Important message at the end of the chapter!
"The target is gone and the Earth is saved. Thanks for all of your hard work this past year. I imagine there are some things you'll find hard to swallow. You'll have all eyes on you for a while, I'm afraid, and I'm sure they'll be asking to keep mum on confidential matters. Of course, I'll do my utmost to protect you, but allow me to apologize in advance."
As he bowed, Ame couldn't help but snort. "Being so formal with us doesn't suit you, Karasuma-sensei. Even if the mission's over with, you're still our teacher."
"Don't worry about it," added Maehara with a small smile. "We'll do our best to get this settled peacefully, too."
"We don't want to complicate things for you," nodded Okano.
Waking up with the sun the next morning, Ame had been very surprised to realize that, while the loss was still fresh in her mind, she already felt better. Maybe it was because she had already cried all of the meager tears she had left, or maybe because she had already resolved herself to moving forward with her head held high—either way, she no longer felt that heart-wrenching agony that had been ripping her apart the night before, and now?
There's so much I have to do… I can't wait to get started!
And, thankfully enough, the rest of her classmates seemingly shared the sentiment. No more tears were shed, knowing smiles had been exchanged, and they had even taken the time to take a better look at the yearbook, until Karasuma and Irina dropped by to officially conclude the matter of the assassination mission.
Kataoka rose to her feet. "In return, we do have one request. Please, let us attend Kunugigaoka's graduation ceremony today. Our days spent battling with the main campus are yet another precious memory we made with Korosensei, after all."
At that, Karasuma smiled. "Of course—I'll arrange it. After all, that's why I'm here."
Isogai smiled at that, also jumping to his feet. "All students: stand up!" Everyone did as told, and Karasuma's eyes widened slightly as, at once, they all bowed before him. "Karasuma-sensei, Bitch-sensei—you taught us so much. Thank you very much!"
"THANK YOU VERY MUCH!" chorused the E-Class.
Once the formalities were done and over with, the students finally left their desks to mingle together, acting as if it was yet another normal day of school. And, despite everything that had happened, it really was just that—another day of school.
"So where is graduation, anyway?"
"School's locked up tight. Looks like it's at the civic center."
"We'll need our folks to bring by our uniforms, uh?"
Seeing her classmates act so normally brought a smile to Ame's face. In the end, she was glad that what had happened hadn't broken the bond they had built over the last year—if anything, it had only strengthened it. Thinking back to the night before, though, she then remembered a small detail that had escaped her before.
"Ne, Isogai-kun…" The boy looked at her when she joined him, curious. "Last night, when you came to help me…"
"Ah, that? W- well, it simply looked like you were having trouble breathing, and I was- I was afraid you might have gone into shock," he stuttered out, his cheeks reddening a bit. "I was- I was a tad caught up in the moment, but I apologize if it made you uncomfortable—"
She chuckled at that, shaking her head lightly. "It's okay, Isogai-kun. To be honest… I was at a loss as to what to do, until you came along. So… thank you. It- it really meant a lot to me."
Surprised, he then smiled. "Any time, Ame-san."
"Drop the san already, would you?" she snorted, rolling her eyes. "After everything we've been through, I'm surprised everyone here isn't already on a first-name basis."
"… well, in that case, call me Yuuma." His smile widened as she startled a bit. "I suppose you're right: we're well past formalities at that point."
At once, Maehara appeared between the two of them, slinging an arm over each of their necks as he brought them closer to him, grinning from ear to ear.
"Hey, hey! Everyone's heading down the mountain now, so if you two are quite done flirting…~"
Without hesitation, the two concerned parties heaved out matching sighs and, at once, lifted their fists to knock them down on the flirt's skull. While he cradled his head with a moan of pain, effectively releasing them, the two exchanged a slightly embarrassed smile, before heading out along with the rest of the class.
Getting to the civic center where the graduation was to be held had been a rather eventful venture, but they somehow managed to all make it there in one piece. After quickly getting changed into their uniforms, which had been provided by the Principal himself after Karasuma contacted him about the matter, the E-Class was swiftly ushered inside before the journalists and paparazzi could get a word in.
All around them, the gazes of their fellow schoolmates were heavy and wary, and there was simply no stopping the rumor mill. However, the E-Class had long since gotten used to stares and whispers and, as such, they took their seats with their head held high, and the ceremony finally began. Ame didn't really pay attention as everyone was called upon the stage one after the other, already thinking over everything she needed to do now that her future was knocking at her door.
The next two years at Kunugigaoka Senior High School will be packed to the brim with the normal course, the extra-classes I'll be taking in the evenings to get ahead of the traditional college lawyering courses, and the advanced training I'll start receiving from Saru. Then, my third year will be spent in America, where I'll be pursuing my studies independently in order to get a diploma and a license in the fourth year, at most, all the while receiving specialized training and hands-on experience from the field with Saru's contacts in New York.
And after all of that, once I have all of the tools I need at my disposal, I'll—
She swiftly rose to her feet, as if she hadn't been lost in thoughts up until now. "Aa."
Silently making her way over to the stage, she met the gaze of the Principal head-on, which made him smile—like, actually smile.
"I saw you enrolled in Kunugigaoka again. I'm looking forward to having you in the A-Class."
She smirked at that, bowing as she took the diploma he was handing her. "Not afraid I might kick your son off his little throne?"
He chuckled lightly at that. "Some competition will do him good. I look forward to seeing what kind of changes you will bring about in this world, Naoki-san."
With one last bow, she then returned to her seat, her diploma in hands and her future just ahead of her.
Everything is planned out.
Every problem has been resolved.
Every problem… saved for one.
"Ame-san—I mean, Ame."
"Hmm? What is it, Yuuma-kun?"
The ceremony was over, and they were now in the main hall, awaiting their lift. Ame had managed to convince her grandmother not to come, seeing as she didn't want her or the kids to get caught up in the mess with the journalists, but a few other students were now conversing with their respective families. Isogai was right next to her, though, also alone, and visibly nervous.
I've been pushing the matter away, ignoring it to the best of my abilities, but I can't possibly let things end like this. It's… it's now or never.
I need to be honest with Isogai—I mean, Yuuma, no matter what his answer might be.
"Actually, I'm glad you're here, 'cause I need to tell you something important," she admitted, feeling strangely calm and levelheaded now that she faced her final obstacle. "Though, go ahead—you spoke up first."
"W- well… It's just… We've shared many experiences during the past year, Ame, and I've come to realize… I've come to realize that I like you—and not just as a friend." Biting his lower lip, he then bowed deeply. "Ame-san, will you please go out with me?"
After a few seconds of very tensed silence… Ame started laughing. It started off as soft chuckles, until it turned into full-blown laughter. It wasn't mocking or taunting, though—merely joyous, and relieved, which made Isogai tilt his head in confusion. Did she not take him seriously…?
"Ah, geez! And here I thought I didn't stand a chance," she admitted, grinning a bit. "I really wasn't sure of how to breach the subject, but it looks like you beat me to the punch, uh?"
Isogai's eyes widened slightly. "You- you mean—!?"
"Yes, Yuuma-kun—I'd love to go out with you."
At any other time, Ame would have been embarrassed beyond measure. Love and romance was not her field of expertise, and she had no experience whatsoever. And yet, now that the truth was finally out in the open… she just felt happy. Giddy, even. Apparently just as glad as she was, Isogai smiled brightly. Before he could say anything else, though, Maehara, Rio, and Karma suddenly got the drop on them.
"About damn time, you two!"
"Man, I was hoping Ame would get a little more embarrassed…"
"You- you guys!" This time, Ame did blush a bit. "How long have you been there!?"
Rio grinned, showing her her phone. "Long enough to get a full video of this lovely confession."
"Wha—give it here!"
Ame instantly gave chase, the blonde taking off in a heartbeat, and the two of them soon found themselves running around the entire hall, while most of the boys who had been nearby—meaning eavesdropping—went up to Isogai to congratulate him. Just as Ame managed to get her hands on Rio, though, the doors of the civic center burst open.
"The ceremony's over!"
"It's interview time!"
"E-Class, a word!"
Karasuma instantly stepped in, while the E-Class retreated to the back of the room. "This place is off-limits!"
Dozens and dozens of journalists were now trying to break through the security perimeter Karasuma had set up and, though the agents in place did manage to stop most of the swarm, a few of the journalists and cameraman managed to slip through their defenses.
"Everyone! There's a bus standing by outside the main gate!"
Easier said than done! How are we supposed to get outside without getting maimed!?
"What truly happened?"
"How do you feel?"
"Did you really kill the monster!?"
Just as Ame was about to snap and punch the living daylights out of the nearest journalist that had just tried to grab her, though, a large banner sporting Kunugigaoka's colors and emblem was suddenly lifted above their heads, and it took a few seconds for Ame to realize that the students now standing between the E-Class and those vultures were none other than the Big Five themselves.
"Oi, brats! Quit meddling with our coverage!" snapped a cameraman, who could no longer film the E-Class now that they were hidden under that banner.
With synchronized movement, they started advancing through the crowd, completely shielding the E-Class from view and keeping the journalists at bay.
"You quit meddling with our moment in the sun!" snapped Sero, annoyed.
"After a little editing, I might just release this online," taunted Araki, his own camera rolling and filming the wild crowd before them.
"We know what you look like!" warned Koyama, chuckling darkly.
"Now, let us escort you to the front gate," urged Sakakibara, whom Sugino was trying to ward away from Kanzaki.
"Gakushu… Why?" asked Ame, genuinely clueless. "You don't owe us anything like that."
"It's not about owing, Ame. Our ties and relationship end today, for the most part, but we are still students who studied at the same school," he replied simply. He glanced back at her, smirking a little. "To abandon you now would bring shame upon your ruler—me."
"Ruler, uh? Careful, or your head won't pass the doors," she sweatdropped.
His smirk simply widened, if possible, and they finally made it outside. With the help of the rest of the students of the A-Class, the journalists stuck outside were pushed out of the way, and a safe passage to the bus was created. The students wasted no time in climbing aboard, briefly thanking their unexpected saviors as they did so.
"Ame, Akabane," called out Asano as they entered the bus. "Seems you're the only ones staying here. Once all this blows over, I'll string you up and make you spill the beans." At that, he smiled confidently—but there was no harshness in it, merely a genuine eagerness. "You'll tell me about this Korosensei guy who actually managed to get you all this far."
"Well, I don't mind," mused Karma in a light tone. "But with your hard head, you might struggle to understand it all."
Rolling her eyes, Ame pushed him inside. "Alright, alright, no need to taunt him before the school year even starts. You two can start over with your rivalry after the summer."
"Ooh? You don't consider yourself our rival, then, Ame?" remarked Gakushu, amused.
"Why bother? I'll claim the first place and stay there—you two can fight all you want for the crown of second-best, I don't care."
Surprised, Gakushu then outright laughed, and Ame finally climbed aboard too. Once there, she found Isogai sitting at the front, with a free seat next to him. She sat down, exchanging a smile with the boy—her boyfriend, how the hell did that happen, seriously?—as the bus finally started moving… and then, it dawned on her.
Everything's over now.
And yet… everything is only just starting.
"Ne, Ame?" Rio leaned over her seat to look at her friend. "You know, I just realized, but you never did tell me what your goal is. I get that you want to become a lawyer, and the Leader of the Zodiac, but what's your endgame?"
"Uh? Oh, that's simple, really," shrugged Ame, before offering her friend a feral grin. "The utter and complete eradication of the Underworld."
"WHAT!?" exclaimed the rest of her classmates, who had been listening in.
"You heard me! Drug rings, black market, human trafficking, corruption, assassination—all of that and more will disappear," she assured, her eyes alight with determination. "The entire Underworld is my target and, once my knife has been sharpened enough with the right tools and the needed experience, I'll strike—and it'll be a fatal blow."
In the end, I might not be able to become a Hero… but it doesn't mean I leave this world a little better than I found it.
You were right to believe in me, Korosensei—and I'll prove it.
Kunugigaoka suffered heavy social damage for allowing its students to be put into the line of fire. The E-Class system was also seen as problematic and was later on abolished—meaning the E-Class campus was officially shut down, too. Principal Asano also had to relinquish his administrative rights
The thirty-billion bounty was paid in full, but it was both their reward for completing the mission, and hush money for keeping mum on the details of said mission. After much discussion, though, it was agreed that each student would take a share in order to pay for their tuition and live on their own, but most of it was used for a single group purchase: the E-Class campus and mountain themselves. As for the rest of the money, they donated most of it to various establishments, before giving back what was left to the government.
Ame had had a difficult time explaining the entire situation to her family—mainly because the children kept on interrupting her, though. In the end, however, she didn't have much convincing to do: after having witnessed for herself how much Ame had grown in the past year, her grandmother easily understood that her teacher hadn't been as bad as the media and the government made him out to be. As for the kids, well, they were mostly angry about the fact that Ame never told them anything before, but that problem was quickly solved with a few sugary bribes.
The moon began to crumble, slowly but surely. Under its own gravity, it would eventually end up a much smaller sphere than before. The explosion had also brought it closer to Earth, so after a while, its size, shape, gravity, and orbit would start to look and feel very similar to the way it was before its destruction.
All in all, things were now moving forward, and so did the students of the E-Class.
Seven Years Later
Japan, Ministry of Defense
"There's been some dangerous movement from an organization that incites violence in the Middle East. The plan is to send in a secret agent to infiltrate their group. You'll head there tomorrow, Irina."
"Okay, sure." The blonde then smirked lightly. "But I'm scared, Chief Karasuma. If a gorgeous woman like me gets captured in dangerous territory…" She sat on his desk, amused. "Or does the thought actually turns you on? Picturing your wife having all kinds of things done to her…"
Karasuma stared at her, unperturbed by her seduction attempt. "I asked you to go because I had faith in your abilities. But if that's really how you see yourself…" His eyes narrowed slightly as he pulled away from her. "Then I have no choice. I'll ask someone else."
"Uh!? But—ah, wait!" She latched onto him as he started heading for the door. "I was joking! I just wanted you to show a little concern! Come on, sweetie!"
"Wow, you two haven't changed at all, have you?"
Husband and wife stiffened and, in a heartbeat, they had spun around while pulling out their guns, instantly aiming it at the intruder now sitting on the windowsill. It took the two of them a few seconds to recognize the woman before them, and said woman's grin widened slightly.
"Yo. Long time no see, Karasuma-sensei, Bitch-sensei."
"Naoki," grunted Karasuma, lowering his gun. "It looks like you haven't changed either. Can't you use a door for once in your life?"
"But that'd be boring, wouldn't it?"
The last time either Karasuma or Irina had seen Naoki Ame in the flesh was two years earlier, when her little troupe of info-brokers got involved in an affair of corruption and fund embezzlement some higher-ups of the government had been trying to hide. They had ended up working the case together but, after that, she had once again disappeared into the wild.
She had grown, becoming jut a little taller than Irina. She was a tad on the lanky side, but she still moved gracefully and without a sound, and her muscles were subtle, but define—truly the body of a professional info-broker. Her long black hair was let loose, and her orange eyes shone with a life experience she could have only gained with age, but also the same mirth and mysteriousness she sported when they first met her, back at Kunugigaoka.
"Here." She offered the man a large, thick file. "Take it as a late gift for your engagement. Congratulations, by the way. I would have come, but I was a little caught up at the time."
Irina's eyes widened slightly as she looked into the file. "That's- that's info on the organization I was about to infiltrate! How did you—"
"I already have my people working on it. We're not really fond of terrorists, you see."
Karasuma pinched the bridge of his nose. "Can you not indirectly mention your criminal contacts in the office of the Chief of the Ministry of Defense?"
"Maa, maa, live a little! It's not like we're doing anything bad, is it?" She paused, thinking it over, before shrugging carelessly. "Mostly, anyway. Gotta keep food on the table, still."
"And your work as an international lawyer doesn't bring in enough? Allow me to doubt that—even more so considering how infamous you've become in the span of barely three years," replied flatly Irina, before softening slightly. "But, for what it's worth… good job, Ame. You've been doing good out there."
At that, Ame's smirk turned into a genuine smile. "I try! Gotta make Korosensei proud, you know?"
"Even if your methods are unorthodox and often illegal—for not saying most of the time—I daresay you're doing a good job of it," finally admitted Karasuma, putting the file on his desk. He offered her a small smile. "You've truly outdone yourself, Naoki."
"Just doing what I do best—meddling, gathering info, and kicking some bastards right into prison," she summarized, amused. "Anyway, I can't stay for too long—there's a get-together that's been a long time coming, and I don't want to miss it." She then pointed at the file she had just given them. "You guys can thank me later for the money, alright?"
"Money? What money?" blinked Irina, now confused.
"It's in the file. Didn't I tell you it's a late gift for your engagement?" She pulled out her phone, quickly typing something. "There ought to be enough in there for you two to pay yourselves another nice honeymoon, so pick somewhere nice and have fun."
"Naoki, we have work—"
"Actually, I already scheduled your vacations in two weeks' time," replied the teen, grinning again as she showed them their personal schedules, on her phone. "It's in the system already, so might as well roll with it and enjoy it, right?"
"What—stop hacking into government property!"
With a joyful laugh, Ame then proceeded to jump from the windowsill, gracefully landing on the grass below before swiftly somersaulting over the fence, and then going on her merry way down the street, as if she hadn't just broken into the Ministry of Defense itself. Karasuma and Irina watched her go, a tad dumbstruck by her short and impromptu visit, and the man finally heaved out a heavy sigh, rubbing his temples.
"Even after all this time, she still gives me a headache…" he muttered under his breath.
"Well, it looks like I don't need to leave after all," mused Irina, sparing a glance for the file on his desk. "I suppose I should thank her later for the gift."
"What? We are not taking this information—"
"Oh, please," his wife huffed, rolling her eyes. "As if you never accepted questionable information from that girl before. Just because it's the first time she delivers it in person doesn't mean I never noticed the name Kitsune in your contacts."
Karasuma stiffened slightly at that, before slumping in defeat. "She's always three steps ahead of everything… There's no fighting it…"
Irina simply chuckled, patting his shoulder. She knew that, no matter how tough or righteous he tried to act sometimes, he was still grateful for his former student's help. After all, even though Ame had become quite famous as a lawyer in the past few years, she was also leading her double-life as a member of the Zodiac—or rather, as its Leader. In other words, she had numerous contacts all around the world, with access to every single black market, and first-hand knowledge of whatever made the Underworld work.
That being said, she's also put herself in the best position to make it crumble from the inside which, ultimately, was her goal, if I recall correctly, mused internally Irina, instinctively lifting her eyes to the crumbled moon outside. Korosensei… You'd be proud of the woman she's become.
The life-plan Ame had established on the day of graduation had been followed to the letter: two years of study in Kunugigaoka, and the third one in America. The year spent on foreign soil had been… peculiar, to say the least. She had met a number of very interesting people, she had made friends all over one of the most powerful countries in the world, and she even toppled another world-class threat while she was at it, because she really was used to it at that point.
Making a name for herself as a lawyer hadn't been all that difficult, to be fair. With people working on all sides of the law, she had managed to bring to justice a large ring of sex trafficking and their not-so-anonymous clients—and, needless to say, finding numerous of their political and military figures involved in that nasty business made the American people more than a little angry. And, after successfully concluding the case in court with iron-clad proofs and enough money to un-bribe the various judges—she stole that money from the accounts of the people she was working on sending to jail because she figured it was a nice way to make them pay even more for their wretched activities—she became incredibly famous.
Taking down parts of the Underworld bit by bit all the while expanding her web of connections, Ame eventually concluded her business in America and returned to Japan, where she finally took the mantle of Leader of the Zodiac. Saru was still around, of course, but he had long since stopped calling the shots—even before Ame officially became Leader.
Once all of the members settled down in the new routine, though, their work tripled. With so many sources of information to manage at once, and more people either uniting to try and go against them, or licking their boots in hopes that they wouldn't become the next target, the Zodiac members had their hands full.
Ame was swarmed with work, on both ends of the lawful spectrum. If leading a double-life before had been hard, it couldn't compare to what it had become. She worked relentlessly, rarely giving herself a break—she couldn't afford one, not if she wanted to settle her position in the Underworld as quickly as she could manage, not until she became absolutely untouchable, in every sense of the word.
She sharpened her blades, worked out numerous backup plans, exploited every single weakness she managed to find—she put into practice every single lesson Korosensei had taught her. As lazy as she could be, Ame was also determined, and she wouldn't rest until she knew for certain that her real target was fully cornered and incapacitated.
The plan is in motion, now. I've done everything I could. Hands in her pockets, she stared up at the mountain before her—it was a lot smaller than she remembered it to be, and the sight was nostalgic. One could say I'm only really starting now, uh? Korosensei would say that I'm only at the starting line… The thought of her teacher brought a small smile to her lips. But it's okay. I'm ready to do whatever it takes, so as to leave this world better than I found it, just like I promised.
Today, though… Today, I think I can allow myself to rest for a bit.
"Yo! Miss TV Drama Actress!"
Seven years hadn't changed the former E-Class campus much, saved for the fact that it needed some serious tidying up. So, at least once a year, all of the former students who weren't too busy at the time dropped by for a day of cleaning and catching up with each other as a group.
"Kaede-chan, are you in costume?" asked Yada, curious. "Are you sure you're not too busy?"
"Actually, I snuck out during a break," admitted Kayano, chuckling sheepishly. "I can't always let you guys do all the work, after all."
"Alright, everyone!" called out Isogai. "Let's get started!"
"Yeah!" cheered the others.
"Ooh? Once class representative, always class representative," teased Kataoka.
"Well, you all practically forced me to hold on to the key," sweatdropped the man.
"This kind of stuff has always been best left to you," replied Maehara, amused. He then slung an arm around his friend's shoulders as they started heading inside. "On another subject entirely, do you know if Ame's gonna drop by?"
"Ah, yes, she promised she'd come today."
"Really? That's great! Been a while since I saw her… And how are you two doing, anyway?"
After a moment of hesitation, Isogai carefully pulled out a small, square box he had been hiding in his pocket. It took Maehara a few seconds to understand what he meant by that and, as soon as he did, his eyes widened almost comically.
"For- for real!?"
"Shh! No one knows yet! I- I've been planning on asking her for a while, now, but her jobs have been keeping her pretty busy lately, so…"
"Ah, I get it, I get it," chuckled Maehara, shaking his head. "Still, I'll admit, I'm surprised you guys actually made it this far. You know, what with having to keep up a long-distance relationship, and then always being separated because of Ame's jobs…"
"Well, it wasn't easy at first," relented Isogai, putting away the small box. A gentle smile then graced his lips. "But we both put in a lot of efforts, and… I love her. I really do. And I know she feels the same, too."
Laughing, Maehara slapped his back. "I'm happy for you, man, I really am. Make sure to send me an invitation, alright?"
"An invitation to what, exactly?"
Both men instantly tensed up, spinning around to find none other than Naoki Ame now standing right behind them, a bemused smile on her lips. Seeing their expressions, she laughed.
"Don't worry, I literally just got here. So? What were you—"
All at once, all of the girls present rushed up to her, practically tackling her to the ground and trapping her underneath a dog pile of hugs. Laughing and wheezing a little, it took Ame a few minutes before she finally managed to extract herself and breathe in some much-needed air.
"Sheesh… What was that about, you guys?"
"Aah? We haven't seen you in four years, Ame-chan!" protested Kurahashi. "You're always off somewhere in another country!"
"Right, we haven't seen you since that particular fiasco in New York, uh?" teased Fuwa.
"We've seen you on TV, though," mused Kataoka. "Looks like you're hitting it big, uh?"
"You've covered a lot of pretty amazing cases, Ame-chan," recalled Hara, smiling like a proud mother. She pumped her fist in the air. "We're cheering for you!"
"Everyone…" murmured Ame, honestly surprised. After a moment, she grinned. "It's good to see you guys—and I swear, from now on, no more disappearing act if I can help it."
"Did something happen?" asked curiously Kimura. "I thought for sure you'd run straight back to the airport as soon as you were done here."
She shook her head, amused. "I've spent the last four years traveling all over the world to create a stable network of connections and making myself a reputation. As of yesterday, all of the major obstacles that stood in my way before have been dealt with. From here on out, what's ahead is a smooth road with a side bump from time to time—nothing that can't be easily handled with a phone call or two."
"And considering you're an independent lawyer who earned herself worldwide recognition, the clients will be coming to you instead of you going to them," understood Yada, nodding in understanding. She then clasped her hands together, smiling brightly. "That's truly amazing, Ame-chan!"
"Though, now you have four years to catch up on," teased Maehara, poking her cheek. "I hope you're ready for an earful."
"Oh, please—just because I didn't keep directly in touch with all of you doesn't mean I didn't keep an eye on you," she replied, now smirking. She then pulled out her phone and started showing them… pictures? "I've seen your food blog, Hara-chan—really good recipes. And of course, I've been keeping up with Okajima's photos in the magazines, and Akari's dramas, and Mimura's first short movie on the web—when's the sequel, by the way? Also, I've read everything Fuwa-chan edited, and I've watched all of Sugino's baseball games, and Kurahashi's nature blog, and I've been keeping up with the secret research Takebayashi and Okuda-chan have started working on—"
"Okay, okay, now it's just getting creepy," sweatdropped Maehara, shaking his head.
"Well, that's Ame-chan for you," chuckled Kayano.
Ame rolled her eyes, putting her phone away. "All that to say: you're my friends and, as such, I care. Is that really so bad?"
Isogai chuckled, wrapping an arm around her. "No one said that. Your methods are just a little unorthodox, but that's nothing new, is it?"
"Point." Shaking her head, she briefly pecked him on the cheek, before stealing the keys he had been holding on to, grinning. "Now, how about we all get to work? We didn't come here to laze around!"
They worked for a few hours, fixing up the old building, repainting it, pulling out the bad weeds, cleaning the windows, and the floors… After a while, they all settled down in the classroom for a lunch break.
"We should think about putting this place to some use, not just preserving it," then remarked Isogai, putting down his drink. "You know—before we get busy with job-hunting."
"Okano's using the back of the mountain," recalled Maehara. "She formed an acrobatic performance squad at her sports college. Said this is the training field she's most used to. And then, there's Kurahashi giving nature tours to kids."
"Well, she's always had her way of earning pocket money," mused Ame. "My little brother, Jackie, is her assistant, too. I think he has a crush on her."
"Then there's Takebayashi and Okuda with their research on developing artificial blood that can be transfused regardless of blood type," mused Kayano, thinking about their friends who weren't with them today. "Sugino-kun's a college baseball ace, and Terasaka-kun got picked as an apprentice by a professor politician."
"Then there are Muramatsu-kun and Yoshida-kun, who are both taking over their family business," continued Fuwa. "And Itona-kun is working in his family's factory, isn't it?"
Ame nodded in confirmation. "Straight out of high school. He's living on his own, now, but he works with his father and drops by my house once a week for dinner with everyone."
"And then there's Ritsu, who's gone completely online," pointed out Yada. "Is she still working with the Zodiac?"
"More or less. She helps out if we really need her, but I try not to rely on her too much—she has her own life to live now, after all," shrugged Ame.
Many more of their friends had already found jobs, or were in the process of earning one. Okajima was already selling professional pictures to renowned magazines, Kataoka was going to go on her first flight as a flight attendant in less than a month, Kanzaki was studying to become a nurse, Kimura was training hard to become a police officer like his parents, Sugaya was already working as Assistant-Director in an Art Museum, Rio was currently studying abroad in England to become an interpreter, Hazama had found herself a cozy library to work in… Another E-Class student who was already making waves in the job department was Karma, though—he had apparently passed the level 1 national civil service exam without breaking a sweat, and he was well on his way to becoming a perfect bureaucrat.
"And you, Maehara?" asked Ame, a tad too innocently. "How's the modeling going?"
At once, the poor guy spat out the mouthful of juice he had been about to swallow, while the others' eyes widened with surprise.
"Modeling?" echoed Fuwa. "Maehara-kun, you're a model!?"
"Can't say that I'm surprised," snorted Kataoka.
"But I didn't see any pictures of you in the magazines," remarked Hara, surprised.
Ame's grin widened at that. "Oh, that's because he's in the R—hmph!"
"That's quite enough out of you," warned her friend, his eye twitching as he kept his hand over her mouth.
"Okay, okay, break it off," chuckled Isogai, well aware that Ame would start biting soon if their friend didn't remove his hand in the next three seconds. "Hey, Ame, will you come outside with me for a second? There's something I'd like to talk about."
She quirked an eyebrow, but nodded and followed him outside—though, not without shooting a warning glare at Maehara, who gulped slightly. His secret was safe for now, but who knew for how much longer?
They stepped outside, a gentle breeze picking up as the door closed behind them. They walked for a minute or so, putting some distance between themselves and the building. Ame wasn't worried, though—if anything, it was a good opportunity to talk things out.
"So, you'll be staying after all?" Isogai finally said, a small smile on his lips.
"Hmm. It would usually have taken 'til January, but…" She reached out, intertwining her fingers with his. "You've waited for me long enough. I'm here, now, and here to stay."
"I'm glad to hear it," he admitted, squeezing her hand. He then brought her into a tight hug. "I missed you, Ame."
"I missed you too, Yuu."
They stayed like that for a while, simply enjoying the moment. Ame would usually drop by for a few weeks every four or five months but, with the big cases adding up and her pressing need to build up a proper sphere of influence, she couldn't come home as often as she'd liked. Now that the bulk of the work had been dealt with, though, she'd finally be able to live a more stable life—or at least, as stable as it could be for the boss of an international, mafia-worthy organization of info-brokers.
"You wanted to talk?" she finally said, pulling away a bit.
He perked up at that. "Ah, yes! I wanted to—"
"Ah, wait! Before you say anything, I want to say something," she admitted, a tad sheepish. He nodded, encouraging her to go on, and she breathed in deeply. "Yuu… Ever since that third year of junior-high-school, you've been by my side. Through thick and thin, in highs and in lows, you were right there with me to support me, help me out, and believe in me. When came the time for me to leave, you urged me to spread my wings instead of clipping them. When I spent all of these months away, you could have given up on me, but you didn't. Thanks to our mutual effort, but mostly thanks to your dedication, the strain the long-distance should have put on our relationship was almost nonexistent. And…" Her gripped tightened slightly, and she finally met his gaze head-on, her own warm and subtly loving. "We pulled through. No matter the obstacles we had to overcome, no matter the challenges we faced, no matter how impossible I might be to live with from time to time… we pulled through, and we managed to make it this far. And now… now, more than ever, I'm certain of one thing: Yuuma, I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you." Then, she pulled out a small, black box, and opened it with a flick of her thumb, revealing a golden engagement ring. "So, I guess that what I'm asking is… will you marry me?"
At first genuinely shocked, Isogai then groaned, letting out a small laugh. "Ah, I suddenly have a small sense of déjà-vu. Looks like you're the one who beat me to it this time around, uh?"
On which he also pulled out the box which contained the ring he had been about to offer her but, frankly, Ame didn't look all that surprised—and it took only a second for Isogai to understand why, exactly.
"You knew," he sighed, exasperated. He then shook his head, amused. "I take it that was payback for when I asked you out before you could do it?"
She grinned a that, a tad cheekily. "Maybe. Though, it won't work if you don't say yes, you know?"
He outright laughed at that. "Fair enough."
On which he leaned down and kissed her. It was gentle, understanding, happy—they were simply glad to be together again. Once he pulled away, she chuckled and leaned against him, simply enjoying being able to touch him again after so long.
"I'll take that as a yes."
"Read my mind, then."
She let him slip the ring on her finger first, before doing the same for him. Then, she looked up and smiled but, just as she was about to lean in for another kiss—
"Ack! Loud!" whined Ame, slapping her hands over her ears.
Because of course, their friends had been watching from afar. They had been kind enough to leave them be for a minute but, now that the moment had passed, they could no longer hold themselves back from joining in. The boys instantly congratulated Isogai, while the girls swarmed around Ame, already chatting excitedly about the venue, the themes, the dress—all the while Okajima took pictures, of course. And, as their friends cheered and surrounded them, all sharing in their happiness, Ame found herself looking up at the clear blue sky, where was hanging the slowly reforming moon.
Are you still watching, Korosensei?
She had grown. She had two distinct families, and friends she could and would trust with her life. Time had moved on since that fateful year, and so had all of the students of the E-Class. She became a feared lawyer, a respected Leader, and a well-loved woman. And, from here on out, despite all of the challenges she would still encounter, she knew for a fact she would be able to learn from each of those experiences and grow even more from them.
After all, such was the beauty of life.
When I first got started on this project, I didn't expect it to actually become this popular. I mean, the fandom isn't dead, but the anime has been over for a while, right? In any case, I don't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't this. Now, usually, I would thank every single person who favorited or followed this fic but, as it is, there are over three-hundred people, so I won't do that.
What I will do is thank you all sincerely for your continued support. I had a wonderful time writing this fic, and each review filled me with joy. Watching/making Ame grow throughout this story was truly an amazing journey, but to know that all of you were there to witness that growth makes me all warm and giddy inside, and a little emotive too. Frankly, as I'm writing this, I feel the tears building up. I never realized how attached I had become to this story, and to know it's now truly over and done with...
Well, almost over and done with.
After receiving numerous encouraging replies, I've decided that I will do a sequel. Now, I can't make any promises as to when I will post it, because I'm literally drowning in work right now, and I barely have any time for myself outside of the weekends, but I can promise that I'll try my best. As soon as the project is officially underway and the first chapter is out, I'll leave an announcement on this story so you'll all know.
Now, I've received a few suggestions for which Anime I should do a crossover with:
- Katekyo Hitman Reborn was a popular idea but, unfortunately, I've only watched the first season, and I'm really not that big a fan (it was really popular, though, a lot of people mentionned it)
- Naruto or One Piece (I intend to do a "realistic" sequel, though, so no shounen, unfortunately)
- Ace Attorney would be quite fitting, but I've never watched it
- Durarara would be fricking hilarious, not going to lie (might even make a special chapter if I ever feel inspired)
- Maid-sama would be nice and soft, but it's not exactly packed with the action I'm looking for
- Ouran High School Host Club would make me cry, honestly, it'd probably turn into a crack-fic (I mean, can you just imagine Ame interacting with Tamaki? I'm wheezing at the mere thought of it)
Aaaaaaanyway! Those were all suggestions I've received and, while I'm truly happy for the input, I'm decided to go forward with my original idea. Now, I apologize in advance to those who either haven't seen the anime, or they either haven't liked it or simply aren't interested, but it truly was a wonderful anime and there's a lot that I can work with, even more so considering I want this to be some sort of "growing-up Arc" for Ame. As such, here is the name:
That's my choice. What better than a wonderful story that also made me cry ugly tears, right?
Anyway. That's it. I don't have anything left to say about this story. Once again, thank you so much for everything, this experience was rendered all the more worthwile and wonderful thanks to you, my precious readers.
Stay safe, stay happy, and don't let life get the best of you-keep living out of spite if you need to, and believe that there are still some things left that are worth fighting and living for, even if it's not always easy or obvious.
Love you guys! And please, leave a final review, I'd really appreciate your thoughts on the final chapter!
Anime no Akuma, over and out.
PS. If you had to pick between reading a Boku no Hero Academia fanfic, or a Black Clover fanfic, which would it be?