, after all." She turned to the Section 3-D adviser. "Whoever the people involved in this kidnapping are, they know how to fight."

Kumiko pressed her lips together and didn't answer. She had already reached that conclusion.

"I still don't understand," Shizuka spoke up. "If what you guys are saying is true, then why would Uchiyama be so careless to let his guard down, especially on a night like this?"

"The girls he was with brought him out," said Kuma. "He thought they were just going to look for a place where they can make out."

"Girls?" Shizuka's eyes widened. "You mean the girls from Hanasho Gakuen? They're working with the kidnappers?"

"It was Ayumi."

Everyone turned to Minami in surprise. "Ayumi?" Kumiko repeated. "Your ex-girlfriend? She's from Hanasho Gakuen?"

Minami nodded. "It was Ayumi and her friends. They lured him out into the open. Uchi didn't recognize her because she changed the style and color of her hair."

Kumiko's eyes widened. It was all making sense now. "That was why Uchi dyed his hair back to black, wasn't it?"

When the others looked confused, Shin sighed. "That's right," he said. "One of Uchi's defining features is his hair. Since he was trying to hide from these people he escaped from, he figured he has to make sure they'll have trouble recognizing him."

Kumiko narrowed her eyes. "So all these happened just recently?"

Shin looked at her. "Yes."

"Then why didn't you guys tell me?!" Kumiko burst out. She turned to Noda angrily. "I thought you said you guys already trusted me!"

"We do," answered Noda quietly. "Believe me, Yankumi, Uchi was trying to protect you."

Kumiko didn't seem to have heard him. "And why would Uchi go through the trouble of working for an illegal business?"

"He needed the money."

The Section 3-D adviser turned slowly to the class leader. She was trembling from trying to control the sudden fury that rushed through her veins at his words. "Money?" she repeated, a quiet, dangerous lilt in her tone. "He was willing to risk his sorry ass for money?" She couldn't stop her voice from rising at that last statement.

"He was willing," answered Shin in a controlled voice that matched his teacher's. "To risk his sorry ass for a life more precious than his own."

And for the first time, the flash in their eyes was directed at each other.

"There's something I want to know," Kikuno spoke up, once more breaking the tension that suddenly suffused the air. "How did you guys know Uchi was kidnapped?"

The others looked at Kuma, who in turn looked at Minami. "I saw Uchi and Ayumi flirting with each other earlier this evening," explained Minami. "Naturally, I became curious when I saw them heading out the door. So I followed them. By the time I caught up to them… it was already too late."

Kuma stepped forward and put a hand on Minami's shoulder when the boy couldn't speak anymore. "As soon as Uchi was alone with Ayumi and the others, a black van suddenly pulled up. The girls quickly ran back inside as several men stepped out of the van and forcibly took Uchi. At least, that's the story Minami told me."

Shizuka shook her head in disbelief. "But why would Ayumi-san allow herself to be a part of this horrible crime?"

"She was threatened," Shin interjected. "Wasn't she, Minami?"

Minami's hands curled into fists. "It was all Watanabe's doing."

"Watanabe?" Kikuno repeated as her eyes widened. "The leader of Ara Gakuen?"

"That's her boyfriend, right?" said Kumiko. "The one who beat you and Sawada up before."

Minami nodded. "Yes, that's him," he said. "By a strange twist of fate, it turned out that the Watanabe family is the one running the business Uchi worked for."

Watanabe? Kumiko's eyes widened as the name finally registered in her mind. No way… it can't be!

Kikuno turned to look at them in sudden realization. "Then that means Uchi isn't the only one they're after."

"Watanabe's also using him…" Shizuka looked at Minami. "In order to have his revenge on you."

The boy hung his head in shame.

Kumiko's eyes narrowed.

Minami looked up when Shin clamped a hand on his shoulder. "Idiot. Don't look so down." The class leader smirked. "It doesn't suit you."

"It's not your fault." Kuma offered him a small smile. "We weren't able to protect him either."

Noda stepped forward. "No one here is blaming you, dude. If Uchi was here, I'm sure he'd say the same."

"I'll bring him back," Shin said suddenly. "So he'll be the one to properly scold you." And with that, he turned on his heel and moved to leave.

"You really are a cheeky little brat, aren't you?"

Shin stopped in his tracks. "Stay out of this, Yankumi."

"Oh, so now it's back to 'Yankumi,'" Kumiko spat out. The others backed away, looking confused and a little frightened. "So, Sawada, what do you plan to do? You don't even know where they took Uchi!"

Shin spun around and glared at her. "I'll find him."

Kumiko folded her arms across her chest and raised her eyebrows at him. "And how, pray tell, are you going to do that?"

"I think I know where they might have taken him."

Both turned to look at Minami in surprise. "What do you mean?" Kumiko asked.

"Well," said Minami hesitantly. "I overheard one of the men who stepped out of the van ask where they're going to next. One of them answered that they're going to the abandoned warehouse at the edge of the town, near the seaport."

Kumiko slowly lowered her arms at that. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. Something is definitely not right here.

"That's quite far from here," said Noda. "It'll take a long time to get there. By the time we find Uchi, the kidnappers might already have—"

"No." Shin interrupted him. "I won't let them."

"Sawada!" warned Kumiko when he moved to leave again. "Stop acting so rashly! You don't know what you're getting yourself into!"

"I won't let them hurt Uchi!" Shin burst out.

"Don't be so full of yourself, idiot!" Kumiko answered hotly. "Two skilled police officers were effortlessly knocked out! This isn't something trivial you juvenile delinquents get caught up in!" Shin curled his fists angrily as Kumiko continued her tirade. "We're dealing with something bigger here, something much more dangerous!"

"Don't speak as if I can't protect myself!"

"You and Uchi are still my responsibility!"

"Oh don't give me that bullshit. We may just be students to you, Yankumi, but Uchi is much more than that to me. He's a friend, a brother, the family I never had! I can't let them hurt him!"

"I know that! But I can't let them hurt you too!"

"I don't care what happens to me as long as I can save Uchi!"

"Well I do! I'll never forgive myself if something happened to you!"

"Why do you care so much about what will happen to me?"


Five mouths dropped open and five pairs of eyes widened as the rest of them watched the exchange between teacher and student in stunned silence. Seemingly caught off guard by her own outburst, Kumiko turned her back on her dark-haired student, cheeks flushed in both embarrassment and anger.

"Then you know exactly how I feel about you," Shin said quietly. "Kumiko."

He ignored the surprised looks his friends shot his way as he stepped forward towards her. "You're always the one protecting me. Protecting us." He gazed at his friends briefly before he turned back to her. "This time…" And he gently took her hand. "Let me protect you."

Kumiko slowly turned around to look at him, and he gazed into her eyes like he did that time in the classroom. "Shin…"

Kikuno cleared her throat loudly. "I hate to break up the moment, but we need to keep our heads on and act fast. Fighting won't get us anywhere." Shin reluctantly let go of Kumiko's hand as Kikuno motioned to the men lying on the ground. "I've clean the wounds up the best I could, but we need to move them to a safer place."

She stood up to face them. "Noda, go to the main building and look for the janitor," she ordered. "Ask him for the key to my clinic. Unlock the clinic and prepare two folding beds. Then get two stretchers and return here as soon as possible. Ask the janitor to help you."

Noda nodded in affirmation before he took off towards the direction of the main building.

Kikuno turned to the others. "Minami, Kumai, get back inside the gym and round up as many of your friends as you can. Do this very discreetly so you won't attract attention. We need their help in carrying these men to my clinic."

Kuma nodded. "And we'll tell them about what happened to Uchi."

"NO!" Kikuno, Kumiko and Shin cried out in unison.

Kuma blinked, taken aback. "Why not?"

"Section 3-D have their hearts in the right place, but their minds are located somewhere else," Kikuno said wryly. "They might do something rash—" and she couldn't help but glance at Shin "—if they find out what happened."

Shin pursed his lips but was forced to agree. "We can't let anyone else find out what happened tonight."

Kuma looked surprised. "Even the police? Or the teachers, at least?"

Shizuka and Kikuno looked at each other.

Shin couldn't keep the bitterness out of his voice. "Especially not the teachers."

"At least," added Kumiko. "Not until the dance is over."

"Why should we wait that long?" Minami demanded.

"Because of Shirokin Gakuen's reputation," Shizuka answered. "This inter-school dance is a first for Shirokin Gakuen, and it's an important event in the eyes of the committee on education."

"So what?" Minami exclaimed. "We need as much help as we could possibly get in saving Uchi!"

"The school already has a bad reputation," Kikuno explained. "If this incident goes out, the school's reputation will be sullied even more. Shirokin Gakuen might close down… permanently."

Minami looked outraged. "So you guys are willing to risk Uchi's life just to protect the school?"

"Not just the school," answered Kumiko. "But Uchi himself."

Minami turned to her. "What do you mean?"

Kumiko spoke gravely. "If Kyoto finds out that Uchi has been dealing with people from the underground, he'll be expelled for sure. I'm still not sure what kind of job it was, or how Uchi got himself involved in it, but I trust him enough to believe he had a good reason for doing so." Shin turned to her in surprise, and Kumiko glanced into his wide eyes for a moment before continuing. "But I'm willing to bet that Kyoto wouldn't listen to him. If this incident gets on Uchi's record, no other school will ever accept him as a student."

"Assuming, of course," added Shizuka. "That Uchi is able to return."

Minami turned to her sharply. "Don't say that!" he whispered fiercely.

Shizuka sighed. "Sorry. I didn't mean it that way."

"But it's not just Uchi, isn't it?"

All of them turned to Kuma, who seemed to have suddenly realized something important. "If this gets out… because she's the one in charge of our class…" He turned to Kumiko with wide eyes. "Yankumi will be forced out of the school too. And Yankumi's reputation as a teacher will be—!"

"I don't care what happens to me," Kumiko flatly interjected. "But I can never forgive the people who dared hurt Uchi."

Shin smirked at her. "Who's acting rashly now?"

"Stop it, both of you," Kikuno snapped. She turned to the Section 3-C adviser. "Fujiyama-sensei, you should go inside with Minami and Kumai. Keep an eye on everyone else. While we want to keep this incident to ourselves for as long as possible, I trust that when the time comes, you'd know what to do." Kikuno's expression turned grave. "And you'd know who we should trust."

Shizuka nodded grimly. "I'll go inform Shinohara-san." She turned around and was about to leave when Kikuno's voice stopped her.

"You won't find him inside."

Everyone turned to the nurse in surprise. Kikuno looked at them all slowly before she took a deep breath. And with great difficulty, she made the second shocking announcement of that night.

"Shinohara-san is also missing."

Kumiko's eyes widened.

Shizuka pursed her lips and turned to the two boys beside her. "Minami, Kumai, you two go on ahead inside. I'll catch up."

Both boys glanced at the Kikuno and hesitated. The nurse offered them a small smile and nodded. Taking that gesture as a cue, Minami and Kuma turned on their heel and ran back the way they came.

Kumiko's eyebrows furrowed. "What are you saying, Kawashima-sensei? What do you mean he's missing?"

"While you guys were dancing, Shinohara-san and I moved out of the dance floor to talk," said Kikuno. "After a while, he excused himself and said that he had to attend to something important. Before he went out, he promised he'd be back."

"He went out?" Shizuka repeated.

"Yes," said Kikuno. "But after several songs were done and he still didn't return, I started to get worried. I looked around inside the gym but he wasn't there, so I went out to search for him. That was when Kumai found me."

"Well, he wasn't out here either," Shin put in. "Do you think he saw Uchi's abduction?"

Shizuka's eyes widened. "What if he did, and he tried to stop the kidnappers by himself?" Her hands flew to her mouth as she gasped. "What if they took Shinohara-san too?"

"That's possible," Kumiko grimly answered. "Although if he witnessed the abduction itself, the kidnappers might have already… disposed him."

Kikuno covered her face with her hands. "Oh please don't put it that way."

To everyone's surprise, Shin stepped forward and laid a hand on the distraught nurse's shoulder. "Shinohara's a tough guy to beat," he said, and Kumiko raised her eyebrows as Shin glanced at her before he turned back to Kikuno. "He won't go down that easily."

Kumiko smiled. "Don't worry, Kawashima-sensei. We'll find him," she said reassuringly. "We'll bring him back along with Uchi."

Kikuno turned to her with wide, fearful eyes. "Yamaguchi-sensei… what if something bad happened to Shinohara-san? I don't know if I can take it."

"I'm going inside," Shizuka suddenly announced. "As soon as these men's bodies are moved to the clinic, I'll ask Section 3-D's help in looking for…" she trailed off, and she briefly closed her eyes. "For Shinohara-san's body. In case he was also knocked unconscious," she quickly added when Kikuno looked horror-struck.

Kumiko nodded her approval. "That means we're the ones going after Uchi."

"We?" Shin repeated dubiously. "What do you mean, 'we'?"

"We as in you and I." Kumiko smirked. "I'm not going to let you experience all the action. And don't even try to talk me out of this," she added when Shin opened his mouth to protest. "Because I'll have you know… Uchi isn't just a student to me. Not anymore."

She smiled at him when his eyes widened. "He's just as important to me as he is to you, Shin."

"Don't you guys have to hurry?" Kikuno interjected. "Who knows what those kidnappers might be doing to Uchi at this very moment!"

"Oh they won't hurt him."

Shin narrowed his eyes. "And just what makes you so confident?"

The Section 3-D adviser turned around so that they wouldn't see the most dangerous look that ever flashed in her eyes. "Because I think I know what they're really after."

Red-orange light briefly illuminated the figure's face as it lit another cigarette. After a long drag, it watched with cold, hard eyes the wisps of smoke it exhaled rise up into the night, seemingly towards the silver-blue moon.

"Otou-san, okaa-san… I hope you are watching. Tonight, the Oedo clan will get their due reward."

Its eyes traveled over to the dark trail that led up to the boy being tied securely to a chair deep within the warehouse. The figure's lips curved upwards into a sinister smile.

"And it begins…"

A wild, almost manic glint flashed in its eyes.

"…with Kyosuke-sensei's beloved daughter."

End of chapter nine

A/N: Ayumi and Watanabe are actual characters taken from the second episode of Gokusen's first season. Please refer to that episode if certain references to the said characters become confusing. :)

Here's where I begin to twist Gokusen's plot a little. Or at least, this is where it starts to become apparent. For those of you who were observant readers, you might have noticed that I've been twisting the plot since the beginning. I'm interested to hear about your speculations based on the hints I've already dropped. Hopefully I can still surprise you. ;)

- shirotora-san