The news came to all that the school was being locked up, since the world outside was becoming far too hostile. In the days that came after that, some were called into the headmaster's office to learn the fates of their families, and dread would tie knots in the guts of every student when the announcement message played. There was no order to it, just random names played over the P.A system that would result in someone getting shakily out of their seat and walking to the headmaster's office with their classmates' eyes on them in worried silence, sometimes already on the brink of tears or asking if their friend could walk them there- some outright refused and had to be escorted. The Harima twins had already told almost everyone left in Class 80 about how they'd heard screaming and crying from the dorms, and Eiji had already told everyone about how he'd earned a black eye after a student he was trying to comfort turned their anger and fear on him, but they were all one to talk. Soon, names were called on the P.A system again and the worried glances were exchanged. It started with Izumi, whose entire family, save for his little step-sister, had been killed in a mass shooting and his biological father was found hanging from a bridge after thousands had been rounded up and forced to jump off of it with nooses around their necks- no word of his little sister, though, and it seemed like the boy hardly cared. Eiji came next, his parents burned alive. Suzume's Aunt and Uncle had died in a bombing, Rin and Rei's entire town and everyone they had known forced off the cliffs over the rocks in their seaside town, Tsubasa and Shiori's family completely decimated, Mika's father and her older sister, Kanon, both buried alive with their whole village, and the corpses of Tsuneo's entire family were found around their ancestral home in Gunma prefecture- they had tried to raise a small army to fight the coming invaders and lost.
Hikari and Naoto had prayed with all their might that they wouldn't be next to hear their names on the P.A system, but it was inevitable, it seemed.
"Hikari Nanase, Naoto Sohma. Please report to the headmaster's office."
Naoto, who had been in the lab that day, sighed and shut his logbook and laptop, then packed it away into a drawer which he locked up tight before he took a few moments fixing his hair and tie in his reflection in the glass pane of the chemical cabinet. Tsubasa was nowhere to be found, his visits to the lab and Naoto's dorm had halted altogether and they hadn't had time together since Shiori's grief had gotten so bad that she'd gone almost out of her mind, the poor woman. Perhaps, Naoto had concluded, she had given in to this sickness of despair that had been gripping the school. Tsubasa couldn't leave his cousin alone for a minute without coming back to catch her trying to wander off somewhere in a mad haze of almost drunken giggles and mumbling about her Yuki-chan calling her to join him- once he had even caught her almost about to jump from her window before all of the windows in the school were covered up with thick iron plates. He just didn't know what to do about his cousin's madness anymore and Naoto felt horrible that he couldn't help either of them. It was his job as a scientist to make things better for people, dammit! The biologist gave a frustrated sigh as he left the lab. He'd just about had it by now with this whole situation. Since the Super High School Level Forensics Expert and Super High School Level Coroner were both killed in the initial riots that had broken out at the school, Naoto had taken up both their jobs, identifying bodies and giving information to Kyouko Kirigiri or Takara Tsukuda, Super High School Journalist, in the class above, both of whom had been pestering him almost constantly for a new lead.
Naoto had wanted to laugh about something- anything- but it didn't feel right. He hated this, not knowing if it was okay to laugh or cry in times like these. He blamed his deadbeat father for that, for all the years he'd spent having his head kicked about for the smallest of things, for all the years he was never allowed to laugh or smile. Even when his baby brother was born, poor little baby Ichirou was often terrorised by their father whenever he cried or made a noise of any kind. God bless their mother for taking them away from that man. He was never any good for them, and he had been extremely rude and cruel to his own wife and boys- thank all the powers that be that Sayuri Sohma took her sons, whom she loved despite them being forced on her, and gave them a life that was worth living, with friends who actually liked them and missed them when they weren't around. Were they okay, he wondered; Had Ichirou gotten any bigger? Had he started walking? Was his mother still alive? The woman was a survivor, but in these times, that was barely enough to survive the destruction outside of the school. All Naoto had were prayers to grasp at now, seeing as he had very little else. No one came in, no one went out- that was the new law here.
Hikari had been with Minoru that day when her name was called alongside Naoto's, and she held his hand tightly as he took her to the Headmaster's Office. There was no way her father had been killed. Nobuo Nanase was known for being a quick thinker- he would have gotten out of Thailand as quick as possible if things got too heated. He was a smart man, he'd get out of there and probably head somewhere quiet- India, then Tibet, if he could manage it, or Nepal in the best case scenario- and wait out the rest of the chaos. All Hikari had to do was live long enough to see him again.
Sitting on the couch in Headmaster Kirigiri's office, Hikari fiddled nervously with the hem of her hoodie as Naoto sat beside her with his hands clasped together in front of him, trying to keep an air of professionalism about him as Kirigiri just gave a sympathetic smile. "Please, have some tea and biscuits. We have a lot to talk about."
Naoto poured him and Hikari some tea, but neither ate anything. "In all honesty, Headmaster, we'd prefer if you'd get to the point," Said the biologist. "Hikari and I have been worried enough about our families, and we are scientists. Dancing around the problem at hand isn't our style."
Kirigiri nodded understandingly. "Of course…let's begin." He took out a manila folder and opened so all present could see its contents. "Miss Nanase, your father was last seen heading up into the mountains near the Indian border. We don't know if he's alive or not, but given what we've heard from you about him, I'm sure it's all going to be alright." Hikari sighed, relieved, but nodded dumbly. Of course her father was okay, a Nanase doesn't know the meaning of 'defeat'. However, the same couldn't be said for Naoto. "Mister Sohma, we don't know what happened to your mother and brother. There was a refugee truck headed for a safe zone, but communication has been lost, so I don't know if they're alive or not…I'm so sorry."
Naoto didn't take this as well as Hikari did, slamming his fists on the table. "Impossible…! That's completely illogical! Mom and Ichirou…they have to be alive!"
"You can't just tell me you don't know!" Naoto stood up, eyes brimming with tears as he scowled at Kirigiri. "That's not how it works! Are they alive?! Yes or no?!"
Hikari stood not long after Kirigiri got to his feet. "Naoto-kun, calm down…!" She set her hand on his shoulder. "Sometimes you have to settle for 'maybe', remember?! You're not helping your Mom or Ichirou like this!"
"Miss Nanase's right," Added Kirigiri. "You're not going to help your family like this."
"Not since we were all locked in here!" Naoto stuck an accusing finger in Kirigiri's face. "A decision I recall you making for all of us without even considering that we could take in others who needed shelter!"
"As your Headmaster, I can't allow my students to be in danger--!"
"We're still in danger being all cooped up in here! Someone in Class 79's already disappeared, more are turning up dead, and no one is trying to find out who's behind it all because of what happened to Yukari! Tsukuda and Akamine are getting threats, just like she did! If you care so much about your students, then why are you letting them go through this?!" It was rare for Naoto to raise his voice like this, and Hikari had to start pulling him away as he spat ugly words at the Headmaster until they were out of the office. As soon as they'd cleared the door and Minoru had shut it behind them, Naoto broke free and landed a punch in Hikari's gut, making her drop to her knees while he ran off, presumably to his dorm.
Minoru helped Hikari to her feet as soon as she could stand, but she immediately threw her arms around him and burst into tears. Neither of them didn't have to say anything- the situation was clear. Hope's Peak was no longer safe for anyone and never had been- but where else could anyone go?
With the laughter of the Lucky Student he'd just been beating the crap out of still echoing in his head, Mondo Oowada had returned to his room and proceeded to let out his anger on pretty much everything, throwing his fist into a wall, tossing a chair across the room and knocking over a lamp, screaming until it was exhausting to do anymore, then finally sitting on his bed with his head in his hands as his shoulders began to shake. God, he felt like such a fucking failure. He got his own brother killed, his whole gang was gone because he wasn't there to protect him, then he couldn't even save the girl he had a crush on, and now he couldn't even avenge her by killing her psychotic boyfriend who had slit her throat because he could have sworn that was her voice in his head begging him not to and her arms around his middle to hold him back and god dammit why was he so fucking useless?! Tears began to roll down the biker's face. He'd loved that girl and he didn't have the guts to tell her when he should have, and now she was gone forever and he couldn't deal with it. "I'm sorry," He said quietly as he began to cry. "I'm sorry, kid...I'm so sorry...I could'a saved ya...I loved you, god dammit...!"
God, he'd give anything to pass her in the hallway just to say 'hello' one more time, to go back to when he'd found her crying and convinced her to hang out with him for a while instead of letting her go anywhere near that asshole or to at least when she was about to be killed so he could have saved her and exposed that psychotic jackass for who he was. If it changed anything and meant she'd still be alive, Mondo would have traded all those tomorrows for just one more yesterday where everything was fine and nothing had gone as bad as it did in his life and none of this was happening and his gang and his brother and Chisato were still here and she was his girl and she was happy. More tears started to fall and Mondo was starting to wish he could just tear his heart out of his fucking chest so it'd stop hurting so much.
Would she have at least given him a chance? Sure, they'd barely known each other, but she was beautiful and strong and smart and he'd wanted to know her better, as long as it could have been a chance that she would have lived. But if that was the case, why had he heard her voice in his head telling him not to kill that fluffy-haired bastard? That was what confused him the most. Had she really still loved that psycho in the end, even after all the pain he put her through, after he had taken so much of her time and patience and now her life? How was he to know, anyways? It was just confusing and painful to think about. It wasn't like he could just ask Chisato why she stayed with the guy, he wasn't a medium or anything.
Then, it hit him- he wasn't a spirit medium, but Mondo had heard that one of the students in the class below was. Maybe they could help him get some answers? It was a long shot, but surely it would be better than not knowing. Maybe it could have helped Nanase as well to know why her friend never left her killer, on the off chance this person agreed to help. He'd have to ask Ishimaru's girlfriend if she knew of a Medium in her class. It was a long shot, but it was worth a try. He had to speak to her one last time.
Chiyo Ueda had been having nothing short of an awful week. Students had been dying left and right, Kumiko had been crying to her over Tanaka cheating on her, and now she was starting to sense that things were only going to get worse. Something would have to be done soon before it was too late, but what?
A knock on the medium's door brought her out of her thoughts as a voice came from the other side. "Chiyo-san, could you open up? It's Matsuki."
Chiyo sighed and went to the door. What could Matsuki want at a time like this? The painter stood on the other side with a young man behind her whose face held a solemn, but serious expression. "Who is this?" Asked Chiyo.
"This is Oowada-sempai, he's Ishimaru-kun's friend," Matsuki explained. "He needed to speak to you about something, so I lead him here."
Chiyo took a look at Oowada, trying to read his expression for any purpose as to why he was here and gave it some thought before nodding. "Very well then. Come in, Oowada-san, and let's see what I can do for you." She sent Matsuki on her way and shut the door behind him once they were both inside her room and sitting on the floor. "Now, then. What can I do for you?"
Oowada seemed to be thinking over his words as he cleared his throat and clenched his fists. "I...I've heard ya can talk to spirits n' stuff, right?" He asked slowly.
Chiyo raised an eyebrow. "I am capable of such things, yes."
"So...if I asked...you'd prolly help me talk to someone dead, right?" Oowada seemed to be hopeful, but Chiyo knew too well what he wanted.
"It...it really does depend on a lot of things," Chiyo explained carefully. "If you want to channel a spirit, it does involve quite a risk. For all my experience, there can still be mistakes. I might not be able to make the connection or even summon some sort of evil spirit, and it will be difficult to expel it."
Oowada still seemed hopeful. "I just need to talk to someone...she stopped me from doin' something really stupid." His tone was sombre, yet pleading in a way as he turned his gaze to the floor. "I...I know who it could'a been...I need to speak to her one more time..." Chiyo watched him, and she did feel awful for him- it seemed that he really did love this girl. "I should'a been there, dammit!" His fist hit the floor with a dreadful thud. "I should'a been there to protect her! She didn't deserve what she got!"
"You're talking about Chisato Ueda, aren't you?" The medium asked. "A tragic loss. She was such a kind person, from what I've heard."
"I wanted to tell her...I wanted to tell her I'm sorry..." Oowada's shoulders began to shake. "I loved her...I barely said a word to her, but I could see she was perfect...I never told her..." He looked up at Chiyo, tears starting to stream down his face. "Please...you gotta help me..."
Chiyo thought this over. This young man wanted to speak to the girl he liked because he felt responsible for her death, in a way, and she had apparently stopped him from doing something stupid, but the risk outweighed the need. It was difficult to say if it would even work, either. It was possible that a malevolent entity could pretend to be this girl he missed so much and make his suffering worse or manipulate his current emotional weakness. Chisato wouldn't have wanted him to take such a risk, not even for her sake.
"I understand what it's like to lose someone you love. I know what you're going through, and I'm so sorry that you never had your chance to tell Chisato that you cared so much about her." Chiyo chose her words carefully. Grief counselling wasn't her strong suit, but she had to let him down gently. "I wish I could help you, but with the current situation, there's too great a risk of me channelling the wrong person, or something worse altogether. Chisato wouldn't have wanted you to put yourself or others in such danger. But, if you say she stopped you from doing something foolish..." Chiyo smiled at him. "I think you already have your answer from that alone, wouldn't you?"
Oowada went silent for a moment and seemed to go still as he bowed his head. Tears still fell and his entire body shook as if he were cold, even as he tried to speak, perhaps in an attempt to form another reason why he wanted to speak to Chisato so badly. "Do ya think...she'd blame me?" He asked; his voice weak, but loud enough to be heard. "C-can't I even ask 'er that?"
"I'm sure she doesn't." Chiyo kept her smile. "Chisato was such a forgiving person, from what I'm told, though I'm sure she would have forgiven you if you felt responsible for what happened to her, though I'm sure you didn't have anything to do with it...right?"
"Of course I didn't, dammit!" Oowada's fist struck the floor again, a little harder this time. "What the hell are you trying to pull?!"
"I'm not trying to 'pull' anything," The medium said curtly. "All I'm saying is that Chisato would not think you are in any way responsible for what happened to her. Even if I were to channel her, she would say the same things I've told you, if not almost all of them. Getting angry and raising your voice won't change my mind." There was silence again for a long time between the two of them before Chiyo spoke. "I would say the same thing to Nanase and Sohma if they asked me what you have, Oowada-san. Think about it. Chisato wouldn't want this for anyone she left behind. It's hard to make the connection, seeing as she's already crossed over to the other side, but I believe that she's still with you in some ways." Her face softened into a smile again. "It is said that a person truly dies when everyone has forgotten their name. As long as you keep her in your memory, then I believe she will never truly leave you."
Oowada went silent for a few moments before he stood up and left without saying a word. Chiyo watched him leave, but didn't try to stop him or even say goodbye- it wouldn't have been right to speak. She worried for him, though, and the others. The visions she had seen haunted the medium's mind; a school of death and despair ruled by cruelty and madness, and she saw only death for any who stayed. Hopefully there would be time to save who could be saved before the darkness swallowed the school, and all who were still inside when it did.