A/N: Man, hard to believe a year ago today, Extra Life was first posted. Also, is everyone enjoying V3? I hope the conclusion of this fic helps heal all the hurts it's inflicted.
A French translation has now been started, available here: fanfiction dot net s/12677839/1/Extra-Life-French-Edition Many thanks to Dyplopia!
Pink Pidgeon: Yeah, I tend to stick closer to the Japanese version for writing DR...the exceptions are the English spellings and titles because I'm used to them, and because I personally find "Super High School Level _" to be kind of silly-sounding.
"…keep buzzing around in my head, like BZZT! BZZT! And the next thing I know, it's morning!" Mioda-san finished, foot tapping a beat against the floor. Dark circles under her eyes were a testament to her insomnia, and even her usually-boundless energy seemed to have found a bottom.
"I-I'm sorry…" Tsumiki-san whimpered, burying her face in her hands.
"Ah, no, no, Mikan-chan! It isn't your fault the pills aren't working! Ibuki's mind just races too fast for her to fall asleep! She just lies there, thinking thinking thinking, and then she starts thinking of…of that stuff, and she can't turn it off, and next thing she knows it's morning!" Mioda-san's forced cheer broke, and she stopped talking. Her hands stroked Yumigami faster.
The little rabbit had become very popular when Chiaki introduced her, and was now the official group therapy rabbit. Pekoyama-san and Tanaka-kun especially liked her—Pekoyama-san was awed that there was a fluffy creature that wouldn't run from her, and Tanaka-kun had deemed her a worthy potential vassal of his dark kingdom within seconds of meeting her. Now Yumigami lived like a queen in the hotel, where everyone could come and pamper her as they wished.
Today was Sunday, which meant group therapy in the lodge first thing after breakfast; Chiaki personally liked the symbolism of starting a week by unloading any problems you'd had with the last. Yumigami was naturally a staple in these kinds of sessions, and oftentimes needed to be held by the speaker. It had become a sort of unofficial rule that to talk, you had to "pass the rabbit".
At first, Chiaki's insecurities had crept back up; she'd never attempted group therapy before, and she feared being unable to handle so many people at once. Hajime had helped her for the first few meetings, and even now was ready to jump in if she needed. He could have done it himself, of course—he could have done all their jobs himself—but it had become customary for him to never step into a role that was already filled out of respect for their passion and to lighten his own load.
In the two months since that fateful reunion, their little community on Jabberwock was flourishing quite nicely. When you had a small number of people to do lots of work, everyone was willing to do their share. Some had designated jobs. Hanamura-kun cooked. Tanaka-kun cared for the livestock, and Sonia-san almost always volunteered to help him (for reasons, Chiaki suspected, that had as much to do with the man himself as the animals). Soda-kun maintained the machines around the islands. Tsumiki-san ran the pharmacy and handled injuries. Chiaki, of course, was the therapist.
The rest of them rotated duties, doing the chores and tasks that didn't require specific talents. Laundry, for example, or keeping stock at the supermarket, or watching for errant ships—Komaeda-kun especially had a liking for cleaning, as he was remarkably good at it. If anyone needed help, someone else was more than likely willing to offer it. Even Saionji-san would pitch in a hand when asked without much complaint.
When work was done, everyone dedicated some time to tinkering with their talent, trying to find breakthroughs that could be beneficial to the world. Togami-kun had arranged a special force that they would email their research to. Chiaki wasn't sure how much this force knew about them—just that everything was very anonymous and hush-hush, like a secret service.
Personally, Chiaki was still hoping to experiment with video game therapy some more, perhaps design a game strictly for that purpose, but that was on the back burner while she helped her friends. And then, there was what she and Hajime had been working on…
Next to Mioda-san, the Imposter laid a hand on her shoulder. Supportive glances and sad smiles were thrown her way. Across the circle, Tsumiki-san was nodding. "I'll get you a new prescription with stronger melatonin levels. But…we might have to experiment for a while before we find one that works."
"Ibuki doesn't want to wait 'a while'! She wants to sleep nooooooow!"
"Does anyone have any suggestions for Mioda-san?" Chiaki asked, looking around. "Techniques, ideas?"
"Fight 'til you're gonna collapse, eat 'til you're stuffed, and then take a good SHIT before bed!" Nidai-kun bellowed. "That knocks me out good! Most of the time it even stops the nightmares!"
Pekoyama-san looked at Mioda-san's thin figure doubtfully. "Or perhaps you could compose songs? Running through my katas has helped me fall asleep."
"That's no good! Ibuki's gonna want to jump out and play it!"
"You might try an herbal bath before bed," Hajime suggested. "Lavender in particular has medicinal effects that can induce sleepiness."
Saionji-san stuck her nose in the air and crossed her arms. "My dad used to make me this drink when I was little and had trouble sleeping. Worked wonders. I guess I could share the recipe." She almost sounded completely snotty. Only the slightest hitch in her voice, the little waver on dad, betrayed her.
Mioda-san took one look at the dancer, frowned, and offered Yumigami. "Need to cuddle?"
"No, I don't! And you'd better be grateful that I even offered!"
"Oh, I am! Your idea and Hajime-chan's idea both sound totally awesome! Thanksies!"
"Excellent! Try those out and let us know how they work next week, Mioda-san!" Chiaki glanced at the clock, then back around the circle, picking out one face that hadn't said much. "Komaeda-kun, you've been very quiet, and we still have a few minutes left. Why don't you go now?"
He smiled and waved his real hand dismissively. "Oh, you shouldn't waste your time listening to me. It's far more important the rest of you get the help you need, so you can shine brilliantly!"
This was the same thing he did at every group therapy session. It saddened Chiaki, but it didn't surprise her. Two months was not enough time for real change, not nearly. Even without counting the years they'd spent brainwashed into despair or the events of the Killing School Trip, some of her friends—a disturbingly high amount, actually—also had childhood traumas that had greatly shaped their current attitudes. Those more personal things were handled in individual therapy sessions, but Chiaki knew it would take a very, very long time for her friends to completely come to terms with those old wounds. For now, she'd start with the fallout from recent events and work her way back.
"Komaeda-kun…it's not a waste. I really would like to hear about your week."
A few seats down from him, Mioda-san held Yumigami out. "C'mon, Nagito-chan! Look at these big brown eyes! Yumigami-chan's begging you to cuddle her and talk!"
"Oh, I couldn't possibly. The joint in my wrist came loose yesterday, and I dropped some medicine while helping Tsumiki-san organize the pharmacy. I don't want to drop Yumigami too."
"What?" Soda-kun exclaimed. "Dude, why didn't you say anything?"
"Oh, it was alright. When I swept the mess into a trash bag and brought it to the dumpster, I found another box of perfectly good medicine, so I was able to reimburse Tsumiki-san!"
"Not the medicine, your hand! I've told you before to drop by for tune-ups whenever it acts funky!"
"He's right, you know!" Koizumi-san wagged a finger at Komaeda-kun. "You should take more care of yourself! Geez, and I was wondering why you weren't using that hand at breakfast…"
"You're our friend," Mitarai-kun said, looking around hesitantly. He seemed to draw courage from the nods he saw, because he sat up a little straighter in his chair. "We want you to bother us with your problems."
Chiaki nodded. "You never have to talk if you don't want to, but won't you at least let us help you when you hurt yourself?"
He thought that over a moment. "Well…I suppose it would give you all more chances to cultivate your talents. In that case, I'd be glad to offer my woes as a stepping stone."
She inwardly sighed. Not quite the response I wanted…but I'll take what progress I can. At least he's considering coming to us for help. "Now, how has the rest of your week been? I know you like reading, have you found any good novels lately?"
"Ah, yes! The one I've just started is about a woman who accidentally stumbles into an alternate dimension, and a man investigating the darkness behind a manuscript! It's quite thrilling!"
"I see, I'm glad you're enjoying it! And has anything been particularly troubling you this week?"
"No, not really. It's been quite an ordinary week for me, other than the routine of my luck cycle."
"That's wonderful to hear!" She glanced at the clock again. "And…that's it for today. I think we all did great!"
As chairs scrapped back, she threw Hajime a questioning glance. Is now a good time?
He read her perfectly. Giving her a nod, he cleared his throat, drawing their friends' attention. "Before we get going, there's something Chiaki and I have to show you."
"Oh my," Hanamura-kun purred, rubbing his chin. "Is it—"
"No. Whatever you're thinking, no."
Chiaki shook her head in wry amusement at the cook's antics. "Just…follow us, okay?"
When the Future Foundation had arrived on Jabberwock Island, they'd constructed bridges connecting the islands together, rather than continue to use a ferry service. Chiaki and Hajime led their classmates across such bridge towards what they called the "Second Island", after events in the Neo World Program. Once there, they walked further along the island until they stood before the building housing the Neo World Program.
According to Hajime, the building was exactly where a ruin had rested in the virtual world. At the entrance, there was a small memorial, flowers set in glass vases around a portrait. It had been painted by Hajime, depicting a pink-haired teenage girl and a white plush rabbit, both smiling gently. The girl looked exactly like Chiaki, only years younger, and in blue instead of brown.
Within days of Chiaki's return, Hajime had brought her here and told her about the two AIs who had protected them. A lump had bobbed in her throat as he'd explained the one that looked like her had taken her appearance because everyone missed her so much, and that the rabbit one was based off Gekkogahara-san's avatar, Usami.
Chiaki continued to lead them deeper into the building, until they stood within the pod room. It was an enormous, circular room, containing the pods and computers and equipment that made the Neo World Program run. Everything was dimmed from lack of activity. Her classmates looked curious as they stepped inside.
"Tell me, for what sorcerous plan have you dragged Tanaka the Forbidden One to this monument of power?" Tanaka-kun demanded.
Rather than answering, Hajime tilted his head back. "World Destroyer?"
There was a long pause; then one of the monitors above the pods flickered on. A young man appeared on the screen. With short dark hair, a neat suit, and sharp red eyes, he perfectly resembled a Hajime who didn't have heterochromia, or an Izuru who'd cut his hair. "Creator," he said, giving a short bow. "Nanami, Class 77. You called?"
It had been…interesting to meet him. Chiaki had never expected Hajime would make an AI of himself. But it had been necessary to wake up her sleeping classmates, he'd explained. Unlike hers, their comas had not been at all natural, and as such a natural recovery was almost impossible. It was only because of the pre-existing Neo World Program technology that he'd been able to create an AI that could piece together their fragmented minds so quickly; inventing it on his own would have taken months, if not years, by his calculations. Just one more thing to be grateful to the late Gekkogahara-san for.
"Explain and give a progress report on the Neo World Program Restoration Project," Hajime said.
"Your command has been accepted." The World Destroyer faced her friends. "The Neo World Program Restoration Project has a single purpose: to preserve and restore the Neo World Program to its original state, including the remnants of the gestalt AI and Usami, while completing the purge of Enoshima's virus."
As a precautionary measure, Hajime had instructed the World Destroyer to search for and destroy any lingering data bits of Enoshima's virus. She couldn't do anything anymore, probably, but she was still there. And that was a risk that could not be allowed. She had to be purged from the world for good.
However, in his searches, the World Destroyer had also located traces of data for Chiaki's AI and Usami. Not enough for them to be 'conscious', not even enough to restore them without extensive location and reconstruction. But enough for the possibility to exist.
A possibility that, if Chiaki was honest, had taken time for her to come to terms with.
"Their 'brother', Alter Ego, has expressed a wish to assist in the reconstruction of his sisters, which I have accepted. Should enough data be located, repairing and restoring Usami will be a simple matter. The gestalt is slightly more complicated, as she was constructed out of memories. Depending on whether her coding retains your uploaded memories, she may not the same personality or appearance. However, my analysis predicts a 58% chance of a successful reboot."
Owari-san frowned, rubbing a finger in her ear as if to clean it out. "Uh…I don't get all this techno-jazz. What's he saying?"
"He's killing the last bits of Enoshima's virus," Chiaki translated. "And he's working on restoring the AI's who guarded you."
"We didn't tell you before now because we wanted promising preliminary results. The World Destroyer still hasn't located all their data, but we've been making strides, and we think there is a chance that someday, they can come back." Hajime looked back at the World Destroyer. "Thank you for the report. Return to work, if you would."
"Your command has been accepted." The World Destroyer bowed again and disappeared. Chiaki looked around; her classmates looked absolutely stunned.
Koizumi-san recovered first. "Chiaki-chan…what is this? Why are you and Hinata…?"
"Hajime told me how much you all regarded my AI as your friend, and even though you thought Usami was an annoyance, you still softened towards her at the end. So…why didn't any of you even suggest trying to bring them back?"
A heavy pause descended. Her friends all looked at each other. Tsumiki-san shifted. "U-Um...w-we didn't want to hurt your feelings. I-If we suggested it, you might think we were…"
"Replacing me?" Chiaki smiled, a little sadly. "I'm going to be honest…when Hajime first told me about her, and I thought you might want to bring her back, it did scare me. After all, she's an AI. She must be way smarter, and stronger, and cooler, than me. And…why would anyone want me around when they could have a better me?"
"Whoa, Nanami, we don't—" Nidai-kun started, but she shook her head, raising a hand.
"But, gradually…I came to realize something. She wouldn't replace me. She isn't me, not exactly. Our memories and experiences are different, even if we look the same and have similar interests. I think…meeting her would kinda be like Aya Brea meeting Eve."
It was only after she'd met the World Destroyer, and spent weeks watching how absolutely nothing changed for it, that her worries had slowly been assuaged. For all his physical and personality resemblance, the World Destroyer wasn't Hajime. He didn't share the memories they'd made, and she hadn't suddenly been overcome with crazy love for him when she'd met him. Neither did any of her classmates treat him as a substitute for Hajime or vice versa. Then, shouldn't she believe that the same would hold true if her AI came back? Besides, she owed her an unpayable debt for watching over her friends.
So, a month after learning about them, she'd finally told Hajime she was alright with bringing back the AIs. And Chiaki found that, while there was still some nervousness, there was a bit of excitement too. Her AI must surely share her love for video games, right? What would it be like, playing with someone exactly as equal in skill as her? The more she thought, the more she liked the idea. She imagined this was what it felt like to await the birth of a sibling.
"What I'm saying is…I'm okay with my AI being brought back. Hajime and I just wanted to make sure it had a chance of succeeding before telling you. That is…if it's what you want."
"If you're okay with it," Sonia-san said, smiling hesitantly, "then…yes. We'd love to have them back."
Various exclamations of agreement arose from the rest of her friends. Smiles spread on the others faces. Even Mitarai-kun, who'd never met the AIs, seemed happy for them.
"So, Hinata-kun, if there are two of Nanami-san…are you getting both?" Everyone turned to Hanamura-kun incredulously. "What? I can't be the only one thinking it!"
"…Yes, you are." Pekoyama-san said flatly.
Chiaki glared at Hanamura-kun, puffing her cheeks. "We aren't doing harem routes. I don't want to share Hajime, even with a version of myself, and he doesn't want to share me with a version of himself either."
"Oh…so Nanami-san isn't getting two of Hinata-kun, either…that's a shame."
"…I don't want to know what kind of fantasies you've been conjuring up." Hajime shook his head. "But to borrow Chiaki's colloquium, definitely no harem routes. That'd be…too weird. I'm a one-Chiaki man."
She melted. "And I'm a one Hajime-and-Izuru-woman."
"Ewwwwww," Saionji-san complained loudly. "Can't you two lovebirds take it to your cottage?"
"Stop whining," The Imposter said. "Let's just celebrate that Usami and Nanami are coming back."
Kuzuryu-kun's brow furrowed. "That's gonna get confusing real fast. You share given names and surnames. It's not gonna be easy figuring out which one of you we're addressing."
"Perhaps we could address the other Nanami-san as Fujisaki-san? After her creator, Fujisaki Chihiro." Sonia-san suggested.
"I can see that working…but we should hold off on making any decisions until she gets back." Chiaki said. "It's her name and how she's addressed we're talking about; she should be the one to decide that." That said, while she wouldn't mind sharing 'Nanami' or 'Chiaki', it would make things a lot easier if there was some difference.
Joviality filled the air as they filtered out. Koizumi-san reprimanded Mioda-san as she loudly wondered what would happen if "the other Chiaki-chan hooked up with Destroyer-chan". Komaeda-kun got halfway through his speech on how hopeful their return would be before Kuzuryu-kun rolled his eye and slapped him on the back. Chiaki trailed behind, smiling fondly at her friends. Her hand reached out, instinctively finding Hajime's. They laced their fingers together.
It didn't matter that the World Destroyer's chances of success weren't a hundred percent. A future where Usami and Chiaki's own AI were back was the future they all wanted. And at that moment, that was what was important.
They decided to change into their swimsuits and throw a beach party that afternoon, to celebrate the announcement of the Neo World Program Restoration Project. The sky overhead was clear and blue; half her classmates had joined in a volleyball game, organized by Nidai-kun, who stood on the sidelines yelling encouragements. The Imposter sat out, talking with Mitarai-kun and Tsumiki-san. Saionji-san stomped after crabs on the beach, cackling. Pekoyama-san and Kuzuryu-kun strolled along the shore. Reclining on the towel she was sharing with Hajime, Chiaki's contented gaze kept straying between her friends and her boyfriend's distracting and toned chest.
She sighed happily.
This was how her days went now.
There were differences in how they individually played out, of course. Saturday and Sunday, excluding group therapy, were her days off. Tomorrow, she'd be meeting with Mitarai-kun, Tanaka-kun, and Tsumiki-san for individual therapy, continuing to work with them through their guilt and regret. The day after would have different meetings, different activities, but there was a soothing, repetitive peace to everything never had to fear for her friends' lives or for their futures.
No, now she could enjoy their company, the highs and lows, the laughs and tears. And she treasured all of it. Now that they'd faked their deaths—staging a shootout with some of Togami-kun's men weeks ago that ended with them 'caught live' in an explosion—they were free.
As far as Chiaki knew, the rest of the world was recovering. Even Towa City—after Towa Monaca's disappearance, her forces there had crumbled into nothing, bereft of leadership. The fighting had finally ended, and for the past few weeks, Naegi Komaru had stayed in the city, arguing and negotiating with the resistance movement. The remaining Warriors of Hope had turned themselves in and would likely be going on trial, though between their youth and how they'd assisted Future Foundation for the past year, Chiaki imagined they would get lighter sentences.
Speaking of Future Foundation, they'd had a change in leadership after Kirigiri-san stepped down. Togami-kun had not only inherited her position as Branch Head of 14, but as leader of the entire Future Foundation as well. Now he and Class 78 were planning to use Future Foundation's resources to rebuild Hope's Peak Academy.
That had been a decision no one on Jabberwock Island—except Komaeda-kun—had been pleased with. It had taken a lot of arguing with Naegi-kun over video messages, listening to his reasons for why he wanted to do it and how he planned to prevent a repeat of the previous corruption, for them to stand down. Even now, Chiaki knew she still wasn't entirely happy with it. The only good thing to come of the Tragedy was Enoshima burning that place down, in her opinion. She just couldn't forgive how they'd experimented on, lobotomized, and locked up the man she'd loved, or their negligence in protecting all their students.
But…there wasn't anything they could do about it. Nothing except trust Naegi-kun, as he'd trusted them. And that was something she was willing to do.
Sometimes, Chiaki had to stop and look around to make sure everything was real. It was so peaceful, so calm. It was everything she'd ever wanted and she sometimes trembled in Hajime's arms at night, fearing it would be taken from her. But each time she did, he'd smooth her hair and murmur comforting words, and she could go to sleep, fears alleviated.
Sometimes, their roles were reversed. Because of course he too had things that haunted his dreams; the experiments done to him, her almost dying, his guilt over his inaction and actions. He never cried out when he had nightmares, but she always heard his disturbed moving and woke up, holding him tight. He'd drop his face into her shoulder, and they'd talk if they wanted or basked in each other's presence if not.
The healing process they were all going through was rough, yes. But the trade-off was so, so worth it. Moments like this party were what she had experienced for the past two months, and hoped she would continue experiencing for the upcoming months and years.
It's all because none of us ever gave up.
Even when you mess up and make mistakes…it's not the end. You can keep going.
There are still personal grievances to overcome, blocks in our road…things we could never handle alone. But we don't have to. We'll all handle them together.
I think it's safe to say this future…
Warm hands gently tugged her into a solid chest. "What's on your mind?" Hajime asked quietly, breath tickling her ear.
Chiaki laughed lightly, turning in his arms and beaming up at him. "Just thinking…this future we have ahead of us isn't so bad, is it?"
The small smile on his face grew. "No, it isn't."
She hummed in approval as he leaned in to kiss her, fingers going to wind in that silk-soft hair. His hand traced along her neck, leaving a trail of goosebumps in its wake. Warm bliss bubbled in her stomach, spreading throughout her body. "Mmm, Izuru…"
He suddenly pulled away, and fast as a blink, caught the volleyball that had been playfully tossed at him. He raised an eyebrow at their friends. "Really?"
"Just makin' sure you weren't getting too distracted," Soda-kun said with a toothy grin, arms behind his head.
"So you decided the best way was throwing a ball at my head?"
"Oh c'mon, I knew you were gonna catch it...and now that you've stopped makin' out with Nanami, you can join the game!"
Hajime glanced at Chiaki, eyebrows raised. "What do you think, Chiaki?"
"I'm terrible at sports. Let's do it."
He smiled again. As he stood, offering her his hand, Owari-san punched a fist into her palm. "Awesome! We'll go all-on-one! Nanami, you're on our team!"
"Yeah, you gotta help us beat your boyfriend!"
Chiaki laughed again, shouting promises to try her best as they ran over to their waiting friends. Because really, this was all she needed. She had Hajime and their friends, and all her video games in their cottage, and Yumigami at the hotel. And most of all, she—they—had a shining future stretching ahead of them.
Yes…this is the future we won for ourselves.
A/N: *sniffs* I love happy endings. Though, writing epilogues is hard. I had a lot of ideas that had to get cut to keep this from dragging.
Creating a character out of the blue so he can solve your problems and then dropping him with no explanation? Shame on you, Spike Chunsoft. Especially since I cannot see Class 77 viewing AIs as tools after what AI Chiaki and Usami did. So I resolved what happened to the World Destroyer. If you don't know who he is, he's from the SDR2.5OVA, which is currently Japan-only.
And of course, I couldn't forget about AI Chiaki. She and Usami are both very important, after all. The notion of bringing her back was something I was unsure on, since I wanted to avoid a deus ex machina of her returning out of nowhere. But given her status as an AI and how Alter Ego could come back after being executed, I also thought it would be very odd if the notion of trying wasn't even raised. So I went for the SDR2 middle ground—they'll try, success is a possibility, but not guaranteed.
That said, if there's one thing I've noticed, it's that fics that talk about reviving AI Chiaki never mention the same for Usami! And that makes me a bit sad. Yeah, she was annoying, but she did want to protect everyone, too. And she was AI Chiaki's sister. I'm sure she'd want her back.
I made Byakuya FF's new chairman for a couple of reasons. He has the business savvy to succeed, he's privy to Class 77's secret, he'd probably crack down hard on any corruption after all his experiences, and after his character development, he strikes a good balance between "blindly trust everyone" and "blindly distrust everyone". I also made Class 77's secret arrangement with FF because, well, just living on an island for the rest of your life doesn't strike me as really doing anything to help the world.
And…wow. That's it. Those are my last thoughts on this fic. I wanted to end it the way Dangan Ronpa usually ends—with the main problems solved, but with some uncertainty and hope in the future. Will the AIs be brought back? Will the new HPA and FF stay on their paths? Will Class 77 overcome their personal demons?I like to believe yes, but I left it open-ended.
So, what's in the future for me? I'm honestly not sure. I do want to take a break from writing for a bit. But I don't know if I'm ready to say goodbye to Extra Life just yet. I have a couple ideas in this universe that might make good one-shots, so I'm thinking about putting them together in a single fic collection.
Finally, to every single one of my beloved readers—those who left short reviews, those who left long reviews, those who didn't leave reviews at all but were still here: thank y'all so much. Your support has meant the world to me, and Extra Life has grown so much because of it. I've gotten fanart, requests to let this be translated into other languages, and someone wants to actually print and bind this like a real book! I never imagined any of this would happen. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Y'all are the best readers in the world, and it's been an absolute pleasure to write Chiaki's growth and happy ending.