JC: This is the last chapter of this story. I'm a little sad yet happy at the same time. With this finally finished I'm able to go on concentrating on my new story. This'll be very emotional. I'm cheering myself on for this. I'd like to thank all my reviewers who have been with me since the story started. Now, without further ado, let's start the story.
Japanese Terms: Nii/Nii-san (Big Brother), Nee (Big Sister), Sensei (teacher, can also be used to address doctors), Senpai (Senior), Kouhai (Junior), tachi (to denote a plural form), Kokoro (Heart), Hihou (Treasure), Hentai (Pervert)
Sakura no Hihou
Final Chapter: Hihou no Kokoro
He remembered it like it was yesterday. On the day they went to Tokyo Tower was the very same day he fell in love with her. They escaped from the academy when it was close to midnight. It only took them less than five minutes to get to the tower.
"It's really Tokyo Tower!!!" a 9-year old Mikan uttered excitedly when she set her eyes on the tall tower. She was dressed in a carnation pink skirt-dress with black leggings and brown boots. Over her dress was a white mantle. Her hair was tied in an elegant half-ponytail.
Tokyo Tower is a communications and observation tower in Tokyo, standing at 332.5 meters. She had always wanted to go there ever since she was five. As the noble princess of the Sakura Clan, she wasn't allowed to set foot outside the Sakura Land. She had always been a caged bird. But, thanks to Natsume, she was able to go out and have fun. "Natsume, let's hurry up!" Tugging him by the arm, Mikan dragged him to the tower.
The bodyguard merely sighed in frustration and went along. He was wearing a grey jacket over a black shirt, jeans, and black sneakers with white laces. Honestly, what did this girl see in him anyway? He was a bearer of the curse. He was bad luck to all. Nevertheless, the girl chose him to be her bodyguard. Though the majority of the family was against such choice, the leader of the Sakura Clan gave no complaints, much to his surprise.
Seeing her smiling so cheerfully, as if she was a bird that was finally free to spread its wings, made him feel warm inside. From the day he was born, people looked at him with disgust and hatred. But Mikan was different. She still smiled at him from the bottom of her heart. She was very kind and cheerful, and for that reason, he couldn't help feeling attracted to her.
"I have the Invisibility Alice Stone and the Levitation Stone," the princess said, showing off the stones. "I don't want to view the city from inside the tower. Let's go way up there, okay?"
"Fine, whatever," he replied nonchalantly.
The children went up on the roof of the observation decks.
Mikan scanned the towering buildings and the beautiful lights of the city. She could also see the streets buzzing with cars and buses, and the people looked like ants. Mikan felt so much happiness washing over her.
"It's really amazing up here." The princess moved to sit down at the edge, letting her legs hang. "Do you think we can visit this place again, Natsume?"
Natsume sat down beside her, keeping only a short distance between them. "I'd take you here whenever you want," he said in a cool voice. He had to agree that they had a wonderful view. It seemed romantic in a sense.
Folding her hands on her lap and looking at Natsume, Mikan moved a little closer to him. "I'm always cooped up in the Sakura Land…I do love the land, but I want to see more…and feel free." She checked her watch and sighed in relief. "It's almost time."
"Time to go home, I suppose?" he said with a shrug.
Smiling, she shook her head. "Only a minute left and then it's midnight," she said as she carefully got up. She looked at her watch again, turning her back at him.
Wondering what she was up to, he got back on his feet as well. "Are we going home or not?" he questioned, keeping his tone cold and serious. He wished they could stay a little while longer, though he would get in trouble if anyone finds out that he brought the princess outside.
"10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…" After counting she spun around her heels and held out a small dark-blue box wrapped in a pure white ribbon. "Otanjoubi omedeto, Natsume!" she greeted him with a big smile.
Eyes growing wide in surprise, Natsume stared at the box in silence. He knew it was strange of her to make a countdown till midnight, but he never realized that it was already his birthday. As far as he could remember, he had never celebrated his birthday ever since his father died. His father would usually buy him a small cake and gave him toys to play with. So, it was the first time that anyone, aside from his father, gave him a gift on his birthday. No wonder Mikan insisted on going to Tokyo Tower for sightseeing.
"Please open it, Natsume," she said, keeping her smile. "I hope you'll like it."
He took the box in his hands. Admiring the cute package, he unraveled the ribbon and placed it inside his pocket. Then he opened the box. Inside was a Mandarin Orange Alice Stone. Its shape was a perfect sphere and it was about the size of a ping pong ball. "An Alice Stone…? Were you the one who made this?"
She nodded cheerfully. "I'm glad I was able to perfect it on time. I used to make tiny Alice stones, you know. I wasn't very good at making shapes either. My Alice stones usually come out deformed." She clasped her hands behind her and faced the view of the city. "When I heard about your birthday from Serio-sensei, I became so excited. I started training very hard last week in order to create the perfect Alice Stone for you, Natsume."
His heart skipped a beat. She did all of that for him, he thought. He didn't know what to say to her. He felt so touched. Mikan was the first one to ever show such kindness to him. He was so grateful to have met her.
Wrapping her arms around herself, she shuddered. "It's so cold. I guess we should head back. I also baked a cake for you. We can eat it in the morning, if you'd like."
A bit shocked, she asked him, "What did you say?"
"Don't let me repeat myself, polka-dots…" he said, turning his face away from her. "I said…thank you…" He was close to blushing already.
Giggling, Mikan gave him a great big hug. "Yay! Natsume thanked me! I'm so happy!" she exclaimed.
He felt his heart pounding and his cheeks heating up. She was too close for comfort. "Hey, let go of me, you crazy girl," he demanded, but she held on to him tightly. "Let go!"
A gentle breeze rustled through the Sakura trees. Around him in the afternoon sun, silhouettes of trees danced. Among the shadows, a darker shade darted from behind some distant trees, disappearing behind the walks of the ruins.
"What brings you here, Natsume?"
It was Mikan.
"I was just taking a stroll and then I ended up here," he replied.
Mikan smiled faintly. "A lot of things happened here," she said.
He looked at her for a brief moment before shifting his sights on the ruins.
"It's your birthday today, do you know?"
"I'm aware. Are you going to throw a surprise party again like you did last year?"
Mikan giggled. "Maybe…" Moving closer to him, she took hold of his hand. "Let's go outside the academy, Natsume."
"No," he gave a straight answer. He sounded like a stern old man not giving permission to his daughter to go out.
A pout escaped from her lips. "Come on! Please…" She put on her puppy-dog face. "Please…" She begged, batting her eyes.
She looked completely adorable to him. He always found it so difficult to refuse such a face. "Fine then… But don't let me get in trouble with your family," he said with a sigh.
She giggled again. "Hey! You can count on me!" She hugged his arm and leaned her head on his shoulder. "I'm glad that we could go on a date on your birthday. Now that you're curse free, there will be more birthdays to come for you. However...I wouldn't be…" Her voice seemed to fade.
His eyes dissected her expression. His small smile faded and his forehead creased. "You wouldn't be what?"
"Natsume, I will always keep the promise I made you," she said.
A faint smile touched his lips, and he nodded. "Hey, polka-dots… When you first met me, you weren't scared of me at all, weren't you?"
"Nope! Not a bit!" she answered cheerfully.
He stopped, raising his eyebrows in blatant disbelief. Then he flashed a wicked smile. "Really now?" His body shifted suddenly. He pounced at her. She didn't see it—his movement was too fast. Mikan only found herself suddenly airborne, and then they crashed onto his bed.
Mikan was shocked. "How did we end up in your room?"
"Dummy, have you forgotten? You inserted a Teleportation Alice stone inside my body the other day," he said, flicking her forehead. Before she could say anything, he curled her into a ball against his chest, holding her more securely than iron chains. She blushed in an instant, but he seemed well in control.
"Okay, now you're scaring me…" She struggled. "Can you let me go now?"
He just shrugged. "Let's stay like this for a while…"
She stiffened for an instant, until she felt his throbbing heart. "Natsume…"
It was about 1:30 PM. Mikan was having trouble choosing what to wear on her date. Giving up, she consulted her mother, who was a model. With her mother's help, she was able to choose the perfect clothes. She wore white shorts rolled up at the hem, with a pink tube blouse underneath an open blue jacket with a white hoodie. The jacket was in an off-shoulder style. She also wore a pair of white ankle boots with pink socks and a light-blue Gatsby cap. After kissing her mother goodbye, she skipped and pranced happily to the exit of the land. As she walked out, her eyes immediately settled on an unfamiliar vehicle. And the one standing leaning on it was her boyfriend.
Cool and composed as usual, Natsume was clad in a grey shirt with a black biker's jacket on top. He wore slightly skinny black pants with a silver chain hanging on the right side and a pair of grey sneakers.
"I didn't know you could drive!" Mikan exclaimed when Natsume brought her to his new car. "Wait a minute! Who gave you this car anyway?"
The car was a Honda Civic EX Sedan in polished metal metallic. It had a honeycomb front grille, sporty 16-inch alloys, and a rear deck lid spoiler. With its sleek lines, long low windshield and short front and rear overhangs, the Civic Sedan is one cool car.
"Your father," he answered, juggling the car key with his right hand. "I was reluctant to accept it, but your father was persistent."
Mikan touched the hood of the car. "Otou-san never told me that he was planning to give you a car for your birthday," she said before turning her head to him. "Do you have a license?"
"You know, almost everyone in the Dangerous Ability Class knows how to drive a car," he said. "And I just got my official license just last month."
Natsume helped her into his new car, being a gentleman than he normally was. When he had her settled, he got in the driver's seat and headed out. "When are you going to tell me the surprise?" he asked grumpily.
He hated surprises and she knew that. "You'll see… By the way, you look so cool in those clothes," she said, throwing a smile in his direction.
He didn't dare to look at her. "Whatever, polka-dots…"
Puffing up her cheeks, she pinched his arm. "I'm not polka-dots!"
"But you were wearing polka-dots this morning," he said with a mocking smile.
The girl just blushed ten shades of red. "Natsume no hentai!!!" she uttered, folding her arms in front of her chest.
Ignoring her comment, he drove out of the gates of Alice Academy and increased the speed of the car. "You know… I'm never letting your father and that stupid Naru choose my clothes again." He had just spent two gruesome hours in his room being a helpless victim, as Yukihira Izumi and Narumi played as fashion consultants. Whenever he complained, Yukihira reminded him that if he wanted to date his daughter, he had to do whatever he was told. For the first hour, they dressed him up in the most ridiculous outfits. "It was a nightmare."
"Eh? Really? Otou-san told me it was fun," Mikan said.
He shrugged. "They turned me into the male-version of Barbie. How can you say that it's fun?" He was then distracted by the sound of a phone ringing. Natsume pulled his cell phone from his pocket inside his jacket, looking briefly at the caller ID before answering.
It was Sakura Yuka.
"What can I do for you?" he asked.
Something Yuka had said, as Mikan could guess, made Natsume's eyes widen in disbelief, and then a grin spread across his face.
"All right…I understand. Thank you." He then put his phone away.
"Was that my mother? What did she say?"
"She told me to make this a memorable day for the two of us. She also wished me a happy birthday."
"I see…" Mikan said with a thoughtful smile.
And then they went to have a great time…
"Are they really leaving?" he asked all of a sudden, as they were on their way to the venue of his party.
She blinked at him in confusion. "Um…Who?"
"The late princess, the middle school principal, and that Koizumi…"
"And when is that?"
Clasping her hands on her lap, she grimaced. "It's soon, very soon." Tears rolled over her cheeks. She remembered with dismay that her time was running short as well.
"Why the hell are you crying?" he demanded in frustration.
"Because I'm sad."
Pulling over in front of a convenience store, Natsume turned the full force of his crimson red eyes on her. "Mikan…" The way he said her name was so soft. But the next thing he said was completely insulting. "You'll get real ugly for my party if you keep crying, you know."
"WHAT?!" She uttered, glaring at him. "Hey! I was having a moment and you had to mess it up!"
He let out a snicker. "You're one silly girl, polka-dots," he said, turning her red once again. She didn't bother to answer him. She just let out a grunt and looked away.
"Let's head down to your party," Mikan immediately said.
Natsume raised a brow. "So, where exactly is the party, huh?"
"It's a surprise party! You shouldn't be so nosy, Natsume."
"Whatever… I wouldn't be surprised even when everyone yells Happy Birthday to my face."
"You're so hard to please."
"Humor me," he replied coldly as he accelerated the car.
Mikan led him to a hotel—one of the classiest and most famous hotels in Tokyo. Parking the car in a vacant space, he noticed a vibrant Honda Civic red car, a champagne colored Sportage, a black limousine and white Nissan Car. All cars belong to the Sakura family. He got out and walked around the car to open her door. He held out his hand.
She took his hand and let him lift her from the car. He then wrapped one arm around her waist.
When they got inside the hotel, Mikan giggled. "This will be the first time for you," she said.
First time for what? He had his fair share of surprise birthdays in the past. What makes this one different?
As the couple reached the door to the ballroom, Mikan took his hands and placed them on the knobs. "Okay, we're finally here! Open the door for your surprise, Natsume."
Feeling a bit suspicious, he looked seriously at the knobs. Turning it, he pushed open the doors only to be greeted by darkness. He had expected this much. Taking a step inside, the lights suddenly went on. Party poppers were heard from all corners of the room. He was then showered with confetti and small balloons, along with a big "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" greeting from his family and friends.
His family? He took a quick glance around the room. The high class members of the Hyuuga Clan were there as well. They had never attended his birthday before. Mikan was right. It was truly a first for him. And he felt more honored to see some of the elite members of the Sakura Clan there as well. Everyone was in their gowns and tuxedos.
"Happy Birthday, Natsume," Mikan said. "Did you like the surprise?"
Stunned as he was, Natsume managed to give off a smile for her. "It really is a surprise," he said. He then noticed that her clothes have changed. She was now wearing a carnation pink beaded strapless dress. The bust line featured a fully sequined design, a flower and a bow, together with a full skirt just above the knee. Afterward, he took notice of his clothes. He realized that he was now wearing a black tuxedo.
The head of the Hyuuga Clan gave him a welcoming speech. In behalf of the entire clan, he apologized to Natsume for giving him such a distasteful life in the past. Natsume was once again surprised, though his face remained completely composed. Natsume held no grudge against them. He understood how everyone must have felt when he had the curse. He understood their concerns and fear, so he gladly accepted their apology.
As the music started, Natsume looked at the dance floor. One by one, couples went to the dance floor and started to whirl gracefully to the sweet music played by a quartet. Andou Tsubasa, Tonouchi Akira, Nogi Ruka and Yukihira Izumi were flawless in classic tuxedos. Even Kokoroyomi, Kitsuneme, and Tobita Yuu looked completely dashing. Misaki was stunning in a black satin dress with geometric cutouts that bared her unblemished skin. Nobara was such a striking beauty in her strapless royal-blue dress with fully sequined bust line and a flower appliqué at the center. Her dress featured a full tulle skirt which was mid-thigh in length. And Yuka was beyond belief. For a woman who has given birth to a child, Yuka has remained youthful. Her strapless blue charmeuse dress had an elegant pleated top, unique black floral lace overlay, and an empire waist design that flattered her silhouette well. Her hair featured elegant curls to compliment her bare shoulders. Imai Hotaru looked very sophisticated in her lavender ballgown, while Ogasawara Nonoko looked absolutely divine in her strapless black cocktail dress.
Eventually Mikan towed him out to the dance floor.
"I'm no good at dancing, you ditz," Natsume said groggily. "And I don't want to dance in front of my clan."
"Don't worry, silly," Mikan whispered back. "I know you can dance. Just pretend it's like the Last Dance of the Alice Festival."
Natsume sighed in frustration. He put her arms around his neck. "Don't you dare laugh at me if I make a mistake," he said.
And then they were whirling too.
Tsubasa caught his eye on a turn and smiled in encouragement. Natsume merely glared at him in return.
"Are you having fun, Natsume?" Mikan asked, gazing up at him.
"Yeah…a bit…" he said.
Mikan sighed. "Only a bit? You're not being honest. I'm sure you're having loads of fun right now."
Natsume threw her a rare smile. "Am I that obvious?"
She shook her head as she leaned her head on his chest. "Nope…It was just a good guess."
"The suffering is over. Many have perished with their wishes not fulfilled. However, their wishes were kept alive in those who they left behind. I have always believed that there would be someone who would be strong enough to overcome all obstacles."
Dressed in a white yukata, Princess Sakuya put out her hand to catch a lone Sakura petal which fell from the tree. She was in the world Mikan created. Standing by her side was Sakura Yuka, who was dressed in the same white yukata.
"I have been reincarnated countless times, just so I would provide a guiding light to my descendants. Despite that, I still was not able to prevent any deaths caused by the curse." Sakuya closed her hand as her expression grew sad. "And then there was you and your daughter. The young princess, most especially, holds an indispensable power. Her growing strength was fueled by the desire to protect her loved ones. She had managed to rid of the curse plaguing the clans. However, in doing so, she paid a price so great."
Elegantly Yuka tucked one side of her hair behind her ear as she turned to face Sakuya. "What's done is already done. We cannot change the past."
"His retaliation at the very last moment…I was not able to foresee it in my dream. I was confident that she would be able to destroy the curse without any hindrance. I know I am accountable for what happened to her back then."
"Do not blame yourself, princess."
"Yuka-san, I once inhabited your body. My spirit was awakened by your wishes. You wished to save the Masked One and you did. Your daughter inherited your great strength."
Yuka put on a smile. "But I believe Mikan is much stronger than I am."
"Strong as she may be… We cannot change what the future has in stored for her now…" Sakuya lifted her chin and released the petal from her hand. "It seems that it's time for me to go."
"I guess so… Mikan had already said her goodbyes to everyone, except for one person…" Yuka sighed deeply and looked towards a particular direction. Listening carefully, she could hear footsteps approaching. "He's right on time. Good. It's been a week since his birthday."
"The truth will finally be revealed." With that said, Sakuya disappeared from sight, leaving a clutter of petals behind.
Emerging from the darkness, Hyuuga Natsume, who was dressed in his high school uniform, bowed before Yuka to show his respect.
"No need for formalities here, Natsume-kun," Yuka told him, and the boy raised his head. "What I am about to show you will yield a variety of results from you, so I implore you…please…stay strong."
Confused as he may be, he maintained an air of composure. "I want to know the truth," he said. "I want to know how Mikan removed the curse from my body."
"If that is what you want, then I will provide…" As Yuka slowly spun around, the scenery changed to the ruins of the Sakura Clan.
Standing in the center of the Sakura Clan's seal was Mikan. Her yukata was pure white in color. Her silky brown hair flowed down her back and she was giving off a faint glow, giving her an angelic appearance. Koizumi Luna, Hii-sama, and Nogi Ruka stood around the seal. While Hii-sama and Ruka maintained a powerful barrier around the seal, Luna was focusing her energy on herself.
Streaks of black energy materialized inside the barrier. Amplifying her own powers, Mikan started to seize the black energy, absorbing it into her own body. She screamed and wailed and hugged herself tightly. This was a painful process for her.
Natsume couldn't believe his eyes. And he dreaded himself for not being able to help Mikan during that time.
"Mikan didn't want you to know about this…because she wanted to protect you," Yuka explained, maintaining a stoic expression. She had seen the dream being played in front of her eyes before. "During the preparations for this ritual, we were advised to keep it a secret from you."
No…It should have been the other way around, Natsume thought. He should be the one protecting her, but Mikan ended up saving him once again.
The young princess fell on her knees, still with arms wrapped around herself. The pain seemed to worsen. As she began to lose control, the streaks of black energy came crashing against the barrier.
Years of experience has honed the middle school principal's skills in creating and maintaining a barrier, while Ruka's intensive training made him even stronger. The barrier did not waver. It stayed strong. Nothing could break out.
"Ruka-kun was chosen by Mikan to bear the curse she absorbed from Kaname-kun," Yuka said, and Natsume looked at her in surprise. "And he was given the Barrier Alice for this purpose. The curse does no harm to those outside of the family."
"Mikan no Kimi! Look out!"
As the middle school principal screamed out, someone rammed into Mikan's back. A loud jolt caused her to shake.
"I can't let you get rid of me that easily. My curse shall live on and so will I!"
Natsume's eyes grow wide in disbelief.
"Princess!" Koizumi Luna shouted out.
Mikan turned her head over her shoulder and saw the murderous face of her lover.
"Sakura!" this time it was Ruka who called out.
"This can't be real," muttered Natsume. The one who stabbed Mikan was him. "But I don't remember any of this…"
"That's because you were being controlled by Masayuki of the Koizumi Clan," Yuka answered. "Indeed his power was immeasurable."
Natsume felt like his blood was being drained from his body. His hands turned cold in an instant as he stood frozen on the spot. "He took over my consciousness again…without me even realizing it…?"
She couldn't say anything. She felt something icy cold jabbed into her abdomen. It was a flat object that was thrust deeply into her body. The sense of perplexity surpassed the sense of pain. "Koizumi Masayuki…" Mikan managed to mutter.
His grin looked like that of an emotionless mask that suddenly begun smiling evilly. Masayuki, who was controlling Natsume's body, then pulled out the blood-soaked dagger. The blade of the dagger was made of Sakura Crystals—crystals of special properties that can kill a Sakura in a matter of minutes or even seconds.
Losing her balance, Mikan fell to the ground.
"It looks like your descendant has failed, Sakuya-sama," Masayuki said, waving the dagger that was drenched in her blood. "The treasured princess has perished!"
Natsume felt a big lump in his throat. His heart was pounding in trepidation.
All of a sudden, the spirit of Sakuya appeared beside Mikan. Her eyes were filled with remorse and pity. "The darkness is forever living in your heart, but do not think for a second that you have won this battle. The light still shines within the young princess."
As she said that, Mikan opened her eyes and slowly got up to face the former prince of the Koizumi Clan.
"What…? How can this be? You're supposed to be dead by now. I stabbed you with the crystal!" Masayuki uttered.
"I know what I have to do to end your existence once and for all," Mikan spoke in a solemn voice. "My wish is to protect Natsume and everyone that I care for in my life."
Masayuki narrowed his dark eyes. "But you cannot! All you can do is die!"
Limping, Mikan approached the dark prince and placed a hand on his chest. "I have foreseen this event in my dreams…I knew that my death will come…However…" Her body started to glow in a light pink aura. "I entrust my dreams to the ones I'll leave behind." Steadily her body had begun fading as her aura glowed brighter. "Koizumi Masayuki…the clans will finally be free of your curse…This is your last life here in this world." As she closed her eyes, her whole body got bathed in bright pink light. Then the light grew larger until it engulfed the ruins.
Her light pressed on and was released throughout the world. This light was felt by every Sakura and Hyuuga Clan member in the world.
"This power…" Ruka muttered in awe. "Sakura…"
"Everyone is being cleansed… The princess has done it…" Luna said, smiling gratefully. "The princess has saved the clans."
Natsume was amazed, as well, at the power Mikan showed. How he could have missed all that, he asked himself. Just then, the scenery changed again. They were back in Mikan's world again. "If Koizumi killed Mikan at that time, then why is she still—"
Her expression turned sadder. "It was Sakuya-sama's doing," she cut him off. "With her last bit of power, Sakuya-sama granted Mikan the gift of life. However…a life once lost can never return, so Mikan's time in our world is almost at an end."
"Then Mikan's going to…" Natsume stopped himself. He did not have the heart to say it. He felt so confused and hurt. "Mikan…" As he wallowed in regret for not being able to do anything, he felt Yuka's hand touching his shoulder. Yuka then pulled him into a hug.
"Mikan had her reasons for not telling you right away, but don't hate her for it," she whispered into his ear. "After all, it was painful for her as well." She pulled back and gently held his face between her hands.
"I should've died instead," Natsume said, clenching his fists.
Yuka slowly shook her head. "Mikan wants you to be happy more than anything else. For her, you are her treasure. I know it's hard to accept it, but it was the path she has chosen for herself." She moved her hands to his shoulders. "Her strength and power had saved the clans. We are no longer bound by the curse and the legend of her sacrifice will live forever."
Turning away, Natsume fixed his gaze on the ground. The images of Masayuki's fatal strike, the pool of blood, and the immense aura Mikan displayed had been fused together in his head.
Yuka and the world suddenly changed in a blink of an eye. Before he knew it, he was standing in front of the Hyuuga Mansion, facing his mentor, Persona.
"Surprised to see me, Black Cat," the masked man said in his usual cold voice.
And Natsume replied in the same tone, "What are you doing here, Persona?"
"What are you going to do now you know the truth?" the man questioned.
Clenching his fists, Natsume looked away. Truth to be known, he didn't know what to do. He can't think straight at the moment. What he saw in the dream were all too much for him. Mikan had sacrificed her own life to save the clans, to save him, and he wasn't even aware of it.
"Just so you know, you're still in a dream," Persona said, inserting his hands into his pockets. "I was asked by Yuka-san to accompany her to the world of dreams…and to talk to you… Who would have thought that you and I share the same fate? And I thought it was hopeless for you."
Uneasily, Natsume raked his fingers through his hair and sighed. "Imagine that…" he muttered sarcastically. "But…at least you didn't lose anything…"
"Yes, I didn't lose anything…But my true wish had never came true," Persona said, taking the mask off his face, as he peered over his shoulder to look at his protégée. "Unrequited love is so cliché, don't you think? Hmph…Why am I saying things like this to you? You don't even know how it feels because your feelings were reciprocated."
Strangely, Natsume found it hard to believe that Persona would actually talk about love. In addition to that, he had a pretty good idea who Persona was referring to. Unrequited love was something he wouldn't probably understand in a lifetime. His best friend surely knew how it feels.
"You still haven't answered my question yet," Persona said, putting his mask and his cold expression back on. "What are you going to do now that you know the truth?"
Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and cleared his mind. "Mikan made a promise to me. She promised me that she will never ever leave me and I trust her words." And he felt confident about it. "She's not going to die."
Persona shrugged as he smirked. "Well now…I was kind of expecting you to act like a reckless brat now, but this is fine with me."
As Natsume slowly woke up, his mind began to think unsteadily. The first thing he saw was the ceiling of his room. The curtains blocked the window so he wondered if it were already morning or still night time.
"You've finally woken up, Natsume-kun." A voice that sounded as pleasant as the gentle wind spoke to him.
He turned his head to find the owner of the voice. There sat the girl on a chair next to his bed.
"Good morning, Natsume-kun…or should I say good evening. You've been in the dreamscape for almost a day." Ogasawara Nonoko revealed a sweet smile.
"Felt like ten minutes to me," he replied, sitting up on the bed. "Seems like you were told to watch over me, huh?"
"I did it because I wanted to."
His expression turned colder. "All this time you knew and yet…" He clasped his bed sheet tightly and through gritted teeth he said, "I don't know whether or not to feel betrayed but…"
Nonoko bowed her head in apology. "I couldn't do anything about it…I'm sorry…" she said, feeling very afraid of him.
Calming down, he leaned back with a sigh. "I know…It's not your fault…It's not anyone's fault." He can't help feeling guilty for what happened. He knew he shouldn't blame himself, but still it was great burden for his heart. "Where is Mikan right now?"
"She's disappeared ever since you entered the dream," Nonoko replied with a concerned look on her face. "No one is able to locate her. It's like she's disappeared from the academy."
He didn't have to think twice. Natsume had a good guess to where Mikan could be. Jumping off the bed, he rushed towards his closet and pulled out his outfit. "I'm going to look for her," he said.
A smile gracing her lips, Nonoko said, "All right…Good luck, Natsume-kun.."
Natsume peered over his shoulder and looked at his cousin with a small smile. "Thanks…"
When he climbed up the last set of floors to the rooftop of the observatory of Tokyo Tower, he could see the sun setting from the horizon. He scanned around, seeking the girl he loved. However, it doesn't seem like she was there.
He turned slowly. Mikan was standing very still. She was in her high school uniform. It was strange how he didn't notice her presence before. They stared at each other for a long moment, and then she smiled. He walked toward her, quite close, and then pulled her into his arms. "Where were you, polka-dots?"
"Have you been looking for me?" Her voice was innocent and soft.
"You have a knack of making me worry all the time."
"Sorry…" Her knees suddenly felt like jelly. She felt a curl of nausea in the pit of her stomach. Her eyesight was leaving her. "N-Natsume…I…" She dropped down on her knees.
Immediately he knelt down to her level, grasping the sides of her arm. "What's wrong?" he asked, his heart pounding in trepidation. "Mikan!"
"You've heard it from my mother, right?" Mikan looked up at him. Her face was paler than ever. "Natsume…I'm going to—" She was cut by the pain in her chest. She winced and wallowed.
No, it was too soon, Natsume wailed in his mind. "Mikan, hold on! You can't die!" he exclaimed.
Wobbling, Mikan got up and tried to smile for him. But as soon as she straightened up, her whole body felt numb. She dropped down like a heavy log but was caught by Natsume. "I can't stand anymore…" she muttered.
With her upper body resting on his lips, Natsume had his arms wrapped around her shoulders. She was growing cold. "Mikan, no, I don't want you to die!"
Her voice came out so weakly. "This is how it should be…" Her vision was slowly becoming a blur. "Natsume, don't blame yourself for everything that has happened. Everything I did was for the sake of love."
"I know! I understand that." Tears began to trickle down his cheeks. "Just don't go!"
"I'm glad that I was able to protect you." Her smile was faint.
More tears burst out. "You promised me that you won't leave me! You promised me! You can't go! You just can't!" he exclaimed, shaking his head vigorously.
Mikan held his cheek with one hand, wiping some of his tears with her thumb. "Please don't cry, Natsume… Like I said before, I'm not going to leave you." Her hand suddenly left his face. It became so heavy for her. But Natsume caught her hand and squeezed it gently. "Natsume, I'm not going to die, because I know that I'll stay alive forever in everyone's heart. I will stay forever in your heart."
Once again he shook his head. "Don't go…" He shut his eyes. "Mikan!"
"Promise me, Natsume…" Mikan closed her eyes as she continued to smile. She could feel her time coming. Almost all of her senses seemed to have halted. Her last bit of power was diminishing. "Promise me that you'll live a good life for the two of us and give meaning to our love."
"Mikan…" His voice cracked. His eyes were full of tears and pain.
"Do you promise, Natsume? Do you promise to live for the two of us?"
"Yes…I promise…" he said, shuddering.
Opening her eyes, Mikan saw his face clearly again. She was using her last ounce of power to regain her sight for a short while. "Natsume, you look funny…when you cry…" She giggled. "And cute… You know, I'm really…glad…t-that I…met you…N-Natsu…me…" With those fading words, her soul finally departed as the sun has set.
Natsume's eyes widened. "M-Mikan…" He hugged her closer and tightly. "NO! MIKAN!!!" he yelled out loud.
The wind blazed through the Sakura Land, swaying the trees and cluttering the petals violently. Every member of the Sakura Clan was struck with overwhelming sadness as they felt that their princess has passed away. While others have started to pray for her soul, others drowned themselves in tears. Close friends were informed of the tragic news and soon the whole academy became aware. Indeed it was a sad day for everyone.
"The time has finally come," the middle school principal said, setting down her fan, as she stood up. The flower maidens before her stared in confusion, not knowing the meaning behind her words. Hii-sama glowed in a bright white light. Her shine almost blinded the maidens. "The power that protects this academy is within my grasps no more. I have granted all of which is mine to my successor. I bid farewell to all of you. May you live a pleasant life…" With those words said, her body disappeared, leaving only her elegant kimono to fall on the floor.
Koizumi Luna was kneeling down in front of the leader of the Sakura Clan. Though it was evident that the leader was struck with grief, he kept a strong face. "I have served my purpose. Now that my goals have been met, there is no more reason for me to stay. I am the last of my clan and with my departure the Koizumi Clan will be no more. My benevolent master, I thank you for everything you have done for me. I know my brother has done you wrong. But instead of punishing me, your ancestors made me a part of your family." She raised her head and smiled beautifully. "This is my farewell. Let us meet again in the other world." Then she completely vanished.
Sakuya and Natsuhiko appeared before the anguished Natsume, who had yet to release the princess from his arms.
"Hyuuga Natsume…my deepest condolences…" Sakuya said, approaching the couple. "I know this has pained you so much." She knelt down and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"Dry your tears, my descendant," Natsuhiko said. "Do you not think the young princess will be sad to see you in such a state?"
With greeted teeth, Natsume threw the man a deadly glare. "You think I can just put a smile on my face?"
"I understand your pain…truly I do…" Sakuya held Mikan's hand and smiled. "But her death is merely a temporary separation. For what purpose do you think she created the world you have been? Think not of her as someone so ordinary. Her spirit lives on in that world."
Natsume looked at her confusingly. "And what do you mean by that?"
And Natsuhiko was the one who answered him. "She is now residing in the world she created, and everyone close to her heart was given a key—a key to open the door to that world."
"She may no longer live in this world, but she is very much alive in her world," Sakuya explained, getting up with grace. "And you may visit that world depending on the desire of your heart.
"Then Mikan is…" He looked down at her face and started crying tears of joy. "You idiot…" He hugged her closely.
Softly stroking his hair, Sakuya summoned cherry blossom petals to surround them. "Our spirits can finally rest," she said, taking her place beside her lover. "Farewell, Hyuuga Natsume."
"Please take care of yourself, my descendant," Natsuhiko said, smiling brightly at him.
More and more petals encircled them until their whole bodies were covered. A bright light then emerged from the petals. As the petals scattered, the spirits of the lovers have vanished.
That was not the end to that.
Cherry blossom petals encircled him, dancing wildly, as they glowed in a light pink aura. All of a sudden, Mikan body started to glow in the same shade of aura as well. As the light shone brighter and brighter, Natsume shielded his eyes with one hand. And when he opened them, Mikan's body has disappeared, as well as the petals. She was replaced by a Sakura stone with a festive touch of brilliant red, pink, and purple crystals with silver highlights. It was about the size of his palm.
"This is the key, huh…?" He got back up on his feet and stared at the city. "Mikan…let's see each other again soon…" A smile finally appeared on his face.
Since then, the two clans have lived a peaceful life as they have moved to honor the princess's wish.
Hyuuga Natsume reminiscences in such a manner…
It was fate that brought them together. It was no coincidence he had met her on that bloody winter night.
Death can hold so many meanings. And people who have died would always leave their treasures behind.
The only thing certain that she was a truly special—a gift from the gods—and he was more than pleased enough to have been loved by such person.
As he walked down the path towards their favorite spot underneath the giant Sakura tree, he silently amused himself in his thoughts. He had just been told by Narumi about the reason to why Koizumi Luna dislikes him to a certain point. The reason was simple. It was because of jealousy. In the past, Koizumi Luna had fallen in love with his father, much to his utter surprise. However, his mother, a foundling girl and a prostitute, discovered by the academy, and his father fell deeply in love, leaving Luna to suffer the pain of being heartbroken. Though Luna expressed her disgust towards him, she actually held no hatred towards him.
The new middle school principal was now Sakura Narumi. So far, he's been handling his job pretty well, though his eccentric actions sometimes annoy the newly appointed middle school vice-principal, Hyuuga Misaki.
Hii-sama's successor and the new head of the Hana Hime was none other than Harada Misaki, the Lady of the Red Rose. Before the day of Mikan's passing, Misaki was given the Barrier Alice by Hii-sama. In about a year or so, she and Tsubasa had plans on getting married.
Sakurano Shuuichi, Sonou Kaname, and Imai Subaru busied themselves with their careers. Tonouchi Akira was getting ready to court Ibaragi Nobara, hoping the latter who return his feelings. Sakura Yuka and Shiki went back to their usual jobs, as Yukihira Izumi continued being the fun-loving elementary school principal, much to Jinno-sensei's dismay. The enigmatic Persona still continued his job as an agent and moderating teacher of the Dangerous Ability Class.
Kokoroyomi and Kitsuneme still continued their Mikan fan-club. Ogasawara has also moved on and was now recruited by top chemists all over the world. Imai Hotaru was busy blackmailing Nogi Ruka again to do business. Her inventions were also slowly getting recognized.
Everyone had been doing well, Natsume thought, and for sure she was happy because of that.
A year later, on her first death anniversary, Natsume visited their favorite spot in the forest. Admiring the tree full of blossoms, the wind gently whipped his hair about. It gave him a warm feeling. He pulled out the treasure from his pocket. It was resonating and glowing. A smile graced his lips. Closing his eyes, he silently wished from the bottom of his heart to see her again. The treasure shined its light and before he knew it he was in her world again. However, the world was far different than the one he remembered.
Her world now consisted of green grass with many Sakura trees in full bloom and tendrils of pink energy encircling the entire area. In the middle of the world, there stood a giant Sakura tree similar to the one before. He walked towards the tree, feeling the sense of nostalgia coming from it.
"Mikan…" he muttered her name as he placed the treasure close to his heart. "I want to see you again…"
Just then, someone crept up from behind him and covered his eyes. The person's hands were harm and soft. Natsume couldn't help but smile.
"Guess who?" a cheerful voice spoke followed by a giggle.
END OF STORY
JC: And that's the end of Sakura Treasure. It was yet another long chapter but it was worth it. It turned out to be one happy ending at all, though there's the essence of a bittersweet flavor. I'm so ready to get my other story started. I'm not sure if this is the last Gakuen Alice story I'll ever right. The manga is still ongoing and is getting interesting by the minute. I really hope the story proved to be entertaining and heartwarming for all you, readers. Thanks to all the reviewers who have stayed with me from the beginning of this story. Please do tell me what you think for this chapter. No flaming please.