Now that Keiko had regained herself and was eating properly again, her condition rapidly improved and she was moved out of the ICU and into a public ward on Saturday, which was also occupied by three other patients, one of which was Keiko's age. Hiroki, Ryo and Koichi were a little surprised to learn the newborn Yusha was their baby brother, but welcomed him to the family with open arms. Keiko was deeply shocked that the team was pulled out of the tournament because of the incident, but Suzuka refused to let her apologize, stubbornly saying it wasn't Keiko's fault.
Monday November 8th,
"I've been needing to ask since last week: how are things at school?" Keiko asked Yuki, Saito and Chloe, who were visiting her before going to school
"Not so good." said Yuki, who was cutting an apple for Keiko "Since there's still no evidence to the contrary, people still believe that it was the other way around between you and Kazuto, no matter what we say."
"On croyait que les gens te connaissaient mieux que ça. [We thought people knew you better than that.]" said Chloe, causing the other three to stare at her "Talk normal, got it."
"Shouldn't you three be going before you're late?" Keiko asked
"Actually," said Saito "We were thinking of skipping and staying here with you."
"No way! You're not allowed to skip school. Ow!"
"You okay?" Yuki asked "Are you in any pain?"
"Not to the point that I need painkillers." Keiko replied "Now get going before you're late."
"You heard her." said Ushio, who just walked in "It's also time for Keiko's physical examination, and she requires privacy. Now hurry along before you're late. March, you three."
The three of them without any further argument
"Those are some pretty loyal friends you have, Aizawa-nee-san." said the 8-year-old boy, who's name was Yutaka, in the bed diagonal from Keiko's "I wish I had friends like that."
"They just can't seem to leave me alone." Keiko replied as Ushio drew the curtain
"Hee hee hee, at least you young'uns have some regular visitors." said the 60-year-old man in the bed to Keiko's right "Even my son and his wife don't visit much anymore."
"Must be boring not having any, Watanabe-san." said Ushio as Keiko laid back to allow Ushio to examine her
"Not really." Watanabe replied "When you're as old as I am, you become accustomed to being on your own."
"Or maybe you're just going senile." said the girl Keiko's age in the bed across from Keiko
"That's enough out of you, Chiho-chan." said Ushio as she examined the inside of Keiko's vagina
"What's an Obstetrician doing examining a patient like her anyway?" Chiho asked
"Keiko-chan was a victim of sexual abuse. The perp also used an illegal drug on her." Ushio replied as she now took Keiko's pulse "As I'm also a Gynecologist, I specialize in this area. I also have all the basic knowledge of having to care for a patient. Plus, as she's my son's girlfriend, I feel obligated to look after her while she's here."
"Sounds like favoritism to me." said Chiho
"Mind your manners, young lady." said Watanabe
"Please don't fight." said Yutaka.
"Anyway, you seem to be recovering much faster then you were before, Keiko-chan." said Ushio as she finished checking Keiko's breathing "Your fever is still persisting, but you're doing a lot better. Now are you in any pain? Scale of 1-10?"
"I'd say 6." Keiko replied
"You want any painkillers?" Ushio asked as she pulled the curtains back
"No, I'm fine. But is there any chance of me getting out of here sometime soon?"
"Not for a while. You're likely going to be here for most of November. Just try to relax." Ushio left it at that and left the ward
"I hate it when people tell me to relax." said Keiko "I'm an athlete for cryin' out loud."
"I'm a basketball player, so I can sympathize with that." said Chiho
Wednesday November 10th
"Done with your lunch, everyone?" asked a nurse as she and another came to take their empty lunch trays away "Yutaka-kun, you need to eat a little more than that."
"I'm just not very hungry." Yutaka replied
"Yutaka-kun, you won't get out of here quickly if you don't eat properly." said Keiko. Chiho repeatedly drew hand across her neck at Keiko "What, Chiho?"
"Yu-kun's been here for six months already!" said Chiho as the nurses left
"Oh! Yutaka-kun, I'm so sorry."
"Don't worry yourself, Onee-san." Yutaka replied, as he got out of bed "I'm going to go walk around." Yutaka, IV pole in one hand, then left the ward
"I may regret asking, but what's wrong with him?" Keiko asked "He doesn't look that unhealthy."
"I don't know the full details, but I heard it's a problem with his heart." Chiho replied "Based on what I've heard, I think his parents are working hard to afford a pacemaker for him, as well as the surgery to install it."
"But Artificial Cardiac Pacemakers aren't that expensive, are they?"
"Oh-ho, the price of them actually increased in the last five years." said Watanabe "These days, the pacemaker itself, plus the surgery, can add up to at least ¥15,000,000." (at least $148,000 USD today)
"Oh my god!" Keiko mouthed silently
"It's just what I've been hearing. I may be wrong. Probably. I think." said Chiho
"Stop talking!" said Keiko
"Don't tell me to-"
"No, please, shush!" Keiko was hearing a loud voice coming toward their ward
"Tsukahara-san, please be reasonable!" said a voice Keiko recognized as Ushio's
"This is a hospital ward, you can't just..." said a voice Keiko recognized as Yomako-sensei's (refer to chapter 23)
"She's caused such a scandal to Enoshima high! She needs to be made clear of the consequences!" said a male voice Keiko didn't recognize
"Father, haven't they tried to tell you that..." said Hinako Tsukahara's voice
"Stay out of this, Hinako!"
Right then, four people entered the ward, Ushio, Yomako-sensei, Hinako, and her father.
"Keiko Aizawa?" inquired Mr. Tsukahara
"I'm Takaharu Tsukahara (高晴 塚原), President of the PTA. The board of Directors and the PTA have been discussing things since Principal Shirayuki was arrested at the end of last month. Since we've seen no evidence to the contrary of the rumors going about, both groups have begun to consider your expulsion from Enoshima High."
"What?!" Keiko replied, outraged "This is a joke, right?"
"I'm dead serious!" said Takaharu
"Father, listen to reason. Saito Shirayuki, Yuki Nonomiya, and various other individuals, have been trying to tell you all that it was the other way around!" Hinako exclaimed
"We've seen no evidence to the contrary." Takaharu replied
"Tsukahara-san, have you at least talked with her parents?" Ushio asked
"I will when we're through here."
"Tsukahara-san, this is a hospital ward, please." said Yomako-sensei
"President Tsukahara, please, believe me! It wasn't like what you've been hearing!" Keiko pleaded "Shirayuki said that he'd arrange a life-saving surgery for my father if I did as he told me. He was taking advantage of me!"
"Keiko's in a pickle." Chiho thought
"Unless anyone presents any evidence to back up your-"
"If I may interject." said Nao, who just appeared at the ward door
"Nao-chan?!" said Ushio as Nao walked up to them
"Where. Have. You. Been?!"
"I've been busy."
"Who are you?" Takaharu asked
"Detective Nao Goto. The officer who arrested Kazuto Shirayuki." said Nao as he handed Takaharu a very thick file
"It was you? And what's this?"
"Evidence. Since I arrested Kazuto Shirayuki, I've been tracking down all the people he's been affiliated with. What's in that file is written and signed testimony against him by all of the people my fellow detectives and I tracked down, including the tipster that led to his arrest. Almost all of them told similar stories to Keiko-san. That he had made them false promises to get what he wanted from them. In the case of most of the women, it was their bodies."
"I'm liking that Kazuto guy less and less." Chiho thought
"Some of the women also had their blood tested for any trace of the MDMA drug, which he illegally used on Keiko-san, and the majority of them came up positive." Nao continued "And the coup de grâce, early this morning when he was asked to plea, without us even needing to present the evidence, he openly pleaded guilty to the charges of fraud, sexual abuse, and illegal use of a drug on another human. His sentence was ten years in prison." Evidence in hand, and Kazuto's fate announced, everyone was too appalled to speak, but Chiho and Watanabe broke the silence with clapping "Arigato, arigato."
"Ahem!" said Takaharu, turning to Keiko again and bowing as low as he could "My most sincere apologies, Aizawa-san."
"Um... it's... okay?" Keiko replied and Takaharu stood up again
"I'll present this to the board and the PTA, then make a statement before the whole school. By the end of the week, your name should be cleared."
"I'll talk to your parents too." said Ushio
"We'll also issue a written apology to each member of the girls soccer team for taking them out of the tournament."
The adults left at that, while Hinako stayed behind for a few minutes. Relief washing over Keiko, she fell back in bed.
"Rough day, huh?" said Hinako, sitting on Keiko's bed
"Shut up." Keiko replied
"That Nao is one fine detective, isn't she?" said Watanabe
Just then, Nao hurried back in alone
"I almost forgot." said Nao as she pulled a plastic bag out of her trench coat. Inside it was Keiko's necklace and ring "We retrieved your clothes and belongings from the hotel the same night we arrested Kazuto. Until now we weren't allowed to return them due to the possibility of them being used as evidence."
"Arigato." Keiko replied, taking her jewelry back from Nao, and Nao left for real at that
"Sorry my old man gave you such a hard time." said Hinako
"He takes his job a bit too seriously." said Chiho
"You have no idea."
"Don't you need to get back to school?" Keiko asked, and everyone laughed at this
In the few days since the PTA, the school board, and the school itself, was enlightened to Kazuto's criminal nature, much had changed, and other things went back to normal. With Keiko's name cleared, her popularity and reputation had gone back to where it was before the rumors started. Actually, it seemed double what it was before. She had also received a mountain of letters of apology and get well cards.
Ushio had also finally gotten what she had wanted for years: an official divorce from Kazuto, which went through rather quickly. But she didn't bother changing her surname back, saying that her kids didn't need that.
Saturday November 13th
"Still famous, aren't you?" said Yuki as they read through more letters that just arrived from school
"I really didn't expect to get this big of a response." Keiko replied as she put a card back in it's envelope "Two hundred letters in just a few days. Some of which aren't even from students at school."
"You got more than a bit of sympathy after President Tsukahara announced Kazuto's true image." said Chloe "Actually, Saito received a bit of sympathy himself. Some of the boys even asked if they could pop Kazuto one for him."
"And I told them that I beat them to the punch." said Saito, hitting his palm with his fist
"That's not something to be proud of." said Watanabe "Criminal or not, he's still your father."
"Except he abandoned us before my little sister was even born! I'll never see him as my father, ever again!" Saito exclaimed
"He got'cha, Watanabe-san." said Chiho
"I concede defeat." said Watanabe
"And with that done," said Keiko as she threw back her sheets and swung her legs off the bed
"Kei-chan, what are you doing?"
"I've been laying in this bed for almost two weeks!" Keiko replied "The weather's supposed to be nice out today, so I wanna get some fresh air. Whoa!" Keiko tried to stand up, but couldn't put any strength in her legs and just fell on all fours
"Are you all right, Keiko?" Chiho asked as Yuki and Saito helped Keiko back onto the bed
"I'm okay. Just couldn't put any strength in my legs."
"You're still too weak to walk." said Ushio, who walked into the ward pushing an empty wheelchair "But if you wanted to go outside, all you had to do was ask."
Yuki and Saito helped Keiko into the wheelchair and Saito pushed Keiko while Yuki and Chloe followed behind.
"'Nice out' you said." said Yuki when they arrived in the hospital gardens "It's so chilly out here we need jackets."
"It is November." said Saito "Weather reports said that we could expect the first snowfall at the beginning of December."
"What happened to that other boy? Yutaka-kun, was it?" Yuki asked
"He had his surgery earlier today." Keiko replied "They successfully installed a pacemaker, but it took a toll on him and he's gonna be in the ICU for a few days."
"Poor kid." said Saito
Keiko noticed all around her that there were patients having a hard time walking, but managed. Unable to take it anymore, she put her hands on the nearby bench arm and tried to force herself up.
"Kei-chan! You shouldn't..."
"Help me or back off!" Keiko snapped back "If I don't start using my legs again I won't be able to walk for months." Keiko managed to put some of her weight in her legs and let one hand off the bench arm. After managing balance herself, she let go of the bench arm and tried to walk
"Take it slowly." said Yuki, standing next to Keiko to catch her, as Keiko took a small step forward
Keiko managed to walk three small steps before losing her balance, but Keiko was caught by someone who managed to run up to her before Yuki could catch her
"No problem." said the person, who had a voice that Keiko recognized. Keiko looked up and saw that it was that Yuri girl, who had been clinging to Saito in the past
"You again?! Let me go!" Keiko exclaimed as she tried to get out of Yuri's hands
"Will you stop fighting me!?" said Yuri as she put Keiko down on the bench gently, when she did, Yuki, Saito and Chloe got in front of Keiko, as if the shield her from Yuri
"What do you want?!" Yuki demanded
"I don't expect you to be very forgiving, but I came here to apologize." said Yuri
"Apologize?" Saito inquired, as Yuri bent as low as she could
"Gomen'nasai! I was deceived! I was told that you were being truly unfaithful to Saito and didn't deserve him, so I came between you. Sumimasen! Sumimasen!" Yuri looked up. The four of them still looked a bit angry "You don't believe me?"
"Maybe we will if you tell us who actually told you that stuff." said Saito as Yuri stood up
"About that, he wants to apologize too, but is too stubborn and prideful to." Yuri pointed her thumb behind her and the four of them noticed a familiar Frenchman standing in the shade.
"Leon?" said Chloe, when she recognized her brother
"He's the one who talked me into it. And the one who tipped off the police the night Kazuto-san was arrested. Apparently Kazuto had backed out of a deal they made." Yuri told them
"Your brother did that?" Keiko asked Chloe
"(sigh) I'll go talk to him." Chloe replied and went off the chat with her brother
"I'll take my leave as well." said Yuri "Don't worry, I won't appear before you again. See you. And get well soon." Yuri walked off at that
"I guess she's not such a bad person after all." said Yuki, sitting down on the bench with Keiko
"I think the same can be said with Chloe's brother." said Saito
Saturday November 20th
In the week since Keiko made "amends" with Yuri, she had been undergoing serious physical therapy to get herself back in shape.
"Keiko-chan, Chiho-chan, you really should stop by now." said Yomako-sensei
"Just ten more minutes." said Chiho, who was running on a treadmill alongside Keiko in the hospital fitness center
"Try not to overexert yourselves, girls." said Ayaka "Neither of you are getting released any time soon yet."
"That's another thing," said Keiko "Why haven't either of us been scheduled for release yet? I feel fine."
"And since my lung transplant, I've never felt better in my life." said Chiho
"The both of you may feel fine, but both your charts still say neither of you are ready to go yet." said Yomako-sensei
"Chiho-chan, you're still having breathing issues despite not having COPD anymore. If it doesn't improve, your stay may be prolonged." said Ayaka "And, Keiko-chan, your fever may be gone, but your body is still not rid of the several infections, and there are still traces of MDMA still in your bloodstream that's yet to be flushed out."
"Is that why you're making me take pills every day, and do blood tests every three days?" Keiko asked
"Yes. Until we're certain that no issues will arise when you're released, you're both staying here."
"Even though our friends have been bringing us our homework everyday, we're still at risk of missing finals." said Chiho
"If it comes to that, we'll ask your teachers to bring the finals to you." said Yomako-sensei
"Speaking of which, what school do you go to?" Keiko asked
"Until then, don't overexert yourselves." said Ayaka
"Please, Mine-sensei." said Nana, who just turned up with Mai, now slim again, and baby Yusha "I can't say anything for Chiho-chan, but Keiko is an Aizawa, and we're known for overexerting ourselves."
"Thanks, Mom." Keiko said sarcastically as she turned off her treadmill "Mai, you look tired."
"I have to breastfeed this little one almost every five hours, and he spends half of his time crying." said Mai "I'm not getting enough sleep."
"You're going through the same hurdles I went through." said Nana
"Been keeping your mommy up all night, Yusha-chan?" Keiko asked Yusha in a cute voice, and Yusha giggled in response
"He's two weeks old and he already seems rather fond of you." said Chiho as she stopped her treadmill
"Well, I was the first to hold him when he was born." Keiko replied as Mai handed Yusha to her. Yusha started giggling greatly once he was in Keiko's arms "Oh, did you want to see aneki-Keiko that badly?"
"You'll make a great mother one of these days." said Ayaka
"Maybe." Keiko replied
"I want at least one granddaughter." said Nana
"Even if you say that...."
"By the way, we have some news for you."
"In response to protests against their actions, and in recognition of their faults against both teams in the last few months, at least half of the board members and the PTA resigned in shame."
"They had it coming." Keiko replied
Keiko and Chiho parted ways with Nana, Mai and Yusha and went back to their ward.
"Your mom and Mai-san are pretty nice." said Chiho when they entered their ward
"But they can be scary when they need to be." Keiko replied "Mai was also my homeroom teacher and team coach before she went on maternity leave."
"Sounds like she had a busy life." said Watanabe
"That's life." said Chiho, just as she she noticed that Yutaka was back "Yu-kun! Welcome back!"
"Arigato, Chiho-nee-san." Yutaka replied gleefully
"You're looking fit." said Keiko
"I could be better, but the pacemaker is working. I feel great."
"That's good to hear." said Keiko. she noticed some papers in Yutaka's lap "What'cha got there?"
"Homework from school." Yutaka replied as Keiko came over for a look "But it's math. Not my favorite subject."
"Elementary school stuff? You think this is hard? You should see the stuff they give us in high school. If it's all right, I can teach you a bit."
"Really? Arigatougozaimasu! I didn't think I would get through this on my own."
"Keiko's good with kids, isn't she?" Chiho asked Watanabe in a whisper
"Must be from being the eldest of five." Watanabe replied
Two hours later;
"Thanks again, Keiko-onee-san." said Yutaka as they finished the last of his math exercises "I don't know how I would've got through all that on my own."
"No problem." Keiko replied "Math's one of my better subjects."
"Especially if it's stuff eight grades below you." said Chiho
"Can it! Is there anything else you'd like help with?"
"Well... there's English." Yutaka pulled out an elementary level English book
"Umm... I could help with that... I think... maybe."
"Oh, really." said Suzuka, who just appeared in the ward with Miki "This coming from the girl who never gets higher than 56 on any English test."
"How'd you know?! And how long have you two been there?"
"She was right?" Miki asked
"Five points for me." said Suzuka as she went and sat on Keiko's bed "But I really didn't know that. I thought your English had improved."
"Not to the point that I can ace it. I just barely avoided failing the English final last term."
"And you're aiming for Nittaidai? Any college requires at least some decent English." said Miki
"Don't depress me." Watanabe and Chiho giggled at that "And don't you two laugh!"
"Anyway..." Suzuka interjected, changing the subject "You scheduled for release yet?"
"No. Until the doctors say that I'm well enough to go, I'm stuck here."
"Same with me." said Chiho
"Darn." said Miki
"By the way, I've been needing to ask..." said Keiko "What happened with the boys tournament?"
"They won of course." said Suzuka "I tried to congratulate Yamato on his third tournament victory as captain, but he just gives me the cold shoulder."
"Why is he so dense?" Keiko asked
"It's not that he's dense, he just has soccer on his mind all the time. Which is partially why I've pushed our team so far since I became captain. I wanted to make our team successful, but mostly I wanted him to notice me. Now my tenure as captain is almost over. I have to start preparing for graduation and college entrance exams. Christmas and Valentine's Day are the last two chances I'm gonna get."
"Hopefully he'll open his eyes and see what a great girl you are!" Keiko said enthusiastically
"Forgive me if I'm not optimistic."
"Suzuka..." Miki said softly
"Enough about that, how 'bout something good?!" Suzuka perked up
"She just totally changed the subject!" said Chiho
"Enough out of you." said Suzuka as he pulled an MP3 player out of her bag
"What's that for?" Keiko asked
"Remember Jade from Panama?"
"The Panamanian Defender I could never get past? How could I forget?"
"Her band made a debut and she sent me a copy of the English version of the first album by E-mail."
Suzuka played the first song, and Keiko instantly recognized it as Jade's voice, and the instruments from her band.
♫ Hands up high Raise them high ♫
♫ And cast your worries to the sky ♫
♫ There's no doubt, not one doubt ♫
♫ As I make my wish and let it cry out ♫
"Jade never ceases to amaze me." said Keiko
"That's a nice melody too." said Watanabe
"Nice song." said Yutaka
♫ If I gathered all the love in my heart ♫
♫ That grows with every passing day ♫
♫ I would find a confusing puzzle ♫
♫ That changes and rearranges
♫ Will I ever find my place? I'm not sure ♫
♫ Or will I forever feel insecure? ♫
♫ And the moment all the questions fade ♫
♫ I notice my tears ♫
♫ But can't hold them back
♫ Maybe it's too late ♫
♫ I've lost my chance ♫
♫ All of my questions shall go unanswered' ♫
♫ Will I keep fighting to find the light or ♫
♫ Will I descend to a bitter end? ♫
♫ Hands up high, raise them high ♫
♫ And cast your worries to the sky ♫
♫ If you can't stand ♫
♫ Then take my hand ♫
♫ And I will rise to fight by your side ♫
♫ My beating heart is burning on ♫
♫ And as it races I realize ♫
♫ There's no doubt Not one doubt ♫
♫ As I make my wish and let it cry out ♫