I mean it - speak now or forever hold your peace.
This chapter is less than a thousand words, and took twenty-five minutes to write. This is the epilogue for this story, and the prologue for the sequel.
Three months had passed since Mikan left the Academy, yet the war rubble left in her wake was still very much hellish in the memories of most.
The embers from Seta's explosions were extinguished, but the Academy's glorious, pristine white buildings would never be the same again. In fact, aside from the High School Division dormitory and the Headquarters, all the remaining buildings were reduced to nothing but charred debris.
With hundreds of confused, homeless students, and a broken school campus, restoring the Academy seemed impossible at this point. There was simply too much work to be done; too much paperwork to fill out; too many government bodies and corporations to explain the situation to. Yuki Aoshi had his hands filled.
Or rather, his hand, for he only had one left.
It was spring already in the Academy, free of controlled weather since the inferior machine was destroyed in the bombings. Spring was supposed to bring new life to the world, but looking at the desolate residue of the once magnificent Alice Academy, Natsume begged to differ.
He surveyed the ruined buildings from his perch on the grand hill, ignoring the sakura petals that fell and mingled in his raven black hair. He glanced at the man next to him, a man who had gone to hell, and came back.
"Aoshi-san." Natsume's voice was no longer harsh and croaky from lack of use – it had a gentler, more patient feel. "I've finished patrolling the Western side of campus. Reconstruction seems to be going well."
"I see. Thank you, Hyuuga." Almost instinctively, Aoshi-san cradled his bandaged stump of a right arm. It was an eternal reminder of the chaos the Academy had experienced just a mere three months ago. Yuki Aoshi had met the devil incarnate, and somehow lived. However, he was still not ready to tell the tale of how the demon claimed his arm.
The two men gazed out at the motley crew of teachers and students playing construction workers and gathering lumber for the reconstruction.
After the Seta fiasco, accepting outside help for the Academy reconstruction had been a wary, sensitive topic. In the meanwhile, the Academy's staff and student body were set to the task of rebuilding the institute. However, everyone knew that this couldn't last. The authorities were going to send the "gifted" children away somewhere soon. They couldn't be used for child labour.
To break the sombre, tense silence between them, the headmaster said, "So, she was the one who proposed."
Natsume was hesitant to reply. If he were a father, he, too, would be hesitant to give his daughter away for marriage. Especially if it was to someone he disliked.
"I'm sorry," he eventually said, sensing that Aoshi was waiting for a reply.
"There's no need to be," the one-armed man said quietly.
A bird chirped in a nearby sakura tree, before spreading its beautiful green wings and flying off into the vast, blue sky. Aoshi stretched his left arm out, palm open, and caught a single cherry blossom petal. He thought he'd never see spring again.
The two men gazed down at the construction site, watching the teachers and students gather lumber for the Academy's restoration.
At this point, it seemed that returning the Alice Academy to its former glory was just a pipe dream. However, both the older man and the younger man knew that it wasn't impossible. All it took was time.
All it took was time before they could see Mikan again.
The brunette's breath came out in short, ragged huffs. Her legs were tired and she couldn't stop sweating. How long had this chase gone on for?
Mikan's legs gave way and she buckled to the ground, pressing a hand flat against her incessantly beating heart. Her long hair stuck uncomfortably to her sweaty face and neck.
Shadows filled the alley the olive-eyed woman occupied. She was glad for them, for they hid her from her pursuers.
However, the shadows also hid her pursuers from her. They descended upon the unwitting female, swiftly, silently.
They took her before she could even scream.
In the shadows, a pair of blood red eyes flashed dangerously. When he heard the rustle of cloaks and the sound of flesh hitting flesh, Persona knew it was time to make his presence known.
Two years and six months had gone by since the promise had been made.
But now, for the first time, Mikan Sakura doubted if she could fulfil her end of the bargain.
To be continued…
It's done! I thank all my readers, reviewers and the lovely people who have put this on their Favourites list! You guys rock, and I would give you all cookies if I still had chocolate chips in the fridge. I honestly don't have the right words to thank the people who have made my day, and who have supported me for this story.
Next problem - what to name the sequel? Argh...