He was unbelievably sore. It made sense with the body dysmorphia- a few moments ago he'd been /tiny/. Inescapably so. Now he was groggy, with pads stuck on his face and chest in nothing more than a hospital gown, a catheter and an IV plugged in, and god, he hated IVs. He wanted out, off, and /gone/.
He wasn't tall- he could tell that much since his head and feet didn't touch the ends of the pod, but he felt stretched thin, like his entire body had been pulled through a taffy machine. He wanted to fidget, but he was just too weak and bedsore to do so- and plugged into things he didn't want to disturb. How long had they been in there? Had a day in the sim been a day in real life? More? Less?
And... and what about Peko?
Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu heard voices, muffled, then clear within the pod.
"Togami, Kirigiri and I will help you out, one at a time. Kirigiri will take care of the ladies- Owari, you're in better shape so she's getting you out first. Sonia, we'll be there for you in a bit but you're looking frail. We may have you stay like that for a few hours as you come around, okay? These have pretty top notch medical instrumentation. We don't want to pull you too quickly."
That was... that was Makoto's voice. The underclassman. He continued. "I'll grab Soda first. He's in the best shape of all of you. Kuzuryuu, hang tight okay? You're not too bad but it seems like your body didn't take to the IV mix that well. Your nutrients had to get shifted at least five times in the last month. You may not be able to walk until you get your strength back again."
"The fuck that's 'not too bad?'" Fuyuhiko griped. Or tried. His throat felt like sandpaper and his voice sounded.. wrong. Like it had dropped part of an octave. It was more of a croak and a whimper. So much for ultimate gangster. More like ultimate pussy.
"Togami will look after Hinata. He's going to need a bit more help," Makoto concluded, as the first hissing sound of an open pod began.
Fuyuhiko lost track of time. It could have been ten minutes or two hours before the loud hiss and click shook his pod and Makoto- taller, with a more adult hairstyle than the fifteen year old looking kid in the VR therapy machine from earlier.
"Don't fight me, but don't try to help, okay?" Makoto stated sternly, more of an adult sound to his voice. Fuyuhiko didn't protest as the squishy pads were removed one by one, then the IV, and finally, "sorry, but I'm going to have to, err..."
"Just get it over with, fucker," Fuyuhiko grumbled, as Makoto took out catheter and ostomy tubes.
"I'm going to lift you out and put you in a wheelchair."
"Just get it over with," Fuyuhiko repeated wearily as Makoto carefully transferred him over. Everything was heavy, sore, tired, and the room was dark and barely lit. Fuyuhiko thought he caught a glimpse of a wasting demon being lifted out into a wheelch- was that supposed to be Sonia?
What had they done to themselves?
He found out soon enough when he was wheeled out into he main area of the headquarters. He knew his right eyelid felt sticky and sluggish. He didn't realize it was permanently shut and scarred over- pretty badly, too. At least his time without his right eye in the sim wasn't wasted. He could probably still aim a gun with just one eye.
"We look like miserable little fucks, don't we?" Fuyuhiko grumbled to Soda, the only one who probably could be standing If he wanted to. He didn't look that much worse for wear, except that his black roots were showing about three centimeters through and the Pepto-Bismol pink dye had faded to salmon.
Fuyuhiko shook his head a little, feeling hair swish down around his ears and a massive dose of vertigo. Once the room stopped spinning he'd ask for a haircut.
"Stop." Makoto was firm, but not angry. "One day at a time, yeah?"
Fuyuhiko's lower lip trembled a little, thinking of Peko back in her own tank.
"One day at a time. Yeah."
The first week was miserable. Their underclassmen were doing their best to keep the island's purpose under wraps, so they were running on a skeleton team. Even though only a third of their class was being taken care of, and the Ultimate Pediatrician had been flown in, it was still a lot to do.
"I know you lot aren't kids anymore, but the Ultimate Doctor is, erm, indisposed, the Ultimate Surgeon isn't going to help you with PT, and the Ultimate Nurse..." Kamegawa sighed, as she adjusted her glasses, glancing back at the pod room with ten more of their classmates still sleeping inside. "I'm your doctor and you're going to listen to me, gang boss or royalty, and everyone in between. Capiche?"
"Yes ma'am," the four of them replied in varying states of weariness, on a scale of Soda Kazuichi to Sonia Nevermind. Fuyuhiko was just above Sonia in that regard, but given her skeletal state, that sadly wasn't saying much. Hinata was... somewhere. Somewhere else.
Nobody asked questions.
"I've drafted Naegi and Kyoko as my assistants for now. Miss Akane, Kazuichi," she stated sternly, looking at Akane Owari and Kazuichi Soda, "you're free to wander once I've cleared you, you both took to the pods pretty well and just need to get used to physical activity again. Just don't do anything rash, and watch out for headrush. Hajime is on the floor above us with Byakuya, though give the two of them a warning if you want into his room. It would be good to have him see you, but if Byakuya says out- you leave."
"How... how is he, Doc?" Fuyuhiko asked. He still couldn't get over his voice shift. He sounded like a proper /adult/ now, and he was reeling. He'd probably be happier about it if he could move around on his own, but hey. Small victories.
Doctor Kamegawa sighed, as if she were deciding to submit a white lie or not. "Physically? Best of you lot. Mentally? He's fighting right now. He's got two personalities vying for control and we've got the Ultimate Psychologist up there trying to work him through coping mechanisms."
"So the Hajime side of him survived..."
"Yes- but barely. So if they say out, you leave. Understood?"
"Since I... can't, I can't climb stairs right now," Fuyuhiko muttered into his hospital robe, "could you do me a favor?"
"Sure," Doctor Kamegawa said gently, as she helped him move onto the examination table to get a better look at his (lack of) right eye.
"If there's a highball glass around here, could you shatter it on the ground and give a pice of it to Hinata for me? I know that's a fucking weird request but he- if the punkass is in there- he'd know what it means."
Kamegawa raised an eyebrow. "I don't think giving him anything sharp is a good idea. Not now."
"A whole glass then. There's a couple of resorts here right? Gotta be a booze glass around here somewhere. No alcohol. Just the glass. Granted we... we're old enough to drink now, aren't we?" The thought hadn't crossed his mind. They were all about 20 or so, weren't they? He should jab Soda that it's about damn time the mechanic learned to drive.
"And probably not a good idea until you've gotten your strength back."
"You don't need to tell me that twice. Tch."
"You can drop the front, Fuyuhiko. At least until you can stand again."
"Eh, fuck you," Fuyuhiko said gently, just the hint of a smile.
"I'll take that as a compliment. Now then, let's see here. You've... you've got an eye in there under all that scar tissue, but I don't... think it's yours?"
Junko's eye. He couldn't quite remember but he /knew/. He didn't know if he scooped out his own eye or someone did it for him but-
"It isn't," Fuyuhiko said sharply. "And I want it out."
"That would be best- and removing that scar tissue too. I had a feeling we'd need the Ultimate Surgeon here anyway. You're not the only one who... has augmentations." At least half the class had part of Junko inside them, but she didn't want to assume. Some, like Sonia, had merely starved or mutilated themselves for her.
"He's not that fucking hack job I saw on the news who was doing those crazy implant experiments, is he?"
Kamegawa gulped. "He isn't a bad person, just... eccentric."
"Naw, you're taking this the wrong way. If he can give me a glowing robot eye, fuck it, I'm in."
"Get your strength back first," Kanegawa said, a bit more cheerfully, laughing at Fuyuhiko's reply. "Let's get you in some leg braces for now, okay?"
Waking was hard. Too hard. But when he saw Makoto running frantically towards the pod room, Fuyuhiko grabbed his crutches to follow. He and Sonia both were starting to put on weight- a very good thing. He passed Sonia and Kirigiri, former smiling at Fuyuhiko as he power-walked past.
"Why Kuzuryuu-dono, I have never in my days seen you move so quick!"
"Right back, Sonia, I'm on recon," Fuyuhiko shot back at both of them as he contributed to hobble along as fast as he was able.
"You didn't need to move so quickly," Makoto said, noticing Fuyuhiko slip and follow him in the room.
"I'm waiting for someone. If there's any news at all, you'd better spill or there's going to be some lost fingers," Fuyuhiko snapped back. Nobody needed to ask who he was waiting for, but it was easy to tell- Fuyuhiko spent most of his free time in the pod room reading classical European children's stories aloud, in front of a very particular pod.
"It's not her pod that sounded the alarm. It's Nekomaru's," Makoto replied, pointing over to one of them with a flashing light.
"How the hell did we stuff Nidia in one of these?" Fuyuhiko marveled, as he made his way over.
Twenty two days, eleven hours, and sixteen minutes after the 'survivors' escaped the virtual reality program, Nidai Nekomaru was... stirring.
"I kept hearing Kipling," Nidai admitted after he'd been cleared by Kamegawa. He was surprisingly in excellent shape, even more so when they discovered something utterly crazy- he'd implanted Junko's /heart/ before the whole ordeal. And it was the only reason he was even standing. It saved his life.
Junko couldn't win. Even in her despair, she'd given only hope.
Everyone started reading in the pod room after that.
It only took two days for the next alarm to sound. This time, it was Mahiru Koizumi who woke, her once-red once-bob hairdo flopping after being lifted out. "I hate Winnie the Pooh," Fuyuhiko heard her mumble.
"Winnie the Pooh hates you too," Fuyuhiko poked back, gently. He didn't know what to tell her. Sorry? Sorry you murdered someone? Even if you backed down at the last second it was your direct actions that chased it.
"So, you and Purple Hair are the demons responsible for me," Koizumi said quietly, finally, as Kirigiri had scuttled out to go wake Kamegawa. "Boys. Never reliable," she added, glancing at the crutches and leg braces on Fuyuhiko in her vision. She'd still refrained from looking up, maybe from fear? "I get a low budget agent of chaos. Tanaka would be laughing at me right now."
"I... you know we're not dead, right? Trust me, hell wouldn't look this nice. That thing's just a sim."
"This isn't exactly five star resort," she retorted back, though a little surprised as she started putting the pieces together. "What was that, VR? What did we...?"
"Let the docs check you out first, then we'll get you up to speed. But yes, that's the short version. The ones that got killed are still waking up. Nidai beat you of the not-really-dead, and there's still eight more. Five of us won, for whatever that's worth."
Koizumi scrunched her face. "Five, eight and... two? Aren't you missing someone?"
"The gamer chick was a NPC. She offed Komaeda near the end. Was an accident but..."
Koizumi, for the first time since waking, looked up at Fuyuhiko in detail, wincing a little when her eyes reached his. "Kuzuryu. I didn't even recognize you."
"We're 20. If I didn't have a growth spurt by now it was never going to happen. You should see Saionji," he added, thumb jabbed at the pod behind him. "Your memories will come back but I'm warning you- you're not going to like 'em all. We were in those things for a reason."
"Apology accepted," she said sighing. "Just putting this out there, but if I knew we were in a game, I would have chainsawed you in half by the end of the first day. How'd Monokuma kill y- wait. You survived? I thought you killed me. Last thing I remember was you in the beach-house but no, you turned away didn't you?"
"...Yeah. Though it was my fault. While I didn't lay a finger on you, I'll take the blame for it. Rules were strict- since I didn't actually off you- I wasn't the culprit. Though in reality the person who did, only did it because I couldn't. It was my fault she..." Fuyuhiko muttered out, fidgeting and looking over at Peko's pod.
"I..." Koizumi started, but stopped. "Boys. Completely unreliable. Can't even murder properly."
"Guess we can't."
Koizumi, too, was back on her feet surprisingly fast- by the end of the following day she was ordering Nidai, Soda, and Kuzuryu around. She spent as much time as she could on the floor above on her third day; Fuyuhiko hadn't even been up there yet.
He said it was too hard on crutches, and he had a job to do in the pod room anyway, now that they knew how important reading aloud had been. In reality, he didn't want to face Hinata- or whatever Hinata had become. If the doctors cleared him to come down to them, he would consider it then, but he'd let time make his decision for him.
And so he sat in the dim light, reading Hans Cristian Anderson, waiting for his princess.
Instead, he got a bitch today. Saionji's alarm flashed red over her pod. Looks like either reading was the way to go, or the system was just starting to pull them out. Fuyuhiko would read till his other eye went blind if that's what it would take though.
A twinge of regret as he called for Kamegawa. So far, there were four murderers and six victims (or five and five, he couldn't really tell where to put Komaeda), but so far, they were three-for three on only the victims waking.
The little headquarters was about to get livelier.
"You're reading Western classics? What are you, a complete re-" Saionji started, but was cut off by a gaze from Nidai.
"Finish that word. I dare you," he boomed. "I absolutely heard the blaring resolve in Kuzuryu's voice! It pierced through my eternal sleep and motivated me to wake."
"I was only motivated so I could slap a bitch," Saionji snapped back- but it didn't seem to have the same bite. "Read some Japanese classics for once. Give 'em some Oe or something."
"I'm not reading stories about suicide or existentialism to people who think they're dead, dumbass. Tch." Fuyuhiko shot Saionji a glare, who was holding hands with Koizumi as if letting go meant the other girl would disappear into the ether.
Saionji looked a little taken aback. "Geez. Prissypants, how much of a nerd are you? Don't tell me you've actually read that crap. Who wastes their time reading books nowadays?"
"I lived in a massive old house with one TV, constant bodyguards, and two very loud parents. It was that and headphones."
"...so did I."
Fuyuhiko didn't know what to feel when Hanamura finally woke up, sputtering what he could only assume were curses in an intelligible accent.
So that was three murdered... and a murderer. He glanced at Peko's pod again, before putting down his chapter book and pressing the call button for Kamegawa.
He rounded over to the pod, screeching obscenities at his distressed classmate to 'stop fucking around with the science shit and wait for a goddamn doctor.' Sighing, he quickly added that Hanamura would be attended to by a beautiful genius.
Hanamura quickly stopped fidgeting and waited.
Some people were fun to fuck with.
"Saionji is going to be reading today," Kamegawa told Fuyuhiko, as he sat up on the examination table. "You're gaining your weight back at a good pace, and your atrophy has declined. I'm going to suggest you stop using the crutches if you think you can support yourself.
"I've already tried walking around the room with just the leg braces," Fuyuhiko admitted, a bit sheepishly.
"No, that's good, just be careful. I've already enlisted Nidai to help Sonia with stretching and some gentle exercise, and I'm going to have you start too. I also want Arakawa looking at your eye to prep for removal. If Peko wakes up today, though, I promise you'll know about it."
Fuyuhiko gulped and nodded. "Arakawa is the surgeon, right?"
"Yes. Have your breakfast, Nidai will be around in an hour or so, and he's probably going to look at you in the afternoon. Expect an eye exam so he can make your prosthetic one at about the same power."
Kamegawa left his room, and Fuyuhiko slowly shifted himself over to the bed by the window with a bed tray already laden with food. Hanamura wasn't in bad shape per se, but he wasn't going to be moving around much for at last a day or two. Hopefully the food quality would be going up as soon as he did. Fuyuhiko ate in silence, watching the red sky and crashing black waves.
The air outside was technically breathable again, they said- the pollution caused by the End was being cleared quicker than expected. Well, when the head of the Hydra got cut off this time, it wasn't just the head. Anyone Junko had brainwashed to do her bidding was dead now- of their own volition or from being attacked back- or in rehabilitation. His time as her puppet was slowly coming back to him in flashes. He'd seen plenty of blood and broken fingers growing up so the revelations weren't too stomach churning but he others- Owari in particular who had become little more than a werewolf ripping apart innocents with his bare hands- he couldn't imagine how they were feeling. They'd caused this red sky. They'd caused destruction, death and despair.
Even if it was like the way Koizumi had passed- that they 'themselves' hadn't done it- it was, technically speaking, Junko through them- it didn't wash away the fact that they were still responsible and the disgust that came with it.
"Kuzuryu!" Nidai's voice boomed like a cannon shot- Fuyuhiko dropped his spoon in the last few grains of his rice porridge, groaning a little.
"If you have a volume dial somewhere, turn it to negative ten," Fuyuhiko whimpered.
Nidai grunted. "Shirt off, I want to see scarring."
"Just my eye. I've got a gash on my left leg from my bastard father, but that's not from the Fall, that's from him, being, well, a bastard father. It healed clean."
"A lot better than most of us then."
"Ugh. I've seen Komaeda. He's got fucking Junko's hand soldered on like.. and her still painted her nails. Sick fuck. We all were I guess."
"We were also brainwashed," Nidai countered. "You might have been a mob boss, but you didn't bring outsiders into your mess before then, did you?"
"No. Family business was family business. There's rules about these things, ngh! Warn a guy!" Fuyuhiko cried as Nidai took off his shirt and started running a massive hand along his back, supporting Fuyuhiko's chest with the other.
"You wouldn't have let me otherwise. And you're right. You're surprisingly unscarred."
"I didn't even want a tattoo, so even while brainwashed I guess I didn't mutilate myself," Fuyuhiko muttered.
"We all went incredibly far, but I think there were some lines we didn't cross. Now lean into me, I'm going to stretch you out."
"I already feel like pulled candy," Fuyuhiko grumbled, as he complied. "Just don't break me in half, I've already got underlings who can do that if I wanted."
Fuyuhiko slept off his post therapy high. No wonder why everyone was clamoring for Nidai. Ultimate Team Manager sure, dude could have also been Ultimate Masseuse. Then again, when you're the pinnacle of something, especially when you're a genius, you probably have more than just that one talent, no matter how niche.
He was tapped on the shoulder sometime when the blotted out sun creaked through the black clouds out his window. "Afternoon." The voice was stately. Had the fake Byakuya- no. The real one held out a lunch tray. "We know you can't come to us so easily, so we've come to you. Mind if we join you?"
"If you can find where my shirt ran off to," Fuyuhiko replied, clutching his blanket up around him. It wasn't like he had to hide his torso, but it was still awkward. He was paler than pale, with incredibly clear skin and an almost lady like frame. It both did and didn't suit him, and he hated it.
It was Hajime who pitched a polo shirt at him.
"Thanks," Fuyuhiko said, gulping. A tall, wiry man with glasses high on his bridge was standing in the doorway. Probably Hajime'a psychologist.
"Uh, so who is this?" Fuyuhiko asked, sweeping his hand from Hajime to the doctor in the doorway. He'd let them answer it for him.
"Kamakura is calming down," Hajime said. "He's awake but letting me drive."
"I know this is going to be offensive, but man. Fucking weird. If I do anything that pisses you two off you say so."
"We got your gift," Hajime continued, sitting bedside with his own tray. The Togami heir and the psychologist sat at the small table opposite, keeping quiet but observing.
"We meaning you and Wealthypants over there or...?"
"The royal we, I guess. It's weird. He's kind of leaking into me but... I'm leaking into him too? It's a forced second personality, so.. I don't know. We're just doing a lot of talking. We're at eight awake now, right?"
"Nine," Fuyuhiko replied. "And ten if you count yourself twice," he added pointing his fork at Hajime humorously. "We should refill our cups with booze this time. I'm probably going to hate it, never liked the smell at home."
"I guess sixteen of us are all surviving," Hajime replied. "Least I have a chess partner now."
"He's going to kick your ass to kingdom come," Fuyuhiko replied, nudging Hajime. Byakuya and the doctor seemed pleased, somehow. "If he sleeps, cause I don't know how that shit works, just let me know. I can teach you a thing or two."
"I heard you're also reading to everybody. You really are a good leader, Kuzuryu."
"Man, before all this shit went down I led an army of brothels and extortion rings. You win waaaay more out of your underlings if they know they'll be rewarded and have a good boss. Doesn't mean I won't knock an idiots skull in, but you don't piss on your best workers, y'know?"
"So I'm a good underling then?" Hajime asked jokingly.
"Man I'd send you to assassinate the Emperor if that came across my desk."
"Not sure if that's a compliment, but I'll take it. We'll take it?"
Byakuya had a field day when his imposter finally woke up. The nameless classmate panicked, and fled to an empty room. It took Hajime and Fuyuhiko a good two hours to talk him down, that they knew his cover was blown.
And since the Future Foundation was technically a sovereign nation due to the war treaty, his birth certificate and name were made right there- on the spot.
Ichiro Sato. The most boring, generic name they could think of, the John Smith of Japan. He /loved/ it.
He still insisted on dressing like Byakuya until he could cultivate his own identity, much to the real Byakuya's chagrin.
Despite hope slowly taking hold over the compound, they had their first death that morning. Hajime warned them. He said Komaeda had told him in the sim that he had a degenerative brain disease. Six months to live. If Komaeda thought he was still fifteen within the sim, he'd already outlived his diagnosis tenfold- Fuyuhiko had been right about the passage of time. They were all in their 20s.
He never even woke up. He never got a chance to see the one thing he truly wanted, and now his ramblings made far more sense in the sim. He wanted to be a ladder to hope.
He actually got his wish, as sick as he'd been. Junko was dead.
Junko was dying, now, too.
The pod room became the reading room. With only Peko, Tsukimi, Mioda, and Tanaka still slumbering, the areas outside were picking up as well. As Fuyuhiko had thought, their food quality had gone way, way up once Hanamura was back on his feet and in the kitchen. Nidai happily busied himself with physical therapy for those who needed it, or just massages for those that didn't (something everyone was grateful for, especially Fuyuhiko, who was walking again for short bursts unassisted). Saionji and Koizumi were filling the hallways of the drab, metallic base with art. /Weird/ art, but art.
Byakuya stayed behind, more as a younger older brother than a minder at this point, though Hajime was still under watch. He did come downstairs more often, but occasionally ran back up when he felt his other half try and push through.
Eventually, even when his other half pushed through, he stayed with them. He figured- rightfully so- that Kamakura needed friends too. He utterly destroyed Fuyuhiko in chess and Go.
Soda and Sonia were inseparable. With Kirigiri off doing who-knows-what as a Foundation operative, Soda took over the role of her caregiver, as well as helping Arakawa design Fuyuhiko's new eye. And Sonia was putting on weight, and slowly working her own way back to health.
Sato was surprisingly good at taking the unused curtains and making everyone... really nice clothes, actually. When you're an imposter, you learn to improvise.
Owari, meanwhile, hung back a lot. Mostly, she watched Fuyuhiko while he read to the last four pods, having moved on to a battered box set of the Harry Potter series they found in the library on the archipelago. Fuyuhiko did the voices too, until Owari piped in and started joining him for some of the characters. He couldn't help but laugh at her Dumbledore.
Of course, when they got to the Dementors was when Tanaka began making a fuss.
And another member of the family was invited back into their fold.
Fuyuhiko figured karma would mean that Peko would wake up last. But just as he finished the first chapter of the Deathly Hallows, her light began to flash.
"You shouldn't be moving around yet, Peko," Fuyuhiko said sternly. He'd switched to Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz lined up to the side when he finished.
"I wanted to hear the end, young master," she replied, pulling a chair next to him and Owari.
"That's why I switched books, dumbass," he replied. "We'll read it together once you're cleared. And don't-"
"Call you young master."
"You did that on purpose?!"
"I'll be waiting to hear it Fuyuhiko, don't disappoint me," she replied, hobbling out of the room.
Fuyuhiko picked up his book and kept going.
They all had work to do.