Update 1/29/2015: In case folks didn't check my blog, the second half of this chapter has been rewritten to reflect the fact On The Verge of Tears will be the direct sequel to this one. The planned Persona 4 crossover will be a side story and will no longer be required to have been read to enjoy the sequel.

XxX

Chapter 20: Despair and Hope

XxX

Ryou Hiiragi could not believe she would return to the church where she married two months earlier and for a funeral at that. Yet that was exactly what was happening. She was on her honeymoon in the U.S. Virgin Islands when Kyou called and her and gave her the news. Even now, despite Akio's casket being no more than 10 feet in front of her it was surreal.

Like the wedding the church was packed. She spied The Okazaki Family sitting with Sanae in the front row. She didn't tell her sister yet but she was expecting a baby herself. She couldn't begin to imagine how tough it would be raising a child alone given the circumstances.

"It makes you wonder if this town really is cursed." she overheard Youhei say to Tomoyo on the other end of the pew. "It's just like when we were in high school. One thing after another." True, things had been up and down since the accident that robbed Tomoya of his memories and put Ushio in the hospital with a broken arm.

"This is the town where most of us grew up." Tomoyo replied, taking into account Youhei and Mei spent their childhood in a small town. "Nagisa was told she wouldn't be able to live a full life and look at her now. Her life and her family's life inspire me to keep pushing forward."

"Yeah I get that but this?" Youhei replied. "Akio was a father to Tomoya. Not just to Tomoya but the rest of us, too. His murder rocked this town. Everyone's going to look to you for guidance but right now, I don't blame Tomoya for being angry at the world."

XxX

A few months passed since the funeral. The election came and went with Tomoyo being elected mayor as predicted. Her first order of business was having Detective Sanada launch a full investigation of the murder and kidnapping. Misae Sagara, who'd been arrested for trespassing saw a suspicious person run onto the school grounds and followed him. She tried to catch up to him but he got away.

Today was a special day for Tomoya. It was his first day back at work since the accident. Yusuke and Youhei helped Tomoya relearn everything he learned over the past seven years in preparation for his return to Hikarisaka Electric. The president of the company took over most of Tomoya's duties during is absence. At Tomoya's insistence he went out with a new crew to supervise them on various jobs around the city.

"How was your first day back?" Youhei asked when Tomoya returned that evening.

"It was pretty awkward." he replied, sighing. "The crew was nothing short of professional but with my lost memories and their inexperience I'd say we were dead even. Thankfully nothing unusual happened out there."

"That's good." said Youhei, grinning. "I just started before the accident so I did a lot of what you did when you first started working here. Now I'm working with Yusuke supervising long-term projects here and there."

"Please help me get a job at the electric company!"

It was a split second but in that moment Tomoya's mind revisited something he said to Yusuke a long time ago. "What was that?"

"I promise I'll work hard!"

"What is it?" Youhei asked him.

"This company...this was my first job." he replied. "I remember. While I was living with the Furukawas, I remember asking Yusuke to help me find work here. I got a job offer in another town shortly after I started working here but the offer fell through. I've been here ever since."

"And this town has been all the better for it." Yusuke said as he and the president both walked into the room. "I have to admit I had my doubts when a fresh out of high school kid with no prior work experience asked me to help him get a job here but I'm glad my doubts were misplaced."

"Indeed." The president added. "You've helped this company and this town grow since you first came to work here. You're not just an honored employee but a dear member of our family."

"My friends...thank you." Tomoya replied as he smiled. "It's been a few months since the accident but I've been regaining more and more of my memories. There are still a few things I don't think I'll ever get back but with the bonds I've made with so many people in this town, I know I'll be alright."

XxX

"Freeze!" Detective Sanada roared as he burst into the run-down apartment on the outskirts of the town, several dozen officers surrounding the building. "Hands where I can see them!"

"How'd you find me?!" The suspect exclaimed in surprise as two officers rushed forward to handcuff him.

"You're lucky we're the ones who found you first." Sanada remarked as the suspect was led outside to a waiting police care. "If the gang combing the streets found you first, you'd be in pieces."

"We found a gun, sir." An officer emerging from the house said to him. Sanada removed a bullet from the magazine and compared it to the one recovered from Akio's body.

"We got a match." he said as he glared at the man they just arrested. "Bastard should've skipped town when he had the chance. Get that piece of trash out of here." As the police car drove downtown, Sanada climbed in his own care and dialed Sanae's number on his cellphone.

"We got him." he said. There was a long pause. At first he though he was disconnected but when he heard Sanae beginning to sob he knew she heard him loud and clear.

XxX

"I'm home." Yukimora said when he came later that evening.

"Welcome home, dear." Kotomi said before he ran to her side and hugged her.

"I have wonderful news, Kotomi." he said. "The man who killed Akio is in police custody. Once again the people of Hikarisaka can live in peace."

"How wonderful!" She exclaimed. "Did you tell Sanae and Nagisa?"

"I called them right after the arrest was made." he replied. "They both shed tears of joy at the news."

"I can hardly blame them." Kotomi said as she smiled sadly. "This won't bring Akio back but at least now they'll have closure."

"Having lost a parent at a young age, I know it's not easy." Yukimora replied as he placed his hands on Kotomi's belly. Inside her belly a baby was growing. "I hope our child doesn't have to experience the same pain you and I have." Kotomi covered his hands with her own.

"Then we have our work cut out for us." she said. "If we work together, anything is possible."

XxX

Fuko gasped in surprise as memories that shouldn't exist awoke her in the middle of the night. It happened less frequently but when she first came out of her coma three years earlier she dreamed of the high school life she never had. She had her accident on her first day of high school and didn't wake up until she was an adult. Even so, it felt strange to have memories that shouldn't exist.

Fuko climbed out of her bed and walked over to her window. As she looked at the night sky she could see thousands of small glowing lights. According to the old town legend, orbs of light would appear when a person achieved true happiness. If enough lights could be collected, a wish would be granted.

"That's fine and good, but things have been pretty depressing lately." Fuko thought to herself as she looked at the lights in the night sky. The orbs of light emerged from the homes of the people of Hikarisaka and seemed to converge above the town. If Fuko had known where they lived, she would have noticed a steady stream of the lights were coming from the Yukimora and Hiiragi households.

XxX

"Nagisa!" Tomoya exclaimed as he sat up in the middle of the night. Beads of sweat rolled down his face as the memory of another life pierced his mind. He looked and saw his wife sleeping peacefully next to him. Just the sight of her sleeping so peacefully made the memory he visited even harder to bear.

"Nagisa." he said, gently shaking her awake. After a few moments, she slowly opened her eyes.

"Are you ok, Tomoya?" she asked when she saw how distressed he looked.

"I...I don't know." he replied. "All of a sudden, I was dreaming of the day Ushio was born. In my dream, you died giving birth to her. Five years later, Ushio suddenly got six and then she...!" Tomoya suddenly got up and ran to Ushio's bedroom where she lay fast asleep. Only then did he breathe a sigh of relief.

"It's ok." Nagisa gently told him. "You told me about it the day after she was born. I'll tell you the same thing I told you then, Tomoya. Even if the memory you have was the life you were destined to live, both Ushio and I believe it's not the life you deserve. It took you a lot of courage just to tell me you love me back when we were in high school. Even if I died giving birth to either of my children, it would be worth it knowing you would show them the same love you've shown me over the years."

Tomoya gently pulled Nagisa into a hug. As tears began to fall from his face, he knew he didn't need to say anything for the two of them to know this was the life they both wanted and they wouldn't trade it for the world.

XxX

When Yukimora awoke he noticed Kotomi was not sleeping in the bed next to him. He looked out the window and saw her car was still in the driveway. "Good to know I won't need to call in an APB on my wife." he mused. Yawning, he put on his robe before going downstairs to look for Kotomi. He found her in the kitchen looking at something on her laptop at the table. Sitting next to her computer was a half-eaten apple pie.

"When did you find the time to bake that pie?" he asked his wife in surprise.

"Earlier this morning." Kotomi replied as she gently put the fork she was holding down and patted her belly. "What can I say? The baby loves apple pie."

"I'm sure the baby's not the only one who like it at this point." Yukimora said with a chuckle as he knelt next to his wife and rested his head next to her large 40-week baby bump. He could hear the baby's heartbeat loud and clear.

"By the way, I was looking up different methods that can be used to induce labor." Kotomi said as she stroked her husband's head. "If I didn't just eat half a pie, I'd try some of the different foods that are suggested. Instead, one of these other methods will have to do."

"Wait...what kinds of methods are we talking about?" Yukimora asked suspiciously. "You promised you wouldn't treat your pregnancy or the baby as research material!"

"I know what I said but I can't help it." Kotomi calmly replied as she stood. "I am a scientist, after all."

"Yeah, and I'm a cop." Yukimora countered. "I can arrest you for child abuse!" Kotomi pretended to look shocked.

"We've talked about this before, Yuki." Kotomi said. "We both agreed to play it safe while I'm pregnant and not get carried away."

"I'm not kidding this time." Yukimora suddenly said as he grabbed a pair of handcuffs from the counter and expertly handcuffed Kotomi's hands behind her back.

"What do you think you're doing?" Kotomi asked. "Take off the handcuffs."

"Not until you promise not to turn our kid into a lab rat!" Yukimora exclaimed.

"I can't do that so take them off!" she exclaimed.

"Promise first!" he shot back.

"Never!" she roared defiantly.

"Then they're never coming off." Yukimora flatly replied.

"Yes...they...are!" Kotomi said as she struggled against her bonds. The next thing Yukimora knew, the chain connecting the handcuffs broke. He'd hard about martial artists being able to do it but to actually see it done and by a pregnant woman was pretty impressive to say the least.

"How did you do that?" Yukimora asked.

"It's a secret." his wife replied as she grinned. "Let's see you top that." As soon as the words left her mouth they both heard the sound of fluid hitting the floor. Yukimora felt the color drain from his face when he saw it was coming from Kotomi. "Looks like my water broke."

"Yeah, I can see that." Yukimora said as he ran to get his car keys. "Time to go!"

They were at the hospital exactly 15 minutes later. After 12 hours of hard labor, Kotomi gave birth to a baby girl. She had dark lavender hair like her mother.

"She's beautiful." Kotomi said as she held the newborn in her arms.

"Welcome to the world Chihiro Mizue Sanada." Yukimora said as he looked on.

"Congratulations, you two." Ryou said as she walked into the room.

:Why thank you, Ryou." Kotomi replied. Then she noticed Ryou's pregnant belly. "Looks like you'll become a mother soon, too."

"Yeah, a boy." Ryou said as she smiled. "Kyou and Kappei were thrilled when I told them. I'm pretty excited about it as well."

"Speaking of new arrivals, isn't Sanae Furukawa due in a few weeks?" Yukimora asked Ryou.

"Now that you mention it, I believe she is." Ryou replied thoughtfully. "Nagisa mentioned the last time we met her mom was temporarily moving in for the last month of her pregnancy. She wants to be there to support her mother during what's sure to be a very difficult time for the whole family."

"No kidding." Kotomi added. "At least her baby will grow up with their Mom, sister, niece, nephew and brother in-law. I didn't have anyone to grow up with after my parents died." She didn't need to say anything for Yukimora and Ryou to know what they already knew. After he parents' tragic deaths on their way to America, Kotomi grew up alone in an empty house.

"I'm just glad we caught the man responsible." said Yukimora. "Believe me, his court date's not far off, either."

XxX

"We're home!" Ushio announced as she and Tomoya entered the Okazaki family home.

"Welcome home." Nagisa said as she hugged husband and daughter in turn. "How was your day?"

"Detective Sanada called me before I left work." Tomoya told her, dropping his voice to a whisper. "He wanted me to let you know the pretrial hearing will be tomorrow morning."

"I see." Nagisa replied. "I haven't talked to my mom about it but I was thinking it might be better if she didn't go,:

"I agree." said Tomoya. "Ryuto was easier to deal with but this guy..."

"Welcome home!" a new voice exclaimed. Tomoya and Nagisa turned to see Sanae had come to the door.

"Hi, Sanae!" Ushio exclaimed.

"Did you have a good day at school?" Sanae asked her granddaughter.

"Yeah, we learned all kinds of stuff." Ushio replied. "Wait, where's Kaga?"

"He's taking a nap." Nagisa explained. "I was just about to put dinner on the table. Ushio, why don't you go get ready?"

"Sure." she replied before running off.

"I didn't mean to but I overheard what you were talking about." Sanae said once they heard the door to Ushio's bedroom close. "I gave it some thought and I've made up my mind to attend the trial." Nagisa and Tomoya shared a gasp of surprise.

"Mom, you don't have to do that!" Nagisa exclaimed. "Tomoya and I were already planning to go. I don't want you to have to relive what happened to Dad."

"She's right." Tomoya added. "You're due to give birth any day now. Please, think about the baby!"

"You we're there!" Sanae exclaimed, then again in a hushed tone "You weren't there. You didn't see the way he was taken from us. I know that if was killed instead, Akio would have insisted on being there tomorrow. I'm going not just for me but for him and our child."

"Mom..." Nagisa started.

"Very well." Tomoya said. "After what I've been through, we have no right to keep you from meeting the man who did this to our family. If that's what you want to do, I support you decision."

"Thank you." Sanae replied as she hugged him. "Nagisa?"

"I'm still against it to be honest." she said. "Even so, I know it's what Dad would have wanted. Just promise me you'll be careful, okay?"

"Of course." Sanae replied as she hugged her daughter. "It's a promise."

The next day Tomoya, Nagisa and Sanae sat in the courthouse lobby waiting for the courtroom doors to open. They'd heard a famous prosecutor originally from Germany was in charge of the trial. From what Detective Sanada told him about her, she sounded ruthless to Tomoya.

"Good morning." Detective Sanada said as he entered the lobby. "Sanae, I was wondering if you could come with me for a few minutes?"

"Is something wrong?" She asked as Nagisa helped her up.

"Oh, no." he replied. "There's someone I'd like you to meet." Sanae followed the detective down the hall to a meeting room. Inside the room was a table and two chairs. After helping her sit in one of them, he walked to the other end of the room and unlocked the door. A moment later, a man wearing a blue prison jumpsuit entered the room, he hands and feet bound with shackles.

Sanae couldn't believe her eyes.

Walking over to the inmate, he said "This is Sane Furukawa. She's the wife of the man you killed, mother of one and is expecting one more as you can see. Sanae, this is Takeru Isshin. He's the man who killed your husband and the father of your children."

There was silence as the room's occupants looked at each other. After several tense moments, Sanae broke the silence.

"Just so you know, I don't hate you for what you've done." Sanae said. "That's what sets me apart from my son in-law. I'm sure that if he came here, he'd just at the opportunity to thrash you. I just want you to understand how many lives have been effected because of what you've done. My grandchildren will grow up without their grandfather, my daughter will live the rest of her life without her father and my new baby will grow up never knowing their father. It only takes an instant to take a life but it takes nine months to make one."

Takeru said nothing in response. All things considered, it was doubtful anything he said would do anything other than anger The detective or Sanae or both.

"It's almost time." The bailiff said as he peeked in the room. Sanada motioned for him to take Takeru away while we walked Sanae back to Tomoya and Nagisa.

"Thank you." Sanae said to him before they turned the corner.

"You're welcome-" Yukimora started but stopped mid-sentence when Sanae suddenly held her belly, wincing in pain.

"I think the baby's coming!" she exclaimed as Tomoya and Nagisa rushed over. The next 30 minutes felt like a blur to Sanae as she was rushed to the hospital. After several hours of hard labor, she gave birth to a baby girl. She had warm amber eyes like her sister and mother but dark brown hair like her father. As was Akio's last request, she was named Atsuko Furukawa.

"That brought back some memories." Sanae said as she held the newborn. "Once upon a time, Akio held you just like this on the day you were born Nagisa."

"Seeing you hold her like that makes it easier to see that now." Nagisa replied as she smiled proudly.

"Somewhere, I'm sure he's smiling with pride." Tomoya added.

"Wait a minute!" Nagisa suddenly exclaimed. "Mom, let me hold her for a moment."

"Sure, but why-" she stopped mid-sentence when Nagisa licked her sister's face.

"Nagisa!" Tomoya exclaimed in surprise.

"There, now we're even." she replied as she grinned, handing her sibling back to Sanae.

"Talk about being cut from the same cloth." said Tomoya as he remembered what Akio said the day they told the Furukawas Nagisa was pregnant with Ushio.

"Welcome to the family, Atsuko!" Sanae exclaimed.

XxX

And that takes care of the revised Chapter 20.

The original skip is at the top of the next chapter as the torch is officially passed on to Ushio. All of the content from the end of the original version of this chapter is in the new finale. I have also added a couple new scenes to better set things up for the sequel coming later this year!

I almost forgot to throw in the the two birth scenes at the end before the time skip but figured it wouldn't be right to not include them so...yeah. They will appear in the sequel as well. I left out Ryou for now though her future kin will appear in the sequel, too.

Before I forget: The "famous prosecutor" I was referring to is Franziska Von Karma from the Ace Attorney games.

~ Brendan Aurabolt