Chapter 13:

Bonus Chapter: Graduation

Next to Me


---- Sometime during the epilogue.... ----
Satoshi stood at the gates of his high school for the last time, being assaulted by a shower of cherry blossoms. In his steel-grey suit-like uniform and with a graduation certificate in hand, the cherry blossoms were a way to bring colour to his dull self.

He was just about to leave the schoolgrounds when suddenly, footsteps echoed across the pavement. His mother and Nova, both wearing pure white dresses, appeared soon afterwards.

"I don't think I was suited to the ordinary lifestyle of a student the moment I was converted," Nova held her azure eyes low as she mumbled this, then squeezed his hand briefly and disappeared into the flurry of pink petals again. Satoshi gave a weak smile as he realised she'd had petals falling off her as she went.

"I asked you to come because there's one last thing I want to ask you: Why was it Nova's aunt and her, and not her mother?" Satoshi turned his face away from his mother once Nova had gone out of earshot.

Sora sighed, an almost inaudible sound that rode the wind like the myriad petals. "I can't believe it took you so long to make this connection. Nova's mother was extremely uncooperative. Since you're still pressing this issue though, the DNA those two share is the secret to unlocking this Pandora's box...but I leave it to you to open it again," Sora finished, directing a soft gaze towards her son before she left as well.

Satoshi pondered this new information as the chattering of other graduating students swirled around him. It was as if he were trapped in a vacuum of time, since the facts were so obvious if he thought about it. Certainly, half a person's DNA once belonged to their mother and half to their father, but the DNA in the mitochondria - the "powerhouses" of a person's cells, so to speak - only came from the mother. The nanobots must have acted upon the mitochondrial DNA in some way.

As for his mother's other statement, "extremely uncooperative" was admittedly vague, but in his mind's eye, he could see a woman similar in appearance to Catarina bound to a chair in a dimly-lit room, as if his parents were evil masterminds straight out of a foreign spy movie.

Or was that scene just his imagination going wild?

Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. He couldn't quite tell fact from fiction anymore, considering what he'd seen.

Then again, today was his day, and the future was his to dictate. He shouldn't have been dweling on the past.

He shook some stray petals out of his dark hair and felt true freedom for the first time. It was electricity through his veins, warmly contrasting the cool breeze that dragged cherry blossoms with it.

Then, as if he had been under a spell, sounds rushed back to him with their full volume and he was finally urged to take the final step out of the campus, fully embracing the electricity to launch into a run for as long as he could go.

Certainly, the future was a difficult thing to face, but if he had the support of everyone he knew, he'd be alright.

James K.
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