az: R&R. Because this epilogue came by itself after that.


Atonement

Epilogue: New Day

Written by Izzu alias honou-no-izumi

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"Ano... is Tanaka Ainosuke in this class?"

Ainosuke paused as he turned towards the door as his classmates turned towards him, while talking to someone standing beside him. The young man was much older than him and the school uniform was different than theirs. He had never met this person before... so why did this person came to look for him?

He nodded towards the person as Ainosuke picked his bag up and walked out with the person.

"Sorry to suddenly appear in front of you like this, but I feel like I want to at least meet you for once. That's why I took an early leave from my school and come here to see you."

Ainosuke frowned at him. "Umm... thanks? But I still don't understand, do I know you from somewhere?"

The older boy chuckled nervously. "No, we've never met before. Actually, I came here... to ask about your older brother. I'm Kamata Ryuji," said the older boy again as he held out his hand.

"Tanaka... Ainosuke," said Ainosuke nervously as he shook Ryuji's hand. "Err... pleased to meet you, Ryuji-san... but why did you want to see me for? You could actually see my brother yourself at the station."

Ryuji shook his head. "I can't possibly ask your brother myself. Because I don't think... your brother would feel comfortable about it. I would too... if someone had wanted to talk about the same thing to me."

That got his attention as Ainosuke cocked his head at him.

"What actually did you want to ask me about, Ryuji-san?"

The older lad snorted.

"Can you tell me what happened when both of you had been kidnapped last time?"

Ainosuke gave a cry at the unexpected question as he slowly nodded his head.

xxx

"No! You don't really have to mind me... I don't really mind waiting here—"

"What're you talking about, oniisan! It's not like we're that strangers!"

"N-no... it's okay..."

"Aniki?"

Both Hitomi and Yumehito froze before turning their attentions towards Ainosuke and Ryuji and straightened themselves up. Hitomi hastily let go of Yume's arm as she pretended that nothing had happened. Ainosuke grinned as he walked up towards his brother.

"It's been a while. Are you here to pick me up?" he asked cheekily as Yume grinned.

"Of course. It's been a while since the last time I did... so I kinda missed doing it. Can't I?" he replied as sweetly before turning towards Ryuji.

"Hadn't expected to see you again, Ryuji-kun. What brought you here so far from your school? How's your family anyway?"

Ryuji shrugged.

"We're fine. Chii-chan would be in prison for a while right now but he seemed to be well. Shun wanted to see you again one day."

Ainosuke stared at him curious as Ryuji fidgeted with his fingers. He glanced up towards his brother as Yumehito smiled.

"I... Yumeto-san, it's nothing. I've just wanted to come here. I've been wondering last time... when you've talked about your brother. I can't help wanting to meet your brother myself."

Ainosuke noticed Yume's grin went wider as he finally spoke.

"So, did you found what is it that you've been looking for here?"

Ryuji nodded. "Yes, I did. Thank you for your help last time. I think I've finally understand what you've said that day. Thank you again."

The lad excused himself before walking away as Yume sighed.

"Now that's over, we'd better be going home as well."

Hitomi suddenly exclaimed aloud as the brothers turned towards her in surprise.

"Can I join you guys as well?" she said as Yume laughed.

"Aren't your place on a slightly different direction than ours, sensei? It's already late, perhaps you could come another day? I'm sure you'd also be needing some rest. Or do you not?"

Hitomi blinked in confusion as Yume grinned some more. "Yes, I know where you lived... for a very long time. Now, sensei... we'll be fine going home by ourselves. Unless of course you're worried about something else—"

"Ah, n-no! I'm fine... and I'm glad you're fine too—I guess I'll come visit some time later then, huh? I better go home too!" said Hitomi hastily as she walked away hurriedly to find her car. Ainosuke couldn't help noticing how Sayama-sensei's face had turned scarlet and she had been pouting. His brother had appeared amused as well. Yumehito turned his attention towards his brother as he shrugged.

"I've handled that so nicely, haven't I?"

Ainosuke couldn't help noticing how cheeky his brother had sounded when he spoke those words...

xxx

"So aniki...what really happened that time when you've been captured by those kidnappers?"

Yume glanced sideways towards Ainosuke as he shrugged.

"What did you two talked about earlier?"

Ainosuke sighed.

"Nothing much. Ryuji-san asked me what happened to us during that case, eight years ago. Aniki... was what Ryuji-san said about the real reason they had been kidnapped was true? That the guy was actually aiming after you?"

Yume turned his head towards him briefly, before he continued walking.

"Yeah. I don't get the reasoning though. Then again... it used to be the same back during the time Kokusho Akira had been out and about. The crime world had often made such big deal about that—over who's the big boss over there and whatnot. I find that boring... after a time."

Ainosuke frowned.

"Aniki... have you ever thought of returning to that world?"

"Hmm? No."

Yumehito let out a long sigh.

"The only reason I had even thought of entering that world was to use the resource of that world in order to proceed with my plans. Aside from that, I have no interest in it."

Ainosuke bit his lips.

"Then, if I haven't forgotten about that time... would you have not chosen to become a crime planner?"

Yume paused in front of him as Ainosuke heard his brother sigh.

"Perhaps. Perhaps I would still do it anyway or perhaps you could have stopped me earlier. Things like that... it was hard to determine. Regardless, I would still be burdened by the very fact that I had killed that person. In the end, our lives would still not be normal."

Ainosuke felt his heart tighten as he could sense the heavy emotion his brother was showing. He slowly crept behind his brother and hugged him from behind. Yumehito smiled at the gesture as he placed his right hand over Ainosuke's arm.

"I guess this is why I could never hurt you badly. Having Ainosuke around had always made me feel good..."

"I'm sorry... niichan. If only I had remembered..."

Yumehito smiled as they continued to walk slowly with Ainosuke still clinging from behind him.

"It could not be helped, I guess. You were still a child, that time."

He chuckled a little as Ainosuke's face tickled his back before he pulled his brother to his side. He ran his hand over his brother's hair as he sighed.

"I guess this time, we really have to try starting everything anew. This was our second chance, wasn't it?"
Ainosuke nodded as Yumehito smiled.

"Come to think... earlier, brother really looked good with Sayama-sensei."

"Eh?" Yume turned to see Ainosuke grinning at him cheekily. "Eh—what? Aino—what is that you're suddenly thinking in that mischievous head of yours?"

Ainosuke continued grinning.

"Well... brother was already at that age—you should already be thinking about getting married. Besides... it's not like you're not so handsome or something—"

Yume laughed.

"Cheeky little kid. Unfortunately, my little brother... that scenario is unlikely to be happening any time soon. That teacher of yours was already a bundle of trouble. Aside from her debt problem, she used to punch you relentlessly. Not something I would be looking forward to for a wife."

Ainosuke grinned. "But that shouldn't be a problem, isn't it? It's not like you don't have a lot of money—Miyamoto-san had told me about it, during the time you've been in a coma—and I saw what you did earlier. Sensei seemed to follow your every word."

The older brother snorted.

"That's because I know she would not listen if I said no to her. That teacher of yours had that curious habit of hers after all. Once you know that about her, it wasn't so hard to play around your words when talking to her."

"See? You're so made for her!" Ainosuke started to insist as Yume laughed again. Certainly he had forgotten how obnoxious his little brother could be when the situation calls for it.

Ainosuke smiled as he watched his brother laugh. It made his heart soar to see his brother so cheerful. As he thought, his brother's smiles are the best! He wouldn't want any other expression adorned his brother's face. He wouldn't want to see this beloved face cry or be adorned with sadness. If possible, he wanted to make his brother happy always.

"Your brother had once said to us... that he had a promise to someone that he had wanted to keep with his might. That was the reason he gave to my uncle when he questioned him about doing the right thing."

For some reason, hearing that from Ryuji-san about his brother had warmed his heart. His brother, was trying so hard to start a new life with him. So he should not lag behind in his own effort as well.

That, was his promise.