Chapter 43:

Finale: The Necessity of Valuing Life

X = Y

Awakening from his rejuvenating slumber, his eyes blurry and his balance disrupted, Kei found himself in a hospital bed. Harnessing all his strength and raising his stiff body, the pain surging through unabatingly, a welcoming smile and enlivened eyes greeted him sincerely.

"Kei. How was your nap?" Detective Yasuhide Ogi remarked kindly.

He was in a wheelchair, and his entire leg was supported in a cast, held firmly in place. Kei examined his body, visible to him, concerned for his friend.

"Yasuhide? What happened to me?" Kei asked, sitting up, perplexed.

An IV drip protruded from his right hand, and he was wearing hospital garments.

"Hey, Yasuhide! Man! Where did he go?" a voice emanating from the corridor yelled.

Shigeki Takishita, the hacker responsible for thwarting Eien's plans, assisting Kei in finding their lair, peered into the room, only his head was apparent.

"Don't you remember? You have a displaced fracture." Yasuhide responded.

"Fracture?" Kei said, ending his sentence abruptly. A disseminate shock electrified his innards, causing his body to twitch and convulse. "Ah! Dammit! Yeah...I remember...I had surgery to realign my ribs so they can heal...What happened to your leg again?" Kei asked, holding his head in his hands.

"It's nothing you need to worry about. It's just a bullet wound. I'll recover. I had surgery for it yesterday." Yasuhide added.

"Oh, Kei. You're awake. " Shigeki stated, moderately surprised by his recovery.

"Shigeki? How did the system clearance go? Did you manage to catch the hackers?" Kei questioned.

"It was a pain, but I managed to do it. The police went to their location and arrested a massive group of them. There's still so much to deal with, which is tiring to say the least." Shigeki added triumphantly, but his mood was lackadaisical.

Kei's head dropped, and he gazed at the ground, musing to himself about the events that occurred. Yasuhide instantly deciphered his gesture and acting accordingly, remaining sympathetic.

"It must be tough...You know? Living in this world and all. Good thing you have us. We managed to get the guy and restore the peace!" Yasuhide exclaimed happily. "You were part of it too, Kei. And so was he. So was Rei."

"Rei...What happened to him? To Eien Shihaisha and to Rei...? I need to go and talk to him." Kei questioned Yasuhide, expressing sorrow.

"I don't think that's a wise move!" Yasuhide responded with a reassuring smile. "Eien Shihaisha and Rei Hirojima were arrested. It's on the news too. Everyone's in an uproar over the fact that they found him after five years and the factory that burnt down. I'll show you." Yasuhide said.

"Hey. I came here to get you. I can't believe you got me to be your wheelchair chauffeur." Shigeki said, unimpressed.

Kei took out the wire from the IV drip carefully but left the tap in his hand. He stood up, but the pain was unbearable, though he persevered.

"Take me to my room. There's a television in there!" Yasuhide exclaimed.

"Wait...hold chest..." Kei said, holding onto his bed and placing his hand against the wall for support.

A nurse, familiar to Rei but unknown to Kei, walked in to check on his well-being. She was astounded that he was walking, and she gasped.

"Are you okay? You shouldn't be walking. Take deep breaths." the nurse stated, walking up to Kei and supporting him with her arm. "Taking deep breaths lowers the risk of infections if you have a rib injury."

Shigeki and Yasuhide waited, watching the misery Kei confronted alone, unable to help their friend with the emotional and psychological trauma inflicted upon him.

"I'm sorry...I just need to go to his room..." Kei explained, struggling to speak or move.

He began inhaling and exhaling deeply, slowly walking towards Yasuhide.

"Yeah...okay...I'll help you." The nurse responded, smiling and assisting Kei.

Yasuhide, Shigeki, Kei and the nurse travelled through the corridor and into Yasuhide's room. There was a television hanging in front of the bed, and it was on a twenty-four-hour news channel that repeated news reports. Kei stood there, engrossed in the subliminal messages the television beamed at him.

"Now, for the headlines. A man that went missing for five years has finally returned. Rei Hirojima, who was incident to the fire that destroyed his house, and part of a pair of twins, has been found, but he was arrested shortly after. His twin brother, Detective Kei Hirojima, was sent to hospital after the pair managed to find and successfully arrest the man behind the arson attack at the abandoned factory in Toshi City. Eien Shihaisha is his name, but he doesn't appear in any legal records, and not even a birth certificate exists of him. The police have given us a report on the explosion that killed many gangsters they arrested and officers that lost their lives escorting them away. A DNA test showed that Eien Shihaisha's fingerprints and DNA had been found at many crime scenes, murders, and arson attacks over the past ten years, but his DNA was never recorded until this day. Rei Hirojima's trial date for hospitalising roughly thirty-seven gang members, and for manslaughter, is in ten months, along with Eien Shihaisha's trial date."

"So, what are you going to do?" Yasuhide asked, turning to Kei and smiling.

"They're going to send a Public Prosecutor to convict Rei. I'll be there to defend him, and I'll be there for Eien's trial. He's definitely going to jail, but I don't want Rei to get it." Kei added miserably.

"The entire police force will be behind you from the Akugawa branch. Maybe from the Tekafumo branch too." Yasuhide added.

"Are you seriously going to take me with you in that trial?!" Shigeki exclaimed to Yasuhide.

"Yeah! Of course I am!" Yasuhide added mockingly.

"Where's my phone? Can you take me back to my room?" Kei asked the nurse.

"Yeah! Let's go. You need to get some rest." the nurse said kindly.

They were walking down the corridor slowly, and the nurse began conversing with Kei.

"I took care of your brother. Rei. I thought you were him. He just left the hospital without us knowing!" the nurse added.

"Oh really? He definitely sounds like the kind of person to do that..." Kei responded.

"It's strange. The police officer that saved him called him a hero, but they changed their minds. Now he's arrested when he was put into my care." the nurse added.

"That's how the world works. It's never straightforward, and when you think it understands you, everything changes." Kei responded.

They entered his room, and Kei sat down languidly, his head hanging down.

"How long do I have to stay here for?" Kei inquired.

"In the hospital? You can go home at the end of the day or tomorrow. We're going to make sure that nothing bad happens to you, in case you get an infection. Now, remember to take deep breaths. As for work, you need about four to six weeks off." the nurse explained kindly.

"Oh, okay. Everything is over...for now." Kei added.

"I'll go and bring your food now." the nurse responded, walking away.

Kei saw a basket with his clothes inside, beside his bed. He rummaged through his trousers, finding his phone and talking it out. Turning on the screen, he saw a plethora of missed calls and text messages. Kei's phone was at five per cent, whilst the messages and calls were predominantly from Meya and Abe.

"Kei. I hope you get better soon! We're going to come visit you soon!" the text message read. "It's from Meya..." Kei thought.

"Hey, Kei. We heard about Kanda...Don't tell Meya this, but she's trying to be brave, but it's not working. What's going to happen to Rei?" Abe's message read.

"My phone lasted this long...I did remember to charge it, right? I don't know Abe." Kei thought to himself.

Scrolling further down, he saw a missed call from a new number. They sent a message to him, and he read it, figuring out who it was.

"Hello, Kei. Meya gave me your number. Kanda's funeral is next week. Please be there for him..." the messaged ended without indication.

"Dammit...Kanda...Why..." Kei contemplated.

His face sunk inwards, and black shadows formed beneath his eyes. Tears, swelling in his eyes, trickled down. He clasped his bed sheets tightly, trying to cope with his despair and anger.

"How many times am I going to cry?! I don't need to...Why am I weak like that? I don't have to be...If I don't stand strong beside Kanda, then I'm betraying the courage he had and the sacrifice he made for Rei and me..." Kei mused.

He rubbed his eyes aggressively, trying to stop the tears, each one symbolising the pain he felt at a different moment in his life. Together, they accumulated into a small puddle beneath him, stationery and unchanging, unlike his life which would move forward.

The nurse entered the room again with a tray, providing Kei with a sandwich, water, juice and a dessert. She handed it to him, placing it on his lap.

"If you need anything, then let me know." the nurse added generously, walking away with a smile.

Kei grabbed the sandwich and bit into it, chewing slowly, staring dismally. Reminiscing about the good times in life, with Kanda and Rei, Abe and Meya, and their journey, he smiled before it crippled under the emotional weight on his shoulders.

Sunday the 12th of April, 2020. A funeral session was proceeding in Machira Town. The day was grim, but the sky was bright. People dressed in black gathered in straight rows like a herd of sheep. The people who knew Kanda were present, and the two people whose sorrow could corrupt the purest heart were mourning his loss. The attention of the flock was on them, his parents.

The Superintendent of Machira Town, Masazaki Hamabe, was there, thankful to have known Kanda but remorseful for never meeting him. Meya was crying uncontrollably, whilst Abe tried comforting her, yet she had no effect.

"'ll be fine..." Abe whispered.

Abe was influenced by Meya's infectious tears, as her eyes began glimmering with tears, and her mouth puckered in.

"No it's not...Kazunori and Risa...and now Kanda and Rei..." Meya whimpered.

A car was now parking near the funeral site. From the car, Kei, Yasuhide and Shigeki exited. Yasuhide was using crutches, and the three entered the procession. A tight chest and a stomach dropped into the void, Kei walked past them, endeavouring to not look at anyone. However, he was too considerate and self-conscious, glancing at people to see how they faired. Meya and Abe turned around after hearing footsteps, and Meya's sadness dissipated slowly.

"Kei? You made it..." Meya spoke relievedly, smiling at him. "I don't want you to see me like this...but I can't stop that now..."

Kei walked past Meya without saying a word. She gazed at him in confusion, wondering what he desired. Shigeki and Yasuhide stopped, standing next to them, watching Kei. He envisioned a world where they would not see him like a shell, and the only thing left was his vulnerable self.

"I feel the same way...Meya." Kei thought to himself.

"Hey...Kei!" Abe exclaimed, shouting in anger.

Everyone stared at her irritatedly, but she looked away, pouting in annoyance. Kei ignored her and walked to the front, passing Kanda's father and mother.

"Kei..." Kanda's mother, Sunoko Haru, said worryingly.

Sunoko took a step forward, but Kanda's father, Ikuo Haru, placed his hand on her shoulder firmly, indicating that he be left alone. Sunoko turned around, reciprocating the sorrow on his face with acceptance. Everyone stared at Kei, now the leader, standing in front of Kanda's grave. He stared and stared intently, envisaging what he wanted to say.

Kei closed his eyes and inhaled profoundly, sucking all the air into his lungs and exhaling. The sound he made evoked images of a gale blowing through the town.

"Kanda Haru!" Kei mumbled. "Kanda Haru!" Kei stated, audible to those close to him. "Kanda Haru!" Kei exclaimed, more people hearing. "Kanda Haru!" Kei yelled loudly, everyone in the funeral hearing him.

"What are you doing, Kei?" Abe said in astonishment.

"You were a brother to me. Without you, we wouldn't have been able to solve our case. I'm sorry I couldn't protect you. Forgive me..." Kei said apologetically.

A smile formed on his face, wishing Kanda a heartfelt goodbye.

"Rei feels the same way, even thought he isn't here. I shouldn't be sad because you're no longer here. Instead, I'm happy that I got to know you and that you were once here. Right?" Kei ended his speech, and everyone was awe-struck.

Kei turned around to look at Meya with a smile, and she grew fond of what he said, as sparkles appeared around her eyes and her admiration blossomed for Kei. Meya smiled shyly in response, and Abe smiled proudly. Shigeki and Yasuhide both gave him a thumbs-up, and he strolled towards them, standing next to his friends. The compassion in his heart and the love for his friends eased their souls entirely.

Ten months passed, and within the court of law, in a courthouse at the centre of Toshi City was Rei's trial. A Public Prosecutor fought on behalf of the country to imprison Rei. He stood there in a gloomy manner, with his arms cuffed in front of himself. The Superintendents of the Akugawa and Tekafumo branches and from Machira Town were present. Officer Akashi Tanake, Sukiga Tanake, and the police force were behind Kei to testify for Rei. Abe, Meya, Hibika and the other girls who were members of Act Time and attended Magaki University were sitting down, watching patiently. Nervous but concealing their fervency to seem impartial, they were hoping for a miracle to save Rei.

The Prosecutor was an insipidly vapid man in his fifties, wearing a black suit, shoes, trousers and a blue tie. He spoke strenuously, and his movements were tired.

"Hence, with the confirmed death of thirty-six people, one survivor of his brutality, and charges of assault and battery on several others members of the public, including theft and infiltration of the police, Rei Hirojima should be given the maximum, your honour." the Public Prosecutor stated. He sat back down in his seat.

"Now, does the defendant, his lawyer, or his witnesses have any closing remarks?" the female judge stated.

Kei stood up immediately, standing beside Rei and placing his mouth near the microphone. Kei became passionate, and his fervourous nature echoed throughout the court.

"Yes! Your honour! Without Rei Hirojima, the police force would never have caught Eien Shihaisha before anything worse transpired! He is the reason why many lives were saved! He saved the life of a woman and her child! He saved my life countless times and the lives of all the students behind me! He saved Abe Arisu and Meya Sonui! He did everything to protect himself and everyone around him! He went on a journey to stop Eien. Not for himself, but for us!" Kei exclaimed.

Rei reverently gazed at Kei, bewildered by his assiduous anger. He dipped his head to look at the ground, smiling and joyful that they were concerned for him.

"Your honour. Ask the officers behind me. The Detectives, or the Superintendents. Ask the people he saved! He took action on his own, and he didn't infiltrate the police. I let him work with me, and I had permission from the Superintendent. We have given you all the evidence, so please reconsider. That is all." Kei stated, sitting back down.

"Do you have any last words, Rei Hirojima? You seem to be smiling, so you must have a plan." the judge retorted.

Rei stepped up to the microphone in front of him, smiling mischievously.

"Listen. Everyone. I don't know what to say. You all came here, for me? I didn't think I deserved something like that. Even the police and the Superintendents. Never would I have thought I would meet people that prestigious. Thank you, all. But. When I go, don't feel sad for me. I did what I wanted to, and we stopped him together, Kei. There's no point in fighting for me anymore. All of you, rest. You being alive is enough for me to go ahead. That's all I need, and that's all I ever wanted. I wanted to get revenge on the people who killed my parents, but I was taught by my Master that vengeance was never the answer. Thank you, and I'm sorry for dragging you into my problem. Live your lives...for me, and for everyone else who isn't here. You'd better not cry when you think of me!" Rei finished, turning around and mischievously smiling.

All the girls began crying, and tears were falling from some of the boy's faces, whilst others hid their broken visages. It was a genuine, heartfelt, cordial goodbye from an honest, righteous man that one would not even experience in a single lifetime. Kei stood up and walked towards his brother, gazing at him tenderly, on the verge of crying.

"I love you, Kei." Rei added, smiling.

Kei hugged him, and their brotherhood shone brighter than the stars above. Kei began crying profusely and never ceased, for their brotherhood is eternal and was unequivocal, never in doubt.

"I have made my decision now after hearing your words, Rei Hirojima. You shall be sentenced to the bare minimum that I can give. Three years in jail. This case has now been dismissed." the judge spoke kindly.

Rei was taken away by the police, and everyone watched the man that saved a generation, leaving behind a legacy worth re-telling for eternity. Abe was affected the worst, her head tilted, resting against Meya's shoulder, crying but staring proudly at the man she grew to admire. His tearful departure enraptured the hearts of every single person in the courthouse. A charismatic, inspirational man like that, to have lived and sacrificed himself, to save not only the people he cared about but also the one who took everything away, was a man the world cultivated to appreciate everything he had. He was not chosen by the world. He chose something greater than the world.

Inside Keimushorano Prison in Toshi City, Eien was walking towards the cafeteria, and a warden followed behind him, carrying a baton. Eien was wearing inmate garments, and his hands were free from cuffs.

"A lifetime in jail, huh? I've heard about you and what you've done. Enjoy your time here..." the warden spoke indifferently.

They made it to the cafeteria entrance, and the warden stopped there. A group of inmates in the corner noticed Eien, and they grasped his attention.

" kid." one of the inmates said.

Eien turned around and glared at them menacingly, bearing no malice. The inmate pointed at a gorgeous woman sitting alone. She had dyed her hair purple and was wearing similar clothing to him. She had a tattoo resembling a black star encased in a black heart beneath her left eye. She was in her fifties, and her outward appearance made her seem thirty. Eien glared at her, disinterested in what he perceived.

"That woman is crazy. Don't go near her." the inmate said.

Eien carried on walking, neglecting the information gifted to him. Collecting his food and taking his tray, he walked up to the same table as the woman and sat down. The other inmates stared reprehensibly, warding him away to the only free table. Sitting down calmy, he consumed his food quickly. The woman in front was astonished, staring at him with a kindred intent. Taking her sandwich, she placed it sneakily on Eien's tray, but he lifted his head, glaring at her, but she was smiling benevolently.

"You got me..." she stated, smiling fondly. "I don't get many visitors."

"I don't know who you are..." Eien stated apathetically.

"I don't know who you are!" she repeated.

"I do not exist, and you do not exist. None of us do, and none of us will." Eien added ominously.

"Yeah. We don't exist. I agree with you!" the woman replied happily.

"Why are you even here?" Eien said, appreciating her company.

"Why are you even here? Me? I was in a gang! That's what they told me, but I don't remember. I'm just happy to be alive. I don't know what I did before I got here, but I'm enjoying it!" she exclaimed joyfully. "You look like you're enjoying it too." she added, giggling.

"The fire is what we will return too...That is what I enjoy..." Eien added, his face emotionless to her remarks.

"Keep telling yourself that! See! You enjoy something too! You'll find it fun here!" she exclaimed.

They both began conversing with each other, and the woman's actions become wilder.

She became something more.

Like that of a mother...

Three years had elapsed since Rei's sentencing for manslaughter and murder. Up in the mountains, Seijiro and Nagai were sitting down, eating the meat from the game they killed, gorging on it like a delicacy.

"Yum! Yum! Yum! This stuff is good, Master!" Nagai exclaimed, delighted with his meal.

"It definitely is, but you could cook it more. For there are things you can do perfectly, but perfect things cannot be done all the time." Seijiro added, enjoying his meal.

"What do you think the other Masters would say about it?" Nagai added gleefully.

"They would enjoy it. I'm sure someone else would enjoy it too." Seijiro added reminiscently.

"Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I know who you're talking about! I do! I wonder when he'll be free to roam the world again!" Nagai exclaimed.

"Only time will tell, and so will his Bushido." Seijiro stated proudly.

Walking out of the facility, cheerful and his burdens ameliorated, Rei walked comfortably with the clothes he was always known to wear. His hopes and dreams were iridescent, his morals were uniform, but the kindness and love he experienced were perennial. It allowed him to endure prison life, and he cherished everything more. Knowing his friends and family were irreplaceable, darkness could never eclipse his heart.

Three luminescent faces beamed with exhilaration, awaiting his arrival in the prison car park, and two of them began tearing up, ebullient in attitude and manner. Amiability radiated from them, and Rei absorbed it all, embracing it dearly. Abe was wearing that black scarf given to her by Rei, pleasing him with an affection that made his chest flutter. She inadvertently thanked him for having met him, and Rei acknowledged it.

Kei, grinning unctuously, walked up to Rei. His disbelief concluded, and what started in his heart roared in jubilation, gazing at his brother benignantly.

"Are you going to cry, Kei?" Rei said, smiling contentedly.

"Yeah...I will..." Kei said sympathetically, with a light smile.

Abe and Meya walked up to Rei and stood in front of him.

"Rei...Welcome back..." Meya added, whimpering.

"Yeah...Rei...Here, take this..." Abe said, taking the scarf off her neck and handing it over to him. "It's yours..."

"No...It's yours. I gave it to you. Keep it." Rei replied kindly.

"Are you sure? Just take it already!" Abe exclaimed, slightly irritated.

"Yeah. Now that's the Abe we all know." Rei said.

Kei and Meya began giggling, but Abe was unconcerned, taking the scarf and placing it underneath her neck, warming her up. She was shy and embarrassed, but that quickly transformed into acceptance and gratitude. She smiled at Rei, grabbing his hand unexpectedly and dragging him away, surprising him.

"Where are we going?" Rei exclaimed, bemused by her actions.

Meya and Kei followed along, walking towards Kei's car.

"We have something special to show you, and you have to accept it! I'm not going to take no for an answer!" Abe exclaimed sternly.

"It's a surprise. You're going to enjoy it. Kei set it up." Meya added.

"Yeah...It's something for you, but it's also for everyone else. Now get in the car." Kei added.

Confounded, Rei left with the three, travelling to a place known as home: Machira Town. They passed the remains of their house, where a newer house now stood. Memories of his life in the past five years, and life with his parents, flitted like the light that repressed the darkness, subduing it and subsequently vanquishing it.

Nostalgia surfaced consequently, and the reminiscent thoughts subjugated his body, making him feel empty and equivocally happy. Replenished with joy, Rei was content with how his life transpired. The turmoil and sorrow in his heart that slowly built up throughout his journey was razed, demolishing itself within his heart.

Kei parked near the school, shocking Rei. They exited his car, and Rei turned to look around frantically, but only regular citizens were walking past. He looked for conspicuity, but there were no tell-tale signs that were obvious to his keen eyes.

"Why are we here?" Rei asked confusedly.

"Just follow us!" Abe exclaimed, grabbing his hand and dragging him away to the school's entrance.

"What have you guys planned?" Rei questioned.

Kei and Meya were walking behind the two, looking at each other and smiling.

"Wait and see, Rei! You're going to enjoy it!" Meya exclaimed.

Upon entering the school gates, Rei saw a large crowd of people and many familiar faces. Overwhelmed by the sheer number, they surprised him.

"Welcome back, Rei!" they all screamed.

His heart filled aptly with love, and the emotions, his happiness, caused him to break down with tears drifting slowly down his face. Rei was inextricably enamoured. It was fulfilling, and he felt nothing but gratitude. They all began running towards him; his heart melted, the trauma in his mind alleviated by the affection and tenderness they bestowed to him.

Every person he saved in his school, along with Futami Sai, the woman he rescued in the factory with her child, gazed at him jovially, endearingly. Kanda's parents, and the parents of his classmates, were there, appreciating him for who he truly was. Sincerity and empathy dazzled the crowd, and they gazed at Rei with devotion and respect.

Abe smiled at the tears that ran down his cheek. Meya and Kei observed and reciprocated the feelings with a smile as Kei walked up to his brother, placing his hand on his shoulder softly.

"This is how it should end, right?" Kei added, smiling.

"Yeah...This is..." Rei whimpered, crying from the overwhelmingly positive endearment he experienced.

Thus, after a long journey, the brothers brought the assailants to justice. They learnt many things along with way, experienced many emotions, and found what they thought they did not require.

With crime still occurring, Kei worked diligently to thwart the plans of hackers and gun dealers. Rei integrated himself back into society, living his life normally with Kei's adoptive parents, and visiting the countenances in his past. Abe and Meya found a job in the acting industry and found work in major films and as voice actors, becoming famous superstars. Kei and Rei Hirojima were given medals of honour, broadcasted on live television, commending their brave efforts and sacrifices they made.

This may be the end of their journey, but their story continues, for it is eternal, and so too are the emotions they carried.