But black and white snow was all that greeted Makoto Naegi, the connection lost. Wordlessly, Makoto exited the video chat application and closed down the laptop. Violet eyes stared at him with concern as he clenched his fists and his eyes darkened, his body shaking with obvious anger.
Kyoko’s worries came true; Makoto roared, raising his fists only to slam them back down onto the laptop.
“AAGH! Dammit! Dammit! DAMMIT!”
Kyoko was startled by Makoto’s emotional display that could only be described as a temper tantrum, his characteristic optimism and kindness taking a backseat to borderline primal rage.
Makoto hasn’t been this angry, since Junko mocked Sayaka after Leon’s execution…
Kyoko flashed back to that day, recalling how he only restrained his temporary urge to violently wallop Monokuma after she held his wrist in a death grip and lectured him.
Her course of action clear, Kyoko ran up to the former Ultimate Lucky Student and grabbed his wrists, keeping them from moving.
“Makoto! Makoto, calm down! You’re going to damage the equipment if you keep doing that!”
Kyoko winced as soon as the words left her mouth; those were poor words of comfort, even by her standards.
“The equipment? THE EQUIPMENT?! How can you be thinking about some damn computer when my sister is in a living hell?”
Kyoko winced; although Makoto wasn’t exactly behaving rationally at the moment, she couldn’t really refute him on this point.
Huffing, Makoto shook his wrists free of her grip and demanded “Where’s our nearest helicopter? I’ll go to Towa and bring her back myself if I have to!”
“You don’t even know how to fly a helicopter, Makoto. And even if you did, Byakuya took our only division’s helicopters when he was assigned to take this mission.”
Kyoko could literally see steam coming out of Makoto’s mouth as he struggled to keep a hold on his emotions.
I’ve never seen him this angry before. He’s almost like a ticking time bomb…
“So let me see if I’ve got this straight. I’ve spent eighteen months, EIGHTEEN GODDAMN MONTHS, thinking all of my family was dead. I now find out that my little sister is still alive, in a city swarming with Monokumas looking to kill her, with only Toko to protect her, and I’m supposed to just abandon her when she needs me?!”
Kyoko could only stay silent, unable to say anything to help him; her skillset was in explaining facts and setting a path of logic. When it came to providing emotional support and reassurance, she struggled to find the right words. Becoming frustrated with his boss’s stoic silence, Makoto scowled and stomped towards the door.
“Makoto! Makoto, get back here!” Kyoko called out to him but made no move to stop him.
Just as he was opening the door, Makoto stopped for a split second, whispering just loud enough for Kyoko’s ears to catch, before exiting the office and slamming the door behind him.
“…I hate you, Kiri.”
Kyoko’s eyes widened, her heart shattered in shock not only at Makoto’s use of a shortened form of her last name, but with the obvious disdain and scorn with which he had chosen to use it. Kyoko’s legs wobbled as she shakily walked over to her desk, sitting down in her expensive office chair before laying her head on the desk, clutching her head in her hands as she sobbed, distraught at Makoto’s first open fight with her.
Despite Hina not being part of the 14th Division, Kyoko instituted an open-door policy with all of her former classmates, allowing Hina to walk in anytime. So when Hina had been walking by Kyoko’s office on her way back to the dormitories and heard her crying, she barged in to see what was wrong. Hina gaped in shock at the sight of Kyoko’s head lying face-down on her desk, her hands grasping strands of hair in anguish as she continued to whimper.
Rushing over, Hina shook Kyoko’s shoulder and urged “Kyoko? Kyoko, what’s wrong?”
Even though Makoto was her most trusted confidant, the fact was there were a select few topics that she simply couldn’t confide to Makoto. Thus, Hina became option number two when the situation demanded it.
Thus, since Makoto obviously wasn’t going to be around to comfort her, Kyoko revealed to Hina “Makoto and I had a fight.”
The thought shocked Hina; though Kyoko could easily be angered, she preferred to simply give people the cold shoulder rather than engage in direct confrontations. The fact that Makoto’s entire personality centered around avoiding conflict made the thought of a fight between the two almost laughable.
Without raising her head off of the desk to see Hina’s incredulous expression, Kyoko continued “We found out that Makoto’s little sister is still alive. But the service cut out, and since I don’t have any way of getting him to Towa City to find her, he thinks I’m forcing him to abandon her…”
Sensing that this issue was very complicated, Hina offered “…Why don’t we continue this conversation in your room? It can’t be comfortable slouching on your desk like that…”
“…My legs feel too shaky; I couldn’t walk back right now if I tried…”
Hina stared at the depressed former Detective before walking over to her. She brabed Kyoko’s arms and slung them over her shoulders, then kneeled and lightly yanked Kyoko out of her chairso that she was slumped on Hina’s back. Moving her hands from Kyoko’s arms to her thighs, Hina stood up and carried her cargo out into the hallway. Kyoko just lay there, not saying anything but not outright objecting either.
Before long, they made it to Kyoko’s room. Quickly releasing Kyoko’s right thigh, Hina twisted the doorknob and pushed the door open, resupporting Kyoko’s leg as she walked in before turning around and sat down on Kyoko’s bad, releasing her grip and allowing Kyoko to slide off her back to sit on the bed.
Turning around with a worried expression on her face, Hina asked “Is there anything I can get you? Any food or something that would help make you feel better?”
Kyoko hesitated before answering “There’s a plate of tiramisu in our dorm’s kitchen fridge that I like to eat whenever I need to pull an all-nighter. That might help a little…”
Hina pumped her fists and cheered “Okay! Just leave it to me! Stay right there and I’ll get you your choco-coffee goodness!”
Hina rushed out the door, leaving Kyoko to sit there and try to compose herself, a momentary smile on her face at Hina’s bubbly enthusiasm.
“Here, Kyoko. I brought you the tiramisu from the fridge just like you asked!”
As Kyoko took the plate of dessert and fork from Hina’s hands, she slowly began to consume it, the sugary treat distracting her enough from her depressed state to talk about it while eating.
“He hates me…”
“THAT CAN’T BE! There’s no way Makoto really hates you, Kyoko! Don’t you remember how sullen he looked when he thought you hated him? Plus, there’s the time we found you by the pool during Taka and Hifumi’s murder investigations; he had this dopey, happy-in-love grin on his face! I’m telling you, Kyoko, there’s no way he…”
“He said it himself. And you should have seen the way he looked at me, Hina. He looked at me like I was Junko. No, like I was worse than Junko, like I was actively trying to keep him from his family. I’ve lost his trust, and I’ll probably never get it back. This is worse than when I nearly sentenced him to death…”
Kyoko’s voice became stuck in her throat, unable to voice any more of her feelings. For once, Hina looked pensive, her cheerful persona having difficulty finding the words to cheer up the former Ultimate Detective.
“I…I’m sure he was just lashing out. I might have behaved just as badly if it were me in his place. I have a little brother; his name’s Yuta. He calls me a spaz more often than I care to admit, but I can tell you that I’d be devastated if anything happened to him. But I’d also know that it wouldn’t be your fault if it did. And I’m sure that deep down, Makoto knows that too. I bet that in a couple of hours, he’s gonna come back apologetic, just like all the other times you said he’s run his mouth…”
Apologetic…I’m the one who should apologize to him…I’m not exactly blameless in this mess, after all…
Kyoko’s musing was interrupted by a knock at her door, but before she could think about answering it, Hina stood up and offered “I’ll get it.”
The door opened, revealing the former Ultimate Swimming Pro, who looked in surprise at his presence.
Makoto had a worried expression on his face as he replied “Hey, Hina. Is Kyoko there? We had a fight earlier, and I said some things I didn’t mean, so I wanted to come and apologize for them…”
Hina smiled softly and replied “I’ll check and see if she’s up for visitors. Just wait a sec, okay?”
As the door gently closed in his face, Makoto worriedly thought Up for visitors? Oh man; I really screwed up, didn’t I?
After about 30 seconds, the door opened to reveal Hina’s soft smile as she said, “She said you can come in if you like.” As she walked out, she squeezed his shoulder and finished “I’ll leave you two to have some alone time. Now go make up!”
Nodding, Makoto nervously walked into the room to see Kyoko sitting on the bed, the rims of her eyes tinged red, making the guilt Makoto was already bearing magnified ten-fold.
“Kyoko…” Great work, Makoto Naegi. You made your best friend cry! She’ll never go out with you after what you said to her!
Whoa, whoa! I admit I screwed up, but I don’t love Kyoko…not like that…
Liar liar, pants on fire. When are you going to stop living in denial and accept your feelings?
I am NOT having this conversation right now. I need to apologize to her, PRONTO!
His inner dialogue shaken from his mind, Makoto got on his hands and knees and exclaimed “I’M SORRY!”
Kyoko let out a gasp as Hina was proven right; Makoto was indeed down on his knees, practically begging for her forgiveness.
“…What do you feel you need to be sorry for?”
Makoto looked up, gaping in shock at Kyoko’s reply.
What the heck is she talking about? Doesn’t she remember? What I said? Nevertheless, Makoto cried out “About what I said before. About how I blamed you for not being able to go after Komaru. I…I was lashing out in anger and guilt!”
Kyoko raised her eyebrow and replied “Guilt? So…you don’t…hate me?”
Makoto furiously shook his head and answered “No! Never! I could never hate you, Kyoko! It’s just…”
Kyoko could tell this was difficult for Makoto to say, so she gently encouraged “What is it? You can tell me…”
Swallowing the lump in his throat, Makoto explained “You see, Komaru and I are only a year apart, so I was too young to remember Mom and Dad bringing her home from the hospital, but ever since I can remember, my parents drilled it into my head that it was my responsibility as her big brother to protect her. And I took that responsibility seriously; I did my best to look out for her, and she looked up to me in turn.”
Kyoko was starting to get some idea of how much Makoto valued his sister, observing his clenched fists as he was showing her one of his more vulnerable sides. Her hand twitched with the urge to touch him in comfort but held back so that Makoto could finish his explanation.
“Then, when Junko suppressed our memories and threw us into her Killing Game, Komaru and my parents were on my motivation DVD.”
Kyoko remembered that day; she had only just been getting to know the Ultimate Lucky Student when the rest of the class walked in the A/V room to see the normally optimistic Makoto in distress, whimpering about how he needed to get out of there.
That was the closest he’s been…to just giving up…
It had disturbed Kyoko back then, and remembering it only made her heart grow cold.
“When we defeated Junko, and saw the outside world, I had come to terms with the fact that my family was probably dead. I won’t deny, it hurt that I couldn’t protect them, but I knew there was nothing I could do about it. But then, when we got that video call from Toko and I saw Komaru on the other end, the first thought that crossed my mind was Oh my god; she’s alive! My baby sister’s ALIVE! I haven’t failed her yet! But after we lost contact and you told me that I couldn’t go to Towa to pick her up, I felt like I was abandoning her, that I was a failure as her big brother.”
Kyoko looked down at him with regret as Makoto started to cry; regret for not being a better emotional support when Makoto needed her to be one the most.
This whole mess could have been avoided if I only showed a little bit of tact and empathy…
Tears leaking down his face, Makoto finished “But I had no right to lash out at you like I did. I never should have blamed you for Komaru’s situation. And I never should have said that I hated you. You’ve saved my life, Kyoko, and I keep forgetting that whenever I get testy. I’m the worst…”
At this, Kyoko finally decided she couldn’t sit there and listen for a moment longer. Makoto heard the sound of fabric falling to the floor as Kyoko moved off of her bed and kneeled down before his, a distraught expression on her face as she moved to touch his shoulders with her bare hands before wrapping her arms under his own, pulling him into a much-needed hug.
Crying along with him, Kyoko confessed “I’m not entirely blameless in this either. There’s a reason I sent Byakuya on this mission without you…” At Makoto’s curious expression, she continued “Do you remember the night we were picked up from Hope’s Peak Academy, and after you had that nightmare about your execution, I promised I would protect you?”
Makoto blushed, but nodded, leaving Kyoko to continue her confession.
“Well, when the Future Foundation tasked us with extracting survivors from Towa City, I feared what would have happened if you personally went. After all, that city was swarming with Monokuma robots, and physical confrontation wasn’t exactly your forte.”
It was true; although Kyoko had made it a point to personally tutor Makoto in basic hand-to-hand combat since becoming head of the 14th Division, his short stature and lack of muscle or athletic ability made him an easy opponent to overcome.
“So I tried to protect you by sending Byakuya, who I thought was more capable. But I was selfish; I ignored the possibility that there were other people who needed you too. You’re…valuable to me, Makoto, and as one of the few people I trust, I didn’t want to lose you. You weren’t wrong to blame me, Makoto. I’m the reason you’re not already in Towa to help your sister…”
His eyes still teary, Makoto took a moment to digest what he just heard, shocked that her desire to protect him was so strong as to impact her judgment.
No more…no more blaming each other or ourselves for this; otherwise we’re just gonna keep going in an endless cycle of self-loathing. What’s done is done; neither of us should shoulder the blame. I’m just gonna need to have faith that Toko can keep Komaru alive. Raising his voice, Makoto offered “How about it’s neither of our faults? Let’s agree that we both overreacted and acted unreasonably. Does that sound good, Kyoko?”
Kyoko gasped in shock before settling into a smile, hugging him closer and affirming “I suppose…that sounds amenable.” Reluctantly letting go of Makoto, she took the opportunity to wipe her eyes before suggesting “Why don’t you go get some sleep? We’ve both had a trying day. Maybe we’ll wake up to news of your sister’s successful extraction.”
Although the thought of going to sleep greatly appealed to Makoto, he was hesitant to leave Kyoko’s side; guilt still threatened to swallow his heart after how he had made Kyoko cry.
Wiping his eyes with his wrist, Makoto asked “Are you sure you’ll be alright? If you need to talk some more, then…”
Giggling, Kyoko urged “Go to bed, won’t you? I promise, I’ll be alright.”
Though still hesitant, Makoto nodded in surrender. He picked up her gloves before they both stood up, handing them to her. Kyoko gratefully accepted them and slipped them back over her hands.
Makoto turned around and opened the door, uttering just before he left “Good night, Kyoko.”
As the door closed, Kyoko crawled into bed, opting only to slip off her high-heeled business shoes before moving under the blankets, nestling her head on her pillow.
…I love you, Makoto Naegi. I’m head-over-heels, hopelessly in love with you…