A/N: Alright folks, this is it; the final chapter of Of Wolf and Man. Seeing as new fic ideas and the issues of Real Life have been at the center of my attention as of late, it is very unlikely that this will ever get a sequel. You are, however, entitled to say so in case you'd like to see one. A special thank you to all of you who already have and will take the time to leave feedback. Cheers, and I hope you've enjoyed.
Final Chapter: Hope of a New Day
The destruction of Youkai Academy had come and gone. In the violence of that fateful night exactly a week ago many students had sustained more or less several injuries, resulting in the school infirmary being flooded with patients. Thus the remaining faculty members were kept busy, which in turn helped them in keeping their minds too occupied to think about the true extent of the damage done.
Thankfully the two students, Akashiya Moka and Kurumu Kurono, who were primarily responsible for striking down their rampaging peers, had been relatively reasonable in their methods, not hurting the other pupils too badly and thus making their road to recovery that much shorter.
Although the word was never spread around, the mystery behind Kuyo's sudden appearance was also solved in all quietude. From the documents which were left behind by the school's late headmaster, who perished in the crumbling of the academy's secret wing, it appeared the former leader of the previous Student Police had merely been imprisoned to complete isolation as opposed to the death sentence Tsukune and Gin had thought he'd suffered. The plans of the school's destruction detailed in the small book obtained from Kiria shed further light on the issue: as Kuyo's confinement had been tasked to the Student Committee, it was no surprise that its leader as well as a double agent for the ANTI-THESIS, Kaneshiro Hokuto, had seen an opportunity in the fox-demon's hatred for the new law-enforcers and exploited it.
With the investigations of the recent horrid events coming to a close as well as the slow yet steady recovery the injured and traumatized students were making, the Student Police's leadership group thought it to be in order to arrange something which would help the progress of rebuilding the student body's unity in the wake of all the chaos. Thus, against all odds, it was decided that a proper school festival should be held, with invitations issued to all the students' families, both so they could participate in the festivities as well as to let them see all was well.
And so, even in the face of an almost overwhelming disaster, the hope of a new day lingered in the air.
"Welcome to Youkai Academy, please make yourself at home and enjoy your stay." Tsukune said with a bright smile, handing out the school's leaflet to another entering guest. At his side Gin was at the same work, wagging his tail in a show of cheerfulness and greeting each passer-by with a playful wink.
It was the day of the school festival, and the two of them were standing by the school gates welcoming the hundreds of visitors. Being the top two security officers of the academy, they'd figured it'd be good for them to mingle with the crowd freely to help promote the easy-going atmosphere they were trying to create.
But no matter how much they thought they'd gotten used to the menial tasks, tedious work was still tedious, which was why both of them were happy a change in shifts was coming soon.
"Tsukune! Gin!" The melodious voice calling their names signaled that the relief they'd been waiting for had come.
"Ah, hello there, Moka, Kurumu", Tsukune nodded to each girl in turn while Gin was already putting down his work. "How's it going at the festival?"
"Oh it's great", Moka answered while trying to ignore her annoyance at seeing the succubus already hounding on the boy. "Even though we've just come up from such a tragedy, everyone's still trying their best at being happy!" She raised her voice just in case Tsukune had trouble hearing her through the fleshy mounds cushioning his head.
"Well that's good to hear, then", he breathed while disentangling himself from the blue-haired succubus. "So it's you two taking up the post here now then, eh?"
"Yup! And Yukari and Ruby will come after us." Moka replied and accepted the stack of flyers Tsukune offered her.
"Wow, you've arranged it that far ahead? Nice."
"C'mon, Tsukune, let's get going already!" Gin called irritably from the school yard. "You know we've got other things to take care of!"
"Right, sorry, sorry", Tsukune muttered and ran after the werewolf, waving at the two girls all the while.
Moka waved back at the boy disappearing into the crowd.
Tsukune idly wandered around the festival area. He and Gin had finished their preparations for the rest of the event for the most part, which gave them a rare opportunity to explore the ongoing festivities by themselves. To move on with their schedule they had to wait until the girls were free from their duties anyway, so the remaining time could just as well be used on enjoying the party the best they could.
To his endless joy and relief, Tsukune found Moka had been telling the truth when saying the students were genuinely trying to keep up the proper, cheerful atmosphere. Several food stalls were dotting the walkways here and there, their myriad range of delicious odors making the air pleasantly stuffy. Other attractions included several stands for all sorts of games, lotteries, and small bazaars selling sweets, ice cream, and various kitsch one could find at every fair of the same type. It'll be good for the budget if all this sells out, he thought hopefully
After walking through the thickly crowded avenues for a while, Tsukune decided to buy a soft ice for refreshment against the sweltering mass of people. Paying for the serve he continued on his way while leisurely enjoying the sweet and comfortingly cold ice cream.
As Tsukune's attention gradually shifted from the festival's supply to its visitors, it was not long before he spotted a familiar face amidst the stream of students and their families alike.
"Hey, Nagare!" He called out to the Student Police's now exclusive photographer, this time tasked to record the festival's events with his camera.
"Hmm?" He answered in his typical absent-minded manner, lowering his camera and slowly turning his attention to the approaching boy. "Oh, Tsukune. Sir. What can I do for you?" He mumbled hastily as he recognized Tsukune, fixing a horribly false grin on his face.
"Just relax, Nagare" Tsukune greeted with a chuckle. "I was just wondering if everything's ok, you know? Have you managed to get some interesting pictures and stuff like that."
"Oh, yes of course. Many interesting pictures indeed..."
"Really? Awesome. Can I take a look?" Tsukune chirped, sincerely curious to see what Nagare had worked out.
"Umm...about that, well..I'm not sure if they're all so good just yet..."
"Please! It can't be that bad. Come on, just show me alright?" Tsukune prompted reassuringly and beckoned with his hand for the other boy to hand over the camera, brushing aside his obvious and desperate excuses.
Reluctantly Nagare complied, and immediately Tsukune began to browse through the dozens of pictures the boy had already taken.
He was not surprised to find almost all of the snapshots consisted of the female visitors, most of them wearing their colorful and more or less revealing kimonos and yukatas.
Fighting the anger that threatened to burst the veins in his temples, Tsukune gave the camera back to Nagare with shaking hands.
"That's...quite nice, Nagare, you've managed to capture well the beauty of some of our guest's clothing, but...could you please try to find something else to take pictures of? Else It'll be too one-sided." He offered through gritted teeth, not wanting to cause a scene in the middle of otherwise merry occasion.
"R-right away, sir!" Nagare stuttered hurriedly and even gave an awkward salute, disappearing from Tsukune's eyes the moment he gave him the permission to leave.
His ice cream consumed and most of the festival now seen, Tsukune decided to escape the surrounding hassle to the quiet, eerie woods nearby.
The mist-filled forest with dark, skeletal trees was a wild contrast to the ongoing festival pulsing with life not a few hundred meters away. Nevertheless Tsukune took the distorted tree trunks and the sounds of the scarce animal life as a welcome change to the cacophony of laughter and music the school area itself was filled with.
As he took in the ghastly scenery more carefully, Tsukune was overtaken by memories both joyous and unpleasant. This was exactly the same place where Gin had taken him all those months ago to reveal his secret plans, the contours of the old shack they'd used as a base looming in the distance. Of course it was just one of the school's forgotten storages, Tsukune chuckled to himself fondly at the unimpressing truth revealed behind the queer cottage.
Not all the memories were those of happiness, of course. The preparation for their rebellion, the fight itself, and the consequences following had all caused much pain both physical and mental, to say nothing of the cracks in his relationships the whole ordeal had resulted in.
But ultimately, the encounters with new people, the hardships, the losses and the victories which helped him grow up to the person he was now left him with an overall positive feelings, and Tsukune came to realize he wouldn't change a day of it even if he had the chance.
Deep in reminiscence as he was, Tsukune didn't at first notice the quiet whimpers that sounded on the edges of his hearing.
"NOOOO! GET AWAY FROM ME!!!"
The shrill cry cutting through the stillness, however, made sure his attention was seized for good. As he'd gotten used to during his stay at the academy and especially in the Student Police, he darted towards the alarming sound without a conscious thought.
When he got to the source of the frantic screams, Tsukune came face to face with a sight all too familiar for him from over the past months. A group of delinquents, at the head of which was one very muscular and bald man with tattoos, was hounding on a defenseless girl on the ground with her back against a tree. Tsukune thought he could recognize the voice, but hidden as the girl was behind the much bigger men, he couldn't identify the victim right away.
"Oh c'mon girlie, don't be like that. You told us you were new here so we took the trouble to show you around, and this is how you repay us? Shame on you!" The tattooed baldie taunted, eliciting barks of approving laughter from his peers.
"But no worries, hun. We're reasonable, so we'll be real quick and you can go before you know it, so how about-"
"Alright, stop right there." Tsukune announced loudly as he stepped forward, thankful for once that the headmaster hadn't lived long enough to craft anything to seal his vampire powers.
Immediately the whole group snapped their heads towards him, surprised and wary of the sudden interruption.
"Bah, it's just some scrawny kid." One of the thugs spat at seeing Tsukune's deceptively light form. "Yeah, what's the matter with you dude, you looking to get yourself killed?" Continued the bald leader haughtily while eyeing the newcomer down his nose.
"No mister, I'm not looking to get myself killed. In fact, I'm not even looking for a fight at all", Tsukune spoke with unwavering politeness. "Which is exactly why I'd like you to leave that girl alone right now."
"Oh-ho, now there's a big mouth on a small man. Let's see what you can do to back it up." The tattooed man laughed and took a fighting stance, pompously discarding his t-shirt to reveal the steel-like, roughly chiseled muscles underneath.
"Figured it'd come to his", Tsukune snorted softly and eyed the bulky man before him with something that resembled almost pity.
"Well, what's it gonna be? Will you quit just standing there and fight like a-"
The irritated query was mercilessly cut off as Tsukune shot towards the ringleader, spearing him in the midsection with a vicious headbutt.
Only the small sigh of air escaping the lungs could be heard as the man doubled over and was sent flying through the air, cutting several trees in half as he went.
The remaining rogues hastily pulled out their guns in yelps and shrieks, prompting Tsukune to wonder if they were ordinary human criminals for using such weapons. Not deeming the matter worth pursuing, Tsukune disposed of them with ease one by one, jumping from one to the next almost as if in a dance.
When the last of them were down on the ground, Tsukune finally turned to the girl still crouching by the tree. She was still shielding her face with her arms, her whole body visibly trembling.
"You okay there?" Tsukune asked gently while holding out his hand to help her up.
"Don't touch me!" The mysterious girl shrieked and slapped his hand away the moment she saw it moving.
"I'm not here to hurt you, you know?" The boy tried to dissuade her. "C'mon, I'll take you back to the academy. It's dangerous out here."
"Oh, I'm sure you know all about being dangerous", she said pointedly in a sudden burst of anger. "Beating all those yakuzas just like that, I bet you're some kinda monster as well. Isn't that right, you-"
As the girl finally raised her head to look at him the words died on her lips, recognition hitting her like a speeding train. "Ts-Tsukki?"
And if a bunch of villains did nothing to faze the young man, seeing the familiar and cute face of his cousin sent him toppling right over.
As the shock of reuniting with his cousin at such a place at such a time had worn off, Tsukune had led the sudden visitor out of the woods speaking as little as possible. All her questions he evaded the best he could, shaking off her queries about his odd outlooks as a part of his costume for the festival.
He desperately needed to have her in a safe place for the rest of the day, but since he couldn't come up with anything right away and the meeting he had to attend in a few minutes was at hand, he thought it best to keep her with him.
"Ah, sorry if I'm a bit late", Tsukune apologized as he drew a chair for himself. They were at an outdoor terrace set to offer soft drinks and light snacks for the visitors, and the table arranged for them was large enough to accommodate the assembled entourage. Moka, Kurumu, and the rest of his friends were stealing curious glances at Kyou, who was still too stupefied from the resent events to say a word in front of the strangers.
"Um...this right here is my cousin Kyou", Tsukune introduced awkwardly. "She's here just to see this school, so she won't be bothering us. Please pay her no mind."
"Tch, whatever. Just take a seat and stop delaying the meeting any more than you already have." Gin commanded irritably, evidently annoyed that Tsukune had brought yet another cute girl with him.
Nodding apologetically once more, Tsukune sat down and turned his attention to their special guests. "Ah, you must be Mizore's mother, am I correct?" He inquired pleasantly and held out his hand to an older snow woman sitting next to Mizore herself.
"Why, yes I am. The name's Tsurara" She answered simply and shook Tsukune's hand without hesitation, dreamily holding her cheek in her other. Of course she is, Tsukune berated himself sarcastically. Same hair, same eyes, same goddamn lollipop...she's a spitting image of her daughter.
"Could I get some hand as well?" Asked another alluring female voice, this time coming from next to where Kurumu sat. Tsukune turned her gaze in her direction and found himself to be looking at what could've been an older version of his succubus friend. Her hair just as blue, her bearing just as seductive, and her bust, if at all possible, even bigger than that of her offspring's.
"Ageha Kurono, I assume?" He recalled the name from Kurumu's personal file and repeated the friendly action for her as well.
Ageha grabbed his hand eagerly and guided it straight to her breast. "You bet I am!" She said briskly. "And I hope you wont be forgetting it anytime soon."
With an introduction like that, Tsukune seriously doubted he would.
"Ahem", Gin coughed as Tsukune greeted Yukari's parents as well. "Now that we're all here and aware of each other, I suggest we start this meeting before the next full moon." Ignoring the werewolf's sarcasm, Tsukune nodded his consent and everyone else smiled approvingly.
This was the part of the festival Tsukune and Gin had prepared for the most. Since all of the girls had been such a great help and crucial part in the events that had revolved around them, it felt only appropriate to invite each of their parents for a private meeting to explain what had happened and answer any questions they might have the best they could. And even though Moka and Ruby couldn't bring any of their family members for obvious reasons, everyone was still happy even this many person had come.
"All right." Gin began again after a pause. "As you all know, our academy came under a threat unlike ever before."
"So much we've figured, but what of the exact reasons? What did cause all of...this?" Yukari's father spoke up skeptically, motioning towards the academy's ruins in the background.
"We were just coming to that", Gin countered the older man's stern query. "But please bear in mind that what I'm about to tell you is absolutely confidential, understood?" He waited for their affirmation and, upon receiving it, continued: "Okay, so here's the deal: the destruction is actually the work of a terrorist organization of sorts that worked within the academy. They were targeting all the pure-bloods, and they wanted to cause as much havoc as possible, even going so far as planning to tear down the barrier between this school and the human world."
Shocked gasps were drawn at the end of this explanation. The parents searched each others' faces for their reaction and murmured to one another, until Tsurara froze the contents of the tea cup in her hand and smashed it to the ground to get everyone's attention.
"That sounds...alarming", she stated in a chilly voice. "Just how in the world was it possible for that kind of scoundrels to operate at an honorable, private school such as this?"
"They hid them selves cleverly within the student body", Tsukune spoke up. "They appeared to be just normal students and planned their schemes carefully behind the scenes."
"And where are they now?" Ageha demanded fiercely. "Such bad boys, they would be in need of some serious punishment..."
"The...the attackers died in the chaos as well. We can assure you, the bodies have been found and recognized. They will be of no further harm for us." Tsukune reassured, deciding not to ponder on the exact type of punishment Ageha's husky voice seemed to suggest.
"And what does the headmaster have to say about all of this?" Yukari's father asked after a while, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
"We are sorry to let you know that our honored headmaster perished in the calamity as well." Gin announced gravely.
"E-excuse me?" The other man stuttered in bewilderment, and even Tsurara had to bend down to pick up the lollipop fallen from her gaping mouth. "If the school's principal is gone, then who on earth is keeping order here?"
"The Student Police, at the head of which me and Tsukune are, is very capable, and the remaining board of directors is busy deciding upon a follower for the late chairman."
"C-capable? You let a bunch of terrorists run amok at your school and you call yourselves capable? Just how-"
"Well, excuse me!" Kurumu suddenly burst in anger, rising from her seat and confronting Yukari's father. "If it weren't for the efforts of the Student Police and everyone at this table, the consequences would've been much, much more severe. So I suggest you watch it with your accusations, sir!"
"O-of course. Please forgive me my rudeness, I..." The man trailed off while Kurumu retook her seat, receiving soothing pats from her mother.
"Say nothing of it", Gin raised his hands in assurance. "These are all very disturbing news, and we understand how upset you must be. So, do any of you have any other questions?" Gin waited an entire minute for anyone to speak up, but when none did, he continued: "Very well, then. If this is settled now, I suppose we can conclude the meeting. But please don't hesitate to seek us if anything comes to your mind later, for we will be at your service during the whole duration of the festival. Thank you and I hope you'll enjoy your stay." Gin concluded professionally, rising from his seat and giving a small bow before departing.
For a while everyone still at the table sat without speaking a word, pondering upon the meeting and everything they'd just learned.
Then, when the silence had stretched on almost uncomfortably, Tsurara and Ageha suddenly spoke up almost simultaneously:
"So, Tsukune, I heard you're going out with my daughter..."
The rest of the evening was spent on arguing over very different matters.
Tsukune leant his body against the railing on the school roof with a weary sigh. The day had been long and hard, beginning from the mundane greetings at the front gates and ending to the hectic battles over whose fiancé he was supposed to be.
Thinking about it all excited a chuckle from his lips. Something like that happening proved that even in the wake of disaster, life at Youkai Academy could be interesting, to say the least. Unfortunately the fight between the two adult women had taken on such a nature that Tsukune had to ask his friends restrain his cousin, lest she'd panic and start running around like a chicken gone mad. I'll just have to ask Kurumu to use her spells on her and make her forget about all of this, he mused to himself.
But now that the night had descended and Tsukune was left alone with his thoughts, the festival lights underneath being shut and the visitors having retired for the day, clouds of doubt began to edge the young man's mind.
The newest threat to the lives of his friends and everybody else's was now overcome, but from his past experiences with trouble, Tsukune knew the latest incident was just one in the line of many more to come. Could they still survive the perils that lay ahead? Could their amazing luck and unity which had allowed them to come this far continue to be on their side? The first great issue he already saw in front of them was the rebuilding of the academy. They'd been just about to get fully back on their feet from the war he and Gin had wrought, and now they had to rise from the ruins again. Would they be up to it?
Tsukune wished to rely on his seemingly endless optimism and tell himself yes, but there were times such as this when he just didn't know. He was still so young and inexperienced, after all, and alone it the vast and empty darkness of the night, the challenges waiting him down the path appeared to grow out of their proportions and become insurmountable.
His mind heavy with nagging insecurities, Tsukune pressed his head down and closed his eyes, attempting to seek even a moment's refuge in oblivion.
"If I didn't know better, I would assume you're actually letting yourself to be put down by mere thoughts."
Tsukune instantly snapped his head upwards at the intruding voice and found none other than Gin, who'd sat down right next to him on the cold rooftop floor.
"G-Gin!" He exclaimed in surprise, as if saying his name would confirm his presence.
"In all my high and hairy glory, yes." The werewolf answered smoothly, making fun of the boy's utter stupefaction.
"What...what are you doing up here?"
"I could ask the same from you, but as for myself, I'm stargazing, of course."
"Yeah. One very efficient way to cool yourself off after a day like that, I tell you." The werewolf shrugged nonchalantly at Tsukune's non-understanding query. "But judging from the look you were wearing just now, you don't quite share the sentiment. What's up?"
"I-it's nothing, really. Don't worry about it", Tsukune tried poorly to cover himself.
"Sheesh dude, here I am offering you a listening ear and that's how you react? Fine by me, but don't come bitching at me in the future saying I'm rude or indifferent towards your problems."
"...I'm sorry Gin, I really didn't mean it that way. It's just that...sometimes I just begin to question how everything's gonna work out, is all. Nothing serious, I tell you." Tsukune replied apologetically, wishing to ease out the werewolf's annoyance.
"That's what you were sulking about?" Gin wondered with pointed disgust and disbelief. "Well, for once you were right, definitely nothing serious at all."
"How so?" Tsukune questioned his companion's confidence in sincere curiosity, hoping he could draw from it for himself.
"The heck do you mean 'how so'? Aren't you always the first one to say everything's gonna be alright and work itself out, hm?"
"Well...yeah, but I do have my weak moments as well you know?"
"Keh, a lot of them, if I might add."
Silence descended as Gin's insult lingered in the air. After a while of wordless stillness the werewolf spoke again, his voice deep yet softened in consideration to Tsukune's mood.
"Listen, Tsukki, I don't know what it is exactly that's eating you, but from what I've gathered, it's just some general depression. To put it simply, you worry too much. We've still got the same band of buddies together, and that's all we need. Nothing's gonna change that, and even if it does, well, that's just another bridge we have to cross if and when we get there, 'kay?"
Tsukune listened and realized they could've been his very own words the carefree sophomore was speaking to him. Of course he'd known it all along, but hearing the usually distant and even rude werewolf say it somehow reminded him of the simple truth. His conviction now fully restored, Tsukune resolved to keep this moment in mind whenever he'd come across again the sort of doubts he'd had tonight.
"Yeah...yes, you're right Gin."
"As always", his companion nodded in humorous gravity.
"And thank you, Gin, for everything."
To that the senior youth said nothing, but the annoyed grunt he gave was enough of an affirmation for Tsukune that he was of the same mind.
Satisfied, Tsukune leant back against the rail and drew in a rich breath of the cool night air.
Together, the wolf and the man waited for a new day and its new challenges while basking in the light of the full moon.