Chapter 49: Save the Rebellion
Despite the calamitous events Chiaki suffered through —despair didn't befall her. Instead, she took notice of the surroundings. She laid in bed, wearing her classic attire complete with her bat hoodie. She sat up, gazing around a serene room she didn't recognize. It's as if the walls were aflame as the evening sun bathed the room in luminescence. The room didn't have a speck of dust anywhere, everything organized and maintained—a contrast to the usual mess of electronics and junk food Chiaki's old room had.
The gamer stepped out of bed, deciding to explore the mysterious house. The rooms and the hallways carried a strange serenity as if Chiaki had lived here all her life. She searched rooms, finding no one else present. She looked out the windows only to see a vast field covered in green grass and flowers. No matter how hard she thought about it, she couldn't figure out where this was or how she got here.
Finally, Chiaki walked near the front screen door. She heard the creak of a rocking chair swaying back and forth, accompanied by a pleasant hum she recognized. Opening the door, she stepped on the porch.
"You're finally up," said the smiling Chisa, her eyes gentle as she knitted. "You've been asleep so long, I worried you'd never wake up." Chisa patted the chair next to her. "Come on, enjoy the nice weather with me."
Chiaki sat down next to her, hands in her lap as she stared out into the green pastures. She'd spent most of her life in the city, so she couldn't help but get lost in how the sky consumed the landscape. "Is this a dream?" asked Chiaki.
"Perhaps," replied Chisa, smiling with her eyes closed.
"What is this place?"
"Whatever you want it to be."
This wasn't real. Chiaki had never been here, and she certainly wouldn't be here with Chisa considering their fight. Even so, being here felt right and familiar. If this was a dream, never had she been in a dream so real. "How long was I asleep?"
"For a long time. I tried to wake you up, but you never so much as stirred. I worried you were stuck in some nasty nightmare. However, you woke just like I knew you would." Chisa put aside her knitting and picked a saucer carrying a cup of hot tea. "Did something trouble you enough to make you not want to wake up?"
Chiaki stared at the floor. "Everything… the world is just… so dark. I can't help my friends, Junko's back, and you're…" Chiaki shook her head. "There's no point in saying. If this is a dream, I'm just talking to myself right now. That or I'm dead. None of this makes a difference…"
Chisa giggled. "There you go again, putting yourself down. Didn't I teach you better than that?"
"What else can I do? You saw everything that's happened."
"Yes, you're in a bleak situation. Bleaker than what I'm sure most human beings will ever experience."
Chiaki sat back, crossing her ankles. "I'd rather just stay here with you. This place…it feels so happy here. A haven away from all the despair."
"Well, that's an option. I certainly wouldn't mind the company." Chisa put her saucer down, placing her hands in her lap. "But, is that what you want? Will that make you happy?"
"Yes…no…I don't know…"
"Yes, you do know. You don't belong here. Others need you, right?"
"… No, there aren't. You were right all along Ms. Yukizome. Without you…I'm nothing. Everything good that's happened in my life is because you were there to help. If I don't have you…I can't do anything. I'm just an average person who should've stuck to her studies as my mom said. The only reason I got so far was because of you."
"Hmm, so does that mean you'll stay with me forever? I have no qualms about that." Chisa gazed at Chiaki, holding out her hand. "If you want to stay, just take my hand."
Chiaki reached for Chisa's hand, sure this was the correct choice. Just as her hand rested mere millimeters from Chisa's, the gamer stopped like an invisible force grabbed her arm. At first, she wondered what grabbed her. Then she realized nothing held her back except her hesitation. She wanted to stay here with Chisa in peace, but just like every time she's had a chance to leave it all behind—she couldn't do it. Closing her eye, Chiaki pulled her hand away, resting it by her side.
"Hehe, I guess that's that," said Chisa. "You might think your desire to help others is your burden Chiaki, but inside that will you have to help others despite shortcomings you might have—lies the key to defeating the scourge of humanity, Junko Enoshima."
"I still don't think I can… I couldn't even save you."
"The fact you won't give up, tells me you don't believe that, Chiaki." Chisa stood, walking to the edge of the porch, staring into the scenic nature. "Spring was always my favorite time of year. All the flowers surviving the harsh winter…finally blooming into their beautiful true selves… You have to go now, right?"
"Yeah, I do." Chiaki stood, giving one final look to her former teacher before walking down the steps, away from the houses. The breeze sweep across the pain as the flowers danced in its wake. "Goodbye, Ms. Yukizome."
"May your future be bright, Chiaki. As much as you think I saved you…you saved me more than you could ever imagine…"
With a determined look, Chiaki walked forward. She didn't falter or look back as the scenery around her dissolved.
When Chiaki opened her eye, she knew this was reality. In contrast to the serene scenery, she laid in bed surrounded by the white walls of a hospital room. She had returned to zero, this contrasting her awakening from her coma. Unlike then, she didn't feel any physical pain. Still, the previous events played in her mind, the grim realization of the situation she's trapped in. She sat up and turned her head to meet a surprising face—a face surprising for more reason than one.
"Hello, Nanami," said Kyoko smiling, sitting in a wheelchair with a novel in her hand. More noticeably, she wore a hospital gown like Chiaki and had bandages over half her face. "I'm sure you're perplexed right now."
Chiaki nodded her head. "… What happened to you?"
"It has to do with everything that happened in the five days you've been asleep."
Five days…thought Chiaki. With all the events happening at once, the gamer couldn't imagine how it all got resolved. She didn't know what to ask first. But one thing did stand out in her mind, recalling what Chisa said about the Future Foundation ending. "Ms. Yukizome didn't do that to you, did she?"
Kyoko looked surprised for a moment before she said, "No, not directly at least." Kyoko gazed off to the side. "Right, you don't know about that either… Yukizome committed suicide, Nanami."
Chiaki just stopped. She stopped breathing, thinking, and listening. She didn't know whether to cry or not. Now that her backstabbing former teacher was gone, that should've been a weight off her shoulders. Hearing she's gone out loud though…Chiaki didn't know how to react. "She's…dead…"
"As I said, a plethora of events happened while you slept." Kyoko leaned closer to Chiaki, putting on a more serious face. "Given all the truths that have become known, Nanami, I'm going to need you to tell me everything after I get done explaining the past few days to you. Don't worry, you're not in any trouble. Right now, I'm your friend that just wants us to be honest. Okay?"
Chiaki didn't hesitate as she said, "Yes." The two exchanged smiles. Chiaki recalled when she first met the detective, the tension between them palpable as Kyoko treated her with suspicion. Now the two were close friends, and Chiaki didn't mind trusting her to know everything that happened in the last couple of years.
Kyoko went first, explained everything in detail as the detective can do. Paraphrasing, the most important things were the killing game of the Future Foundation that resulted in the deaths of most of the leaders, Chairman Tengan's betrayal, what Ryouto ended up doing, and her classmates awakening to come and save the day before taking the blame for it all and disappearing together. Also, Kyoko mentioned the Thirteenth Division agents trapped on the ship made it out with Mizuki.
When she concluded, Kyoko sat back to give Chiaki a moment to absorb everything. The gamer didn't know whether to cry in happiness, cry in sadness, get angry, be more confused. In the end, staring at her white bedsheets, all she said was, "Oh…"
Kyoko laughed. "A suitable response."
Chiaki tightened her palms, the emotion of sadness becoming triumphant. "They're all dead…all the Future Foundation leaders… If only I said something sooner…"
It sunk in for Chiaki how she'd never get to do wacky chemistry things with Seiko anymore, hear any more of Koichi's stories, or go training with Gozu. Hell, a part of her would even miss the snobby attitude of Ruruka and the spitefulness of Juzo. They all had their flaws, but none of them deserved the deaths they suffered. It only stung more when Kyoko confirmed Miaya's body was found dead. There hadn't been enough time to confirm, but her death was all but confirmed to have happened thanks to Monika Towa.
"Yes, in the end, they ended up eating each other alive with their conflicting principles on how the organization should run. The despair videos tipped everything off, but I won't deny many of us never put aside our desires for the good of the organization. Thankfully, your friends saved the day and deflected blame onto themselves. Because of that, public morale rose and the final push we needed to stop the Despairs happened. Now, things are returning to normalcy at a rapid rate."
"Hinata…" said Chiaki, wiping aside her tears of sadness to grin.
"Be glad, Nanami. They did everything to honor your memory. Inside the Neo World Program and the rescue of the Future Foundation, they found the will to do it because you connected with them all. I've never been one to put too much stock in that sort of thing like Naegi, but even I have to admit what you did for them made a lasting impact and led to the end of despair. I'd like to think even Munakata reflected on that, wherever he is."
"And…how many people know I'm alive?"
"A few in my division, and the agents you've helped rescue. We've all kept silent until you were able to awaken and give your side of the story. Thankfully, you woke up; it looked uncertain whether you'd wake at one point."
"Yeah…" murmured Chiaki, remembering her dream, if that's what it was. Then, the gamer took a deep breath. "Okay, I'll go now."
Chiaki explained everything from as far back as Hope's Peak Academy. She described her meeting with Junko, Chisa's brainwashing, her execution, and all the events that happened in the background while she worked for the Future Foundation. When the gamer concluded, she took deep breaths since that all was a mouthful. Saying everything that happened to her put into perspective how normal the insanity became. The only thing she kept to herself for the moment was Enigma's identity.
Meanwhile, Kyoko sat back with her legs crossed, staring into space. "And you knew nothing of Mitarai or the chairman?"
"Ms. Yukizome mentioned something weird about the chairman once, but I never had any concrete feeling something happened. I never knew Mitarai had anything like that planned." Kyoko hummed, still thinking. "I'm so sorry, Kirigiri. Even if it meant I'd die, I should've told you sooner."
"The old me would agree… But, given what you went through, and how terrifying it must've been dealing with Chisa daily with the threat of death—it's unfair me to say you should've sucked it up. It was a failure on my part too; I approached you too harshly and didn't give the impression I'd help if you said the truth." Kyoko pinched her nose. "I can hear my father saying, 'I told you so' right now."
"Even so, if I spoke up, they could've lived."
"No, now that I know everything, I wouldn't be so certain. Considering the unique nature of Chisa Yukizome and the clout she had within the organization, I doubt either of us could've done anything substantial to stop her. As a detective, one thing I had to come to terms with is how something as definitive as the truth won't solve every case…" Kyoko leaned closer to the gamer, staring at her concealed eye. "And you say…you've absorbed the essence of Junko Enoshima?"
Chiaki put a hand over her cursed eye. "I couldn't tell you how she did it or how this is even possible. But every time I open it and sometimes when I dream… I feel like I lose my identity and start to become her… When I was data, a part of her must've copied onto me, I think…"
"I see…" Kyoko let out a heavy sigh before giving Chiaki a sympathetic expression. "I must confess, even after our mission to investigate Kitta Takara…a part of me still doubted you. While I always suspected Yukizome, a part of me wouldn't let go of my suspicion of you."
"I mean, you weren't wrong."
"No, I was. I considered you just as guilty as her. I failed to look behind my conjecture and consider how I knew you as a person. One of my biggest shortcomings was always failing to consider the humanity of every situation…" Kyoko put her hand on Chiaki's bed, her gloves off revealing their scars. "Something I still haven't grown out of it seems… I consider this all a failure on my part, just like you do."
Chiaki narrowed her gaze before smiling, taking Kyoko's hand in her own. "Guess we're both just too stubborn, huh?" she said which drew a laugh from Kyoko.
"You might be correct about that."
Chiaki's smile faded, gulping as she still had one last thing to tell. "There's something else… Enigma revealed himself to me." Kyoko's eyes stayed on Chiaki as if they became glued in place. "It's Junko, Kirigiri… Enigma's identity is Junko Enoshima…"
Kyoko gasped, shock plastered on her face in a way Chiaki never saw from the composed detective. Of course, learning the woman who put you in a killing game and murdered your father couldn't be easy to accept. "Nanami…do you know what you're saying…? Are you certain it wasn't a trick played by your mind or a fake…perhaps even—"
"I saw her… I spoke to her. When Murkuro took me, she denied Junko being alive every time I asked. But I always knew deep down… Yeah, looking back, I think a part of me always knew. Search your heart, Kirigiri. Would Junko Enoshima let herself die like that while assuring her sister's survival? Could someone that's done all she did, really let herself lose like that…?"
Chiaki watched as Kyoko went through all the stages of grief, the truth slowly dawning on the detective. Chiaki imagined this is what she was like when Junko revealed herself. Kyoko sat back, staring off while her mind moved a million miles an hour. After a minute of pure silence, she finally closed her eyes and said, "I take it she used a body double?"
"Yeah, I'm not sure of the details, but the mutual killing game and the Tragedy was just an experiment for her to see how long it could all last if she didn't live."
Kyoko balled her fists when Chiaki uttered the word "experiment," no doubt angry at the carefree attitude the blond had towards her unforgivable acts. "So, how did you get away then?"
"… A game. I challenged her to one final game, only this time it's a game of my choosing. She agreed and gave me a month to come up with something. Then, we'll face off one-on-one."
"Goodness, it's like a Greek epic… You don't intend to follow through, right? It'd be more prudent to lure her out, then capture her for the last time. If you want, we'll devise a plan. Togami can have the Future Foundation ready in—"
"No," interrupted Chiaki, looking down, "I'm doing it alone. I meant everything I said to her…"
"Nanami…" Kyoko crossed her arms. "I know you might still fear help from the Future Foundation, but it's okay now. Yukizome is gone and the organization is reformed. You have my promise you won't be arrested, and your name will be cleared. Junko Enoshima is the world's problem, so let us help you."
"You don't understand; it has to be this way. This won't work if it's not me, and me alone. Maybe I have finally gone insane, maybe Ms. Yukizome did fill my head with too many lies, maybe it's Junko's will twisting my heart and wanting nothing but revenge." Chiaki furrowed her brow. "This will only work if I do it!"
Kyoko stared back at her, flabbergasted. "Why…? Why in the world would you do something so foolish?" Then the detective developed an angry look of her own. "After everything you went through and the sacrifice your friends made to ensure our survival, why would you throw it all always on such a thing!"
"I can't explain it in fancy detail like someone as talented as you. It's just…after learning about her, meeting her…having a piece of her with me—I don't know what it is exactly, but I know there's something there."
"You're not the savior, Nanami; I don't mean that disparagingly. A title like that only serves as a burden. Since I've been working with Naegi, I've seen what it can bring. In a way, Yukizome fabricating it all should be a relief to you. Whatever responsibility you thought you had was absolved. Not facing Junko doesn't make you a failure… It's better to have a full life than a foolish death."
Chiaki gawked somberly out of the window, the skies clearer than they've been in a long time. "I'm sorry, but I have to. My friends, they found their answer and saved a world that will never welcome then again for no other reason than it was the right thing. Now, I have to do the same." Chiaki put a hand over her eye, an ugly truth about her condition beginning to dawn. "Besides…I'm on borrowed time anyway thanks to Junko's will."
"Nanami…" murmured Kyoko, melancholic eyes. "You don't mean…"
"I hoped it'd go away, but now I know it'll keep spreading. Eventually, I'll probably become just like Ms. Yukizome—stuck in a limbo of despair until I fully lose myself. Maybe I have a few months…probably less than that. I'm going to atone for my failures when the time comes, and I'll join Ms. Yukizome wherever she went." Despite herself, Chiaki smiled reassuringly. "Until then, honor my dying wish, and let this typical gamer play one final time."
Kyoko maintained her sad demeanor, silence resuming. The gamer wished she didn't have to put the detective in this position. After all the death and betrayal of the past few days, now she had to accept her friend's willingness to face off against Junko Enoshima before her inevitable demise. Chiaki didn't know why she wasn't as upset. Maybe so much has happened that her emotions just began to numb to maintain her remaining sanity.
"And what of your classmates? I assumed you'd want to find them upon learning of what happened."
Chiaki reveled at the thought for a moment before turning away. "My place isn't with them anymore. They reached their conclusion and found their answer. I don't have too much longer anyway, so it's better they think I'm still dead and not have to suffer through me losing my mind… This is the only thing left I can do."
"… This is just like the final trial all over again," said Kyoko. "A desperate situation that despite all my reasoning, I can't think of a solution. Yet, Naegi's words were enough to usurp that, leading me to a conclusion I couldn't bring about with all the logic I had…" Kyoko breathed out before giving Chiaki a wry smile. "If that's your wish, Nanami, I'll honor it."
"Thank you." Chiaki took a breath of relief, ironic considering she just got permission to face Junko which is the opposite of relief. "If you can, keep what I'm doing quite for now. No one must interfere at all."
"I can have that arranged for the time being. Technically, you're under my protection now." Kyoko's patent cynical expression appeared. "Let me ask you: Do you know exactly what you'll do? Do you know what kind of game you'll challenge her too, where it'll be, or even how you'll set it up?" Chiaki blushed with embarrassment as Kyoko sighed. "As I suspected…"
Things moved so fast, Chiaki never thought about any of the finer details. She could think of a million things she'd seen in games, but putting them into practice wouldn't be easy. It's not like she could wage the fate of the world on a game of tic-tact-toe with Junko Enoshima herself. And even then, Chiaki doubted she'd win. Nonetheless, thinking about what game to do couldn't be done until the gamer finds out why she gets to Junko.
It all went back to the truth about who Junko Enoshima is. But what could it be? Despite Chisa admitting it was all a lie, maybe Junko did have some exploitable flaw. Why else would Izuru consider Chiaki the only one to face Junko? Then again, Izuru did say she'd lose. Chiaki rubbed her head, frustrated. I have no clue how to proceed…
Then Junko's words rang in her ear about the truth being right before her eye. Just the thought of jumping into that abyss of despair terrified Chiaki too much to consider.
"If I may," said Kyoko, noticing Chiaki's inner struggle. "After the fallout of the Future Foundation killing game, Chisa's room and offices were raided. We did end up finding some incriminating evidence; however, an interesting object was found." Kyoko gestured to the small table next to Chiaki's bed. On it rested a white card.
Interested, Chiaki picked up the card. She flipped it over, a few words written in the impeccable handwriting of Chisa. "If you want a solution, return to the flowers of tribute," said Chiaki speaking the words out loud.
"I've gone over it a thousand times and never deciphered it. You were close with her, so I'd hope you'd shed some light on its meaning."
This confused Chiaki. The words themselves weren't confusing since Chiaki understood what this mysterious message said in seconds. The housekeeper mentioned it a few times, and it stuck with the gamer because of how it reminded her she shouldn't be alive. Rather, what confused Chiaki is why Chisa would bother writing her this. Why would she bother with this if…?
"Chiaki?" said Kyoko. "Do you have an idea about what it means?"
"… Yeah, I do." Chiaki removed the covers, revealing her scarred legs, her skin pale. She moved her legs around, her muscles nice and spry. "I thought they'd be all tight after not moving for days."
"Hina would come in here every day and massage your legs so they'd stay loose."
Chiaki smiled, wishing she could see the swimmer before she left. "I'm going to need some clothes and some money for a cab ride. Maybe extra for some snacks and stuff. If this is the last time I see you…thanks for everything, Kyoko."
Kyoko's eyes widened. "Slow down for a minute. What did the letter mean? Where are you going…?"
Chiaki paused before she said, "Somewhere I never thought I'd go again…"
Getting out of the hospital required some compromise on Chiaki's part. In the end, she agreed to contact Kyoko daily and give her a status report on what she did that day. Afterward, Kyoko handed Chiaki back her belongings—discretely escorting her from the hospital before handing her some money. When asked, Chiaki told Kyoko to tell those who know she's alive she had a particularly important task to handle. They'd probably think she's selfish for running off after everything that's happened, but Chiaki had enough of a problem.
Chiaki sat in the back, leaning against the cool window of the cab, adorned in her Future Foundation uniform with V.E.I.L by her side. Since all her belongings and money were put under hold for now by the Future Foundation after the truth came out, Chiaki only had the clothes on her back. Wearing her uniform gave Chiaki a bitter sense of nostalgia since she technically wasn't a Future Foundation agent anymore. The gamer didn't know what to call herself at this point other than a person foolishly resisting fate.
And then her thoughts went to her friends. Sitting in this car gave her mind time to catch up on everything Kyoko told her and that's the first thing she thought about. What were they doing now? Kyoko said they seemed happy and at peace with themselves. Chiaki never wanted anything more than that. Granted, she wanted to be by their side too. But her failures assured that dream would stay just that, a dream. Luckily, Makoto and the others helped when they did and gave them a chance to win against the false Junko.
Then the other side of the spectrum, an immense sorrow for her former division leaders. While Chiaki didn't get as close to them as her classmates, thanks to the bizarre circumstances of her employment courtesy of Chisa, she still mourned. Her heart even went out to Kyosuke who must deal with the fact both his friends were dead and who Chisa Yukizome was. Chiaki would miss them; if she could, she'd go back in time and die in their place if it meant stopping Chisa's sinister plans.
Chiaki hadn't even had proper time to mourn Miaya. How hard the therapist must've taken it as she saw the organization fall apart. She'd always remember the gentle eyes of Miaya she woke up to. In retrospect, the therapist saved her life back then. Chiaki furrowed her brow while the name Monica Towa quietly left her lips. She knew of her nefarious deeds now; even though she was young, the gamer didn't know what she'd do if Miaya's killer stood across from her.
While Chiaki did her absolute best, she couldn't stop herself from thinking of Chisa. How should she feel? The housekeeper helped destroy the Future Foundation leaders and made her life a living hell. Chiaki should revel in her death, hoping that if hell did exist—the housekeeper would get a first-class ticket.
So why? The gamer thought over and over. Even with the essence of Junko always whispering in her ear to hate and resent, the gamer couldn't bring herself to hate the housekeeper. With everything that's happened, she didn't have the energy to hate. The only thing she focused on was Junko Enoshima.
"How long…?" she murmured, touching her closed eye. Admittedly, the gamer overstated how fast her mind degraded to convince Kyoko to let her go—but it wasn't a lie. Chiaki knew, eventually, her mind would succumb. There wouldn't be any extra lives this time. Physical injuries were one thing, but this problem would never vanish. Her former teacher became living proof of that.
However, this didn't put Chiaki in despair. With the world recovering, and Despair almost gone—only Junko Enoshima remained. Of course, that wasn't to understate the problem since it's a colossal one. But with her gone, everything would be over for good. No other person on the planet could replicate what she's done. It all counted on Chiaki finding an answer where she was going.
Just what did you have planned…Ms. Yukizome? thought Chiaki. If what she thought she'd find turned out correct, what Chisa did utterly perplexed her. The gamer felt like an idiot for even doing what she said after everything. Regardless, the gamer had no moves left and whenever she didn't, Chisa always gave her one at the last second. She'd just have to count on the fact Chisa might unintentionally give her something helpful.
"We've reached your stop…" said the driver, an older man. "Are you sure this is where you wanted to go? I mean…this place…"
"No, it's exactly where I want to be," said Chiaki, paying her fare before stepping out of the cab. "Thank you very much."
The driver still looked hesitant. "Just watch yourself. I don't know if you heard, but this place has some ominous stories behind it."
Chiaki smiled. "I've heard a thing or two."
With that, the driver tipped his hat and drove away, leaving Chiaki alone. A nice breeze came through, Chiaki closing her eye and taking it all in. Despite everything, this filled her with nostalgia. She walked to the spot she did all those years ago, right in the middle of the giant insignia, and stared up at the place she loathed upon first visiting. She imagined Chisa laughing at how she'd do this in a place where Chiaki never wanted to see again.
At one time, this place was a symbol of her despair.
And now, she suspected, it'd be her final hope.
"I'm back," said Chiaki, a stoic expression, "Hope's Peak Academy."
It's been awhile everyone; I hope you're all doing well. Due to more free time now and a new laptop that works, I've been able to write a bit here and there again. The updates will still be somewhat inconsistent, but I'll still try to get to the finish line. Also, from here on out since this is the final arc, I'll stop the skits since I want this serious tone to continue. Maybe I'll do some after the finale, but it remains to be seen. Thanks for reading!